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5 Technology Trends That Will Drive Business

We’re halfway through 2012, so now is a good time for companies to review their business activity and reassess future plans. What emerging trends are important to recognize? How can you better reach your customers and grow your business? How can you implement these strategies? With these questions in mind, here are the top five technology trends and how to think about them in relation to your business strategy.

Video, Mobility, Self Service Social Networking and Collaboration are five key trends driving business going forward. Here’s how to capitalize on each.

Video

According to TDG Research, in five years, we’re going to be watching about an hour a day of online video. That’s about 16 times more consumption than today! Based on these stats and the fact that video production has gotten easier (think YouTube videos), it may be beneficial to use video to give your content a higher profile and better narrate your material. It’s often helpful for audiences to see a speaker and their facial expressions as well as watch product demonstrations to better relate to the information presented. Plus, it’s also a great way to establish customer trust, credibility and loyalty. For example, Dollar Shave Club (an online razor delivery program) did a great job of launching their company by focusing their promotional efforts on a fun YouTube video to connect with potential clients, and it has received over five million views on YouTube.

Mobile

The rise in second screen viewing (e.g. attending a conference while utilizing a tablet or smartphone or interacting on social media channels) and the growing bring-your-own-device (BYOD) trend among businesses (using personal devices for professional use) has further propelled the use of mobile devices for both personal and business use. Convenience has extended beyond the desktop or laptop. According to Business Insider Intelligence (March 2012), the number of smartphones sold in 2011 exceeded the number of PCs sold. Plus, according to eMarketer, one in five Americans will use a tablet by the end of 2012. People can effectively conduct business on-the-go with the smartphone they are already carrying in their pocket and like to use (and want to use) those mobile devices to interact with products and services. For example, Facebook recently teamed up with CNN to extend access to 2012 presidential election news and become the “second screen” for this political coverage. The experience titled “America’s Choice 2012,”will encourage users to share their political views through the mobile app and the sentiments will be incorporated into CNN broadcast coverage. Therefore, businesses need to (if they don’t already) have a mobile strategy in place to better reach and engage their clients. Mobile access is no longer an added feature, it’s a requirement.

Self-Service

Since people are never far from a mobile device or computer, they want the ability to access information online quickly and easily. Often, dealing with a customer service representative via phone seems like a hassle when they have a simple task to handle or question to ask, and they prefer less time consuming online or app-based tools. In fact, according to an April 2012 survey of US Internet users conducted by Maritz Research, three-quarters of respondents used email to give a company direct feedback, compared with two-thirds who had placed a phone call to a company. For this reason, it’s increasingly important that companies provide their customers with a self-service resources (in addition to a fully-managed support option), so that they have a convenient, easy-to-use way to find the information they need. Time Warner Cable and Bank of America both provide their clients with online chat functions to communicate with customer service representatives as well as online tutorials and/or FAQs. Customers are savvier than ever when it comes to technology, and it’s important that businesses offer their clients the ability to be more hands-on with their products and services.

Social networking

Social media is not something new to the communication and technology scenes, but customers are increasing their reliance on social channels with regard to customer service. Unfortunately, many companies are not providing satisfactory customer engagement on social networks, and many customers don’t expect to receive responses to their social media postings. The Maritz Research survey referenced above concluded that 27% of those who had used social media to connect with an organization were “delighted” to get a public response from a company. This number should be much higher! As new social media platforms emerge (Pinterest, Instagram) and current channels continue to grow (Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, reddit), companies should take notice that social media is a key method of interacting with their clients. People visit these sites on a daily basis, so it’s only natural for them to want to connect with businesses on these platforms. The question: How do organizations decide which outlet is most suitable for their business? How do they decide where to devote time and resources? Unfortunately, there isn’t a one-size-fits-all social media strategy, and companies need to experiment with one or two channels to start. Businesses may be tempted to reach customers via every new social media outlet, but it’s important to consider where your content may be best received. For example, The Travel Channel lends itself well to the very image-focused social media outlet, Pinterest, with pictures of various travel destinations and photos from their top shows including “Man Versus Food.” Promoting the company on LinkedIn might not have resulted in the same success. So, don’t jump on the newest or latest social media bandwagon if it’s not effective in communicating with your target audience. It’s better to connect with customers and industry influencers on select platforms well than to spread yourself too thin on multiple networks. Social media can’t be ignored. If your organization doesn’t support social media, you run the risk of your audience using these very networks to communicate their dissatisfaction with your company.

Collaboration Tools.

Increasing productivity is one of the main goals of any organization, and with many companies reducing workforces, this is becoming even more of a priority. Dashboards and other collaboration tools designed to provide an easy-to-view look at social media (e.g. HootSuite), statistics and workflow and project management (e.g. Podio, Yammer) will experience continued growth as companies focus on improving efficiency and promoting teamwork. This is why 75% of businesses plan to increase the use of communications and collaboration technologies in the next year, according to a survey by Kelton Research and IT services firm Avanade, to help better organize and present information. In short, it’s important for businesses to equip their customers with enhanced and increased methods of communication. It doesn’t matter if you’re collaborating or operating solo, sharing through social networks or video or even accessing information on-the-run, the balance of 2012 is all about tools for customer engagement. So, what are you waiting for?

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About Nick Balletta

Nick Balletta is the founder and CEO of communications technology company TalkPoint. It provides streaming communications technology to Fortune 1000 companies, including Morgan Stanley, Bayer and Cisco.