DQ 101: Digital Communication

girl on her phone on the couch in the dark

Communicating and collaborating with others online has never been easier, but what do we need to be aware of when using Digital Communication?

The ability to communicate and collaborate with others using digital technology.

In the Digital Intelligence 101 introduction, we shared that people experience eight critical areas of digital life — Identity, Use, Safety, Security, Emotional Intelligence, Communication, Literacy and Rights. These areas make up a framework mapping one’s Digital Intelligence (DQ).

This article explores how Digital Security manifests at each maturity level — Citizen, Creator and Competitor (if you need a refresher on these levels, check out our Intro to DQ article).

Area #6: Digital CommunicationDigital Communication

Technology continues to accelerate and influence the ways we communicate. Digital environments have made it easier than ever to connect with people, brands, and audiences around the world. However, Digital Communication isn’t new.

Communicating online has been a reality since internet forums and email launched in the early 1970s. Users had to learn how to adjust communication so our messages and intents could be clearly expressed, without having face-to-face interaction. These baseline Digital Communication skills laid foundation for the social media boom to come in the 2000s. It started with platforms like MSN Messenger in 1999, Myspace in 2003, and then Facebook debuted in 2004, gaining society-shifting global popularity by 2008.

Digital tools provide endless opportunities to create, communicate and connect. But what’s the human factor? How do you run a 20-person board meeting virtually? How do you host an online performance and still feel connected to the audience? How do you teach a class in a virtual setting?

Considering that Facebook has been around for almost 20 years now, you’d think we would have Digital Communication figured out. The COVID-19 pandemic made us think again. People across the world were forced to shift their work, education and social life completely online, presenting a new crop of communication headaches.

This led to development and widespread adoption of tools to foster collaboration and connection remotely, such as Discord, Jam Boards and Notion. These platforms created dynamic ways to connect both organizations and individuals. It amplified our power to connect with family, friends, employers, brands and movements.

But as the saying goes — with great power comes great responsibility.

Every time we communicate online, we leave behind a trail of breadcrumbs — and it’s not always obvious when we’re being tracked or monitored. That instant rush of expressing yourself online can feel liberating in the moment, but it’s important to remember the digital footprint we leave behind.

The comments, likes, instant messages and shares we send or receive online now build a precious digital reputation not only for individuals, but for the organizations and communities they are a part of. This means we need a heightened awareness and understanding of not only the way we communicate online, but the real-world consequences of these interactions.

As we reflect on the way we connect and collaborate online, how does Digital Communication apply to each maturity level? Below is a list of three competencies areas (knowledge, skills, attitudes) that evolve as one’s Digital Communication matures.

Level 1 (Citizen) = Digital Footprint Management

This is a person’s ability to understand the nature of digital footprints, their real-life consequences, how to manage them responsibly and actively build a positive digital reputation.

  • Knowledge:
    • Understands the concept of digital footprints and consequences such trails of information may have on their reputations, and the reputations of others
    • Recognizes how trails of information can be used when shared online
  • Skills:
    • Can manage their digital footprint and use technology to contribute to a positive reputation, both for themselves and the organizations they belong to
  • Attitudes:
    • Shows mindful care, prudence and responsibility online
    • Carefully and actively manages types of information that may be shared, tagged, released and collected by themselves and others across multiple platforms over time

Level 2 (Creator) = Online Communication and Collaboration

This is a Digital Creator’s ability to use technology effectively to communicate and collaborate, including during remote situations.

  • Knowledge:
    • Understands different types of peer-to-peer communication and collaboration strategies, tools and formats
    • Decides the most effective tools to achieve both individual and collaborative goals
    • Aware of various social and market pressures that may encourage or discourage communication and collaboration across certain groups
  • Skills:
    • Can develop socio-emotional, interpersonal and cognitive skills to support communication and collaboration
    • Has the capacity to interact and collaborate with an online community of peers and experts
    • Can leverage technical skills to efficiently exchange ideas and work together — even at a distance — by using a variety of communication channels
  • Attitudes:
    • Takes initiative and has a positive attitude towards technology use that enables collaboration and productivity
    • Shows inclusive attitudes to foster a positive collaboration culture and teamwork while achieving organizational goals
    • Helps others build a good digital reputation through skills endorsements or reviews

Level 3 (Competitor) = Public and Mass Communication

This is a Digital Competitor’s ability to communicates with an online audience effectively to exchange messages, ideas and opinions reflecting wider business or societal discourses.

  • Knowledge:
    • Understands how different online platforms, environments, cultures and policies may aid or restrict the sharing of ideas and messages
    • Aware of how ethical and legal underpinnings shape the spread of ideas and messages online
  • Skills:
    • Communicates their ideas and messages through digital media and technology, such as setting up a crowdfunding initiative, participating in an online social movement or launching a digital marketing campaign
    • Conceptualized digital storyboards, optimizes content delivery and messaging
    • Develops strategies to share content across various channels and tracks audience response
    • Engages audience in a dialogue using digital tools such as Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and data analytics to boost online engagement
    • Co-creates their organization’s brand and reputation by leveraging campaigns, public relations and other strategies
    • Plans and conducts research to understand overall digital trends and to extract useful insights
  • Attitudes:
    • Demonstrates ethics, purpose and discipline when discussing collaborative technology use
    • Engages in productive discourse with their digital communities

These three sub-competencies are a solid foundation to build on as individuals, experts and organizations continue to explore how human emotions and feelings are influenced, shaped and impacted as we navigate the digital world. What’s your Digital Emotional Intelligence maturity level, and what does it say about your DQ?

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