Times have changed. Fast. Since yesterday even. The digital communication revolution rivals the industrial revolution in terms of advancement – whilst you are in it, it may be difficult to see just how big it is. But stand back and think back to life 25 years ago, through to today, and see just how many things have changed in terms of social media and your marketing communication. Let’s look specifically at the business environment and how it is affected by your social environment.

25 years ago.

If you wanted to communicate with someone, you would pick up the phone or send them a fax. There were a few avant-garde folk with mobile phones which were the size of bricks, or they had car phones (size of a suitcase!) and we wondered:

  1. Who the heck they were calling?
  2. What was so important it couldn’t wait until you were home/at the office to make the call?

CD’s revolutionised the music industry.

20 years ago.

Internet and email became “normal”. At first, we baulked at it – the internet was a strange, slow place and had little place in our lives. We were starting to appreciate email with the impact the speed of it had on our lives, and how it benefited work. I remember my first job as a graphic designer in 1996 where I asked if we could set up a website for a major shopping centre (it was the biggest mall in our province back then) and my boss replied that the internet was a “fad” and wouldn’t take off! (hindsight is a bitch now!). We set up Hotmail addresses and the younger generation revelled in explaining to the older generation how a message could be sent around the world in less time than it took to spell “world”.

We also got cell phones. They were blindingly expensive to use and we still didn’t know what factored as important enough to use them! But we had them and they started becoming a new status symbol in our lives.

15 years ago.

Websites were becoming common-place and we referred more frequently to them, but the average Joe didn’t have much interaction with the internet. They were still slow to use and website design was still fairly new, plus there were some difficult sites to navigate, so you’d really have to want to use it!

vintage-phone10 years ago.

Our cell phones followed us everywhere. We wanted slimmer, better-looking ones and started using the internet on our phones. We all had our own email addresses, company websites and the younger generation (still ahead) were communicating in a virtual world, MySpace etc.

5 years ago.

We’re onto Facebook, Twitter, Skype, LinkedIN, and Amazon. We buy online, sell online, fall in love and out of love online. We conduct our business from our desk and speak to clients around the world without flinching. We carry our music around in our phones and cameras are becoming obsolete. Digital is now our primary way of communicating (apart from a good old chin-wag with those we see every day).


Instagram, Snapchat, Vine… we’re sharing life as it happens. Wars and revolutions are ignited. “Norms” are challenged. Peers are trusted and mainstream media is not. Today’s news is old by tomorrow. We’re all about individualism and right NOW.

So how does this affect your business? Well, there are varying levels influenced by your type of business; your target market e.g. business-to-business (B2B) or business-to-consumer (B2C); and your commitment to speaking through social media.

Let’s take a closer look:

Type of business:

If you are a plumber, for example, it may not be worth your while to enter into social media. The time spent on updating and keeping your content current may outweigh the return on investment (ROI). I’d recommend spending your energy on an efficient business with outstanding customer service, which is spread through word of mouth.

However, if you are a coffee shop owner, it would be worth investing in a social media campaign as people who love coffee tend to LOVE their coffee! They talk about it and share news and they may very well want to hear your thoughts on the subject. You can advertise specials, promotions and share the culture of your business with them.

Target Market.

Your target market defines how you speak to your customer.

B2B may not need Facebook and Snapchat – their customers are looking for a specialised service or looking for answers . B2B communication is often heavily driven by an exceptional website, and can use Twitter or Instagram for support and for the latest news. LinkedIN is the platform of choice for most B2B companies who can share their information with like-minded users. Intuit, the makers of Quickbooks, have been very clever at creating a community on social media by not just focusing on their accounting software, but instead creating a community for small business owners. They are successfully focusing on their target market but broadening their message so that their product supports the community and isn’t the focus point.

B2C really comes alive with all forms of social media. Remember that social media and digital engagement is a conversation. And the conversation is what you want with your consumers. Whether it’s promoting your specials (think of Woolworths) or sharing your culture (think GoPro) it is applicable from a small one man company through to giants such as Red Bull.

Your commitment to digital communication

“if you do something, do it right”

Like so many things, this one really falls into the “if you do something, do it right” category. From “read our latest news” on your website and it was last updated in 2013, to “this is my first tweet” on Twitter… and it remains as your first (and only!). Make sure if you start the path of communication digitally that you are committed to it.

You need to commit not only to fresh and relevant content but be prepared for prompt and efficient client service, especially if it’s a complaint. For most companies, I would recommend using a social media / digital agency to work out a strategy and assist you with your communications. But even if you do it on your own (there is a wealth of information out there to teach you, but it’s a LOT to take it!), make sure you keep your content current and relevant.

The future:

The last 20 years have been an exciting time. When I started studying, computers were brand new and only just becoming mainstream. Now many of my clients are international and we have remote communication! It’s allowed our design studio to remain small, yet work with global brands. I can’t wait to see what the next few years bring!