Digital technology has always been a feature of our modern lives, a feature meant to make our lives easier, faster, and better through communication. However, with all its conveniences, there are many barriers that exist that prevent effective digital communication, both internally between employees and externally with customers. These barriers can heavily weigh on your ability to get your messages across, whether by email, text, chats, apps, discussion boards, social media platforms, websites, or any other online channel.
Top Barriers to Overcome to Effectively Communicate Through Digital Platforms
- Physical Barriers
There are several challenges that physical barriers, both online and offline communication. We all know how technology has reduced and in most cases, help overcome distance by allowing us to share information without meeting in person. With all these advantages, there are some physical barriers that need to be addressed.
Environmental conditions such as time, place, and medium are all physical barriers that affect digital communication. Take time, for example. When you can't find enough hours to respond to emails, to update your website or create content for social media platforms, and even not being able to verbally communicate without being listened to pose as a physical barrier. Look at it as when you try to convey information to someone on a platform they don't have, or the information you're sharing isn't relevant to them. If your digital communication tools fail to work, like when messages are hidden because of an algorithm, or audiences don't have adequate access to software, hardware, or internet connection, are all signs 9f medium as a barrier to your efforts.
- Emotional Barriers
Emotional, and sometimes called, psychological barriers are one of the most common barriers to communication of all kinds, online or otherwise. Imagine your messages not going through, if that's not bad enough, imagine your audience being unable or not willing to listen or believe, and make an informed decision on whether to take in your messages or not.
Our individual beliefs, attitudes, and values strongly influence and affect how we make decisions and how the communication and the processing of the information works. Often times, digital communication can be easily misinterpreted putting aside vocal inflections, tone of voice, facial expressions, body language, and various types of visual and audio cues we look to in order to understand emotional meanings.
Emotions play a huge part in how we communicate, and because we're all emotional beings, we cannot eliminate emotions in how we communicate. The way you include and are conscious of emotions, you can effectively spread your messages. It is essential for you to evaluate the emotional motivations behind your communication before pressing send, publish, post, or tweet. Look at your current emotional state, are your feelings in the way of how your messages are received? Consider your content and see if there's anything out of place and review it. The important thing to do here is to ensure that you draw in your empathy, consider what you hope to communicate with your audiences, and what emotional response you want to trigger.
You need to broaden the relationship you have with your customers in order to seal the emotional connection. Throughout the process, valuable connections will be made until the most valuable is reached at the final stage.
Digital communication can introduce or reinforce societal identity barriers - this includes gender, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, class, age, disability, or any other social, personal, or cultural identities. These are some of the biggest causes of miscommunications and misunderstandings, that end up promoting misrepresentations between people and their ideas. We need to consciously construct each identity barrier so that they do not invade your messages and how you communicate. Ask yourself who writes your online content, which platforms do you post your content, who do you follow, who follows you, and who do you engage with online, who sets up online chat groups, webinars, who's in your pictures and videos, who do you quote, are you telling specific questions, and who performs all your data analytics. All these reinforce and sometimes reduce identity issues.
To reduce identity walls, make sure that your digital communication is more inclusive. Ask for feedback about your digital communication, about how those channels, your connection, and your approach could possibly be encouraging identity barriers. Cast out any and all assumptions and pay attention to subcultures, the society around you, different communities, and people who think differently than you. Start looking and recognizing more digital creators, messengers, and influences. Meet them where they are, assess and understand their norms, tone, and where they spend their time online communicating, and then adjust or readjust your digital communication to meet them and their needs.
Semantics is all about how we all interpret words and symbols in communication. This includes the different languages we speak, our dialect, whether people have limited language proficiency if we have enough knowledge on a particular topic, or when we use and interpret words and symbols differently. Ambiguity in semantics is higher in a digital communication setting where you find hashtags, memes, emojis, GIFs, and TikToks, which can all convey different and evolving ideas, create solidarity through shared experiences and understanding shared ideas, and at the same time, exclude those not in the loop.
You can see this in different jargon, slang, acronyms, and overly new and complex language. All these create barriers between those who get it and those who don't.
Much like traditional communication, in order for it to be effective, digital communication cannot work if the sender and receiver have no understanding of the intended messages. The context of every individual, culture or any other factor can change the meanings of words and symbols l, creating different understandings even if we spoke the same language.
The most overlooked barriers are accessibility ones, especially on the move towards digital communication. Regardless of your ability, for digital communication to be effective, we all need to be able to access and understand information.
You cannot look at making communication accessible as a nice-to-have feature. It is crucial and your duty to communicate effectively with people with communication disabilities too.
Images, graphics, live streaming, webinars, podcasts, videos, other visual and audio formats are more important than they've ever been. Organizations and companies use these to communicate, however, sometimes the format can prevent accessing the information.
You can't get over this barrier by simply captioning videos or adding descriptions to pictures. Every aspect of visual, auditory, motor, or cognitive disabilities needs to be addressed and met to avoid misunderstanding and communication to be affected.
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