The advances in communication technology have changed not only changed our expectations of communication but also the method in which we communicate. With the widespread adoption of mobile devices, we no longer have to be at our desk or home to make phone calls. Text messaging took the idea of instant communication one step further. We no longer have to wait until we are in a space to make a phone call because we can just send a quick, private text without disturbing anyone around us. Smartphones bring even more access to instant communication. Not only can you call and text, you have a portal to multiple aspects of your life and an easy way to share it instantly. One-to-one or group instant messaging on mobile and desktop platforms creates an environment where we give and receive instant input as well. Picture messaging is the next layer in instant communication. When you add picture messaging to instant communication it transforms stale communication and engages the human aspect of the exchange.
From a consumer standpoint we already can see the success of instant picture messaging. Social media sites like Instagram, Pinterest and even Facebook are built around our love of sharing communicating visually and instantly. How many times you logged into to those sites just to see what pictures your friends are posting? Even if you don’t share anything, you feel like you know what’s going on for people based on what they’ve posted. You feel more connected than you did before seeing the pictures and you are likely to keep coming back to view more information about your loved ones.
If you believe one picture is worth a thousand words than you can understand why picture messaging creates a more personal communication experience. You aren’t limited to 160 characters in a text to convey your message. You can instead show the message recipient what you want and support your text with images. Pictures evoke a more engaged response. By doing this you create a place for an authentic conversation of substance to unfold. For example, if you were to describe a rainbow in an instant message or text you would use words like colorful, vibrant and beautiful. The recipient may or may not respond depending how moved they are by your description. However, if you shared a picture of a rainbow over IM, you would inspire the feelings those words capture instead of just saying them. The person might respond with something like, “Oh that is so beautiful! Where are you?” and then a conversation begins. Human emotion is evoked and that’s real engagement.
People are generally more productive when they are authentically engaged versus just acknowledging the relay of information. Therefore, picture messaging in the workplace has real value. A specific example of how picture messaging humanizes communication of is exemplified in our own office use. We have two main offices; one in Bellevue, Washington and one in Pune, India. This geographic set up doesn’t lend itself well to creating very personal relationships. The only “put a face to name” tool I have used is looking at people’s profile pictures. Then, our colleagues in India started posting a Picture of the Day on our in-house social network, MangoApps. Pictures of various office events and just funny everyday office antics began to circulate. From these pictures I get to see into an environment and “meet” people that would otherwise be closed off to me. I see their smiling faces and get to see their office culture brought to life. Seeing the pictures has given me context for co-workers I’ve never met and for a place I’ve never actually seen. Seeing into their day-to-day operations made me want to engage and leave comments about the picture fostering natural communication. I made an emotional connection that didn’t exist previously.
The combination of using picture messaging and instant messaging at work are two powerful communication environment. It’s naturally how we want to communicate; imagery and text. We want to be able to ask our questions and give feedback with minimal interruptions, regardless of location, and also give context by providing visual aids. It’s the clearest way to cover all the ways people learn best. Instant messaging allows us to communicate in a minimally invasive way, from any location. Picture messaging allows us to be precise and specific in our communication and evoke authentic engagement. Even if all we are doing is passing on a screen capture annotated with feedback, it’s still information one step beyond text alone and adds clarity to the communication.
If you tell someone how to do something, they’ll likely be back to ask you how to do it again. If you show someone something, they are more likely to internalize it, expand on it and remember it. Picture messaging gives you the ability to create context immediately to better show people how to do things. When it’s combined with the power of instant messaging in the workplace, there is authentic collaboration just waiting to happen.