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Don’t moan about this over-connected world; gain from it

“Over the summer I invited a few friends and colleagues to my house for lunch. When they arrived, hugs and greetings were exchanged and my guests headed for the dining room while I finished up in the kitchen, mixing the homemade potato salad, and, well, let’s say “supervising” the grilling out on the patio.
While I put the finishing touches on the plates I noticed something strange about the chatter coming from the other room…there was none. They had either all been so bored they dozed off or they had quietly left and stuck me with way too much salmon and salad.
But, in fact, they were still there, seated at the table, one reading an iPad, two texting on iPhones, and one clicking away fervently on a BlackBerry.
I insisted that lunch would have to be a device-free meal.”

KATIE COURIC, in the foreword to ‘The End of Business As Usual’ by BRIAN SOLIS (2012)

The holiday season is upon us, and I suspect many of us are going to share Katie Couric’s experience, excerpted above.

How often does anyone give you their undivided attention these days? Most of us are fed up trying to hold meetings, or even one-to-one conversations, where we end up vying for attention with devices. What started off as a mildly irritating trend is now a full-scale epidemic. Pretty much anyone with a smartphone or tablet is nowadays pretty much on it all the time. Even when decorum demands you pay attention to the person(s) in front of you, most us are busy texting, tweeting, updating, emailing or browsing.

Don’t roll your eyes; you probably do it too.

Katie Couric had the privilege, as a lunch host, of insisting her meal be declared device-free. But does that work any more?

Ms Couric was recounting this experience in the foreword to Brian Solis’s very engaging new book, The End Of Business As Usual. In it, Mr Solis makes a very pointed observation: you have very little hope of resisting this development. You would be far wiser to use it for your benefit than wring your hands complaining about it.

The fact is this: many people are paying more attention to their devices these days than to real people in front of them. They are spending more and more time in a virtual world than a real one. They are distracted; they are multi-tasked; they are zoned out. They are this way for a variety of reasons. Some are addicted to the thrill of constant connectivity. Some prefer the distance of virtual conversations than the intimacy of real ones. Some feel a greater sense of belonging to a bigger world than the one physically before them.

Others would rather do something on their device than speak to you.

This stuff is painful and potentially harmful, but Mr Solis is right: there isn’t much you’re going to do about it. The train has left the station, and everyone on it is busy on his or her device. The human psyche has evolved.

Mr Solis’s advice is straightforward. Don’t fight it, embrace it. Yes, everyone’s distracted. That puts even more pressure on you to be engaging and compelling. You have to now be the person people want to focus on at a given moment.

This may be distressing for you as an individual, but as a business or a brand you have to wake up to the reality. In Mr Solis’s words, you have to create moments for your consumers that are truly engaging. Your brand has to dive into the conversation and steer it in your direction. Otherwise your message will be lost in the melee of digital noise.

Think about that for 2013. Is your brand engaging, worthy of attention, compelling? Or is it already drowned out?

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