Founder’s Diary: Sometimes, Everything Is Shit

I’ll let you guys in on a little secret.

I don’t always love my business.

Some days, I hate it.

That may be taboo to say in the world of entrepreneurship. We’ve been fed so many tales of how being an entrepreneur is sexy and savvy and liberating.

We listen to the Gary Vaynerchuks of the world who talk about the hustle and grind, how you just can’t stop, that somehow living off of ramen noodles is part of the glamour of being an entrepreneur. You might be broke and have no social life, but you still better love every freaking minute of it because otherwise you have no business being here.

Case in point, I went to a panel event recently and lo and behold, this is what one of the speakers shared:

“I can never turn my phone off. When I bring my kids to school, I’m working. When I’m with them at practice, I’m working. But I love everything about what I do. I work all the time because I love it. Work doesn’t feel like work to me because I love every second.”

Um… LIES.

NOBODY feels that way. You’re telling me you love doing your taxes? Sifting through all your receipts and inputting them? You love dealing with poor performing employees? Supplier issues? Broken products? Difficult customers? Scrambling to find clients? Working weekends all summer instead of lazing about sipping sangria on the porch (I would LOVE a lazy sangria porch day).

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One of my favourite greeting cards from Cambio Market. Very fitting, don’t you think? 🙂

Maybe someday when you’re actually Gary Vaynerchuk and have a team you can delegate the humdrum to, then perhaps. But most of us are not in that boat. I definitely am not.

Truth is, even if you’re the most passionate person in the world, you won’t love everything you do. ESPECIALLY if you’re a startup or a solopreneur. There’s many things to dislike, and I’m going to tell a truth that’s been buried for ages:

Work feels like work. Running a business is work. Creating a brand is hard as fuck, and life can be pretty thankless.

Don’t get me wrong, I love my business. When I think long-term about what J and I are building, I am filled with so much excitement (and anxiety) I feel I could burst. I enjoy the work I do, many parts of it I love. But there are many parts of running a business day to day that are just awful.

Like waking up at 5AM to pack all our inventory for a farmer’s market, unloading things in the rain, working 50 hours during the week and then eight hours on a Saturday to sell products instead of spending time with family. Having to fire poor performing employees. Dealing with lost packages or broken inventory. Struggling with uncertainty. Scrambling to find contracts or part-time work so you can still pay the bills. Trying to find time to still be a good mom/daughter/sister/friend.

But I don’t want to give the wrong impression. I love being an entrepreneur. I love building something that’s my own, having creative and strategic freedom, connecting with other entrepreneurs and likeminded people, doing work I’m fucking passionate about. I’ve made so many new friends, learned different skills, and grew so much as a person.

But don’t buy into the myth that entrepreneurship should be beach days and sparkles all the time. When people used to say things like “work doesn’t feel like work” to me, I used to feel guilty. Did I not love my business? Was I unhappy? Am I not cut out for this?

I still have those days when I wonder if I should just pack it all in and get a 9 to 5 (health benefits would definitely be nice). But a year and a half into it, i realize there’s nothing wrong with having off days. There’s nothing wrong with you if sometimes you feel like a mountain pile of crap everyone keeps shitting on, if you just want to give up, if somedays you just hate everything.

I’ve been there, my friend. I will be there, again and again.

Let’s stop making each other feel bad.

Work is work. It’s okay to admit it.

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Note to Self: Do Not Be a Social Media Snob

Note to Self: Do Not Be a Social Media Snob

I’ve been learning a lot from renowned social media marketer Gary Vaynerchuk since I started reading his book, Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook: How to Tell Your Story in a Noisy Social World (aka. JJJRH. Read it – you won’t regret it). I’ve previously written about how I’ve learned to justify the ROI of micro-content and the different nuances across platforms from this book, but there is one key thing I’ve learned from Vaynerchuk that beats out every other lesson:

Do not be a snob.

There it is. Simple. Your elementary school lessons repeated to you in five ink-black words laid out on page 30. The fact is, innovation is by its very nature, disruptive. And no matter how open we think we are, we all have some inherent biases that may cloud our judgement. Social media marketers especially, are not immune to this, particularly when it comes to new and emerging social media platforms.

When Snapchat first came out and my little brothers started using it to share photos with their friends, I didn’t think anything of it. Well, that’s not true. My first thought was, “sexting app?!!” I was dismissive and thought it was a phase. Then the platform grew and has exploded amongst teens and millennials.

Then Periscope edged Meerkat out and continues to grow in popularity, with more and more brands appearing each day. When I first proposed creating a Periscope account for employer branding purposes, my bosses were hesitant (eventually supportive), but struggled to understand how this livestreaming app with people contemplating life while sitting in hot tubs could be relevant to their brand. And despite Pinterest “producing four times the revenue-per-click of Twitter”* and “Pinterest users being 79% more likely to purchase something they spot on Pinterest than on Facebook”*, the number of brands leveraging this platform is a handful. Everyone is, in some sense or another, still playing catch up.

As Vaynerchuk concedes, there are a number of reasons brands aren’t on Pinterest. For one thing, many are still struggling to get the hang of Facebook and Twitter, as well as concerns about copyright infringements. Why add on yet another platform to manage? However, where there’s a will, there’s a way. And frankly, many brands just don’t have the will or the foresight to understand how Pinterest could be used for more than wedding planning or recipe sharing.

Vaynerchuk so eloquently (and bluntly) says:

Ignoring platforms that have gained critical mass is a great way to look slow and out-of-touch. Do not cling to nostalgia. Do not put your principles above the reality of the market. Do not be a snob. You cannot win big in social media if you’re going to be afraid of emerging technology.

This brings me to my next thought – expectations. Oftentimes, when we think about great social media marketing, we think about getting the most clicks and all the ways that we can “go viral”. There was even this amazing video about how to go Buyralwhich is testament to brands’ obsessions of viral content (hat tip to my social media marketing professor Karen Schulman-Dupuis).

When you evaluate greatness of your content using a scale of virality, you set a pretty high bar. This can be an intimidating barrier for both new and seasoned marketers alike. There’s a mentality that your content is only good if it draws people to Facebook or Pinterest or Instagram, wherever you may be, or if that unique hashtag you created for your campaign starts trending. Only then are you a great marketer. Well, my friend, you gotta have a pretty great stash of genius to achieve that.

But… maybe there is no such thing as being a genius marketer. Maybe the genius lies in acceptance. Do not be a snob. Do not make your audience follow your content. It’s about going where your audience is. It’s about following and capitalizing on the trends, not creating them. It’s about joining the conversation about that viral video your audience has been talking about, instead of about creating the viral video

It’s about being human. Not about being genius.

Thanks for the wisdom, Vaynerchuk.

*Page 28 of JJJRH

Do It Right: Understanding the Differences Across Social Media Platforms

I’m continuing to read Vaynerchuk’s book Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook: How to Tell Your Story in a Noisy Social World (aka. JJJRH ) and wrote a post explaining my first impression of it here. One of the things Vaynerchuk constantly emphasizes is the need to “use a platform’s native language.” This means really getting the nuances of each social channel, understanding the audience, and knowing what type of content is suitable for each one. This may seem obvious to anyone who has any inkling of social media. But then Vaynerchuk delves into examples of each platform, and hiccups and achievements from different brands, and it quickly becomes clear that even the most reputable of us can get it wrong. You can check out good and bad examples of social media content and my critiques on Pinterest.

Despite all the differences between platforms, however, good content is good content. And by association, content that is bad will always be bad regardless of what platform you use and how you jazz it up.

Therefore, in order for content to be compelling, it must follow the golden rules as dictated by Vaynerchuk:

  • It must pay attention to context
  • Understand the nuances and subtle differences that make each platform unique
  • Adapt your content to match

“Right hooks” (the concept of jabs and right hooks are explained in my previous post) should meet the criteria above but must also:

  • Make the call to action simple and easy to understand
  • Be perfectly crafted for mobile and all digital devices
  • Respect the nuances of the social network for which you are making the content

When you read those, you might immediately think, “No, duh. Of course your content should be relevant to what’s happening, and of course everything has to be mobile optimized and fit the platform you’re using!” I thought the same thing. But even before my brain could finish the thought, my mind raced back to the time that we were about a hair close to using a hashtag for our Twitter chat which was already being used by a sex chat app. Talk about not paying attention to context. Or how about the time we posted a super long URL in our Instagram post to try to get people to apply to a job? We definitely missed the mark there when it came to Vaynerchuk’s golden rule of understanding the social platform’s nuances.

So let’s face it. Social media isn’t easy. It’s not magic or rocket science, but it’s definitely not as simple as copying and pasting from Facebook to Twitter to Pinterest. To help us all out, here’s a super simplified overview and comparison of the social media platforms, informed from what I learned from JJJRH as well as my own social media experience.

Platform Summarized in 10 words or less Demographics* Key pointers Secret Superpower
Facebook The king of social media platforms Everyone and their mother are on it. Literally. Slight skew towards women, but good representation across demographic groups. Keep it highly visual

Minimize text

Link appropriately

Sponsored stories (use ‘em, they’re worth it if you choose your stories well)
Twitter The cocktail party of the internet 500M users worldwide. Slight skew towards men. Content is less valuable than context. Put your own spin & context to information.

Use hashtags responsibly (& strategically)

Listen well. Capitalize on trends to push your right hooks. Take advantage of promoted tweets.
Pinterest Satisfy & feed aspirations & inspirations Mostly women (70%) and half of them are mothers. Produce dual purpose pins: pinned image should double as an ad, or be the image for longer form content.

Content should be easy to categorize (re-pinnable)

Link appropriately

“Free your brand’s personality.” Create individual boards that explore lesser known aspects of your brand to appeal to a wider audience.
Instagram The modern day magazine ad Slight skew towards women. Fair representation across demographic groups. Be hipster-esque, artistic, and authentic. Corporations die here.

No such thing as too many hashtags

Get creative & find work-arounds to platform’s limitations.

Occasional right hooks are fine, but use Instagram primarily to reinforce your brand (jab, jab, jab).

Tumblr Be cool Skews very young, and very artsy. Slight skew towards women. Use GIFs and exciting images. Throw right hooks occasionally, but do so very quietly. Customize your profile & show why you’re unique. Tumblr offers endless branding opportunities.

 *Demographics information pulled from JJJRH and also informed by PEW Research Center.

What do you think? Is there anything I missed that you would add above? Let me know in the comments!

Boxing & Social Media – An Unlikely Match

Boxing & Social Media – An Unlikely Match

I think I’ve fallen in love.

And not the love at first sight sort of love. It was the kind of relationship where you start seeing each other on and off, more curious than anything, and you’re not really sure how you feel about them. At first, you’re kind of put-off by their overconfidence and the seeming lack of shared interests, but the more you dip your feet into the relationship, the more you’re drawn in. Before you know, you’re in head over heels. That sort of love.

I’m not talking about a person. My partner of four and a half years wouldn’t appreciate that. In my case, I’m talking about a treasure of a book that I discovered as part of my Social Media Marketing Course through George Brown College – Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook: How to Tell Your Story in a Noisy Social World (or JJJRH, as it’s affectionately called). Written by renowned social media marketer Gary Vaynerchuk, the book itself offers insight and a read that is as unique and charming as it’s awkwardly catchy title.

Renowned social media expert Gary Vaynerchuk talks about how thinking like a boxer can help you land winning campaigns.
Renowned social media expert Gary Vaynerchuk talks about how thinking like a boxer can help you land winning campaigns.

What makes JJJRH a refreshing change from the usual flavour of the month articles is the mere ideology that drives it. Vaynerchuk is a big boxing fan (in case you couldn’t tell from the title, the big pair of boxing gloves on the front cover should clue you in) and he used his understanding of the sport to inform his book. Me, not much of a sports fan, thought I would immediately hate this, and I did. A little. Until I realized how perfect and sweet the analogy between boxing and social media aligned.

As someone fairly newer to the social media scene (I’ve been managing my employer’s career-centred social media accounts for the past year to promote our employer brand and career opportunities), I’ve always had a hard time justifying the ROI of our content. Everyone knows we shouldn’t always be tweeting about ourselves or have a social media account only to promote job postings (though everyone still does it). There needs to be something more. But what’s the justification on sharing content about 75 healthy snacks for the workplace or the science of happinessHow does that help us in any way, particularly if we aren’t hiring at that time?

The biggest thing I learned from Vaynerchuk is how to justify this content. When it comes to social media, just like boxing, it’s about the series of perfectly executed little jabs that add value – the micro-content you’re producing – that slowly lowers your audience’s guard and makes them warm up to you, maybe even like you a little or, hopefully, a lot. It’s always been said that when it comes to social media, you should always give more than you ask. Well, that’s what JJJRH is all about. The jabs are about the give, though it adds on another layer of strategic thinking that says it’s not just about giving. It’s about how you can perfectly execute your “giving” so that you set up your customers with a knock out “ask.” You’ll be giving so much and so subtly that your customer won’t even bat an eyelash when you promote your upcoming sale or new job opportunity.

So, how does this work? Let’s consider a boxing match. You have two players facing each other, tasked with taking the other one down. They’ll go through multiple rounds where they duck and dodge each other, land little jabs at one another, and run around the ring (to put it in layperson’s terms, which is all I know). The untrained eye will see all of this as just foreplay – unnecessary and for our amusement. They’ll keep waiting for that knock out or that killer right hook that the winning player lands on his opponent. That’s what winning looks like. But the seasoned boxing enthusiast knows that there’s a “sweet science” behind it. That every perfectly executed little jab helps to bring their opponent one step closer to where they want them, and that only once their culmination of planned little jabs has brought their opponent to the right spot and the right moment, then the winning player will land their winning right hook.

Now let’s zoom out for a moment. I recently attended a webinar hosted by the Content Marketing Institute where the presenter spoke about this concept of “propinquity”, defined in Wikipedia as:

In social psychology, propinquity (/prəˈpɪŋkwɨtiː/; from Latin propinquitas, “nearness”) is one of the main factors leading to interpersonal attraction. It refers to the physical or psychological proximity between people.

Essentially, the more times people are exposed to one another, the more likely they will become friends or develop some form of a relationship. That’s propinquity, and that’s what marketers should take into consideration when they push out content pieces, tweet 20 times a day, or send emails. It’s about always being in your audience’s line of vision and sharing valuable content with them enough times so that they’ll think of you the next time they need to buy a new speaker system, or look for a job. It’s based on the idea that if they like what you’re saying, then maybe they’ll also like what you’re selling, and Vaynerchuk’s jabs help establish that relationship.

As the book explains:

Without a proper combination of jabs to guide your customer – I mean, your opponent – right where you want him, your right hook could be perfect and your opponent could still dodge it … Precede that perfectly executed right hook with a combination of targeted, strategic jabs, however, and you will rarely miss.

Well played, Vaynerchuk.