Humanizing the Digital Landscape

Rely on the constants of human nature to create meaningful relationships with technology

“Social media puts word of mouth on digital steroids, changing your biggest driver of success to world of mouth,” said globally recognized speaker and best-selling author Erik Qualman, in his Keynote Series address. Emphasizing the importance of thinking long term when building your online presence, he said, “Your digital footprint will define your brand – and personal image – forever.”

“What you say about yourself – and what others say about you – impact your integrity and reputation,” said Qualman. “To optimize your digital presence, listen, interact, and react before trying to sell. Provide value to the end-user, make your online and offline presences consistent, and post if forward.”

While he stressed the power of social media in facilitating interactions with employees, customers, and clients, Qualman noted, “It can deepen relationships when time and distance are an issue, but it can’t replace the influence of a face-to-face encounter.”

So, how do digital leaders use technology to create meaningful connections? Qualman shared an approach he calls STAMP, for Simple, True, Action, Map, People.


To simplify, you have to take away everything that doesn’t matter. And keeping things simple is a whole lot easier when you have an uncluttered mind. Qualman recommended three self-management tricks that will help you sweep away the mental debris:

  1. Cut your To-Do list down to size by moving longer term items to a ‘Not Yet’ list. This will help you stay focused on what needs to be done now – and will help you put those longer term goals on a schedule.
  2. Single-task – contrary to popular myths, trying to do many things at once can take longer than tackling tasks one at a time. “Changing focus has the same deleterious effect as missing sleep for 36 hours and makes you 40% less productive,” said Qualman.
  3. Follow the 20, 20, 20 Rule – every 20 minutes, take a strategic break and look 20 feet into the distance for 20 seconds. This helps reduce fatigue and will keep your mind and eyes fresh.

With today’s hyper-accelerated communications it’s more important than ever to stay true to yourself. “Now that your legacy is out there on the internet,” said Qualman, “you have to think about what will it be 5 seconds from now, five years from now, maybe even 500 years from now. Take one word that you want to define your life, expand it to a sentence. Now use that word to create your digital stamp, your story that you want to leave behind. Mine is the word ‘empower.’”


Why don’t people take action? Because they are afraid to fail, according to Qualman. “Fail fast, fail forward, fail better. The adage shouldn’t be ‘practice makes perfect,’ it should be ‘evaluated failure makes you better.’ By being ‘flawsome’ or perfectly flawed, you can turn around a potentially damaging situation. Own your mistake, figure out how to fix it, and take immediate action. A resolved issue gets three times more repeat business than no issue at all!”


“Have a five- to ten-year plan. Be firm in your destination, but flexible in your path. Pioneers get pushback. Even Steve Jobs experienced setbacks. After he was fired from Apple, the company he started, he went on to build NEXT and Pixar. When he returned to Apple, he created the largest market in history for the iPhone, arguably changing human behavior more than any other device. Embrace pushback because if you aren’t experiencing it, your market is due for disruption by someone else.”


“Making people smile is the most powerful way to leverage social media,” Qualman concluded. “Your strength as a brand – either personally or for your business, depends on how you help the people who engage with you online. Just as you strive to pay it forward in life, you must post it forward in the digital footprints you leave. There’s a reason #love is the #1 hashtag. Show gratitude to your employees, customers, clients. Spend three minutes a day endorsing someone’s skills, forwarding articles others will value, and using your digital stamp to do good in the world. Think selfless vs. selfie!”

Qualman’s advice to put people first in digital marketing resonated strongly with the Market audience. “If we use social media solely as an extension of our sales efforts, we’re making a mistake,” said Steve Wilcox, designer and product development consultant from Spring Lake, MI. “Erik explained how to create and maintain our online presence to attract loyal customers who are seeking long term relationships with those who share their values.”

About Erik Qualman

To see Erik’s ideas in action, you can follow him on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

We also captured Erik’s full presentation on video, so you can watch it here.

Special thanks to the Home Furnishings Association (HFA) , our partner for this Keynote event, and to our event sponsor, Synchrony.

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