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Bennis Inc Has a New Website…And There’s Something In It For You!

Have you ever found that the service your company provides is sometimes the very service it personally lacks? It’s the same theory of “the cobbler’s children have no shoes.” As professionals, we often pour all of our talents and energy into serving our clients, that we forget to reserve a little to take care of ourselves.

I was a living example of this.

My website was three years old. It wasn’t broken, but it wasn’t a showpiece for the level of public relations and branding services I provide my clients. I needed to break out of my complacency, make the investment and update my website to something I want to show everyone I meet. And the New Year was a perfect jump start to make me reach out to a talented web design company that also happens to be a friend of Bennis Inc. David, owner of Nicely Done Sites, and I have shared clients in the past and I knew his team would understand my vision and come up with something even better than what I could have described.

The collaboration was invigorating! Our first kickoff meeting was on January 15 and the site pushed live less than one month later. We both acknowledged that this was an unusually fast turnaround time, but when it’s what you do for clients everyday, it’s to be expected that we were efficient with our respective roles in this project.

By now, some of you may have already jumped over to the Bennis Inc website to explore our new look. If you’re still waiting for an official invitation, join me by visiting http://www.bennisinc.com (I, too, now gaze at its beauty several times per day).

And here are some highlights of what you will find…

The homepage has just two slider images that communicate our most important messages. The images are high resolution, modern, elegant and timeless - all words I wanted my new website to embody.

The homepage has just two slider images that communicate our most important messages. The images are high quality, modern, elegant and timeless – all words I wanted my new website to embody.

Here's just one fun feature my website showcases - scrolling numbers below icons that highlight some of my most notable accomplishments. Necessary? No. Awesome? Absolutely.

Here’s just one fun feature my website showcases – scrolling numbers below icons that highlight some of my most notable accomplishments. Necessary? No. Awesome? Absolutely.

While I custom create my package of services for each client, I wanted to clearly and concisely give people an understanding of my specialties. This section of the website accomplishes just that.

While I custom create my package of services for each client, I wanted to clearly and concisely give people an understanding of my specialties. This section of the website accomplishes just that.

“That looks great, Stephanie, but you said there is something in it for me?” You’re right…there is!

My own journey of re-branding my business by updating my website reminded me just how powerful change (both big and small) is for any business. This is something I want to continue to spread to as many other professionals as possible! One of the most effective ways I’ve been able to do this for others is by helping them create or update their Linkedin profile content. Personal branding is one of my favorite aspects of public relations and Linkedin is a great way to accomplish this.

For this special “Rebranding” promotion I am offering a full Linkedin profile update for just $95!

Services include:

  • 1-hour initial phone consultation to discuss your current profile and goals for your new profile
  • New content for every section of your Linkedin profile
  • Up to 2 rounds of revisions based upon your feedback
  • Manually updating the content within your profile (or you may choose to do this yourself, if you prefer)
  • Suggestions and “industry best practices” for how you can continue to optimize your profile and take advantage of every opportunity available to you on Linkedin!

That’s more than $50 of savings from my regular pricing! This special price is limited to the first 10 clients who contact me on my new website contact form and setup our initial phone consultation. What are you waiting for?

If you are not 100% confident that your Linkedin profile is showcasing your talents and abilities in the best light possible, let me lend my expertise to help set you apart from other professionals in your industry! All you have to do is contact me on my new website contact form and setup an initial phone consultation.

And if you want even more inspiration for rebranding your own business, stick around for my 5-part series on “How to Rebrand Your Business” running each Monday from February 16 through March 16!

Topics include:

  • Do I need to rebrand?
  • Who are my customers?
  • What is my mission?
  • What is my unique story?
  • What is my action plan for rebranding?

Have a question about rebranding your business or want to share a personal rebranding success story? Comment below!

 
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Posted by on February 9, 2015 in Business & Success

 

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7 Ways to Better Promote Your Blog on Linkedin

linkedin logo cartoon

Linkedin has become a powerful tool for promoting your blog and other articles you have written. I’ve personally seen how Linkedin pushes new visitors to my blog every day – more so than any other type of social media I use, even more than my website.

But how exactly do you go about effectively marketing your content on Linkedin? It can be overwhelming to research and analyze what each of your connections is doing in an effort to “keep up with the Joneses” So I thought I’d make it simple for you. Here is a list of seven ways to promote your blog on Linkedin – at no cost and with a very small time commitment.

  1. Use the long-form post feature

In August, Linkedin made the announcement that all members would be allowed to utilize their long-form post feature, not just influencers. What this means to the mass majority of us is that we are now able to format an article or blog post (with title, photo, hyperlinks, everything) and post it as you would a status update. Additionally, this content becomes part of you professional profile, is shared with your connections, allows people to subscribe to follow your posts and shows up in search engines (on and off Linkedin).

Yeah, this is a pretty obvious and essential tool to take advantage of if you’re looking to promote your blog on Linkedin. One extra tactic I always include is that at the end of every blog post, I insert hyperlinked text that will take readers to the original article on my blog. You’d be surprised how many people click on that link and read through other posts on your blog.

  1. Make it a status update

Why make your blog just a long-form post? You can also share the link directly to your blog as a status update. Ideally, you should wait a few days to do this after posting your long-form post to maximize and prolong the impact. You can also share your link multiple times with a different question or comment to spark discussion.

The benefit of sharing the link to your blog as a status update several times over the coming days and weeks after publishing is that you will hit a different audience with each update. Depending upon what contacts are checking their Linkedin newsfeed at any particular moment, your multiple status updates will increase your reach and broaden your audience.

  1. Share it in relevant group discussions

Don’t overlook the power of all those groups you joined. You can join in meaningful conversation with fellow group members by sharing your blog. I’m a member of various groups; some are targeted at connecting with potential clients, some are targeted at connecting with fellow industry professionals and some are geographically relevant to my business.

Depending upon the topic of the blog I’m promoting, I carefully select the right groups. I don’t just blast out the link to every group out there, otherwise I risk looking “spammy” and turning off the audience I’ve cultivated.

  1. Include a compelling intro/question

Whether you’re sharing your blog as a status update or in a group, it’s most important to remember to craft a compelling introduction or pose a question to accompany the link to your blog. It’s absolutely worth the few extra minutes it will take you.

Think about what makes your blog relevant to each audience. Why should they care enough to read it? Don’t just say “Hey, look at my latest blog post!” Give them something of value or ask for their input. Once you begin implementing this tactic, you will be amazed by the increased number of views, likes and comments you receive!

  1. Comment on other people’s posts

You get what you give. This means if you want to increase your number of subscribers or comments, you must also become a subscriber and commenter. Make it a goal to subscribe to one new interesting Linkedin publisher a day and comment on three other people’s latest post. If that’s too ambitious, bump it back to every week.

No matter the frequency at which you engage with other people, it’s most important that you make an effort and do so consistently. Becoming a valuable member of the Linkedin publisher community is not only about sharing quality content, it’s about contributing to the conversation which includes engaging with the content produced by other members as well.

  1. Add it to your profile’s portfolio

As I mentioned above, Linkedin’s long-form post feature will automatically place your posts under the “posts” section of your profile. That’s great for promoting each individual post on Linkedin, but what about promoting your blog as a whole? You can and should utilize the “portfolio “section of your Linkedin profile by adding the link to your (wordpress, blogger, etc) blog. You can include a graphic with this to really capture viewers’ attention and bring your blog to life.

  1. Add it to your profile as a publication

Finally, be sure and add your blog as a “publication” on your Linkedin profile. This allows you to display your blog’s name, link, when you started it and a short description to give readers a feel for the type of topics you feature. This is a very professional-looking way to promote your entire blog while ensuring that it is always easily accessible to connections who visit your profile.

What other ways have you found to effectively promote your blog on Linkedin? Share your tips and tricks by commenting below!

 
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Posted by on November 17, 2014 in Social Media, Technology

 

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The Power of the Written Word: Why Marketers Say Written Content Still Trumps Visuals

words have power

The saying goes that a picture is worth a thousand words, but it when comes to marketing and branding, experts say that written content is still king.

A recent survey from Social Media Examiner shares some interesting (and unexpected) insights into how marketers value social media and content. What really caught my attention was that even in a social landscape that appears to be dominated by visuals and graphics, it’s the written content that still has the greatest impact on sharing a message.

Over half of marketers – 58 percent – claim written content is their most important form of social content. Visual content – the next highest category – came in at just 19 percent. From there the categories become even weaker and more spread out.

But we know visuals grab our attention, so why should we care about these numbers? The results of this survey were from 3,000 marketing professionals that live and breathe social media every single day. They quite literally make it their job to try new trends and monitor the results. Regardless of what we feel is most effective, these people have the data to show us what’s really working. And they’re saying that even the most mesmerizing graphic designs will miss the mark without quality written content to back it up.

Really though, this survey isn’t telling us anything we shouldn’t already know. It’s simply bringing to light the obvious trends that may be so obvious we are completely overlooking them. Social media values (and rewards) original written content. Take for example, LinkedIn. They understand the power of the written word and that’s why they created a publishing platform where members can share their thoughts in an organized and attractive format.

In case you still need more proof to convince you of the importance of written content as part of your marketing strategy, let’s not forget about SEO. Search engines love original written content! Even visuals rely on written content in the file name and captions to help boost their indexing on search engines.

The Takeaway

This is an important reminder to not get lazy with our content and messaging. Your visuals and audio clips will grab your audience’s attention, but your message will be what makes them stay. So often I see a business or brand post beautifully designed graphics to their Facebook page only to combine it with a poorly written caption – or none at all. The difference between these visuals and ones that include a quality caption can be clearly seen in the interactions it receives.

Additionally, original written content is a valuable opportunity to give a voice to your brand or define yourself as a thought leader and authority. Better yet, use it to tell a captivating story!

And finally, there is absolutely still reason to share visuals alongside your written content. When combined, the two will grab the minds and hearts of your readers – and keep them coming back for more.

Do you agree or disagree that written content remains more powerful than visual or audio content? Share your reasoning by commenting below!

 
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Posted by on October 20, 2014 in Business & Success, Social Media

 

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#YOUREDOINGITWRONG: 7 Common Hashtag Mistakes

hashtagabuse

It’s taken the social media world by storm and nearly every platform has found a way to make it relevant to the way people share and archive content. It’s the #hashtag. This crooked looking game of tic-tac-toe no longer means “number sign” in modern society. Rather, it’s better known as the powerful symbol that turns ordinary text into a hyperlinked portal to a galaxy of content shared around the world on that exact topic.

And just as we have with nearly every other aspect of social media, we have found quite a few ways to royally mess up the use of this tool. Here are seven common ways people are abusing the hashtag way more than they should.

1. It contains a spelling error

Hashtags are very specific. What you type in is what you get.  Unlike a Google search that will offer you a courteous suggestion of “Did you mean…?” hashtags don’t spell check, research or interpret what you type. By design, this is what allows every hashtag to be so unique and to represent exactly what you want to say. This also provides the perfect storm for spelling errors to render an otherwise powerful hashtag completely useless.

Let’s look an example. The very popular #iloveyou has more than 18 million posts on Instagram (at the time of writing this blog). Using this hashtag will get your picture seen by any of the millions of users who would stumble upon this mega-tag by the second. However, one slip of the thumb might cause you to tag #iloevyou which places your content in the ranks of just 45 other posts, earning you hardly any views. Proofread before publishing just as you would anything else! Never rely on auto-correct, which really seems to hate the formatting of hashtags.

This major hashtag fail may not be the direct result of a spelling error, but it is the result of someone not proofreading before publishing…and anticipating how awkwardly this phrase would read when smooshed into a hashtag.

hashtag fail

2. It is too long or too specific that there’s simply no chance anyone else will ever use (or see) it

Let’s take for example a hashtag like #icantwaitforkathysbirthdaypartyintoronto. I didn’t search it on Instagram, but I don’t feel like I have to. Hashtagging the alphabet backwards will have more posts than this. The example I gave is of a post that is both too long and too specific. Only in very isolated instances is hashtagging a whole sentence acceptable (or part of a good strategy). Instead, the post could have been written as “I can’t wait for #kathys27thbirthday in #Toronto!” Toronto is a far more powerful hashtag. And Kathy’s birthday-specific hashtag could become the designated tag for the party and where your whole group of friends collect photos in one place.

3. It is the “off version” of a more popular term

Holidays are among the biggest offenders of this common mistake. Let’s take for example the Fourth of July. Should you use #fourthofjuly or #4thofjuly or #july4th or #julyfourth or ditch the date and go with #independenceday? Don’t even venture down the path of throwing the year in there or your mind will explode with uncertainty!

The truth is none of these options are “wrong” per se. They were all used to tag posts related to the holiday and each earned some pretty hefty numbers. If your goal is to tag the fastest trending term, then do your research! Scan the different options and compare numbers. Another strategy is to simply go with what you like best, but make sure to be consistent and use this exact term across all your related posts.

4. It simply makes no sense

Sometimes it’s the result of a spelling error, sometimes it’s the result of not understanding hashtags and sometimes it’s the result of not understanding the English language. No matter the reason, if your hashtag makes absolutely no sense, you can bet that no one else (unless by sheer mistake) will choose to use this same tag and your post will never gain exposure beyond your own, isolated network. Again, do your research on whether your tag already exists, whether there’s a more trendy option and always proofread before publishing!

5. It is separated by spaces or apostrophes

For as much as I love to see grammatically correct social media posts, hashtags are one of the few times where you need to throw your spaces, commas, hyphens and apostrophes aside.  Here’s why. The hashtag #you’remybestfriend will be broken as soon as it hits the contraction. #You is a strong hashtag, but it’s missing the more relevant hashtag you’re really after here. In this case, you want to write #youremybestfriend, cringe and hit publish. Additionally, posting “# flowers are beautiful” won’t do anything – at all. Things need to get up close and personal for the hashtag to work. That’s right, the words will touch. Same goes for you hyphens and commas! Write #set-up as #setup and #this,thatandtheotherthing as #thisthatandtheotherthing.

6. It is one of 20+ hashtags you’re using in a single post

If the caption under your photo looks like a paragraph of blue links, you are drowning your followers in a sea of hashtags. Worse yet, you’re risking looking as spammy and desperate as those phishing emails from that Nigerian Prince who is still asking me to wire him large sums of money! More is not always better. There is a point of diminishing returns for hashtags. While this strategy will increase the different ways the social media platform shares your content, to us living, breathing humans it will simply look like you care more about being seen than what you’re really saying. Limit your hashtags to (gasp) 5-7 meaningful and relevant tags. We all thank you in advance.

7. It is used inconsistently

Using existing popular hashtags is a great way to promote your content to a broader, more public audience than your own social network. Another strategic way to use hashtags is to create your own as an organized landing spot for all of the content that relates back to your brand. Best of all, other people can contribute to this “file folder” of content by using the same hashtag. This is exactly what these platforms were intended to promote – a social and interactive online environment.

So where does it go wrong? When you use this hashtag inconsistently. Hashtags are, after all, a communications strategy. Just as you (hopefully) know you must remain consistent in your other marketing and public relations efforts, you must also remain consistent in using this phrase with every piece of relevant content you post. Make it a destination to which people want to travel – and stay a while. This requires quality content that is updated frequently.

Now that you’ve learned the most common ways people are abusing this powerful social media tool, I hope you’ll go out and utilize the almighty hashtag with confidence and creativity. #goodluck!

What are some of the most egregious mistakes you’ve seen when using hashtags? Share your funny (and helpful) examples by commenting below (pet peeves are welcome)!

 
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Posted by on September 15, 2014 in Business & Success, Social Media

 

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Are You Making the Biggest Social Media Mistake?

#fail

These days, everyone is on social media. But really though. There are fan pages for cats, Twitter profiles for cartoons and Instagram accounts devoted solely to food. It’s no wonder every business wants to also have a presence on these platforms because it’s where they can reach their targeted audience with interactive content that sparks discussion and builds brand loyalty.

With everyone diving in head first, this also provides a prime opportunity for a lot of mistakes. For the most part, these are minor errors or forgivable social infractions, but sometimes these mistakes can prove to be much worse – even deadly – for business. So what is the single biggest mistake businesses make with social media? It’s NOT having it be part of a bigger communications strategy.

The danger of a disconnected social media strategy

The most effective social media cannot be done in a vacuum. Nor can it be your only effort to communicate with your target audience. The danger is two-fold. First, you risk presenting a completely different voice on social media, one that does not resonate with the rest of your brand. Second, you turn off the power to all other means of communications that could help to amplify your social media efforts.

If you pique someone’s interest with a great Facebook post, only to send them to an outdated website that makes you look inexperienced or unprofessional, even the best social media efforts in the world won’t close the sale.

How to avoid this mistake

Luckily this is an easy problem to fix. It begins with identifying the missed communications opportunities outside of social media and paying special attention to the brand you want to create so that all efforts work in unison to achieve this end result. Knowing what to do is the easy part, but actually making the time to do it is where the problem most often lies. It can be overwhelming, especially to business owners who don’t consider themselves to be communications-savvy.

It’s good to keep in mind that outsourcing is always an option and the number of firms and consultants who offer these services are ever-growing. But proceed with caution. If you’re thinking about working with a person or company that only does social media, you may want to rethink this decision. It’s okay to be specialized or particularly experienced in a certain niche, but when it comes to your business communications, everything needs to flow together. The various ways in which you communicate with your target audience need to complement one another.

Instead look for a firm or consultant who offers multi-faceted communications strategies that go beyond just social media. You want someone who can also create content for your website, blog, e-newsletter and other promotional materials. This is the best way to ensure that the voice and messaging will stay consistent.

Steps you can take today

One. List your other current communication efforts. Do you have any? Maybe there’s a brochure or business card you hand out, but it’s badly outdated. Maybe you have a website that you push your targeted audience to visit, but it’s a static web page with cheesy clip art and bright fonts. Take a critical look at ALL the messages you’re sending out in various ways. How are people finding you and what is this saying about your business?

Two. Note the areas that need some TLC. So you have social media down to an art – after all, it is kind of fun. Now, turn your attention to the messaging on your website, blog, promotional materials and e-newsletters. How can they benefit from some of the modern messaging you’re putting out on social media? Create a vision for how they can better engage your audience, just like you’re doing on Facebook, Linkedin, Twitter, etc.

Three. Dedicate time in your schedule to tackle some of these tasks in order of priority. If you know you simply don’t have the time, allocate this work to an employee or hire a communications consultant to help you keep things moving forward. While you’ll need to invest in their time, if they allow you to keep doing what you do best while they improve your comprehensive communications strategy – that is a worthy investment!

Where have you seen the biggest social media mistake being made? Join in the discussion by commenting below!

 

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How to Cultivate Social Media Relationships (Outside of Social Media)

cultivate2Social media has forever changed the way we connect and communicate with people all across the globe. I’m always amazed to see the many various states – and countries – in which my followers reside. There’s no question that social media has fostered relationships that simply wouldn’t exist without this technology. Although social media helps to make communication easy and automated, there’s one very important aspect of relationship building that we must never put on autopilot or take for granted.

To cultivate meaningful (as well as beneficial) social media relationships, we must continue to build this connection outside of social media alone. Here are four important practices to help you foster your relationships and make yourself more than just an avatar.

Make it one-on-one

Following or friending a contact is only the first step, yet so many of us stop there and think we’ve built a meaningful relationship with someone. Sure, it’s exciting when your favorite celebrity follows you back on Twitter, but this hardly means you’re anything more than a number. To take it one step further, you have to seek out one-on-one interactions.

Once you get a good interaction going with someone on social media, such as a retweet, a like or a comment, follow-up with a private message (or even better an email) to continue the conversation on a more personal level. This could be a potential client, someone you admire or someone who has a question for you. While it’s not exactly face-to-face, in the virtual world, this one-on-one interaction makes you feel like you know the person on a much deeper level and is an important step in building a meaningful relationship outside of the massive, public social media platforms.

Reciprocate

It’s what every social media guru preaches, yet so often we still disregard this advice. To build a meaningful social media relationship, you must both give and take. If you have a connection that loyally supports you by retweeting, commenting, liking and sharing – look for opportunities to do the same for them!

The reason so many of us fail to do this is because we can’t rely on platforms like Hootsuite or Socialoomph to monitor this for us. Sure, they can tell us who interacted with our posts, but we need to take it one step further and closely follow our feeds, looking for appropriate times to reciprocate such support for news our contacts share. In doing so, we build mutual trust, respect and friendship that lay the groundwork for a meaningful relationship.

Put a face with a name

Any in-person, social function like a networking mixer, awards dinner or happy hour is a prime opportunity to take your social media relationships offline. There’s always that awkward moment when you know you’re already connected with someone on Linkedin, Twitter or Facebook, but when you meet them in person for the first time you still introduce yourself like you’re complete strangers. Stop the madness!

So long as you’ve kept a clean and professional relationship with them on social media (i.e. no stalking or creepy personal messages), there’s no shame in acknowledging you’re already connected with them. Introduce yourself and let them know you’re connected online; they might be thinking the same thing but don’t want to say it. This will put a (real) face with a name and show that you’ve done your homework. It will also make you memorable. Which brings me to my final point…

Be memorable

To make yourself more than just an avatar, you must first make yourself someone worth remembering. Out of all the people who contact me for various reasons, I’ve found the most memorable ones to be those who feel the most genuine. It’s easy to spot a message that was written just for you versus one that’s being sent out to an entire contact list. Private messages on social media are a great tool for cultivating meaningful relationships, but they’re also heavily abused. Be sincere in why you’re contacting this person – this will show through and help you stand out among the spam. It will also increase your chances of getting a response in return.

In a world where virtually everything is accessible online, the need to build personal and meaningful relationships becomes ever more important. It’s possible to accrue thousands of followers without a single one knowing you beyond your twitter handle. As a business owner or entrepreneur, you should strive for quality – not quantity – of connections. For it’s how well you engage your audience that ultimately determines whether they become a future client or customer.

Do you actively cultivate your social media relationships? Share how you do it!

 
 

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Appearance vs Experience: How social media has changed what we value

taking a photoHow often would you say you check your social media news feeds and see a picture of a friend on vacation, enjoying a fancy dinner, attending an expensive sporting event, meeting a celebrity or buying something big like a car or a house? I would venture to say this is likely an everyday occurrence. It’s common for social media to attract information such as big announcements or fun experiences, but what’s concerning is the trend of sacrificing the full enjoyment of these experiences in order to amplify their appearance.

We are becoming a society that is more focused on the appearance of our life experiences than we are with the actual enjoyment our life experiences. We can no longer appreciate a Valentine’s Day dinner unless we first check-in to the restaurant on social media, share a picture of our pricy entree and finish with an overly mushy (and overly personal) post about our significant other. Why do we need the validation of our social networks to confirm that life is good? Your vacation still occurred whether it’s on your Facebook newsfeed or not and your new car still exists even if your Twitter followers haven’t seen a photo. But maybe the reality of our lives is no longer enough. Maybe now we feel we need a broader audience to really enjoy life’s pleasures. This thought begs the following question…

Do we value the appearance more than the experience?

If you have ever paused, recreated or staged a moment so you could take a photo for Facebook, then the answer is yes. If you have ever updated your status in the middle of a romantic dinner, on vacation or during a massage, the answer is yes. I know I’m just as guilty of this crime as many of you may be and worse yet, it’s a hard habit to break! Next time you’re experiencing something really fun or unique, resist the temptation to update your social media. It seems downright unnatural. In particular, Facebook is becoming a “brag book” where we seek approval and validation for almost everything we do in life. It’s simply not accurate, and a little absurd, to measure the importance of such special moments by the number of “likes” a photo receives. We need to reverse this trend by refocusing on the experience over the appearance. We need to disconnect, even briefly, to allow ourselves a chance to take in the memory of a moment.

While social media has become the catalyst for this problem, it is a platform for sharing. There’s no reason not to update your networks with good news or a photo of something you enjoy. This is only cause for concern if in doing so you diminish the real-life experience for yourself. If you’re too busy trying to capture everything on your iPhone, the world is going to pass you by. Sure you’ll have photos to remind you of these great memories, but wouldn’t you rather simply live them first hand?

Have you seen examples of this emerging trend? Maybe you’re even a contributor. Where do you find your enjoyment – in the appearance or the experience?

 

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