The Most Important Change You Can Make to Prepare for 2020

If you’re in business today, it’s critical to become a visionary. Leaders who fail to anticipate the trends that will transform business down the road put themselves at a distinct disadvantage–one that could eventually become fatal for the company. Yet with the rapid-fire pace of constant change taking place in relation to work, innovation, and leadership, how can you be sure that you’re zeroing in on the trends that really matter to your company’s future?

Begin by looking for the emergence of common denominators. What do the most successful companies have in common? What are they doing differently to command greater market share than their competitors? With these questions in mind, though I don’t have a crystal ball, I can make some confident predictions about what organizations can do today to pave the way for 2020.

To start, a key way leaders can help their organizations plan for the changes in store is to learn how to embrace culture as a strategic competitive advantage. Companies that do so will be positioned to reap a number of distinct benefits. Here are three of the biggest ones:

Increased productivity

Over the next five years and beyond, more and more companies will become tech-centric–either relying on technology as an enabler or a driver of their core business. As Silicon Valley has shown us, a vibrant, deliberate culture is the common denominator among tech’s most innovative companies, from Google and Facebook to Twitter, LinkedIn, and Airbnb. The top tech firms have achieved a level of success that few companies have managed yet to replicate.

That’s because people work differently at the tech giants, in large part through their commitment to fostering a different type of work environment. Pluralsight recently toured a number of these firms, and we were blown away by the awesomeness of their cultures. On the surface, you see teams working in transparent, high-tech spaces while sharing meals in gourmet cafeterias, taking onsite yoga classes, and in some cases transporting between floors on giant office slides.

But behind the scenes, there’s a method to the madness. These special work environments–which provide employees with a setting that can feel more like after-hours than an office–do not lead people to get less work done, as might be expected. Instead, by creating a culture where people not only want to come to work but even enjoy staying past 5pm, the top companies attract talented tech-savvy Millennialswhile boosting productivity. When employees can take care of personal business on the job–like using an onsite laundry service or visiting a staff doctor or dentist–it’s easier for them to concentrate on crunching through that last-minute project, even if it means staying a little later.

Higher innovation flow

Workplace culture can also nurture creativity and fuel innovation. Companies that embrace culture as a strategic advantage ensure that more time will be spent on problem-solving than on negotiating cultural barriers. Creating an in-house setting like those described above helps ensure that employees will be empowered to innovate in a no-fear culture, with less political and bureaucratic overhead. Nothing quashes a company’s creativity engine faster than a culture where fear leads to poor communication, office politics, and disengagement.

These insights aren’t just speculation; they’ve been validated by research. The Bay Area Council Economic Institute found that the firms in Silicon Valley–with their especially employee-friendly cultural settings–are nearly four times more likely to align their innovation strategy with their overall business strategy, compared with non-Valley firms. Additional research from Booz & Allen found that the free-spirited cultures of Valley firms have more than double the likelihood of non-Valley firms to be tapped into the organization’s innovation strategy.

Easier recruiting, better retention

An awesome work culture is a magnet that brings the best talent to you instead of your competitors. Companies that have a reputation for prioritizing workplace culture have a much easier time with recruitment, as people want to participate in such organizations. Not only does culture facilitate recruiting by minimizing the need to search for talent, but it also saves money that would otherwise be required to get the best people in the door through large-scale recruitment efforts. The right work environment additionally makes it much easier to keep the best people. When employees are inspired by the culture, the mission, and the people they work with, they won’t want to go anywhere else.

Culture truly is a competitive advantage–in more ways than one. Creating a deliberate culture can play a major role in aligning employees with the company’s larger goals, encouraging intrinsic motivation to work toward a shared vision of where you’re all trying to go as an organization. This not only stokes a company’s productivity engine, but also helps ensure a continuous pipeline of fresh ideas–and long-range talent–to keep your business competitive. I would personally invest in companies with strong cultures over those that don’t, because as Patrick Lencioni points out in his book The Advantage, organizations that care about culture are much more likely to be more successful in the long run. It’s not just the latest trend, but a true business advantage that will become even more crystal clear in 2020 and beyond.

What to Consider When Trying to Market on Social Media

If the last decade has shown us anything, it’s that social media is here to stay. As it continues to evolve, it can be difficult for startups and entrepreneurs to determine where to focus their marketing efforts.

While there are certainly many options out there when it comes to social media marketing, there is no need to let your plans become derailed by analysis paralysis. Instead, focus on the following steps to launch a successful social media marketing campaign.

Which social media platforms are best for your brand?

There is often a misconception that in order to make the most of social media marketing, you need to be visible on every outlet. This approach can quickly spell disaster for startups that might already be stretched thin in terms of time and resources. Not all outlets will be relevant to your brand. A better approach is to identify and focus on the outlets that are most relevant and valuable. Social media marketing works best when you can generate a consistent content strategy and maintain an active presence. That can be difficult to accomplish across multiple platforms. In this regard, less is more. Take the time to determine which platforms will be most beneficial and use those as your launching point.

Consistency matters

As previously mentioned, social media marketing works best when it is consistent. This cannot be a hit or miss proposition or you will miss the target entirely. The best way to approach this is with a content posting schedule. There should be no reason why you do not post on your chosen outlets, particularly with a plethora of tools that make it easy for you to schedule and automate posts, such as Sprout Social.

Viral content

The goal of any social media marketing strategy is to attract attention to your brand and engage customers. Any social media marketer’s ultimate dream is to have his or her content go viral, which is not always easy to accomplish. This is particularly true as more content is posted each day and the attention of users becomes divided. Social Media Today points out that content tends to go viral when it meets these three characteristics: it’s unique or exceptional, it appeals to influencers, and it can be easily shared. Content with the ability to go viral should also be engaging to viewers, meaning that it is easy for users to become involved and comment. Not all the content that you produce will go viral, but it is important to aim for that goal by ensuring that each piece of content you produce meets the three characteristics of viral content.

Social media marketing can be challenging, but not so much so that you become overwhelmed to the point that you never even get started. When handled properly, social media truly does have the power to transform and launch any startup. Airbnb is an excellent case in point: the apartment-rental service got its start back in 2007 when its founders could not afford to pay their rent. They converted their loft into a lodging space using air mattresses and launched a website to advertise their space. Since then, however, the company has launched a number of innovative campaigns and social media movements. Today, Airbnb is a global company and a strong candidate for an IPO this year, according to Nasdaq.

By taking the time to develop and stick to a social media marketing plan, your startup has the potential to soar.