The End of Communication As We Know It – part I
Gartner says that in about 5 years, social networking services will replace email as the primary channel for interpersonal communications for 20% of business users.
Well, this has happened across many businesses and brands already. In fact, several large brands already use social networks to communicate with their customers, prospects and partners.
Think Air Canada’s new twist on customer service, Dunkin Donuts taking complaints and Dell computers giving out deals through Twitter. Not to mention the massive number of business and product pages on Facebook and the benefits that brands associate with being a fan of those pages. Theres a lot of communication happening through those. And more importantly, it is a two-way conversation, not just one-way communication like in email.
Also within businesses, more and more employees are communicating with each other through instant messenger and social channels – both company provided as well as personal – allowing workers to work faster, get decisions made faster, shorten response times, collaborate in real time and basically be more productive.
This is predominantly what has changed the game – the instant and conversational nature of communicating through channels other than email. So there you have it, the end of communication as we know it is already happening all around us. Very soon, you will be getting meeting requests, synching your calendars, sharing notes, tasks and files all outside of standard email platforms.
Both internal and external to a business, a new collaborative business style has emerged — social paradigms coupled with desktop IM, mobile presence and email. The siloed nature of these mediums will slowly fade. Email will suddenly integrate with social networks as well as take on their several attributes; while social mediums will start incorporate several security, delivery and read receipt type features to accommodate robustness. We’re already seeing the former with the recent Salesforce.com acquisition of Radian6 and other such cases and the latter with applications like Kik with a delivery receipt and read receipt attached to all messages.
I expect to see a new culture will emerge; kinda like an honour system, where not everything is going to have to be “in writing” in order to get things done. Nor will everyone expect it. Case in point: I recently tweeted Peter Aceto, the CEO of ING Direct Canada and asked if he might consider speaking at the Toronto Board of Trade. That’s basically all I said. Of course, I tweeted from our company’s official account. But within 48 hours, I had an answer – a yes. No official letters, no talking to the secretary, no explaining who we are, where we’re located, what we do, why we want him to speak at our podium etc i.e. I didn’t have to jump through any hoops!
This is partly because the request itself was self-validating. It came through an official account, the details of the company were listed on the account description itself, location was enabled and the company website was listed for all to see. See? self-validating. Done, done and done.
I think this will soon become mainstream as more and more companies and individuals, including senior execs will become accepting of these methods of communication. My sentiment is probably summarized best by Gartner: “The most progressive organizations won’t be afraid to explore the innovative communications and collaboration models enabled by new devices and social services and allow their employees to generate innovative ideas by experimenting with them.”