Channels

A couple of years ago, I remember my friend Mukund Mohan asking on Twitter how many channels people had engaged on in a particular day. I was always amazed when I sat back and thought about the fact that I was usually somewhere near 10-11 which included things like:

  • The phone (landline)
  • Cell phone
  • Twitter
  • Facebook (which now has several sub-channels)
  • E-mail
  • Skype
  • Text messages
  • Face-2-face
  • Blog (via comments)
  • IM (AIM, Yahoo and/or g-chat)
  • Discussion forums
While the number of channels continues to proliferate, my preferences continue to stay the same. What’s amazing to me is that more people don’t pick up on other people’s preferred methods of communicating. In particular, this is an important notion when it comes to one’s boss, respective other, family and increasingly, in influencer outreach.
For me, I have about three channels that I like to communicate in (and I’m guessing you won’t be surprised):
  1. E-mail
  2. Twitter
  3. Text messaging
My three least favorite?
  1. Phone (landline)
  2. Cell phone
  3. IM (increasingly Facebook IM)
Now that doesn’t mean that I don’t like using IM with certain people. My co-author, Mike Schneider, and  I use Skype regularly to communicate about our book. It’s also an invaluable tool during the Quick’n’Dirty podcast I do with Jennifer Leggio. And recently, I’ve found it humorous when my three year old daughter Skype calls me AND then manages to turn on the video functionality on my wife’s computer. But this is a fairly private channel for me and I don’t necessarily want everyone using it. It’s also interruptive and requires me to stop what I’m doing to pay attention.
I also don’t mind being on the phone sometimes. But it really is my least favorite channel. I’m not sure where my dislike of the phone stems from but what I will say is that my relationship with my wife has improved 1,000 fold now that we primarily use text to communicate when we aren’t able to talk face to face. And with respect to everyone, I like my wife a whole lot better than I like a lot of other people.
Where am I going with this post? To the world of business of course and the fact that now, more than ever, businesses big and small need to be more in tune with how their customers want to engage them. If it’s Twitter, then provide Twitter customer service… the same hours that you provide phone support. Or IM. Or via Facebook. Or on Skype (like AT&T; does which is brilliant by the way).
Unfortunately, I’m still seeing a lot of companies that live in the world of in person, phone or e-mail. And of course most of those are during hours that aren’t super convenient for most normal people. Hopefully this will change in 2011 as more and more companies look toward operationalizing social media. But I’m afraid it’s going to be a while before we can engage companies in exactly the channels we please, when we please. Until then, I guess it’s more “your call is very important to us… please continue to hold and your call will be answered in the order that it was received.” Oy.