Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Texting vs. Talking

Does face-to-face win the race?

By Sue O'Shea - Director, Integrated Insight

We are increasingly becoming a texting society, especially among teens and young adults. According to the Pew Research Center, texting is most prevalent among cell owners ages 18 to 29 — 97% of them use their mobile phones to send texts. The number is nearly as high (92%) for those ages 30 to 49, but falls off to 72% for those 50 to 64 and 34% for those over 65.   The amount of texts sent daily is staggering, six billion SMS (short message service) messages are sent every day in the United States, according to Forrester Research.  In the US, teenagers send an average of 60 texts a day. According to the Pew Internet research, texting is teens' most common form of communication, beating out phone conversations, social networks and old-fashioned face-to-face conversations. 

There are many case studies that show the power and success of texting as part of the mobile marketing mix.  However, texting before establishing a relationship seems to be jumping the gun a bit.  The Daily Egg blog shares a study from Leads 360 which found that text messages have as much as a 97% open rate, compared to as low as 15% for email, but the study also found that texting someone before starting to speak with and build a relationship with them significantly impacted conversion and lowered the chance of ever being able to convert that prospect again. 

So how does one open a dialog and forge a relationship?

There is no electronic replacement for the power of face to face communication that builds trust and transparency when meeting with a potential client.  Additionally, in-person communication provides feedback not available when communicating electronically –facial expressions, the tone and pitch of the voice, gestures displayed through body language and the physical distance between the communicators – all clues that provide opportunities to better understand the client and her wants and needs.  The ability to pick up on the non-verbal cues and respond appropriately are not learned and developed when the main mode of communication is texting and email. 

TIME magazine reported in the article We Never Talk Anymore: The Problem with Text Messaging  “Habitual texters may not only cheat their existing relationships, they can also limit their ability to form future ones since they don’t get to practice the art of interpreting nonverbal visual cues. As with real reading, the ability to comprehend subtlety and complexity comes only with time and a lot of experience. If you don’t adequately acquire those skills, moving out into the real world of real people can actually become quite scary”

The most successful communicators need the ability to talk and text and know the most appropriate times to use those skills.  When give-and-take is required, there is no better form of communication than putting down the smart phone and speaking to the person face to face.  If personal discussion is not an option, the telephone or Web conferencing is an acceptable second choice.     E-mail is great for scheduling and confirming meetings, phone is good for quick conversations that require two-way communication.  There is no replacement, however, for face-to-face personal conversations for any discussion requiring true dialog and relationship building.

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