We live in a digital world. I should know, I work in a digital marketing agency. Our lives are completely driven by technology: we learn, socialise, create and curate online. Promoting, shopping, networking, recruiting and meeting over screens is now the norm.
In many ways, it’s great – costs are saved, orders delivered, time is better utilised, and actions immediately allocated at the touch of a button. Zoom, Monday, Slack and many, many other tools help us work and live more efficiently, as long as we have a screen and a good internet connection.
Meta has made some bold predictions about how this will play out in the future. Augmented reality will apparently build our offices around us in our homes, allowing us to meet colleagues (both human and robotic) in full size holographic form, as opposed to seeing faces on screens. This may seem very futuristic to many, but isn’t too far in the distance.
Technology is wonderful and if we can meet more quickly and efficiently, I’m all for that. Working remotely is on the rise and that’s to be encouraged for many reasons, not least the environment – and explored in many ways. Driving online connections is what I do – it’s great to see hierarchical, old fashioned ways of working make way for more flexible approaches that works for everyone. Productivity should always come before presenteeism.
However, there is still a very real need for human interaction. Phone calls, Zoom chats, WebEx meetings and slick holographic meetups in the Metaverse are all very well, but they are no substitute for real-time, face to face interaction. Building a brand online without real-time connections can take a lot longer – loyalty is not an overnight thing. I will promote digital with all my being, but I still want to come and work alongside my team and I still want to see the products I buy, and know a business before I engage. It’s vital for the culture, creativity and community of a company to survive. And for the wellbeing of the team that works for that company.
It all comes down to communication – with your team and your customer base. Understanding your audience and their priorities comes first, whether that is providing sustainable packaging as an e-commerce brand or delivering ongoing after sales service as an insurance broker. Research and outreach are vital when you are operating digitally.
Every brand and business has a culture, a personality, an ethos. Your entire brand and HR strategy needs to be connected so that this is communicated and reflected in everything you do – it can’t just be words on a website, it needs to be followed by people working from home, customers talking about you on socials. Your whole team must know the company mindset and the way this impacts on the customer.
This does mean getting a business team together as much as possible – not just digitally. Culture is vital to the ongoing success of a business and many organisations are adapting the old office spaces to make them central hubs for meetings, with employees sharing “in the office” emails as opposed to “out of the office” ones – and that makes sense. Let’s definitely use digital to build audiences and brands, hold overseas meetings and carry out daily comms, connecting people who might not otherwise be connected. But let’s never rely on it completely.
We should use the wealth of technology at our fingertips and the digital skills we are learning to connect, absolutely. To meet, definitely. But it should also be used to create healthier work arrangements, and to bring businesses, brands and customers together more, rather than keep them apart.
Digital has a place, but only alongside real life.