Erica Lynn

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Effective Communication Levels Using Social Media Tools

Recently I was asked to participate in giving an effective communication presentation to my company’s marketing team.  Being a member of the commination department, my team and I

chose to focus on the process of communication and choosing the correct tool for each situation.  This led me to think about effective communication in the social media age, and how it has changed for companies. With the emergence of social media we are introduced to a number of new tools all with their own roles and rules changing the hierarchy of levels of communication. The article titled “5 Levels of Effective Communication in the Social Media Age” found on Mashable.com discusses integrating social media into the different levels of communication, each level having a specific purpose and etiquette. The article states “When we do not understand the role of these levels, they can become huge time wasters. When we do understand them however, they can help us more effectively engage and navigate these new waters.

Below are the 5 levels of communication outlined by the article, the appropriate tool for each level and the reasoning behind each choice.

Level One: The Public Reply

The public reply refers to a company communicating with its customers through a channel where the customers can receive information and reply publicly. Imagine a company wanting to encourage discussion about new products, promotional items and new special, or wanting to hear from a customer about their experience with using their product, dealing with the front line sales staff or filing a complaint. The article recommends this be done by using Facebook through comments on Fan pages or (even better) Twitter, where the company can use @replies to send and receive short viewable messages. By using these social media tools the company remains transparent by utilizing an open/viewable channel for the customers to interact with the company. The article states “Public interactions are a great starting point for a channel that never existed before social media, and if done correctly, can often lead to more fruitful direct communication.”

Level Two: The Direct Message

In this case, the direct message refers to a company sending a direct message to its customers
within a social network. The article suggests this is done only after a relationship is established through a public reply and that “a direct message creates a private connection without opening the floodgates of e-mail.” The direct message can be used when managing unhappy customers or communicating information to specific customers not appropriate for public viewing. The article suggest this be done by Facebook but never Twitter because of the limited length of messages and the function of only being able to receive direct messages from your followers.

Level Three: Email

As previously mentions email can often “open a flood gate” or in this case, allow for more in-depth communication. The fact that email can be forwarded and sent to more than one people at once allows for more than one person to get involved and aid in resolving the problem. For example, a customer can be unhappy with the level of service they received from a particular employee at one of the many store locations of the company. By using email to company is able to engage in a conversation with the customer asking them for more information including details such as, what exactly the problem was and at what store they were dealing with. The email can them be sent to the manager of that region, customer service representative of that region and anyone else who could help fix the problem. But, as the article states, “When not used effectively (email), can become a huge time drain, as people write lengthy messages without much thought of the time and attention they are asking of recipients. This fine line makes e-mail tough to master in the social media age.” But if written properly the email can engage the customer while solving the problem and maintaining a private channel.

Level Four: Phone

Although it may seem with the emergence of social media the phone call and the art of conversation are no longer needed, but the phone call still has it advantages. The article states “hearing someone’s voice allows people to get a better sense of one another. While communicating via text, a person can take time to carefully craft his or her words, potentially presenting an image that may not be true or is harder to trust. A phone call allows for more immediate back-and-forth, and can be particularly helpful if a subject matter is delicate or people are considering a more in-depth relationship.”

The phone call is often a good choice when an issue is more complex than previously thought or needs a ‘back and forth’ dialog to work out the best answer to solve the problem. It also allows for the communicators to know the message has been received unlike emails or Facebook messages which can remain unopened for months without the sender know it. It also cuts down on the time needed to discuss something removing the time gap between receiving and responding to emails or Facebook messages.

In a world of new social media communication tool it is easy for a company to not use the phone or see it as a ‘last resort’ but essentially it remains the most effective way for a small number of people to commination next to face to face meetings.

Level Five: In Person Meeting

Much like the art of conversation understanding body language is a lost concept, but something that should be resurrected. Through our body language we communicate things like comfort level, passion and overall vision. The article states “Meeting with someone in person allows for communication to occur on multiple levels, and people often come away with a much better sense of each other. “

While a meeting can be “enhanced by the natural progression of first digital communication”, the effectiveness of the commination cannot be entirely relied upon to manage in depth conversation often needed to resolve complex problems. The drawback of face to face communication is time and money. I have learned it is important to look around the table of a meeting and questions each person’s attendants bases on cost of time and resources. Social media has allowed companies to curb these costs by not having meetings as a starting point of communication, but a later stage that can be utilized at a higher level.

Source: http://mashable.com/2010/02/08/communication-social-media/

Additional links of interest:

http://mashable.com/2010/01/12/zen-social-media/

http://mashable.com/2010/01/07/social-media-changed-us/

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