Have you ever entered an online chat with your cubemate? Texted your colleague in the adjacent office? Opted to Skype instead of holding a face-to-face meeting? While none of the above means of communication are, by definition, ineffective, certain conversation topics are better suited to certain mediums.
With the proliferation of social media platforms and rapid platform adoption rates, tried and true communication techniques such as making a phone call, meeting face-to-face and sending materials by courier can slip off of one’s radar. Oftentimes, it isn’t until the power fades and we find ourselves without access to our beloved digital and social communication tools that we even consider using these more traditional techniques.
In times of crisis, such as those faced by many East Coast residents on the heels of Hurricane Sandy, face-to-face may be the only viable means of communication. Without power, the luxuries of digital communication are simply beyond one’s reach.
Even in times when crisis isn’t the communication driver, companies should consider how real-life interaction can set them apart from their competitors and increase the effectiveness of their message. Companies like Pandora are a great example of this phenomenon.
In-person focus groups are a hallmark of Pandora’s communications strategy and have been since the company’s inception. Founder and Chief Marketing Officer, Tim Westergren, credits convening usergroups for town hall meetings as one of the two most significant growth catalysts in the company’s history. When asked by attendees at the 2012 PRSA International Conference if he would still use in-person marketing techniques were he launching the company today, his response was a resolute ‘yes.’ In fact, Westergren said he would spend just as much time on in-person communication were he launching the company today, despite all of the social media marketing tools that are currently available.
In a digital world, it’s easy to forget what exactly the benefits of real-life and face-to-face communication are:
- Real-time gauge on emotional response (You can write LOL, SMH, ROFLOL, etc. wherever and whenever you want. It just isn’t the same.)
- Feeding off other people’s energy (Skyping with a team isn’t the same as being in their conference room and both sensing and having the ability to feed off of their energy.)
- Focused dialogue (How often are you emailing, tweeting, etc. at the same time? Face-to-face meetings limit outside distractions which can help to focus the conversation.)
- Relationship-enhancing small talk (Without the water cooler to linger around, the accidental conversations that lead us to learn more about our colleagues and peers and develop deeper relationships just don’t happen.)
While we often think of social media as an online cocktail party, distinct differences remain between digital and face-to-face communications. Tweeting back and forth does not equal meeting over coffee.
The question is – does your company rely heavily on face-to-face communication? If you were launching a company today, would you place equal weight on digital and face-to-face communications or greater value on one or the other?