Tag Archives: startup

The three steps to being influential in social media

To be influential in social media takes effort. It doesn’t just happen. You can’t buy it. It’s not advertising.

So if that’s what it’s not, how can organizations and people get to be really influential? Here are the steps to influence. When you and your brand get it right, that’s when you get to influence others.

Find Relevance

Your first mission is to produce content that is relevant to the people you’re seeking to influence. That sounds pretty obvious, but so many people and companies don’t really have a great snapshot of their target market. They’ve spent so long with basic demographics that are ballpark indications of who their market is that they’ve lost touch with the real personalities of these people. In social media we’re no longer talking about eyeballs, or about mass market publications that look after great big segments of a market. Instead, you’re looking at individuals. Yes, those individuals tend to move in packs – they’re communities of similar people. And those communities have some people with bigger voices. But that can change in an instant, and one bigger voice doesn’t mean they influence everyone in that community. They are individuals first and they are all powerful. Some will love your brand, others won’t care much, and others might detest your brand. Spend some time working out who they are, what their interests are, and what they really think before even trying to produce content for them. Be relevant.

Find Resonance

Readers of my blog know I love to talk about resonance. You can create all the good quality content in the world but if it’s not hitting the mark and connecting with people in a solid way, you’re not getting social media right. It’s a massive error to think that simply creating good content leads directly to influence. You need more than that. You need to produce content that makes people talk about you. Retweet you. Post the article to their Facebook account or write about it on their blog. When they do that, they’re demonstrating their personal involvement with your content, and that’s what you want. Not just for the eyeballs to hit your page, but for the message to be meaningful to them. To the extent that they’ll tie their name to it and go talk about it elsewhere.

You need to create resonance.

One caveat here, particularly for brands and companies running them, is to be aware that to achieve resonance you need to really understand your audience, and remember everything you say reflects on your brand. I wasn’t kidding before with step one. These people have opinions, are smart, engaged and want to work with others in this space – but don’t think you can control the conversation or give half-assed engagement or try to pretend you’re not the person representing the brand, even if that’s not your intention. A great example is the furore surrounding Nestle right now on Twitter. The good news is that while you’ll get called out for crappy behavior of any kind, the social media community wants you to get better. They will celebrate with you when you do, and they’ll be your loudest proponent. If you really listen, and really work with the community instead of trying to manipulate it you’ll get there and find resonance (I’m kinda hoping Nestle eventually realises that.)

Nirvana – Influence

When you’ve achieved the first two steps, that’s when you can seek to be influential. And you’ll see results. You can invite people to play with your new stuff and be confident that because you have resonance with them, the brand will be welcomed enough for people to want to try it out.You can be a thought leader. You can gain a few minutes of peoples’ time to talk about stuff, and they’ll really listen to you.

It doesn’t matter if you have a personal brand or the biggest brand on the planet. Everyone wants to be influential. Using social media is a great way to discover influence through resonance with a target audience you may have forgotten. Rediscover people. Don’t treat social media like other forms of promotion. It still sits in your toolkit, along with other areas like advertising and sales promotion, but it works differently. Get it right and you’ll find the opportunities you are looking for, with the people who matter most.

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Don’t think influence, think resonance

The new buzzword in social media appears to be Influence. According to conferences, some marketers it’s what people want. To influence others.

This is a mistake. It demonstrates a very shallow, one-sided view.

(cartoon from xkcd.com)

Talk to most people in social media for example, and they’ll tell you the truth. What they’re doing is looking for, and responding to resonance, not influence.

What all of us seek in social media is Resonance.

The influence part happens afterwards.

In social media, you can’t influence someone unless they want to be influenced.

Guess what… if traditional media had understood the need to find real resonance with its market, it wouldn’t be in the situation it is today.

Resonance. It’s what creates meaning. Just like the rice here.

How to create a stir – write about women in startups

I’m writing for the online news site, Examiner.com as the Boulder Startup Examiner.

Why? Am I insane? Don’t I have enough to do?

I felt compelled to do it. Boulder is a wonderful town, with a fantastic tech community of people. It’s a really big community, for a small town. It’s exciting, vibrant and smart. It’s full of incredible people. And they’re all doing their own thing.

We’re all working with a similar environment. We see lots of familiar people every week, and there are lots of tech events focused on the community. But we have different lives, experiences and industries. There are lots of people here I’ve never met – and when many of those people are ones I’ve heard of and I know have heard of me in our ‘small’ community, that’s disappointing. We have a wealth of things to draw on that don’t get any focus, simply because there’s no professional journalism covering it.

So that’s what I’m trying to do with my Examiner role. I’m treating it as I would a professional journalistic venture. It’s not personal (that’s what my blog’s for). It’s actual journalism. The way I used to do it. It’s amazing how you never forget. And I’m really enjoying it.

I’m putting together a plan of writing one article a week on five different topic areas. (Let’s see how my time management works with that!) Today’s topic area was Women in Tech. I’ll be writing on that once a week. And today’s story relates to how women who work in Boulder startups simply don’t seem to have the same networking opportunities the men of Boulder do. A pretty self-evident post, I thought. I got to interview some wonderful women (another bonus of working on Examiner is chatting with local startups I’ve never run across, or have only met briefly!). I said to Tara and Grace I wanted to focus on women in Boulder startups. It wasn’t their idea, it was mine. And they came to the party. We had a lovely chat over coffee last week. I recorded the chat, and I wrote the piece.

It seems to have hit a bit of a nerve with some people in various elements of social media, and I couldn’t be happier. I believe the article is respectful of Boulder, the community and both men and women. If you read beyond the headline (as any journalism school will explain, the headline is just the foothold into the story) you get a balanced view of women in startups here in Boulder.

I invite you to read the article yourself, and leave a comment. I now know I’ll definitely be covering women in startups in Boulder every week. Because it’s a great topic, obviously close to my heart. And nobody else covers it.

Focusing on founders – the Founder Institute

There are numerous seed and incubator programs in operation, all geared towards getting startups on their feet, funded and on their way. Most of these programs have a similar framework. Startups pitch an idea, and the program decides which are the best investments for their time and money. The incubator then works with that handful of startups and focuses on helping them get going over a few weeks or months, with varying amounts of money, visiting mentors, speakers etc. In return they get a piece of the startup’s pie.

Incubators are a prized involvement for a startup so the application process is highly competitive. For example, in 2009, Boulder-based Techstars’ third year, they received 527 applications from all over the world. The program then had the daunting task of whittling it down by about 90%.

A new type of program entered the fray this year. Silicon Valley-based The Founder Institute, headed by Adeo Ressi, launched The Funded, an incubator which features interaction with a range of mentors, all geared towards helping get startups off the ground. However, the Funded has a different perspective than most others.FI logo

You’re more than welcome to go through the program in detail if you follow the earlier link, but to me the key aspect is that The Funded’s program focuses on the founders themselves, not just one startup idea that they have. Looking at most successful entrepreneurs today, many of them have ideas that ultimately didn’t work out – but The Founder Institute believes that one failure doesn’t automatically make them a bad selection for an incubator. Instead, focusing on working with people who have all the particular founder qualities necessary to build great companies is far more likely to produce dividends.

The Founder Institute invited people to complete an application outlining themselves and their startup idea (like the other incubators do). But after that, those applicants deemed to have the most promising/fitting qualities were invited to undertake a 5-part test. As a result, there are startups in all sorts of different areas, at all stages of development. The test we each sat was produced by the Founder Institute in collaboration with other specialists – the idea is to gain a quantifiable reflection of those who are most likely to ‘make it’ based on their personality and IQ traits (of course, much of the results of this will not be apparent for a while yet – we have to launch ourselves to see the outcomes).

FI vision logo

Undertaking the test was a real adventure.

Each of our three founders was invited to take the test. It was delivered online, parts of it were timed, and one whole section was on vocabulary. It reminded me a lot of a cross between an IQ test and the GRE exam. There was even some math (shudder) – and questions that looked like they could have needed to include math but didn’t (IQ). It took about 1.5 hours to get through it all, and we sat it independently (I did mine at 6am before the kids got up. Jed did his that evening after I’d gone to bed.)

The funniest part was that scribetribe’s founders had a phone conference to talk about various things the evening after we’d all done the test. It was done and over. But Jed, Daz and I were still talking about the questions. “What did you put for this?” “Oh, I ran out of time in that section.” Littered with shared laughter, there was a really serious, telling side of us all in our focus on having done the best we possibly could. It really showed to me how there are little aspects to our personalities which complement each other’s, help us work really well together, and at the same time amplify each other’s particular strengths. It was very interesting to see how competitive Jed and I can be with each other (but he cares more than I. I would never repeatedly point out that I got a question right that he didn’t. Even though I did ;)) Just as you would in high school, we worked out the answers to the few questions we could remember and reflected on our (well… my) agony in not being able to make sense of others.

At the end of it all, all three of us were accepted into the program, which has just 75 founders for 2009, its inaugural year. All the founders are broken into smaller working groups to work on each week’s assignments, to discuss and brainstorm – it’s fabulous because all three of us are in different working groups, and are contributing and receiving complementary information in those smaller brainstorms. We also, of course, all work together one day a week, have classes with mentors focused on particular areas from ideation to accounting to marketing.

Even funnier than the test? The fact that after each of us had our first working group meeting, I said to Jed, “my group voted me president.” Jed replied, “so did mine.”

We are each thrilled to be part of the Funded – it’s providing each of us with things we need to really make an incredible company together. And with our focus, energy and excitement, Scribetribe’s alpha launch at the end of this summer is going to be phenomenal.

The Startup Kid

Running a startup isn’t easy on anyone.

The glorious trails of successful entrepreneurs are littered with the scars of broken relationships and bitter resentment of cold dinners and missed birthday parties.

It takes a special kind of relationship to weather the storms of startup life.

At Darling Harbour, Sydney.

At Darling Harbour, Sydney.

It takes a special kind of kid too. A kid who will understand that daddy or mummy can’t make it to every school function. That we can’t afford summer camp.

It takes a special kid who will say okay through his tears as he’s torn from his Australian home, his dogs, his school friends, because he knows that what we’re working on isn’t a normal sort of job like his friends’ parents have.

This week we have begun graduation celebrations for Harry as he completes year 5. I got to make a dedication to him the other day at school, as did all the other parents in his class to their kids.In typical startup style, I did this one alone because Jed’s in Silicon Valley at the moment. The Kleenex was really getting passed around that circle.

Why so much Kleenex? It was his teacher’s fault really. She got us to close our eyes and think of when we were having our child, their infancy, and years in elementary school. And then open our eyes and take our turns to speak from the heart to our child in front of everyone (you could pass if you wanted to, but nobody did – this is Boulder, after all ;)).

Now, I cry at the drop of a hat. I can’t walk into that darned school without automatically tearing up it seems (sigh). But for this dedication, while others were a bit of a mess, I hardly cried at all.

And while it surprised me at the time, I know why.

Harry is an incredible kid. He was made for the startup life. I won’t be a bit surprised if he ends up living it himself. (Good grief, I hope he scores a partner as well as his dad did ;)). Harry’s adaptability is remarkable. Many kids would have resented the move to the US, and that would have been understandable. Not Harry, even though he misses Australia very much.

Harry's idea of cleaning up his room

Harry's idea of cleaning up his room

He’s no angel though. He has a cheeky side and he’s a daredevil. I was told of his decision to ride a waterfall while hiking, stopping just short of a massive drop – nearly giving everyone watching a heart attack. And we will never forget him barrelling down Eldora mountain on a snowboard without a single turn and nearly hitting a bus in the car park – grinning afterwards.

Everyone who knows us as a family will agree that Harry is the one who most wears his heart on his sleeve. He hugs everyone. Repeatedly.

He is honest and open. But he can’t sleep if he’s feeling bad about something – he has to get up and talk it through. And he has a strength of character and self-belief which overcomes every obstacle. He’s never said “I’ve had enough.”¬† He just keeps going. It’s that tenacity that is so inspiring and awesome.

And I can’t cry about that. I can’t cry about changes at all – for Harry the world is his oyster, and he’s loving the adventure. He doesn’t care that much about stuff he hasn’t accomplished yet – he’s just going to keep trying. And he’s not concerned about being the best at everything. He just wants to give it a go.

Last week his performance on drums at the big 5th grade concert that combined musicians from 3 schools was incredible. He was on time with every beat. He enjoyed it. And he’s such an individual, he wore his lucky hat too ūüėČ

I can’t wait to see what he tries his hand at, and surprises us with, in Middle School. They’re gonna be lucky to have him. As are we.

Congratulations, Harry. We’re so proud of you, and grateful for all you give back to us every single day.

Where’s the vision in your startup?

What’s your vision?

Recently there have been discussions over ‘how long is too long’ from developers a little less than happy being part of a startup that is not yet paying them ‘what they’re worth’ or even getting involved in a startup that doesn’t pay them from the outset. Startup widows are also holding their spouses accountable for not having ‘made it’ yet.

The problem with this thinking is that the focus is on the payout, not on the journey or the goal. Their focus is on a timeframe. What’s acceptable, what’s not.

What’s your vision?

Deciding to get into the startup life is like jumping off a cliff. You prepare really well, you’re excited, and the people around you admire your decision. But after that, you’re relying on your own vision. And that’s where people begin to lose it.

When we decided to launch our startup in the US, I wish I had a dollar for every person telling me how ‘lucky’ I was. I find that weird. Lucky? No. Gutsy? Yes. Committed? Yes. Adventurous? Yes. Passionate? Yes.

I share a vision. (Please check out the difference between a corporate mission statement and vision statement here.)

So what’s my vision?

My vision is one in which we create technology that makes a real difference to peoples’ lives and changes how they view technology and communicate with each other. We’re going to provide the tool that restructures the way people create and interact with technology and communicate with each other online. (Oh yeah, this is a change-the-world thing!)

I’m into equity – not the financial type, but the equity of access and use that will make people want to create content instead of just consume it. I want it to be easier for them. I lust for the day people do more than just search for things online. I lust for the day that everyone – you – truly feels able to produce content and interact with it because they can fit doing it into their day. I lust for the day that it makes as much sense for them to create content and really interact with other peoples’ content as it does right now to Google something.

The prospect of being a founding part of the company that makes this happen excites me.

You’ll note that no aspect of this vision includes a timeframe. Even though I want it to have happened ‘yesterday’ purely because I am so darned excited about it, I haven’t said ‘we have to make this happen within xx years or else I’m out’. It also doesn’t include a financial payout. Sure we have to live, but it’s amazing how your expenses tend to meet your means. Ramen noodles taste good ;). Free public education is good education. Without wanting to sound like a Monty Python skit, I am proud to say I have really actually walked two miles in the snow with bags of groceries, and I didn’t die. The bus is usually my transportation, and sometimes if I’m lucky, a friend’s car.

It’s about what you’re willing to do to see your vision come true. It’s living the dream and enjoying the journey. It’s the reality of working with a startup.

As I’ve said before, startup life is like nothing else. It’s not a job. And when it feels like a job, when you start measuring ‘success’ by time and money, it’s time to do everyone involved with the startup a big fat favor and get out – because it’s not just about you. It means you don’t share the vision. Maybe you really never did.

Vale Randy Pausch: Decide if You’re Tigger or Eeyore

After the passing of an inspirational man, Professor Randy Pausch, I’ve decided to write a number of posts on what struck me in his Last Lecture. If you haven’t seen this lecture, I wholeheartedly recommend getting a cup of tea, and taking an hour to watch it. Then watch it again a week later. There are myriad messages in it.

The thing that teared me up with this lecture was this statement: Decide if You’re Tigger or Eeyore. How do you go through life? Randy says he has fun. The Dean at the university asked him to ensure he told people to have fun, and he says¬†it was like asking a fish to talk about water. He knew no other way.

I found real resonance with that. Just like Randy,¬†if you meet me¬†IRL you kinda know which way I lean – I’m Tigger.

As I discovered last semester,¬†for some stuff I simply¬†don’t know how to be anything¬†other than Tigger. My personal relationships, my work and teaching¬†– for¬†the most part I’m Tigger. Joy of Life, that’s me.

One student challenged me to be “normal” for just one class. She believed it wasn’t possible. She was right. Why? Because I don’t know what “normal” is! I really tried, too!

Even¬†the (very quiet, sedate) dentist¬†commented last week “You are always so enthusiastic, it’s really catching.” Then this week when we saw him again, he was almost bouncy himself.¬†(Admittedly, that was a little scary.)

I figure hey, why be gloomy or even¬†just emotionless and methodical¬†in anything you do? If you find the fun in stuff, then doesn’t that rub off? Even if it’s not inherently a fun activity? For example, there’s nothing more fun than squashing the recycling with my 8-year-old to try and fit it in the bin.

But sometimes I have put conditions on my enthusiasm. And that sucks.

When we first launched our startup in Australia, I was the fish-wife. I complained every step. Eight years later, it has (touch wood) been doing great here, but I really didn’t help it along. I lacked the vision and the faith, and instead felt the fear.

There is security in fear. It’s calm and reliable¬†being Eeyore.¬†

Now we’re going to the US, I’m exactly the opposite. And there are many reasons for that, which another post will explore. But it’s not because I feel a greater sense of security. With a start-up you can do everything right –¬†in fact, better than right –¬†and still have it fail.

I’m positive about it¬†because I’m finding my security elsewhere and choosing to not be fearful. I’m not Eeyore. It’s a choice, just as Randy said, “Decide if you’re Tigger or Eeyore.”

It’s when you let go of fear that you get the vision. Tigger has vision.