Tag Archives: business

Twitter 101 for Business

Twitter recently posted a Twitter 101 guide for businesses. It is a great resource for companies considering using Twitter or who are just starting to use the service. Historically, Twitter’s documentation has been pretty weak, and I was a little skeptical, but this resource is very well put together. It does a nice job of highlighting what to do and not do with a strong focus on the social norms and user expectations on Twitter. I want to highlight a few specific sections, but you really should take some time to review the guide for more details.

The first three sections are targeted at people who have never used Twitter and really don’t understand how it works. If you’ve been using Twitter already, you can safely skip the What is Twitter, Getting started, and Learn the lingo sections. However, if you are working with people who are new to Twitter, this would be great background reading for them.

The Best practices section is where the social norms and user expectations are covered along with some ideas for measuring the impact of Twitter. While this is all very basic introductory information, I encourage you to read it. It contains useful information to help you understand how to make better use of the service without running afoul of the Twitter spam policies or violating their terms of service.

The Case studies section is the best part of the guide. It has the usual suspects, Dell and JetBlue, but it also has several less well known examples. They do a really nice job of covering many different types of businesses and different use cases. People always ask me for case studies for business users, and I can always cobble something together, but this is the most comprehensive set of case studies that I’ve seen for Twitter.

The guide also has a link to other resources with books and articles about using Twitter. I also wrote short guide about using Twitter for brands or corporate identities that you might find useful.

Overall, Twitter 101 for Business is very well done and is a great resource for organizations just jumping into Twitter for the first time. Having all of this information in one place is going to save me time when working with clients who are new to Twitter.

Yahoo Pipes for Social Media Monitoring and Business Benefit

Many large companies can afford to spring for expensive software packages that monitor what people are saying about your company, industry, and competition online; however, for those of us looking for an inexpensive solution, Yahoo Pipes can be an important tool.

After I published the 2 minute Yahoo Pipes demo on Monday, I realized that I have done many posts about Yahoo Pipes without ever writing about why people should care about the technology and how it can used. I decided it was time to devote a post to explaining how people can use Yahoo Pipes and get actual business benefits.

Using Yahoo Pipes can help you understand what people are saying about you, your industry, your competitors and more through smart filtering of blogs, news sources, Twitter, and other online sites. Your customers are talking about you and your competitors are revealing information that you want to know online. Can you find it quickly and efficiently now?

A few business benefits from using Yahoo Pipes:

  • Become more responsive to your customers by knowing when and where people are talking about your company and products on blogs and Twitter. Find and respond more quickly and efficiently.
  • Use what people are saying about your company and your products to improve your products / services, marketing messages, web content, documentation and other communications.
  • Get insight into your competitors.
  • Keep up with important information about your industry by focusing on keyword filtering to find the most relevant content for your situation.
  • Monitoring dashboards will help you disseminate the information from Yahoo Pipes throughout the rest of your organization.

While I think that monitoring is always important, I usually emphasize it when I am working on blogging strategies with clients. Knowing what people say about your organization, your industry, and your competition is an important element of a blogging strategy. All of the information found via Yahoo Pipes for the purposes above can then be used to generate ideas for blog posts or other communications.

What business benefits do you get from Yahoo Pipes?

Related Fast Wonder Blog posts

Corporate Community Trend: Focus on People

I was looking at the new SocialText 3.0 release this morning, which TechCrunch describes as a blend of “Facebook, Twitter and the Enterprise”, when I started thinking about a trend that I have been noticing for quite a while related to companies, communities, and community software.

The Software

SocialText has been known for their wiki software; however, the latest 3.0 release shifts the focus more toward people with the new SocialText People (social networking functionality) and Dashboard (attention stream management of conversations, colleagues and more). The wiki is still the core part of the product, but this additional functionality shifts the focus onto people.

Jive Software also recently released a new version of Clearspace, and the major differences between this release and the previous ones are also focused on people with social networking and groups functionality leading the way.

These are just a couple of examples of community software focused on the enterprise; however, they are incorporating the features that people have been using extensively in their personal online community interactions through sites like Facebook, Twitter, and more to connect with other people.

The Trend

If you look at the early community software platforms and other early ways of building communities (mailing lists, etc.), the focus was on the data more than the person. Inside companies, the focus was similar. Companies had knowledge bases, document repositories, email and other ways for people to share data. Most of these applications made it easy to find data, but difficult to find out any real information about the people behind the data. Even some of the applications designed to help coworkers find other people within the company were often skill based, which made it easy to find someone with Java programming expertise but not the sort of information that tells you about the person behind the skill set.

I’ve said many times in presentations and here on this blog that communities are all about the people. This has always been an important concept, but it has been more true in social communities and less true in many corporate communities. Over the past months, I have been seeing a bigger trend toward companies and other organizations putting the focus on the people in corporate communities. The information is still important, but I like seeing this shift toward people. Knowing more about the person behind the data can help put the data into context. For example, information about venture capital investments coming from me would be less credible than information about venture capital from Guy Kawasaki.

Having the functionality to connect with other people in a corporate community, whether it is an internal company community or an external community focused on a company’s products, helps us strengthen our connections with other people who share similar interests. This trend toward putting the focus on people is an important step in the right direction for corporate communities.

Related Fast Wonder Blog posts

Taking Your Idea From Side Project to Startup

I spent last evening and most of the day today at From Side Project to Startup. I had a great time, and I want to start with a huge thank you to Eva, David, the rest of the team at CubeSpace, the volunteers and the sponsors for putting together a great event! Great sessions, cool people, and peanut butter and jelly for my bagel(s).

I also took a bunch of notes during the sessions that I attended. Hopefully some of this will help people who missed the event or those who attended different sessions.

Disclaimer: Please keep in mind that these are my notes from the sessions. I tried to capture as much as I could, but I certainly missed a few things, and there are probably a few mistakes in my notes. These are also in the words of the speakers and participants in the sessions, and I may or may not agree with the advice below.

Basics of starting your Business
Led by Jacqueline Babicky-Peterson: Business Advisor at the PCC SBDC

The PCC SBDC and OTBC are good resources in pdx for startup information.

You have to be ready to adapt your plan and never go on autopilot. Planning is helpful in the process to think longer-term, balance alternatives, prepare finances, and remember why you did this in the first place. Many people go the startup route because they want to do things their own way. It’s also very stressful, since you are managing so many things at once and troubleshooting, but many people who start businesses also like this environment despite the higher stress levels. It helps to look at your personal goals and why you started the business. If you started your business for personal or lifestyle goals, you might want to think of the business as a tool to accomplish those goals.

You need to be careful about requests that are outside of your core business. In some cases, they may make sense, but you need to be careful not to let it spiral out of the scope of what you want to do. Sometimes your whole business can shift in a direction that isn’t what you want to be doing. Feature creep can cause this, too. It happens to all of us.

You can easily form an LLC yourself without any professional help; however, if you need a contract, have intellectual property, want to take investments or hire employees, then you should get help from a lawyer. It also helps to have a CPA organize your books while they are still easy.

The Mistakes we made because we thought we were “different” despite the warnings
with Rabbi David Kominsky, Wm Lehler, and Bart Massey

You will make mistakes because you need to take risks, but you should be making new mistakes, not just repeating all of the mistakes others make.

You need way more money than you think you do. A 6 month runway is not enough no matter how unique and cool you think you are with your startup. Don’t invest too much money on things you may or may not need (CubeSpace & too many phone lines) buying for the long haul rather than what you need right now in a cash flow restricted environment (volume discounts are not always great for startups). Similar issues can also be caused by not having a realistic business plan.

It’s a mistake to think that money will solve your problems. You will tend to use all of the money you have available, and some of the companies with the most money have the most difficulties. They start to spend money on stupid things that they don’t need.

Don’t think that being acquired by a big company will solve your problems. They will crush your soul. Avoid those multi-year golden handcuffs if possible.

Funding requires that you give up some control of your company. If you want control, you need to bootstrap. If you need to grow quickly and get big, then you need to give up control and take funding.

Number one indicator of success for a startup is having multiple people involved in the startup (but don’t hire a relative). Never ever hire someone that you can’t afford to fire (whatever the personal reasons).

If the business plan only works if you don’t pay yourself, then it isn’t a valid business plan. If it only works if you work 80 hour weeks, it also isn’t valid. Realistically, you will probably work 80 hours anyway, but if you plan for 80 hours, you’ll probably realistically need to work 120 hours.

When you hire people, you want to hire them for the things that you don’t like to do. You should focus on the things that you love and what to do.

Overprotecting your IP is another mistake: “I have this really great idea, but I can’t tell you about it.” If someone can steal your idea based on a simple conversation, it isn’t a good idea for a business. Networking and getting feedback are too critical to avoid talking to people about your startup. They can also help you find your competition and make suggestions.

If you don’t think you don’t have competition, you are wrong. Find them and learn as much as you can about them. The competition also may not be obvious. For CubeSpace, the competition was mostly coffee shops more than other co-working spaces. Talk to your competition and make them your friends. There should be enough to go around if it really is a viable business. If you have more work than you can do, throw some of that business to other people and you can develop cooperative niches.

Not networking enough is another mistake. You can call almost anyone in town and convince them to have breakfast or coffee. But you have to be willing to give back later and meet with other people to give them advice.

Biggest mistake is not having tiers of savings. It can drain way more quickly than you expect, especially for freelancers. Don’t overspend early and take on debt (especially credit card debt) for things you don’t really need, which creates even more financial pressure. You are better off avoiding debt and giving away equity for startups.

Investing many months of your life to join a startup with no salary can also be a mistake. Don’t ever do this unless you are willing to kiss the money goodbye if it doesn’t work out. That’s why you start these as a side project and turn them into a startup while you still have other income coming in.

Don’t be desperate. Don’t under price your services to beat the competition – it can bleed you dry, drain your finances, and eventually put you out of business. It is better to walk away from this type of business.

Don’t bid on a contract outside of your core competency. Even if you think it might work and you might be able to pull it off. Ultimately, it won’t be a great fit and will cause lots of stress. It takes too much out of you and you start not feeling great about what you do. It’s also related to desperation.

Look at all of the realistic risks and the unrealistic risks. Get help figuring out what the risks are, and have contingency plans for them.

You are not special and you are not different. This is the anti-gen y mindset.

When you price, don’t price it based on what it costs to produce. Find out what it is worth to them and charge that. 2-3x what it costs to produce it is probably what you should charge. Even in hourly rates, if it takes you an hour to do something that takes others 5 hours, you should charge appropriately. Also look at what competitors charge to get a gauge on the market.

Common thread: talk to people every step of the way, and take people’s advice; however, don’t make drastic changes in directions based on every piece of advice. Hear the advice and make corrections along the way based on the common themes that you hear from multiple people. Sometimes smart people can’t always give you tangible reasons why, but don’t just discount it because they can’t give you specific reasons.

You need to be genuine about who you are and what you do. Don’t try to become something you aren’t just because you think it is what people expect of you or your role (like dating advice). Open yourself up to people you work with and form emotional bonds with the people you work with. Don’t try to isolate yourself from them to maintain authority.

Big mistake: Not putting things in writing. Take notes and send them out in writing. Always have an employment contract even for a couple hours of work and specify who owns what intellectual property. Get signatures on documents to avoid legal troubles.

You have to be willing to do sales and marketing (esp for freelancers). If you aren’t willing to go out and sell your services, then you shouldn’t go into business, or you need to bring in a partner who is willing to do the sales. Don’t be afraid to take advantage of other resources (people and infrastructure).

Don’t forgo the good in pursuit of the perfect. Don’t look for the solution that will do everything, unless you are a software company, don’t write your own software. Find something good enough for your purposes.

You will either have engineers who think that marketing is worthless and / or salespeople who think that engineers are interchangeable. Both marketing and technical skills are important.

Go into business with the right person: someone who will challenge you and knows you well enough to call you on your bullshit. Have a board of advisors that are willing to give you advice. Consult them on a regular schedule and give them a little stock / equity in exchange for their help.

What kind of funding are you eligible for?
with Carolynn Duncan

Start by thinking about what type of business you have. Certain types of businesses fit better with specific types of funding.

  • Microbusiness (start on $10k or less, 1-3 employees, $100k revenue) – bootstrap, self-funded, credit cards.
  • Small business (start on $100k, 1-5 people, $1m revenue) – Savings, government (women, minorities, economic dev), credit cards, bank loans, friends and family.
  • Growth business (start needing $500k-$2m, 5-20 employees, $20m revenue) – Angels.
  • Mega-growth business ($2m-$10m to start, bunch of employees, $100m+ revenue) – VC or Government grants (biotech / research at a lab)

Investors will never tell you no. They just stop taking your calls. Need to read their signs to decide whether they are serious.

Steps to get Angel / VC funding:
Note: expect it to take at least 6 months, and think of it like any sales process; you are selling them a part of your business.

  • Meeting: Get an intro from someone or meet them at pitching events. Your elevator pitch in the first 30 seconds can make or break your chances. 1-2 weeks.
  • Marketing: Business plan, financials, and pitch. 2-4 weeks.
  • Selling: Start discussing concrete stuff like percentage of equity. They will start doing due diligence on you and will ask for a million things as part of the process.
  • Closing: If they say yes, they’ll send you a term sheet, lawyers get involved, and you start negotiating. Until the final deal is signed, it could fall apart anytime up to the very end.

Look at economic development development companies (usually county-based) if you need information about micro-lending opportunities.

When someone says no to you on funding, you should get as many specifics as possible about why they said no. Fix those before you move on to the next source. Don’t burn a bunch of bridges with the same mistakes.

What you need before you start:

  • Elevator pitch
  • Balance sheet for 1 year and 3-5 years
  • Cash flow statements
  • Business plan
  • 10 page pitch presentation.

Start thinking about the due diligence checklist to get an example of what they’re going to want after they decide they are interested (Google Due diligence checklist to get examples).


These are only three sessions, and it is quite a bit of information to process. I had a great time and had interesting conversations with fun people.

Feel free to fill in any gaps that I missed in the comments.