Has email already become passé? If, like me, you still remember your first AOL or Compuserve account it's hard to believe. Still, there are a lot of changes in how people communicate today, and with which devices. The fastest growing segment of the training and corporate communication space is sending text messages.
If you have a teenager, like I do, then you've probably experienced the strange phenomenon of having to text or send a Facebook message imploring them to please check their email account for whatever message you sent days ago. It might not seem like a very grown-up or businesslike way of communicating, but millions of people would disagree.
One company, Train by Cell, is already using this tool to push learning out to the field. There are plenty of others such as well. My friend TJ McCue has a list of 12 here. While most of these services are geared at marketing, many companies are using these to replace email blasts internally as well.
According to Dave Asheim, Train By Cell's founder, there are plenty of reasons for this switch. The biggest one is that people have a Pavlovian response to text messages they don't have with computer-based email.
"Text Messaging is instant. Studies have people are more likely to read a text message within the first 5 minutes of it being sent than an email. We've seen the massive growth of text message alerts and communication from weather alerts to company changes to emergency meetings. There are endless possibilities when it comes to text message communication and texting provides a format that allows companies to manage mobile subscriptions, schedule text messages, and send messages out immediately", he says.
So when should a company or a manager send out a text instead of an email? Asheim advises companies to use text message alerts rather than email when you want to relay a message quickly. "People don't check their email as often as they should and if you want to get a message across quickly and easily without the risk of spam filters or the email being buried. With a text message, companies can link people to information, the company's mobile website, or lead them to a hotline where they can learn more."
Anyone who has ever tried to send a group text from their phone knows there are issues, so some infrastructure is involved. You'll need an administrative website and a common keyword and shortcode. From there, the company can manage subscriptions, collect phone numbers, and text messages through an administrative website. They may also download statistics and details such as subscriptions, unsubscribes, see who received the message, and text message alerts that were read.
There are also features like Geo-tracking which are much more effective in the mobile world than in traditional email. This starts to cross a line between efficiency and stalking many people aren't quite so comfortable with. IT people may also have some issues with this plan.
If you're going to start using mobile devices as part of the normal work flow, you'll also want to have a mobile-optimized website or social media platform for your people to use as most intranets are clunky and hard to manipulate on a phone as well as they are at a desk-based computer.
Basically text messaging is a great way to get word out fast, and then drive action. Don't send long screeds with lots of detail, that's what old-time technology like email is for.
Email is now old time technology. I think I need a nap.