People, technology and life

Category: English (Page 9 of 14)

6 Meeting and connecting

How many friend request did you get today? How many people wanted to add you to their contacts on LinkedIn, Facebook, Foursquare? Or how many people have decided to follow what you are doing through your Twitter account? It seems that everybody wants to connect. Even people you had completely forgotten about, now send you requests to be part of your life once again.

Meeting and connecting is an obvious trend if we look at what drops into our mailbox every day. However, the trend is much bigger than that. It is not just about the number counts on your favorite social network, even though most of them have started out that way. More and more it is about really making a connection and expecting others to do so as well. And the value for your organization is defined by the way in which you can meet that last criteria.

You might have heard about the value of social media for your organization. You might have heard about creating a group of loyal followers through Twitter and about gathering fans on Facebook. As if it were something magical that, through simple deployment will have people flocking your sites and desperately waiting to hear your every word. Let me burst that bubble for a moment, because that is not how it works. If you did not have your biggest fans standing outside your office waiting for your latest news, neither will they do that now.

The question then is, how does it work and how can we make the most of this trend? Meeting and connecting is about connecting on a relational level. It is no use just broadcasting how wonderful you and your products are. It is about meaningful conversation and how your fans can connect. It is looking at what they are talking about and how you can add to their conversation. It is about listening to their opinions and taking action. It is about being approachable and letting them know that you are there for them. And when you make those steps, that is when connecting really becomes connecting to them.

You might think all of this is a huge amount of work. Listening to people online, monitoring what is said about you, engaging in conversation and all that. That will cost you a lot of time and time equals money. So, the obvious would be to just skip this trend and move on to the next one. After all, just publishing news on your site, press releases and running an ad campaign should cover the exposure you are looking for. And that is where the advantage you might have had, turns into a disadvantage. Yes, having meaningful conversations with an audience will take time and money. But the results of building meaningful relationships with your target audience will deliver more than advertising ever will. It will turn a good part of your audience into ambassadors for you. They will testify to the way you have helped them achieve what they wanted. They will testify how you listened to them and solved their problems and they will tell their connections that if they ever need something similar, they should go to you.

So, what does this mean if you have a dealership and you are trying to move your cars? Basically, it means that just putting the makes, models, years and mileage on a twitter account will not get people flocking your dealership. But if you hear online that someone is looking for an MPV, a response from you might just sell that car. And responding to online questions on your brand and on general questions on car maintenance will grow your reputation as the best place to go. And you will see people answer that with a positive advice to others online to be in touch with you, to ask you questions or to check out a car that you have. And your audience will be happy to be in touch with you. Mainly because you show them that you are pleased to be in touch with them.

Show your customer you care, by connecting to them in the way you would like to be connected with. That is the least they deserve as they are the reason for your organization to be successful.

This post is part of a series on 10 social trends that can help you get your point across. For more information or a tailored advice on what could be your opportunities, get in touch on

5 Passion and craftsmanship

Another trend we currently see is the appreciation of passion and craftsmanship. This appreciation has been slowly on the rise. This also is the trend that has been the driving force behind sites like Etsy is a great example of people creating something based on their abilities. It often results in unique products that are handcrafted and focused on a smaller audience. An audience that is willing to spend more on a product to obtain something that is unique and that has an attention to detail that surpasses that of mass produced items.

The same goes for every other product or service. More and more we see that people are willing to spend that little extra on a product that displays a passion for the product by its maker. And this trend is not limited to specialized products. This can go for anything. Whether you mend bikes at your local workshop, give financial advise as an accountant or want to address aggression in a bad neighborhood. Regardless of what it is you are offering to your target audience, they will all appreciate the fact that you have a passion for what you are doing. And they will appreciate that passion. More and more, people choose for a passionate producer, a passionate person, a passionate goal. And that makes your audience willing to put in more effort from their side for the same reason.

So, how do you translate this trend into something practical for your organization or your product? The good thing is that it does not require a complete rethink of your organization. What it does require is attention to what you are doing, how you are doing it and why. After all, making the most of this trend means that your product, service or project needs to ooze passion. The best way to get to that stage is to ask yourself what you are doing what you do. Is it because it was convenient, or because you care about what you are doing. If you cannot point to a reason why you love to get to work in the morning, you need to sit down and find out what part of what you do you can change to get to that stage. Sometimes it only requires minimal change. Or even just refocusing on a part of the work you do that you really are enthusiastic about. When you can focus on that enthusiasm, you will be able to translate that into passion and that passion will be translated into a better product, a better process and a better service.

Moving back to the motorcycle manufacturer I used as an example a couple of days ago. The bike was beautiful. It was well crafted. You could see it was special just by the way they did the welds, the custom frame, the suede seat and the airbrush on the side of the bike. However, the bike was sitting the wrong way around on a small square block that was painted with wall paint underneath a less than glamorous banner. You could see the passion and craftsmanship in the bike, but it did not impress because the surroundings completely took the attention away from the bike towards the less than passionate presentation. A real shame. So, keep in mind that the way you radiate passion and craftsmanship is only as good as the weakest moment you have in your presentation. Go over it. Pay attention to the details. Even the details that you would think would never pull the attention away from the product itself. Because it will. Passion is in packaging with attention to detail and showing off that you care about every little part of your product or service.

This post is part of a series on 10 social trends that can help you get your point across. For more information or a tailored advice on what could be your opportunities, get in touch on

4 Being transparent and clear

There is little that annoys people more than organizations and people who are not transparent. Shrouding yourself in secrecy and complicated procedures is a sure way to drive customers away. The trend is about openness, being clear and transparent on what you are about. And there is a supporting trend that people are watching you closely to see whether you walk the walk and not just talk the talk. Your conclusion might be that that means you need to tread carefully not to drop the ball. But that is missing the point completely.

The challenge in this trend is to open up your company. To make it more and more transparent and allow your target audience a look behind the scenes. This will be harder than it sounds. You will run into internal resistance within your organization. It might be hard to open up on the materials you use and where they come from. It might feel unnatural to reveal the environmental risks that are associated with some of the things you do. Or it might just be that your company has grown habits, departments, choices that are not at all focussed on the target audience. And you might be right in thinking that your audience would not like it if they knew. Well, this is your chance to make a difference. Changing now, you might have the ultimate advantage on your competitors who are likely to be in the same shape as you are. But if can make the turn before they can, you are on your way up and leaving them behind.

In your communications, be as transparent as you possibly can. Tell about what is going on. There is nothing wrong with a positive twist on what you are saying, but make sure you are not telling fairytales. If you are the most personal insurer in the country, you need to make it your business to know your clients’ name and their packages when you answer your phone. If you can answer all of their questions based on your knowledge of them and half of the question they asked you, they will feel like you know them. And they will feel like you care. In another example, if you claim your company is the most environmentally friendly producer of household appliances, you have to be it. And you can show people that you do recycle and do care about creating new products with a smaller footprint. Because that is in line with your company philosophy.
In both cases, living up to your claim will give you an edge over others. You will be talked about and people will testify to the fact that you live up to your claims. If you claim to be things you are not, you need to be prepared for bad publicity and possibly worse. A Dutch bank went down almost entirely based on public opinion. Another example is BP that saw a huge amount of corporate value vaporize due to public opinion on its approach to an environmental disaster.

After all this, it might sound like a contradiction, but transparency can be easily achieved. You just need to be careful to be consistent throughout everything you do. Transparency can be as easy as having someone who is approachable. It can be as easy as showing what it is you do behind the scenes so your target audience feels like they know your processes. And it can be as easy as sending out the emails to your mailinglist with a reply address so people can respond to you when they have read your news.

Transparency is a great trend for anyone who wants to get their point across. Because if you have a transparent image, that means that people are willing to trust you. Just because they know you.

This post is part of a series on 10 social trends that can help you get your point across. For more information or a tailored advice on what could be your opportunities, get in touch on

3 Playfulness

Jack is a personal injury lawyer. He just walked into his office at 10th street and earned  enough points to steal the mayorship of his office from Dan, his colleague. On his way to the office he picked up a coffee at the local Starbucks with a 10% discount for being their mayor. A mayorship he really enjoys as he loves their coffee. Foursquare checkins determine a geographical location you check into through your smartphone. Points are awarded for traveling, for checking in, for adding venues and for other things if a company chooses to do so. And people are checking in to beat their friends on points. Everybody wants to be at the top of the scoreboard.

In the coming years we will see playfulness become a bigger factor in society. Playing is no longer just for kids. Managers play, ministers play, gardeners play, entrepreneurs play, kids play. And they all play together or against each other to achieve the top position on scoreboards we never even considered before. Ken posted the most replies on a travel forum to achieve the status of “World explorer” on the forum and the top spot in their “Biggest travelers of the world” scoreboard. He is proud of it and intends to keep it. But he knows Barbara is right on his heels with just forty points separating their positions. So Ken keeps on posting relevant content to the site, because when his posts are marked as helpful he receives extra points. It is the competition that keeps him on his toes. And he loves it.

Playfulness is a great tool to work with. Over the last two years we see scoreboards emerge on everything. The motto for playfulness, or gamification is “If you can count it, you can score it”. And if you can score it, you can use it as a trigger. A trigger for thought, a trigger to buy, a trigger to participate.

Within playfulness we also see social gaming as a fast riser. Games like farmville, where you build a farm and share livestock with your friends would never have become a success five years ago. But now everybody is playing Farmville or other social games through facebook, through portal sites or in other ways. Social gaming allows you to play along and against your friends in games without having to have them present. But you are still competing to be the biggest, the best, the friendliest etc. And people love it. They play it for hours on end and they are willing to spend money to achieve higher scores. Just as they do with many more online games all over the world. As an example, games company Spil Games serves 130 million unique customers about 30 billion games every single month. That means 11,500 people are playing a game with them every second of the day.

The statistics are great. But how do you translate that into something that you can benefit from? You might be in a very serious business. You might think that there is nothing playful about what you are doing. But you need to reconsider. You need to look at what you are doing in a new way. If it can be counted, it can be a game. If it can be shared, it can be a game. And your playing field is your whole target audience.
Alice runs the city council safety department. For years she has been trying to involve citizens in what she is doing. She knows that when she can have them involved, the streets will become a safer place quicker than she could ever achieve. Alice could use gamification in her process to involve people. Things change when there are things you can achieve for yourself and for others. Alice can go out onto the streets and ask people to add their worry to a list. The list is then transformed into an achievement board which shows problems, their owners and the people who solved the problem. By solving the problem you can earn points. Problem owners can also offer rewards for solving their problem so there is more to achieve than points. As Alice has found out the problems of the community often relate to their safety, solving these problems will solve a large part of the problems Alice’s department needs to address.

The trend is that we see adults play as much as we see kids play. And their games are not much more serious either. People will take time to just have fun. And there is an angle you can work with. Make what you do fun. Make it count towards something your target audience can believe in. Make it something that is in line with your goals or your product. And you can. Anything can be turned into a game. A good one. A game that triggers your target audience to have fun. And if they do, they will credit you and your products for it.

This post is part of a series on 10 social trends that can help you get your point across. For more information or a tailored advice on what could be your opportunities, get in touch on

2 Creativity

“Creativity is great for selling sketchbooks.” “We are in insurance, not creativity.” Just some random remarks you get when talking about creativity. But whether you think it fits your company profile or not, creativity is a social trend that allows you to reach your target audience.

Just to get it out of the way, creativity as a trend does not mean you ought to ditch your pinstripe for a red suit, nor does it mean your business cards should now be done by a graffiti artist. The trend in creativity means that people love to be creative themselves. It also means they appreciate an organization that has a creative edge to their products.

Within this trend, the best ways to reach people is through challenging them to be creative with your product or around a theme that fits your products or services. A great example of this would be a coffee chain that would ask people to take pictures of their favorite place to drink coffee and post them on a Facebook fan page. In return the fans can win a chance to have coffee there with 30 friends, muffins and other extra’s included.
Another option would be to ask people to help you develop a new product or service for you. In the Netherlands crisps maker Lays did this when it asked people to suggest new flavors for their crisps. Out of all the suggested flavors three were chosen for the final test, selling them in the supermarket. The sales of the three chosen flavors even exceeded the sales of all the time favorite crisps flavor. Brand awareness over the campaign period even went up to 80%, which is a big improvement over the 60% normally measured at Lays. The huge success of the campaign can be attributed to a couple of other trends as well, but unleashing the creativity of people to create new crisps has been one of the major factors in the success of the campaign.

Adding a creative edge to your product or service from within your company can be one of the toughest things you could want. However, people will appreciate it once you have got your edge covered. The edge you are looking for is something which makes your product remarkable. Something that is just a little bit different, but which changes the feel of your product or service enough to surprise people. It might be incorporating a local flavor in the product you are selling. Like the baking tin that was created by an artist based on an old button used in the traditional dress in Zeeland, the Netherlands. At first she wanted to make a limited edition of 2010 baking tins for the area. Four months later, she has now sold over 8000 tins in 30 countries and she is looking to expand with a new series of recipes from around the world. Another way to make a change would be to give your service a twist. You could be the world’s first socially responsible and environmentally focussed accountancy firm. But it would have to be in the genes of your organization. This would mean that all employees only wear organic suits, they only use electric vehicles to visit their customers and the office should be as paperless as possible. At the office fair trade and organic products are chosen for every solution possible and every employee can spend a couple of hours every week to provide a charity with their expertise. It can be done and it will pull a new group of clients towards you. A group that will choose for the best solution for themselves as well as the world around them. And when that choice is made in this way, the price is no longer the main issue at your negotiating table.

Creativity can be the trigger to involve people. Whether that is involvement with your organization, your goals, your product, your projects or your services. It can be one of the decisive factors in the choice your target audience makes. And that is not the only way you can benefit from creativity. The creativity of your target audience can also help you to explore directions that you would even have considered otherwise. And the good thing about that is that if your target audience leads you to new grounds, they also follow you to be your best customers and ambassadors there.

This post is part of a series on 10 social trends that can help you get your point across. For more information or a tailored advice on what could be your opportunities, get in touch on

1 Excitement

We love to get excited. So, what is the news in that, you might be wondering. Did we not always seek excitement? Not really. There have been times when people were looking for security more than excitement. But now people are looking for excitement in almost everything.

Excitement has become on of the factors on which people base their decisions. They are more likely to buy a product, choose something or take part in something if it is exciting to them. Does this mean that everything needs to be a roller-coaster ride? Not really. Excitement comes in many shapes and sizes. However, you need to make sure that you choose a type of excitement that fits your purpose. Get it wrong and it will have customers turn away from you.

So, what choices do you have? At the word excitement most people immediately think about something like the roller-coaster I mentioned before. But you can also become excited about taking a long hike in the mountains. You can be excited about working with your neighbours to clean up the street. But you can also be excited about going to see the band you love. These are all very different things to be excited about. And you target audience can be excited about what you have for them. But only if you can hit the sweet spot of their excitement.

Your first challenge is to analyze your offer. It is not really important what you are offering. Just about everything can trigger some kind of excitement with its target audience. About three years ago, I talked to an online seller of chess games and chess materials. They were looking to grow their business, but they did not really know how. As you will understand, excitement over chess is the excitement of pushing your own strategic abilities. It is the excitement of solving a hugely complicated puzzle. It does not give you an adrenaline rush, but it does give a sense of achievement. Together we decided that this ought to be the excitement that should be aimed for. The excitement of pushing yourself, of beating the ability of others through commitment.

An example of how to get it wrong was presented to me last weekend on a motorcycle show. Here was this beautiful hand built bike which was built as a tribute to Barry Sheen. It is easily the fastest production road bike in the world, of which only 52 are to be built. Everything on the bike was purposefully created. Nothing was overlooked. And the €130K price tag reflected this. However, it sat on a square meter pedestal in front of a magazine stand with only a banner drawing a bit of attention to it. A shame for a bike that could replace the current bike in the dreams of men loving fast bikes. Interestingly a talk with the owner revealed that that was just the thing they really wanted to do. They wanted to put this bike in the heads of people as the ultimate performance road bike. The audience was there, but few people noticed it. The image of the bike would have been helped much more if the display would have been bigger and had a more exclusive feel to it. It would have helped if it would have had screens showing the bike beating other bikes in sprints and circuit races. And that theme could be extended to their online presence where they could trigger an online competition that would prove that whatever you pitch against it, their bike would always beat it convincingly. That would give this bike the sporting legend they are looking for. A mix that would get their target audience excited when they spotted a glimpse of the bike anywhere.

So, how about your product then? The first thing to do, is to determine what the excitement around your product could be. And then reconsider it. Ask others who do not know your product or yourself to give their opinion on how your product would excite them. Because honestly, we all have pre set ideas on what excitement would be for our products. A city council might think the excitement in cleaning up your street would be in living in a nice neighborhood. However, for its citizens the excitement might be in pulling people together from a couple of blocks and achieving something together. Never assume you know the answer. Have a number of people look at it from the outside. Often they will come up with things you never thought of.

But at the end of it all, be exciting. Be something that people can warm up to. Be something that they look forward to. Be something that they can care about. And don’t be afraid to move outside of your primary goals to achieve this. Because you, your product, your idea or your project can get others excited.

This post is part of a series on 10 social trends that can help you get your point across. For more information or a tailored advice on what could be your opportunities, get in touch on

Getting it across – 10 social trends for the future

All we ever do, whether in sales, marketing or communications, is getting something across to our target audience. It is that something that triggers buyers to buy, citizens to become involved, people to donate to charities and others to listen. But what are the keys to making them hear what you are trying to get across? The key to being heard is to be connect to a social trend at the time it is happening.

Social trends go beyond the tricks that are often used. Social trends are trends that we can see in the way we relate to one another in society, they are the movements that live in the core of our society.

In the coming weeks I want to go over ten trends that we currently see and that open up loads of opportunities for people and organizations to communicating to their target audiences. I specify people and organizations on purpose, as these trends are as important for an individual building a personal brand as they are to corporates, government as well as the one man corner shop.

The coming ten posts will focus on these ten trends:

  1. Excitement
  2. Creativity
  3. Playfulness
  4. Being transparent and clear
  5. Passion and craftsmanship
  6. Meeting and connecting
  7. Doing it together
  8. Personally tailored
  9. Purposeful living
  10. Meaningful experiences

These are the trends that you need to connect to if you want to really reach your target audience. Over the coming ten blog posts, I will be taking a closer look at each of these trends and what they mean, or can mean, to you. I will also try to make them practical by adding examples, ideas etc.

Just as an aside, these are not just trends to follow in social media. They are not even trends that just pertain to online media. These are trends that are happening across society. They are happening to all age groups and all walks of life. I am certain that you will recognize most of them, as these are trends that influence you as well.

Pushed away by the discount

Everybody loves a discount. So, if you have a discount, let everybody know. Right? Well, yes, if that is your strategy. And for most webshops that is their strategy. However, you have to be careful about how you do it. The other day I was looking for an ebook. And I found it at the fourth shop. But as I looked over the details there it was. The one trigger I needed to look elsewhere. And it was not even the fact that the ebook was the exact same price as the printed one on my desk. It was the fact that I felt discriminated against. That apparently the book I wanted was not one they wanted customers for. It were three simple lines:

Official price: $9.99
Our price: $9.99
YOU SAVE: 0.00%

And lets face it, who wants to do business with a company who rubs it in so hard that everyone is special, and everyone gets a discount, except you. I don’t. Do you? In the end, the solution is simple. Ask your programmer that if the discount is lower than a certain percentage, the percentage is not displayed. And I would have been happy to buy the book.

Loyalty to your customers beats a loyalty program

You have a pocket full of them. So do I. Loyalty cards. But in all honesty, a loyalty card does not make you loyal to the company, it often only makes you more loyal to your wallet. After all, the reason you got the loyalty card was because it would give you a discount on your purchases. And that is most peoples only motivation for using it. As a matter of fact, if loyalty card holders can get the product they want anywhere else for less money, they will.

So, loyalty cards are useless, right? Well, not entirely. You cannot argue with the fact that more repeat sales are made and that if the discount stays below the extra income generated, that it works for you. And they are great for something else. They can be great for generating new business.

Yes, loyalty cards can generate new business. But not how you think they would. Loyalty cards can bring you new business from your biggest competitors. Find out what competitors have loyalty programs and then offer their loyalty card holders a bonus at your store. Don’t make their visit about money. They need to come to get your expertise, a free service, something that makes them feel that you are the premium store for them. That will make their day. It will also make them remember your store. And they might just be tempted to ditch the loyalty card, because your loyalty to them is bigger than the discount they get anywhere else.

How many apps do you want?

At LeWeb I met a number of startups. They ranged from not very interesting to very interesting. However the thing that really struck me when talking to them is that they are still so focussed on being the one platform for their users. Most ask you to import your friends, or ask you to at least invite them to their service. A lot of them work only with the information in their own databases and rely on their users to fill them. Frankly, I was disappointed. As an example, I was approached by a startup which operated only on the iPhone and which could recommend places to go based on what others had said about it. The good part of this app was that it connected with Facebook. One less account to worry about. The bad part was that they gathered the information my friends had put on Facebook through their social checkins through other apps. The main problem with this was that I needed to use the app to find a place where I could go. Then I needed to open an app to tell me where to get there. After I had arrived, I then needed to close the app and check in through a number of other apps. I would then use other apps while I would be at the venue for whatever I would want to share with my friends. And at the end of the night I would have to open their app again to rate the venue, tell others what I had done and share that through their network. Honestly? For me, that makes it useless. If you are building an app, try to incorporate the most obvious things into your app so that it your user is not hassled by it, but gets the feeling that the app makes life easier for them.

In the case of this particular app, it would have been much easier if they would have chosen to include checking in on the most available sites such as Foursquare, Gowalla, Facebook pages etc. And it is not that hard. Most offer an API which you can use, making it relatively easy to incorporate.

What it really comes down to is determining how your app can make your user’s life easier. Because that is the reason we use apps. We want them to add to our life instead of making it an extra something that we need to do. So yes, it is great if “there’s an app for that”, but it is even greater if there is a single app that follows through the whole process that the user is in. And better still if that is done regardless of whether the service the user wants to use is part of the developers’ stable. If that is something you can do for your customer, you might just be on to a winner.

#LeWeb10: Een andere kijk op vervoer met de Renault Twizy

Vanmiddag heb ik Matthieu Tenenbaum gesproken over de Renault Twizy. Eigenlijk zouden we ook een proefrit zijn gaan maken, maar omdat de Twizy’s eigenlijk allemaal prototypen zijn, hebben ze besloten om niet te rijden vanwege de sneeuw in Parijs.
Renault denkt na over andere manieren om persoonlijk vervoer in de grote steden vorm te geven. De Twizy is daar een voorbeeld van.

Watch LeWeb Day 2 live online

Today is the second day of LeWeb, the web conference in Paris that by now, you have heard everyone talk about. As you can’t be here in Paris with us, the kind organizers of LeWeb have set up a live stream for you to enjoy. Look below for the live coverage both in video as well as on twitter.

This is the live stream for the Plenary:

This is the live stream for Plenary II on Thursday:

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