I have now spent about 8 weeks, pretty much flat out, trying to build an on-line presence. This has meant some early mornings and a few late nights which are starting to show (or is that Father Time creeping up on me?)
I think it is in my nature – being self-reliant – that I felt the need to just go with the flow and adopt an organic process, which is what my wife and I adopted as our Childbirth manifesto. Nature usually has the last word: In the case of my third child she decided it would be cool to give us at least one false alarm which meant me sleeping on the hospital floor for the night only to do it again two nights later!
The point is. Could I have saved myself a lot of time, worked smarter and be further down the road by now? Undoubtedly; but would I have learnt so much and had such a blast? Never.
There is the classic saying (by Ben Franklin I think): “Fill your mind with learning and your mind will fill your purse with gold” (or something like that). My trial and error approach feels just like that and more than that I have learnt a whole bunch of stuff that whilst not presently useful has set me in a number of different directions that I would not otherwise have known about. More than that it has been a deeply rewarding process, doing something that makes me feel young and adventurous again.
There is a reflective side to this: The more I discover the more I realise how much I have sweated at things, caused myself to waste vast tracts of time and made the process somewhat more stressful than I needed to.
The 7 key points to bear in mind if you are starting out with the web as your principal tool:
- Decide if ‘You’ are going to be the brand or have a separate legal entity that is distinct from You (I have decided to go with One Life because it best sums up the core of my business creation). Now you may have thought that only someone like Sir Richard Branson could achieve this but on the web the window is worldwide and the old order doesn’t apply;
- If you are new to social (new) media then do some proper research on the web. Check out Facebook, LinkedIn and look at the wiki on the Twitter page. Yes of course Google will come first but it is just so big that you may find that you can’t trawl 2 million search entries. I can thoroughly recommend the following people who are at the forefront of things: Seth Godin, Mashable, ProBlogger, Trey Pennington and Scott Gould (sorry if I have left out at a lot of the obvious candidates). Seth Godin in particular needs careful attention on the brand development and marketing front – hey if Tom Peters follows him then they guy is a serious player;
- What is it that you want to get out of social media? ROI, brand awareness, social networking, driving lead generation and staying contemporary. Beware though of what Seth Godin says in his book Tribes about sheepwalking. The context is perhaps a little different but if you are doing it because everyone else is doing it then is that a good enough reason? Even if you are not convinced and just want to go with things, go back to basics and ask yourself does or will social media add to detract from your USP? As an example if you are entering a market where things are still done off line then what’s the point in tying up masses of your time generating an on-line presence?
- Start out small. You heard me. Don’t think that by having a thousand followers on Twitter you will then have a thousand pre-qualified people following, waiting with baited breath to what you are going to say in 140 characters. Keep it real and focus on content. Trust me when a master like Lance Armstrong Tweets they are always well thought out;
- Don’t try and cover all the bases. Stick to those social media channels you feel most comfortable with. I like Twitter for its immediacy and LinkedIn for its (business) reach but a lot of others are spending time increasing their presence on Facebook (yes it does count as a proper outlet and is not just for teenagers!).
- Social media is not risk free and always apply the mum test: Don’t say anything that you wouldn’t say to your mum;
- Finally, don’t give up. Stick with your dream. Social media is no different to other more traditional forms of advertising and accretion and the softly, softly approach is the order of the day. The tap needs to be kept on. Yes there are some people who blew the thing wide open and had 1million followers in months but they tend to be at the celebrity end of things.
And finally have some fun.