Jay Neely Boston startups, online marketing, and life as a web entrepreneur. 2016-02-06T20:45:38Z http://jayneely.com/feed/atom/ Jay Neely <![CDATA[From Non-Technical Founder to Technical]]> http://socialstrategist.com/?p=250 2016-02-06T20:45:35Z 2013-07-11T21:06:50Z When I last wrote, I was working on a new startup. It did not succeed, but was easily one of the most rewarding things I’ve done in the past few years. Because in this last startup, I learned to code. This is something a lot of business founders are curious about, possibly scared of, and unsure of how to do it or if it’s worth it. So I wanted to share the story of my path from non-technical to technical and some thoughts on the pros and cons of business founders learning to code.

My Story

I started with the [Read the rest »]

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When I last wrote, I was working on a new startup. It did not succeed, but was easily one of the most rewarding things I’ve done in the past few years. Because in this last startup, I learned to code. This is something a lot of business founders are curious about, possibly scared of, and unsure of how to do it or if it’s worth it. So I wanted to share the story of my path from non-technical to technical and some thoughts on the pros and cons of business founders learning to code.

My Story

I started with the alphabet. Way back when Geocities was the hot thing on the web, I learned my first bits of HTML, and later when I started blogging I learned CSS to do basic style and layout customizations. These are learning-the-alphabet level skills; I can’t emphasize this enough. They’re scary when you’re still illiterate, but as soon as you make the effort, you’re spelling your name and writing sentences soon after.

I used the basics and stretched just a little. CSS became a strong suit long before I could do any ‘real’ programming. WordPress was doing something with some kind of database; that was still a black box to me. But editing CSS was a great way to get comfortable with some web dev fundamentals. Then when I wanted to do more with my blog than just change the style, I dug into WordPress. I copied and pasted PHP code I didn’t understand from WordPress tutorials, but could tinker with until it did what I wanted. That may not sound educational, but the basic familiarity I got was helped later when learning things like objects and functions.

At a high level, I kept learning about tech to understand the possibilities. Like many frustrating non-technical people, I learned just enough about how different pieces of tech worked to be dangerous. Projects I pursued with my friend Andrew (a wonderful programmer who rose from lead developer to chief architect officer at his dayjob) followed a common pattern of me proposing an idea, him doubting such a thing could be done, me searching and suggesting some methods he could look into, and him eventually admitting we could do it.

This wasn’t always the case — sometimes Andrew clearly explained that idea #346 was not possible, because thing X did not work that way. But the more I became aware of technology, the more I understood what the possibilities were. And the more frustrated I became that I couldn’t explore any of them without help.

I wrote the logic, and watched it get translated into code. Ultimately, programming is about logic; defining structures and steps they go through to get to the result they want. Not just: “if the user clicks here, this should happen”. What information needs to be transmitted, and then how does it need to be processed, and then where does it go? In my early startups and hackathons I worked with my friends to outline this logic, and watched how they transformed it into code.

I started coding with a clear idea of what I wanted to do, and asked / Googled my way through. Just getting started ultimately helped me make the most progress. But the key for me is that I was trying to do something specific, not just ‘learn how to code’. In one of our tools for RiverInsights, I took ownership of one of the core pieces of functionality, a process to get tweets, filter and score them according to my criteria, and store them with info about them in our database.

My co-founder, Bob Cavezza (another wonderful programmer I’ve been fortunate enough to work with), answered countless questions from me about syntax and structures and if I was doing this right, while StackOverflow and the PHP documentation racked up hits from my Google searches for function names and example uses. As I kept at it, the less I was copying, pasting, and tinkering, and the more I was actually writing code.

So, was it worth it?

Pros and Cons of Business Founders Learning to Code

Con: It’s not just learning to code, and that’s a long learning curve. Outside of blogging services that let you use learning-the-alphabet level skills with built-in conveniences like text boxes to put your custom CSS into, there’s actually a lot of other tools and knowledge you need to have that already-technical people take for granted. Things that I have learned piecemeal, at a basic level, that enable me to build something for the web:

  • how a browser works
  • how to set up web hosting
  • how to set up a domain
  • using a code editor
  • using browser debug tools
  • how to use FTP
  • how to use shell
  • how web server software works
  • how URLs work
  • server directory structure
  • using code libraries
  • how a relational database works
  • how to use phpMyAdmin
  • how PHP, MySQL, HTML, and JavaScript actually work together.
  • what a cron job is, and how to use it
  • what an API is, and how to use them

I’m sure there’s a bunch that I’ve left out, and there’s more on the way. Things like caching and version control and SSL that I’ve either not yet needed or have had hand-holding assistance with. The bad news for business founders who want to become technical is that web development involves a lot of tech you’ll need to understand to do it on your own. The good news is that to get started, each piece you really just need a basic level of understanding of, and each will come in a spread out series as you’re moving forward.

Con: You can’t multi-task while coding. Coding takes focus. It’s not a linear process the way writing an email is, where what you’re writing now is mostly independent of what you wrote before, and you can stop mid-sentence and finish later with ease just by re-reading. Most of what you develop will require you to hold a synopsis of the larger system in your head, and adding something new to it requires remembering and connecting correctly with many other parts.

Distractions and multi-tasking that takes you out of the development workflow will force you to recreate your mental synopsis of that system before you can proceed again, and parts left unfinished can leave you mystified as to what you were doing if you didn’t get a chance to leave in-code comments. Doing development will force you to set aside blocks of time just to do development — there’s no switching into email or twitter or calls during it.

Pro: You can learn a little and contribute a lot. Let’s say you’re not a solo founder. Even if you only learn front-end skills (HTML, CSS, maybe some JavaScript), it can be a big help in saving time on product development. If you make the effort to learn back-end skills, you can help you track down and fix bugs, freeing up your real technical talent to focus on moving the product forward and fixing just the hard stuff.

Pro: You can do much more on your own. You can get things started without a technical team. You can answer your own questions about if things are possible or not. And most importantly, your prototype can become a limited but working piece of software instead of a collection of mockups, capable of gaining users and showing real traction to investors or potential partners.

Pro: Your ability to network, relate with, and communicate with developers greatly increases. Ultimately, your job as a founder is to assemble an amazing team. Even if becoming technical removes barriers for you to start on your own, it’s unlikely you’ll succeed long-term as a team of one. So another benefit of learning to code is that you gain the ability to network with other developers as a peer and student, instead of just a recruiter. It’s not only easier to make relationships with people this way, it’s also easier to interest them in what you’re doing when you’re able to tell and show them the technical details of it.

Pro: You become a maker, and gain a maker’s understanding. It’s hard to overstate the satisfaction of simply being able to create. To make the tools you think of and build something that makes your life easier. And as a bonus, you get a better understanding of how everyone else’s tools are built, enabling you to learn more from the world around you and get new ideas for your own ventures.

Is it worth it learning to code if you want to start a startup?

Right now, yes. In the United States, our labor market is hugely under-supplied in developers, and the substitutes are poor. Getting started is the limiting factor in startups right now. I don’t want to undervalue business and marketing skills; there are plenty of talented technology companies that fail because they don’t have people good enough at these things identifying product-market fit, creating partnerships, and finding customers. But there are many, many more startups failing because they can’t get past the idea stage, or aren’t making quick enough progress on the product itself.

Learning to code will take time. But I suspect that if you make the effort, you’ll find yourself further down the road on your startup than if you had spent the time searching for a technical cofounder, seeking investment, or trying to build traction without a working product. Make the effort.

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Jay Neely <![CDATA[BarCamp Ends and My New Startup Begins]]> http://socialstrategist.com/?p=239 2016-02-06T20:45:36Z 2012-04-17T17:29:14Z BarCamp Boston 7The past couple of months I’ve been busy with Boston’s largest annual geek unconference, BarCamp Boston. A yearly event I help to organize, we had at least 550 attendees this year, despite conflicts with PAX East, Anime Boston, Passover, and Easter. An event where the content is meant to be generated entirely by attendees takes a surprising amount of work to make happen. Arranging a venue, finding sponsors, ordering t-shirts, creating the right structure, planning food, creating web apps that facilitate attendee connections, arranging additional programs like hardware recycling & a programming contest, and promotion, promotion, promotion.

BarCamp Boston … [Read the rest »]

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BarCamp Boston 7The past couple of months I’ve been busy with Boston’s largest annual geek unconference, BarCamp Boston. A yearly event I help to organize, we had at least 550 attendees this year, despite conflicts with PAX East, Anime Boston, Passover, and Easter. An event where the content is meant to be generated entirely by attendees takes a surprising amount of work to make happen. Arranging a venue, finding sponsors, ordering t-shirts, creating the right structure, planning food, creating web apps that facilitate attendee connections, arranging additional programs like hardware recycling & a programming contest, and promotion, promotion, promotion.

BarCamp Boston fortunately has an incredible crew of organizers that help make it all doable. If you’re interested in helping with the planning next year, we have a mailing list you can join where we coordinate planning (extremely low traffic most of the year).

Now that BarCamp is finished for the year (well, still a bit of wrap-up work to do, but almost there!), I’m excited for what’s next. What started as an AngelHack project is now a startup Bob Cavezza and I are working full-time on. RiverInsights will save time and add value for social media managers, a job I’m very familiar with after filling that role for brands, startups, and various organizations over the past few years. Social media management is a very new but rapidly-growing profession, and these professionals are still lacking useful tools in many areas (recall my 11 Twitter Tools for 2011 post — many of these still don’t exist).

We’re starting with the problems of finding content to share with your audience, and of finding conversation opportunities on twitter to engage members of your target market. Right now social media managers spend a lot of time checking a bunch of saved searches, building twitter lists, searching twitter directories, checking hashtags, and maintaining & refining each channel. We want to provide an effortless view of the most relevant content / tweets for the account you’re managing, giving you an always-on, always-fresh stream of content and conversation opportunities relevant to your particular target market.

Right now we’re working on getting a private alpha version ready. Sign up at RelatedRiver.com if you’re interested. Bob and I are pulling together a lot of very interesting twitter data; hope to share some of it with you soon. If you are or know someone who is a social media manager, I’d love to connect! Early feedback helps us provide the tools & data you’d most like to have. Drop me a line at: jay [.dot.] neely [@at@] socialstrategist [.dot.] com

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Jay Neely <![CDATA[Building a Business in 54 Hours – Boston Startup Weekend Recap]]> http://socialstrategist.com/?p=227 2016-02-06T20:45:36Z 2012-03-02T23:18:10Z Boston Startup Weekend bannerThis past weekend I went to Boston Startup Weekend, a 54 hour event designed to bring a mix of developers, designers, and business people together to pitch ideas, form teams, and build the core of a startup. From around 100 attendees, 70  ideas were pitched, around 20 teams were formed, and the weekend ended with around 17 teams presenting their work.

I debated pitching a few ideas. A map tool using the StartupsInBoston.com and event data, an infographics creation tool, and various tools using twitter data. Ultimately, I pitched a twitter browser extension that would display a second stream … [Read the rest »]

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Boston Startup Weekend bannerThis past weekend I went to Boston Startup Weekend, a 54 hour event designed to bring a mix of developers, designers, and business people together to pitch ideas, form teams, and build the core of a startup. From around 100 attendees, 70  ideas were pitched, around 20 teams were formed, and the weekend ended with around 17 teams presenting their work.

I debated pitching a few ideas. A map tool using the StartupsInBoston.com and event data, an infographics creation tool, and various tools using twitter data. Ultimately, I pitched a twitter browser extension that would display a second stream of tweets related to your interests, unlimited by whether you were following the tweeters or not. It was the business model that most interested me in this, but I didn’t include it in the pitch (whoops).

Finding a Team to Join

With my idea out of the running, I was one of the many attendees figuring out not just what I wanted to work on, but who I wanted to work with. There was a great crowd at Startup Weekend, and I met some awesome people during the pre-pitch networking: Dan Vidal ( co-founder of ArtVenue), Lily Wang (designer at Incrwd), and Sergio Ferreira (owner of Ferreira Concrete Forms), among others.

Sergio was a construction subcontractor business owner who’d been thinking about a problem his business (and the many subcontractor businesses like his) had: the inefficient, hard-to-track process of sending project bids to General Contractors.

My initial sketch of Sergio's problem description.Subcontractors like Sergio might be asked for bids on pieces of 20 building projects each week, sending their bids to 5 to 15 GCs bidding on the whole project. GCs have software to manage their process of sending out bid requests, adding up different estimates, etc., but subcontractors didn’t have good tools of their own.

A clear problem, with a solution being proposed by a guy who has deep domain experience and many industry connections? Count me in. Two developers who also had some knowledge of the industry were also interested, and although Pete was getting hit hard by a cold that was going to keep him from participating for the rest of the weekend, Jason was good to go. With our team formed, the little time remaining on Friday evening was spent defining the product scope.

A Quick Startup Setup

Whiteboard of our startup brainstorming.With any hackfest-like event, it’s more important than ever to focus on building the minimum viable product. There were plenty of pieces that could go into a useful subcontractor bidding management tool, that came out of our initial brainstorming session: document creation, email automation, CRM functionality, tracking, reporting, etc. What was the key piece of functionality that showed the power of this product? We decided it was bid tracking.

The rest of Friday evening was spent organizing ourselves. Where would we host code? (Azure for the app, my hosting for initial development of the sales site on WordPress.) How would we share files and track to-dos? (A combination of Trello, which I’d been itching to try with a team, email, and Google Docs.) What would we name this thing? (I pointed Sergio to LeanDomainSearch and a number of good potential names I’d found through it, and in the morning he came back with SubBids.)

Stop Planning, Start Working

My initial model of the app elements.Saturday morning, development began in earnest. Drawing on Sergio’s knowledge, I created an overview of the information we wanted the system to capture, giving Jason a starting point to create the actual data model from. With that and some sketched mockups of the app I had done, Jason started development while Sergio worked on fleshing out the business research and customer validation, and I got started on the customer-facing site that people would first see when they came to SubBids.com.

Building SubBids with only three people was hard. On the other hand, it meant we didn’t need to spend a lot of time coordinating efforts. Much of Saturday we all spent with headphones in, heads down, executing on our pieces of the project. At the end of the evening, we reviewed the sizeable progress we’d made and headed home after I white-boarded our to-dos for the next day:

  • Integrating Jason and I’s work
  • Getting me access to a shared dev environment so I could style the app
  • Jason finishing the core app functionality
  • Sergio finishing the presentation for Startup Weekend’s judges
  • Group shakedown use of the app
  • Bug fixes sprint while Sergio practiced presentation
  • Enhancement sprint (if we had time)

The Rush to Finish

Sunday, things started to feel rockier quick. We were moving forward, discovering things that need to be added, changed, or fixed and implementing them as we went. But nothing causes things to go wrong better than a deadline. Getting a shared development environment setup took longer than expected. Sergio was getting tough pitch feedback. Key functionality was still incomplete.

Prioritization time. There’s no way we can get a fully-functional, bug-free, polished app done in the hours left. What do we need to prove the concept? What do we have to get done? Jason and I start sharing a couch, with me looking up Razor syntax and modifying views as he rejiggers objects and builds the bid status logic. Sergio’s reworking the presentation and planning the demo as we tell him what will and won’t be available.

Startup Weekend Judgement Day

Finally, we’re out of time to do more. As much as I’d love to keep iterating small improvements up to the second of our presentation’s start, our last set of deployments has somehow broken Azure’s ability to allow remote access. Probably for the best; last-minute changes are a great way to break everything.

Screenshot of the project dashboard.After 16 other pitches, Sergio steps up and gives a solid presentation of the problem, our solution, and the business opportunity. We walk our way through a not-rehearsed-enough demo. Look at that front page — so clean, such a clear value prop! How it works page, go! Application screen 1; look at that sexy dashboard. jQuery toggle, bam! Josh Bob gets the Back to the Future reference, excellent. No one spots the Star Trek references, lame.

We show some other pages — this is how you do stuff. I show the dashboard again — now you know more about how cool this is. Crap, we haven’t run out of time yet. Please don’t make me show pages that don’t work yet. Oh thank god we’re done.

Wrapping Up

Screenshot of our front page.SubBids took 1st place. It’s unfortunate there wasn’t an explanation of the choices / final words from the judges, but I have to imagine they saw what I did: clear problem, good start on a solution, team that can make it work, feasible business.  Being the smallest team to present, Jason, Sergio, and I were all thrilled to win.

The victory aside, Startup Weekend was a great experience because of just that: experience. Every opportunity to use your skills helps you grow them.  Add an opportunity to see a dozen and a half other startups being born on top, and a lasting network of your fellow participants, and you’ve got an event worth going to.

Jason has his own recounting of the weekend coming from a developer’s perspective: My Experience as a Developer at Startup Weekend (Friday).

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Jay Neely <![CDATA[5 Areas I’m Interested In for Startups]]> http://socialstrategist.com/?p=223 2016-02-06T20:45:36Z 2012-02-20T22:29:45Z Five areas have been getting me thinking about startup opportunities lately:

Creating value from public content.

Stocktwits is aggregating and providing analytics on tweets about stocks. Major brands have dozens of tools for measuring sentiment, mindshare, and more from brand mentions in almost any online context. With thousands of posts per second to twitter alone talking about products, media, events, websites, politicians, and more… what other opportunities are there to index, analyze, and create value from publicly-posted content?

Life improvement.

Whether the goal is making more money, finding new friends, or just feeling good about your self, everyone has personal … [Read the rest »]

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Five areas have been getting me thinking about startup opportunities lately:

Creating value from public content.

Stocktwits is aggregating and providing analytics on tweets about stocks. Major brands have dozens of tools for measuring sentiment, mindshare, and more from brand mentions in almost any online context. With thousands of posts per second to twitter alone talking about products, media, events, websites, politicians, and more… what other opportunities are there to index, analyze, and create value from publicly-posted content?

Life improvement.

Whether the goal is making more money, finding new friends, or just feeling good about your self, everyone has personal challenges that don’t have clear repeatable solutions. But that doesn’t mean tools and structures can’t be created to help. Right now we’re seeing a growing number of ‘quantified self’ tools on the rise, primarily around productivity, fitness, and nutrition.

Note that many of the most successful tools aren’t digital recreations of specific methods (e.g. the GTD method, P90X, Atkins diet), but instead are method-agnostic tools that help to capture data, and make it easy to understand (e.g. RescueTime, RunKeeper, LoseIt).

There’s room to do this for other areas of personal improvement, providing tools that make planning, visualization, and tracking easier for the increasing number of people pursuing conscious self-development.

Making content creation easier.

The genie is out of the bottle with inbound marketing, and every company is learning it must produce content to educate, entertain, and attract the attention of customers. Infographics are not a trend any more than blogging itself has been. Companies need help crafting good visuals, blog posts, even tweets.

Tools that provide design assistance, writing assistance, research assistance, or even inspiration assistance can become much more valuable when combined with domain expertise and a web app model of continual improvement, updates, and additions.

Suites of tools for digital professionals.

Aviary, Fog Creek Software, 37 Signals have all created tools that individually solve relatively small problems for a relatively small portion of a larger market. Digital professionals around the world share similar titles, yet need very different tools from one another depending on their industry, team size, experience level, and more.

Rather than building and marketing a one-size-fits-poorly mega-app, there are opportunities to build modular tools for the growing number of information workers: virtual assistants, analysts, content producers, community managers, and marketers across countless new platforms (mobile, social, video, etc.).

Small town / rural economies

I’m from a small town in North Georgia myself, and I can tell you that it’s a difference of night and day between my hometown economy and that of Boston, or Atlanta, or even a mid-size city like Savannah. I don’t underestimate the difficulty of scaling a venture across enough small towns to make it profitable, but difficult is not impossible.

Finding inefficiencies that can be reduced, or opportunities to reconnect small towns to the benefits of globalization and the information economy, is a challenge that must be met by someone in America. Why not us?

I’ve been thinking about interests instead of ideas because ideas are easy. You’ve probably had several just from reading through the prompts above. But ideas are also limiting. It’s much harder to find people who want to work on a particular idea than it is to find people who are similarly enthused about working on something in an area of interest, or even just working with someone who’s interested in similar things.

This week I’m headed to Founder Matchup and Boston Startup Weekend, hoping to connect with some developers and designers who feel the same. If you’re interested in connecting (there or otherwise), drop me a line: jay [.dot.] neely [@at@] socialstrategist [.dot.] com

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Jay Neely <![CDATA[There’s No Off-Season for Boston Startup Events]]> http://socialstrategist.com/?p=220 2016-02-06T20:45:36Z 2012-02-08T19:20:42Z Boston Startup Weekend - February 24th - 26thBack in Boston after a two-week visit home in January, I’m finding February filled with events for all elements of Boston’s startup scene. The Business of Apps at the Venture Cafe tomorrow, EdTechup on the 15th has a U.S. Department of Education guest this month, Vixmo’s hosting a Mobile Hackathon on the 18th, and Startup Weekend‘s happening again the 24th – 26th.

I’m particularly looking forward to Boston Startup Weekend; I’ve reserved my “non-technical” ticket and have my fingers crossed to find some cool people to work with. It’s likely I’ll pitch an idea that services the Boston startup … [Read the rest »]

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Boston Startup Weekend - February 24th - 26thBack in Boston after a two-week visit home in January, I’m finding February filled with events for all elements of Boston’s startup scene. The Business of Apps at the Venture Cafe tomorrow, EdTechup on the 15th has a U.S. Department of Education guest this month, Vixmo’s hosting a Mobile Hackathon on the 18th, and Startup Weekend‘s happening again the 24th – 26th.

I’m particularly looking forward to Boston Startup Weekend; I’ve reserved my “non-technical” ticket and have my fingers crossed to find some cool people to work with. It’s likely I’ll pitch an idea that services the Boston startup community; an expansion of Startups in Boston or a coworking matchup tool, perhaps.

BarCamp Boston, the annual technology / marketing / startups / geek unconference, held its first organizers’ meeting on Monday, preparing for BCB7 coming up on April 7th & 8th. There’s an exciting number of events happening in our community between now and then. Hope to see you out at some of them!

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Jay Neely <![CDATA[How to Make Twitter Take Less Time]]> http://socialstrategist.com/?p=200 2016-02-06T20:45:36Z 2011-11-14T13:19:59Z Making Twitter Take Less TimeIf you’re using twitter professionally, efficiency is important. There are some simple ways to save time without sacrificing substance. Building lists, saving searches, queuing content, and using Tweetfilter can help you keep twitter valuable, effective, and low-cost.

Build lists of the people you want to interact with

You want your audience, influencers, and others to follow you, but you don’t want to be a spammy follower. Good twitter professionals understand that while following another user is one of the best triggers for a follow-back, having a positive relationship with the person you’re following is key to making that succeed. Lists … [Read the rest »]

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Making Twitter Take Less TimeIf you’re using twitter professionally, efficiency is important. There are some simple ways to save time without sacrificing substance. Building lists, saving searches, queuing content, and using Tweetfilter can help you keep twitter valuable, effective, and low-cost.

Build lists of the people you want to interact with

You want your audience, influencers, and others to follow you, but you don’t want to be a spammy follower. Good twitter professionals understand that while following another user is one of the best triggers for a follow-back, having a positive relationship with the person you’re following is key to making that succeed. Lists (particularly private lists) are an excellent way to keep track of the people you want to reach and see tweets from them, making it easy to engage with them and build a relationship before following.

Save searches for keywords that provide conversation opportunities or good content

Spammy marketers will use tools to automatically tweet to anyone using certain keywords; this is an awful practice that makes your brand look bad, and rarely drives results. Spend time upfront to identify keywords likely to be in tweets you would want to respond to. Using twitter’s search modifiers [a question mark helps you find tweets that are questions (try with product category keywords), a sad emoticon helps you find negative sentiment tweets (try this with competitor brand names)] can help. Figuring out what the best combinations are and saving them makes periodic checking a breeze.

Queue content as you find it

One of the most time-consuming tasks I’ve had as a community manager has been finding content to tweet. It’s often feast or famine. Using a tool like Timely can be useful for queuing content and tweets as you find it or think of them whether you’re on twitter at the time or not. No worrying about scheduling or bookmarking and coming back to it later.

Use Tweetfilter to help highlight opportunities and filter out time-wasting tweets

My favorite twitter tool, Tweetfilter is a browser extension that (among other nice enhancements) lets you filter tweets by keyword (no more FourSquare check-ins!) or tweet type (filter out @replies, retweets, or tweets containing links) on any stream in twitter (home, profiles, lists, saved searches). Tools like Tweetfilter are precisely why I’m using twitter’s web client again; browser extensions can provide professionals with whatever functionality they need, not just the features each client happens to have.

One of my favorite ways to use Tweetfilter is to use all of the tweet-type filters, showing me just tweets with text and possibly hashtags. These are usually much more conversational than other tweets; an easy way to filter out distractions and just focus on what’s important: engaging other tweeters.

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Jay Neely <![CDATA[How to Fail at Social Media – Ignore Customer Complaints, Like Bolt Bus]]> http://socialstrategist.com/?p=163 2016-02-06T20:45:36Z 2011-10-19T13:37:39Z Smart companies know that twitter is where conversations (including conversations about them) are happening, and there’s much benefit to joining in. Engaging fans and earning referrals, smoothing over mistakes and saving lost business, and enticing potential customers to try them are all benefits from joining the conversation. But once you’re in the twitter room, it’s as rude and alienating to ignore customers talking to you as it would be if it were in person.

A particularly bad offender I’ve noticed is Bolt Bus. During a bad experience of my own last week, I tweeted at them three times over the … [Read the rest »]

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Smart companies know that twitter is where conversations (including conversations about them) are happening, and there’s much benefit to joining in. Engaging fans and earning referrals, smoothing over mistakes and saving lost business, and enticing potential customers to try them are all benefits from joining the conversation. But once you’re in the twitter room, it’s as rude and alienating to ignore customers talking to you as it would be if it were in person.

A particularly bad offender I’ve noticed is Bolt Bus. During a bad experience of my own last week, I tweeted at them three times over the course of three hours, only getting a response to my last tweet when I specifically said I could see them tweeting to others while they ignored the complaints of customers like myself and three others I mentioned by username. They never followed up with me after my reply to theirs, and as far I can see, never responded to the tweets of the others I mentioned.

Bolt Bus Ignoring Customers

Unfortunately, Bolt Bus is not alone. According to research by evolve24, 71% of customers who have complained on twitter have never been contacted by the company as a result of their tweet. Jay Baer has more excellent analysis and key stats from the survey: http://www.convinceandconvert.com/social-media-monitoring/70-of-companies-ignore-customer-complaints-on-twitter/

While I’m personally upset to be ignored, I hate to see a business failing so badly at customer service and marketing basics. Hundreds of Bostonians in Bolt Bus’ target market will have seen my tweets (and tweets from my colleagues who saw and agreed with mine). I’m only one of what looks to be many customers being ignored. With wifi + power outlet amenities heavily focused on appealing to the tech-savvy, tweeting crowd, I don’t see this going well for Bolt Bus.

Bolt Bus Ignoring Customers BoltBus Complaint on Twitter BoltBus Complaint on Twitter 2 BoltBus Complaint on Twitter 3 BoltBus Complaint on Twitter 4

 

 

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Jay Neely <![CDATA[What is content strategy (and what is “content”)?]]> http://socialstrategist.com/?p=131 2016-02-06T20:45:36Z 2011-10-10T21:39:15Z It’s how businesses are earning attention, getting customers, and shaping their industry. It’s content strategy: a plan for producing and sharing information and media with audiences you want to reach, to achieve goals like customer acquisition and press coverage.

Three Quick (Fictional) Examples of Content Strategy

Lapadio Logo (Fictional Content Strategy Example)B2C: Lapadio, an online music company, wants to get more iTunes users to sign up and upload a list of their music library. They host monthly contests for users to build playlists for unique themes and add commentary, from their uploaded library. The content (and links to it as users promote their playlists in … [Read the rest »]

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It’s how businesses are earning attention, getting customers, and shaping their industry. It’s content strategy: a plan for producing and sharing information and media with audiences you want to reach, to achieve goals like customer acquisition and press coverage.

Three Quick (Fictional) Examples of Content Strategy

Lapadio Logo (Fictional Content Strategy Example)B2C: Lapadio, an online music company, wants to get more iTunes users to sign up and upload a list of their music library. They host monthly contests for users to build playlists for unique themes and add commentary, from their uploaded library. The content (and links to it as users promote their playlists in an effort to win) helps Lapadio rank for searches for playlists related to the chosen themes, and gets users promoting the service.

B2B: StudentStyle, a design and marketing firm for national student organizations, wants to convince more national fraternities, sororities, clubs, and professional organizations that they should invest in branding and marketing. They work with their existing clients to publish case studies tracking membership numbers, awareness on-campus and off, and alumni donations. They create surveys and compile the results to show low awareness from most students about what organizations exist on campus and what the benefits are. The latter content gets attention from campus newspapers and magazines, and the former is valuable material for StudentStyle’s sales agents.

Othello Pizza Logo (Fictional Content Strategy Example)Local: Othello Pizza, one of many restaurants competing for business in Harvard Square, is in an easy-to-overlook location. It wants to bring in new customers and keep them coming back.  Othello starts offering two unique promotions: every 100th customer can get their photo taken using one of the big wooden pizza paddles to put a pizza in the oven, complete with chef’s hat and Othello Pizza apron. Sharing these photos on its Facebook Page, they’re quickly tagged by the customer and shared with their friends. The second promotion is a weekly contest on the Facebook Page to suggest a design to do with pizza toppings. Fans comment with suggestions, Othello makes the one with the most Likes and posts a photo on the Page. Keeping fans engaged on Facebook makes sure Othello gets its less-engaging but business-driving updates (new pizzas, specials, etc.) seen by fans.

The “Content” of Content Strategy

Playlists, case studies, survey results, photos of customers, and product art — all different from the generic idea of blog post / website “articles” most of us associate with the idea of content, though text articles can be valuable content too. Content is any media or information being published / provided to a target audience. Content can be gathered from your existing business processes (aggregated, anonymized data from users / clients), contributed from your users (e.g. Yelp reviews and photos, customer surveys), or created by yourself.

Why Invest in Content Strategy?

Because content strategy is indirect (there’s not a clear “1 post = X new customers” line to be drawn), many businesses don’t see the opportunity; they’re too used to the simple propositions of advertising and direct marketing. Buy $X in ads, get Y in impressions, probably get around Z in new customers. But although content marketing doesn’t provide a direct output, it does provide a continuing output. If you buy an ad, you get a set amount of impressions or clicks. If you build a content channel, your content keeps getting visits, links, people sharing it, etc. long after you’ve created it.

Advertising lets you rent access to your audience; building a content channel lets you own access to your audience.

More posts to come on content strategy. Get updates from my RSS feed or by email.

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Jay Neely <![CDATA[Highlights from the Archives]]> http://socialstrategist.com/?p=147 2016-02-06T20:45:36Z 2011-08-17T17:27:37Z As I work on some new posts, I wanted to point you to some of my best old ones; many of these I’ve reread and found to be useful recently myself.

How to Add Value to a Discussion

Join the conversation!, the Cluetrain Manifesto said. And every year new businesses / bloggers / young professionals hop eagerly aboard, charging into your blog comments / presentations / conferences to say:

“Hi! Great post / talk / point. Could you answer a question you already answered in it? Here’s something you said, restated in a slightly different way. Now, could you

[Read the rest »]]]>
As I work on some new posts, I wanted to point you to some of my best old ones; many of these I’ve reread and found to be useful recently myself.

How to Add Value to a Discussion

Join the conversation!, the Cluetrain Manifesto said. And every year new businesses / bloggers / young professionals hop eagerly aboard, charging into your blog comments / presentations / conferences to say:

“Hi! Great post / talk / point. Could you answer a question you already answered in it? Here’s something you said, restated in a slightly different way. Now, could you do something for me? This task, or that task, that has no clear benefit to you, and by the way, visit my website at www.mywebsite.com. Thanks! Great post! Bye!”

How to Hire a Good Marketer (for Startups)

Most founders have at least some marketing skills, and that works for a while. But they reach a point where they want to focus on what they’re great at, and don’t know how to determine if someone else is as good at marketing as the founder is at coding, business, etc. If you’re in that spot, or just in the unenviable position of trying to attract customers / users to an idling completed product, here’s your guide to choosing someone who can help turn up the heat.

Is Social Media Bullshit?

The Death of Blogging, Email, Newspapers, and Telephones

The truth is, old mediums rarely die, they just stop being interesting. New tools come along and steal the spotlight, bouncing around with their youth and vigor, and make the old tools look so still, rigor mortis might be setting in. ‘Death’, as announced by these articles, is really just a stupid way of trying to say ‘boring’.

More Signal, Less Noise: The Power of RSS Mashups

Blog feeds let you send information. Feed readers let you receive it. Pipes, PopFly, and GMashEd let you:

  • filter it.
  • visualize it.
  • combine it.
  • correlate it.
  • advertise it.
Hope you find these old gems valuable. Look forward to providing some new ones soon.
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Jay Neely <![CDATA[Boston’s Best Conference, BarCamp Boston, This Weekend]]> http://socialstrategist.com/?p=133 2016-02-06T20:45:36Z 2011-04-04T13:40:21Z

This Saturday and Sunday, April 9th & 10th, BarCamp Boston 6 is happening at Microsoft NERD in Kendall Square. It’s Boston’s geek unconference, an event where 350 – 400 of Boston’s most passionate and interesting people, from students to CEOs, get together for two days of intriguing sessions, excellent conversations, and free food. Unlike many conferences with expensive tickets, prearranged speakers, and an invite-only mentality, BarCamp is free to attend, open to everyone, and available for anyone to present at.

We schedule sessions live each day at the event, with anyone who would like to host a discussion or make … [Read the rest »]

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This Saturday and Sunday, April 9th & 10th, BarCamp Boston 6 is happening at Microsoft NERD in Kendall Square. It’s Boston’s geek unconference, an event where 350 – 400 of Boston’s most passionate and interesting people, from students to CEOs, get together for two days of intriguing sessions, excellent conversations, and free food. Unlike many conferences with expensive tickets, prearranged speakers, and an invite-only mentality, BarCamp is free to attend, open to everyone, and available for anyone to present at.

We schedule sessions live each day at the event, with anyone who would like to host a discussion or make a presentation on something they think their fellow attendees would be interested in able to check for interest and make it happen. Some of the things people are already thinking about presenting:

  • Collaboration, Cooperation, Independence and Self-Sufficiency: Not a paradox
  • Cross Platform Development for Unity
  • The Idea Supercollider – Where Mind Mapping Meets Social Networking
  • Islamic representations of androids, cyborgs, and AI.
  • Figuring out the correct pricing model for your idea/product

I’ve been attending BarCamps since I moved to Boston, starting with BarCamp Boston 2 in 2007, and helping out since then. This year it’s been a privilege to head up organization of the event. I can’t emphasize enough what kind of value BarCamp has added to my life in the connections I’ve made and the fun experiences I’ve had. Whether you’re a startup founder, a freelancer, a student, a scientist, a developer, an artist, or an academic… hope to see you at BarCamp Boston 6.

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