Communicating Digitally

Digital communication spans many media—emails, websites, instant messages, blogs, wikis, podcasts, video conferences, and more—across many platforms—Twitter, Snapchat, YouTube, Facebook, etc.  Although digital communication is used daily in many professions, because of the benefits of speed and connectivity, communicating digitally requires you, as a communicator, to carefully consider the ramifications of the digital medium you choose. For example:

  • How secure is the medium, and how secure do you need it to be?
  • How accessible is the medium? For example, can everyone involved easily use Skype? Can information on a website be used by a screen reader to be accessible to all users?
  • How much interactivity do you need?
  • What are your audience’s expectations?  For example, will they expect to see videos on a website whose purpose is to instruct?  Will your audience expect a pop-up option for real-time help?  Will your audience expect a static website to be integrated with and supported by social media?

Social media such as Facebook, YouTube, WhatsApp, etc. enable users to connect in groups around user-generated content. As a professional communicator in contemporary society, you need to consider the most effective use of social media appropriate to your purpose and audience, as well as the ramifications of using social media in communication situations in which your audience also has equal input into your message.

The following video discusses the shift in professional communication from audience “listening” to audience participation and creation of information, due to the use of digital and social media. The narrator focuses on characteristics of digital communication: many to many, multiple level communication that requires much faster listening and reaction time.  He also discusses new competencies that professional communicators need, such as managing reputation, communities, and influencers in social media.

Try It

You are tasked with managing online communications for a community group that formed to ask city officials to budget funds to update an intersection where a number of people walk across a 4-lane road to get to a convenience store.  More specifically, your group’s purpose is to get a walk sign installed, crosswalks painted, and a four-way stop programmed into the existing traffic lights.  You have been active on Twitter with your cause, announcing meetings, getting community members to join, and offering statistics about recent issues at the crosswalk in the past five years.  You have just announced an upcoming meeting on Twitter, and have gotten the following reply:

Why r u messing with roads that have been o.k. for so many years?  If people don’t know how to cross the street, they deserve what they get.

What are some ways in which you might reply via Twitter, keeping in mind your purpose, audience, potential effects and re-tweets of your reply, your need to manage communities and influencers, the 7 C’s of effective communication, ethical considerations, and the fact that you have only 140 characters to do so?

What other social media might you use, in addition to Twitter, in order to address this situation?

Social media offers the opportunity to communicate both reactively and proactively.  The following video offers a comprehensive look at how one particular business used multiple digital media professionally for marketing purposes. (Note that although this 2016 video is geared toward an audience of communication instructors, the information in the first 4 minutes is useful to consider.)

Whatever digital media you choose to use in particular communication contexts, realize that you may need to use and monitor many media simultaneously in regard to one particular message.  You need to analyze the communication situation, your audience, purpose, and context in order to choose the best media and tools to use.

The following video discusses the psychology behind communication and offers three tips for effective digital communication. After you view the video, re-consider the Try It exercise.  How might you incorporate some of the tips into your response?