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Staying human – the importance of face-to-face engagement in the digital era

In today’s digital age, technology is changing the way we work and communicate. As the social media era takes over, organisations find themselves constantly shifting to ensure they have a successful digital strategy in place. However, direct or ‘human-to-human’ engagement can be just as crucial as digital technologies when it comes to engaging your audience.

How digital technologies have changed the game

The 2017 Deloitte survey, which tracks the digital habits of Australians in its annual Media Consumer survey, noted that 48% of respondents had engaged at least once with a company via social media. Of them, 63% agreed that the information they found on social media was more effective than a phone call, and 69% agreed that a company’s response on social media was both faster and better suited to their needs.

Certainly, emphasis should be placed on the importance of digital technology, when it comes to sharing up-to-date information, and engaging and discussing content. However, are we beginning to forget about the importance of good old face-to-face communication?

The art of personal engagement

Communication in the real world is made up of body language, cues, voice and touch. According to Mehrabian’s Communication Theory, 93% of body language consists of paralinguistic cues, the other 7% consisting of words. We’ve all heard the saying ‘actions speak louder than words,’ – well, when it comes to communicating, you can certainly gain a better understanding of how a client is feeling through their body language, rather than through other forms of communication. Socialising through a digital means can be ambiguous, it can be hard to gauge someone’s feelings, and often there are misunderstandings. A face-to-face approach leads to immediate feedback, and a better understanding of your clients concerns.

Direct engagement can also help build stronger relationships, with both clients and other businesses. A survey by Forbes found that 84% of its 760 business executive respondents preferred face-to-face communication, with the majority agreeing that it built stronger, more meaningful business relationships.

Part of the strategy

In the digital present we often forget the value of face-to-face communication. At the same time, businesses obviously cannot reach all their stakeholders with direct human engagement. What you need to do is work out the right mix for your business. Think about the sort of stakeholders you are trying to reach, and what you are trying to get out of these stakeholders.

For example, if you are trying to build a development in a community, giving your business a human face through community engagement will be essential to your success. But if you are attempting to sell a new app, a digital heavy communication strategy is probably more appropriate.

It’s important that you define your business development or sales goals and build a communication strategy around them. But when you are developing your strategy, don’t forget the value of good, old-fashioned, face-to-face communication.