Lately, it seems that a lot of people starting new businesses are a little confused as to who they are and what it is they are launching. Folks seem to throw the word “entrepreneur” around willy-nilly, calling themselves “entrepreneur” or “serial entrepreneur” when all they might be are serial small business starters. As for me, right now, I have three ventures in the hopper: re-branding and focus of my social media work (which has been extensive over the past 7 years,) launching my crochet domestics business, as well as turning my fashion blog into a business entity to earn better advertising and to open up other revenue streams. So, what am I really doing? Am I an Entrepreneur, with a capital E, because I have so much going on? or am I simply a serial small business owner who would rather make money from her own talents than put those talents to work for someone else (at this stage of the game anyway?) I did some serious Google-ing yesterday, and here’s what I ‘ve discovered are the differences between an entrepreneur and a businessperson…..
1. Entrepreneurs are in it because they want to change things. Business owners are doing things others have already done, only differently. At least that’s what I got from Greg Marks’ great post at Forbes, where he explains the difference between himself, a business owner, and his father, the entrepreneur, who never seemed to make a lot of money but always had great ideas to change the world. It’s the difference between creating a hoverboard and being the first hoverboard dealer.
Marks makes it clear that there’s nothing to be ashamed of if you aren’t an entrepreneur, and that to take the entrepreneurial risk, one has to be comfortable with an amount of fiscal discomfort and failure. Which leads me to….
2. If you aren’t up for spectacularly failing, then you may be a business owner and not an entrepreneur. This is something I learned from personally knowing entrepreneurs. They’ve all failed. Some have had spectacular failures, others just little failures. Some have made huge money by selling their innovations, some have earned grant money for their innovations, and some innovations have simply died in the water. But none of them ever had the goal of “building a business” inasmuch as believing that what they were building could change things for others.
3. If you like security, you’re a business owner. If you don’t mind flying by the seat of your pants, at times, you’re an entrepreneur. Or, as we say in start-ups, twice the work for half the money. Owning a business is a little bit more of doing X thing for Y money. I’ve done both. There’s a palpable, qualitative difference to both work experiences.
4. Businesses are like slot machines–you will probably leave with something even if it’s less than what you came in with. New ventures are more like sitting at the craps table and betting your life savings. You could win big or crap out totally. If you don’t have a strong support network, crapping out could be disastrous. Esp. if you were hoping to win it all, make millions, and you don’t. It’s all in the risk…
5. And if I’m successful, what next? A Serial Entrepreneur is someone who usually gets involved with other ventures after he/she’s made some good cash on his/her own. A serial business owner may have other small ventures connected to his/her business, but they’re not high-risk –they’re usually something he/she can go to the bank and get a loan to help with.
6. Business Owners emphasize tangible assets. Entrepreneurs vaule people a bit more than things produced. I hadn’t thought of it this way until I saw this chart posted on BizTechDay.
7. The best advice to budding entrepreneurs is usually “don’t quit your day job.” The jobs of most business owners are their day jobs. Sometimes it’s that simple. Don’t mess up your source of income if your new source is kind of risky. Or at least have a job to fall back on.
Okay–now that I’ve evaluated all of the criteria, I can see where two of my ventures, my social media re-branded firm, and my fashion blog are *somewhat* entrepreneurial, especially if I turn the fashion blog into something more than that, and I sell it. The fashion blog has a dual purpose: it can become a property to sell, or it can be a platform for launching myself into the role of a fashion stylist. The first option is entrepreneurial (it will involve building,) while the latter is more oriented towards growing the blog in conjunction with a related business.
My social media business–well, that’s a bit more risky in a number of ways. Yes, I’ve worked in social media since its infancy, usually in the role of “hired gun” or community manager (a.k.a cat wrangler.) I’ve since learned that the Wild West approach really worked well in the days of the Wild West, but now the streets are paved (just a bit) and I need a presence that says a little more than “Professional Code Critic and Cat Wrangler.” Sure, I can do it, and I’ve developed a methodology explaining how to successfully get conversion rates up–which leads to ROI. So maybe I am an entrepreneur, even though I’m not building per se (as in coding something.)
So, I get it now. Entrepreneurship is risky. Be prepared to fail. Be prepared for rejection. It’s not for the faint of heart. Make the goal the sale of whatever it is I’m building. If there’s a need for stable income, own a business, build out from that, and create stable income. Do both at once if I feel like it, but that could be like juggling a bowling ball, a bowling pin, and a chainsaw. The pin and the ball would be enough, but if I’m feeling particularly crazy, I might as well add the chainsaw.
Oh, and for all those folks who might be wondering if they or someone they know is really an entrepreneur or just a business dude…well, I think you’ve got enough info to figure it out for yourself. ‘Nuff said, I’m sure
- Small Business Owner or Entrepreneur: Which One Are You? (business2community.com)
- EY Insights: Women entrepreneurs: Invest in relationships to help finance expansion (business.financialpost.com)
- Adapt or Die: Web Business Owner James Schramko Shares Critical Strategy on Business Growth (prweb.com)
- Mark Cuban: What Entrepreneurs Need to Know Before Starting a Business (bbsincboston.wordpress.com)
- 7 Characteristics That Will Kill Your Start-up (inc.com)
After the big brou-ha-ha over Netflix CEO Reed Hasting’s personal Facebook page comment that got him in dutch (just a bit) with the SEC, it would seem that most CEOs would continue to be bearish on using social media. Seems that this isn’t quite the case, and more CEOs, not less, are using social media….
A new survey by Weber Shandwick and KRC Research on “The Social CEO” reveals some unexpected numbers on top-level execs and their social media usage. As reported on MediaPost’ Social Graf blog, the survey of 630 top execs from companies with revenues >$500M found that a whopping 89% of top execs have personal social media accounts and another 76% believe that the big guy (that is, the CEO) should be using social media, too.
As to why the surveyed execs believe it’s a good thing, 75% said their social media use “gives the company a human face,” and helps the C-suite build better communications with employees and the news media. Other reasons cited by the three-quarters majority said that CEO social media use demonstrates innovation, causes a positive increase in the company’s reputation, and shows the rest of the world that the CEO is hip to what’s going on in his/her company.
These figures go up when the discussion turned to CEO blogging….
As noted in MP, these figure appear to support those in a study released last year by BRANDfog, which reported that 78% of individuals would prefer to work for a company where the CEO was engaged in social media, and 81% believe that the CEO who blogs and otherwise socializes online is better prepared to lead his/her company into The Future than a CEO who remains on the social sidelines.
Chatting with a bunch of friend/colleagues on Facebook yesterday, we were all bemoaning the fact that so much of the marketing on social networks is all about marketing messages and same-old-same-old of advertising. All that stuff we were looking to change by opening up channels for dialogue using these new “social media platforms.” And while talking to another colleague today on a somewhat related topic, I realized that there are far too many people who really don’t understand what social media is, and the power that it has to make things happen for a newspaper, or a company’s products, or, well, a whole bunch of things.
So, I figured it was time to put into better perspective what the term Social Media is referring to, and what so many are getting wrong about the way they use it.
First let’s start with an understanding of the term media. Prior to the Internet, we had several different mediums for the distribution of information and communication. Two of the most popular, and two that get folded into the current milieu of Internet-based “social media” are newspapers and broadcast. Newspapers and broadcast are mediums that create what we call media. From here we have news media, which consists of newspapers and broadcast, and entertainment media, which consists of gossip and shows broadcast on radio and tv, and so forth.
The common denominator among these forms of media is that they are what’s referred to as One to Many media forms. They speak, we listen. They aren’t interested in dialogue. They are delivering a message, whether that message is a news program, or an ad, or something else. It’s one way communication. That’s it.
What differentiates social media is that it is not just One to Many, but is both Many to One and Many to Many. Many to one is what sometimes happens with Twitter, when a bunch of people weigh in on a tv show or program. It is many people, speaking in real-time, to one entity. It is not about delivering a message or that group parroting back a message (which is what might happen in a focus group.)
Next is Many to Many, which is what we have on Facebook, on blogs, etc. The “many” is us, The People, and we now have the means to speak to the other “many” that forms The Masses that were never able to speak in the days of broadcast and newspapers. Or, at least, not be able to speak as directly, using simple tools that function like rudimentary digital printing presses (blogs) or town squares (twitter, Facebook, forums, chatrooms.)
And sure, you can deliver a message, set up a contest, or whatever kind of pre-social media media spend you have–because the tools are set up to do that sort of thing, too. If you do it this way, however, you are totally missing the point of using media that is Many to Many vs. One to Many.
However, most companies are fixated on the One to Many message delivery, as well as on old technology paradigms such as intricately coded, SEO tweaked websites to create their company identities on the web. Or they think of it in terms of “inbound marketing”–which is, in effect, opening up a channel to allow people to come to your company more easily. It has elements of social media, but “inbound marketing” isn’t necessarily social media per se. It isn’t quite the Many to Many that social media depends on to work its magic for companies. Many to Many requires open channels–comments to blogs or videos, responses to @ and DM requests on Twitter, etc. When and how those channels get used by the public requires that they be consistently open and available.
Now, if you’re thinking this is a little Pollyanna–well, it kind of is because it assumes that the majority of the populace on using social media tools or platforms (and that’s what Facebook, Twitter and all that stuff is–just tools) actually want to use the voice they have been empowered with by these Many to Many tools. Since the inception of these tools, however, it’s been that only a fraction, essentially 10 percent of the people who are reading a blog or a status update or a tweet, who will respond to this information and thus re-disseminate your product information. It usually takes a specific “target the talkers” strategy to get the attention of the talkers and then have a bold talker willing to talk with you.
Companies fear Many to Many interaction–they think all customers or potential customers will have are complaints. That’s not the case. Since there are more people on social media beyond the basic, cubicle-dwelling malcontent, many customers will want to tell you that your product has helped them, or is great in some other way. The public, really, is not out to *get* any product if it delivers on its marketing messages–those messages that have usually come through other mediums such as print or broadcast.
Unfortunately, the one product that the public is usually out to get are newspapers–but that’s because the news industry has a long, long history of ignoring people. It also doesn’t have such a great track record running its own social media platforms (we call them Comments Sections.) Can’t totally blame the news industry because the tools are a little confusing. Are the tools publishing tools that are used through communication devices? If that’s the case, do First Amendment rights apply directly to those posting? Are they, even by posting a negative comment, guaranteed a right to free speech, or this a false perception?
Companies other than those that are news-related, really shouldn’t fear social media, and should take it more seriously. Social Media are not for the intern to play with, or the Administrative Assistant or the lowest person on the Sales (oops! that’s Customer Service) totem pole to deal with because it is assumed that they have time. To be successful with social media, one must cultivate the conversation over time, not over what would be considered seconds, and the dialogue must be consistent, coherent, courteous and well-informed. If the information provided by someone who is not a sufficient stakeholder in the company, or by someone who does not completely understand the product, success benchmarks won’t be achieved.
In case you’re wondering: yes, you can realistically benchmark social media efforts. It’s not that difficult to benchmark. What’s “difficult” is giving your social media program time, having online community savvy, and verbal finesse within the constraints of online communication to make that happen.
And how does one get these kinds of non-”scientific,” un-SEO oriented skills? One word: Practice. That’s also how One-to-Many media also got its “skills” for reaching people. Lots and lots of campaigns that missed the mark, and replicating or building out from those that did work. So must it go with Many-to-Many. Practice. For instance, when Edelman Digital wanted to have a staff that would be comfortable with blogging, and understand it, it encouraged staff members to start personal blogs and to socialize with bloggers. I met one of these Edelman bloggers in ’06, when she attended BlogHer and discussed with us her blog about discovering her Jewish heritage. She practiced within the medium and learned how to successfully interact within it. She brought this skill back to her company and was able to apply it to her work.
But I digress just a bit….So, let’s boil this all down to a simple, cogent understanding: Social Media are forms of communication mediated mostly by the Internet which facilitate Many to Many communications. Sure, the Internet , and Social Media Platforms can facilitate One to Many communication as well–just like good old broadcast and newspapers–but if you are engaging in One to Many, you are not getting the full advantage of Social Media. Most of the time, companies don’t receive the full benefit of Social Media due to a lack of Internet-based communication skills–not a lack of SEO or metrics analysis or contests or directed marketing messages. Knowing your audience and how to communicate effectively with them will give you higher success rates than simply using Social Media as another broadcast advertising medium.
There you have it. Any questions??? Feel free to ask!
The big, big news this morning is that Yahoo has purchased fast-blogging platform Tumblr for $1.1 Billion. The
questions now are: Will this help bring Yahoo to the top of the social networking heap? And do teens actually like the Yahoo brand enough to stick with Tumblr now that it’s Yahoo-branded?
As we saw with the quick rise and utter crash of MySpace, teens can be a fickle audience. Anyone who knows the slightest thing about teen behavior knows that what’s popular one year might be in the dumpster the next. Not every teen phenom is the equivalent of an Elvis. That is especially true on the Internet, where the extent of a site’s popularity could have a life expectancy similar to that of a fruit fly’s. And with no profit to show for it. It stands to reason then that banking on teens to bolster your brand is a big gamble. Perhaps not monumental, if a company has other properties, but most certainly a big gamble.
One of the biggest obstacles to any social site–and yes, Tumblr is a social site–is revenue. Tumblr CEO David Karp has said that Tumblr doesn’t have a lot of revenue right now. According to this post at Forbes, part of the revenue problem could be solved with less obtrusive “native advertising” that serves up the perfect targeted ad on multiple properties. The stumbling block to building better native advertising has been scale. As the Forbes post points out, Yahoo has the technology to make native ads scale, if it ramps up the speed of its advertising technology. (The Forbes piece also points to how Yahoo has let Flickr languish–so who knows. Flickr was super-hot when Yahoo purchased it, but little has been done to change it, and to some degree it Flickr is now eclipsed by Instagram. Yahoo is also famous for purchasing and killing apps, either outright or by neglect. )
Yet the biggest challenge is knowing whether or not the teens will consider Yahoo’s brand “uncool,” or if there will be a significant teen audience after this teen audience decides Tumblr doesn’t suit their needs. These are two huge, huge unknowns–or at least unknown to those of us looking at it from the outside. Tumblr’s done a lot to court fashion brands, and there are a number of successful fashion sites on Tumblr. From my own experience with a Ryan Gosling site, I know fan sites that share lots and lots of pics are huge on Tumblr. So are porn sites–which may cause some problems for/with Yahoo. So there is plenty of content already on Tumblr that could keep teens coming to it and establishing new Tumblr sites (that is, even if they take off the porn.)
What, though, about teen interest? There’s anecdotal evidence that teens don’t even know the Yahoo brand to know it’s not cool. So this may not impact Yahoo’s purchase IF Yahoo does not make significant changes to Tumblr at the present time. If Yahoo is going to try to make changes, they should implement them once the dust settles and they know more about their teen audience.
Tumblr, however, has much better mobile tech than Facebook, which could be a boon to Yahoo, since Yahoo currently lags in the mobile sector.
The fickleness of teens though could still be a stumbling block to value and ultimately to profit. “Chasing hipness is futile,” the folks at Digital Trends and I tend to agree with that statement (from all I’ve seen over the total of 15 years I’ve been playing around on the Internet.) It comes and goes and it’s not bankable. What teens *loved* about MySpace–esp. its customizable home pages–is not what teens love today. Photo sharing is popular now, esp. with Snapchat, but we have no idea of Snapchat’s long-term strategy for revenue, its relevance to other demographics–and no idea if the new crop of teens will be as fascinated with Snapchat as the current crop of teens appears to be. The only thing one can count on with teens is that what’s cool and hip one day can be cold as ice the next.
So there is no way to know if Tumblr will turn things around for Yahoo permanently or over the long haul. Yahoo might cannibalize Tumblr for some of its tech (as it has done to others) or it might do some other things to it, but there is no guarantee how long Tumblr is going to survive past this purchase.
That is, unless Yahoo has some super secret intel on teen audiences that the rest of us don’t know about, and what they will incorporate to keep Tumblr tumbling along….
From my research and knowledge, I know that there are some news orgs that are tinkering around with Tumblr for journalism, so who knows if the uses of Tumblr for journalism will continue now with the Yahoo purchase. And if there are schools and such that are teaching Tumblr, they might be teaching something that will go the way of the abacus, although much, much sooner.
We just don’t know right now. There are too many wild cards (I won’t even say variables–it’s not “vary” as much as it is a kind of “Woah horsie! “wildness. ) Even the migration of 72,000 blogs from Tumblr to WordPress on Sunday is no indication because we don’t know what kind of content was on those blogs! If we knew that information, we could know what kinds of audiences see the purchase as a negative factor. As it is now, that stat is just a bit of rubbernecking on the Information Super Highway. The only things we know for sure about teens right now, at this moment, is that they like mobile, and they like photos, and they really like mobile photos that disappear. Hard to build significant revenue on those three things though, even if you tie them together. Revenue earnings require stable platforms, adoption rates to rise in demographics beyond teens (as what happened with Facebook,) and some way to make unobtrusive, money generating advertising scalable. Without those three, whatever it is will eventually fade away.
By now you’ve probably come across the amazing brand suicide committed by the owners of Amy’s Baking Company Bakery Boutique & Bistro* that started slowly in 2010 with what could be considered a social media “stubbed toe,” leading into a disastrous showing on Gordon Ramsey’s Kitchen Nightmares on May 10, 2013, and went full-blown epic self-immolation on Facebook and Reddit and captured on Buzzfeed.
OK….there’s a whole lot going here that we might not ever have known about if it weren’t for social media–and a review on Yelp. A bad review on Yelp has happened to a whole lot of restaurants–including a couple of restaurants where I livethat have actually improved–so, if the Amy’s Baking actually had all the top reviews that are claimed by the owner, one small review on Yelp shouldn’t have been a big deal. Sure, it bruises the ego (as does a good old-fashioned flaming, as I know so well) but we do get over these things, no matter how long (or not) they stay online.
In Amy’s case, the best thing to do–and what I would have advised the owners to do–would be to either ignore it or apologize and offer a free meal. And make that free meal better. Ignoring one bad review is not life-ending for any business, even if it’s online, and on Yelp. In fact, some restaurants have taken the humorous tact and have “People Hate Us On Yelp” stickers on their doors (like Bolt Barbers in Los Angeles)
It might not be the best way to run a business, but, hey, if it works for Bolt Barbers, then…well….
But I don’t think that that’s what Amy’s Baking company Bakery Boutique & Bistro were going for when things got revved up to 11 on Yelp….
In chatting with friends on Facebook about this, some of them in the social, public relations, journalism, marketing and media fields, we figured out that, had the owners been reasonable people, they could have triaged the Yelp and local TV news black eye. However, by contacting Gordon Ramsey and Kitchen Nightmares, they upped the ante for a certified brand catastrophe.
Now, it’s noted in the Wikipedia entry on Kitchen Nightmares, that the U.S. Fox TV version of the show tends to focus more on the meltdowns of the owners and staff, and other social-emotional conflicts in the restaurants it visits, rather than focus on fixing the food the way the BBC series showed. I agree that the focus on meltdowns and conflict could have exacerbated what transpired on the May 10 show, and the owners could have been braced for it. However, sometimes when you “brace for it,” the meltdowns go from “plastic Barbie” to “nuclear.”
And that’s not good.
Most professionals who work online understand the whole meltdown thing–because many of us have gone through it at some point in our online lives. It’s not the end of the world, but the thing is to not feed the flames. Even if you do think those people who are criticising you are assholes, sometimes it’s best to turn off the computers, walk away, give it a few days to calm down. Because, more often than not, if you add fuel to the fire by not letting someone “bully” you and lash out, the damage you may do to your brand, your career, your standing in the community, and so forth, could be pretty serious.
(Or, if you’re like me, you may not be fully aware that someone might read what you say and think what you are saying is about them, when it isn’t. I’ve had to learn to watch what I say. Then again, what I’ve just said might be construed by some that it means them. If you think what I just wrote is about you, more than likely, it isn’t. Objects in the social media mirror are often not as close as they might appear.)
So, if you have a business, learn to take the bad with the good, and to either ignore it or deal with it in a positive manner. Most people are not out to *get* you or your business–even if those reviews are online. The Internet is not the bastion of the malcontent (as it might have been) especially if someone posts a review under their real name and leaves a digital trail you might be able to trace to them. That may indeed be a person who’s trying to tell you something to help you, not hurt you.
And if you are prone to freaking out….well…..don’t go online. You’ll only be freaked out more by what you read.
* Please note that I have chosen not to link to the restaurant’s website as to not inundate them further with Internet rubberneckers. Besides, it’s all over Yahoo! now anyway.
- Asking Customers for Testimonials – 5 Strategies (amsterdamprinting.com)
- The Beauty of Not Responding Online (jacquelinewolven.com)
On April 2, the Securities and Exchange Commission finally weighed in on the weighty issue of CEOs and social media.
Now, before the C-person tweets on Twitter, or posts to Facebook, or blogs, or whatevers on wherevers, a social media strategy has to be approved by investors.
So much for C-suite spontaneity.
Apparently, it all started when Netflix CEO Reed Hastings did a nice thing on his personal Facebook and congratulated his folks on serving up one billion video views in one month. That’s a pretty substantial and successful number, and you wouldn’t think that by posting this on his personal Facebook page Hastings would get in trouble. Turns out that’s not the case. The SEC found out about this message and issued a warning that the post violated Regulation Fair Disclosure (Reg FD) because it may not have reached all the investors — even though Hastings has over 200,000 followers on Facebook.
Some pundits think the SEC was over-reaching and over-reacting. But the SEC doesn’t see it that way, and seems to be monitoring social media channels looking for various ways in which to pop CEOs for what amounts to not informing everyone at the same time. The NYTimes Dealbook blog breaks down the matter with more details in this post.
So, it seems that, every investor must know the social media strategy, and big messages (or even little congratulatory messages) have to be cross posted over every channel in order to reach every investor. Seems tedious, but also risks the old bugaboo of posting the same stuff all over the place and boring one’s audience to death. But the SEC is not a regulatory board one wants to cross unwittingly.
- SEC Will Not Charge Netflix CEO with Reg FD Violation; Issues Guidance on Use of Social Media (lawprofessors.typepad.com)
- Twitter, Facebook OK to use for news – SEC (buzz.money.cnn.com)
- Social media, the SEC & the impact for public companies (prnewswire.com)
- SEC Clears Social Media for Company Announcements (nbcmiami.com)
- Netflix CEO off the hook after Facebook blunder (techcentral.ie)