Monthly Archives: September 2012

Social Media Action Plan

(Note: This is taken almost entirely from the Industry Word blog on the SBA Community site where I first posted how to make a social media business plan. I like social media action plan better, though, because too many people mistake the phrase ‘business plan’ for a static document that is hard to do and gets forgotten. To me a business plan is about business planning. It stays flexible and becomes the format for regular review and revision. For the sake of not arguing about it, I’m calling this an action plan instead. Tim.)

Online buzz about social media for business owners seems to be moving from “Should I” to “How do I?” I’ve been working on this a lot lately as part of my work on planning, and I’ve developed this process for a specific social media plan for small business:

Start with strategy

Define how your social media serves your business. Usually that’s in the marketing area of the business related to branding and awareness at the top of the marketing funnel, but it can also be focused on other business functions. For example, airlines are using Twitter for customer service, food trucks are using it for delivery by tweeting locations, and consultants use follower and like counts to validate their expertise.

Strategy is focus, so you need to sort through the different social media options. Community management expert Megan Berry of LiftFive in New York says, “Facebook tends to be more personal, so if a product is fun and consumer oriented, then Facebook is really good. Twitter has the advantages of public searches, and business searches, so you can see how much a given topic matters. Google+ is mostly techies, photography, and people who work at Google.” I think of LinkedIn as more about careers than specific businesses, and Pinterest as great for photo collections. You can’t do it all and the fastest road to failure is trying to please everybody, or do anything.

For purposes of illustration, my examples in the rest of this post focus on Twitter and use the terminology of Twitter. That’s just to make the narrative easier to follow.

Add specific tactics

The strategy means nothing without specific tactics. In social media that means making some practical decisions. For sake of illustration, imagine a manufacturer of environmentally better construction materials selling to a local market looking at Twitter. Here are some tactics to work through:

  • What accounts to follow: In our example, of course we’d follow people tweeting about homes, green construction, construction materials, architecture, and the building industry. Maybe also small business, small business management, and local business. Gardening, landscape architecture? We should also follow people representing the old-fashioned methods our green construction replaces, and yes, all of our competitors. And we’d definitely want to follow industry leaders, the best blogs, and media people for our industry.
  • What content to tweet and retweet: In our example we’d tweet about green building, construction, architecture, and homes for sure, to build a content stream that would attract like-minded people. We’d probably also tweet about local events, local businesses, and local people to attract local connections. But we would never offer content promoting the old-fashioned ways or our competition. We would set up programmed searches for hashtags like #green and #greenbuilding, #homes, and #greenhomes.  (Hashtags are a Twitter feature people use to aid searching for topics. People offering content include them in their tweets, so people searching can find them).
  • What to watch out for: We should set up searches to catch any mention of us especially, of course. Also, mentions of our competitors, substitutes or competing products, and (as much as possible) local building issues.
  • When to reach out: We’d want to watch for media people and issues that could create media opportunities for us, like interviews with the founder, or reviews in blogs or trade magazines. Reaching out in Twitter means either tweets mentioning specific handles or direct messages to specific people.
  • How to reach out: We’d want to reach out correctly and respectfully, only for specific cases and specific people. Direct messages should ever look or feel or act like spam.

Add Specific Metrics, Milestones, and Tracking

Your strategy and tactics are of no use without concrete specific steps, measurements, and tracking.

In our Twitter-oriented green construction materials example, we’d want set objective and trackable numeric targets for how many:

  • accounts to follow
  • new follows to add each month
  • tweets per day, week, and month
  • retweets to send
  • retweets we want to receive
  • followers we expect to add per month
  • leads we should get
  • web visits tracking from our tweets, retweets, and Twitter profile

And for our review meetings, we’d want to start with actual numbers for each of these measurements. Then we’d review these results and discuss changes to the metrics, tactics, and strategy.

And that, all together, is a plan.

Social Media is the Brush, Not the Painting

On one hand, twitter (or Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+, etc) offers a positive change in business landscape, a brave new world of business possibilities, and you’re crazy to ignore it. On the other, it’s just a distraction, a shiny new thing, that gets in the way of the real business.

Can both hands be right? Yes.

The one hand: I spend hours every day now watching, playing, posting, and reading twitter.  That’s gotten me mentions in Business Week and The New York Times. I find myself speaking up for social media on public forums, spouting phrases like “changing business landscape” and “you’re crazy to ignore it” and “great new low-cost road to market” or “marketing tool.” Twitter is essential to my blogging. Its a window to what’s going on and who’s doing and saying what.  It’s great for my business.

The other hand: You can use it to send useless text clutter to nobody. You can use it to pretend you’re working when you’re just watching the world go by in cute sayings, headlines, and interesting pictures. It can be a total waste of business time.

The synthesis: Twitter is the brush, not the painting. It’s a tool for a new kind of self publishing with a different kind of reach. Talk of business benefits of Twitter are like talk of business benefits of the telephone, or of conversation, or of advertising. It’s all in how you use it. Who or what are you trying to be in Twitter, and what does that have to do with your identity, your message, your business, your self.

Tools enhance power. What matters is not the tool, but what you do with it.

(Image: enhanced from a photo by Victures/Shutterstock)

18-Point Twitter Etiquette Primer

(Note: originally published on Planning Startups Stories)

I’m getting to know Twitter more these days, using it more, and enjoying it. I’m Timberry on Twitter. I’m frequently grateful to Twitter friends for pointing out good ideas, blogs, thoughts, pictures. Twitter enlivens my day, and brightens my writing.

I’m beginning to develop a sense of what to do and what not to do with Twitter. There is such a thing as Twitter etiquette does exist. that I’m an expert, but I’ve been watching and thinking about it. And I’ve come up with a list of dos and don’ts.

Please don’t …

  1. … thank me for following you.
  2. … think less of me for not thanking you for following me.
  3. … send me sales messages as direct messages, as part of your thanking me or otherwise.
  4. … tweet mundane details of everyday life. Going home, watching television, having dinner … feels like Twitter clutter. I’m just sayin’.
  5. … tweet straight-out sales pitches. Don’t promise me health or wealth or business success. I get enough spam in email, thanks. That stuff could spoil Twitter. I will unfollow you immediately.
  6. … tweet embarrassing should-be-private sweet nothings for your significant relationships. I like that you love him or her or them, but tell them, not the tweeple.
  7. … argue with people in Twitter. And that’s not to protect me, that’s for your own good. Words tweeted in anger live on forever. Twitter help implies that there’s a way to delete bad tweets, but I don’t think it works. Angry words aren’t biodegradable.

Please do tweet …

  1. … interesting pictures, blog posts, websites, and news items. And I’m fine with you tweeting your own blog posts, especially. Give me a title and a URL and I’m fine with that, I’ll click and read it if it catches my interest. If I weren’t interested in what you’re writing, I wouldn’t have followed you. Don’t be shy.
  2. … good quotes, pithy sayings, words that make me think.
  3. … about ideas, things that surprise you, new discoveries.
  4. … quick jokes, or humorous items, things that made you laugh.
  5. … thoughts, poems, especially haiku.
  6. … well written words, phrases, sentences, from real life, movies, songs, even overheard.
  7. … interesting, funny, or thought provoking pictures in twitpix.
  8. … words that teach, lessons.
  9. … quick reviews of books, movies, television, and music. If I follow you, I do care what you think, and what you like. Save me from bad stuff, and tip me off to good stuff. I’m glad you share.

And, by the way …

  1. Twitter is publishing. Let’s all respect that. Let’s not ruin it with too much advertising. Big promises mean small credibility. Share yourself, but be content, not spam.
  2. Do onto others as you would have them tweet to thousands.

And, finally, thanks for reading this list. I needed that.

2 Pictures, 200 Words, Lots of Ideas.

Pictures, words, lots of ideas. If one picture equals 1,000 words, how many ideas does it generate? Is there a transitive property there? I had time over the weekend to pick up two unrelated pictures. Each covers something entirely different. Both are full of ideas.

The first, a chart by Seth Godin:

From Seth Godins Blog

From Seth Godin

This is one of those things that must have been hard to come up with, but makes sense when you look at it. A map of communication. On the horizontal axis of the chart, from book on one end to a conversation at the other. With a book, the writer writes it at one point in time and the reader reads it at an entirely different time. With the telephone and coaching, both parties of the communication, sender and receiver, are involved at the same time. On the chart’s vertical axis, how much bandwidth is involved, from mail and graffiti at the low extreme, to movies and coaching at the high extreme.

The Second, from Pingdom:

from pingdom.com

From pingdom.com

This one is one of several on that post — Report: Social Media Demographics 2012 — that are fascinating to me. As always with this kind of research, accuracy depends on how they sampled, but even if it could be off by a bit, it still gives a big picture of the main social networking sites (which is what I assume the acronym SNS stands for) usage by age. I have no conclusions to draw, but maybe you do. Apparently the more well-known platforms have older users, except Twitter spreads out over more ages. That same post has some interesting data on usage by gender, as well. Good stuff.

Our Recommendation About Your Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn

Earlier this year I was in a classroom full of entrepreneurial MBA students, as a guest speaker, answering their questions about me and Palo Alto Software and bplans.com, my blogging, and so forth.

When they asked me how I managed my online self in social media,my response went something like this:

I don’t do social media clutter. I think of social media as publishing and I try to offer nothing that isn’t useful to a reader. When I’m on Twitter I tweet only what interests me and might interest somebody else. I highlight blog posts I wrote and posts I read that seem worthwhile. I ask questions. I sometimes share something useful about business planning, or small business. I use TweetDeck to manage my Twitter self, and I set TweetDeck up to share that with my Facebook and LinkedIn pages.

Several of the students seemed troubled. One of them asked: “So you never post anything personal? What about who you really are?”

And I realized, with that question, that maybe I was lucky. I got into social media late in life. The topics I care about are business related, and my friends are business related. I was already a published author and business owner. I wasn’t ever tempted to post the kind of personal stuff that gets younger generations in trouble. I was always aware of it as publishing, not just gossip. Most of the students, on the other hand, started on Facebook as high-school or university students. Facebook was fun first, business, if at all, only as an afterthought, later.

So here’s my advice: your social media presence is public. It’s publishing. Never clutter it up with personal trivia, much less drinking parties, embarrassing pictures, inappropriate comments, or anything your adult self might not be proud of. Use phone, sms, and instant messages for playing around with friends. Build a social media presence you’ll be proud of when your next prospective employer, boss, or client looks into it.

Oh, and by the way: you don’t have to call it personal branding. You can just call it taking care of your reputation.

7 Easy Steps To Make A Simple Twitter Profile Page

This particular one – 7 Easy Steps To Make A Simple Twitter Profile Page is three years old but still easy to follow and useful. And it keeps its promise, giving us, literally, seven easy steps. So I’m recommending it here.  

As an aside, I like this writing:

They used their logo and then coordinated their Twitter page colors.  Bing, bang, boom, DONE!

And I also like the author’s bio at the end. She says:

Jo-Lynne Shane has written 3062 posts.

Impressive. And that was three years ago. Like she says in a different context, bing, bang, boom, done. 

They used their logo and then coordinated their Twitter page colors.  Bing, bang, boom, DONE!