City at night - ThisIsSamsTown

ThisIsSamsTown 2014 in review

2015 is upon us. Time to reflect and prepare for the next year.

As it does seems that end-of-year reports are a thing at the moment, why not a WordPress one. Two takes from mine.

I need to write more.

And I need to write more.

Hence, for 2015, my good resolution to finally create an editorial calendar and schedule even for this personal blog so I take the time to sit down and write the posts for which I currently only have drafts.

For now, in the words of WordPress :

“The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog.”

Let us have a look!

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 1,100 times in 2014. If it were a cable car, it would take about 18 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

Merry Xmas

Just a merry Christmas!

Merry Xmas

Merry surfing Xmas !

The Art of Social Media by Guy Kawasaki & Peg Fitzpatrick

The Art of Social Media, a book in review

The Art of Social Media by Guy Kawasaki & Peg Fitzpatrick

The Art of Social Media by Guy Kawasaki & Peg Fitzpatrick

Social media, is it really an art ? Whatever the right answer – if any – may be, Guy Kawasaki and Peg Fitzpatrick are saying yes to it with their upcoming book, “The Art of Social Media”.

With the book due to be available in just a few hours (on the 4th of December), what is there to be expected from it ? Let us have a quick look into it since I had the chance to get a copy for review.

The book I wanted

With the extreme rise of web-based publications and tools, I do admit that books have become a rarity in my vicinity. Yet, upon notification of this upcoming book, I really got curious; so much that I actually pre-ordered the book and paid for it … . Prior to receiving a copy for review.

Call me eager and dumb but the combination of Guy, Peg (both for whom I have the utmost respect) and social media made it quite an appealing piece of content. My precious … .

Now, on to topic. Does the “precious” deliver ?

“Power tips for power users”

Social media has become quite a standard and everybody uses at least a few platforms and tools. So getting the tips from the best in order to go the extra mile did sound like a sweet promise.

A hundred pages later, I felt like having browsed and clicked through my everyday Twitter timeline, full of tips and how-to in the sense that there is little to nothing new brought to the table for the non power user I am.

Hence my reading here, “Social Media for Dummies”.

The 100+ tips and tools to succeed with social media

Guy mentions that he loves a “how to” title or whatever kind of “x tips for social”. This book does actually feel like a larger than life how-to post. How to get started and develop on social media, the mainstream ones that is.

It does feel good to get a written validation from experts in regards to the tools used or the strategies developed though.

Yet, I ended up strolling through the book feeling like it missed one thing … a Wow factor that would make it stand out from – again – just one of these various posts to be found on the web everyday. And making it a book does actually not help as the visuals do not give a sound representation of what quality pictures should be. Not to mention screen captures cutting paragraphs in a strange and non consistent way.

Why so ugly ?

One general take about social “leaders”, “influencers”, “experts” or whatever you call them, they, for some reason, have the most ugly/old/scam-looking personal pages or websites to be found on the web.

Quite appalling for people going on about design and pictures all day long.

Well, one thing struck me when I saw the cover of this book … it feels the same as these sites. Definitely not an appealing visual. And it proves an even worse template to use for promotion around the book. I mentioned it already but the inside does not really get any better, not helping a free-flowing read.

Book or bookmark

I have compared the book to a blog post about social media earlier and the e-book does actually prove to be quite a twin to blog posts to be found out there.

The e-book does offer clickable links. Plenty of these driving the reader to various pages where additional content is to be found, turning a 100 pages book into a massive 1000+ pages encyclopaedia.

For the better ?

Yes from a homework point of view when wanting to focus on a particular chapter and willing to get the most of the paragraph in order to implement tweaks on a personal page or strategy.

As far as reading a book is concerned, the links tend to serve as substitutes to an actual clear and concise example or use-case, hence impairing the “power” experience of reading it. Not to mention that they are doing what is usually to be avoided on the web for your sites, take the visitor/reader away from the site/page.

On a side note, some pages end up being seriously overloaded with links (18 on pages 30-31 … just a random pick).

Engineering vs art

Calling the content of this book basic is a mistake of mine.

Not that I need to apologize for a troll moment here. Most of the book is about standard tools, strategies and recommendations.

But there come times when rocket science tips come into the mix, the “how to Peg a post” is a great example, where we suddenly move a lot more towards expert level but rather in the realm of engineering than art.

The art of social media is about the interactions, the listening and engaging, mostly the very basic foundations of social. Then comes the engineering for the power – or power-to-be – users.

Encyclopaedia Universalis … of social media.

encyclopaedia universalis

An encyclopaedia. For the older ones (yes I mean millennials … ) there was this time when we would work out of dictionaries and encyclopaedias. Oh the good ol’ times of browsing through standard paper pages with a few pictures here and there in search for added smartness.

The Art of Social Media is a book of this kind to me. A place where to go search for an item and get added knowledge about it. A support tool.

Maybe, in this regards, then it is a tool for power users and not for people looking for a quick and easy user guide to rocking social media. Burn the “for dummies”, this one is for social media nerds.

In the end, this is a nice-to-have book which I would not necessarily consider buying after being able to browse through it.

Oh wait, I actually bought it … .

(Image : tech.co)

Avoid burning your startup over marketing

(Image : tech.co)

(Image : tech.co)

Starting up is an adventure. Even if startups have become fashionable, they do remain actual companies.
With the same basic principles governing them.
Build, sale, make enough money to stay afloat and, hopefully, thrive.

Yet, statistics still tell that half of the newborn companies will not make it past a few years. Even the recent trend of over-funding tech startups will not really help as startups tend, more and more, to adopt a “nouveau riche” stance.

Nobody can deny the extreme competition over talent within the startup world leading to crazy packages to be offered. Also San Francisco and its housing prices make it near impossible to hire anybody without offering a premium just to allow them to live somewhere decent.
However, not all startups are in San Francisco and not all of them need to hire the one worldwide expert.

Does that mean that these other startups may be safe from the cash burning epidemic ? Not necessarily.
Before the spending spree, startups were already burning cash. Only in different ways.

Back to basics

Startups are, by default, young and lacking experience. That is basically why most founders need help and advice. A founder, backed by a mentor, usually builds a far more solid business.
Why is that ? Because, at the very least, a mentor may allow to avoid the panic decision-making.

Every company has deadlines. Every startup – or most at least – tend to have funding covering a defined lifespan and will, ultimately, need to make money or die. This creates a sense of urgency.
And out of urgency, panic.

Think and act

Founders, entrepreneurs, need to think before acting when it comes to steering their company. And not act without thinking.
The early stages of a startup are crucial and every decision made can create rotten foundations for the future.
From renting office space to hiring people and external consultants.

This post was actually triggered by a recent encounter with a company managed by a handful of people using outsourced skills. Definitely a good way to get skills onboard for a limited time and lower cost while still having the job done.
However, “job done” does not mean job done well.

Ask questions of “experts”

In the age of freelance, it sure is easy to put together a bunch of experts bringing dedicated skills to the table of a startup company while avoiding the humongous costs of having full time employees.
But whatever or whoever the “experts” are, startups need to put their name to the test.

A job done is still just a job done. Not a job done well. And as much as people want to love the lean startup approach and the MVP approach, not every product delivered will get a second chance.
An easy example being apps. People download, test and uninstall if it is bad or even just acceptable. And never come back.

This is valid for more trivial matters. In the case I encountered, I gave advice on the customer experience, the marketing and the use of social media. A quick but solid overview of what was good, wrong and where major improvements were needed. It basically took me 15 minutes to do a quick audit and put a summary together.
Nothing major.
But this startup then let me know that these points definitely made sense as they had commissioned an analyst company to do an audit and they had had similar findings.
After having been provided this document, my new finding was that analysts had basically been paid a very fair amount of money for a half-assed audit, written over about 50 pages, and not providing any clear recommendation.

Bullshit sells

Seriously. I did provide more content and actionable recommendations, for free, in a standard note than an actual analyst in 50 pages and for an amount of money I would love to be paid.
But bullshit sells. Especially when people panic. Especially when they do not take time to think and define their positioning, strategy and expectations well.

The bottom line here is that out of panicking and missing advice, a company burns time and money on a useless resource.
Which leads to the potential next burning : hiring an agency to fix what is not working … Remind me again what, in this report, were the solutions ?
PR agencies alone are a risk for startups. Going the extra mile and entrusting the whole marketing and social media job to an external agency, without a dedicated resource to liaise and challenge them, is a do or die.

Needing a picture here ? Take your baby, walk out of the house and entrust your baby kid to one stranger you pick in the street. Then pray that was the right one … .

In the end, it is easy to burn cash in ways definitely less fancy than what Silicon Valley displays but startups beware.

Thinking and planning may save you from getting burnt – from a bad decision, leading to another, more expensive and engaging, to burning too much cash, screwing up the company’s image and finally not getting customers onboard.

Just sit down, relax and ask for advice.