Immersive content studio Rewind CEO and founder Sol Rogers talks about the ways digital methods have replaced most forms of modern communication. In business especially, the hand-written letter has been left behind in the wake of email, instant messaging, and collaboration software. Phone calls are almost a thing of the past as well with FaceTime, Zoom, and other forms of video conferencing, text, and chat. From the invention of the telephone in 1849, to the mobile phone in 1973, through pagers and personal digital assistants, communications devices have evolved into the smartphones and other technological devices we use every day in our homes and businesses.
Along with telephony devices, Rogers describes how the Internet has impacted communication with email, instant messaging, voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) telephone calls, video conferencing, and all the forms of social media we enjoy daily. It has made it easy to communicate with anyone in the world, from almost anywhere in the world, accelerating the pace and opportunity of business, and allowing anyone a voice through social media. It’s changed the way we consume information and news.
What is digital communication? Digital communication encompasses online communication efforts as diverse as targeted social media ads, blogs, websites, messaging apps and platforms, online games, and information channels including email and digital documents on web pages such as case studies, research results, articles, white papers, and promotional advertising.
What is Digital Communication?
Digital communications are online communication efforts by individuals, groups, and organizations. It’s rare to find someone without any digital presence whatsoever. From resumes and work experience profiles in LinkedIn to social media profiles, job seekers promote themselves online, many while still in college. Employers conduct job advertising, candidate screening, and interviews online. Many people blog about their favorite topics or hobbies or areas of expertise, and even start businesses online with digital communications.
Digital communication in business includes all of an organization’s online communications. Modern business must have some form of online presence, and most enlist a whole host of online channels for every aspect of their business. Connecting with customers and employees with digital messaging is the norm and a must to stay competitive and successful.
Communications expert Northeastern professor Dr. Edward Powers explains that digital communications make it much easier and quicker to get messaging out to reach much wider audiences than just twenty years ago. He uses the example of the World Wildlife Federation (WWF) using social media platform Snapchat to ask for donations for its campaign to save endangered species. WWF asked Snapchat users to donate and to share its message, reaching 120 million social media users and meeting its fundraising goal for the entire month in just three days.
Dr. Powers says this illustrates how digital communication is an ingrained part of our world.
Digital Communication Career Paths
The Association of Data-Driven Marketing and Advertising identified the following areas in digital communications career paths:
Digital communications professionals have opportunities in marketing to fill business needs for content marketing and data-driven marketing. Businesses need content to engage their target market audiences with credible information about their industries, products, and services. Businesses also need help analyzing data from marketing campaigns to help make the best decisions about their marketing budgets and spending.
Digital Advertising and Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
Digital communication is part of digital advertising where businesses reach their target audiences through online advertising channels like Google AdWords and advertising on social media platforms such as Instagram and Snapchat. SEO professionals work in digital communications creating and analyzing website content to improve search engine ranking so that the business messaging reaches as widely as possible.
Digital communications play a huge role in social media. It involves creating written and visual online content that attracts and engages target audiences, analyzing social media activity such as likes and comments, and developing and managing social media communities.
Preparing for a Career in Digital Communication
Dr. Powers notes that digital communication is a very broad area with plenty of areas in which to specialize. For example, visually-oriented individuals may choose to specialize in video.
A career in digital communication requires specialized knowledge and digital skills along with experience in areas using that expertize. Many colleges, universities, and technical schools offer degrees and certifications in digital communication and media. In Northeastern’s BS in Digital Communication and Media program, students learn about and work on the principles of marketing, persuasive and informative writing, visual communication, consumer behavior, data analysis, web and mobile development, and social media communications.
Dr. Powers describes the course as a virtual firm where the students work as employees on actual digital media projects for actual clients, getting virtual work experience. Being part of the entire process of creating a communication plan helps them understand the work from the client’s perspective, the way they’d work in an actual project.
Some specific job titles for individuals with degrees in digital communications include transmedia specialist, social media manager, advertising specialist, new media storyteller, and digital specialist. Fields that employ digital communication professionals include telecommunications, motion picture and video industries, radio and television services, and desktop publishing.
Why Digital Communication is Increasingly Important
At the beginning of 2021, almost five billion people were using the Internet across the world. More than 90 percent of them use the internet from mobile devices. Worldwide, Internet use is at 59 percent of the total population. That is a huge number that can’t be ignored by businesses.
Aside from the sheer numbers of people in a medium that runs on and relies on digital communication, digital communication is increasingly important because, as Cody LeBlanc of APCO Worldwide found, more and more clients are looking for help with digital communication strategies. LeBlanc explains that’s because of the rate of change taking place in the digital marketplace and evolution of digital marketing technologies.
Automation, artificial intelligence, and expensive digital marketing technologies are rapidly being adopted for online communications, but budgets aren’t keeping pace, making a focus on digital communication even more important. LeBlanc points out that social media creates a lot of competition for brands to capture users’ attention, making it more and more important to keep pace with what people are doing online and how to engage them.
Sol Rogers points out that with 5G adoption, and now buzz about 6G, digital communication is not going away – communication and connection technologies are constantly evolving and advancing. Old school forms of communication like manual writing with pen and paper, talking on the phone, and reading the news printed on paper are falling away as digital communication advances.
How We Use Digital Communication
Digital communication is used in myriad ways, but email, wearable technology, and virtual reality are a few of the most common.
Since the early 90’s, email has captivated users and marketers alike. Today, Rogers says we send billions of emails daily, and that number increased by almost tenfold. Even as popular and well-used as email is, digital communication technologies are advancing that may overtake email and make it obsolete.
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Wearable technology has come some way from the first hands-free mobile headset in 1999 launched Bluetooth technology. Now we are participating in video interviews on our smartphones or smartwatches, logging our daily steps with Fitbit, and wearing clothes that give us feedback about different biological or medical information.
Virtual Reality (VR)
Virtual reality (VR) helps us connect in new ways, being with someone in a virtual reality space without the cost and inconvenience of physical travel. Meetings, games, and shared experiences of all kinds make VR a rapidly expanding new digital communication avenue.
Trends for digital communication include mobile platforms, interactive messaging, artificial intelligence, digital payment platforms, and voice-enabled tech. The worldwide pandemic has accelerated many digital communication processes, and has given rise to hybrid approaches where people and machines work together to provide better client experiences. More than ever before, captivating your customers with digital communication to create an optimal experience and build a relationship is a competitive advantage. The future of communications includes a bigger and bigger digital component that is here to stay. A strong and evolving digital communication strategy should be a top priority for every business.