Among adult cell phone users, 72 percent of them now send and receive text messages, up from 65 percent in September 2009, and 58 percent in December 2007, according to “Cell Phones and American Adults,” a report from the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project.
Teens also are more voracious texters – 50 messages a day “on average,” in contrast to the “typical 10 text messages sent and received by adults” every day.
If 72 percent of adult cell phone users are using text messaging what does this mean for the way we communicate at work? with our teams? as leaders?
Gen X and Y feel that texting is more efficient and informal therefore easier and more fun to use. Gen Y have a strong preference for instant messaging versus email.
Here are 3 reasons why texting and instant messaging are great communication tools for ALL of the generations.
#1- Texting is fast- direct phone to phone communication and does not have to go through a server like email does. Therefore it is delivered to the recipient faster than email and can be answered quicker too. Texting can be used like a conversation with its fast response time. Many Zoomers (baby boomers who refuse to age) ask me if this new age of texting is creating a generation of ‘non-communicators’ because they are using informal language and acronyms. I would not label Gen Y’s who text as ‘non-communicators’ however I would say that they have created their ‘own’ way of communicating that works for them. Gen X and Y like to have less formal communication and texting works well for situations where you might need a quick answer about something either at the office or personally. Texting is not the best tool if you are trying to communicate something that is more complicated in that case an email or phone call would be more effective.
#2- Instant messaging is as close to having a face to face conversation using technology which is why you will see your teenager typing furiously on MSN, or Facebook Messaging or on their BBM (Blackberry Messaging). It is a speedy conversation tool and Gen X and Y tend to message while having to wait in a line or in class at school or in meetings at work. Many organizations feel that instant messaging is a distraction and yet other organizations see this form of communication as a great tool for inter office communication and for managing remote office locations. I have a consulting client who switched from email in the office between staff to instant messaging and he says that customer service has improved as has the communication among the team.
Personally I like instant messaging for quick answers- often a phone call takes longer and can be a time drainer.
# 3- Smart phones make texting and instant messaging easier-when the Iphone 4 came out one of its main features was the video function that allows you to see the other person you are calling. Skype allows you to see the person you are talking to and to hold group meetings where you can talk and also instant message. One of the ways that Skype has allowed me to be more efficient is that when I am having a conference call with a client I can be instant messaging my team mates as we are on the call to ensure we are all on the same page and provide input or insights to help with the conference call.
For many Gen Y’s email is an antiquated form of communication- they see it as slow and inefficient. Boomers and Gen X have been using email as a primary tool because of the ability to attach documents and exchange information that can be stored. Communication tools such as Skype and BBM and Iphones all allow you to attach and forward pictures, videos and documents. I envision that in the next few years email will be used solely for communication that needs to be saved or stored and that all other communication will be via text, instant messaging, Skype and video phone. We need to be prepared to maximize these forms of communication for our businesses and workplaces.
Cheryl Cran, CSP is a leadership and generations expert and the author of “101 Ways to Make Generations X, Y and Zoomers Happy at Work” and “The Control Freak Revolution”. She works with high performing companies and individuals on increasing leadership skills, as well as increasing strategies of communicating with different generations.