Actually, spoiler alert – I already have an answer… and they are:
Engagement, Engagement and Engagement!
Engagement for your users (well, we know about that), but also, engagement with your top clients (now you can’t take them out for lunch) and, more noticeably, engagement with your team (which used to happen naturally because you were all in the same office… or at least, that was true, once upon a time…)
Yep. With the loss of physical social lives – particularly around work – so, no going to the pub for Friday night drinks – no client meals – nor sharing of food – no water cooler gossips – or any of the natural human stuff we do; we are all feeling that there is a massive hole in our lives.
And, let’s be honest here, more group Zoom calls doesn’t quite fill that hole!
Video conference calls are great one to one – they also work well for small groups – although, speaking from recent experience, it only takes one person with a weak connection to ruin the flow for everyone.
Or, worse, if you are speaking to a large group – for group training or team updates – then the speaker faces the dreaded Wall of Mute! I know! I’ve done it!
It’s all because we are not going back to the office – or at least, not in the way we did before coronavirus…
We’re not going back to the office
Okay, I know some of us *are* going back to the office – but not in the same way! Perhaps two days a week – perhaps the occasional team meet up in the park.
Office life is now different. Take a look at this story of a famous silicon valley coffee shop where WhatsApp founders (sold for $15bn) got started.
Yes, it is closing. This Silicon Valley coffee shop could not raise $300k from a crowdfunding campaign to keep going – despite the massive financial wealth and (past) benefits that founders and VCs got from ‘serendipitous’ meetings at that place.
Why? Simply – Silicon Valley isn’t going back to physical meet ups – they are NOT going back to the office.
And, what happens in Silicon Valley, happens throughout the (tech) world….eventually.
So let’s not get distracted by office boosterism and the desire to bail out big tower landlords and pub / sandwich shop chains.
Even before coronavirus, many of us – especially if you are on the engineering or digital marketing or data analysis side of things – used to travel into offices from which we then spent 60% to 90% of our time staring into screens.
Why? Because despite the fact that we were physically in the office, we couldn’t efficiently or effectively communicate with the whole team by calling a physical meet up and booking a meeting room.
In other words, our work life (given that we are either tech or tech enabled people) was already largely or nearly entirely digital. Whether we perform our work from a cubicle in a tall city tower or from a back bedroom today – does it really matter?
I don’t think it does matter – and Silicon Valley doesn’t seem to think it matters either!
The New Challenge – Loss of Work-Social!
That is not to say that we don’t face new challenges to our work life – it is just that what we have lost / miss the most – is the loss of ‘work-social’.
Although our actual work is now probably 99% digital – that’s only a modest increase from the 60 to 90% that preceded coronavirus.
The big change is that our social lives are suddenly mostly digital too – and yes, that includes nearly all our work-social lives which have shifted from mainly physical to entirely digital.
Hence, the change – the area we are adapting in – is the digitisation of of work-social lives!
This is the bit to focus on – not the distracting theatricals of whether we should stare at screens in a city centre block or an out of town satellite office or temporary home offices.
The Engagement Puzzle
So, how we over come these issues is all about how we solve the engagement puzzle.
But of course, the engagement question isn’t just about engaging and fun team conference calls – it is also about how we engage our customers…
…and frankly, whether our customers actually want to be engaged in the first place!
One startup I’m working with is adopting the minimal engagement model – assuming that their users and clients don’t want engagement – they don’t want another social media platform – they want a solution to their problem and then want to get on with life, work etc…
It’s an anti-engagement strategy! But nevertheless, it is built on an understanding of how these users and customers are tiring of digital and virtual social (and work-social) life.
So, the question to ask yourself and your teams is this – what is your engagement strategy? How do you measure its success? And how do you avoid becoming yet another empty social media ‘lite’ platform?
After all, the reason we engage on Facebook is not because we like Mark Zuckerberg, but because everyone else is there! Okay, I’ll admit, I’m also starting to engage on Instagram because lots of people are there too…
Hence, the value of engaging in a busy active platform is so much greater than a ‘new’ platform – the question then, is, how do you get started? Do some users have a burning need to reach out first? And, if they don’t, can you affordably seed a platform sufficiently to make it happen? Or, do you need a different strategy?
This is a question we will be asking and iterating around look for answers, for a while.
However, whoever solves the engagement question best for their market segment, for their users and their teams – they will be the real post coronavirus winners.
Note, this challenge is not about the best technology – but how you apply the best technology to achieve the greatest levels of engagement!
It’s going to be an exciting time! Game on!