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Everchanging Communication. How Has It Changed Over The Past Years?

Natalie Ediger, September 26, 2019· Communication

Other times, other customs – How our communication has developed in recent years

We are moving with great strides towards the Web 4.0, the Internet of Things too. A clear definition of the individual steps in web development can only be blurred, but one thing is clear: the Internet today differs greatly from the Internet ten years ago.

Web 4.0 combines the visions of the future with the latest technological developments and thus stands for a constantly networked world in which new technologies enter the industry (Industry 4.0) and our daily lives. Artificial intelligence (AI) and self-learning systems are constantly evolving and are being replaced by visionaries such as Today, Elon Musk (the founder of Tesla and SpaceX) has made it possible for networked, high-tech companies that have access to vast amounts of data (big data) to emerge from the ground in the shortest possible time. These changes are also having a significant impact on our communications – in everyday life, in business, and in the digital world. The emotional recognition of people by means of AI and the associated online communication on an emotional level is only one example of what networking, intelligent systems, and Big Data can achieve in the future.

But what does that mean in concrete terms? What is communication today and how has it developed in recent years?

Smartphones – the beginning of a new era

In the beginning, was the apple… As with the iPod a few years earlier, Apple was able to land a coup in 2007 that would not only change the company but the entire world. With the release of the first iPhone – the little all-rounder with Internet access in your pocket – a vision suddenly became reality. Suddenly everyone (who could afford it) had the complete knowledge of the world in his pocket at his disposal at any time. Apps enabled companies to present themselves and communicate with their customers in a completely new way.

Already in 2008, Google moved along and launched Android, a new, open mobile operating system on the market that every smartphone manufacturer could build on. While Android was only used on about 5% of smartphones in 2009 and the market was dominated by iOS, Windows and above all BlackBerry and Symbian, this changed rapidly in the following years. In 2016 Android was already running on just under 85% of all smartphones and iOS on just under 15%. The complete remainder has been almost completely displaced. This is mainly due to the fact that Android is open and therefore flexible.

As early as 2016, the number of accesses to the Internet from mobile devices exceeded the number of accesses from fixed PCs. Nevertheless, there are still companies today that are concerned with the question of whether or not their own website should necessarily be adapted to mobile devices. How do you explain that?

Disruption through acceleration

Of course, the development of the smartphone is only a milestone on the way to Web 4.0. Many more should follow. The development of smartphones, however, reflects the changes in recent years in an impressive way. The transition to a new era manifests itself particularly clearly in her. Manufacturers of mobile phones that could not withstand the rapid development have almost completely disappeared from the market within a few years. Communication technologies such as SMS and MMS are also Disruption in the sense that the proportion of SMS and MMS messages is negligible compared to short messages via Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp & Co. or tends towards zero. Many companies with rigid structures could not keep pace with the rapid development, which is simply due to the company organization. The people, on the other hand, changed with it, so that the expectations, the way of communication and the opinion of the PR departments of many companies became more and more divergent. So it was inevitable that in the course of development not only mail order companies fell victim to the new online trading giants such as eBay, Amazon, Alibaba & Co., but also companies that supposedly did not compete at all with the online traders – just think of the department stores in the city centres or the classic forms of advertising such as print advertising, which today are in direct competition with Google, Facebook & Co. as advertising giants. So today the German Federal Ministry of Economics and Energy recognized that digital change affects all industries.

Insight through survey

But it took a long time to realize this. Companies that no longer have their finger on the pulse of the times are quickly pushed to the sidelines. It is therefore of crucial importance to be able to recognize the changes in society in as real-time and as comprehensively as possible. Only then will it be possible to adapt to this and to assert oneself on the market. If customers, employees, and companies do not communicate on the same wavelength, this cannot mean anything good, it should be clear to everyone.

Technological progress is advancing exponentially, but exponential development is hardly tangible for us humans because our brain does not function exponentially. This makes it difficult to predict developments. However, humans are very good at adapting. This leads to the fact that new technologies sometimes assert themselves faster than one could have seen them coming at all. This is the decisive factor that leads to the fact that our communication changes rapidly with the development of new technologies. Those who cannot keep pace simply do not take part in the dialogue.

We’re not talking about the realization that as a company, we need to have a Facebook page or that you might be thinking about communicating with the customer via an app. We’ve gone beyond this point for a long time. Rather, it is about being able to exploit new opportunities by using data sources and surveys. Only those who know how the target group wants to be addressed will be able to stay in the market in the long term. The same applies to internal communication within the company. Delegating employees weekly by the instruction may still work in a rigid structure. However, motivation and future orientation in internal corporate communications look different.

Development in digital corporate communications

We know it from our everyday lives – we make appointments by voice message or Instant Messenger, check Instagram, Facebook and e-mails on the go and surf the Internet in the evenings, watch videos, postings from communities we like and share content or have live conversations over the Internet.

The rapid development in the field of communication leads to an exponential increase in stimuli. Everything becomes more fast-moving, information is evaluated within fractions of a second and either wiped out or absorbed. Based on this insight, the terms Visual Content Marketing and Storytelling were already established in 2013. For example, infographics alone increase the traffic of a website by an average of 12%. This effect is even greater with videos on the landing page or in advertisements in social media. On average, landing pages with explanatory videos or other video content are shared 40 times more frequently than web pages that only work with text and images. Furthermore, according to a study by Coolerinsights the conversion rate by up to 86%.

For external corporate communication, the changed framework conditions have consequently led to communication becoming not only faster but above all also more emotional, direct and visual. The classic division of roles between the companies as authors and the media as distributors is no longer valid. Each and every one of us has become a publisher, brand ambassador, and communicator in a digital world of communities where mass communication has changed into mass communication.

But what applies to external communication also applies to internal corporate communication. The expectations of employees have changed and the need for communication is constantly increasing due to new tools and insights. Data is collected, evaluated, cross-functional and agile teams gain in importance and we are increasingly always and everywhere reachable. The demand for a more balanced work-life integration is growing steadily. The changes in our communication have therefore also led to a change in our attitude towards life, work and thus to a completely new way of life. Mindset.

If a company can no longer reach its employees or customers today, motivation drops and communication between companies, employees, and customers is limited to scheduled meetings and advertising messages, the question should be how long this can continue to go well.

Overstrain and distraction due to stimulus flooding

At the same time, we must not forget that the increase in push messages, e-mails and online dialogues in the private sphere also leads to the aforementioned blunting of stimuli. It is becoming increasingly difficult to separate important content from unimportant content, and those who have Outlook open at their workstations and their smartphones next to their keyboards at the same time are sometimes not able to work anymore, but only sort content into “important” and “unimportant”. The use of technology must therefore also change.

Offline time and downtime have taken on a whole new meaning in the digital world. Balancing permanent availability and offline times is a real challenge for many people today. The solution is therefore not to provide employees and customers with as much new information as possible or to use as many channels as possible. Rather, it is becoming increasingly important to take on a filter function and ensure that the right content reaches the right people at the right time. This will become even more important in the future and data collection and new, intelligent systems and structures can help us to achieve this.

Tips for better adaptation to changing communication frameworks

The number of e-mails, notifications and communication tools in companies and private life will no longer decrease. We communicate always and everywhere and, thanks to modern algorithms, content is always more personal and precisely tailored to our needs and expectations.

New technologies, big data and agile structures can help to make corporate communication more efficient, direct, emotional and relevant for all involved. We must seize these opportunities and at the same time react to the constant and ever-faster changes.

Tips for internal corporate communication

  • Modern communication tools and agile structures must be established because the multitude of information must be managed centrally and communicated cross-functionally across departments and teams. Unused tools should be consistently abolished.

  • Direct addresses on an emotional level play an increasingly important role in a time of information overload.

  • Communities are gaining in importance and employees are increasingly becoming communicators, moderators, and brand ambassadors. An open and honest Bottom-up and top-down communication at eye level via the right instruments and channels is therefore essential.

  • A holistic communication concept with the highest priority on internal corporate communication as dialogue should be established.

  • A culture of error and feedback is crucial.

  • Gamification is the integration of playful elements into everyday work. This can increase motivation and productivity and also help to better align internal objectives.

Tips for external corporate communications

  • Comprehensive data must be collected, evaluated and used to address the relevant target groups.

  • We are in a visual age. Videos, emotional messages, as well as explanatory videos and infographics, are becoming increasingly important. Customers must be addressed wherever they can be reached.

  • Employees become brand ambassadors. Employer branding, open and honest communication with partners and customers at eye level make a decisive contribution to entering into open dialogue and establishing oneself as a brand.

  • Communicate at eye level and use the channels that are accepted by customers and partners. Orient yourself on the trends of the time and don’t try to maintain old structures on the devil’s terms.

Future outlook

The framework conditions of our time will continue to change. Our work will increasingly become more independent of the workplace, modern communication channels will be used even more and new tools such as employee apps, central knowledge databases as well as open, direct and fast communication across all levels will become a decisive factor when it comes to competitiveness. Knowledge must be kept within the company, which is best achieved through a high level of loyalty and motivation. This, in turn, is closely related to dialogues at eye level.

Moving image content, professional and emotional speeches are becoming increasingly important and the concentration of communication on a few but the right channels is essential. To achieve this, intelligent systems that help structure and analyze data will become increasingly important. Those who are not able to adapt quickly and agilely to new challenges in the future will be pushed to the sidelines faster and faster, both as a company and in communication.

Old structures should not become the stone tablets of communication, because the fact that more and more short, fast contents are written instead of pronounced is no longer a trend, but an irreversible state. Accepting this, actively using it and being able to grasp, use and evaluate even partially unconscious communication can become a decisive competitive advantage in an increasingly agile world. A sentence on the phone like “I’m on the train right now” will be heard less and less in the future, because either the smartphone already makes information available to relevant people or it is automatically given as needed. The increasing non-communication in situations where we still have to communicate today will also bring about major changes. However, this will not lead to less communication, but to a shift of communication to other areas. Identifying, analyzing and exploiting these and other developments today is the great challenge facing the internal and external corporate communications of the future.