Socially Tethered

Communication is an essential function of human behavior and of business. Marketing communication helps companies share messages, grow markets and manage crisis.

 

Communications are changing at Internet speed and society is having difficulty adapting. We have moved along a continuum from sharing stories around a fire, to writing messages on paper, to instantly blurting acronyms and emojis on touchscreens.

 

Evolution generally happens so slowly it is unobservable, however in the age of the Internet change occurs so quickly that industries are routinely disrupted to irrelevance. Such is the case with communication.

 

In 1984 a couple of Canadian engineers formed Research in Motion, by 1989 their first BlackBerry product was launched. Twenty-five years later, they have become irrelevant in the industry they founded. Today there are more smart devices than people in the world, and devices are growing five-times faster than the population.

 

In 2015, 68 per cent of Canadians owned a smartphone and the rate of growth was 24 per cent year over year. Likely not surprising, millennia’s (18-24 years of age) are using these devices more frequently, and accessing more “apps” to compliment their engagement.

 

For businesses, connectivity through smart mediums is not only an important consideration but vital to survival. Local restaurants take credit card payments by waving smartphones and the most traditional of services like wood pellets ordering and delivery is being transacted by smartphone, as in the local case of PellEco.  Disrupt or die has never been more relevant.

 

Thirty-odd years ago, I remember my chemistry teacher complaining how much time young people spent on the “boob-tube”. Young minds wasting glued to televisions. Today, I feel a similar anxiety watching headphone clad adolescents becoming visually impaired straining their eyes at a 4-5” screens.

 

Sociologically, smartphones are a symbol of status. Devices can cost well over $1,000 and are becoming the most important and functional possession owned. In addition to hardware costs, in 2015 CRTC identified monthly service fees to operate a smartphone. They ranged from $65.52 in Regina to over $122 in Halifax. This communication drug is expensive.

 

Devices have become indispensible and youth are more confortable communicating by palm than in person. Employers have to adapt to this perceived distraction where employees may be glued to status updates and SMS. The culture has changed and employers need to figure out methods of accommodation – not an easy task of older generations.

 

The impact to business is greater than just staffing distraction. Customers are regularly better informed on products than trained staff with unlimited research and reviews available at an instant. Customer service is adapting as consumers conduct parallel conversations when completing transactions. Brick and mortar retail investment is becoming irrelevant as consumers research, customize and order everything from computers to cars on their phones.

 

Our evolution of social tethering is in its infancy. The future of the phone looks promising with flexible screens, projected holograms and augmented reality. Our youth in society are driving adoption, and local business needs to remain mindful of how quickly change is occurring.