Self Improvement Everywhere

Technology has always been there to make our lives easier. Get things done quicker, with less hassle and of course with better quality. But today, with a smartphone being a lot of people’s personal savior, apps do almost everything, everywhere.

However, something that can be noticeable and trending in the last few months is self-improvement. Being apps, or gamification features in certain brands (like Nike +), their ultimate goal is to make you stick to your goals and always be looking for self-improvement. This results in a win-win situation: you get things done in a better, faster way and brands have you engaged.

As mentioned before, Nike + has a very interesting gamification plan. It gets you to buy the appropriate gear to be in the game, or at least download their Nike+ app for iOS (iPod nano, touch and iPhone included). Personally, I’m hooked with this game plan. Not only do I now save Gym money, but I actually use my gear and run 15k a week. What keeps me going? The fact that I can track my progress and share my results with my friends via social networks. It’s nice to see a histogram of your performance and then compare the actual results in your every day life.

Now, as far as self-improvement apps go, there are several start ups with this idea in mind. For example Lift. As described in Venture Beat, Lift is a one-year-old start up in San Francisco that is looking to make people seek self-improvement –guess post it notes on your mirror aren’t cutting it anymore–. You set up alarms and tasks so you know what you have to do, when you have to do it; and of course, it exposes you in front of your friends via social media. Avoiding the judgmental finger perhaps? Well, apparently with this and many other examples, it does help to be in the spotlight, whether you’re doing things right or wrong.

Brands call it engagement, people call it motivation. Whatever the point of view is, in the end, you achieve your goals and thank a brand for it in the process.

Social Media vs Apps, or both?

We are living an era in which traditional media is not trusted nor is it profitable anymore. People don’t read the paper; they scan through their iPads or smartphones. People don’t watch TV, they watch TV shows or movies on multiple, Internet connected screens (although the movie theatre experience is a subject apart). People like to play and interact with their favorite brand, this cannot be done via traditional media.

For not so long now, people were starting to panic when they saw that their traditional marketing strategy was not delivering customers. “Is this company going down? Am I broke” many entrepreneurs might have thought. Those that were not early adopters or innovative minds, were being left behind on print.

It’s different today. Right now, log into your Facebook account, how many brands or companies have you “liked” on that network? How many of those have a Twitter account that you also follow? Even if companies and brands still publicize their product or service via traditional media, they’re using that to inform you that they have an app ready for you to use on your preferred device, or that they have a channel of communication in X social network.

Now, the question is, out of the new and innovative communication channels, who is winning the race: apps or social networks? Let’s break them down one by one.

Apps. They are everywhere. “There’s an app for that” started out as a joke, but now, it’s nothing but the truth. Anything you want to solve, you can do so via an app installed in your smartphone or any other smart device. Heck, my iPhone has apps I barely use but that have saved me from a lot of trouble. For instance, I installed the Flash Light app; yes, a flash light on mi iPhone! Spare time aside, there are plenty of useful interactive apps from famous brands that achieve direct access with their consumers.

Take Nike for example. They transformed the runner’s culture into a whole smart and connected community. You run, it syncs up with your favorite playlist, it tells you how many miles you ran, how many calories you burnt, etc. It changed the whole runners scheme. Sure, billboards and TV commercials are still up now and then, but this direct and customized experience cannot be achieved with traditional media.

Social Media. Facebook, Twitter and now Pinterest are the most effective social networks. Let’s skip the ones we’ve already been familiarized with for quite some time now and focus on Pinterest. To be perfectly honest, at the beginning I didn’t give this network any faith. I wrongly thought it would be just like any other social network and their 15 minutes of fame. However, Pinterest has achieved in images what Twitter has in text. This image collection is so simple to use, that Tech Crunch has pronounced it the third most important social network (I believe the first two are obvious) in so little time.

Pinterest is really more about the branding connection it can offer to companies rather than any other strategy, but nowadays branding per se takes a large piece of the strategy pie.

Now, as an entrepreneur or strategist, which do you prefer? Apps or Social Networks? Why not have both?