If you weren’t already using a range of digital communication tools at the start of 2020, you sure will be now. The Covid-19 pandemic led to lockdowns around the world, an acceleration in home working and a desperate scramble by businesses to find the best ways to keep in contact with employees, collaborators and clients alike.
But what are the best digital communication methods and what have we learnt about how to use them effectively? We’ll explore that in this article and let you know which business apps you should download and explore to make working from home a more streamlined and effective enterprise.
What Happened to Digital Communication During Covid-19?
Digital communication went BIG in 2020. A study by the University of Zurich in Switzerland looked into changes in the way America consumed digital communication in April 2020, with 43% of respondents admitting to texting more, 36% saying they made more voice calls, 35% using more social media and 30% increasing their use of video calls.
Cloud communications firm Twilio crunched the numbers and found the pandemic had forced a faster take-up of communication apps around the world. Companies in the UK had accelerated their digital communications strategy by 5.3 years! More than three-quarters of UK enterprises increased their digital budget, with a third of those doing so “dramatically”.
The twin challenges of keeping a team running in unison as well as maintaining an excellent level of service to customers have certainly taxed business owners throughout the pandemic, but the solutions they have found are well and truly here to stay.
What Small Businesses Learnt About Digital Communication Tools During Covid-19
If you are used to seeing your small team regularly in person, or you spend your life on the road attending face-to-face meetings, you might not have used that many digital communication tools before. 2020 changed all that!
Here are some of the big game-changers from the coronavirus lockdown and what we learnt about harnessing their power to drive small businesses forwards.
Zoom and Other Video Calling Tools
Video conferencing app Zoom may well have had the best lockdown imaginable. Despite so much competition in the field, it is the brand that seems to be talked about the most. When you become a verb – “to Zoom someone” – you know you are onto a winner. In fact, many people use the word ‘zoom’ to mean any kind of video call now, and that can only be a positive for that company.
In order to keep in contact with colleagues and network with clients, video conferencing boomed. Zoom saw its daily users jump from 10 million in December 2019 to more than 300 million by the end of April 2020. Microsoft Teams went from 75 million daily users in April 2020 to 115 million in October 2020.
Here are some tips for video conferencing we have learnt during the pandemic:
- Utilise the waiting room feature when hosting a call. This helps you vet who is joining. It also allows you to acknowledge an attendee and show them that the meeting is about to take place, even if you are not quite ready to talk to them yet.
- Turn video off and mute the microphone by default. This gives you time to assess the meeting and ensure everything is ready before you go live. You don’t want people to catch you fiddling about with cables and leads etc.
- Be wary of distractions. Make sure your background is as plain as possible to help other users concentrate on what you are saying, rather than on the contents of your room.
Embrace Productivity Apps for Maximum Digital Communication
Productivity apps are useful tools when you all work in the same space, but they really come into their own when you are working remotely. Programs like Slack, Trello and Asana allow you to collaborate, set action points and keep track of the progress of projects. Everyone has access to the areas they need to know about and they keep people focused on the job at hand.
In small businesses in normal times, where people work in the same space, you can get by using emails and spreadsheets to run projects if you really must. But working remotely offers different challenges and this is where cloud-based apps come into their own.
They ensure everyone is working on the latest version of the document. With an Excel document, you have to save and send it to your collaborator. All it takes is someone to miss an email and you could throw the whole process into disarray. With Google apps such as Docs and Sheets, you can all hop into the file at the same time, leaving comments, making edits and offering suggestions that instantly update to all users.
If you have not been using these tools previously, it is likely that you will take these new processes forward, even when we are all allowed back into the office.
Here are some productivity app pointers that many of us learnt in lockdown:
- Always be professional when leaving comments on productivity app documents and projects. Not only does accurate and precise wording avoid any vagueness about the action points, you also avoid any embarrassing moments if clients have access to the doc too.
- Check your app at set times or once you reach certain milestones, like when finishing a blog. It is tempting to keep an eye on developments as they change, but it is also important to concentrate on the task at hand without distractions.
- Customise your notifications. As an extension of the previous point – you don’t need to know everything as it happens. Keep notifications for anything urgent and business critical, but switch them off for functional updates. You can catch up on those when you check in later.
Social Media Tools
With social media use on the rise across the generations thanks to people having more downtime, it has never been more important to leverage your online presence. At the start of the first lockdown in the UK, for example, Instagram saw an increase of 22% in terms of impressions on sponsored content from the previous month. Thankfully, there are a host of amazing social media tools that you can employ as part of your digital communication strategy.
From design apps such as Canva to scheduling programs like Buffer, you can create engaging and effective content and deliver it to your audience when they are most likely to be online. You don’t have to remember to post it at a certain time or take time out of each day to think of new content. Simply, set aside a few hours to craft a number of great posts that you can then schedule for the week ahead.
Here is some social media advice based on what we have learnt from lockdown:
- Check your analytics to see when your followers are scrolling, either in the dedicated app or on one of your social media tools. One result of lockdown is that people use social media during working hours far more than they used to. If you are still working on a pre-Covid schedule, you might be missing out.
- Research shows people are using social media to find updates and news. Amongst your content, make sure you keep followers informed about what you do, how it is different during the pandemic and how you will meet their needs.
- Be relatable. Every single person has been affected by Covid-19 in some way, it would be strange not to mention it. Tell your story, show your human side and you will engage followers.
There are so many great digital communication tools to help your business. Even if you have only just started using them in lockdown, you can still take advantage of the time and cost-saving benefits beyond the pandemic. Necessity may have sped up our adoption of these tools, but they will transform small businesses from now on in a truly positive way. We have all had to adjust to new ways of working, and the willingness to learn and adjust will stand you in good stead for the future.
Check out our guide to 60 digital tools to supercharge your business and make sure you sign up to our mailing list to gain access to a whole host of fantastic business resources.