In an interesting conversation today, I’ve been given a reassurance that recent posts concerning business acumen and the future of L&D seem to be on the mark.
L&Der at Client A came to visit to learn about digital marketing. The meeting was with me and others to help them understand what the world of digital means. Through the conversation, it arose that L&Der was blissfully ignorant of what she wanted to learn about. And what equally arose was that the digital space is a growing beast that is not understood by those not involved in various social channels.
Working at LBi for the last 2 and 1/2 years has been an interesting experience for me. Before my time here, I had a passing interest in all things internet, as do most people. And then I started to learn about what it is we actually do. And not only us, but what the millions of people who use the internet do. And I don’t mean just searching for porn.
The digital environment has created an unprecedented shift in the way we think and interact. Over the last few years we have seen online environments grow to have millions of users. Millions – not thousands. What other platform in recent history can lay claim to giving millions of people a voice they never knew they had? School systems and universities only capture the youth and those who choose to go on to higher education. Armed Forces certainly is impressive and vast but is limited and quite exclusive. Civil servants probably capture the widest berth of the population, but they tend to be roles that are not very fluid. Movements/religions such as Christianity and Islam are certainly practised by a large population of the world and give a lot of people a common voice in some respect.
But phenomena like Facebook and Twitter have completely changed the way people interact. But, more pertinently, it’s the technological advances that have enabled all this to happen. Not more than 20 years ago, the internet was an interesting thing only a few could access via dial up modems at a speed of 56kbps if you were lucky. There were interesting websites such as Yahoo and AltaVista in existence then. And then over the course of some over-inflated egos and unfounded valuations a lot of people lost a lot of money. But the internet never went away. It persisted. And we’re now at an age where smartphones can give you access to the internet on a demand basis. Want to know the weather? Check the app. What’s in the news? There’s an app for that. How much should you tip your waiter? There’s definitely an app for that.
So what does all this mean? Well, for businesses, it means their thinking on what it means to be in existence has to include a digital strategy. Not just having a website, that won’t suffice anymore. It’s all about engagement and getting your consumers to be your advocates. Huh? You what now?
Beyond this though, it means that working practices and organisational structures need to take into account the fact that the internet has gone beyond something that can be directed. It is a beast. But it can be controlled. Not through policies or through restricting access. But through education and open learning. I’ve read some articles this week about companies restricting access to social networks citing reasons such as data protection and non-productivity. Frankly, if those are issues in your workplace, they would happening irrespective of is social networks were involved or not.
For me, what it means is we are now at a point in time where digital means life has just become absolutely fascinating. I have instant access to everything at my fingertips. Importantly though, I have access to a vast network of people who I can choose to interact with, or not. Content on platforms across the interwebs is pretty much shareable and comment worthy. Facebook/Twitter have made sure that everyone has a voice. Whether people choose to engage with them is a different matter. Those that do, often have the most insightful, relevant and exciting things to say.