As much of a game-changer as social media have been, some experts predict that mobile communication will change the nature of business and business communication even more. Venture capitalist Joe Schoendorf says that “Mobile is the most disruptive technology that I have seen in 48 years in Silicon Valley.” Researcher Maribel Lopez calls mobile “the biggest technology shift since the Internet.”
Many companies are scrambling to integrate mobile technology, from internal communication systems to banking to retail. Mobile apps and communication systems can boost employee productivity, help companies form closer relationships with customers and business partners, and spur innovation in products and services. As one indicator of this shift, you’ve probably noticed the growth of websites changing to a mobile-first design that works better on tablets and phones.
Whether it’s emailing, social networking, watching video, or doing research, the percentage of communication and media consumption performed on mobile devices continues to grow. For millions of people around the world, a mobile device is their primary way, if not their only way, to access the Internet. Globally, roughly 80 percent of Internet users access the web at least some of the time with a mobile device.
Mobile has become the primary communication tool for many business professionals, including a majority of executives under age 40. Email and web browsing rank first and second in terms of the most common non-voice uses of smartphones, and more email messages are now opened on mobile devices than on PCs. Roughly half of U.S. consumers use a mobile device exclusively for their online search needs, and many online activities that eventually migrate to a PC screen start out on a mobile screen. For many people, the fact that a smartphone can make phone calls is practically a secondary consideration; data traffic from mobile devices far outstrips voice traffic.
Moreover, mobile phones—particularly smartphones—have become intensely personal devices in ways that PCs never did. For many users, the connection is so close they can feel a sense of panic when they don’t have frequent access to their phones. When people are closely connected to their phones, day and night, they are more closely connected to all the information sources, conversations, and networks that those phones can connect to. As a result, mobile connectivity can start to resemble a continuous stream of conversations that never quite end, which influences the way business communicators need to plan and produce documents and messages. If wearable technologies such as Google Glass and smartwatches become mainstream devices, they will contribute even more to this shift in behaviors.
The parallels between social media and mobile communication are striking: Both sets of technologies change the nature of communication, alter the relationships between senders and receivers, create opportunities as well as challenges, and force business professionals to hone new skills. In fact, much of the rise in social communication can be attributed to the connectivity made possible by mobile devices. Companies that work to understand and embrace mobile, both internally and externally, stand the best chance of capitalizing on this monumental shift in the way people communicate.
Coming up next in our series on mobile: How mobile technologies are changing business communication.
For more about mobile, see How the Mobile Revolution Is Changing Business Communication, an online magazine.