Category Archives: Business Planning

Do a Social Media Business Plan

What’s a social media business plan? It’s not a business plan document. It’s not about text. It defines specific strategy, tactics, and actions to be taken to develop social media power to achieve business goals.

This is my seven-step suggestion for making your own social media business plan. And, for the record, this is what we can do for you as a social media plan we develop, customized, for your business. Yes, we can do it for you. But first, we can tell you how to do it for yourself. My apologies for a longer-than-usual post, but it’s the key elements of the social media business plan.

  1. Business Objectives: Make it concrete and measurable. Look towards ROI. What’s the business objective?
  2. Market-defining story: Who are you trying to reach? What type of people? Do they live in a certain place? Are they a gender, economic level, education level, or some kind of affinity group like fans of a sports team or a certain make of car? Are they homeowners? Renters? Students? People who eat at one kind of restaurant or another? Tennis players, bikers, cat lovers? This is not numbers. It’s a description of people.
  3. Content to promote: Describe the key content you are curating to help your target market with useful and interesting information.
  4. Content to avoid: This is ideas you disagree with, that are not useful to your target audience, misconceptions and misunderstandings, content that a casual observer might think fits in your area but doesn’t match your preferences, your opinions, your expert advice.
  5. Friends: list the friends and allies you work with, companies that you co-market with, manufacturers whose products you sell, bloggers whose content you like and trust, etc.
  6. Platforms: What content do you put onto what social media sites and platforms, and why. You should be strategic. Some types of content, some target markets, some businesses are better suited for one platform than another. In most cases businesses should have a minimum presence on all five platforms, but focus most effort on one or two.
  7. Metrics for tracking: Go back to your business objectives and find the performance metrics you can track. That might be sales, leads, web traffic, sign-ups, store traffic, support incidents, likes, followers, Klout score, or whatever. Make sure it’s concrete and measurable. The test is whether you can use it to determine social media ROI later.

10 Business Social Media Mistakes to Avoid

Everybody involved with business social media (or flirting with it) ought to read 10 Ways We’re Being Rude in Social Media and Don’t Even Know It by David Spark. Here’s his list (explanations are either mine, or in quotes):

  1. Friend collecting. David makes the point that friends and followers aren’t necessarily a measure of engagement or value. You can buy them. You can collect them with software-driven scripts and special tools. 
  2. Asking people to “like” your content-free Facebook page. What’s to like when there is nothing there? Put the content up first, then engage. 
  3. Requiring app installation to consume a message. For example, that greeting card that requires you install something. 
  4. Auto DMs on Twitter. He’s referring to the practice of setting your Twitter to automatically send a direct message to every new follower, thanking them, or — worse still — asking them to buy something from you. 
  5. Happy Birthdays on Facebook. David says: “Only typing ‘Happy Birthday’ is truly the least you could do outside of doing nothing.” And he adds that there is no extra credit for remembering when Facebook is reminding you. 
  6. Sharing without consumption. “We all have the ability to share any piece of content without looking past the headline.” Read it first. 
  7. Photo overdose of your kids and your wedding. “Your kid may be cute to you, but you’re the parent and that’s how you’re supposed to feel. The rest of us are not supposed to feel that way.” 
  8. Posting bad photos
  9. Follow Fridays. Hmmm. Honestly, I’ve been follow Fridayed and I’ve liked it. I thought of it as mutual back scratching. The #FF in a tweet followed by listing handles is a recommendation to your followers that they follow the people you list. But David points out that it’s really about getting the attention of the people you list. I think it’s kind of faded as a behavior anyway. 
  10. Automatically cross-posting contentless information across social networks. This should be higher on the list, in my opinion. Having foursquare post when you check in, or Spotify post what you’re listening to, for example: That’s just clutter. That stuff gets in the way. Don’t do that. 

How to Write a Business Plan for a Social Networking Website

I just answered How do you write a business plan for a social networking website? on Quora

Disclosure: I own Palo Alto Software, which publishes LivePlan, web app for business planning. 

The fact that it’s social media doesn’t really change what a business plan needs to cover in order to optimize management, build in accountability, and run the business:

  1. Review schedule: set a day of the month (for example, third Thursday) to review plan vs. actual.
  2. Key assumptions: you have to list them so that when the assumptions change (and they will) you’ll know what to expect to change in the plan. Review the assumptions in every monthly review meeting.
  3. Strategy: focus. Focus on the target users, their needs, their wants; and the offering, the site, the interface, the key benefits. This doesn’t take a lot of words. Pictures are sometimes better.
  4. Milestones: what’s supposed to happen when. Who is responsible. How much does it cost, and how much does it bring in.
  5. The basic numbers: what really matters is the cash flow but you can’t project cash flow without projected sales, costs, expenses, profits, and balance sheet.

If you’re talking about a business plan that will be the source document for seeking outside investment, which means it’s the source for the pitch and summary and so forth, then you need to make sure you also cover the following additional points:

  1. Management team: background, experience, expertise, responsibilities.
  2. Defensibility
  3. Scalability
  4. Monetization (or not)
  5. Potential growth
  6. Possibility/likelihood of future exits 

Everything I’ve written here applies to a social media venture but, for the record, also applies to a butcher, baker, and candlestick maker.


3 Tech Benefits and 1 Threat for Guru Businesses

By guru business I mean the expert business, and particularly the one-person expert business. I mean consultant, coach, adviser, researcher, business hired gun, life coach, trainer, and so on.  I mean a person who makes a living by selling (real or imagined) expertise, experience, and knowledge.

magnifying glassI was a business planning consultant for most of the 1980s and early 1990s, working almost always alone, just myself, no company. So that’s an example of an expert business. And I’ve been thinking lately about how much social media has changed that business model for the better. In this case – but with one notable exception – change is good.

Benefit 1: Marketing your expertise is way easier

There is a new way of marketing that is so much better than the old way. Call it the Web, social media, blogs, Twitter, or the combination; it means way more reach, automatically, if you do it right.

Consider the comparison, now vs. then: I lit out on my own as a business planning and market research expert in 1983. I had my credentials, of course, including academic degrees and a fancy title with a brand-name consulting company, plus some published works. But how did I make myself known? Word of mouth from clients who’d worked with me as an employee, yes. But from there it was a struggle to get my articles into magazines, my self onto the podium at the big trade shows (such as Comdex), and to finish a couple of published books on my main subject matter.

Today, in comparison, successful experts build their business by a combination of useful blog posts, active mini-blogging on Twitter, ebooks, and work with Facebook and LinkedIn. Do you see the pattern there? The gatekeepers are gone.

Where it used to be important to validate your expertise by getting through the gatekeepers in corporate branding and publishing, nowadays can’t you validate your expertise by making good sense on your blog? Believe me, that’s so much easier than the old way of publishing, speaking, and giving seminars.

Benefit 2: Acceptance is based on expertise more than setting

I posted this related thought on this blog Tuesday, about how clients can get better value from a one-person business with no overhead. Who does the work? The client is much more likely today, compared to 20 years ago, to accept and even approve of the fact that you’re on your own. Not having a company around you is no longer cause to wonder what’s wrong with you.

Benefit 3: With gatekeepers devalued, it’s the work that matters

And then there’s this last thought, which I hope is true: today we judge experts by their work, meaning their writing and speaking (and tweeting), much more than we used to. Today an expert’s work is more immediately available, and with less distortion through gatekeeper filters, than ever before. Isn’t it?

How do you evaluate a guru ahead of time? Usually the about page and the content of the blog. There’s less interference there. Back when I started, it took getting through magazine editors to get published, or event managers to get a podium, or joining or creating a company.

Do you frown on an ebook because it wasn’t published by a name-brand publisher? Do you mistrust a blog because it isn’t in a major business publication? Not so much. Am I right?

And the warning?

The bad news is the other side of the good news: It’s the work that matters. Today you have to either do good work or settle for clients you can fool. It was easier back then to hide mediocre work with a company around you, or an editor of a magazine to rewrite it. Today, if you claim to be an expert, you’d better create some content to back that up. Transparency is cool when it’s a bright and beautiful looking glass that highlights and spotlights you. It’s not so nice when it’s a magnifying glass that’s going to burn you like an ant in the backyard on a hot summer day.

(Image: Freshpaint/Shutterstock)

Klout Puts Metrics Into Social Media Management

I really like klout.com for three good reasons: 1.) it’s about measuring online influence and I’m big on metrics as a key element of business planning; 2.) it’s a great example of a strong startup based on need — entrepreneur Joe Fernandez building something he wanted to use, and getting VC funding; and 3.) they released a new 2.0 version today (VentureBeat covered it … and there’s more detail on the Klout blog).

Metrics are the best possible drivers of good business planning processes and collaboration, because metrics can make feedback, the toughest part of management, almost automatic. Klout offers metrics on social media influence, so you can go beyond just counting followers or friends or whatever. True, I also like Klout because my daughter is marketing manager there. But I’ve been advocating this kind of social media metrics for a long time. Here for example is what I wrote about metrics just two days ago on Small Business Trends, which led  to a discussion of metrics and measurement and better ways to evaluate performance:

I’ve seen objective metrics, like sales, costs, expenses, calls, subscriptions, downloads, visits, page views, minutes per call, or unique visitors work pretty well, especially when they’re part of a regular planning process. I still remember how well the metrics worked in my first job, as an editor for United Press International, when they gave us scores for how many  newspapers used our stories instead of Associated Press.

So, with that in mind, here’s a (relatively) new facility to put numbers behind your social media efforts. Think about this as a tool for managing Twitter performance (if you don’t see the video, click here for the source site.)

So the magic here is that Klout gives you a numeric score for your Twitter presence. I’m pleased. I’m a 45, which is 90th percentile. Sure Guy Kawasaki’s at 100, but my 45 beats a lot of people I know and respect. (What? Me competitive?).

So if you’re dealing with social media performance for a team, in business, maybe you can set goals for Klout scores and then follow up. Include the Klout score in plan review sessions.

What’s your score? What’s going to be your score goal for your management metrics?