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Social Media Club Louisville: Meeting 3 Review

The SMC of Louisville met last evening (April 15, 2008) at The Fox & Hound. It was a very large group, and everyone seemingly had an excellent time although the actual presentation was hampered a bit by the loud music in the adjoining rooms. That’s no-one’s fault, and it didn’t negatively impact my experience one iota. Then again, bars are more of my element anyway. 😉

General Overview

Jason Falls played the role of “MC” for the event, and he started the evening with an excellent point–there is a lot of Social Media and Internet talent right here in Louisville, KY. The ‘Ville sometimes gets a bad rep from other locales as being backwards, country, redneck, hillbilly, etc., but there is a LOT of Internet talent in the River City, and a lot of people are stepping out and really leveraging social media in a big way. I couldn’t agree more with Jason’s opening statements. Next time you’re chatting with someone “in the know,” ask them to list the best people they’ve come across for doing something online, and chances are you might hear of someone from Louisville mentioned in the top 10.

Joining Jason on the “panel” for the evening were: Rob May of BusinessPundit fame, Chris Pearson, and Michelle Jones. All are very influential in their space and extremely talented. Each person shared their experience of how they came to blog and join the social media landscape along with some keys to success from their perspective.

Rob’s main takeaway for the evening could be summed up with Jim Rome’s radio show tagline for callers–“Have a Take and Don’t Suck!” Rob encouraged everyone attending to get involved online by being different. He said the key is to share personal experiences, controversy and/or strong opinions, or something that provides value to the reader. There are far too many “me, too” blogs and websites out there, and standing out requires being unique while contributing value. I concur with Rob’s core message for the evening.

Chris Pearson spoke next about getting people involved and engaging with you. If no one is contributing to your efforts with comments, links, or reviews, you’re essentially yelling into the wind where no one is listening. When you write or create online content, Chris contends, make it engaging and encourage participation through feedback or SOMETHING. Again, an excellent point.

No offense to Michelle, but it was most difficult for me to hear her (I was in the back of the room) so my notes are rather hazy. I did gather that she’s very passionate about Louisville, and that’s what propelled her to do something online in the first place. I believe one of her keys was to seek out something you’re passionate about and run with it because the passion will guide you in the right direction. (Michelle, I welcome your correction if I mis-heard you). She also encouraged the audience to give comments and feedback to get it. Another great point–a lot of bloggers or content creators think that if they create a great piece of content that floods of traffic will come flying in, and it doesn’t quite work that way. Believe me, I’ve learned this the hard way on several occasions, and I’m still wrestling with it.

Keys to Success

Jason then added more informative nuggets including:

  • Network regularly with someone that has a large following; eventually their followings’ curiosity will get the best of them, and they’ll check you out.
  • Try to network with your on-line contacts off-line, too. This can be extremely powerful!
  • Spread others’ messages to your following–“sneeze” their takes and opinions; this is in-line with the give to get philosophy; if you find something worth sharing, share it!
  • Have realistic expectations when you attempt to leverage social media for your business; don’t expect to enter the social media universe with the unrealistic expectation of generating a flood of business in short order–it takes time to build relationships off-line, and on-line is no different. This was one of my favorite points of the night because I’ve had similar conversations with potential clients, and they look at me like I have three heads when I say “your social media initiative ROI likely won’t be very good for awhile, but it could really pack a punch down the road.” Those aren’t popular words with executives, but they’re realistic if nothing else. Glad to hear Jason reiterate the point to the group although I’m guessing this particular audience already “gets it.” It’s their bosses that may not understand yet, and they need to hear this if they have aspirations of on-line/social media success.

Monetizing Social Media

The panel went on to discuss ways to make money with social media which was very interesting. Rob suggested building a valuable site (high PageRank, lots of visitors, a mini-community, etc.) before trying to leverage it as a profit center.

Some other takeaways:

  • Run your social media (blogging in particular) initiatives like a business–you have to invest resources just as you would a new division of your company. This is no different. I concur wholeheartedly, and I believe this is where a lot of companies miss the boat. They believe in the field of dreams approach and don’t understand that a consistent effort is what it’ll take to become successful online within the social media world.
  • Overall, there was a repeated theme amongst the panel of find those with a following and work to appeal to them. Do your homework and make sure it’s relevant. Also, make sure your style and overall approach meshes with the people you’re trying to appeal to. For example, it makes little sense to pitch PC related products to passionate Apple users.
  • Give to get was another popular theme amongst the panel, and that’s a great approach regardless of the business endeavor.
  • Be consistent with your frequency, tonality, and general message.
  • Be transparent and genuine–don’t hide behind anonymous handles or names or try to pretend to be something you’re not. People on-line can sniff out a fake rapidly, and the repercussions could be very damaging and costly. Word travels at light speed on-line, and you don’t want to draw the wrath of an upset and motivated community.

Off-line Socialization

Among the people I met for the first time:

  • Sarah Sapora of corecubed who moved here from Las Vegas and is excited to be involved with core and Louisville in general. Sarah was making her maiden voyage into the SMC so please welcome Sarah!
  • Stephen Harmon of HarmonWeddings.com–Stephen is a wedding photographer that also does business related photography.
  • Susan Gosselin of Gosselin Communications–Susan is involved in Public Relations and has a wealth of knowledge and experience to share with potential and existing clients.
  • Ed Bennett who is a freelance copywriter and used to work for the Courier Journal for several years. Ed and I had several great conversations about social media, the apparent direction of the CJ compared with the days of old, events from Louisville’s past including the tornadoes of 1974 (I was only 3 years old yet remember the day vividly believe it or not), and we freely admitted to each other that neither of us is comfortable in front of a camera so writing is a much better outlet for us.

Personal Experience & Summary

Overall, this was a great evening and event. I had a lot of fun, met some very neat “new” people (they’re technically not new just new to me), and learned something. The beer was very good and the staff at Fox & Hound was attentive, friendly and attractive which never hurts.If you didn’t get a chance to attend, I hope you make it to the next meeting. This is a growing community that is taking on a personality of its own. If you were there, I encourage you to share your thoughts on anything you’ve read here or anything I may have missed.

Twitter Ignorance to Twitter Love

For the longest time, I’d hear others opine about how much they loved Twitter and how it has enabled them to get to know others relatively quickly, but I’ve been on the outside looking in because I just didn’t “get it.”  I’d curl my lip and say “what’s the point with that service?” or “who would want to share what they’re doing all the time so stalkers could easily stalk them?”

That all changed about two weeks ago when I decided to really invest of myself into Twitter to see what all the buzz was about and try to figure out how business clients could benefit from the service.  It was as much self-education and mind expansion as it was figuring out the why behind all the buzz.  It’s not like I HAD to like the experience, but I wanted to give it a shot instead of dismissing it at every turn out of ignorance.

Well, my education has grown into great affection for the service, and I’m regularly “tweeting” to those that follow me and vice versa.  It really is a great way to get a glimpse into someone’s life without being nosy or prying into their space.  Since you can control what you share with others, it’s not like you’re opening your diary for the whole world to see or compromising your own safety by sharing what you’re up to.  Sharing just enough doesn’t equate to sharing intricate details.  For instance, let’s say I’m heading to eat at Jersey Mike’s (one of my favorites)–I could share that I’m heading there, but I don’t have to share which Jersey Mike’s that might be.

On the flip side, I could see how this might benefit those interested in developing stronger relationships with their local following, and that has business implications worth pursuing.  A lot of today’s business is conducted across great distances so this represents an opportunity to deepen relationships with people you may never physically encounter yet you can know as much about their lives, if not more, than their friends at home.  It works equally well for local contacts, too.  It’s much easier to “tweet” the entire following and encourage them to join you somewhere than it is to call or e-mail each person.  If they’re open to meeting with you, they have the option of showing up without having to make a big to do about it.  Hooray for that!  As someone who hates the telephone, this is a very easy way for me to spread a brief message without requiring a lot of legwork and coordination.  I’m all for minimizing hand holding opportunities.

You can also ask quick questions of your following and get short responses in fairly quick fashion.  This can be especially helpful if your group is a particularly savvy one–good advice for free is never a bad thing.

Anyway, I encourage you to follow me on Twitter if you’re so inclined and jump into the fun when the mood hits you.  The more you involve yourself, the more the service may appeal to you.  Then again, you may be like me a month ago and think it’s a gigantic waste of time.  I’ve been transformed since and see several benefits of being involved, but that doesn’t mean everyone will follow the same path as me.

SMC Louisville Meeting Recap

I (Roger) attended my first Social Media Club of Louisville event last night hosted at C-Net’s office here in the ‘Ville.  I had a good time and enjoyed meeting Joe, Lenny, Chris, Jason Falls, Jeremiah, and chatting with Rob and Todd (who I already knew ahead of time).  Thanks to Jason for bringing beer for everyone (that was a very pleasant surprise) and the kind soul who provided an elaborate food spread for the gang.

The focus of the meeting last night was being social as there were no speeches or formalized agendas . . . just people getting to know one another which is what a “social club” should be all about right?

Joe, Jason and I chatted about balancing all of the options out there to share content and some ways each of us attempt to create content by forcing ourselves out of our comfort zones to stimulate creativity and focus.  Glad to know the strategy I use, boarding myself up in a hotel room out of town, isn’t viewed as “strange” like it was by my ex-girlfriend.  😉

Rob and I chatted about creating some social media educational resources although Rob is severely strapped for time with multiple companies and a newborn.  If anyone is interested in working together to develop some educational material (eBooks, videos, podcasts, workbooks, etc.) about social media or automated marketing campaigns, please contact me.  I’m not very skilled in front of a camera so that would be a very welcome addition to the mix.

Chris, Lenny and I chatted about some past jobs, the workings of C-Net (Chris’ employer), and some things that are on the horizon for Chris and Lenny.

Lenny works for Chrysalis Ventures here in Louisville as an Analyst so he’s seen some pretty interesting business plans that I’d enjoy hearing a lot more about.

It seems as though Guitar Hero was quite popular based upon the crowd in the “other room” playing.  I’m always intrigued to see group dynamics at work when people of varying backgrounds and interests are gathered under one roof when it’s the first time for me to be exposed to them.  It’s much like walking into a bar for the first time where you only know a couple of people, and those couple of people know quite a few of the “strangers” at the bar.  Since I’m usually the guy at the bar that knows a lot of people, it was an interesting role reversal.  Online social media is much like that in general–there are subsets of people familiar with one another long before a “newbie” arrives, and it pays for the “newbie” to observe and chat up a few people on the periphery before jumping into the middle of the group.  So many people join a social media site then think it’s free reign to try to sell a product, service, or themselves, but social media doesn’t work like that much like offline relationships don’t.  It takes time to get to know people whether it is on or offline so that’s the lesson of last night’s gathering for me.

There’s more that I’m sure I’m forgetting about, but I’m definitely looking forward to the next meeting/gathering and getting to know more people.  If you’re in the Louisville area and want to learn about social media and how it can benefit your business, I encourage you to attend a future meeting.  They occur the third Tuesday of each month.  For more information, visit SMC Louisville.

After a lengthy bike ride last Saturday, I had some serious neck/upper back pain. It’s somewhat common for me after longer rides (3+ hours), but I somehow aggravated the injury while I was (of all things) taking a shower the next morning. I figured it was muscle fatigue or a mild strain that would disappear after a couple of days. Didn’t happen. After three days, it was time to bite the bullet and visit a professional.

There’s a new chiropractor/massage/rehab facility that opened less than a mile from my home so I figured I’d pop in on them to see if they could help me. There was even a sign in the front window stating “now accepting new clients.” Excellent! Not only are they convenient, they’re actively seeking people like me right now. Or so I thought. I entered and told the girl behind the desk that I thought I needed a massage to work the kink out of my neck. She said “great, let me see who is available and if we can get you in today.” Mind you, NO one else was even in the place from everything I could tell, and I saw three doctor/therapist types walking around as if they had some free time on their hands. After the girl looked at the computer schedule, she sheepishly looked up to tell me they could fit me in two weeks later, but they had nothing open until then. Another girl walked over as if she found that bit of information a little erroneous and suggested they might be able to fit me in the next Tuesday (today). The other girl said “no, that’s not right because he’s on vacation (meaning the therapist) so that wouldn’t work either.” They both agreed then looked at me like “sorry about your luck pal.”

If I had agreed to go through testing with a doctor and undergo x-rays, an hour questionnaire, poking and prodding, I could have seen someone the next day, but I couldn’t get anyone to help me with my immediate problem–the damn kink in my neck that was making it difficult to move my head around to see. If I had agreed to sign up for a treatment “program” (read: more expense), they might have magically found a massage therapist available. I left the joint a tad amused and a lot put off.

This incident was a further reminder that if you’re going to open the doors and welcome in “new” business, be prepared to take it in whatever way it comes to you. Suggesting that you welcome new clients is suggesting you’re not booked solid. Judging by the parking lot (I was the only car) and the doctors shuffling around as I stood there waiting to see if someone would be able to help me was further evidence that they definitely had room to take on more paying clients. They just don’t have room to take on new clients that don’t do things THEIR way (setting up an appointment weeks in advance, PLANNING for nagging injuries or aches, going through an insurance carrier, etc.) I was a walk-in customer that was prepared to turn over my credit card to receive immediate attention. I essentially had an open “budget” when I walked in there because the pain was strong enough, and I wasn’t in a mood to haggle over pricing or fee schedules. To me, immediate attention (time constraint) was more important than what it might cost (budget constraint). I had no idea what quality might come from being a walk-in, but I was willing to roll the dice to get rid of the kink so I wasn’t a difficult customer to please at that moment. They couldn’t even mildly accommodate me though.

Having read all of this, what are the odds I’ll return? They weren’t prepared to do business on my terms–take my credit card, some information, and administer a damn massage. They wanted me to jump through their hoops at their pace JUST to do business. I wasn’t a complicated case–just a simple massage today, please. Tomorrow I may decide I need x-rays and doctor assistance, but let me make that decision. Your policies and procedures shouldn’t prevent you from taking someone’s money and giving them what they want (within the broadest objectives of your overall business) as quickly as reasonably possible.

I worked in outside sales for two technology companies that I frequently challenged during sales meetings with this question:
“If a customer walked through that door RIGHT NOW and offered us cash to buy something we have in stock, could we sell it to them in less than 20 minutes?” You’d be shocked at the answer each time–it was “no, we’re not setup like a retail outlet like that. They’d have to fill out customer information, a credit application, references, etc.” What?!? To pay cash, they’d have to do all of that? Asinine and utterly amazing yet extremely true. That’s how some businesses set themselves up though. Don’t be one of those–be prepared to make it easy for someone to do business with you. Complicating things just to have a process or system in place is one of the dumbest things you can do if it doesn’t make it easy for someone new to do business with you. That’s common sense, but it’s amazing how uncommon that is anymore.

by Guy Kawasaki

At the Elite Retreat I gave an off-the-cuff answer to a question concerning getting the attention of venture capitalists. My buddy Wendy Piersall blogged about my answer, and it was a very popular. However, to truly help entrepreneurs, I’d like to provide a cogent list of the tips to get the attention of a venture capitalist.

  1. Get an introduction by a partner-level lawyer. He should work at a firm that does a lot of venture capital financings like my buddies at Montgomery & Hansen. Best case email/voicemail: “This is the most interesting company I’ve seen in my twenty years of legal work for startups.” Venture capitalists dream about calls like this—it’s the equivalent of a scoring shot that knocks the goalie’s water bottle off the top shelf.

    Incidentally, this part of the reason of why you should pay top dollar and use a well-known corporate finance attorney instead of Uncle Joe the divorce lawyer (even if he handles venture capitalists’ divorces). You’re paying for connections not only expertise.

  2. Get an introduction by a professor of engineering. Best case email/voicemail: “These students are the smartest ones I’ve ever had in twenty years of teaching computer science. Larry and Sergei would have carried their backpacks for them.” Arguably this is even better than the lawyer’s call if the school has a history of receiving multi-million dollar donations from its alumni—if you know what I mean.

  3. Get an introduction by the founder of a company in the venture capitalist’s portfolio. Best case email/voicemail: “My buddies are starting a new company, and I think it’s really cool.” For this to work, it would help if the person making the call is a successful company in the venture capitalist’s portfolio. Also, this would be a good time to tap your network in LinkedIn to find acquaintances in the portfolio.

    Here’s a power tip regarding getting to venture capitalists using LinkedIn. Maybe it’s only me, but I hate when a connection of a connection of a connection wants me to take a look at deal. LinkedIn enables you to just go direct, and that’s my advice if you can show success (see below). If you can’t show success, the connection of a connection of a connection is useless anyway.

  4. Show success. Suppose you can’t get any of the introductions mentioned above. Then the most compelling email/voicemail that you provide is this: “My buddy and I have been working in our garage, taking no pay, and with MySQL we built a site that is doubling in traffic every month. Right now, we’re at 250,000 page views a day after thirty days.” With this one sentence you’ve proven you can (a) make a little bit of money (“none”) go far, your architecture looks scalable so far (once in my career I’d like scalability to be a problem), and most importantly, the dogs are already eating the food.

    Another way to show success is to hit it out of the park at Demo or the poor man’s Demo we call Launch: Silicon Valley, but this is a game that only a few dozen companies can play in every year. Finally, you can provide links to articles singing your praises, but this only means that you fooled the press, not that the dogs like what you’re serving.

  5. Make sure your company is in the right space. No matter how you get to the venture capitalist, make sure that she is the right one for you. For example, if you have the cure for cancer, contacting a firm’s enterprise software guru isn’t the brightest idea, so get on the web and do your homework.

  6. Use a short email. The ideal length of your email is three or fourth paragraphs:

    • What does your company do?

    • What problem are you solving?

    • What’s special about your technology/marketing/expertise/connections?

    • Who are you?

    Here are some things not to do:

    • Attach a PowerPoint presentation. I don’t care if it even adheres to the 10/20/30 rule. Save it for the face-to-face meeting.

    • Use the word “patented” more than once. All it takes to file a patent is $1,000. No good venture capitalist believes patents makes your company defensible. They just want to learn (once) that there might be something worth patenting.

    • Claim that you’re in a multi-billion dollar market. Isn’t every company in a multi-billion market according to some study? At least every company that’s ever pitched a venture capitalist.

    • Provide a lofty financial projection. Most projections that I see show how you’ll grow faster than Google. Frankly, I wouldn’t provide any projection at all. It will be either too low and make your deal uninteresting or too high and make you look delusional.

    • Brag about an MBA degree. Most venture capitalists want to invest in hardcore engineers at the start. The MBAs can come later, so focus on engineering or avoid the subject completely.

    • Try to create the illusion of scarcity. Many entrepreneurs claim that “Sequoia is interested.” If Sequoia is interested, you should take its money. If it isn’t, then the venture capitalist won’t be either. Either way, don’t even think of blowing this smoke.

This posting is merely about the process of getting across the moat. To learn more about what to do once you’re there, read how to fix your pitch by Bill Reichert of Garage.

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