By MATT SCHULER, Digital Architect, Marx Layne

“Your mom does Facebook better than you do.” And with that, John Meyer and Scott Meyer of 9 Clouds started their Future Midwest discussion.

Can you remember the last time you pulled out a yellow book and flipped through its pages?  It must have been 1989 the last time I looked through one. The Meyers made a fantastic point about the digital divide, saying your mom is already equipped to do the right things on Facebook because your mom has been doing it forever

I need a reminder to remember my friends’ birthdays, but how many mothers had a card system sorted by months and days to remember to send a card out to a loved one.  The older generation already has the offline skills of being social, but it’s important to translate those into digital capabilities.  “They’re not going to use all of the toys on the playground,” the Meyers said.  “They’re going to focus on one thing.

When you look at the fastest growing demographic on Facebook, lately it hasn’t been teens, it’s been baby boomers.  Parents and grandparents are getting on Facebook because they want to be connected with you and see your pictures

There’s a huge difference between social networks, both in terms of numbers and in types of conversations.  The Meyers compared Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter.  For interactions, you have to “know your voice and the playgrounds you’re in.  Do what you do best.

The type of listening that your mother is good at is the type of listening a business should be good at online.  The internet is a gigantic place and we can reach more people than we realize.  “We are no longer hindered by our geography,” the Meyers said.  Online we can reward the trust people place in us, and build it just like we would offline.  There needs to be reciprocity if people are going to cross the digital divide.

One of the things 9 Clouds did is something a lot of businesses are hesitant to do.  They created a tutorial on how to create an iFrame page for Facebook business pages and gave it away.  People used it, and the Meyers said they would often come back because that trust was there.

To bridge the digital divide, time is a large component.  You have to inch people in to things and prepare them, especially if they’re a public business, to take criticism.  The Meyers advised that it doesn’t have to be a huge time commitment, but it should be a consistent one.  You can set up notifications to know when people responded or mentioned you.  By responding appropriately to negativity you can change people from complainers to evangelists for your company.

One important point the Meyers made was about services with comparatively lower number of users.  “Instead of seeing low numbers and saying no one uses the service, use it as an opportunity to say hey I can stand out here,” they said.  There’s a lot of work that can be done in a space that has a smaller subset of users.

And a final word of warning for people who aren’t embracing social media, “five years from now people are going to wish they were on social media.”

We don’t need a time machine to bridge the digital divide—we just need our moms.

This is the sixth of a seven-part series taking a look at how we can be a force of change for those around us.

Introduction: Back to the Future Midwest

Part 1: We don’t need a time machine…to predict the weather.

Part 2: We don’t need a time machine…to stay relevant.

Part 3: We don’t need a time machine…to know where we’re going.

Part 4: We don’t need a time machine…to tell the future.

Part 5: We don’t need a time machine…to live in the clouds.

Part 6: We don’t need a time machine…to bridge the digital divide.

Part 7: We don’t need a time machine…to drive the conversation.