April 20, 2018 By FTI Consulting
We’ve become spoilt with lovely 4G, and it’s been a great thing for consumers and social and digital communication, with enhanced streaming rate allowing video on mobile to become flexible, dynamic, and not dependent on asking for the Wi-Fi code everywhere.
There is now an exciting race across the globe to hit the fabled 5G (much as 4G was fabled years ago), but this step change is a notably different transition compared to previous ones. 2G (text), 3G (the web), 4G (video) all effectively delivered services or features; 5G is a shift not only in capability but fundamental underlying mechanics (the guys at Wired or Tech Radar can make sense of it much more clearly than my half-remembered physics GCSE does).
Network carriers are looking to test 5G in the UK this year (although realistically launching in 2020), but globally the race is ultimately (and unsurprisingly) between China, South Korea, the USA, and Japan. Enticingly, Accenture have estimated the first to deploy 5G stands to benefit from a $500bn increase in GDP and 3m new jobs.
As far as communications and digital interests go, the shift from 4th to 5th gear presents opportunities as well as challenges. While it will be fantastic to deliver more vivid and immersive content, and ultimately have greater mobile penetration in previously under-resourced markets, we must be wary of getting caught up in how shiny the new capabilities are. Digital for the sake of digital isn’t helpful (more on that below); any new tech should be used to deliver important messages, rather than be the reason for communicating itself.
Early this week pub chain Wetherspoons, everyone’s favourite affordable pint-purveyor, announced that it would be closing its social media channels. Chairman Tim Martin cited various topical issues behind the decision, from data security to wide-ranging social behavioural trends.
It will come as no surprise to readers that we’re not necessarily in favour of blanket removal of an organisation’s entire social footprint. All the traditional arguments still stand: reactive and flexible customer service, a powerful marketing tool (if planned and measured correctly), a pre-existing channel to reach stakeholders in the event of a reputational crisis, a way of projecting your thoughts and arguments into industry conversations that are certainly taking place with or without you.
In the case of Wetherspoons, however, we are perhaps addressing a different argument, one more concerned about governance and resource. With over 900 pubs across the UK as well as head office, many accounts (across Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram) were under-resourced, stagnant, or simply silent. Ultimately, social media – like any communication channel – must deliver specific benefits, contribute towards an organisation’s business objectives and have clear ROI. If ‘Spoons believe that communication through social channels isn’t helping their bottom line, then fair play, but switching off the channels does rather feel like throwing the baby out with the bath water… We’d love to know what sort of coordinated measureable strategy was in place behind all those channels.