Is your company about to miss the next communication trend?

Posted on February 9, 2009 12:21 pm by | Mobile | Technology

Companies and their communicators are well known for missing important technology trends and then having to play catchup. Desktop publishing was the first one I experienced first-hand, followed in rapid succession by email, the World Wide Web, and social media.

When companies miss these developments, not only do they have to struggle to get up to speed, they also have to deal with whatever rushes in to fill the vacuum. When desktop publishing made its first appearance in the mid-1980s, companies without policies and strategies had to cope with departments and employees creating their own newsletters. A presage of things to come, these newsletters overwhelmed employees who, rather than getting everything from the internal communications department, now had to read through dozens or even hundreds of newsletters. And reading them wasn’t easy, given 30 different fonts that populated these newsletters, some in six points, contained in a seven-column format on an 8-1/2 x 11-inch document. And let’s not forget the clip art. (I must’ve seen the winged moneybag 500 times.)

Today, businesses and their communicators are poised to get caught with their pants down again. This time, the trend staring us in the face is glaringly obvious to many:

Smartphones are poised to become the next evolution of the computer.

While some marketers are exploring the mobile phone as a communication channel and many media properties have created mobile versions for their content, surprisingly few companies have—or are even considering—a mobile communication strategy.

Despite the Apple’s boast that the iPhone’s browser offers the Web and not just the mobile Web, a smartphone strategy doesn’t simply duplicate content designed to be viewed on a 20-inch monitor. A sound strategy takes advantage of the phone’s other capabilities, such as the built-in camera.

Microsoft Tags, which ZDNet blogger Zack Whittaker calls “the most important technology Microsoft has developed so far,” is one of those developments that could hasten the adoption of the smartphone as a portable computer (along with the availability of models like the iPhone, the Palm Pre, and the inevitable rollout of improved Android models).

The idea behind Tags is simple (and, while in beta, free). You visit the Tag site and indicate what you want the tag to do: dial a number, open a Web page, produce a map or directions, play a video, whatever. After entering a bit more information, the site produces an attractive bar code made up of colored triangles. (Microsoft plans to add the other main bar code standards later.)

The tag reader is available for all smartphone platforms.

I created two tags. One automagically dials my office number (which is, in fact, a SkypeIn number that automatically forwards to my mobile phone if not answered in three rings). The other loads my Web page. The first is on the front my business card, the second on the back. It works like a dream. Here’s a short 50-second video I shot showing how it works:

The potential for Tags in communication is huge. But Tags are just one of an endless stream of uses to which that mobile phone can be used for organizational communications. For example, we can finally stop complaining about the inability of the intranet to reach employees who do not spend their days at a computer. In fact, just as I was about to publish this post, I got a tweet from Paolo Tosolini at Microsoft, who had created a video showing how Tags can be used for internal communications (bear with it—the video is mostly about Microsoft Surface but Tags show up about five minutes into the six-minute video):

As more and more people begin to adopt the smartphone as their portable computer, companies will fall further behind the curve. Don’t let your company be among them.

Does your organization already have a strategy for communicating through smartphones? Leave a comment.



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