Even people who are avid users of social networking sites prefer to be face-to-face. According to a study by the audience analysis company Crowd Science, 92% of social networkers prefer face-to-face communication. Interestingly, though, a significant slice of people prefer social networking communication to the telephone.
At first, this might sound odd, but actually it’s rather basic. Human beings have two forms of communication – spoken and written. If you go back to our days in the caves, when our communication systems were just forming, we realised that we needed two means of communication. Speech was OK – if someone was nearby to hear you. But what if you needed to communicate to someone who wasn’t actually with you? That’s why cave paintings were invented; they gave information, for instance, as to where the best hunting grounds were. Written communication is ideal for people who are not actually next to us.
So, the telephone is actually a very poor communication tool. It is only any good for people we can actually, at that moment in time, talk to. Few people, when they hear “I’m out, please leave a message”, actually go on to leave a voicemail. In fact, most people hang up when they realise they cannot actually speak to someone. Our brain goes “oh, there is no-one to speak to, so I need to write to them”. That’s why SMS text messaging is more popular on mobile phones than voice; and it explains why social networking is hugely popular because we can communicate with people who are not actually with us at that moment in time.
But, if you run a business online, you need to note the details of the Crowd Science study. Even the people who love social networking and chatting to people do so because the people they want to communicate with are not with them at that moment in time. But they would really rather be with their social networking connections face-to-face. It means your online business is bound to do better if you can incorporate a face-to-face element. Amazon, for instance, is doing very well indeed online – but they would almost certainly do better if they had some kind of face-to-face element to their business. How many times have you complained about an organisation as being “faceless”? Does your online business have a “face”?
Human beings love social contact and so it’s no surprise that social networking is so popular. But, as this new research from Crowd Science shows us, we prefer real contact to distant contact. Add that real contact to your online business and you will connect with your audience in a much better way than your competition. If you stick with distant communication, well, in reality you are still rather like a caveman.
Graham Jones is an Internet Psychologist who studies the way people use the online world, in particular how people engage with businesses. He uses this knowledge to help companies improve their online connections to their customers and potential customers and offers consultancy, workshops, masterclasses and webinars. He also speaks regularly at conferences and business events. Graham is an award-winning writer and the author of 32 books, several of which are about various aspects of the Internet. For more information connect with me on Google+