Friday, 2 December 2016

The Real Value Of Google Plus For Your Business

Google today process over 40,000 search queries every second on average, which translates to over 3.5 billion searches per day and 1.2 trillion searches per year worldwide.  Moreover, over 80% of all those trying to find something online utilize a search engine and 80% of these users use Google.

Google Plus has more than 2.5 billion users, which would make it by far the largest social network in the world, with almost twice as many members as Facebook. Ultimately, Google Plus presents an excellent opportunity for businesses for many reasons - not the least of which is search engine optimization and marketing (SEO/SEM.)

What is the biggest benefit of Google Plus for your business? The fact that Google owns it of course. Therefore, much like YouTube, Blogger, and Google Places for Business, Google Plus profiles are indexed quicker and rank higher in Google’s organic search results.

The ABOUT section of your Google Plus profile also is what is used by Google Search as your page’s meta description when it shows up in the search results. You can even create links within that ABOUT introduction content that links back to different pages of your website.  Using your top (anchor text) keywords also will add greater relevance and influence when indexed.

You can also add links to Google Plus to all your other social media profiles.  This even adds more relevance and authority to your profile. In the traditional hub and spoke model digital ecosystem, this allows Google Plus to be the hub and center of your activities (from a SEO/SEM standpoint.) Adding people and businesses to your page is also easily done.  Just like Twitter, aligning with partners and your community greatly increases your exposure and influence.

If you, for example, searched for a “Pizza” on a Friday night you would likely not want the top organic search result if there were not a geographical filter applied to it.  This because you may live in Toronto and the highest ranking Pizza listing may be in Chicago (for any number of reasons.) Therefore, Google’s algorithm employs a geographical filter. Employing a Google Plus profile increases local relevance, which is instrumental for small and medium sized businesses.

The Google Maps function, formerly known as Google Places, is now part of the Google My Business dashboard – Google’s dashboard for managing and tracking your online presence across Google’s various platforms including Google Local (Google Maps), Google+, Google Analytics and Adwords. Note: If you already have a local page (formerly a Google Places page,) you can create a Google Plus business page and merge the two for even more features to help your business.

Google Plus is the perfect place to publish and claim your original (keyword rich) content – and every article that you share creates a back link to your website.  Because you’re publishing and tagging your content on Google Plus your content is indexed almost immediately.  Moreover, now that semantic markup has been adopted by the major search engines, Google’s authorship and publisher markup employed also increases your reach on search engines. Therefore, any content marketing strategy must also extend to Google Plus to optimize and amplify reach and return on investment (ROI.)

Google+ Pages and personal profiles can be connected with a website to generate even greater reach on search engines using Publisher and Authorship markup, respectively. As a result, your headshot and Google+ profile stats can show in the search engine results page (SERP) when content you’ve authored ranks.

Google+ Authorship connects a Google+ personal profile to an individual webpage, blog post or article. It’s great for gaining exposure and building a personal brand, especially if you’re in an industry that makes you the face of your business. You should consider creating a Google+ Profile for yourself and connecting it to quality content author or distribute online, especially if you are a thought leader in your respective field (i.e. Doctor, Lawyer, Professional etc.)

People searching Google for your business name or other brand signals will be greeted with a “Knowledge Graph” of information pulled from Google+ about your business.  When implemented correctly, branded searches also show your visual branding, the number of Google+ followers you have, recent Google+ posts and even reviews. Note: If a page does not actively post content to their page, you may see competitors listed at the bottom of the knowledge graph (all the more reason to keep posting and gain competitive advantage.)

Taking the time and energy to set up and integrate Google Plus for Business improves search visibility and ranking - especially for a small to medium-sized business.  So what are you waiting for?   

We're here to help. Goodbuzz offer competitively priced Google Plus optimization bundles (as well as a full range of Google services.)  Contact us today for a quote.

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This article was written by Andrew B. Giles. Andrew is the head of digital innovation and strategy at Goodbuzz Inc. You can follow him @Goodbuzz and on FacebookGoodbuzz is a full-service digital agency based in Toronto, Canada. We help brands create and capture value from emerging trends in technology, society and the workplace. Follow us on Facebook or Twitter or if you have any questions contact us directly.

Thursday, 3 November 2016

Media 2025 | The Connected Society

Today, the term “media” can mean different things to different people.  Ultimately, however, media is mass communication regarded collectively. Media today can be the message, the medium, or the messenger; and to complicate things, the lines between them are becoming very blurry. 

Social Media is participatory and connected media.  One might argue that once all media is participatory and connected that the term ‘social’ is redundant.  Media is simply media.  The future of social media, therefore, is a discussion on the future of media itself. To that end, social will just be folded into the broader marketing discipline.

Social Media today is focused on driving real-time engagement, (unedited and unfiltered) live streaming video, Virtual Reality (VR), Artificial Intelligence (AI), Augmented Reality (AR), Internet of Things (IoT), social commerce, mobile wallets, metadata, search/visibility, data-driven decisions, content marketing and mobile devices.

Moving into 2018, more and more users are using messenger apps (e.g. Facebook Messenger, Slack, and WhatsApp) but there’s still a lot of growth happening in social networks. Social platforms, social customs, and communication standards are all in a constant process of evolution.

Transparency is the new black, and there is a clear shift from talking at the world to making the world talk. To wit, most branded content in the next years will come from consumers, and user-generated content will far exceed branded content.  The next wave of media apps will help filter the clutter.

Ultimately, everything that can be connected to the Internet will be by 2025 (i.e. homes, humans/ wearable tech, TVs, cars, jet engines, locomotives, lights, appliances, etc.) That said, people will care increasingly more about culture than products.  

The future of media is inextricably linked to technology. The promise of technology was always to improve the way people live and to make our lives simpler and easier.  Around the world, people are utilising technology to create new communities, engage across boundaries, make the world more inclusive, and change the way we interact.  This transformation is happening everywhere and in every culture, country, and industry. 

Integrated mobile devices like Google Glass and the Apple Watch are already taking major steps to eliminate the gap between “technology” and “life.”  What is clear is that we have quickly evolved from the age of industrialisation to the connected society.

The connected society transforms everything. Information and communications technology (ICT) and big data are also fueling the rise of a new economy in which new market actors – commercial, "indiepreneurial," and crowd-sourced – are empowered with new models of production and exchange, as well as automated, frictionless and highly personalised consumption. 

In this new economy, consumers become curators rather than receivers, products give way to services, and consumers adopt more and more complex roles as citizens, users, co-creators, specialists, and actors.  Collaboration, crowd funding, crafting and sharing are just some of the hallmarks of the modern, involved consumer. 

The connected society encourages a rise of meritocracy and the formation of a creative elite.  Within this order, merit is increasingly defined by a new set of emerging values, such as knowledge, transparency, fairness, quality of experience, authenticity, sociality, healthiness, and simplicity.  The ability to make informed choices, to a very large extent, will drive the consumers of the connected society.

Fast-forward to the future, and we should see global media usage continue on its upward trajectory.  By 2020, eMarketer projects that 2.44 billion of the world's population will be on connected networks. Media usage will be ubiquitous, seamless, and integrated into our daily lives in a multitude of ways.

The ways we both input and observe media will also shift. Holographic displays will be shifting into the mainstream and keyboards on desktops, laptops, tablets and smartphones will become increasingly irrelevant, as interactions on what was once called social media will largely be voice-controlled.

Driven by continued advancements in technology and rapid rollouts of commercial products, the future will be shaped by an information ecosystem that’s increasingly more intuitive, anticipatory, transparent and personalised. Some very fundamental human activities like learning, thinking, working, and being “present” with others will be transformed by these changes.

Artificial Intelligence (AI) technologies such as machine learning and natural language processing will also play an integral role in shaping the future. Over time, the computer itself - whatever its form factor - will be an intelligent assistant helping you through your day. Your phone, for example, will proactively bring up the right documents, schedule and map your meetings, let people know if you are late, suggest responses to messages, handle your payments and expenses. Technology won’t just serve as tools for you, but they’ll even serve as your stand-in in some cases.

Even today, Google’s new messaging app, Allo, scans your texts; understand the context and supplies readymade human-like responses for you (“Cute dog!” and “That’s good!”). Not just when you were sent words, but even when you were sent pictures.  Just imagine how much more dynamic and robust these technologies will become.

As a result, Social Media will become far more specialised and personalised to the actual needs and interests of each audience member. By 2025, social media sites will have adapted their platform for each user so that it would appear by today’s standards that people live in their own universe.

Social Media platforms will compete to maintain their share of the audience.  Users of social media will gradually only expose themselves to the news that affects them. Future platforms will be even more equipped to predict exactly what users will need to keep them engaged.

Social media platforms will connect advertisers with potential customers by using multiple regression analysis and correlation analysis.  When a consumer behaves differently than the formula predicted, the formula will automatically adjust.  The connected society will know when you are tired, hungry, thirsty, stressed, or even low on Vitamin C. 

In the connected society envisioned in 2025 people will increasingly seek out a sense of belonging and social media platforms will provide “fireplaces” for people to gather around and topics for interaction, conversation and relationship building.  Products, services and brands will be instilled with meaning more through the crowd than through branding and marketing efforts.

Products and services infused with a social component of some kind can more easily move from product/service status to an experience. For the 2025 consumer, an experience will always be more original than the actual product or service. This means that consumers will be looking for original experiences delivered by humans and which are embedded in a social context, rather than searching for specific products and services. Subsequently, a value will be grafted onto products and services by how a network of users – or a network of peers – decides to use them.

Human beings are inherently social animals, and we are ultimately at the centre of our own universes. On average, people spend 60 percent of conversations talking about themselves—and this figure jumps to 80 percent when communicating via social media platforms.  As a result, our social media platforms will increasingly place us at the centre of our unique, personalised ecosystem. Parents in 2025 won’t be complaining about their children spending too much time texting.  They'll be complaining that their son or daughter seldom step out of their own self-made virtual-world.

Social Media in 2025 will be a ubiquitous enabler, producer and facilitator that shift the consumer from receiver to curator.  This is a natural evolution of a sharing economy and change in values, preferring services and access to function, rather than ownership. This means that businesses will have to engage and collaborate with users in different roles rather than as passive consumers.

Social Media will continue to create and connect new communities, engage across boundaries, make the world more inclusive and fundamentally change the way we live. As William Gibson espoused, (Neuromancer, 1984) this brave new world will be “a consensual hallucination experienced daily by billions of legitimate operators, in every nation.”

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Written by Andrew B. Giles. Andrew is the head of digital innovation and strategy at Goodbuzz Inc. You can follow him @Goodbuzz and on Facebook
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Goodbuzz is a digital agency based in Toronto, Canada. We help brands create and capture value from emerging trends in technology, society and the workplace. We prototype the future - and believe the best way to predict it - is to create it.  Follow us on Facebook or Twitter or if you have any questions contact us directly.

Saturday, 27 August 2016

What is Digital Strategy?

Our use of terminology forms the currency of communication and understanding, particularly in times of rapid transformation. Therefore the first task is to define what we mean by Digital Strategy. More than 50% of business executives say they have a digital strategy; a Gartner survey has found. What exactly do they mean?

Let’s start with the term digital.  Companies today are rushing headlong to become more digital. But what does digital mean?  For some, it’s about technology. For others, digital is a new way of engaging with customers. And for others still, it represents an entirely new way of doing business. None of these definitions is necessarily incorrect.

However, such diverse perspectives often lack alignment and shared a vision about where the business needs to go. This often results in piecemeal initiatives or misguided efforts that lead to missed opportunities, sluggish performance, and false starts. There must be a clear and common understanding of exactly what digital means to develop meaningful digital strategies that drive business performance.

It’s tempting even for us to look for simple definitions, but to be meaningful and sustainable, digital should be seen less as a thing and more a way of doing things. To help make this definition more concrete, we’ve broken it down into three attributes:

  • Creating value at the new frontiers of the business world,
  • Creating value in the processes that execute a vision of customer experiences, and
  • Building foundational capabilities that support the entire structure.

Strategy is, of course, a plan of action or policy designed to achieve a major or overall aim.  It’s the art of planning and directing overall operations and movements. At its core, the essence of strategy is choosing a unique and valuable position rooted in the specific activities a company performs.

Repeating the past is no guarantee of success, therefore understanding the direction digital strategy is headed is paramount.  At the highest level, there are two options available. The first calls for extending digitization by repeating the current digital playbook to cover new functions and processes.  Transforming activity, and therefore the business, is the second option for digital strategy.

Experience changes our understanding. Digital is more than a set of technologies you buy. It is the abilities those technologies create.  Digital Strategy is therefore about transformation, and human performance is at its core. This enhanced human performance creates value that leads to revenue.

Thinking of digital as a set of technologies (analytics, big data, mobile, cloud, social, etc.) limits the digital potential of the instrument rather than the application. A smartphone, for example, has information intensity and connectedness, but it requires applications to transform value and disrupt industries. 

Every business is a digital business in the sense that digital transformation represents the next frontier of high performance. Everything is possible with digital technology, but a digital business and digital leadership must know how to separate what is possible from what is profitable. That difference extends a premium to the business – a digital premium. And finding this digital premium is the job of the Digital Strategist.

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Written by Andrew B. Giles. Andrew is the head of digital innovation and strategy at Goodbuzz Inc. You can follow him @Goodbuzz and on Facebook
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Goodbuzz is a digital agency based in Toronto, Canada. We help brands create and capture value from emerging trends in technology, society and the workplace. We prototype the future - and believe the best way to predict it - is to create it.  Follow us on Facebook or Twitter or if you have any questions contact us directly.

Thursday, 11 August 2016

The Evolution of Digital Strategy

The business of marketing has become an ever-expanding sprawl of options and complexity. There are multiple partners with niche expertise rather than truly broad- based integrated offerings.  Moreover, the traditional Advertising and Public Relations agency model’s are dead and competitors from unexpected quarters are moving in, forcing us all to work harder: whatever it takes to stay relevant – and valuable – to our clients.

To succeed today clients need broad-based, integrated offerings – not one individual agency’s niche area of expertise.  Therefore the role of the Brand Strategist has never been more valuable.  Today’s Brand Strategist must be a polymath. Their expertise must span a significant number of different subject areas and draw on complex bodies of knowledge to solve specific problems.  Today’s Brand Strategist must also have a solid understanding of all media past and present: specialists and authorities in any number of disciplines.

We would further argue that if everything is digital, then nothing is.  And now that our "old media" as well as our modern channels are digital, the very term has perhaps outlived its usefulness. "Like air and drinking water, being digital will be noticed only by its absence, not its presence," as technology guru Nicholas Negroponte put it. So, by definition, today’s Digital Brand Strategist is simply a Brand Strategist.

The task may appear Herculean, but the goal has not changed.  Today’s Brand Strategist must understand the complex world we have come from, the world we are in, and also be forward-thinking to anticipate future trends and create a path that ensures the success of a product or service. 

Being an on-trend, relevant, inspiring, purposeful, innovative and community-centric brand are the things that will make people pause, listen and pay attention.  Customers want to identify with a brand they can grow with, that earns their trust and makes them feel valued.   People want to evolve with a brand whose products and services help give their business or life meaning and significance.  End to end, a brand must become a consumer’s best friend.

After well over a decade of constructing digital strategies on behalf of clients, one thing has become abundantly clear: most are often confused about what digital strategy is and how to develop one.  When defining and developing any strategy, it’s imperative that clients understand that strategy follows structure, people and an idea.  Second, clients must understand that profit and return-on-investment (ROI) are outcomes, not the strategy itself.

There are numerous approaches to conducting digital strategy, but at their core, all go through similar steps:
  • Identifying the opportunities and challenges,
  • Developing a vision around how the online assets will fulfill those business and external stakeholder needs, goals, and  
  • Prioritizing a set of initiatives/tactics that can deliver on this vision.
It goes without saying that within each of those stages, a number of techniques and analyses may be employed. 

First, you have to define what you’re hoping to achieve for the brand, product, or service. Start by analyzing the following five factors:
  • Presence: Measure of the brand’s digital footprint,
  • Influence: Branded message adoption,
  • Perception: Emotional reaction to the brand,
  • Engagement: People organically participating in conversations,
  • Resonance: Reaction to the overall conversation about the brand.
You need to define your business’ overall mission/objective first – your digital marketing mission must fit into your grand plan.  Therefore it’s imperative that you ask the right questions and that you understand the brand objectives that most closely align with those key business opportunities and challenges.  You also need a very clear understanding of your brand truth. You should also answer this question: what is the overriding objective you want your digital marketing efforts to achieve? 

Once you’ve benchmarked the brand’s current equity and position, you must segment your target customers. Customer segmentation allows marketers to connect all customer touch points and identify what motivates a brand’s core consumers in a multi-channel environment.  

Once you have a clear understanding of the target, their path to purchase, goals, opportunities and challenges, it’s time to formulate your message and positioning. Positioning is a marketing strategy that aims to make a brand occupy a distinct position (relative to competing brands,) in the mind of the customer. 

The idea is to identify and attempt to “own” a marketing niche for a brand, product, or service using various strategies including pricing, promotions, distribution, packaging, and competition.  Ultimately, as we have previously explained, this power resides in the marketers' ability to cloak their product in the universal dreams, fantasies, and values of the masses.  We are therefore creating and selling modern myths that leverage the collective pool of cultural, psychological and mythical elements to create a "brand mythology."

Now look at your brand's story/positioning and ask yourself:
  • What is the story/positioning telling my target customer?
  • Why does my target customer care about this story/positioning?
  • What sort of emotions does my story/positioning evoke?
  • How does my story/positioning connect to the emotional needs of my target customer?
  • How will that story/positioning incite action on behalf of my brand, product, and service?
  • What is the source of competitive advantage for your digital business model?
  • How can you manage business complexity in the global digital economy?
  • How do you create digitized platforms that enable new and evolving digital opportunities?
  • How can you simplify your customer experiences without creating burdensome organizational complexity?
  • How can you create new information offerings that generate bottom-line value?
The resulting narrative enables the use of social channels, for example, as a means to convey a product, service, or brand’s benefits.  Brand stories are what drive interactions with customers.  If you need further assistance in refining your brand's positioning and subsequent messaging, we would suggest reading through the wealth of information provided by Beloved Brands.

You now should ideally have an intimate understanding of your brand’s current positioning, goals, objectives competitors and challenges. From here you should be able to ascertain where a winning brand message and position can be found in the future. 

You also now should have a clear understanding of your target consumers demographics, psychographics, and technographic profile keeping in mind that you may have multiple target segments within any target group.  Note:  At any number of agencies we have worked at (or with) in the past, many have also employed the use of detailed Buyer Personas, which can be a helpful exercise – as the better understanding you have of your target(s), the easier it is to engage them.

As your target consumer base varies, the technologies and social networks you utilize to reach them will naturally vary, too.  Imagine you’re a retailer and based on your research and planning you’ve discovered that YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, and a variety of social retail oriented platforms such as Pinterest or Fancy are best suited to help reach your brand’s target audience.

Let’s say that you’ve also discovered that more than one-third (33%+) of the activity surrounding your brand is based on your target consumer’s mobile behavior. You’d naturally want to define the experience that consumers will have with your brand’s products by channel, across multiple platforms, based on their behavior patterns. This exercise is also known as User Experience (UX) Mapping but the most important things you must ask yourself prior to creating any map are:
  • How do customers search and find information about my product, service, or brand?
  • What social platforms do they favour (Technographic Segmentation)?
  • What’s the purpose of the specific social platforms and technologies we’ve chosen to utilize?
  • How do these mediums play into our mobile strategy?
  • What is going to differentiate me from my competition?
As the world has shifted to digital and social media specifically, consumers look to fellow consumers to inform any purchasing decision.  Influencers are therefore a critical part of the digital market success as we move towards the new marketing models that make up social commerce and consumer experience.

Another helpful exercise at this stage is to create a Marketing Calendar that shows your brand’s marketing efforts across the channels you are leveraging in your marketing programs. Use it for benchmarks related to your digital strategy.  What are important dates for your brand's success?  This could be based, for example, around a Holiday, trade show, product release or any other points in the year that align best with sales. A social media content calendar can also be developed to support your Marketing Calendar.  Always keep in mind that when it comes to engaging prospects or customers that quality is far, far more relevant than quantity.

Creating benchmarks and key performance indicators (KPIs) by channel and platforms is also extremely important during this phase.  This is imperative in order to estimate your brand’s expected return per channel — and whether this return is measured based on awareness, engagement, online sales, or any number of other components.  From an agency standpoint this stage is also imperative to setting realistic expectations with clients.

The ultimate goal of engagement is to create a feedback loop that allows you to meet the goals you set forth in the strategy development phase. In order to be successful, you must continually evaluate and alter your digital strategy based on the information that you gain from your campaigns and digital initiatives. As marketers, it’s important that we measure everything.

Throughout every campaign, you must also utilize social listening tools to get insights into campaign performance, variances in brand health, and language cues that are indicative of purchase intent and overall brand performance.

Extending consistent on-brand, on-message content and collateral across all selected channels is imperative and the cornerstone of brand building.  Approach your constituents with the goal to engage their personal lives and experiences. Be authentic, honest and try not to increase friction or decrease participation. Execution is what brings the strategic plan to fruition. Sounds simple, right?

With a clear understanding of the elements above you’re in a strong position to frame and articulate a winning digital strategy for your brand.  Keep in mind we’re discussing digital strategy versus tactics. The terms tactic and strategy are often confused: tactics are the actual means used to gain an objective, while strategy is the overall campaign plan, which may involve complex operational patterns, activity, and decision-making that lead to tactical execution.

This framework/overview is based on our experience (and is a work in progress) however, what would you adjust based on your experience?  What do you think about it? Is there something irrelevant? Is something missing?  Looking at the sector you are working in, would you approach this differently?

Written by Andrew B. Giles. Andrew is the head of digital innovation and strategy at Goodbuzz Inc. You can follow him @Goodbuzz and on Facebook.

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Goodbuzz is a digital agency based in Toronto, Canada. We help brands create and capture value from emerging trends in technology, society and the workplace. We prototype the future - and believe the best way to predict it - is to create it.  Follow us on Facebook or Twitter or if you have any questions contact us directly.

Saturday, 23 April 2016

The Evolution Of Strategic Brand Storytelling

Good marketing is good storytelling and for a product to be successful in this competitive era it must have an engaging story.  It may educate, inspire or entertain, but ultimately it must be memorable and it must extend across numerous media platforms.

As agencies, we must therefore figure out how to strategically craft the story structure of the brand using all the tools at our disposal.  Today’s marketer must think about story first before selling, because the way to the audience’s heart (and loyalty) is through compelling and memorable storytelling. In short, the foreseeable future of advertising may be less like David Ogilvy and more like Syd Field  and Joseph Campbell.

Field's most notable contribution is his articulation of the ideal storytelling paradigm "three-act structure".  Leveraging Field’s screenwriting devices such as the inciting incident, the controlling idea and genre, allows a brand story structure to be developed that motivates target customers, provides strategic clarity, builds emotional connection and most importantly, identifies the unique and authentic company characteristics that drive all brand story execution.

Joseph Campbell extends the modern storyteller an exploration of the classic hero cycle, including consistent and enduring hero patterns in literature, films, and real life.  Campbell essentially demonstrates how to apply the power of myth and symbolism with his 17 steps.

Ultimately, this power resides in the marketers' ability to cloak their product in the universal dreams, fantasies, and values of the masses.  We are therefore creating and selling modern myths that leverage the collective pool of cultural, psychological and mythical elements to create a "brand mythology."

Developing a compelling story for your brand is not an exercise in copywriting, instead strategic brand storytelling expresses the universal and differentiating truths behind your marketing.  If done effectively, brand storytelling captures engagement, defines and extends a winning narrative, responds to competitive threats, builds an emotional connection, shapes perceptions, and anchors the brand culture with an ‘ownable’ story that resonates with consumers.

The story itself is more important than the product or service.  As American Demographics put it, new media consumers will “be more tolerant of advertising because it will be more appropriate and customized.” In the new media, the goal of the marketing message is not the “purchase,” but “further interaction.” 

As life becomes a “perpetual marketing event” we will no longer be able to discern where advertising begins and where it ends. In a realm that could have been designed by Kafka, we shall all awake not as giant insects but as “productive reach” targets of an integrated brand story where we are the hero.

Need some help crafting an ‘ownable’ brand story that resonates with consumers?  We're here to help.
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Goodbuzz is a digital agency based in Toronto, Canada. We help brands create and capture value from emerging trends in technology, society and the workplace. We prototype the future - and believe the best way to predict it - is to create it.  Follow us on Facebook or Twitter or if you have any questions contact us directly.