The way that people and businesses communicate is changing rapidly. I can use my own family as a good example of this. In tech terms I am old school and my preferred mode of communications is email, plus I talk to a lot of people each week on the phone or in person. I only send two or three business text messages out each week. I send this blog out by Twitter, but I rarely communicate with anybody using Twitter. I use social media mostly for friends and family.
But then I look at my teenage daughter who is very representative of her generation. She never emails, and I mean never. She will talk to somebody on the phone only if there is no alternative (meaning to me). She texts a ton – and not just with SMS or other texts on her phone, but also using various messenger services and social networks as well. She will only use Facebook to share things with a few of us oldsters. And she exchanges silly pictures and such with friends using several picture and video services.
There is almost no crossover between her generation and mine and her generation looks upon all the ways my generation communicates as old and obsolete. This certainly has to put a shiver up the spine of anybody in the business of supplying traditional communications. I saw a survey this week that said that 25% of people don’t use their cellphones to make phone calls – and it’s not too hard to figure out which generation that is.
I’ve been hearing it said for probably two decades that telephony is a commodity and it’s finally starting to come true. For example, Facebook is making a big push to convince small businesses to communicate with their customers through Messenger. They aren’t doing this because there is money to made in the communication, but rather in the local advertising that think will come along with businesses making them their primary communications tool.
Facebook is starting into this venture with huge potential because they claim to already have over 50 million small business pages on their social network. They recently gave businesses the ability to communicate with people directly on Messenger rather than forcing people to post public messages. They are also working on click-to-Messenger from ads so that a customer can communicate instantly with an advertiser. They are also considering allowing the option for ‘blast’ messaging where a business could send messages to many followers at the same time (for pay of course).
And all of this is being driven by wanting to lure more companies to advertise on Facebook and by the desire to keep users within the Facebook realm when they want to do ecommerce. The communications part of this is an afterthought. But it’s clear that Facebook’s vision of future communications doesn’t require a telephone number or an email address and that anybody inside Facebook can interact with others directly with Messenger.
They are not the only big web company that wants to do this. There are changes happening everywhere. There was a lot of talk last year about building free voice connections into a number of browsers. Twitter is lengthening the size of their messages to allow people to have longer and more meaningful communications as an alternative to email. Even LinkedIn is enabling businesses to send bulk messages to their contacts.
And every one of these trends is a direct assault on traditional communications. When the younger generations are in the workforce they are still going to want to communicate in these new ways instead of with emails or phone calls (and many already do).
I saw another survey recently that said that people become attached to the way that they learn to watch video. It said that kids who grew up mostly watching YouTube are not buying traditional cable TV and continue to prefer YouTube and alternate sources of video. And I think the same thing is true for general communications. If my daughter gets into the workplace and is forced to use email she will begrudgingly do so. But given an alternative she will communicate in the way that is most comfortable and productive to her – and that is a world without traditional telecom.