Archive for April, 2009|Monthly archive page

3 Ways to Maintain Control of Your Digital Self

Judging by the dizzying rate of growth of Twitter and Facebook over the past several weeks and months, general web users, and in particular small businesses, are embracing social media.  Not to be the voice of doom and gloom but what happens if Twitter and Facebook disappear? While that is not likely, what is likely is that Twitter and Facebook will look radically different in 12-18 months.  Why? Both entities need to innovate to continue to be market leading social network services (SNS) and more importantly, they need to find a sustainable business model.  Facebook needs another cash infusion and is having difficulty securing it.  Twitter is helping third-parties like Comcast, Zappos and Dell streamline customer service but does not yet have a way to directly monetize its platform.  So while we are enjoying the free ride today, it may not last.  Somebody has to pay for the  servers, storage and bandwidth – either advertisers or users.

How do you take advantage of the growth of social networks while protecting yourself from shifting business models and implementations?

1.  Maintain An Online Hub for Your Digital Self – It is critical to have an online home for your content, your brand and your products that you own.  Use social media sites as outposts and use your website/blog as your online headquarters.

2.  Use Facebook and Twitter As Spokes – Leverage these growth engines to hone your ideas, do market research, market your brand and acquire new users.  Make sure that whatever you do points back to your online hub.  Use these sites to provide sampling/teasers to pay off at your hub.  This strategy will work when the next Facebook or Twitter competitor emerges.

3.  Create A Conversion Event on Your Online Hub – Continue to move users down the awareness-consideration-purchase (action) funnel when they get to your site.  Promote registration to a newsletter in exchange for an email address.  Determine the action that gets the user closer to driving revenue while providing value in return.

I’ll elaborate further on the 3 control techniques above in future posts.  Until then, no social networking presence takes the place of your own online hub.   Use Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, MySpace and LinkedIn to your heart’s content.  Just make sure you understand why you are using them and how you will know if your goals are being met.

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Business Timing and Cheesecake

In the midst of some recent research on the online food and recipes marketplace, my low blood-sugar filled brain cells became fixated on cheesecake.  Strawberry, Cookies and Cream, White Macadamia Nut, Chocolate and Peanut Butter.  If my local Cheesecake Factory wasn’t so far away, I would be finishing this post from there.  Their menu has all kinds of good stuff in it, including a story on how it was founded.

Evelyn Overton began her road to cheesecake fame in the 1940s.  She opened a small cheesecake shop in Detroit but soon closed it to focus on raising her children.  She didn’t let her commitment to family stop her dream.  She continued to perfect her recipes and supplied cakes to well-known Detroit eateries.   In 1971, when she and her husband Oscar entered their 50’s , they moved to LA using the last of their savings to open a 700 square foot store.  The rest as they say is Cheesecake Factory history.

I love this story because it has universal truths and maxims for business owners trying to make it big.

  • Overnight success is rare.  Evelyn Overton’s dream was deferred for 2o+ years.   Don’t expect your business to blossom instantly.  It takes time
  • Passion is critical to success.  Evelyn balanced her passion for family and food rather than following one at the exclusion of the other.  Try to combine and balance your life’s passions to carve out a unique niche.
  • Performance comes from refining your product.  Evelyn used her time raising her kids to perfect her recipe and study her marketplace. Starting small to perfect your product and positioning in the market is critical.  Never settle for stopping at version 1.0
  • Supportive friends and family will fuel you:  Oscar (Evelyn’s husband) and David (Evelyn’s son) were key members of the Cheesecake Factory braintrust.  Go find people among your family and friends that believe in you and your dream.  You will need them.

My experience as a founder of a small business and work with friends and family attest to the truth of  the keys in the Cheesecake Factory story.  Go get a slice of cheesecake and read the menu again.  As those calories course through your veins, study the story and learn something that transcends that delightful cheesecake.  Business success takes time so make the most of your time to enjoy the journey.