I had a few hours on the train today and while I was crammed in with all the other passengers I noticed something really quite striking. Virtually every person had a computer of some form, whether that was an iPad or laptop, the majority were tapping away. Of course almost universally people had and were using smartphones. So why is this striking and significant?
Each iPad, laptop and smartphone had access to the Internet and to social networks. This meant that for companies and organisations wanting to get messages out to customers or to have conversations with interested individuals they had immediate access to do this. This was not the sight on public transport two or three years ago. Then only a handful of people would be using computers and of those few would be viewing social networks as a business and consumer tool.
This technological development has increased demands on communication teams who are expected to be connecting round-the-clock. There is no option to switch off and not deal with complaints, issues and comments that happen out of office hours and at weekends. Companies have to be there and there are many ways that organisations may devise to deal with this challenge.
There are clearly difficulties for teams managing this changing landscape but the technology developments are also hugely liberating. For consumers they can shop anywhere, they can make a complaint immediately and they can call for help when they need it. What is important is how groups, organisations and companies respond to the changing environment.
On a separate but related point, I was asked recently how I find the time to interact using social networks. A strange question when I never get asked how I find time to speak to people, or email or read a newspaper. Using Twitter and Facebook is just as natural as making a phone call. And the technological developments mean I can make a call anywhere in the same way that I can check and post on social networks anywhere. We need to stop asking how to use social media and accept it is just another form of communication. Now is the time to get, and stay, connected.