Guest Post by Matt LaCasse
When Shonali reached out to me to ask if I’d write a guest post on technology in communication, I immediately jumped at the chance. My brain then said, “That’s like writing something about fish in the ocean, man.” Fair point.
There are as many different angles to take on that topic as there are grains of sand on the beach.
In this post from last May by John Friedman, he wrote about a job where he traveled across North America to discover a company had lost the plot of what it was doing. I won’t spoil the story or post for you, but suffice it to say that the company had lost focus of what it was they were in the business of actually doing. That speaks very strongly to me at this point in my life right now as I’m taking on a more analytics focused role in my job.
Since the very first smartphones came into being, we’ve been staring at that blue glow more than looking up at the people around us (I know, I know. Insert meme of men on a train looking at newspapers here.) What’s also happened within the last 15 years is more of a focus on how to generate the most number of likes and retweets and clicks rather than actual genuine engagement.
It’s here I think an important distinction must be made. Many rants are made across the tubes of information about how social media vanity stats aren’t true engagement (e.g. likes, retweets, followers, etc). I agree to a point, however, they shouldn’t be completely discounted either. Sometimes people are going to show their true engagement by liking or retweeting. It’s the nature of our modern world.
Chances are if you’re reading this you are a professional communicator of some kind. PR. Marketing. Soothsayer. Storyteller. Whatever it is, your job is likely disseminating a message of some sort to people. When we tell our stories, we need to connect with our audience. Especially those people next to us at the train station or at our kid’s dance practice. In 2019, smartphones are predicted to overtake TV as the device that demands most of our attention each day. In 2018, we spent more than 3.5 hours on them.
How can we connect with the people next to us if we’re too busy staring at our devices?
I wouldn’t be writing for this website if I didn’t believe in the power of technology. I developed a powerful friendship with Shonali because of Twitter. Those relationships can and do happen. We can’t be so focused on the data of our activities online (I realize the irony of saying this on Shonali’s website) that we forsake what it is we’re online to do.
Let me give you an example.
I work for Inter-State Studio & Publishing, Co, the nation’s largest family-owned school picture company. We produce millions of school pictures each spring and fall for families all across the country which requires us to be on top of all sorts of data. To say this is a much more complicated industry than I realized when I got into it three years ago would be a vast understatement. At the end of it all though, there is really one thing we focus on. The students and the families who purchase our photographs. If we lose sight of the reason people are purchasing our product, it won’t matter that we’ve been in business for 85 years, or that we’re the most innovative company in the industry, or how well we take care of our employees. It all goes away.
We have to make sure Libby LaCasse gives us an award-winning smile, first and foremost. Then, we need to ensure that Matt LaCasse is satisfied with the picture. Next, if he encounters any issues with the purchasing process we need to make sure his customer service experience is as smooth as possible and all of his questions get answered.
If we lose sight of that and the fact that I’m purchasing this photo here because 12 years from now when she’s going to college I’ll want to remember that she was a sweet and loving kid once upon a time, the entire company is sunk. Focusing on end data and metrics and forgetting why we’re doing what we’re doing in the first place; losing that human connection, is an ever-present danger. It’s a big reason why I’m taking a break from Twitter and have stepped back from paying close attention to the news and more attention to what’s happening around me.
Technology in communication is crucial. It’s amazing. It’s made all of us Harry Potter or Hermione Granger to a certain extent because it’s as close to actual magic as we’ll ever get.
Just remember why you’re using it in the first place.
Matt LaCasse is a digital media marketing specialist for Inter-State Studio in Sedalia, Missouri. When he’s not making sense of the internet at work, his wife and kids keep life exciting at home. In his spare time the Chicago Cubs, Iowa Hawkeyes, Kansas City Chiefs, and Arsenal F.C. all find ways to break his heart when he’s not riding his bike or trying out new recipes to tempt his family’s tastebuds.