amrita 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.”

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7 Responses to The End of Communication As We Know It – part I

  1. Nishant Punia says:

    Agreed. There is something with instantaneous conversations and people owe this recognition to RIM (BBM). RIM really ‘exploited’ it , nurtured it and prepared the ground for this change. Then came the platform to enable this sort of communication in the form of twitter and facebook.

    Its easier to connect to consumers, save costs on marketing. Not surprised why telecom companies charge consumers for BBM and in fact for twitter and fb.

    But the challenge for the companies still are identifying the ‘real’ consumer behind the face and privacy issues. Sometimes for the lack of time or something, a ‘consumer’ does not give ‘real’ feedback. Also, in the example given by you about ING, what if you had telephoned/emailed? Would that have been quicker than 48 hours? and I guess, for appointments and all, have to have multiple exchanges – even on twitter.. Something to ponder over by these Telco 2.0..

  2. Good points – this presents a challenging new environment for everyone. For people who are used to the way business was done decades ago it will be hard to accept that a public, online discussion between two people who barely know each other represents a real commitment. Those who grew up with internet access have gotten used to it, but there will always be people who don’t live up to what they say (on the other hand this creates more value for those who do).

    The other challenge is integration; people who are young enough to think email is old and those who have come to accept it may find it more difficult to manage all this information until the integration matures a lot more. If I accept a meeting invitation and add the person as a contact in gmail, I’ll get reminders on my phone’s calendar and I can call that person directly. It’s a bit harder to see a twitter message quickly getting into every calendar you look at without a few manual steps in the middel. Eventually new applications may address this, but as Fred Wilson says you can’t just unify everything because sometimes you do want to maintain separate “worlds”.

    • amrita says:

      Well said Richard. Although I am not sure the generational gap will matter so much in a few years. I think people will either learn to embrace new technologies or be forced into it for the sake of productivity and collaboration.

      But i do agree with the fact that not everything should be unified. Seperation of “worlds” is a part of human behaviour and hence we will see an emergence of strong-tie networks based on a specific criteria or filters which will use a multitude of communication methods.

      Thanks again for your comment.

  3. Bohdan Zabawskyj says:

    I don’t think that e-mail is going away. However, it is definitely diminishing in importance and relevancy. Marshall McLuhan coined the phrase ‘the medium is the message’ – and in the case of social/mobile (aka ‘mocial’) media – the medium provides for immediacy, typically some implied context (e.g. location for mobile), generally much less formalism (think of the protocol and energy involved in writing a typical e-mail.), and some degree of implicit identity non-repudiation (or self-validation as noted in the blog). Even in the social media space each network has unique attributes which biases the flow of communication. For example, twitter focuses on micro-blogging while Kik focuses on immediate conversations within the closest members of your social network. Going forward, it will be interesting to see what solutions arise to deal with identity management given that we will likely have multiple (e.g. personal or professional) identities on multiple networks.

    @bzaba on twitter; bzaba on Kik.

  4. Sanjay says:

    I agree with Bohdan that email isn’t going away, in fact, it’s not even going to diminish. The “everything’s going social media” chant implies that somehow communication is moving FROM email TO social media. I wonder what % of twitter direct communication and facebook direct are relayed via an email that says “you have a message waiting for you”. And why did Facebook switch from that wording to actually embedding the message in the email itself?

    Some message mediums offer genuine benefits via their inherent properties – speaking is instant and synchronous. Telephone adds distance. Blogs, twitter, and facebook pages are all one-to-many and have their own target audiences. BUT… twitter direct and facebook direct communications will always take a backseat to email, because they offer no unique benefit, despite your ING example. Does the president of ING personally read every one of the incoming tweets their account receives? Or do the same people that screen email screen twitter posts? Ask him that when he comes to speak for the Board of Trade!

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