A nice person almost apologized to me for not having her business on Facebook. I said: “but why?”
Blogs, Twitter, Facebook, and all the rest of that “social media stuff” may or may not be good business. But not just for its own sake. It has to be part of a strategy.
Otherwise, it may or may not be fun, depending on who you are and what you like to do; but it’s not good business without a related plan for how it’s supposed to help. Does it generate leads? Page views? Validation? Or is it just a rationalization for spending time doing something you like, like keeping up with friends, being clever.
My blogging has a business strategy. I don’t sell anything, but I do talk about business planning and business management. It relates to my books, my software authorship, and the company I founded. It generates page views in the Bplans.com domain. It validates.
So it’s fun, but it’s good business too. In this case, at least. It relates directly to validation of product, to page views, and to marketing objectives.
What is it for you? What’s the business objective? How to you measure achievement of that objective? Do you have metrics to review? Do you remember to review them?
Benjamin Floyd of Read Click Done asked me after yesterday’s post: “how do you do it?” Two books, 1400 or so posts, 1300 or so tweets in the last two years. “Where do you find the time.”
Fair question. Reminds me of Bob Sutton’s Really, I Write it Myself. So do I. Bob thanks his editors, and so do I. But yeah, I write it all myself. (Well, there was that one guest post on angel funding, but it was the only exception.)
It’s a full-time job
To all the real business people feeling insufficient because experts say they’re supposed to be doing all this as a sideline, I say: relax. That’s a myth. A post now and then and some tweets here and there, maybe; but this blogging I do is a full-time job.
I go to the office every day, and I’m there all day except meetings (and traveling, and teaching, and speaking gigs, and angel investment, but that detracts from my point, so forget I said it).
I’m often writing at night too. And on weekends.
I also use scheduling. For example, I’m on vacation with family today, so I wrote this last Saturday, to be posted today.
Repeat: it’s a full-time job. It doesn’t just happen.
It’s no coincidence that my new life blogging and writing and speaking and teaching, and tweeting too for the last few months, was a delightful baby-boomer late 50s career change. While I’m still employed full time by Palo Alto Software, the company I founded, I don’t run it. Nobody reports to me. As I said in yesterday’s part 1, my business card says “President” but it should say Chief Blogging Officer.
Two years ago this month I started blogging. Just a couple weeks after naming Sabrina Parsons CEO of Palo Alto Software. I remained president, but switched my job to blogging, writing, speaking, and teaching. I guess I should have changed my title to CBO, for chief blogging officer.
I didn’t understand at first …
“I’m a business plan expert,” I said, naively. “I write how-to stuff. It doesn’t work on blogs. It’s static.”
Sabrina, however, insisted.
Set up your Google reader. Start reading Anita Campbell, John Jantsch, Guy Kawasaki, Pam Slim. You’ll figure it out.
I read a lot of great blogs. Those four above, Steve King’s Small Business Labs, Seth Godin, Bob Sutton. Oh. I just checked. Several hundred links on my Google reader. Better stop listing. I owe thanks to so many others.
I think I get LinkedIn now. I’ve been answering questions in LinkedIn too … I’ve got a good ranking in the business plan category there. I’m connected with people I know and like.
Lately I’m loving Twitter. I’ve tweeted more than 1,200 times. I love keeping up with friends and favorite bloggers, the news in general, a few celebrities, and, my favorite benefit of Twitter, links to Web things that interested the people I follow. My Twitter friends keep me up to date. I love it. I don’t do Twitter clutter: no tweets about what’s for lunch, going home, ball games or weather; I do tweets about links, issues, articles, people, news.
I’m still struggling with Facebook, trying to figure out how to resolve the inherent conflict between use for business, keeping track with business-related contacts, and use for personal, photos from the kids and grandkids, keeping up with cousins and nieces and nephews. I’m a split personality in Facebook.
So for the record, they were right, I was wrong. I did have blogging in me. “And,” they added (flashing back to that conversation two years ago), “your blogging will be good for our company.” They were right about that, too.
I don’t think anybody (certainly not I) realized how much I’d enjoy writing again. Maybe it’s that 30-some years ago, before I got the MBA degree and got into business, I was a journalist. I was a foreign correspondent in Mexico City. I was night editor for United Press International (UPI) there, then I was a McGraw-Hill World News (think Business Week) stringer there, and I freelanced a lot too.
Not that journalism is the same as writing. In my case, I also wrote fiction, got a short story published, wrote a novel that got some second looks, but never got published (no loss, it wasn’t that good). My BA degree was in literature, and I got an MA in journalism too, just before going to Mexico for years, and long before coming back to the U.S. to get the MBA degree.
So let me say that I love it. It’s been great for me. But it’s also been very good for business, too, which is really cool. But that’s another post, scheduled for tomorrow.
I love twitter. What blogging is to email, Twitter is to instant messaging (IM) … and then some. You can follow me on Twitter as Timberry. I’m like a fish with a shiny new thing. And, with due respect to the MSNBC line (if you don’t get it, you’re too old) — I’m 61. But that’s nothing: my 89-year-old dad is on Twitter too.
Consider this picture of Twitter usage published earlier this month on TechCrunch:
Something’s happening there.
But first, some vocabulary (just to get it straight): Twitter is web publishing in 140-character snippets. A tweet is one of those snippets. To tweet means typing those snippets into Twitter. To follow is what you do (takes a click) to get access to somebody’s tweets. A follower is somebody who follows you. To retweet means to take somebody else’s tweet and tweet it again, giving them credit, to your followers. Your followers can also be called tweeps, or sometimes tweeple.
About Twitter backlash. The Daily Show take on it, Samantha Bee ignoring the interview while peering into a cellphone keyboard, was hilarious. The Twitter Facebook users accuse it of twitterizing itself. The Google search for “twitter bashing” turns up half a million hits. “I hate Twitter” is good for more than 18 million.
So here are some good reasons to hate Twitter:
Twitter clutter. The “I’m having dinner now” or “I’m going home now” inanities. I did that too when I started, as if I were telling family members “arrived in Denver airport.” I get it now: Nobody cares what you’re doing. Tweet something interesting, or nothing at all (note to self: and don’t try to make cute contractions for Twitter clutter. Doesn’t work.)
Twitter selling. Ads are ads, even at 140 characters per tweet. Infomercial I don’t mind, when there’s actual info — happens a lot — but there is selling going on. (The good news, though, is that you only get that once. Don’t like it? Stop following. A lot like changing the channel. If you don’t follow them, they don’t bother you).
Tweeting at meals, in conversations, or at meetings or movies or events is really annoying.
Tweeting while driving is at best stupid, at worst, manslaughter.
People collect followers. The more, the better. The Twitter version of counting friends in Facebook. Now we have some Web applications designed to get you more followers. Ugh. People measure themselves and compete on number of followers.
It’s really distracting. It gets in the way of getting things done (of course, that’s actually a good thing disguised as bad; the same would be true of everything fun or interesting except work).
I hate it that Steven Wright, the comedian, master of the one liner, isn’t on Twitter (that’s a good thing too, because maybe he’ll start.)
3: I Love Twitter
Consider this an enthusiastic hooray for relationships in 140-character snippets. Crazy as this sounds, ironic indeed, but some of my Twitter friends feel like real friends to me. When they tweet their latest blog posts, I go, I read, I comment. When I tweet my latest blog posts, they go, read, and comment. They recommend me to others. I recommend them. I ask for recommendations, they respond. Sometimes it’s just “I liked your last blog post” and sometimes it’s “does anybody know a restaurant in Portland that does Thanksgiving dinner?”
I blog a lot these days. I care about other people in the same general topic areas. It’s nice to follow them on Twitter.
So, then here are some good reasons to love Twitter:
Keeping up with some professional relationships. I know that seems incredible, more so if you knew me. I’m kind of a hermit. I hate cocktail parties. But I like keeping up with people in Twitter.
Fascinating real-time constantly scrolling updates on interesting new blog posts, news, issues. I follow some people whom I respect, and they point out interesting ideas, posts, etc. I work in tweetdeck, and it’s like having a scrolling world of interesting little tidbits.
Writing. Sometimes good writing. Good tweets are amazing. See number 5, below.
Publishing. Think of it as publishing short snippets to people who want to read them.
Someone’s tweets get repetitive, or become sales pitches, or just Twitter clutter? Unfollow them. It’s as satisfying as changing the channel.
Taking responsibility: people with real names and real pictures. You can’t delete a tweet.
Seems like almost everybody on Twitter is a social media marketing expert offering to show the rare non-social-media-marketing experts how to make money on Twitter. Seems that Twitter can be good for people in the expert business. But is it good for business? Or, the question of the last month or so, are you an idiot if you’re in business and not in Twitter?
Twitter is no more good or bad for business than telephones, letters, conversations, or pies in the face. The medium isn’t the message; the message is the message. I have lots of twitter friends who are straight, like it, keep in touch with it, and — lo and behold — that’s good for their business. But is being in Twitter good for business? Nope.
I can’t figure out Twitter and relationships. It’s oxymoronic, and, sometimes, just plain moronic. But it brings me closer to blogging and Web people I like and respect. Paradox, I suppose.
5. A Few Good Tweets
At its best, it really is writing, and a new kind of self publishing. For evidence, I call on David Petheric (clarocada on Twitter) and his post Top Tweets of 2008 on DigitalBiographer.com. He gets the credit for the collection, and I’m choosing just a few:
brandmilitia: Sometimes the fastest way to screw up a company’s social media strategy is by letting the marketing department run it.
chrisbrogan: Just made a VC choke somehow on my speaker’s fee. Tough times for startups in 09, kids.
copyblogger: I’ve got to go on a carriage ride through Highland Park tonight with 4 kids and 3 lawyers. This is why God gave us scotch.
boris: “Don’t talk unless you can improve the silence.” — Jorge Luis Borges
SaraD: Accidental Death & Dismembership Insurance. I passed on that. I choose Membership.
mathie: I need a pair of headphones. Or a shotgun and at least 5 cartridges. Or an office of my own.
There: see what I mean? Good stuff. It reminds me of something that came over the teletype 38 years ago when I was on the night desk at UPI in Mexico City. Rumor had it he put this onto the service and walked out for good. His tweet, 38 years ahead of its time, was:
“Too much work, too little money. I quit.”
And, what the heck, my favorite tweet from my 900-some tweets:
Gray cold comfort. Clouds pressing the forested hills downwards, covering the tops. Ghosts of holidays past. Western Oregon in November.
In 30-some years of professional business planning, I've developed a few theories on what works, and what doesn't, when it comes to trying to get something done. Usually I'm talking about business planning, and how to make plans become actions, how to make planning a long-term management improvement, rather than some pieces of paper that don't mean very much stuffed in a drawer somewhere. So today, applying some of my planning fundamentals to New Year's Resolutions, I've developed this list of three points that I hope can help us all — certainly me included — with those resolutions.
1. Choose Your Target Well
Obvious? Good. It should be. Change what you do, not who you are. Change habits, not attributes. Change behavior.
Make sure you're focusing on things you can control. You and only you. In budgeting we talk about discretionary vs. non-discretionary spending. That works for life too; discretionary behavior, things you can control. You know the difference.
2. Make it Concrete, Specific, and Measurable
Avoid generalities. For example, not just "lose weight," but rather stop drinking soft drinks between meals, or stop eating after 8 p.m., or stop having the donut with the morning coffee. Not just "more exercise," but what days, how much, what routines, how long.
Try this test: Ask yourself how you'll know, two weeks, a month, three months from now, if you kept your resolution.
Break your habits or behaviors down into specifics. Break them into pieces you can follow. Are you too quick to get angry with your kids? Break that down into something you can control, like maybe two full minutes of quiet time per day with each kid. Yes or no, did you have that time together. One time per day your kid gets a moment to talk to you, without rushing. Break it down into something you can track. (I'm father of five, I know the value of setting a moment aside from the chaos, and how hard it is to do sometimes.)
3. Set Specific Review Tactics
Wow, this sounds really nerdy and list-making annoying, doesn't it? Scares me. Maybe that's why I'm not so good at resolution keeping (do what I say, not what I do). But I said I'm taking this from my business planning practice, and in business planning if you don't schedule your plan review in advance you've diminished your chances of implementation by half or more. So in New Year's Resolutions, set up your reviews.
That would mean, hmmm, maybe you're going to promise to record success, or failures, to do your specific measurable actions, such as sending an email to yourself every day you run that mile or skip the muffin, or maybe an email every day you don't run the mile or don't skip the muffin.
That would mean maybe you remind yourself to look at the results the third Thursday of every month, or every Saturday morning; did you stop the after-dinner snack, do you weigh less. Or did you stop and get that special daily minute or two with your kid?
A Final Note
It's slightly embarrassing: I don't claim any real expertise with the kind of life-changing stuff that New Year's Resolutions ought to be made of. Giving advice in this realm is scary and probably presumptuous, so I have to apologize. But I've watched this kind of thing for years in business planning, and I think these three rules might help.
Now I'm going to try to practice what I preach.
(Note: I am reposting this here for my readers; I posted it on Small Business Trends about an hour earlier. Tim.)
A bit off my beaten track today, at least for this blog, but I’ve got a personal note: Llama Packing with the kids, from MommyCEO, which is about where I was earlier this week, delightfully outside of cellphone and email range in the Oregon Cascades. Due to the magic of scheduling posts, my blogging continued while I was enjoying a great time with family and some new friends.
While I’m not particularly anxious to relate this to business, Sabrina’s post offered this connection:
So what does any of this have to do with MommyCEO? Why am I writing this post on my blog? I see parallels between the work it takes to keep a group of people not just surviving, but happy, in the wilderness, and keeping a small business not just surviving but thriving in the real world. For both cases you need to:
Follow the plan
Adjust the plan as necessary based on obstacles that come up
Plan for the worst, but keep the focus on achieving the best
Juggle multiple things at once – 24 hours a day
Be able to step back, look at the big picture, and enjoy the successes
…and of course, literally, plan as you go.
And then on the other hand, there’s also the obvious fact — my guess is that almost everyone agrees — that a few days outside of cellphone range and email, once in a while, is a really good thing.
Coincidence, I suppose. Today I had a long talk with my older brother about retirement. We’re both boomers, born in ’46 and ’48. I get off the phone and back to the computer, and there’s an email from BNET announcing this article:
And maybe it’s not coincidence at all, because baby boomer retirement is a real issue, with significant economic repercussions. Just do the Google search for "baby boomer retirement" and you’ll see how many times it comes up (about 345,000 results).
The BNET story quotes a Harvard Business blog post by Tammy Erickson, with what I think is the general truth on the issue:
Yes, people certainly want to work in different ways — with more flexibility and control. Most do not want to work as hard or as long as they are in their 50’s for another thirty years. But most want to work.
My brother’s almost 62 and retired at the beginning of the year, same month I turned 60. He’s a lawyer. He was a public defender, a tax lawyer, a Silicon Valley entrepreneur lawyer, and, for the last 15 or so years, an assistant district attorney specializing in white collar crime, especially Internet related crime. And — I don’t think he’ll mind my writing this — he isn’t liking the retirement thing. Last night he sat as a judge in traffic court. He’s already looking for some other things to do.
And I’m on the other side, not retired, working as much as ever, but doing things like this blog, things related to my long-term career, but things I like to do.
I’ve been pretty sure, all along, that I didn’t want to retire. And today I’m certain. Maybe in another 10 years … and you could check with Steve King, of Small Biz Labs, who seems to have more research on this than anybody else, but in that I think I’ve got a lot of company.