How The Digital Revolution Has Transformed Business Communication
The digital revolution has propelled business connectivity forwards further in the last few decades than ever before in the history of human trading. Digital databases where businesses can record, connect, plan and trade have streamlined bookkeeping, filing and analysis. The benefits of a streamlined business are obvious — the smooth running of a company equals time efficiency and profitable assets. However, rather than exploring ‘why’ the digital revolution has been so important to business, this article explores ‘how’ it has done so, and the impact it has had on today’s society.
Communication and employee engagement
A 2018 Gallup poll found that 16.5% of American workers were actively disengaged from their job. However, employees reporting engagement was double, at 34%, with enthusiasm and commitment to their job at an all-time high.
53% reported that they were generally satisfied but not emotionally or cognitively committed to their jobs. They did not feel strongly about their employment, and if they got a better offer, they would leave. These workers would not go out of their way to do something that would either help or hinder their employer.
These are thought-provoking statistics for business owners and managers. One of the biggest factors influencing engagement is communication. In businesses that have an open-door policy and transparency, the level of engagement tends to be higher, and employees are more productive.
While this data is concerned with internal communications, businesses do not do much better when it comes to communicating with customers. As technology has evolved, many have adopted customer chatbots to cut costs, for example. What they do not realize is that these can be extremely frustrating for anyone who has a complex customer service issue to report. Many a customer will give up and vow never to do business with that company again.
Companies are seeking professionals who can help them improve employee and customer engagement through communication. Students who enroll in a communications course today can expect to get into rewarding careers, as businesses all over America strive to improve employee engagement.
Attaining an undergraduate degree is often not enough. Although one may get a good job doing internal or external communications, it takes a postgraduate degree to rise to top management where one can have a real impact on communication strategy.
Those who wish to obtain a master in communication online degree, for example, learn critical skills like conceptual and strategic thinking. The course also covers visual and written communication, professional readiness and marketing communication. Students learn how to integrate digital media, creative strategy, design and visuals. Because it is an online course, committed students can graduate in two or three years with expertise in either content marketing or integrated marketing communications.
It helps to already know the basics of business communication. What is the spectrum of communication tools that businesses are using today? How has the digital revolution transformed business communication? What role does digital communication play in internal and external communication?
The spectrum of business communication tools in use today
Today’s businesses have more means to communicate than ever before. The digital revolution has laid at our feet a plethora of tools. However, it is important to understand that it is not always the number of tools that counts. It is how they are used.
A business that uses numerous means to communicate with employees and customers may not necessarily be a better communicator than one that sticks to two or three tools.
Determining the most effective methods of communication is essential when completing a master’s in communication online and finding employment. Below are some of the most common ways for businesses to connect with employees and the public.
According to the latest statistics, the world sends more than 306 billion emails every day. This breaks down 2.4 billion emails every second. Between 2018 and 2019, the number of email users grew by 100 million. 86% of professionals have named email as their favorite means of communication.
There is a reason why email is one of the most popular ways to communicate. It is cheap, efficient and reliable, and all it requires is an internet connection. It is hard to think of a business that does not use email to communicate both internally and externally. It costs almost nothing, is easy to track, leaves a record and it is instant.
While email has clear advantages, it also has some drawbacks. There is never any guarantee that the recipient will reply immediately, so it is not a good means to communicate time-sensitive issues. It is also easily hackable, and many businesses are infiltrated through their emails.
Workplace chat apps
Workplace chat apps have become quite popular in the last decade or so. They have millions of daily users and usage numbers are growing. What makes them attractive is their immediacy. Employees communicate in real-time. They can send business documents and reports and every conversation is archived.
The conversation is not limited to two people. Many chat apps allow multiple people to join a chat and they also have a video option. Some even allow one to do a group chat and a one-on-one chat at the same time, allowing employees to multitask.
Mobile and regular phones
These are often forgotten in the discussion about digital communication tools, but they happen to be the most common way to communicate. Nearly every adult on Earth has a mobile phone. Even in low-income countries, phones are considered a basic need, and people will give up a significant amount of money to invest in a mobile phone.
In business, a phone is a critical tool. It is the fastest way to communicate both internally and externally. It happens to be more expensive than several other means of business communication but that does not seem to matter. Businesses are prepared to pay what it takes to keep their employees connected.
Mobile phones have allowed us to fold almost every communication into one device. So long as one has an internet-connected cell phone, they can receive and send emails, participate in conference calls, send and receive text messages and keep in touch through social media. Regular landlines also play an important part in business communications, both externally and internally.
Social media is an essential tool for doing business. Big or small, businesses use it for marketing their brands, introducing new products or promoting existing ones, to learn more about target markets and different demographics, and even do damage control in the face of negative publicity.
Social media for business is rather different from the way it is used in our private lives. It requires a strategic approach, and it must be monitored carefully to ensure that it sends out the right message. It is now considered a basic tool because just like email, it is a cheap, fast and efficient means to communicate with the masses. It is even better than email because it does not require email addresses. So long as the message is on a social media app, it can spread virally.
Social media is great because it levels the playing field. It does not matter whether a business is new or small; if it can put together a good campaign, it can win over users who have the potential to become customers.
A website is a critical communication tool for any business. It tells users about the business, the products, the employees, and whatever else they would like the public to know.
Today it is taken for granted that any business that hopes to compete has a website. It is sort of like an online ‘office’ that anyone can visit at any time.
Smart businesses spend time and money to rank their websites because a well-ranked site gets more clicks, and each click is a potential sale.
Video chat technology has been around for many years but the COVID-19 pandemic elevated its importance. When society was in lockdown, video chat was one of the best ways to connect. Video chat businesses like Zoom experienced a huge upsurge in sales.
The pandemic may be over, but video conferencing remains one of the most popular means of business communication. It is like talking on the phone but better because you can see the other person.
As more and more companies contemplate remote working for employees, they rely on video chat software to communicate. This eliminates the need to travel miles to meet face-to-face. If they can get employees on video chat it is as good as an in-person meeting.
Digital advertising is an easy, affordable and reliable way to reach customers. Any business, even with a small budget, can take out online ads to promote products, services or events.
One of the best things about digital advertising is that it can be targeted to a particular demographic. A business can reach a select group with a highly customized message.
This is not as common as digital advertising but it is a powerful way to communicate, both internally and externally. Companies use newsletters and e-books both internally and externally to engage.
Newsletters, for example, are a good way to tell employees about a new policy, introduce new hires and even talk about the state of the business.
How has the digital revolution transformed business communication?
There are two main ways that technology has changed how businesses communicate. The first is internal communication.
It would have been an uphill task for businesses to consider expanding their operations globally 30 or 40 years ago. Not anymore. Advancements in digital technologies have allowed even small businesses a global reach. They can hire anyone in the world because it is very easy to communicate and coordinate through email and chat, video conferencing, telephone and social media.
An American business can have a manager who is based in Europe, workers who are based in Asia or Africa, and customers from just about any continent. A larger market means more profitability, and a larger talent pool means that American businesses can hire the best.
Marketing and advertising is easier and cheaper than ever. There was a time when, for a business to advertise, it needed to pay for advertising space in a newspaper, magazine or TV. This was expensive, and most campaigns ran into tens of thousands of dollars.
There was also no guarantee that advertising would reach the right audience. Businesses could only hope that their ads would be seen by prospective customers.
It is different now. The digital revolution has made advertising and marketing affordable for most. It has leveled out the playing field so that multi-national companies stand as good a chance of reaching their audience as much smaller businesses.
Social media channels like Facebook and Twitter allow for instant communication, and a business can reach millions of people in just a few seconds. Digital transformation has opened up opportunities that could not have been dreamed of a few decades ago.
Digital communication has changed the landscape forever
Companies need to have a firm grasp of communication if they are to maximize brand awareness. While digital communication comes with great benefits, it has also changed the way we interact internally and externally.
Instant communication has shortened people’s concentration spans. An employee can receive a text message, an email message, a phone call and a video call all in the space of a few minutes. That does not take into account the messages that are constantly spat out by the apps on our phones.
The brain can only take so much. It takes a lot of focus to keep up with the constant barrage of messages, and many employees find it difficult to stay engaged. It can lead to lost opportunities, burnout and a general feeling of being overwhelmed.
Content overload has become an everyday reality
There is so much content today that it is impossible to stay on top of it all. Because it is easier to communicate, people send out more messages than ever.
Just how much one can take varies from person to person, but most people end up feeling overwhelmed. They do not look at most of the content that they receive. Again, this can lead to lost opportunities and feelings of burnout.
Think of how many emails many individuals receive from colleagues, customers and other stakeholders every day, for example. Often, it is impossible to actively engage with all of them. Unless something needs urgent action, it is put off for the next day, or the next week or whenever is convenient.
Too much data
The ease with which we crunch data today has led to its proliferation. We can gain tremendous insights about customers by looking at the data we collect, but there is the risk of getting lost in the numbers. How can one know which data is important and which is not? It takes foresight and strategy to collect and use only the necessary numbers.
All too often, one wants to collect and analyze every piece of data because the prospect of gaining knowledge seems too great an opportunity to miss.
For information to make sense, it is important to define the important metrics. We should research customer channels to find out which are most profitable and focus on those. Smart companies ensure that their employees know how to recognize valuable data, collect and analyze it and present it to management.
Demands for transparency
We are in an age where transparency can mean the difference between success and failure in business. Consumers demand more information than ever before, and businesses that are not transparent are viewed with suspicion.
Food products, for example, come under heavy scrutiny. Consumers want to know exactly what every food item contains, including its calorific value. Leaving this information out can lead to a loss of customer trust.
Whatever communication tools we use, it is important to try to be transparent and provide users with the sort of information that engenders confidence.
Brands have to do more to impress
It is not enough to be nice to customers. Brands must do more if they want to be visible and earn consumer trust. The marketplace is more crowded than it has ever been and it is easier to communicate.
On the rare occasion that a brand gets bad press, it must do everything it can to reassure consumers.
There are numerous ways that businesses can communicate internally and externally, and all of them are driven by innovations in communication.
Developing the right communication strategy can mean the difference between failure and success. Every business must understand its target market and work out how best to reach prospective customers. It is vital to figure out how to keep them engaged, make repeat buys, and stay loyal to the brand whenever they need its product or service.
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