How We Communicate – Now & Into The Future
‘Is so funny…. How we don’t talk anymore.’
There was never a truer word spoken by Sir Cliff. Of course, in this song he was referring to an estranged lover, not the fact that the majority of us communicate via social media, text and emails these days.
Of course, he could have added:
‘Except when you view my YouTube channel, because then you will at least hear my voice.’
Although, I am not sure that would have quite fitted with the rest of the lyrics.
If you are of a certain generation and you know who Cliff Richard is, then you probably recognise the song I am referring to above and are perhaps even humming it as you read this. The rest of you might be wondering what the heck I am going on about.
I will explain…
The song popped in to my head as I was thinking about the future of copywriting and where we will be in terms of communications in ten years’ time (seriously, it did). I also came across a study by Ofcom, which found that just 3% of 12-15 year olds communicate using voice calls. The rest, of course, are texting, emailing and on social networks.
I thought about my daughter (who is ten years old). Already, she has an iPad and if she needs any information, she will automatically use it to look on-line. At present, she only has email, but in a few years, she will join the rest of the teenage population by having her own social media accounts.
In other words, all her communication and information searching will happen on-line.
In another ten years’ time, when she is all grown up (not a concept I wish to dwell on), how much will she rely on the internet and social media to gather information and share?
I should think the answer is obvious, because it is already happening today. Use of the internet is increasing year upon year. According to Ofcom, the average UK adult spends more time on-line than they do sleeping.
Let’s take an example.
Your washing machine has broken down. What is the first thing you do?
In the old days, if you didn’t already have a referral from a friend, you would reach for the Yellow Pages, look someone up and then give them a call.
Nowadays, it is more common to look someone up on line and then there is a split: some would still reach for the telephone to call someone up (according to Ofcom, 20% of the older generation still prefer to communicate by telephone), the rest would hit the contact button and send an email. You can complete the entire transaction without a single word exchanged (until the person comes to fix your machine, of course).
There may be a saturation of information on the big old World Wide Web, but without it, we would be lost. It is vital, therefore, for every company worth its salt to have an online presence and the ability to communicate with existing and potential customers.
In ten years’ time then, I expect copywriters like myself to be doing more and more digital communications. The need for companies to have quality words on those web pages is paramount and as we look to the future, this will only become more important.
What good would it do to put a leaflet or flier through my (grown up) daughter’s door? She isn’t likely to clog up a notice board with information that she might possibly, but not likely, need one day. What if that washing machine maintenance company did a leaflet drop, would she keep this information in case her own machine one day went kaput? The answer is no, of course not, because if she needs someone, she will ask her smart phone to make the call.
How would you reach out to my daughter, if you were a business seeking out potential customers?
Social engagement is the key here, I think. Platforms like Facebook can help to raise a profile via sponsored posts. Encouraging engagement through offers, giveaways and competitions will entice visitors. If you can get them to share your information, this is a statement in itself. By doing this, they are endorsing your product or brand.
If you remember, I said at the beginning that no one talks anymore. You are more likely to get a speculative or spam email than you are a cold call telesales operative. You can opt out of receiving unsolicited mail and calls but you can’t do the same for email, so those who are clever enough to avoid being put in the spam box can reach you and try to sell you just about anything. I can only foresee this becoming an even bigger problem.
With all the information that is potentially available on-line, individuals will need to develop ways of sorting and filtering so that they can see what interests them most and avoid the rest. Anyone who is interested in a company or product, is more likely to sign up to receive news about it. That way, they can control what information they receive in their in-box and avoid having to trawl through hundreds of email sales pitches. By encouraging people to sign up to your newsletter, you have an instant email list. This is nothing new, but it will become a vital way of reaching out to interested parties.
In this technological world, around 44% of Brits now have a tablet and 61% have a Smart phone. According to a study by Docmail, one in five people couldn’t recall the last time they had to write something by hand. Secondary schools rely heavily on the use of computers and it is common practice for children to have their own tablets or laptops to use for homework. It should come as no surprise, therefore, that handwriting skills are in decline.
Add this to the way that teenagers communicate with each other i.e. through text speak/slang and you might begin to wonder just how much this will affect our written communications in the future. An article from The Telegraph argues that even students at some of the top ranking universities were struggling to master the basics of the English language. If this is the case, where does that leave the rest of us?
Will copywriters of the future have to master the art of text speak in order to communicate to the masses or will those of us who still know the difference between ‘there’ and ‘their’ be like gold dust.
OMG I hope so, cos I wud h8 2 have 2 do this all day LOL.
I will leave you with that thought. If you read until the end, congratulations, I will reward you with this hilarious video clip of Sir Cliff singing his song. It is worth a view for the canary yellow silk shirt and tight leather pants alone!