How do people like to communicate in today’s digital world?

Written by
Adam Meikle

Communication is the driving force of any business. It's a big part of our lives, but with the world changing rapidly and technology advancing, how has communication changed in the past few years?

Communication is the most important part of our day-to-day lives. Whether it’s for business or personal reasons, communication is often at the top of our priority list. One of the main factors that ensure smooth and swift communication is the vehicle that is used to transport messages from one person to another.

While many working professionals still stress the importance of face-to-face and phone conversations, times have changed drastically in the past few years. The latest State of Inbound report offers us some great insights into how business professionals, such as marketing and sales managers, are utilising digital communication channels.

Having this insight into how people prefer to communicate will help us to market and sell more effectively, and efficiently. Understanding the data from the State of Inbound report can help you to better strategise your next communication plan - allowing you to take advantage of the most effective communication channels when dealing with important clients.

1. Email

The winner is clearly email - 86% of respondents said email was their preferred way to communicate. This age-old form of communication has been around for decades, and it’s still going strong today. Emails have been the focal point of communication for both business and personal use for many years, and it remains a strong channel of communication to this day.

In fact, emails can arguably be a better communication and marketing tool than social media. Setting up emails to get in touch with people has a much higher impact on them than other communication channels such as social media and instant messaging.

2. Direct Communication

Many people still prefer a more direct form of communication. This includes phone calls and face-to-face meetings. While direct communication was a crucial part of business and personal meetings in the past, the Covid-19 pandemic changed that significantly.

Nevertheless, statistics still show direct communication as one of the most important and most valued communication channels. Phone calls have become especially important as a replacement for face-to-face meetings, but there’s also another communication tool that has seen a significant rise in popularity because of the need for face-to-face meetings following the pandemic.

3. Video Conferencing

Video conferencing has become the ideal replacement for face-to-face meetings. Ever since the pandemic caused an increase in remote working, the video conferencing industry has exploded. Despite the industry giant Skype having an established foothold in video calls, several new platforms rose to popularity, including the likes of Zoom and Google Meet. Zoom, for example, recorded an increase of 370% in sales during the pandemic, reaching $882.5 million.

Video conferencing has made remote working much simpler and more manageable, reducing the need for employees to commute into an office daily. Overall, this has shown that employees are happier and more productive. It also gives you much more flexibility in terms of shifting meetings around and finding the perfect time slot on a calendar that suits everyone’s schedule.

4. Instant Messaging

Instant messaging has become a vital form of communication in today’s society. Aside from personal IM platforms such as Whatsapp and Telegram, there has also been a multitude of productivity IM apps that have shown up. From Slack to Discord, it’s easier than ever before to separate your personal and business communication channels.

31% of respondents said messenger apps are important to their daily business activities and for communicating with clients and team members. Instant messaging apps allow you to get a message across to another individual quickly, and the most attractive feature is their mobility. IM apps can be installed on your smartphone or tablet, which allows you to instantly communicate with anyone at any time.

5. Social Media

While social media has been overlooked slightly when it comes to business, it remains a crucial channel for communication. Social media rose to power in the mid-2000s, and it hasn’t stopped since. If anything, it’s become more powerful than ever before, but only if you can get it right. Social media is all about algorithms and getting your content onto someone else’s news feed - this makes it an incredibly competitive environment.

Platforms such as LinkedIn and Facebook are ideal for communication. The problem though is that there is still an overlap between business and personal elements when it comes to these social media platforms. This creates a distracting environment that’s not always business-friendly or professional. The reality is that with the rise of video conferencing and business-orientated Instant Messaging apps, social media has been pushed to the wayside due to its links with the personal side of people’s lives. Nevertheless, senior executives like CEOs and CMOs are frequent users of social media and messaging apps. 44% prefer social media and 37% prefer instant messaging apps due to their mobility.

The Differences Between Professional and Personal

There is a blurred line between both professional and personal use on social media platforms. Platforms such as LinkedIn have somewhat separated the personal and professional world. LinkedIn has become an excellent tool for professionals to use whether they are job hunting, recruiting, or even marketing their business for more exposure - 78% of respondents use LinkedIn professionally.

On the other hand, Facebook is a mixed bag between personal and professional use. There’s no way to separate the personal and business elements from your account. Nevertheless, Facebook still has a high percentage when it comes to professional use with 74%.

Twitter and Instagram follow shortly after Facebook, but with much lower numbers. Twitter statistics show that 59% of users are on the platform for professional use. This number makes sense because Twitter is often the best source of fast information, and as long as you follow the right sources, it can be reliable information too - allowing you to keep up to date with the latest news before it makes headlines.

Instagram on the other hand shows that 38% of people use the platform for professional use. Instagram has become one of the best modern marketing tools because of the platform's attraction and ability to draw in a large number of users on a daily basis.

What do These Numbers Mean?

These statistics show us that professionals are making use of Facebook and LinkedIn primarily, while personal use differs in comparison. The report also shows that people are more open to using social media channels for professional communication, especially when it comes to LinkedIn and Facebook.

Interestingly enough, we are seeing many senior leaders and executives taking on digital communication channels wholeheartedly as part of their day-to-day professional and business activities. Senior leaders want to keep their eye on the next big trend. This is why we’re seeing an increase in the adoption and onboarding of more new technologies such as Slack and Zoom.

Senior executives are more mobile than their peers so their adoption of digital communication channels makes a lot more sense. We are also noticing that senior executives are now more active on various social media networks for professional reasons, such as communicating with peers. This is especially true when it comes to LinkedIn, which is considered to be a more professional form of social media.

How the Covid-19 Pandemic Changed the Way we Communicate

The lockdown caused by the Covid-19 pandemic caused a major shift in the way we communicate, and in the way we use marketing. The majority of workplaces and offices had to adapt to accommodate remote working. This resulted in acceleration toward professional Instant Messaging platforms and video conferencing platforms.

With remote working firmly in place, there’s a need to separate personal and professional channels of communication. Back in the day, these channels of communication were automatically separated with employees working in an office and focusing primarily on direct communication.

Video conferencing and digital communication became a part of the daily working environment, and now that the technology has been developed and perfected (for the most part), it seems as though it’s set to stay for the future.

Final Thoughts

So, what’s the best way to communicate? The answer is that it depends on who you’re communicating with, and the type of communication needed. Despite all the advancements and developments in communication technology, the primary form of professional communication remains email. 

Video conferencing has quickly become a great option for meetings and long discussions, especially as an alternative to face-to-face meetings. In terms of day-to-day communications within a business during office hours, instant messaging apps are an excellent option.


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