Earlier this week, I was speaking with a few people at a breast cancer fund raising event at the San Diego Hard Rock. I was introduced to two budding entrepreneurs who had just launched a new music site geared towards helping bands market their services.
When I asked them to tell me a bit about what they do, they basically described their company as Twitter meets Facebook meets a record label meets iTunes. "We're going to be the next social media powerhouse," they told me. Best of all, they had launched 2 months ago and were getting "between 12 and 40 signups a day".
If there's anyone who believes in the power of positive thinking, it's me. Each day, I wake up and write my top 10 goals for the year. This is a habit I've done now for the past 20 years (I started early).
But, following someone else's business plan and setting their metrics as your own is a recipe for disaster. It makes your deviate from a well-planned strategy every time that your benchmark makes an announcement, and you'll find yourself chasing instead of leading. It seems that everyone wants to compare themselves to Twitter and Facebook when the reality is that these sites are an anomoly. They are not the rule. Part of it is luck, part of it is millions in funding, and part of it is a bunch of really smart guys with a clear strategy to execute against.
There is danger in trying to do too much right out of the gate. I've found that it's actually much better to scale back and focus on doing just one thing really, really well. Then, build on your success after you've proven that your customer is willing to pay you for something you're doing.
Seth Godin had a post this week entitled "A million blind squirrels" which covers this topic. He reminds bloggers that to benchmark the 1 in 10,000 blogger who happened to land a book deal by writing irrelevant content is not the best guy to model. It's worth a read.
In summary, understand that starting a business is a long-term proposition. There are quick exits, but they are rare and getting fewer in this economy. Focus on building a business that builds true value for your customers.
TakeLessons is actively engaged in using social media to share our ideas, hear customer feedback, and start interesting conversations about things going on in our industry. It takes time and effort to be a 'real person' instead of an untouchable brand, but we feel the benefits will pay off over time by helping establish us as the authority on all things related to the music lessons service industry.
One of the great challenges for anyone who loves Twitter is to show
other people why they should love it too. Often it’s like explaining
something you find funny: “You had to be there.” The contextual,
ever-changing, and high-volume nature of Twitter makes explaining it
difficult. Here are ten tips to help you demo Twitter to your friends,
family, and colleagues.
Sales and support. Truly, Twitter is no longer
predominantly about people telling strangers that their cat rolled over
or that the line at Starbucks is long. You can start off by showing how
businesses use Twitter. For example, AmazonDeals increases Amazon’s revenue, and ComcastCares provides support to Comcast customers. Zappos promotes the caring brand image of the company because its CEO, Tony Hsieh, is doing the tweeting.
Competitive intelligence. Another business use of
Twitter is monitoring what people are saying about a company or its
product. For example, look at this search of mentions of P&G and Swiffer.
You can also monitor what people are saying about the competition—for
example, if you work for AT&T Wireless, you should watch what
people are saying about Verizon with this search.
TWIBS provides a comprehensive list of companies using Twitter.
Personal passions. Like the business examples, the
ability to find people around the world, 24 x 7 who are discussing ones
passions removes the scales from people’s eyes about Twitter. Here are
some examples of Twitter searches for more personal topics:
Twitter desktop applications. Using a web page to
demonstrate Twitter is like using a web interface to demonstrate email.
For many people. a dedicated desktop client helps clarify the value the
of Twitter because they can show the results of custom searches. I’ve
found that Twhirl, Tweetdeck, and Seesmic Desktop are all useful for demos and ongoing use of Twitter.
Star struck. The good news and the bad news is
that celebrities are now taking over Twitter. If the folks you’re
showing Twitter to are impressed by celebrities, then show them these
stars: Lance Armstrong, Oprah, Ashton Kutcher, Britney Spears, and “Weird” Al Yankovic.
Lance Armstrong is the coolest of the lot because he really shows his
bikes, the snowman his kids made, and sends out appeals to try to
recover his stolen bike.
Funny folks. There are a handful of people who
tweet stuff that just make you laugh your ass off. If you’re showing
Twitter to people with a bleeding edge humor, show them The Bloggess and Penelope Trunk.
Here’s an illustrative sample from Penelope: “I woke up hung over:
bad-parenting-hung-over from yelling at my sons before bed. Do moms who
yell at boys create men who choose mean wives?”.
To find additional interesting people, use these resources:
FollowFamous is a compilation of celebrities on Twitter organized by categories such as music, sports, and tech.
Twitterati.alltop. This is a collection of the the last five tweets of the twitterati. (Disclosure: I am co-founder of Alltop.)
The single best way to determine the most interesting tweets is to see
who gets retweeted (think of this as forwarding tweets to others).
This site factors in people’s signal to noise ratio, generosity in
retweeting, quantity of tweeting, and clout to provide a list of
influential Twitter users.
Twittercounter. If you believe that popularity (that is, the number of followers) is an indication of quality, this site is useful.
All the news that’s fit to tweet. Showing Twitter
to news hounds? Perhaps they want to be the first to know that a plane
landed on the Hudson River. Here are three very good sources of
breaking news: Breaking Tweets, Breaking News, and New York Times. (CNN
may have more than one million followers, but its tweets aren’t
comprehensive.) If it’s geek news that will impress, be sure to show Mashable and TechCrunch.
Hashtag discussions. One way to show the breadth of
Twitter is to tap into existing discussions. These discussions are
typically marked by “hashtags” such as “#gtd” for the “Getting Things
Done” community. A search for this hashtag yields this result. You can find a list of popular hashtags here for your demo. (Thanks to @JDeLuccia for this tip.)
Answers galore. To demonstrate the real-time power
of the Twitter community, ask a question that one might have to scour
the web to answer. Examples: “What do I need to do drive a 30-inch
display from a 13 inch MacBook at high resolution?” “What size lens cap
do I need for a Nikkor 18-105mm lens?” or “How should I demo Twitter to
a newbie?” The accuracy and speed of responses on Twitter are often
amazing. (Thanks to @martindelaney for this tip.)
If all else fails, then just give your friends and family some time.
This is year three of Twitter. In a sense, it’s like the Internet was
fifteen years ago. Remember when people said, “Why would I go to a web
site when newspapers and magazines come to my house, I can see people
in person or talk to them on the phone, get driving instructions by
looking at my AAA map, and buy books by going to the mall?” That’s
where we are right now.
It will be interesting to see how Twitter ends up changing web dynamics. Is it super-useful, or super-wasteful? Just like with blogging, I think it will turn out to be a tool to be used wisely for self-expression and communication.
Steven is an entrepreneur from San Diego, CA. He is the founder and CEO of TakeLessons.com, one of leading companies for live learning.