Postcards from Silicon Valley - part one
I recently had the good fortune to visit Silicon Valley as part of a Digital Media & Marketing initiative arranged by the Young Presidents Organisation. While we were there we met with the social media giants Google, Facebook, Linked-In and Twitter to gain a greater understanding of what made them successful and get a glimpse of what the future will look like. It was a truly awe inspiring trip which offered many insights into social media in general and how businesses can use it better.
In the first of two blogs I’ll share with you some of my general insights and in the second, I’ll give you some specific tips and business applications.
Firstly I need to set the scene, as Silicon Valley is the place for start-up entrepreneurs to be. It is a hive of energy, positivity and enthusiasm - nothing seems impossible and entrepreneurs are encouraged to dream the dream. The positive vibe is matched by the magical landscape: Palo Alto, Menlo Park and Mountain View are beautiful life affirming places. This dream environment can also be measured in dollars - Sandhill Road, where the biggest venture capitalists are based, is the most expensive real estate in the US.
Positive attitude, wonderful creative surroundings, the best brains and world leading products all contribute to a virtuous circle where success breeds success. Sadly I can’t pick up Silicon Valley and transport it to Central London, but I can adopt some of its vibe and energy, and learn from its latest thinking.
Silicon Valley is a hotbed of ideas and innovation. Positivity is a key part of nurturing ideas and bringing them to market. We can all try to create positive and stimulating environments that help employees with idea generation. We all have creative people who work for us – nurturing that creative talent is the challenge. The next step is to bring ideas to market and it’s important to recognise that failure plays a big part in success – especially for start-ups. In an environment geared toward innovation it’s clear that only the best ideas will survive so how we deal with failure is important. Fail fast, fail smart is the maxim from Silicon Valley. No matter how good the idea may be to the inventor, there is no point wasting time and money on an enterprise heading for failure, so it’s important to have clear criteria for success and to test and measure performance quickly. Failure should be viewed as an affirmative learning experience – enhance your ideas and move-on.
Key trends – portals and email down, social up
Portals may be on their way out. Also email, as a communications tool for certain age brackets, is steadily being replaced by social media. Email has a lot of “friction” it demands a lot of keystrokes, sending attachments is often clunky, slow and memory intensive – it has a lot of limitations when compared with social media networks. And I think it’s worth pointing out that this applies to both business and personal communication. See our other blog on internal social networks, to get an overview of how businesses are already using their own “private Facebooks” to improve efficiency. Part of this process is reducing time consuming email traffic through social networks. All of which means use of social networks are booming. Year on year web stats from the USA, saw portal use decline by 21%, search use stagnant at 1%, but social use up by 52%.
As well as being a societal change this affects you directly. For example are you recruiting panellists or marketing to clients through email or using social media?
We used to access the internet via PCs and laptops - now 50% of the internet content is accessed through smartphones. It is estimated that in 2011 Windows devices accounted for less that 50% of all internet connected devices for the first time. It’s worth noting that this is down from 95% just 4 years ago. This represents a massive shift in the take-up of smartphones and tablets and the way we access and interact with the web. Roger McNamee was a very energetic and inspiring speaker albeit a bit biased toward the two companies he was invested in….Here are his 10 Hypotheses for Tech Investing.
In today’s business everything you do on the web needs to be as easily accessible via smartphones and tablets as we have reached the tipping point. (Microsoft Word™ please take note and recognise “smartphone” as a word!)
The next generation
We are all “digital immigrants” said Rick Milenthal from Engauge. When we speak digital it is with an “accent” but our kids will not – they are growing up fluent in digital.
Children are growing up with computers in a completely different way to us. I’m sure most of us clearly remember the first time we used a PC – our kids will not, for them it is like learning to walk. Furthermore the under-8s of today may never use a PC in the traditional sense. For these children of the digital age a computer means a smartphone or tablet, or whatever is the next big breakthrough device. We currently use three generations of screens in our everyday lives, the TV, the Computer, and now the Mobile screen. Who knows what the 4th may be? How we use mobile media and social media in our businesses will be crucial in the next few years. So be sure to adopt some of the Silicon Valley spirit, keep stimulating great ideas for new applications and above all don’t be afraid to fail!
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