Google+, The Business Social Network

Facebook is the friends and family network, it’s as personal as you can get online. Twitter is the information network, where all kinds of subjects, ideas, thoughts and opinions are continually shared and discussed. LinkedIn is the professionals network, encompassing your professional experience, skills and work history. And then you have Google+, the newest addition to a increasingly cluttered social network realm. But where does it fit in exactly?

Now in it’s infancy, it most certainly is not comparable to any other platform other than Facebook. Often it is dubbed the “Facebook Killer” which has been fuelled by speculation and popular opinion thanks to statistical comparisons, such as it’s acclaim to have gained 40 million users in a relatively short period time (a matter of months). And with the recent lunch of Google+ Pages, brands have flocked quickly to the new player in town. Out of the top 100 brands 61% have created a Google+ Page versus 93% on Facebook (something that took years on Facebook, again has taken months on Google+). And although Facebook is twenty times greater in size and virtually out-gains Google+ in every area, there’s one significant problem here: Google+ is not Facebook.

For whatever reason, we as individuals always have had the need to compare something new to something that already exists. It seems that the only way we can confirm a matter is by validating our biases with these comparisons and relate them how we choose. But, how can we compare something to other aspects of the social media realm when it doesn’t really exist yet. Google has often said that Google+ is not a social network. By our traditional presumptions and definitions of social networking, they might be right.

In the traditional social network sense, Google+ is not a network or platform that emphasizes the individual. It’s not about sharing things with your friends and family. Facebook has championed that and there will be no mass exodus from it. It’s not about micro-blogging, sharing quick pieces of information and following individuals such as the world Twitter has created. And it most certainly is not about creating a professional styled LinkedIn network. Google+ is about one thing, it’s about business. It’s the business social network.

Once you look beyond simple aspects that pertain to social networks, such as profiles, sharing and connecting, you begin to realize that much of Google+ is built around a business and marketing framework. It is one based on two aspects: receiving +1’s, Google+’s method of sharing, and getting others to put you into their circles, Google+’s method of connecting. All which is further built into other areas of Google such its dominance in online search and Adwords. Oblivious to us in our daily use of search, YouTube and online ad exposure, Google is a well-oiled business machine.

It’s been well noted that Google+’s method of sharing will have very positive effects on how you appear in search. And although Google and Bing have previously noted that aspects of social influence that are built and gained through Twitter and Facebook have effects on search results and SEO, +1’s have a direct correlation and significance to your SEO and appearance, ranking and relevance in search. The more +1’s your website, blog or posts receives the merrier. Let’s be honest here, this is an aspect that only business, brands and those with personal brands would ultimately be concerned with. Something that is not important to the majority of social media users out there.

It also differentiates in the manner in which we connect to each other. Facebook was built on a two-way relationship methodology, and only recently could you subscribe to profiles, a one-way relationship (believed to be added in response to Google+’s introduction). Twitter is involved with a following and/or follower methodology meaning you can quite frankly follow anyone you like. Google+ itself relies completely on the manner in which someone has set-up their circles, either two-way or one-way relationships, which is further segmented into how you share an update. Whether that update be to everyone, a particular circle, a set of circles and/or extended circles based on your privacy settings (though Facebook has a Lists setting, it does require you to “list” a connection whereas Google+ requires you to “circle” a connection should you choose to want follow that individual). A confusing, interesting and sophisticated series of circumstances.

What we begin to see here is a very early social customer relationship management platform. The characteristic of circles allows you to segment and sub-segment your connections, which is more interesting when we realize that Google+ requires that you use your real name. Surprisingly, the many of us do. Further, this method of segmentation allows for directed and specific messages, content, conversations and relationships with a particular set of individuals. Something that can even be further amplified with the Hangouts live chat feature.

Now, if Google+ is the business social network, what reason do individuals have to be a part of something like this? What reason would cause them to interact with businesses and brands? Aside from the early adopting, bandwagoning and aspects of cool, if there’s one thing we’ve learned in social media, we, all of us, willingly participate if there is a perceived trade-off or sense of value in our interactions and reasons to interact. Where all other social networks thrived and grew on the individual and business being secondary, Google+’s very early introduction of Google+ Pages and the flocking to and quick adoption by business and brands clearly exemplifies the importance of business being a primary and significant aspect to it.

Like anything else, we as customers, users, individuals will always engage with business, whether that be to purchase something we want or need, sign up for something to get an immediate discount, enter a contest, use a coupon, or join a free service like Google+ to circle or +1 a brand or a trade-off. This where Google+ fits into the equation. This is why Google+, Facebook and other social networks will not cannibalize one another other just yet and will remain relatively distinct. Facebook has it’s friends, Twitter has it’s information, LinkedIn has it’s professionals, and Google+ has it’s business. Is it too early to tell? Of course it is. But for now, Google+ is the business social network.

Photo source: Google+


The “We” Economy

Over 100 years ago, one of the most significant societal, economic and culture changes forever changed life around us. It created industry, populated urban areas, created the employee, introduced the theory of selling your time for monetary value and for better or worst, it, the Industrial Revolution, manifested and proliferated a ‘Me’ Economy. And until recently, that has remained relatively the same.

Over the past decade, a drastic shift has been occurring. Whether you dub it the Digital, Internet or most recently Social Media Revolution, this significant force is moving us into a completely new direction. One that moves us towards a group mentality. It gathers the crowd. It “benefits” us if we all choose to be a part of it. It creates a system of trade-offs that not only causes you to sell your time for some sort of value but one that asks you to sell your personal behaviour, privacy and information as well. This is the ‘We’ Economy.

The very foundations of Facebook, GroupOn, Twitter, Klout, LinkedIn, YouTube and everything that is social involves one, and the most important and underlying aspect, which is that we all choose to participate. This also extends into the current world of apps, smart phones and tablets. The reality is that it doesn’t take too much for us to participate. Who doesn’t want to see and follow their friends? Want a deal? Have a professional profile? Want to watch videos of all makes and kinds? Leverage their social activity of bragging rights, recognition or some sort of perk? Have a cool mobile product and useful apps? The We Economy needs us all to participate. And we are, willingly, participating.

Our participation validates this new business model and it validates the ideas behind it. It’s business and it’s personal. Your personal self is of significant value of which becomes quite lucrative and valuable when you and I and millions of others decide to opt-in. We are the fuel and sole purpose that moves a new world that is stepped in service. A service that is engulfed at satisfies our needs of self-gratification. Right now, we’re all consumed by this. And naturally so. From the effects of cool, new and exciting to peer and group mentalities, it’s in our human nature to pursue these endeavours. Regardless of them being deemed good or bad.

But if everything is based on business and selling a product or service, how true can our experiences really be? As Sam Fiorella points out in his blog post, I’m Taking Back My Influence; Opting Out of Klout, building your perceived online influence is ultimately a business venture based on tracking your social media information. It requires that we participate for both the sake of validity, it’s existence and business. Further, Google’s introduction of their new social network Google+ is suppose to have a direct correlation to your Google+ and search results. Not to mention it’s frequent algorithm changes, most recently, for “fresher” results. And then there is Apple’s Siri, who will ultimately change and decide things for us. Flipping many aspects like online search on it’s head.

The current mentality and one that propagates the We Economy is that we either choose to be a part of it or lose out. It is shaped by the information we provide and not the information that it is unaware of. It produces statistics, data, behaviours and algorithms that are suppose to be deemed real, relevant and accurate. It is one that unknowingly shapes us more than we know or acknowledge. It tells us and forces us to believe what we see is what we want. We do not care about or acknowledge the unknown. So we become biased to everything we see online, in our profiles, in searches, in conversations, et cetera. All encompassed by ‘we’.

To say this is good or bad will be truly unknown. Where one would argue that by participating in this social world we are entering an age of many issues that will inherently effect us, such as our misconception of free social media and apps (free = exposure to advertisements + our willingness to be monitored, participating and providing information). However, another would argue that based on everything we provide it will eventually lead to optimal experiences, and services, and products we truly want. And ones we didn’t know we wanted, yet.

Our human nature and intuition has become very much a participatory one, and the further intervention of business into our daily lives has created a series of circumstances that is both unfounded and unprecedented. Like anything else, the good comes with the bad and the opinions follow it. Though, what we know for certain is this, we are amidst a new-era in human history. A new way of behaving, living and thinking. One that is full of mobile devices, social networks, online activities and our ongoing participation by all of us in it. This is the We Economy.

Photo source: razorray15


Are We Experiencing “Apple Vision”?

10 years ago marked the beginning of innovation as we know it. Few could’ve ever foreseen or imagined what the future holds, except for arguably one man. It redefined up and coming  industry trends. It created new paradigms. And with it’s intuitive and beautiful nature, it has forever altered our understandings and perceptions of many of the characteristics that dominate our everyday life today.

It all started with white earphones. White earphones have defined the times over the last decade. They defined how you wanted to be seen. They defined who we are. Hip, trendy, stylish and cool. They made technology fashionable. The made technology luxurious. They made the rebel, the geek and the small-guy, the coolest kid in class. They made Apple the most valuable brand in the world. 10 years later and it was a pair of white earphones that started it all.

Alright, maybe it wasn’t just the white earphones, but the iPod’s earbuds were the early ingredients and integral components of an ironic brand in the making. They became the primary vehicle in penetrating a market that was Apple-less. With a significant shift towards the digital world and the mainstream  mass pirating of online music, the iPod encompassed the coolness, rebelliousness and major trend of the time. Discmans were popular. But iPods were the new thing. And the white earbuds let everyone know you were the one with the iPod.

Fast-forward a decade and you find yourself looking at the prominence that Apple has created with the iPod, MacBook, iPhone and iPad. All playing off the distinctive whiteness that can only be inherently associated and truly attributed with the Apple brand. In a sea of black and grey, white shines through. It creates something pure, elegant and utterly appealing. It puts fashion and appearance on the same level as functionality and user experience. It turns technological utility into technological beauty.

The resulting impact has created a seemingly domination of Apple products and Apple-only world view. Apple fanatics promote brand fundamentalism. The digitally and technologically inhibited become evangelists and ambassadors. And everyone else is left wondering if and when they should make the jump. Apple has created a machine that can sway public opinion. One that credit this to powerful branding and very creative and magical marketing.

But sometimes I sit and wonder. Have we been blinded by the beauty? Are we only seeing the white earbuds because we choose to only see the white earbuds? Are we all, to one degree or another, experiencing and suffering from “Apple vision”? Are we willingly controlling the situation or are we willingly allowing ourselves to be controlled?

Indeed, Apple does make some extraordinary pieces of technology that are very appealing, innovative and extremely intuitive. And they have indeed lead the way by popularizing the mp3 player, online music purchasing, touch-screen smart phone technology and the growth of the tablet market. Once you add their MacBook segment you have yourself a company that’s worth approximately $317.6 billion. Many would say this undoubtedly gives Apple precedence and ultimate bragging rights. But I’m not so sure.

We’ve become absorbed by the Apple lifestyle. Too many of us would live and die by Apple products. Too many of us have become complacent with Apple being the only alternative. Too many of us are being engulfed into an increasingly apparent iCloud. A cloud that is asking for our trust but obscuring our ability to see the horizon and those around us. Competition manifests creation. Open-mindedness perpetuates evolution and growth. This is not about denying greatness. This is about asking you the essential and defining question. Are you experiencing “Apple vision”?

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Leveraging the Millennialness of Millennials

In an increasingly competitive world, the slightest edge, the smallest advantage could have profound effects. Understanding the possible impacts behind any and all characteristics has become a very notable trend. No percentage point is too insignificant. No behaviour goes unnoticed. No industry model is left unused. Every marketer, leader and manager should be leveraging everything they can get within their grasp. But, are they leveraging what is right in front of them?

The Millennials are an incredibly interesting and unique set of individuals. At a time of extreme change and transformation, they have been able to adopt, excel and adapt to a rapidly moving fluid environment. And it seems they just about lead every category in one manner or another. Whether those be technological, behavioural or demographic statistics. Driven by dreams, fuelled by connectivity and maintaining an optimistically unprecedented thought process, the millennialness of the Millennials is often left untouched and misunderstood.

Fascinatingly, this group of individuals exhibit something powerful, different and fresh but at the risk of damaging their perceptions, very few have made any significant attempt to leverage their innate abilities. Something of which almost seems ludicrous when everyone is trying to get ahead and these young, highly intelligent and savvy individuals are being left behind and not used to their fullest potential. Something that should be noted as traditional and conventional societal structures are now being tackled by untraditional and unconventional societal shifts.

Understanding these master multi-taskers wouldn’t be easy by any measure. It’s not merely a notion about taking on multiple tasks at once. Rather, it’s about understanding the multi-dimensional thinking and thought process that actually occurs. It’s about uncovering and bringing to the forefront the different behavioural patterns that are becoming commonplace. This can be accredited to everything the Millennials have been exposed to and the multitude of these aspects that they have incorporated into their daily lives.

It has created a very fluid process and ability to transition between Facebook, their smart phones, maintaining a series of conversations and just about anything else without significant interruption or setback to the tasks at hand. They have embraced the tools of their environment. They have evolved the environment itself. And they have created a social paradigm that has drastically changed the world from the pre-Facebook and pre-smart phone one no one can remember to what it has become today.

The resulting impact has manifested an extraordinary set of circumstances for  the Millennials surroundings. They have become significantly influential to everything and everyone around them. Who’s opinions are heavily weighed and considered. Always pushing certain ideas to the forefront while deterring others. From dictating the purchasing decisions of their parents to the inclinations of social influence and the ability to sway groups of peers with the justifications of their decisions.

The constant flow of information and increasing growth of communication channels has created, allowed and dictated extensive swings every which way possible. And that applies to acceptances of technologies, web based activities and purchasing decisions. This is an age of very savvy adopters. They have the uncanny ability to spread both the good and the bad. Depending on who you are that could be used to your advantage or determent. They are the savants of our advancing society.

This is not about the Millennials having all the answers to all the situations that exist. But seemingly, they carry a set of circumstances that everyone wants though few have chosen to approach or risk in it these supposed murky waters. Since many argue that they’re just like the youth of old, right? Anyone would be wise to leverage these natural attributes. Much of everything that is happening today highly exemplifies the millennialness of the Millennials. After all, leveraging master multitasking thinking abilities with the high influence and savvy adoption of these individuals would hardly be worth the effort. Or, would it be?

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The Rise of Social Television

A couple years ago, every indication pointed to social media being the killer of traditional media. Everyone was caught in the hype. En masse we all seemingly believed that life was going to change as we knew it. It was going to be the end of email. The end of print media. The end of TV. And the start of a new age. The age of online video. The age of free content. The age of social media. But what happened? What change really occurred?

Well, for one, the flames of traditional media are still burning. And buring bright. Yes, print media has taken a hit. And the music and film industries haven’t quite been the same. But social media and other new age media have hardly conquered the traditional medium. Or any medium for that matter other than their own. The new world is undeniably reshaping and redefining everything we knew before us, however much has to be said to the adaptations and manifestations that are occurring within the traditional media realm.

The writing itself is on the wall. If advertising dollars are an indication of anything, they are an indication of audience size. Although internet advertising is posed to grow over the coming years from $25.8 billion in 2010 to $44.5 billion in 2015, TV still leads by a significant margin and will continue to lead by a significant margin growing from $59 billion in 2010 to $68 billion in 2015. If you can understand where the advertising dollars are heading, you can ultimately understand where our eyes are, where we are, spending there fair share of time.

And though online content and social media are claiming their territory on daily life, TV still remains a fundamental aspect in our everyday activities and decisions. It’s power and influence is uncanny and profound. So much so that there is very notable deviations on the strength of impact that TV has on us versus that of our online behaviour. To paint a clearer picture, TV advertising has the most impact on buying decisions at 83% versus online at 47%. Those are numbers you simply can’t shy away from.

Much of this can be attributed to the fact that the TV viewing experience has advanced exponentially. Further, with a massive shift away from remote desktop internet access to mobile access in the form of laptops, smart phones, tablets and even onto television sets themselves, it has increased usage of multiple media channels and experience that occur at once. The fascinating correlation here is that although the internet age might have moved us away from our wood paneled TV-sets and meagre cable access in favour of the web, advances in technology have brought us all back into one room. Watching and accessing multiple screens at once.

The convergence of multiple media access points will have profound effects on who we are. The social media phenomena has made 1 out of every 11 people on this planet a Facebook user in just over half a decade. Twitter has become the impromptu information outlet and real-time opinion hub. And the usage, users and time spent in these mediums only seems to be on the rise. Social media has recharacterized the online world and established a growing social paradigm. One that is far reaching.

Television and social media have been always thought to be on course to collide, creating an impact that would deeply change everything as we know it. It was to be an impact so colossal that destruction of one or the other would be the only suitable and evident outcome. Mistakenly and blindly we believed this. Television and social media are not opposing forces. They are inherently drawn to one another. They harness an attraction that only further amplifies itself and recontextualizes what it is to be television and social media.

The attraction between the two has acted as a catalyst in creating something that is truly enlightening, social television. This emerging collaborative nature encompasses both the participation of real-time televised experiences while participating in real-time social conversations. Conversations that are not only directed at friends and family but ones that are open to a world of opinion, judgement and decision.

One is just as crucial as the other. Social television will continue to thrive simply because it feeds off of our behaviours to be part of something greater while at the same time creating a very active viewing experience. It provides the content and breaks the ice. And will grow to a greater influencer and facilitator capacity. It’s up to us to interpret, decipher and enjoy what it is at hand. Make no mistake, social media is not the TV killer nor will it ever be. They are two forces of nature that will further continue a very beneficial self-perpetuating cycle as they increasingly become drawn and attracted to each other.

The rise of social media and the enhancement of the TV experience has formulated an advanced dynamic. From the encouragement to use Twitter hashtags during live programming to the content focused Facebook status updates, social television will play a greater inclusive, integrated and real-time role. It was never really a matter of when one would overwhelm the other. It was about understanding the intricacies and impacts they have and will continue to have on each others relationships. It is about the harmoniousness existence between the two.

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Why We’re Selling Web Content All Wrong

The internet has become synonymous with the vast expanses of  information. It’s the world wide web. It’s where you go to find the answers to all and any questions you have. It’s all knowing and all seeing. Seemingly, it’s where everything is and where everybody is spending their time. And most importantly, it’s perceived to be free. Whether that be in one capacity or another. With unlimited access to just about anything, the growing social media paradigm, expanding consumerism and escalating mobile access, it’s becoming the mainstream alternative to, well, everything.

Depending on who you are, this alternative could have very serious consequences. In fact, it already has had very serious consequences. Music, news and print media have had their hands full in recent years battling the free pandemic. The film industry, TV and a series of other segments are experiencing the same growing issue. All, fascinatingly, part of a dichotomy where we pay for something in the real world in one instance but not pay for that same exact thing in the online world. So, why would anyone pay for something if they can get it for free?

Free, however, does not come with out it’s own significant setbacks. First and foremost, everything does have an actual cost attributed to it, whether we choose to believe that or not. Much like TV, the freeness of the web is in large part backed by exponential advertising dollars. And haven’t we all just become so fond of ads?

The free paradigm further instils a mode of thought that presumes we are entitled to free. And we will go on vast web crusades to find free. And why would we bother using the web other than to access the free. Forget about today’s youth, the Millennials, paying for what is or what they’ve grown to know as free. The user, the internet and advances in technology catalyze the free paradigm. They are the proponents that created and manifested this dynamic.

Unfortunately for business, the emerging realities easily suggest that we will not pay for a slew of web based activities. Unfortunately for us, the emerging realities easily suggest that we will have to pay for various web based activities. Wholeheartedly, this is fine and something we will have to deal with in one circumstance and the other. But why try and solve problems in an untraditional environment with traditional solutions? Why approach environments of the real world and online world as if they are the same environment?

The monetization of the web is occurring. And it will attempt, try and continue to occur. The reason why it fails and continues to fail is in large part based on the real world approach taken. This doesn’t allow for sustainability within the online world. When you buy something at the local convenience store, you purchase actual goods that are tangible and physical and they represent what we know as something real. The same effect can’t be said for everything digital, online or web based.

Our pricing models have to evolve to represent our web behaviours. They have to represent our web activities. Though random is hardly an easy aspect to predict, there are profound correlations to how we approach and live on the web. There is evident significance to all this beautiful chaos. And if you’re trying to sell web-based content, your strategy must reflect this.

In an ideal world, free would be king. In a world steeped in business, this is evidently not the case. And in fact, there really is nothing wrong with one or the other. But why not approach an untraditional problem with an untraditional approach? Why are we trying to sell something that is unlimited as something that is limited? Supply and demand models hath no place here. The indicators, behavioural information and essence of the web are more than apparent. So why do we continue to sell web content all wrong? Why do we sell as if there was only a real world mindset to selling? Think web. Sell web.

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The Prevailing Mobile Behaviour of Millennials

The hyper-acceleration of mobile technologies and their on-going growth has created an environment of constant access. A sense of access that follows you and allows you to increasingly take part in anything, anywhere at anytime. As the automobile represented a sense of freedom for youth a generation before, the mobile phone represents that freedom for the youth of today. A freedom that is further justifying and entrenching who the Millennials are and who they are becoming.

Mobile has become synonymous with Millennials. It doesn’t simply represent who they. It is who they are. It has become an extension to the personal-self. It has become a primal aspect of their daily lives. It has become one of the most centralized components to just about anything they do. It should be no wonder to see that the Millennials mobile activity leads feature phone ownership, smart phone adoption, app usage, the mobile web and on and on. The mobile world, the mobile phone, being mobile encompasses who these individuals are.

With such significance and integration placed into this technology, it is very interesting to see the series of behaviours that are emerging and manifesting as a cause of it. When you combine that with the constant advancement of mobile technology and the move of market forces into affordability, we begin see profound decentralizing forces taking place here and the culmination of a crucial paradigm shift.

It’s something that began with the consumption and recreational use of featured phones, which quickly digressed into overwhelming text usage. The dawn of mainstream mobile data usage in combination with another unprecedented development, social media, evolved into the ever-growing Millennial and extreme usage dynamic. Something that is further transforming into something greater with the development of advanced real-time elements and increasing multi-media messaging in the forms of pictures and video.

The resulting impacts of this have created something evolutionary to our human behaviour and one that clearly manifests within the Millennials. Interestingly, it’s a series of behaviours that are easily considered untraditional and unconventional by our standards and notions. But ones that are becoming accepted and transformed back into tradition and convention.

Text messaging replaced the phone call. Its quick, to the point, none confrontational and allows you to have multiple conversations at once. It’s the reason why Millennials don’t knock on your door but text you to let you know that they’re outside waiting. Though text messaging itself is slowly being replaced by picture and video messaging. Our society and culture is increasingly being enamoured by images. A picture is worth a thousand words, so why bother texting an explanation of a meal or something funny when a picture will do it in one click.

Further, the mobile experience is hijacking and hacking into human activities that have remained steady and untouched for decades. Watching TV has turned into a collaborative and shared mobile experience mutually through texting, BBM, mobile tweeting and mobile Facebooking. So powerful in fact that a quick message could persuade you to change channels to see what all the messaging commotion is about. When’s the last time you didn’t “put it on” that channel?

The workplace itself has become a shared experience in real-time. You might be able to prevent internet usage and deter certain personal activities, but the smart phone empowers each Millennial employee to access and act as they please outside the eyes of the panopticon. It’s not at all about slacking or wasting time. Rather it enforces our humanistic nature and proximity to care about one another on a deeper level than previously understood or had the opportunity to experience.

The mobile phone has become so ingrained into our human essence and a growing aspect of our humanness that you will find those attending to their devices at the moments of greatest solitude and beautiful intimacy. Seems utterly strange and weird to be diverted from such powerful circumstances but that’s how much a part of us they have become. Intriguingly, nothing else would dissuade you from what you were doing like a notification from your BlackBerry or iPhone.

The lines and boundaries that once existed are not simply being blurred, they are being redefined. Our human nature, our human behaviour is being redefined. For better or worse. Whether we agree with it or not. It is becoming an aspect of our human essence regardless of how unnatural it truly is. It is recontextualizing tradition and convention. When’s the last time you saw a Millennial without their mobile phone? It is their dearest companion. It is everywhere they are.

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Are You Delivering Happiness?

Happiness is contagious. It has significant effects. It has the ability to profoundly impact each and everyone of us. And it often spreads. We begin to enjoy it. We try to mimic it. We do the best we can to deliver it. It comes in the form of having a grand time with your friends. It culminates it the simple little things you give to the one you love. And it manifests in something as small and unique as a smile. A smile that could have the most defining and lasting effects.

But something so innate to the human psyche, something so inherent to our human essence is unquestionably mistaken and often misunderstood. The underlying factor here is that our notions of happiness are based on our own perceptions of what encapsulates happiness as opposed to what happiness means to someone else and what it takes to deliver that happiness. It’s not about delivering what we believe happiness to be. It’s about delivering the happiness that will genuinely make someone else happy.

Happiness empowers us. It inspires us. It motivates us. It creates a greater good. It drives our passions. It fulfills our dreams. And it brings powerful meaning to all aspects of life. It’s no coincidence that our greatest times, our most positively joyous experiences and moments of sincere humanness are those events where we made it our priority to deliver happiness. The smallest of actions have the incredible ability to create the largest of effects.

Go beyond the utility of trying to create a perception of happiness and build on creating a meaningful and substantial experience. It’s an endless pursuit. And it should be an endless pursuit. It would be foolish to think that happiness has a finish line. Not that it’s a matter of not being able to make someone happy but rather you should make it a point to continually make those around you happy.

I don’t mean happy in the false sense of appeasement. Nor do I suggest delivering happiness at the sake of your own. The great thing about happiness is that it has a very liberating sum-sum characteristic. It does not take away from one individual in order to satisfy another. That’s why you should make it something to strive towards rather than something you force yourself to do.

Delivering happiness is about delivering something above what the situation dictates. Delivering happiness is about providing that substance, that meaning, that positive impact that can single-handedly change how that person feels, interacts with and sees the world around them. Delivering happiness is about creating that life changing moment. The moment where your smile, your “good-morning”, your thank you, your honest appreciation of life added value to someone else’s life other than your own.

Go ahead. Change the world for someone around you. Deliver happiness. And watch it spread.

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Born Into Digital

Much has been said about the Net Generation. Not only are they considered to be the Digital Natives, they, the Millennials, are without a question the most technologically and web savvy generation the world has seen. They have grown with and are perpetuating the digital revolution with a lifestyle contextualized by mobile, online, social media, advancing tech and app based characteristics.

As their behaviours change the environment in front of them, they leave a path not traveled by any others. Though the Millennials grew up digital, they were not born into the digital ecosystem they currently enforce. One that is significantly more digitally advanced than that of a few years ago. A digital environment itself that is proliferating and expanding at an unprecedented rate.

Although the Millennials are very much the digital natives, they have not been truly subjected to the digital upbringing many newborns experience today. The fundamental difference being that it is one thing to grow up and grow with an evolutionary process but it is something else to be born into that evolution and be a product of it.

For as long as anyone can remember, parents have been recording the upbringing up their children through home videos, family picture albums and the cute little doodles. And that very much continues today. But something very profound has started to occur. A completely fascinating and emerging trend is taking place and we’re all witnesses to it or even active parts of it. What I speak of is the manifestation of newborn human life directly heading into the digital space. Any socially inclined Millennial mother with a newborn and a Facebook account is true testament to this. Something that is further enticed and instigated by Millennial womens heightened Facebook activity.

If any of you have been paying attention, you have undoubtedly seen the development of newborns and photos of them increasingly dominating your news feed. From the very instances of birth, right down to that cute pose they did today. And how could you not be swayed by their adorable, innocent and funny nature. It’s easy to understand why baby videos quickly go viral. And why baby pictures uploaded to Facebook receive incredible amounts of activity each and every time. It almost seems something would be wrong if they didn’t. Right.

This goes beyond the sharing, the concern and any other natural feeling we currently have about the web, information, privacy and social media. The essence of the social profile is changing. No longer does it simply represent you and who you are. But it begins  to represent and becomes represented by your child. Though the outcomes of this are unpredictable and hardly obvious, it would be very foolish to think there will not be any psychological, societal and behavioural implications to this.

Admittedly, the positive and negative consequences to these actions are unforeseen and won’t be apparent for some time. So, let’s assume that we take the Millennials and their digital upbringing and apply those elements to these newborns, who literally start life on Facebook. You begin to have a mysterious, intriguing and unknown foreshadowing of the world that waits for them and us. Is it wrong to make your children an aspect of your social world at such a young age? Who’s to say.

But it should be known we are entering into an environment that has never been traveled. The Millennials grew up digital and they single-handedly change the world. And for better or worse, through their current passive and imposed social state, those trailing them and born into this digital world are already having an everlasting impact. One that is currently not visible to the naked eye. And one that is more powerful than we truly  understand.

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Cultivate Your Customer

We have loyalty programs. Then there’s lead nurturing. Along with the many variations of permission marketing. And not to mention, the growing number of social media and app media that is a location based service. Trying to enhance the customer relationship is hardly a new idea. But it seems the more we do and advance ourselves, the more story really stays the same.

The problem with how we as marketers, advertisers, businesses and brands approach the customer is the fact that our goal and only goal is to get the sale. In the majority of cases, that’s it. That’s the truth to our pursuits. The be all and end all to our primary objective. Don’t get me wrong here, I’m a believer in business. However, we are constantly and continually pursuing a system of acquisition and reacquisition rather than focusing on retention and personal customer growth. For some this is fine. But so much opportunity is left on the table.

In a world of growing competition and at a period that’s becoming increasingly known as the age of the customer, we have to rethink our business models. We have to rethink how we approach, value, enhance and provide a mutually beneficial relationship for both the seller and the buyer. The customer will always make purchases. So why simply settle for the sale? Why not go beyond that one single event? Why not settle for continued sales from the returning customer instead?

Cultivating your customer is by no means an easy process. Like any relationship, it takes some work to make something great. It has to go beyond the mass emails, check-ins, barcode scans and loyalty points programs. It has to be real and it has to be human. It has to be authentic and it has to be meaningful. Unfortunately, the effect won’t be the same for everyone. Nor will everyones approach towards their customer base. The implications of legitimately growing this relationship could be extraordinary. While at worst, you could still land the measly sale you settled for in the first place.

Although social media attempts to create and solve the issue of enhanced relationships, it’s thinking and logic takes on a very traditional approach in more instances than it should. It’s essence is often removed as a result. Leaving the customer to be felt as if they were removed themselves. Yes, we’re all interested in great “deals” and promotions that spike our interest. And that will always work to an extent. But we would always enjoy the personal touch versus being part of the known mass audience. Luckily, technology is making this easier with there being no better time than now to differentiate and make this about you, the customer.

Great customer service has evangelised many brands and businesses. But great customer service is only concerned up to the point of the sale and maybe some assistance after. Who says the relationship has to end there? Regardless of which category and perceived lifetime value a product or service receives. We’ve been led to believe nothing exists beyond the purchase. Though, I’m hardly suggesting a courtesy call. Does the this vicious cycle merely end here? Considering you won’t purchase said item again, right.

Great customer service has had the ability to profoundly impact how we choose where we decide to spend our dollar. So much so that is has become a significant factor in many of the purchasing decisions we make. Now, think of the opportunities that exist should you expand that mentality to the point of the next purchase. After all, many of us will most certainly purchase more than one pair of shoes, continue to be a part of a growing services environment and endlessly entertain our interests.

Customer cultivation could most definitely be interpreted as methods that currently exist. That sense and understanding would be flawed. This is not about sending or providing the customer with something in order to prompt another sale. This is about saying thank you. This is about confidently giving the customer something to enjoy with no recourse other than for that something to be enjoyed by the customer. This is about going above and beyond all existing buyer and seller experiences and perceptions. This is about creating a real relationship. So, good ahead. Cultivate the customer, your customer. Deliver the happiness they deserve. And watch everything grow.

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