A Tale of Two Syntaxes: Online Behaviour in Canada

A Tale of Two Syntaxes: Online Behaviour in Canada

Millennials – those born and raised during the emergence of the internet – are known for taking a lead in adopting digital user trends. And the case is no different for America’s oft over-looked neighbour Canada.

But unlike the US, Canada has two official state languages, and recent research from the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) has identified a linguistic divide when it comes to internet usage.

All age groups in Canada have become accustomed to using the internet for practical reasons such as keeping in touch with family or playing bills, according to an earlier report from eMarketer called ‘Canada Demographics: Age-Based Digital Behaviors‘.

However, differences arise when age and language is looked at in greater detail. The CRTC study examining usage shows that almost four out of every five (78%) English-speakers aged over 50 surfed the web in 2012. This figure drops to just 69% for French speakers.

In terms of internet users of all ages, anglophones spent an average of over 20 hours online per week over the same period. This figure is 54.6% higher than that recorded for French speakers, who logged an average of 13 hours.

When it comes to millennials, those tech-savvy youngsters continue to prove themselves the drivers of web-based interaction. Jaime Morrison, a research analyst at Abacus Data, said: “Expectations when millennials are interacting with companies on social media are different – they expect the organisation to be sincere and authentic. Millennials have a real ability to sort through information that they believe is true or that they trust.”

Yet again, social media usage shows a separation in terms of language. In Canada’s French-speaking province Quebec, LinkedIn was nearly twice as popular among English speakers as francophones, while YouTube showed a 13-point advantage in favour of English speakers.

English speakers were more likely to be social media users overall, as well as more likely to check content, access their accounts and share content. French speakers were more likely to interact with other users.

It has been suggested that French-speakers’ lower usage of social networking sites, which rely on content to make them engaging, could mean content written in French may be lacking on these popular sites and possibly found elsewhere.

Social media marketers should be aware that francophones do visit these sites, but language-specific content could be the key to generating greater engagement.

Millennials are also known to be the first to break with traditional cable services and adopt the internet for streaming video. Known as ‘cord-cutting’, the practise is taken up by a quarter of 18 to 24-year-olds. The figure rises to one in five for 25 to 35 year-olds and 15% for those over 35.

For this reason, millenials are prize for marketers. However, the recent recessions has clipped the wings of youth, with many now focused on good value. Student debts, a harsh job market and high house prices mean Generation Y prizes value for money over flash ads and vacuous rhetoric.

So tread carefully and treat this group with cautious respect, they are the prospective earners of the future and their voice matters, whatever language it may be spoken in.

Written by Yusuf Bhana
Yusuf Bhana
Yusuf is Head of Digital at TranslateMedia. He has an interest in how technology can help businesses achieve their marketing objectives. He's been working in digital marketing and web development since 2001 across a wide range of industries and clients.

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