Define Value on Twitter

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I’m skipping a grammar post this week to add my thoughts to a post Jason Mollica had last week. His post, Value to your community came from a past Twitter conversation he, Rachel Lawley and I had.

My comment was that the litmus test that I use when deciding when to follow a PR pro, “social media expert” or other big name on Twitter is, “Would you work with that person in real life?”

I realize, after reading the comments on Jason’s post, that my initial comment may have been taken a bit out of context. There is some background information that would help further explain my personal litmus test.

I first joined Twitter after the urging of several friends. Some of whom are in the PR business and some of who are not. Those that are in the business suggested I check out various Top 100 PR People on Twitter lists. Their advice was to start by following them all and then pare them down based on the relevant information in their tweets. Keep following those that added to my knowledge base and stop following those that didn’t.

Several of the people I followed because they were big names, didn’t add anything for me. Some of them have become close confidants and advisers and I can’t imagine operating without them. I would even go so far as to call some of them friends.

Then there’s the middle ground of people I follow on Twitter because they’re fun and entertaining. While they might not necessarily add value, they make me laugh. I’ll be the first to admit, I follow Sesame Street because the tweets make me happy. Would working every day with Elmo eventually irritate me? Probably.

For me, Kelly Misevich‘s comment on Jason Mollica’s post sums it up, “Social media is all about we, not me. You have to think about your followers and ‘friends’ when you are using social media.”

I see Twitter as a place to learn because I will never know it all, as a place to meet people I might not others have met and to laugh because a day without laughter is the saddest day of all.

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Spelling and Grammar Mistakes

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To tell someone about a grammar or spelling error or not to tell, is one tough question with no right or wrong answer.

I’ve found it all depends on your personal relationship with the person and whether or not you think they would take it personally.

For some, having these mistakes pointed out is akin to that dreaded elementary school spelling test or the red ink filled paper from college. It doesn’t have to feel that way.

I am the first to admit, I’m not perfect. While I write for a living, I know I often need an editor. I’ve had people politely point out errors on this blog and make sure I have at least one other person look over any material that leaves the office. I really appreciate having the chance to change mistakes.

Maybe it is the years of journalism editors or turning a story in at deadline only to have the copy editors go through the copy after I’ve left for the day, but the point is I don’t take it personally when someone points out an error.

Most of the people I polled informally on Twitter agree if done politely, even by a stranger, pointing out a mistake is welcome.

The difference comes in how the stranger points it out.

“I think I’d be ok if it were a private message,” said Rachel Lawley, an Interactive Communications Manager who works as a consultant in business development.

No matter who points out the mistake or how they do it, unless they are wrong or rude, most people I polled said they would change the mistake.

Do You Need a Business Plan?

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The short answer according to Rachel Lawley: yes. (See previous post for more details on Lawley.)

A good business plan will help you identify in detail the goals, purpose and strategies for your company.

“A business plan is the medium that forces current and prospective business owners to truly question their business, what and who will affect it, and what and who it will have an effect on,” she said.

As for the freelancer, consultant and contract employee, Lawley said you don’t necessarily need a complete business plan, but they are useful.

“Consider this, would you work for a company where they didn’t provide you with a description of your job, or offer you regular performance reviews?” she said.

Lawley added that creating a solid business plan early on will give you a solid foundation, so you can have confidence in your goals and in yourself.

“You can continue to adjust your plan, based on how your services or clients develop,” she said. “But it’s important to have that plan, to have a mission to stay focused on. Otherwise, you might find yourself accepting clients who need work that you know how to do, but hate doing, just for the money. That works short-term, but it diverts your attention away from your real goals.”

A business plan is necessary if you need investors or a business partner. This eliminates confusion and ensures you and your team are working in unison.

“When the company is still fresh and ideas are flying around, sit down with your partner (maybe with a mediator sometimes) and put ‘pen to paper’ about what your goals are, who you want your clients to be, where you want to be in a year, two years, five years,” Lawley said.

But the bottom line is, there is no best time to create a business plan.

“If you can draft it while the company is still in the idea stages, that’s perfect,” Lawley said. “But it isn’t always that simple. Maybe you start out casual, either solo or with a business partner. But by the end of the first six months to a year, you should write your plan, before you have any misunderstandings, and especially before you miss out on any great opportunities.”

For freelancers, the best time might just be when your business develops and takes on a new purpose.

What is a Business Plan?

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A recent tweet from Rachel Lawley got me thinking about whether freelancers, consultants and contract employees could benefit from creating a business plan for themselves. But before we get into whether or not you need a business plan, let’s establish what one is.

Rachel is an Interactive Communications Manager who works as a consultant in business development. She acknowledges that creating a business plan can be intimidating. But, she says, in the end, it is worth it.

She recommends the template and guide on The Small Business Association. The main sections of a business plan are:
1. Executive Summary
2. Business Description and Vision
3. Defining the Market
4. Description of Product(s)/Service(s)
5. Organization and Management
6. Marketing and Sales Strategy
7. Financial Management

“Because companies that provide services can get a little stickier than those that provide products, don’t allow yourself to skip questions because you don’t think your service will have as much of an impact as a product,” Lawley said.

Her best advice is: don’t skip a question and say you’ll come back to it.

“Write down the first things that pop into your mind, and then allow yourself to come back to it,” she said.

That way, you have a good starting point.

“My theory is the more you dig and question these things when you’re still just starting, the stronger and more prepared you’ll be later,” she said.

Lawley says it is possible to run your business without a business plan, get clients and in two years, end up exactly where you want to be.

“Picture this, though: two years from now you want to develop a website for your services,” she said. “How are you going to sell your services? What do you want to specialize in — what type of client, industry, focus? Simply read through some of the templates for plans and you will get a good idea of what kinds of questions some of your competitors already know the answers to.”

Every business, large or small, should be keenly aware of the areas a business plan prompts you to think about – those areas help you define your company’s goals and purpose. Because the bottom line is, you want to make money, even if it is just a little on the side now.

Come back tomorrow for more details on why freelancers, consultants and contract employees should consider penning a business plan.