x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

From Instagram to Sartorialist, the future of business is in the digital sphere

Women, money and style: Instagram. Love it or hate it, it seems everybody with an iPhone is tweeting selfies featuring the latest, hottest filter.

Instagram. Love it or hate it, it seems everybody with an iPhone is tweeting selfies featuring the latest, hottest filter. And now, even Anna Wintour. Yes, the feared Vogue editor recently tweeted a picture of herself, ever-so-coolly reading the magazine's September issue wearing her trademark bob and oversized sunglasses. Clever advertising or a natural step into the inescapable future of publishing? Whatever your take, Ms Wintour is on to something: the future of business is digital.

Most of us have fully embraced social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter as ways to stay connected with friends and loved ones. Even better - we've been able to connect with online "friends" we haven't even met in person yet.

I have personally found fantastic online mentors and forged strong friendships over the past two years through my writing. Relationships with various editors and company chief executives began with a simple email or an unexpected comment online. Years later, and these conversations have turned into solid relationships, both personal and professional.

The networking site LinkedIn then took it one step further by providing a social platform to connect with like-minded professionals in an online space. In January this year, the site administrators announced they had just welcomed their 200 millionth member to the site, with its reach stretching to 200 countries in 19 different languages. Much like Facebook has done for personal communication, LinkedIn has provided a portal to expand and grow your professional network.

So what does this mean for the modern businessperson? If you run your own business, the continued success of your company might just depend on your willingness to enter into the digital sphere.

Take the changing world of fashion magazines, as an example. The burgeoning world of fashion blogging has changed the workings of the fashion industry definitively. A few decades ago, magazines like Vogue were the go-to source for all things fashion-related; the yardstick by which all in the industry (both designers and consumers) measured themselves.

Enter street bloggers such as Scott Schuman of The Sartorialist and the Filipino style blogger Bryanboy.

Since its beginnings as a photography passion project in the early 2000s, Mr Schuman's website has turned into the most trusted online voice of urban street style. So far-reaching is its impact that Mr Schuman was named as one of Time Magazine's Top 100 Design Influencers in 2007.

But while style blogs offer snapshots into the fashion choices of trendy city dwellers, their most significant impact has to be the new-found voice it has given to ordinary, everyday people. While they may be glamorous and aspirational, fashion magazines still have to be viewed through the filter of their owners, advertisers and investors. Bloggers, on the other hand, can provide an unbiased, candid opinion on what's cool in real-world terms.

Bloggers and readers alike now get to create their own virtual fashion magazines. Combine with this the mushrooming growth of e-commerce websites and an entire new industry is born.

The Business of Fashion website tells of modern shoppers today and how their shopping habits vary in more than 18,000 ways. Today's fashionista doesn't need a magazine to dictate to her what she wears. Instead, she uses her creativity and online smarts to mix luxury designer goods with discount high street finds, all in the name of creating her own personal brand of fashion on her own terms.

And this shift in media trends is something that the smart business owner understands all too well. An interesting article in the The Wall Street Journal speaks of the new-found power of internet-savvy marketers, or rather the rise of the Geek and the downfall of old-school Mad Men-type advertisers. To remain current and in tune with the latest advances in business, the trick is to combine conventional business practice with the improved connectivity that technology has given us.

The piece goes on to point out that while online may be the latest trend at the moment, there is still value in traditional marketing tools. Case in point: human contact. A recent survey by the website IfByPhone.com found that 77 per cent of online shoppers surveyed preferred receiving help from a real live person.

So, on what side of the digital age do you find yourself? Do you boldly embrace the latest digital advances with enthusiasm, or are you somewhat hesitant to change?

I love the quote by the artist Mary Engelbreit where she says: "If you don't like something, change it; if you can't change it, change the way you think about it."

All that stands between you and an exhilarating step in your career could be a simple change in attitude.


Janelle Malone is a wealth commentator, writer and author. You can read her blog at www.womenmoneyandstyle.com