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Social Media: The Opportunity of Asynchronous Communications

  • June 2014
  • 9 pages
  • Frost & Sullivan
Report ID: 2162617

Summary

Table of Contents

Asynchronous communications methods are, by and large, over-the-top (OTT) and are accessed through broadband connections. OTT service providers such as Google and Facebook have built substantial empires providing such services; but now consumers are looking for more complete OTT packages. It may be time to consider combining the new asynchronous approaches with the tried and true synchronous modality of two-way voice communications. Doing so, may represent a substantial new revenue opportunity for the OTT players.

Introduction
Which is the largest consumer telecommunication company in the world? If one makes that determination on the basis of active subscribers, and without regard to the medium of communication, the answer may be surprising. It is Facebook. When the Internet was introduced to the general public, social media already had a fairly extensive following. Both of the early consumer networks, AOL and Compuserve, had primitive interaction pages where people of like mind could communicate with each other. By today’s standards these sites looked like chat sessions, but were in an ASCII text environment and generally delivered at 300 baud or less data rates. Nevertheless, they were popular; and so, when a critical mass of individuals had access to a browser and Internet connectivity, it was not surprising that, shortly thereafter, social sites like Yahoo and Facebook arose to support online interaction.

Yet, in the interval between the open chat sessions of AOL and Compuserve, and introduction of Facebook pages, a transformation had occurred. Where chat sessions are synchronous—two-way and in real-time—Facebook pages were asynchronous—not necessarily in real time or two way. The difference may seem trivial, but has actually been transformational.

Social media sites have seen phenomenal growth because they serve a need that has hitherto been ignored by more traditional telephone companies: people want to interact, but may not want or need to do so in real time. This dynamic has largely been overlooked by telephone companies who suffer from the same affliction that plagued railroad operators over a hundred years ago. Just as the railroads lost sight of the fact that they were in the transportation business, and believed they existed to run trains on time, so too have the telephone companies lost sight of the fact that they facilitate personal interaction, rather than providing telephone access. As people have changed their communication paradigm, telephone service providers have not changed theirs.

Social media acceptance, of course, does not mean that plain old telephone service (POTS) is dead; although subscriptions have seen a precipitous decline over time.2 It does mean, however, that the way in which such service is accessed will need to change; and it will need to blend with the new norm for telecommunications: asynchronous communications.

Asynchronous communications methods are, by and large, over-the-top (OTT) and are accessed through broadband connections. OTT service providers such as Google and Facebook have built substantial empires providing such services; but now consumers are looking for more complete OTT packages. It may be time to consider combining the new asynchronous approaches with the tried and true synchronous modality of two-way voice communications. Doing so, may represent a substantial new revenue opportunity for the OTT players.

Synchronous vs. Asynchronous Communications

Synchronous communications are duplex. That is, they occur between two or more people in real time and are two way (see Figure 1 below). Every person on the call can communicate to the other participants and receive an immediate acknowledgement or response. When telephones replaced telegraphs, this was their primary value proposition. In fact, advertisements from the early days of telephone emphasize the point that, telephones could speed up such businesses as farming and finance simply because one didn’t need to wait for a message to be delivered and a response to return: often by messenger.

In the initial days of the telephone, people were most comfortable with synchronous communications: life was slower and one wanted to look the other person in the eye, so to speak, when talking. Telephones, although they abstracted direct interaction, still allowed one to assess the other’s veracity through tone of voice, cadence and other prompts: communication by telephone wasn’t exactly intimate, but it was close enough. Although asychronous communications existed—telegraphs, letters, etc.—generally, they were relegated to more formal interaction.

Routine asynchronous telecommunications, which needn’t occur in real time, really began to resonate with consumers as emails, initially; and later, texting, chatting, and tweeting became commonplace. Largely a form of messaging adopted by technologists and by younger demographics for routine communications, asynchonous communications rapidly expanded to encompass business and general interactions. However, there are major differences between synchronous and asynchronous communications.

One principle difference between the two forms of interaction is that, while synchronous communications demand an immediate response on the part of communicating parties, asynchronous communications allow a certain amount of reflection and consideration. Such reflection can be a good thing in the case of an emotional exchange; allowing the parties to filter out otherwise hurtful or contentious language. In the case of business communications, this can be essential.

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