Basics: Know thyself and know thine targets

No business has ever:

  1. discovered themselves (as in the finding themselves sense, not the ‘gosh darn someone has already bought the domain (aka web address / URL)  or staked a claim to the online real-estate I was hoping for’ or the ‘oh wow, someone has written something good/bad about me’ senses), or
  2. identified their core audience(s) through online or digitial presence.

Not one, none, nada and not a one. I don’t believe it, can’t be done.

An iPhone app, a LinkedIn group, a twitter account, a facebook page or other web presence is not the silver bullet that means you can avoid doing the hard work like:

  • writing a business plan
  • researching your audience / potential customers – their habits and the places they are likely to hang out online
  • mapping your interactions (or planned interactions) with your customers as a workflow and a continuum of contact points (i.e. do/will you connect directly or through stockists…)
  • documenting your primary business activities into a calendar so you know what milestones may change your business imperatives/interactions (sales, art exhibitions, film releases)
  • articulating your objectives for trying to connect with them online (meet likeminded people who will appreciate you, display a portfolio of your interior design work to prospective customers and increase your profile as an interior designer, sell jewellery to them, or get them to come into your store)

And without the above, how can you ever hope to:

  • prioritise what presences are absolutely essential and what are the nice to haves?
  • what presences will support and optimise your efforts on one another and which will just add workload with little to no result and distract you from the essential ones?
  • evaluate opportunities for online presences in terms of how they best meet your business needs

Babes in the woods

Without the above, you are at the mercy of every charming snake oil salesperson with a nice business card, some pretty powerpoint slides and the will to flood you with the amazing and barely comprehensible things you can do online that will solve all your needs, if you only pay $$$$ – $$$$$$$ this much. And if you recognised anyone as meeting that description, congratulations as you’ve just identified your first expert.

I can’t speak to the value of their advice, but I can tell you that without the first set of bases being covered at your end, while there might be some gold in there…there will also be alot of distractingly pretty or cool dross.

Garbage in, garbage out

Without proper planning at your end, how do you ever hope to create a brief for your online activity which informs your actions (if you are DIY), helps your staff understand the what/what and gets them on board with the process and informs anyone who submits a proposal/plan for online presence work to you.

Without planning, at best you’ve just wasted your own time and effort; at worst you’ve committed to one-off/ongoing overheads in terms of budget and resources to maintain the presence (once you have open pandora’s box it is very hard to close it again). At worst of the worst scenario, you’ve turned off your current customers and potential customers as a result…and maybe even your staff.

What you have to ask yourself is, do they love you enough to forgive you? Do you feel lucky punk, do ya?

Avoid getting yourself into situations where you are trying to hit a moving target in the dark with a bubble gun

Without the above, you are almost certainly dooming your online presence to either:

  • worst case scenario: fail (no one visits, you make no connections, you sell no jewellry), or
  •  best case scenario: to limp along like a wounded kitten as you take on alot of internal workload to try to overcome its shortcomings and inability to meet your actual needs

No pain, no gain (aka suggested Homework for you)

Essential

Beg, borrow or buy a copy of Groundswell, Expanded and Revised Edition: Winning in a World Transformed by Social Technologies by Charlene Li and Josh Bernoff and read their chapter on “Strategies for tapping the groundswell”. [Disclaimer, I am trialling Amazon Associates program – while the link above will take you to the Amazon you know and love and can purchase items on, I will earn a small commission for having the good taste to refer you to it.]

Pay particular attention to the POST method (People > Objectives > Strategy > Technology (page 67-68 in the 2008 edition).

Then, write POST on a post-it note and stick it to your bathroom mirror where you will see it every morning. And use the phrase “First people, then objectives, then strategy and then finally technology” as the mantra you say before you go to sleep.

Optional

These are definitely worth it for someone like me as it is absolutely fundamental to what I do (in my day-job), but for someone who wants a more effective use of their time and doesn’t need to know the subject matter, just who to ask; then these really are optionals:

  • If you are really interested, read the whole thing right now. Chances are, it’s probably the source material for alot of what your charming snakeoil salesperson is telling you.
  • If you are really, really interested and have time up your sleeve on a regular basis – the authors have a blog where they post about topics relevant to the book.

If your time could be spent better elsewhere, spend it elsewhere as I will flag what I think you should read in future posts.

And just remember, it takes more than just reading one book to have expertise on a subject area. That’s the difference between a fan and someone with expertise… 😉

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