Communication In A Digital Age

Effective communication is the exchange of thoughts, ideas, messages and information between people or groups. Whether you are talking to a friend or researching a new car for a possible purchase, those interactions envelop us everyday, building relationships, informing us and calling us to action. But the message needs to be received and understood, so it’s important to examine how technology has changed communication and to adjust how you reach out to your target audience.

Many of us remember a day when simple communication required time and effort. Whether calling a friend, sending mail or finding out about the day’s events, there was a decidedly “analog” process involved. Before the arrival of the cell phone, you had to place a call using a landline from a specific spot in either your home, office or even telephone booth. Better still, you would actually directly communicate with someone face to face. Correspondence required putting pen to paper and using a stamp, allowing for a few days for your message to arrive at its destination via the Post Office. Usually, your letter had a long format and you looked forward to a reply that would come a week or more later. As for finding out about the day’s events, you relied on 3-4 channels on TV and your local newspaper. Current events were only as timely as the deadline for the nightly news broadcast or the publication of the paper.

Times have certainly changed. Fast forward to today and we have limitless options to communicate and digest information. The world is literally at our fingertips. Want to call a friend? No problem. You can call them on your cell phone no matter where you are. Or have a call with video via Skype or another app. If you’d prefer to not hear their voice or see their face, you can text message or send an email and get an instantaneous response. Don’t forget about social media, sharing the day’s exploits are a few keystrokes away via Facebook and on Twitter in 140 characters or less. No more waiting for days to get a reply, you can have a string of conversations with as many people as you’d like in a matter of seconds. Current events are hyper timely now and you can get up to the second updates on any news event anytime on the internet or on dozens of channels on cable TV. All of this can be accomplished from anywhere and at a whim, in our home or on the go via a variety of mobile vehicles. Technology has fundamentally changed how we communicate and absorb information.

Along the way, a funny thing happened...We don’t value extended conversations or interactions any more and we are impatient in our quest to inform ourselves. We want everything right now, seconds after we think of it, and our digital devices are all too happy to oblige. So how do we effectively make our message be heard in a day and age where everyone has the attention span of a gnat? If technology has shortened the process of communication and the gathering of information, what can you do to capture your customer’s attention? Embrace simplicity and balance.

Simplicity. A direct effect of the mobile devices that we carry around everyday in our pockets is the changing nature of the conversations we have. Small bursts of texts with clipped thoughts, symbols instead of words and sheer speed have fundamentally altered the interactions we have. As a result, our attention spans have significantly shortened and we barely “converse” anymore. On top of that, we want information and answers now. More than ever, simplicity rules the day because technology has compressed time. If you want to make your message heard, make complex thoughts and ideas easy to understand while taking up as little time as possible. It’s easy to lose sight of the fact that while you may be a subject matter expert, your customer is not. Make it easy for them to grasp and focus on what you want to communicate, but do it quickly, clearly and concisely. The simpler and more seamless the experience is, the more likely it will be that your customer will remember you and then engage with you.

Balance. We have more choices than ever in how we communicate. Smartphone, tablet, laptop, desktop, internet, email, radio, newspaper, magazine, TV...the list goes on. Your message can be heard in multiple places at any given time, anywhere. Be strategic and don’t put all of your eggs in one basket. Create a balanced approach to your marketing and advertising efforts for maximum reach and impact. The very same customers who open emails on their smartphones also look at magazines or watch TV. Create and utilize elements within a multi-tiered campaign that can take advantage of a particular medium and its unique ways of conveying your message. For example, what you say in your eblasts can drive traffic to your website and be expanded upon offering more content and the opportunity to more fully engage with your customer. That same customer will then visit your store and interact with your salesforce. Use multiple deliverables to create balance, visibility and opportunity.

While modern, digital tools represent great opportunity and promise, it's important build an entire program to play to the single master of a digital landscape. A balanced approach should considers the customers entire path of engagement with a company is a more authentic and repeatable hallmark of good communication.

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