Category Archives: Advice

Developing Your Social Media SWOT

(Note: this is the second in a series of posts developing the components of a useful social media business plan: the social media SWOT. The first was about the market-defining story.)

SWOT — strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats — is my favorite framework for getting into strategy. I’ve used it for years. In groups, it generates good discussion, brings people into the process. And it brings out all three of the main elements of strategy: identity, market, and focus. 

To do it yourself, remember the basic rules of SWOT: 

  1. Divide a piece of paper, whiteboard, or tablet computer drawing space into four parts as shown in the illustration here. SWOT analysis drawing
  2. Collect your thoughts in each of the four categories. Use bullet points. Jump around the categories because some thoughts will generate other thoughts. For example, our virtual locations in Oregon and the Silicon Valley are both strength, in our case, and weakness. 
  3. Remember the classic rules of brainstorming: collect a lot of points. Don’t criticize and argue and refine and select only the best. First, get them all down. Filter and digest later. 
  4. Consider the division down the horizontal middle: above the middle, strengths and weaknesses are internal. They are attributes of your business. They’re like your own personal strengths and weaknesses; they can be changed, but not easily. It takes time. And effort. Opportunities and threats, on the other hand, are external. They are out in the market. You can predict them, analyze them, work towards opportunities and away from threats; but they aren’t something you control. 

Remember that in this case we’re talking about your business’ online presence. It’s not the business itself, or the entrepreneur; it’s just the online presence. Think of it as your website and your position in the social media big five (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, and Google+). 

Examples of strengths: good site, good profiles, good content, lots of likes, followers, tweets, pictures, links retweets, friends, etc. 

Examples of weaknesses: no presence in some of the big five, no content, poor  content, inconsistent content, no focus, no strategy. 

Examples of opportunities: something you can give away in exchange for likes and follows, easy freebies, readily available content, curation of content (my favorite is Rebelmouse), events, promotions. 

Examples of threats: competitors’ pages, content, engagement, branding, presence, success. 

The SWOT is a great entry into strategy. And a social media SWOT is a great first step to a social media business plan. 

The Storytelling at the Heart of Future Marketing

My thanks to Social Media Today for embedding this video on their post titled 4 ways to prepare a Facebook content plan. That’s a good post, too. Especially this, prepared by Coca Cola, on what they call “passionate storytelling.” regarding future marketing. This is golden.

And what about a company of the size and scope of Coca Cola, one of the grand old brands that made traditional advertising great, a warlord of major media, sharing the intellectual highlights of its new-world thinking?

I’m impressed.

Social Media Morality Tale: Truth, Authenticity, Revenge

It starts with this news item on the Chronicle of Higher Education. I agree with the post. It is ironic:

… social-media director quit her post on Monday after it was alleged that she had lied about graduating from college on her résumé—an assertion that, ironically, first bubbled up on social media.

The chronicle piece includes images from the person’s (I’m skilling her name) resume and output from National Student Clearing house proving she didn’t have the degree she claimed.  The news coverage included her name. And her apology.

resume-oops

So there’s transparency and authenticity in the new post-social-media landscape. We talk about it. We write about it. Lying is more likely than ever to come out.

And in this case, it came out via an anonymous post on the college Reddit (social media) community:

According to The Michigan Daily, a recent thread in the university’s Reddit community alleged that [she] had not graduated from Chicago’s Columbia College despite claiming a degree on her résumé and job application. The user making the allegations, who signed the message as a “Concerned Taxpayer,” posted [three] images as evidence, asserting that they had been obtained through public-records requests.

“Concerned taxpayer” indeed. This isn’t just about social media. This is also about people, revenge, and karma. The real story hidden here is the what-did-who-do-to-whom story behind the scenes. Clearly “concerned taxpayer” spent time and money on a quest. Why? Jealousy? Getting even for something? Relationships gone bad. There’s a story there. Right? What motivates a person to go exploring in the resume and job situation of another?

Live by authenticity, die (or lose a job) by authenticity. No way out. But damn! That’s a nasty piece of social media behavior. Was it justified? All for good? We’ll probably never know.

Old Chinese proverb: “He who seeks vengeance must dig two graves: one for his enemy and one for himself.”

Here’s Some Good Advice About Cool Startups

Nice piece in Forbes from last week, called Your “Cool” Startup Sucks, by Brent Beshore. Great put-down for cool startups: 

Newsflash: your cool startup sucks. Cool doesn’t address a market need. Cool doesn’t solve a problem. Cool doesn’t generate revenue. Cool doesn’t allow you to see your deficiencies. Cool isn’t valuable. Cool is just, well, cool.

I really like his advice on this: 

 If you aim to move beyond cool, focus on what matters. Find a niche that is ripe for disruption. Seek transparent feedback from potential customers, not friends or family. Determine the key elements that must be accomplished to drive revenue and repeat customers. Focus on testing your hypothesis and tweaking your approach. Do those things and forget trying to be cool.

Well said. And especially his final put-down:

P.S. If you’d like to see the downfall of “coolness,” check out Bravo’s new show “Start-Ups: Silicon Valley.” It’s packed with cool.

Ouch. 

Social Media Back Scratching Explosion

(Sung to the tune of Reciprocity, from Chicago)

I think it’s brilliant: there, in a nutshell, LinkedIn points out one of the key drivers of social media: reciprocity. Here’s the picture:

With this new skills-based endorsement feature the reciprocity is obvious. Every LinkedIn user has a set of skills claimed. Every other user can endorse those skills. So it’s “you scratch my back, and I’ll scratch yours,” built in. Do I want to endorse people who endorse me? Yes, of course I do. Who has the most endorsements? The person who has given the most endorsements to other people.

There’s nothing new about the principle involved. It started with Facebook likes, evolved into twitter retweets. Like me, I’ll like you back. Retweet me, and I’ll retweet you back. The new LinkedIn feature looks to me like they saw how well the Klout topics-based +K feature was working, and made theirs even easier than Klout.

This should have been obvious all along, but I like the reminder, with what LinkedIn just did.

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.

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!

7 Social Media Tips for Small Business Owners

Stephanie Miles has seven good tips on social media for small business owners, posted over at Street Fight, as 7 Social Media Strategies for Small Business Owners. Who cares that they’re more tips than strategies? Not me. As long as they’re useful. Here’s a summarized version of her list (although comments are mine):

  1. Start measuring immediately. Stephanie talks about knowing which posts are working and which aren’t, and I think of also tweets and retweets, everything you can. You want to think about results. She says ”By choosing some metrics that are important and keeping track of those measurements early on, businesses can generate benchmarks that they can look back at to see how they’re faring over time.” I add a note of caution: participation in social media is not an activity that lends itself to instant measurement. What’s the return on investment of time and effort on participating in a community, sharing expertise and content, and, gradually, getting people to know, like, and trust you? That comes over time.
  2. Timing is everything. Some times of day are better than others. For example, restaurants may benefit from tweeting specials during lunchtime. She says “The best days to send messages are on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays, since Monday is a catch-up day and Friday is too close to the weekend.”
  3. Use the right platforms. Stephanie says as examples that “photos are great on Facebook, Tumblr, and Instagram, but they don’t have the same impact when posted on Twitter. Business owners should experiment to learn which types of content work best on which platforms, and then do more of whatever produces the greatest results.”
  4. Treat social media as a two-way street. This is so important. It’s not just shouting ad slogans, but engaging in something like conversation.
  5. Offer exclusive deals and discounts. Really? Stephanie says people follow brands to get special deals and offers. I say that may be true for some discount retail and cheap food stops, maybe; but for a lot of businesses the goal is presence of mind and developing a persona identified with the right kind of content and caring.  Special deals and offers get old, and they turn people off. In my opinion.
  6. Get smart about check-in sites. I guess this depends on your type of business. For traditional retail, perhaps, but not for every business. Stephanie writes: “Check-in sites like Foursquare provide an excellent opportunity for cross promotion. Businesses can tweet at customers checking-in to thank them for visiting, and then ask those customers to leave their feedback on sites like Google Places and Yelp. Foursquare is also a great place for customer acquisition, since businesses can actively reach out to people checking-in at competing establishments with special offers or deals meant to bring those people in.”
  7. Integrate social media into other business systems. It’s about business and business goals, not just about being popular. Stephanie suggests:  ’By integrating social channels with existing systems like Google Analytics and Omniture, and using a social media management system, companies can connect the dots and see the role social media is playing in their overall marketing efforts. Business owners should track the traffic that social media networks are driving to their websites and find out whether social media is converting certain activities into pre-defined goals, like sales or customer acquisition.”

So this is a goods list, despite my doubts about tips numbers 5 and 6.