Delusion

I read an article today called “The Silicon Valley Suicides” that has impacted me in such a significant way that I may never view life, success, failure, society and parenting the same again.

Growing up in Palo Alto, I was never aware of the academic and social pressures that this article discusses, because it was the norm. It was the norm to play at least one sport, one musical instrument. It was the norm to take AP’s. It was the norm to pass your AP’s. It was the norm to speak at least one foreign language. It was the norm to get into a top college (and community colleges were frowned upon). It was the norm to be stressed. It was the norm to be the best at something. And for many years, it was also the norm to grieve over the passing of a classmate or friend. Those moments in my life continue to haunt me and I have come to fear death as an incredibly painful experience.

The conception of this type of thinking cannot be defined by one cause, and is a complex combination of how society defines success and failure, school culture, upbringing and much more.

We live in a world where achievement defines us, not our character, generosity, passions or dreams. And that “achievement” is defined as money, fame or power. Society continually defines success for individuals at every age, erasing our unadulterated aspirations. The media paints the picture of a successful individual with their top lists of industry leaders, highest paying jobs, and most likely to succeed with this type of major in college. Most recently, publications have attempted to rank colleges differently with evaluating top colleges being institutions where students are more likely to result in a higher income…While the intention to move away from school prestige to a more practical ROI on education is thoughtful, this creates an even bigger issue of perceiving academic success with the ability to make more money, defining post-college success as income. Why do we try so hard to quantify success?

This is why we have cycles of graduating students wanting to be investment bankers and consultants one year, and engineers and entrepreneurs another year. But do any of them Really want to be those things? Schools react to this phenomenon and start creating programs that encourage more students to pursue these careers, asking alumni to support the school for such initiatives, and hoping to rank top on the list for schools that support careers in the field. And It’s a dirty cycle.

DELUSION.

I once wanted so badly to be an investment banker in college. A few years later I wanted nothing more than to be a venture capitalist. I looked up to those individuals in these industries, where all around me they were praised and recognized as successful in the media and among my peers. It wasn’t that I didn’t have an interest in understanding how different companies were valued or what it meant for one company to acquire another, but it was that I also believed these careers would make me “successful” that eventually led me down a path of being unhappy at my job. I realized I didn’t want to work for that type of success – money, fame or power. I wanted to work for me. A job is a job and no one “loves” their job, but you can love the purpose behind your job, the people you affect as a result of doing your job, and the team that you work with. All of these things cannot be defined for you by anybody else but yourself, and this comes from taking a bold stance against what you should do.

In college, I had started a program called BrightEyes out of my frustration that my school didn’t provide opportunities to easily get my foot in the door with the best companies (we weren’t a “Target” school), like some private schools offered (I had got my first job out of college by impulsively traveling to New York and demanding to meet with executives at companies that I wanted to work for, and sneaking into USC’s recruiting session and pitching myself for the job). But soon after I started the program, I realized it wasn’t about providing career opportunities through BrightEyes, but helping students rediscover their true passions and unleashing and augmenting their inner voices to ask themselves what they truly aspired to do. Success in the program became defined as helping students become self aware and honest with themselves.

I’ve recently read numerous articles on “following your passion is bad advice.” At first, I nodded in agreement and part of me has always believed that those “successful” people say it, but that’s never how they got there. But now I revisit that piece of advice, and I realize there’s more to interpret in what appears to be such a shallow lesson. We can’t take the statement literally, rather we have to understand it to be a metaphor for chasing our curiosities and fearlessly trying new things to discover what makes us happiest – you don’t know what you love until you’ve already experienced it. My new understanding also has largely to do with my definition of success. I understand “follow your passion” to be advice for happiness, not wealth, fame or power. While this may appear obvious and so many also preach happiness as success, few let this drive how they make decisions in life, especially when we are young and vulnerable.

I wish the word Failure didn’t exist. For so long, I’ve feared it and let it influence me. It’s a word that people constantly use incorrectly because, the fact is, it cannot be defined. It is a word that relies on short-lived perception and interpretation. It is not about being fearless of failure either. It is that we do no see failure, we don’t acknowledge it’s existence, because the decisions we make are ours and those are the best decisions we can make. Our experiences shape us, and we always come out stronger than we entered. You cannot fail when you don’t believe it’s possible.

There’s not one parent who doesn’t try to guide or influence their children away from “failure”. But the extent of influence can have a lifelong psychological impact that prevents an individual from ever being successful, or happy. While I’m not a parent yet, I have observed the parenting styles of many who are, and I feel confident about concluding that parents who value their children’s achievements over who they are imprison their children to the belief that there is only one route to success, and that success is rewarded with money, fame or power. And as mentioned in the article, children should not fear “quitting” and associate it with failure, and it is the obligation of parents to ensure that their children understand there is no right or wrong when making a personal choice.

And as mentors, we must be careful not to advise from only our experiences, and help the individual see past the end goal and embrace the journey. My first question to any individual who approaches me for advice these days is, “How do you define success and failure?” And then let’s talk about the many ways to achieve “success”. We have an obligation to communicate and create a culture where we are not afraid to choose against societal norms and “career paths”.

Let’s reevaluate what we’re doing and why we’re doing it, and challenge ourselves to not fear the unknown and rid any possibilities of failure from our decisions. Let’s save future generations from becoming a victim to the existing notions of success and failure.

 

I dedicate this post to my parents. Thank you for trusting and supporting my decisions, and for always encouraging me to make my own choices.

Marketplace-Enabled Wedding3.0 Evolution

The wedding industry continues to be underserved by technology. It has not evolved to cater to a new generation of brides and grooms or improve the wedding planning experience. The industry remains fragmented and extremely competitive, with high costs and barriers to wedding professionals to grow their brand and business.

Despite existing online resources, such as Pinterest, The Knot and Weddingwire, and some recent wedding startups, the challenges remain:

1. There is a true disconnect between wedding inspiration and wedding planning — vendor discovery and booking. Individuals are still searching tirelessly online for their wedding vendors, from Google to Pinterest to the Knot and various wedding blogs, and even Craigslist! (I don’t even trust Craigslist for roommates, and to use it to plan my wedding?!)

2.Inefficient legacy tools are still relied upon during wedding planning, including Google spreadsheets, PowerPoint, pen & paper, and numerous email exchanges for communication with vendors & friends.

3.Fixed costs and cost of client acquisition for wedding professionals are high. The Knot charges anywhere from $400/month to $700/month to just list your business on the site. Managing leads and business operations are also expensive with software such as 17Hats costing more than $200 — $300 per year. Add in the cost of custom domains and building and maintaining a website, you’re never going to have enough money leftover to buy Christmas gifts for everyone.

The transformation of the wedding industry is upon us.

Wedding 1.0: Online wedding directories & search

Online wedding directories were the first step in transitioning discovery online by aggregating and categorizing local vendors and venues. However, the popularity and ease of creating these directories resulted in a difficult business to maintain with advertising being the only revenue source and the inability to continue to add value to users beyond the wedding inspiration phase. Additionally, vendors found low to no ROI in advertising on these listings. Already, a number of these sites have shut down.

Wedding 2.0: Content platforms

Content platforms such as Pinterest and Loverly were revolutionary in enabling online curation and sharing of wedding inspiration. That content should be consumed freely online and allowed these companies to grow large user bases, has also become their biggest challenge. Content platforms are destined to become e-commerce sites if they want to grow their revenue channels beyond advertising. As an example, in an effort to monetize its content, Pinterest launched purchasable pins. Content platforms also struggle to add value to users beyond the wedding inspiration phase and lack the features to resolve enduring wedding planning challenges.

Wedding 3.0: SaaS based marketplace — Menagerie

Across industries, SaaS based marketplaces are proving their power in efficiently connecting individuals with the services they need, and empowering the professionals or creatives who offer those services, as well as aligning business incentives. We are beginning to see the formation of vertically integrated internet and mobile businesses. Additionally, marketplaces that begin vertical specific succeed with their ability to empathize with their industry audience and provide innovative tools specific to businesses conducted in the space. As such, targeted marketplaces are able to build communities and more easily achieve network effects, and aren’t just another alternative platform for transactions. The wedding industry is desperately in need of such solution.

Follow Menagerie to find out how we are transforming the outmoded $55 billion wedding industry.

Menagerie

The Future As We Saw It At SXSW 2015

A few days at SXSW is enough to challenge your current perspective and expectations of the future of markets, industries, technologies and human behavior. This year at SXSW Interactive, social media, connectivity (IoT), 3D printing, healthtech and sustainability were all major topics of discussion.

Social Media

The newest member to the tech community, Meerkat, proved that video is the future as a form of communication between individuals, not just brands to individuals, and that communities quickly form around the sharing of short, real-time and visual content. Meerkat successfully leveraged an existing social network, Twitter, to create overnight communities and viral content.

The challenge now will be how Meerkat can continue to grow independently and maintain engagement on its own platform as Twitter has limited Meerkat’s access to its social graph going forward. Piggy-backing large social networks is nothing new and neither are the lessons learned – take for example Zynga and Facebook.

With so much content flooding the twitter streams during SXSW, from meerkat tweets to keynote quotes to party pictures, the hashtag proved its power and necessity to individuals. With the hashtag, you were able to find everything related to a campaign, event, brand, discussion all in real-time and instantly react to it. #FOMO would be even worse without the hashtag.

At a panel called “Breaking News in the Age of Snapchat”, a White House Senior Advisor, Dan Pfeiffer, and News and Guts CEO, Dan Rather, emphasized the distinction between news and content. Social media has completely redefined who is a reporter and the role of a reporter. With the barriers of information distribution removed, traditional systems will need to adapt quickly to these new channels to be able to manage their own content and distribution (but of course there will never again be complete ownership of information with the growing adoption of social media across the world). I share the same views that live-streaming video services will do to television news what blogs did to printed news.

Transportation

Lyft stepped up its game with Lyft Line, while the SXSW shuttle was a total fail and ultimately converted shuttle pass holders to lyft riders. With Lyft, there was a $10 fixed price per ride as long as you requested Lyft Line. Profitability aside, the campaign was successful with new lyft users and communicated loud and clear its mission – to reconnect people and communities through better transportation. Would love to see some of those numbers from Lyft after SXSW.

The limited transportation options in Austin was also a reminder that there is much innovation needed still in transportation, including public transit, real-time navigation and road closure/traffic/accident notifications, and parking. Most recently, Leap Buses launched in SF to provide a more convenient public transportation solution that enables riders to continue their mobile experience on the bus and access wifi, food and drinks all from their phones. It’s no doubt that connectivity is the next big thing in transportation.

Leap Buses also makes me wonder if individuals are willing to pay a premium to ride Leap Buses because of their need to access wifi while in transit or if they just want the more luxurious experience compared to the regular buses. Or maybe they want to be surrounded by the type of people who value the availability and use of such technologies – tech-savvy individuals are a new class in our society that now exist between the upper middle class and upper class. These type of people are the ones who have transformed Uber into a successful global luxury brand.

At the Interactive Innovation Awards, there was indeed a transportation category and the company that won was Guide Dots – an audio-based guide app for the visually impaired.

Diversity and Workforce

Diversity was a big topic this year at SXSW, while the Pao vs. Kleiner trial continues. I appreciated that more industry leaders, including many women, voiced their opinions about evaluating individuals not based on ethnicity, gender or sexuality but based on their unique background and what they bring to the table. I truly believe that until companies and individuals stop encouraging women and employing or promoting them in order to “achieve” diversity in their workforce, will we be able to reach equality. Equality is not in the numbers, its in the mindset.

Princess Reema’s keynote on the taboos and struggles women face in Saudi Arabia was definitely a highlight at SXSW.

We are at the heart of the “mobile workforce movement” as Kevin Gibbon, CEO of Shyp, calls it. On-demand services such as Uber, Lyft, 3D Hubs, TaskRabbit, Seamless, Wun Wun, and many others enabled individuals to create value with their idle talent, time and assets. I’m particularly excited to see so many individuals become merchants of their own skills and small business owners. As the mobile workforce grows, we will begin to re-define what it means to be a contractor or part-time employee, and tangent industries such as insurance will evolve to service this new workforce (Check out how my friend Tristan Zier’s startup Zen99 is supporting contractors).

HealthTech

I noticed a growing presence and emphasis on HealthTech at SXSW this year, including a health and medtech expo at the JW Marriott Hotel. We are seeing more technology applications in the healthcare space (Go SOLS!) and there is a lot of discussion about the future of remote [self] diagnosis, health monitoring from afar, preventative solutions and use of wearables. Many venture capital firms have recognized this opportunity and need for innovation and healthcare and have already begun investing heavily in this space.

We are seeing new tools for diagnosis, such as the aliveCor and Cell scope that have re-invented the stethoscope and otoscope, respectively. However, on the wearables side, there is struggle to establish trust and engagement with both the consumers and providers. We continue to see a high drop-off rate with consumer engagement with wearables; the length of use is not long enough for the consumer to benefit from the device’s collection of the individual’s data. As such, the consumer is unable to see or benefit from the long-term use of the wearable. There needs to be a series of measurements over time and visual data to help individuals understand their health and encourage preventative behavior (i.e. decreased smoking benefits are made aware to the consumer through the wearable)

While I agree that the fashion first approach is necessary at the point of purchase with the consumer, incentivizing individuals to buy the product, it does not prevent the product from becoming an idle asset (My Nike Fuelband looks great on my dresser…).

Ayesha Khalid beautifully summarized one of the most pressing questions in healthtech: “How can information from all these apps and devices feed to EMR providers to enable effective and consistent information sharing between the patient and provider for more accurate health monitoring and diagnosis?”

When at SXSW in 2016…

Convinced you’re going to be at SXSW in 2016? Great – here are just a few tips before you set out for next year then.

– Pick out your top hotels for the day and just jump in and out of talks at that location. Each hotel has a theme.
– Pick talks on topics that are foreign to you. This is an opportunity to learn not to reassure your knowledge on a topic or justify your opinions.
– The keynote speakers is a Must attend! Illuminating, educational and inspirational talks from industry leaders.
– Explore topics across industries – finance, health, fashion, enterprise, etc. This is your chance to gain a holistic view on the latest leading technologies in the world.
– Challenge yourself throughout the week to meet someone new. SXSW is one of the best and most natural ways to meet people.
– Party. But don’t party too hard – lesson learned.

Tiffany’s Birthday Fundraiser for BrightEyes

Please help me celebrate my 25th birthday by joining me in contributing to BrightEyes, a mentorship program dedicated to providing college students a unique opportunity to explore different career paths.

Four years ago, I started BrightEyes in hopes to make mentorship and career opportunities more accessible to students. With your help and generosity, we will be able to send a class of students to San Francisco, where they will be able to meet with their role models and future mentors as well as tour leading companies in startup, tech and venture capital.

I’ve also decided that I would be matching the total donations made on my campaign page, up to $1,000, so please consider giving!

To be successful, we all require someone willing to invest in our potential and vision. We’ve all had someone invest in us along the way. Join me in investing in these students’ vision and potential.

Contribute to BrightEyes: http://brighteyes-students.org/donations/

If you are not in a position to donate monetarily, please like BrightEyes on Facebook and share the program with friends & family, on Facebook, Twitter, and anywhere else you’d like!

Thank you for helping me celebrate my birthday this year.

My Notes on “Notes on Startups, or How to Build the Future”

I’ve decided to share my notes and thoughts on Peter Thiel’s Zero to One. Additionally, I’ve also embedded suggested reads in my notes that are relevant to the topic or chapter. For those who haven’t read the book (read it!), here’s a preview of it and some of the more powerful takeaways for me while reading it. For those who have read it, I hope this is a helpful reminder for you and a good reference as you continue to help build our future.

Note: Comments in parentheses are my own.

Zero to One
Peter Thiel with Blake Masters

(1) The Challenge of the Future

The act of creation is singular, as is the moment of creation, and the result is something fresh and strange.

By creating new technologies, we rewrite the plan of the world.
Debate: Is there a formula for entrepreneurship?

The single most powerful pattern I have noticed is that successful people find value in unexpected places, and they do this by thinking about business from first principles instead of formulas.

What important truth do very few people agree with you on?

Conventional beliefs only ever come to appear arbitrary and wrong in retrospect; whenever one collapses, we call the old belief a bubble.

What triggered dot com bust / bubble pop?

Dot Com Timeline

(2) Party Like It’s 1999

4 Lessons from Dot Com Crash:
1 – Make Incremental Advances

2 – Stay Lean and Flexible: lean = unplanned. You should not know what your business will do; planning is arrogant and inflexible. Instead you should try things out, “iterate” and treat entrepreneurship as agnostic experimentation.

3 – Improve on the Competition: don’t try to create a new market prematurely. The only way to know you have a real business is to start with an already existing customer, so you should build your company by improving on recognizable products already offered by successful competition

4 – Focus on Product, not Sales: technology is primarily about product development, not distribution

( Did companies like Product Hunt have a market-ready product first or did they build with the market and succeed with distribution as a result of social media?)

(3) All Happy Companies are Different

Monopolists, by contrast, disguise their monopoly by framing their market as the union of several large markets:

(Examples)
Search Engine X Mobile Phones X Wearable
Computers X Self-driving Cars

Monopoly is the condition of every successful business

(4) The Ideology of Competition
Carl von Clausewitz
Sun Tzu

(5) Last Mover Advantage

A great business is defined by its ability to generate cash flows in the future.
(Bubbles form when individuals inflate a company’s ability to generate CF in the future!)

Characteristics of a Monopoly:
1 – Proprietary technology: rule-of-thumb prop. tech must be at least 10X better than its closest substitute
2 – Network effects: network effect businesses must start with especially small markets
3 – Economies of scale
4 – Branding

People then products then traffic then revenue – Marissa Myer’s rebrand of Yahoo!

(It’s a balance of first-mover advantage and last-mover advantage)

(6) You are Not a Lottery Ticket

“Success is never accidental.” – Jack Dorsey on twitter

(Most people believe getting a job in finance is impossible without previous finance experience or technical skill set. The same is true for when people think about getting a job in tech. It’s possible to create the experience for yourself by accessing the same resources, engaging in the same conversations and building the same relationships with those already in those roles in the industry. So really, nothing is impossible because nothing can’t be learned.)

(Diversification of experiences and skill sets. In my opinion, specialization is overrated. I haven’t felt the need to specialize to be successful, only to be good at what I’m currently doing. And if you’re doing what you’re passionate about, you can’t fail.)

You’ve spent a decade curating a bewilderingly diverse resume to prepare for a completely unknowable future. Come what may, he’s ready – for nothing in particular.

Indefinite Optimism

Today, “good design” is an aesthetic imperative
It’s true that every great entrepreneur is first and foremost a designer
Visual + Experiential Perfection

(Design your business)

(7) Follow the Money

Two Rules for VC:
1. Only invest in companies that have the potential to return the value of the entire fund
2. Because rule number one is so restrictive, there can’t be any other rules

People who understand the power law will hesitate more than others when it comes to founding a new venture: they know how tremendously successful they could become by joining the very best company while it’s growing fast.

(8) Secrets

What secret is nature not telling you?
What secrets are people not telling you?

The actual truth is that there are many more secrets left to find, but they will yield only to relentless searchers.

A great company is a conspiracy to change the world.

Thiel’s Law: a startup messed up at it’s foundation cannot be fixed

(9) Foundations

To anticipate likely sources of misalignment in any company, it’s useful to distinguish between three concepts:
1. Ownership: who legally owns a company’s equity?
2. Possession: who actually runs the company on a day-to-day basis?
3. Control: who formally governs the company’s affairs?

Anyone who doesn’t own stock options or draw a regular salary from your company is fundamentally misaligned

Any kind of cash is more about the present than the future.

(10) The Mechanics of Mafia

‘Company culture’ doesn’t exist apart from the company itself: no company has a culture; every company is a culture

Never outsource recruiting

Why should the 20th employee join your company?

2 Great Points of Evaluation of a Candidate:
1. Good candidates can answer why your mission is compelling or why you’re doing something important that no one else is going to get done
2. Why is your company a good match for the individual personally

Everyone at your company should be different in the same way

The early team should share a common, unique obsession/idea that relates to the company’s mission
(Value propositions must be defined early on. Essentially, you’re forming a cult. Airbnb is one of the best examples of a great culture that’s continued despite its growth in size)

On the inside, every individual should be sharply distinguished by her work

Defining roles reduce conflicts
– Most fights inside a company happen when colleagues compete for the same responsibilities; startups face an especially high risk of this since job roles are fluid at the early stages
– Eliminating competition makes it easier for everyone to build the kinds of long-term relationships that transcend mere professionalism

Every company is also its own ecosystem

(11) If You Build It, Will They Come?

The engineer’s grail is a product great enough that “it sells itself.” But anyone who would actually say this about a real product must be lying…

If you’ve invented something new but you haven’t invented an effective way to sell it, you have a bad business – no matter how good the product.

Advertising works for startups when CAC and CLTV make every other distribution channel uneconomical (i.e. The advertisements justify the method of acquisition because of users and revenue achieved…all about ROI)

A product is viral if its core functionality encourages users to invite their friends to become users too. (Network effects in The Networked Age)

Just get on distribution channel to work, then have a great business

Important to have PR strategy; selling company to media is necessary part to selling to everyone else

(12) Man and Machine

People compete for jobs and for resources; computers compete for neither

But big data is usually dumb data. Computers can find patterns that elude humans, but they don’t know how to compare patterns from different sources or how to interpret complex behaviors. Actionable insights can only come from a human analyst

(Will this statement always be true? Maybe the human role will change but will not become obsolete with new technologies that require human guidance but predictive analytics will become so powerful that patters across sources can and will be effectively interpreted by computers)

(13) Seeing Green

Seven questions every business must answer:
1. The Engineering Questions: Can you create breakthrough technology instead of incremental improvements?
* Proprietary technology significantly differentiates?
2. The Timing Question: Is now the right time to start your particular business?
3. The Monopoly Question: Are you starting with a big share of a small market?
* Identify and Own a niche market
4. The People Question: Do you have the right team?
5. The Distribution Question: Do you have a way to not just create but deliver your products?
6. The Durability Question: Will your market position be defensible 10 and 20 years into the future?
* The Last Mover
7. The Secret Question: Have you identified a unique opportunity that others don’t see?

Myths of Social Entrepreneurship:
“…corporations have great power, but they’re shackled to the profit motive; nonprofits pursue the public interest, but they’re weak players in the wider economy. Social entrepreneurs aim to combine the best of both worlds and ‘do well by doing good.’ Usually they end up doing neither.”

Great companies have secrets: specific reasons for success that other people don’t see.

(14) The Founder’s Paradox

A unique founder can make authoritative decisions, inspire strong personal loyalty, and plan ahead for decades.

Paradoxically, impersonal bureaucracies staffed by trained professionals can last longer than any lifetime, but they usually act with short time horizons.

*We need founders…a great founder can bring out the best work from everybody at his or her company

(Conclusion) Stagnation or Singularity?

“Our task today is to find singular ways to create the new things that will make the future not just different, but better – to go from 0 to 1.”

Give Thanks

I have a lot to be thankful for this past year. I like to think back to where I was exactly a year ago today and what I was doing. A year ago, I was at Duff & Phelps valuing companies and working part-time at 3D Hubs. I was just discovering the potential of 3D printing to enable us to produce our imaginations and unleash a new wave of innovative businesses. I was planning for the second BrightEyes trip in San Francisco, focusing on the startup and venture capital industries.

Today, I am at SOLS, where I’m learning what it truly means to build and grow a product, brand, community and company. More importantly, we’re discovering how to do it with both the offline and online consumers, and the growing consumption of social, mobile and video. I’ve had the fortune to work closely with a female founder and role model that is sharing with me the challenges and excitement of building a business as a female in a traditionally male-dominated industry. I am thankful for this opportunity.

I first learned about SOLS through a mentor. In our lives, we come across many passions and sometimes our interests ask us to change our current course. Mentors help guide us down untraveled paths, trust that we will succeed and take multiple chances on us. To be successful, we all require someone willing to invest in our potential and vision. I am thankful for my mentors.

What we receive is also what we need to give. I freely offer mentorship to those who ask or need it. I am reminded to pay it forward by my mentors. But I’ve realized that mentoring is also a mutual benefit. In those conversations you have with your mentee about what they’re struggling with, what they want to learn, where they envision themselves, you also learn more about yourself. Teaching leads to self-reflection as you search through your own experiences to provide advice. It is also incredibly rewarding to experience success through another individual, a feeling that cannot be replicated. I am thankful for my mentees.

I’ve come to the conclusion that a person’s career is lonely. We switch companies, teams and roles over the years and these changes in our career are singular decisions and advances. What allows us to confidently make these decisions is not only our own ambitions, but also the support from our family and friends. My family has never questioned my dreams and decisions. In fact there is no wrong decision or concern for taking risks. It’s this support system and trust that has allowed me to have no regrets. I am thankful for my family.

Friends are the other component of our support system. They remind us how we can choose happiness and live our lives. People live to connect with others and share stories. We cannot thrive alone. I am thankful for my friends, old and new.

And finally, everyone should thank themselves. Every day, you succeed at some personal challenge without knowing it, it could be as trivial of a task as completing a book, attending a meeting on time, cooking a new recipe, going to the gym, meeting someone new or calling home. We’re often too harsh with ourselves and never reflect to acknowledge our own accomplishments. It’s very easy to be unhappy with ourselves, but this is not unusual and in fact, you should occasionally feel unsatisfied with yourself because you expect more out of yourself, you know you’re meant for greatness. But just be sure to celebrate yourself along the way and as much as possible. Thank you, self.

 

The Right Voice is Your Voice

social_media

These days, if your company doesn’t have a voice online, it doesn’t exist to people. Online presence is necessary, but even more important than being online is having the right voice and content.

Many startups outsource their social media management, and while it may work initially with creating an online presence, it is not recommended when building an online brand. A company’s online voice needs to be consistent with the overall company’s mission, vision and current initiatives. An individual outside of the company does not have that transparency into the company and especially with early stage companies, initiatives are constantly changing and emerging and direction is constantly adapting to market responses. This brings me to another point, that social media is one of the most effective ways to gage market response to your product without spending lots of money testing and collecting consumer feedback. Eventually, your social media channels will also become a form of customer service, where you will be able to respond directly and in real-time to customer concerns or feedback. You definitely need someone who understands the product and process and is up to date with the company to fulfill this role.

Not every channel is right for every business.

This is important to understand because pushing content out where your target audience isn’t will waste time, resources and content. And more importantly, the goal to increase brand awareness and engagement will not be achieved. Identifying the right social media channels requires a strong understanding of the business, vision and short-term and long-term initiatives and goals. As the company grows, channels may also be added.

While an external agency or individual may be able to provide the right type of content, it won’t be able to create personal interactions with potential users and provide transparency into the company and product, a necessary function of social media. To be clear, this is more true for twitter and instagram than for blogs. Unlike blogs, twitter and instagram are more interactive and the content shared on those channels are more frequent and require more effort to be consistent.

Each channel has its own voice and strategy.

This pretty much says everything. To build a truly strong brand on a channel and engage your audience, you must customize your voice and content to that platform to reach the right audience. On twitter you may want to reach a broader audience (across your industry) but on instagram, where the demographic and type of engagement is different than that of twitter’s, you will want to be more focused on a specific audience, which will determine the type of content shared.

Here are a few examples of social media frameworks for different types of businesses:
– Showcase Fans and Customers (e.g. Lyft shares customers’ experiences with drivers)
– Motivational/Inspirational (e.g. Nike, Gatorade, Lululemon)
– Umbrella Theme (e.g. Shapeways & 3D Hubs share all things 3D printing related)

On instagram, we are seeing many companies showcase their communities rather than share their own content (SoulCycle, Flat Tummy Tea, Lole Women, 3D Hubs).

We are seeing more and more companies become more successful as a result of their online presence (Warby Parker, Bevel, Well+Good, Peek, Wealthfront). And in some cases, companies are being formed as a result of a community that has formed online first (Product Hunt, Startup{ery). Social media can be one of the most valuable intangible assets to a company so treat it as your own and expect to create value from within not from without.

The Lesson: Don’t Oursource Social Media Management