As we've given more of our time and ourselves to social media and mobile connectivity, there's been a fair amount of backlash in the form of fears over what this digital obsession is doing to us.
Are we more narcissistic? Are we losing the ability to communicate effectively? Did our parents have a better set of priorities than we do? And, most notable, are we losing sight of what's most important in life?
For me, these fears have been overstated. Of course we must all remember that we should step away from our screens for a while. It's up to the individual to determine how and when. If you do, you'll find your way back to emotional equilibrium and some restored sanity. It's not just your browser that requires a refresh every so often.
Once you beat any perceived drawbacks of a connected life, you can more keenly embrace its benefits. For longer than the Internet has existed, we've conducted business within a global economy. Even for smaller companies, hopes have always been to increase sales by expanding overseas. E-commerce sites and online services cut down the costs and inconveniences attached to that kind of global expansion. The advent of Skype, social media, and other tech products have only brought us closer even more. Even if you can't convene in the same room, you can get everyone together.
Doing so does more than bridge geographic divides and time differences. As companies broaden their scope and look to scale, they must research and study the cultural differences, too.
As my work has turned toward internationalization, I've sought to learn about the nuances that go into standards and practices of each region I'm looking to explore. Like with anything, some areas are easier to replicate your existing process through simple translation of materials while others require a deeper understanding of process and business norms.
Although we mostly think of it as a place for entertainment, social media has been a valuable—if not critical—tool to assist with an introduction to a new region. Finding and familiarizing yourself with the well-known and well-read websites is a great place to start. For instance, Japanese blogs look a great deal different than German ones. From the imagery and site design, you can gain a real sense of what a culture values most. Even if you're approaching them as an outsider, you want to demonstrate that you're familiar, even at a basic level, with some of the key sources and respected influencers.
If you show someone that you've done your research, they will take you more seriously than those who are just making more feeble stabs toward the same goal. Review who they are, what they care about, and some of their recent work. This is the best case use of social media: to lend you tips about someone ahead of approaching them. Most of us think to do it when we're heading in for a job interview. But using that same tactic with prospective partners or potential clients can lead to a faster response and will jumpstart your conversation.
The main thing I've gathered from this exercise is that enthusiasm for your work and your industry transcends all barriers.
Technology can solve a host of your problems. You must fill in the rest.