How Your Relationships Impact Your Career

Tonight I was in Central Square at a startup event for my friend’s company. I was with some of my favorite people, ones I love to spend time with the most. I left and walked to the T stop. I strolled along the side of Massachusetts Avenue in front of my old office where my ex-boyfriend used to drop me off on Monday mornings after a weekend together. I was always grateful for the ride to work, really thankful for his time. This will sound awful, but genuine appreciation aside, this other part of me felt relieved to get back to my weekday life, which felt more natural to me: sarcasm, work, startups, my friends, internet, the gym. Space. I wanted to want that weekend life, but I didn’t. It’s not my perfect life, and that’s ok. It’s ok.

Before I crossed the street tonight to get the necessary ingredients for my comfort food protein shake at Clear Conscience Cafe, I looked up at my old office where I met my next ex-boyfriend at a company party. I squinted at the window, noticing its fresh paint and new walls dividing the once open space into tiny separate offices. It looked a lot different. But I imagined what it used to look like, what it looked like the day I got a ZipCar on a Saturday morning to move out after we got acquired. I walked loads of office supplies and startupy knicknacks (ie, the Seth Godin marketing action figure) up and down the stairs.

I soaked it all in. It was a lot to take in. I would never come there to work again. So much had just happened.

Before I left, I stood in the exact spot in the universe where I first met him and took this picture.

____________

I’ve reflected on this one thought ever since I first heard the recording of Sheryl Sandberg’s 2011 Barnard College graduation speech back in May.

The most important career decision you’re going to make is whether or not you have a life partner and who that partner is. If you pick someone who’s willing to share the burdens and the joys of your personal life, you’re going to go further.

I think this might be true.

Relationships can be motivating, and they can also be distracting and negative. Point blank, it’s homelife, and that impacts your mindset and the level to which you can focus on work. (For a romantic take, I strongly recommend John Steinbeck’s impossibly beautiful and timeless letter about love here.)

As I’m clearly unmarried, I don’t have much of an opinion on the stay-at-home dad discussion that Sheryl’s point often sparks. But what I do know is that who you date impacts your career in many ways, but in the simplest way because it impacts how you spend your time. Not all significant others are cool with you going to a tech networking event and hanging out with a bunch of other dudes, and not everyone thinks a great Sunday afternoon involves getting ahead on work for the week. But these are aspects of a certain lifestyle and career track. 50 coffees, right? A lot of people are less likely to achieve 50 coffees if they’re always worried about that awkward jealously argument before or after Starbucks. Dark roast, dark times. And even if there is no tension about jealously, those are 50 coffees you’re not having with the significant other. There’s only so much time to go around.

On a practical level, the relationships I admire set expectations and plan when to see each other. If you have work to do on a Saturday or have an event to go to on a Thursday, say so. But this stuff is also about compromise, right? So say when you’ll be done if you’re still going to see that person that night. It’s amazing what setting expectations can do to build trust. From the outside looking in, that seems to allow people to still pursue the things they want to as individuals (like careers, or hobbies) but not neglect each other.

Looking back even to my internship days, I wish I’d put my intentions on the table more in relationships. I wish I didn’t ask if I could go to an event or spend some time working. I wish I just presented it as something I needed to take care of. If I could go back, I would have compromised my time less and made it clear that these things were simply a part of my life. It would have been more fair to both sides.

But had I not been a late bloomer and just done this stuff in the first place, I wouldn’t be so complicated, interesting and choke-full of excuses to play this song and whatever cliche songs I want this week. Right? Right?

Anyway, let’s face it: Splitting your time with someone else flat out sucks sometimes. Single is another relationship option too if you just want to focus on your career, or just because you want to be.

To finish these thoughts, I really wanted to make a joke about hiring fast and firing fast, recruiting A-players to your team, something witty about cofounders, probably something about dating/generating leads/sales funnels and maybe something dirty about conversion rates. Then finally I wanted to find a charming excuse to link to this post by Fred Wilson talking about the importance of family – because that guy blogs like six times a day and I heard he blogs like, on his Blackberry while on the treadmill while on the subway and if an overachieving badass yet also probably workaholic like him recognizes the importance of this stuff then. well. shit. We all should.

But I’ve got nothing. Just… fellow 20-something ladies, don’t be impressed so easily. Your attention and time is valuable – not to mention your heart. Texting you back isn’t a grand gesture. It’s just asking what time you’re coming over.

By the way, someone’s reading that freaking letter at my wedding one day. Whenever that day comes.

4 Helpful Slices of Startup Marketing Advice

startup marketing advice

I'm like a miniature Buddah.

I have drafts and drafts of unpublished posts reflecting on lessons learned. After oneforty, then HubSpot and now being at Shareaholic, I’ve definitely come out with some new wisdom that has made me happier and more productive. Some posts explaining this learning process ramble off topic and become too personal. Those posts get retired to the WordPress trash bin. Others haven’t been thought out enough. But these tips have been consistent from draft to draft, and I didn’t want to wait on sharing them any longer.

1. Blog First

When you’re starting a marketing plan from absolute scratch, it’s tough to know where you should invest your time in social media. Twitter? Facebook? LinkedIn? Figuring out where your audience is why monitoring and listening is so important. No matter what platform you focus on, a great blog will give you content to share on that platform and will give people a reason to follow you. It also has the most clear business benefit from an SEO, brand messaging and conversion standpoint. So when it comes to prioritizing marketing tasks, think about your own content first.

2. Remember to Play

I crank out a ton of content each week between blog posts and newsletters. Writing compelling Tweets and Facebook posts to optimize for engagement is also a form of content creation. With so much to create, it’s tough to also consume content. This may sound silly, but I try to take time to just look at other brands’ Facebook pages, other Twitter accounts and other blogs to get inspiration.  I even look at ones that have nothing to do with Shareaholic. More than any blog or conference I’ve attended (although Unconference was pretty sweet), there is nothing like taking time to “play” to rejuvenate my love for marketing and make me excited to create content.

3. It’s Not a Matter of Just One Thing

In marketing it can be easy to get stressed out about one campaign. However, it’s not one article, event or blog post that makes or breaks your entire marketing plan. It’s the culmination of ongoing content, PR and engagement that gets the message out there and draws signups for a product. Don’t be short-sighted. I’ve had to learn to look at the big picture things, like how we’ll engage attendees from an event rather than fret about the number of drink tickets we sponsor. Looking at each project as one piece of a big puzzle is helping me make decisions faster. (And this is coming from someone who took three months to pick out a duvet cover.)

4. Timebox Your Ish

This one is my favorite because it had the most influence on me. It’s not just for marketers, but for employees in general.

Learning to timebox my projects better is something I’ve worked hard on over the past year. I used to work crazy hours during the week and then try to work all day Saturday and Sunday too. Then I realized something: I’m not actually getting anything done. I’m falling asleep. I would be trying to read a blog post as part of research to write a blog post, and it’d take me forever. I couldn’t focus. What I accomplished over seven days could easily have been produced Monday through Friday, leaving me my weekends to either get more done or spend time with friends.

A ton has been discussed about work/life balance in startupland. I’m trying to timebox things Monday-Friday, take Saturdays off and then get ahead on Sundays. It is very very difficult for me to discipline myself to put a hard stop to things on Friday. However, I try to do it so I can take Saturdays off.

At some point I decided that Saturdays were friend days. I check email but don’t touch the computer. I walk around Newbury St. Sometimes I drink bloodys at brunch, go to yoga and coffee, nap, tan and get ready to go out for the night. They are my favorite days and these days with my friends have enriched my life with interesting conversations, laughs and memories.

(I love you people.)

The time I spent away from work over the past year or so helped me grow into the best employee I’ve ever been. These relationships helped me become a calmer, more confident and actually more productive person. I’m not so paralyzed by my own edginess.

We all have our thresholds and each startup employee has to discover hers. Having my Saturdays was key for me.

What little nuggets of wisdom do you have to share with the class? Let me know in the comments.

Where Them Girls At?

This post originally appeared on Bostinno, an awesome blog about Boston startups, digital culture and city news. If you’re thinking about joining a startup and want to learn more about what’s up in Boston, you definitely want to check them out. Or better yet, submit a guest post yourself :) 

I envision this possible scene from not so long ago: In a presumably messy Back Bay apartment, three 20-something guys gather around a case of Bud Light. Between chatter about sports and whatever the hell boys talk about when girls aren’t around, conversation turns to the future of media. From the collective genius of all three “bros,” a profound, ground-breaking conclusion is reached: Newspapers are effed. So they were all, “let’s do a media startup.” 2.5 years later, they have 1.3 million in funding and 20 people working for them. Their humble blog gets nearly 500,000 pageviews a month and has expanded to two other cities.

It’s not like they had degrees in journalism or years of reporting experience. They just had the wherewithal to pull the trigger on an idea and figure it out along the way.

Why don’t more twenty-something chicks do this? And should we give a crap whether they do or not?

Many say your twenties is the best time to start a company. For lots of young professionals, the post-college life means a low burn-rate and few significant personal responsibilities. Despite your lack of experience, your lifestyle offers you the freedom to take a risk. Even though there is a plethora of “women in tech” blog posts, I haven’t any other from the point of view of a 20-something woman other than this great post from Kinvey’s new Marketing Manager Kelly Rice. So I thought I’d throw my hat in the ring.

It Starts in School

Right now, most founders have computer science backgrounds. More men choose math and science focused college majors, like computer science. I don’t think it’s a result of little boys playing with science kits and being praised for their smarts versus little girls playing “school” with their dolls and receiving accolades for their looks.  I think it’s more a matter of education.

Math education sucks. A lot of schooling does this, but I think math education in particular rewards mindless repetition more than strategic problem solving and successful application of concepts. A talent for the latter is a better preparation for programming and metrics-focused marketing and product development. It’s better preparation for entrepreneurship. My real concern is that a lot of people, women included, are turned off by the idea of a computer science education and other quantitative disciplines because their interest isn’t ignited and their confidence isn’t built by the current system of standardized testing. I’m not saying everyone should get a participation award for an algabra test. I’m saying that more time should be spent building skills in finance, data processing and even programming than on the same algebra tests we’ve been using since Prohabition.

But not everyone is going to be a computer science major. And that’s ok. Many founders and early stage startup employees include people with business backgrounds – like PR and marketing for instance. But not a lot of guys choose PR majors. If they do end up in PR, they come in as a business major – which often includes classes like management, strategy and entrepreneurship. They’re more exposed to the world of startups, and therefore more likely to enter it as “biz side” people than their female counterparts. Most communications and PR majors are women, and they’re encouraged to join agencies after they graduate. Trust me, agency life is hard work! It’s different than a startup, though. Agency culture often prompts young people to focus on their specific role and the responsibilities that accompany it. Once that is mastered, then they can move on to higher level projects. Paying your dues is a frequently communicated concept as young professionals build their skills.

This is a lot different than the reality of startups, where early employees are involved in a little bit of everything – from the high-level strategic decisions to refilling the company Peapod order.

The point is, even if they aren’t computer science majors, more 20-something men than women choose to begin their careers at startups because their educational backgrounds and entry-level experiences encourage it.

It’s About a Lack of Perspective

We’re in a bubble. Not that kind of bubble, but I mean a bubble when it comes to our perspectives on founding teams.

This is the gender breakdown of TechCrunch readers from Shareaholic.

gender breakdown of techcrunch readers

Apparently, women don’t care about tech as much as men. And actually, that’s ok. It’s even ok if they care more about makeup and fashion, and it’s ok if they pursue an education in either one. A cultural change needs to happen where entrepreneurship and tech are presented as options for pursuing a career in the field you’re passionate about. Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg recently told marketers at the recent ANA convention to “put a little Facebook in everything you do.” We should put a little startup in everything we study. This point is admittedly utopian, but it’d be pretty cool if the next online marketplace for cosmetics came from a founder who knows that industry and customers. It’d be nice if there was an actual healthcare or insurance professional on the founding team of Cake Health – regardless of whether that person is a man, woman, gay person, Latino, Jewish… you get the point.

We should focus less on female founders and more on female consumers, as well as other untapped and growing markets. If we do that, female founders and founders with different backgrounds will come. A venture fund or grant focused on healthcare startups or fashion startups, or an incubator along the same vein could be solutions. Those, plus more entrepreneurial, problem-solving and technology-focused experiences for all high school students would be great.

Getting more perspectives in on the ground floor benefits us all. People with different professional and educational backgrounds are exposed to different industries. They follow trends and experience inefficiencies that could be more interesting business opportunities than yet another social/local/mobile/daily deals app, social media marketing tool, or marketplace where you get recommendations from your friends for blah blah blah. It’s to our economic advantage to re-imagine the entrepreneur as not only a computer science major or Harvard MBA (although they’ve done some pretty cool stuff!), but to include people with different educational and professional backgrounds. We’d see business ideas that appeal to new markets and have more perspectives on the ground floor building those ideas into job-creating companies.

If those business ideas come from a 20-something lady, then all the better. After all, sometimes a female touch can’t hurt. Clearly a chick wouldn’t have named a tablet the iPad. And obviously no woman was around when they named Kaggle, Kaggle. Please. We’ve seen that Sex and the City episode. Twice.

Data As An Asset for Startup PR

I’m always learning new things about PR. I like observing what other companies are doing, and it seems like some tried and true strategies still work: Ride a trend, do a survey, predict yearly seasonal coverage (holiday gift guides anyone?) and insert your story into that… etc etc. But one strategy I’ve seen more and more is using your own company’s data to get coverage.

Boston startup folks at Runkeeper generated some buzz by sharing how getting featured in the Android Marketplace increased downloads by 637%.

I also loved what they did with their fitness stats for an infographic back in September. This got covered in The Next Web.

That’s a good B2C example.

For a B2B take, admittedly Social Bakers is an analytics company by nature so leveraging data for coverage isn’t that much of a stretch. But their presidential candidate Facebook stats infographic is a fun take on numbers and a good example of inserting your message/brand into a current topic of conversation.

(AND HOW CUTE IS THIS INFOGRAPHIC?)

This got them in TechCrunch.

I personally love a good infographic. But while fun, infographics may eventually wear out their welcome. As I’m learning about what works for other companies, thinking about a fresh way to present data is also something I’m considering for when I pull the trigger and use data (there’s a lot of it…) for our own marketing.

Data is particularly huge right now. Products and consumers generate and process tons of it. It’s overwhelming sometimes. And for some companies, this might not even work as the data may be confidential and inappropriate for a PR strategy. But in general, when it comes to data, I think marketers who are technically inclined enough to digest it, but also have the communication skills to promote it, will increasingly become assets to their companies. It’s two skillsets I’m definitely looking to enhance this year.

What data does your company have that could be an interesting pitch? Have you tried this before? Let me know in the comments!

I Joined Shareaholic!

So by now a lot of people know this but… I joined Shareaholic! We make it easier to share content on the web. Have a blog? Use our widget.

Shareaholic for WordPress

Shareaholic for Tumblr (and all other sites!)

Essentially, I’ll be doing marketing…. (And then some.)

There’s been much written about how to choose which startup to work for. (No seriously, read this.) There’s much to consider. Startuplife, like any job you want to kick ass at, is a huge commitment. So think about it. But to be candid, I feel like sometimes you make choices in life that are very well-thought-out, calculated, rational and make complete sense. You choose the clear-cut path. Other times, you make choices because your heart won’t let you choose otherwise. You JFDI. For some reason, in my life, whether it was moving to Boston, joining oneforty, breaking off certain relationships… the decisions I didn’t overthink worked out best.

Shareholic is a legit business with incredible traction and interesting problems to solve. I love the team and I love marketing. That’s all the information I needed.

I sort of look at this as a very big and exciting step, the next chapter in a story that started at oneforty.

(me on my first day at oneforty)

One day can really change your life.

4 Reasons I Answer College Students’ Emails

If you’re a professional, I’m sure that you’ve received at one point or another an inquiry from a college student asking about jobs, internships or advice. I respond and I think you should too. This is why:

1. People answered my emails when I was a college student.

I’ve written before how I got my first job in Boston. I sent a lot of emails asking people about their companies or for informational interviews. Granted, it was just one of those informational interviews that turned into a job. But all the coffees and email exchanges I had with other professionals provided me with motivation, direction, momentum and confidence. I am so thankful to the people who helped me, in every little and big way they did. 2 or so years later, how could I not pay it forward?

Granted, I can’t offer a ton of long-term career advice or hindsight. I’m too young still myself. But I can offer a pep-talk/confidence boost/talk about what has or hasn’t worked for me so far. Considering similar conversations I’ve had with people just a few years older than me, I know how even that can be quite helpful.

2. The college student you meet today is the employee you hire tomorrow.

In startupland, we talk a lot about how tough it is to hire talent. The right culture fit and the right skillset is tough to come by. Then we also talk about the importance of networking. There’s a missing link, though. We emphasize the importance of networking with people who can help us, like VCs or more experienced professionals for mentorship. I don’t think we talk enough about the opposite end of that spectrum, which is spending time with an up-and-comer who is that future talent you can add to your team.

3. I remember where I came from.

It seems like everyone wants a developer or a community manager/social media whatchamacallit/something-or-other these days. Where are these people? Well, they’re in college. They’re young. They’re doing annoying things that 20-year-olds do, like joining fraternities and drinking for any special occasion possible, like it being laundry day or Monday or maybe signing their emails to you with emoticons. In addition to internships, yes, that’s what some of Boston’s most promising young entrepreneurs did merely four or so years ago. They might not immediately come off to you as a child prodigy in that email or by a first glimpse at their LinkedIn.

That doesn’t mean they’re not an “A-player!” (And seriously, what the hell is an “A player?”) What it means is that they just don’t know what they don’t know, but they want to know and that’s why they reached out. It also means that ambition and drive can come with a lack of focus, because young ambitious people want to conquer the world. But if you have a conversation with someone and steer that motivation towards a clear direction of the right internships and experiences, they grow into the “A-player” people so dearly want to hire.

My favorite interns, and in my opinion the most successful ones, have been those that were hungry to improve – not necessarily the ones that did everything perfect. Perfect plateaus.

4. I’m busy. So what.

Social media/internet burnout is real. I haven’t blogged here in two months, and I’m inundated with a lot of “communication” in general per the nature of running social media accounts for work. Just like you, there are a ton of DM’s, @replies and emails coming at me. Maintaining ownership of my own time, timeline and inbox is important so I have time to communicate and spend time with the people I love offline.

We’re generally too busy and say yes too often, when it really should be a choice between “Hell yeah!” or “No.” I wish more people saw responding to college students as a “hell yeah!” kinda of an opportunity.

Respond to college students. Don’t just reply to the rockstars. Reply to the hot messes who need honest feedback and give honest feedback. Have coffee with someone. It won’t kill you, actually it’s kinda fun. Expect some of them to flake on you and not even respond back to your advice. Roll your eyes and move on, because there’s another student who will take your feedback and could make an absolute rockstar developer or community manager/social media whatchamacallit one day. If we want to find talent, we can’t forget the source of it.

We Are Joining HubSpot!

Today, my company oneforty is thrilled to officially announce we are joining inbound marketing software company HubSpot. You can read the release from HubSpot here and a note from my CEO Laura Fitton on the oneforty blog.

I’m here to tell you a little more about what’s next for me and why I’m excited to join HubSpot. I am honestly, genuinely happy to join them. You’d have to see the goofy grin on my face in person when talking about it to probably fully believe and appreciate that, but I am truly fired up about it.

For those of you who don’t know what HubSpot does, they make software that helps marketers get found by customers through blogging, social media and SEO. Since their Performable acquisition, they now include even more tools that help with “MOFU” or middle of the funnel activities like email and A/B testing. This video helps explain:

Ever since I learned about the company in 2009 and visited HubSpotTV, I’ve chugged the HubSpot Koolaid hard. I read David Meerman Scott’s New Rules of Marketing and PR on spring break in Cancun and Brian and Dharmesh’s Inbound Marketing Book on the T in Boston. I’ve downloaded me some eBooks, graced my followers’ streams with many a HubSpot blog post and gazed longingly into the slides of Dan Zarrella’s science of social media webinars. I am a fangirl who has learned a ton from the free content they offer their community members and tried to replicate that with some things for oneforty.

For me, HubSpot is a great personal opportunity and I feel really lucky to have this in front of me. First off, I look good in orange. 😛 Also, I’m looking forward to working with and learning from marketing pros Mike Volpe and Jeanne Hopkins. I will also still get to work with my friends and oneforty co-workers Mike Champion, Laura Fitton and Jeremy Crane. I will gain experience in inbound marketing at a much more massive scale. They generate upwards of 40k leads a month and it’s a chance for me to grow in areas like metrics and social media, working with an even wider audience. I hope we prove ourselves with content and customer service to the community I built with oneforty and show them why they should come along for this journey with us.

Throughout the past year at oneforty I’ve learned so much about marketing, building community and startups. Working last night I stumbled into old notes from back in April when we were still thinking of a name for SocialBase.

I gotta be honest with ya, this piece of scrap paper might be my new favorite material thing. It represents a time to me when we were building something from nothing. This. Is. Startup.

It’s not parties with brogrammers at SXSW, launch day when you get that one big press hit because you got funding and everyone loves you or anything at all like the movie The Social Network. This is hard work. It’s confusing. Like slow dancing in middle school. Know what I’m saying?

Most days in startuplife are unremarkable and they aren’t for the faint of heart. It means being up at midnight thinking about the name for a new product or coding. If the idea of the everyday and the creativity doesn’t excite you, with or without the glamour of press and “startup” label, then this isn’t for you. (And that’s ok.)

At oneforty I, along with my amazing freelance team, have written a lot about the tools you should use to manage and measure social media strategy for the oneforty blog. Blog posts have included:

I have something to admit: none of this actually matters. Tools, timing, keywords and ROI aside – community is really about making people feel like they are a part of something special. You need to understand people to do marketing and build community. The rest is details, but without this foundation, you’re screwed.

People want to feel validated – People not only want answers to the questions they have, but they like feeling as though you have had the same questions yourself before. Being a community manager is about striking the balance between being the thought leader and the informed friend.

People want fantastic customer service – On social media, just being responsive can win. For years we have emailed customer service “contact us” emails and not gotten so much as a peep. We’ve waited on hold. Twitter is real-time – it feels more immediate. Just feeling heard by a company when you’ve got a question or you’re complaining about an issue goes a long way. Usually in my experience, those who take the time to complain have also taken the time to thank us, publicly. It’s social proof.

People want you to have an opinion – It surprised me when our negative blog posts highlighting “common mistakes” or “things to avoid” did so well, but then as I learned about people more, it really didn’t. People want to know specifically what they should or shouldn’t do. They want actionable takeaways. B2B? Tell them what email marketing tactics suck. B2C? Tell them what nutritious food to buy to lose weight or what clothes to buy to “get the look for less.” Tell them. That’s why they visited your site.

Joining HubSpot means joining an organization that lives and breathes this. These are the cornerstones of inbound marketing. They have an opinion, offer educational content that helps community members learn about marketing long before the sale and deliver incredible customer service. They get people, engage them and help people with their businesses. I’m thrilled to be a part of an exploding company that aims to be nothing less than the “Salesforce of marketing” and can’t wait for this next chapter to begin.

To close, I would just say thank you to the oneforty community. Getting to know many of you one-on-one has been a joy and continuing our friendships with the HubSpot community will be a fun journey to take together. And last, but most importantly I offer an admittedly vague “thank you” to my (*real*) friends and family, as you know who you are. Regardless of any professional success, there are people who loved me when I was an unpaid intern and a waitress. There are new people in my life who didn’t know me then, but would love me no matter what I did for a living. Those people have encouraged me and supported me throughout this journey. I’m like a freaking walking Hallmark card, but I love you to the moon and back.

“Where we’re going we don’t need roads.”

To the next chapter!

How to Build Community With Better Content

Creating interesting and informative content is a fantastic way to build a community within your target audience. Why is this important for your business? There are several reasons:

  • Content draws the right people to your company’s website by leveraging the right subject matter and keywords.
  • People share great content, and how much people share your content counts for how you rank in Google.
  • Helpful content builds trust. It shows your expertise in whatever your company is selling and gets your community excited about your brand. Content offers something of value to your audience before you ask for something in return (like an email address… or a credit card).

So what are some ways that you can do this at your business?

1. Blog Often

If you check out our friends from HubSpot’s Science of Blogging webinar by Dan Zarrella, you’ll learn some more specific reasons (like website traffic) why blogging frequently matters. Basically, switching from blogging once-a-month or once-a-week to every day will completely change the blogging game for you.

Hubspot and SEOMoz are two examples of businesses that create daily blog content, and hence have created communities and positioned themselves as experts in their fields.

 

HubSpot’s inbound marketing blog has helped build a community of marketers.

 

SEOmoz creates daily blog content about SEO, offering value to their community of marketers and SEOs.

We’ve recently shared some tips on how to organize your blogging team and how to set up an editorial calendar to scale this strategy for your business.

2. Monitor Social Media to Discover Your Community’s Pain Points

Understand the types of questions that your community members are asking on social media regarding your industry. Respond to those questions with good content. Set up a search terms and Twilerts for appropriate hashtags and industry terms. On Twitter, you can make conversational searches and see what people are really asking about. Here are some example searches:

  • “(industry keyword) + sucks”
  • “competitor + sucks”
  • “I hate _____”
  • “Is there a ______?”
  • “Anyone know of a ________?”
  • “What is the best ________?”
  • “How do you _______ with ______?”

To enhance your content even more, do some research with Google Insights to make sure you’re targeting the right keywords with your content. “Pain points” + keywords make your posts highly searchable. If they’re asking about it on Twitter, your community members are probably Googling for it, too.

3. Write a Decent Headline

So we make fun of link-bait headlines like “What Every Entrepreneur Could Learn from Justin Beiber” and the like… but you clicked it, and you ReTweeted it, didn’t you? Yep. Caught ya.

Clearly we don’t have to be this severe in our headline writing, but listen: There’s a lot of clutter out there and a ton of content being shared. If you write a headline that makes your content sound appealing and helpful to your community, you’re much more likely to get them to read it. See how Copyblogger and Problogger write great headlines for their content, but back it up with great content. They are role models to follow with this.

Most important: If you’re going to have a catchy headline like “10 reasons to ___,” first make sure they are 10 good reasons! No one cares about your catchy headline if your content is garbage.

4. Shake it up with different types of content

Offering a variety of content to your community is a great way to keep things fresh on your blog and keep your community coming back for more. It’s easy to get writer’s block when you’re writing about the same industry, products or company each day, but using a variety of tools and leveraging your community are ways you can continue to keep things interesting. Here are some content ideas:

1. Write how-to articles

2. Do a screencast of your product. Screenr is a free screencast-creation tool that helps you make Tweetable screencasts

3. List common mistakes in your industry and offer ways people can fix them

4. List hypothetical problems that your product can solve

5. Talk about recent industry studies and your take on them

6. Make an infographic

7. Dissect a couple key points from a webinar or ebook and repurpose that into blog content

8. Discuss a recent industry-related event or current news

9. Give takeaways from a conference

10. Do video interviews with community members and post them to the blog

11. Offer guest post opportunities to expert community members

12. Curate content from resources that your community cares about and do a “news-roundup” style blog post

13. Top-ten lists, Top 20 lists… Top 30…

You can also try digital storytelling tools like Storify and Tweetwally to offer a new way to show Tweets in your posts. So, if you had a particularly useful Twitter conversation with community members, include that in a blog post. Or, maybe refer to some great Tweets from a webinar, and refer to that in a blog post. These are two very beautiful ways to display that.

Here’s Tweetwally in action:

Here’s Storify:

Content is huge for us at oneforty. What has worked for us? We try a lot of different things and see what sticks. We blog every day, so we have the room to do that. If something didn’t work that great, we try again tomorrow (we don’t wait a month.) Some posts are more popular than others, but trying different things each day has given us the freedom to search for, and discover, what seems to resonate with our community. But that’s just my take.

How do you use content to build your community? Let me know in the comments!

How I Got My First Job in Boston

This is a re-post of a guest post I did for Greenhorn Connect. You can find the original post here. Greenhorn Connect is a great resource if you’re looking to learn about the startup ecosystem in Boston. There’s things like a job board and events calendar to connect you to like-minded startupers in the area. Check it out!

I’m awful at math. In 1st grade we learned things like odd and even numbers. When other munchkins were ready for things like addition and subtraction, a perplexed 6-year-old Janet thought, “What the hell?” and scripted surprisingly well-articulated  essays about why I hated math during writer’s workshop.

Battling my “clinical inability to deal with numbers,” I always had to ask for extra help after class or do corrections on math tests in high school. I was pretty cool. My amazing mother reassured me on nights I actually cried over algebra homework that learning to work hard was preparing me for something later in life. It did.

This taught me to turn anxiety into action, that achieving goals boils down practical execution and that believing in yourself means trusting you that you’ll do what it takes to make things happen.

I’m from Buffalo, NY and I graduated from St. John Fisher, which is nearby in Rochester, NY. I moved to Boston right after graduation in June 2009 for a PR internship at SHIFT Communications. In August 2009 I got my first big kid job as an account coordinator for Kel & Partners. Every single day I feel lucky that I got to move to Boston.

Unless you’re a computer science major with a $10,000 dowry, finding your first job out of college is generally tricky. You have to get someone to give you your big break because you haven’t proven yourself professionally yet. That’s tough in any economy.

These are the specific things I did that worked for my job search to move to Boston.

1. Networking on Social Media

I joined Twitter in the fall of 2008 for Introduction to Digital Media class. I knew I wanted to be in Boston and do PR. I followed PR agencies and PR people working in Boston to learn about the job market. I read blogs and wrote about my job search and what I was learning about social media on my own blog. This helped me connect with the Boston PR scene even though I was still in Upstate, NY.

My passion for social media stems directly from the humbling generosity I experienced during this time. People I met through Twitter, who didn’t know me and who had absolutely no reason to invest time in me, answered my questions and offered candid advice. People commented on my blog posts and shared them and that built my confidence. I quickly realized that the connections you can make in social media are very real.

These people know who they are and all I can say is thank you. You really helped me. And I’m doing what I can to pay it forward.

2. Informational Interviews

Everyone told me the same thing: “No one is hiring.” I couldn’t get real interviews, so I did a ton of informational ones instead. I figured that way, they’d know who I was if they were hiring in the future. (It worked! That’s how I got my job at Kel & Partners.)

In February I went on spring break with friends from BC. I turned that into an opportunity to (skip a midterm and…) line up an intense day of 5 or 6 informational interviews. That day was great. I experienced that exhilarating hustle of Boston that people can take for granted after a while and that you don’t feel when you’re here for vacation. Boston swept me off my feet that day and I knew I would make my job search a success because I wanted to be here so badly.

3. Ignored the News

I was relentlessly bombarded with articles about the bleak job outlook for 2009 graduates. The media loves a good sob story. Early on in my job hunt, I made a deliberate choice to have a Pollyanna attitude about it all and focus on things I could control – my actions.

I couldn’t control the economy or what the government was or wasn’t going to do to help. I could have perspective: I could feel compassion for the thousands of people whose names I didn’t know who got laid off at companies across the country that were on the evening news. But I couldn’t let negative news get to me and slow down my momentum in my job hunt. So for the most part, I just ignored that news.

I recommend this to all job-hunting 2011 graduates. It’s fine to be aware of the challenge ahead of you, but leave it at that and keep moving forward.

4. Kept it Real and Took a Chance

Of course I wanted a “real job,” but I was acutely aware of situation with the economy. I took a leap of faith and moved to Boston for a paid internship. I trusted myself that I would do what it took to get a full-time job for after the internship once I got here. This prepared me for startupland, where many times you’re faced with uncertainty and you have to trust yourself that you’ll just do what it takes to make a situation work.

Who Ya Calling Entitled?

People love calling Gen Y entitled, like we think the world owes us a job because we went to college. I’ve read news stories about people suing their alma maters because they couldn’t find jobs after graduation. Now that’s crazy talk, son.

I never felt like anyone owed me a job. Sometimes I felt scared because I was in Boston alone doing this internship, my student loans were coming and I didn’t really know where my life was going. (I’m only human; it’s called being 22.) Then I thought about hypothetical people with real responsibilities like babies and mortgages who maybe had just gotten laid off, and I clearly stopped feeling sorry for myself.

Most importantly: My story is not unique by any stretch of the imagination.

I am one of millions of motivated young people who want to work hard. We’ll stay late. We’ll rise to the occasion. We aren’t afraid of an uphill battle.

When you think about the future of Boston, don’t think of the entitled Gen Y-ers. Sure, there are people like that – from every generation. But those are the minority, the particularly odd and special cases, and that’s why they get coverage in the NY Times.

There are many young people in Boston who are not acting like people owe them jobs. They’re creating jobs by building companies and enhancing our startup community. HerCampus, Greenhorn Connect, Bostinnovation, Gemvara and Dart Boston are all led by Gen Y-ers and are all here in Boston doing incredible things.

A blurry sense of opportunity in Boston drew me here, but the very tangible innovation and optimism in our startup community is what makes me want to stay. I couldn’t be more thankful to those whose advice helped me move here, and I couldn’t be more thankful to that anxious, mathematically-challenged college graduate who took a chance on an internship and moved to Boston on a whim. You did the right thing.

How to: Get Started in Social Media for Small Business

I was so excited that SCVNGR invited oneforty to be a part of its small business social media summer school series. On June 27, I stopped over to SCVNGR’s (very cool) offices to talk about tips for getting started in social.

Here are my slides, as well as a little cheat sheet of tactics and resources that I handed out. Feel free to pass along to clients, your aunt with a coffee shop, etc etc. Whoever you think would find social media 101 tips to be helpful.

Something I said toward the beginning of my talk was that even though there are so many platforms to participate in and tools to choose from, there are universal things you’ll need to do on each platform no matter what. So, my message was to just understand these ideas, and that way no matter what platform you’re thinking of participating in, you’ll know how to approach them.

These ideas include:

1. Claim your page on that platform – Complete all the information, and represent your brand. (I used the analogy of, you wouldn’t walk into high school first day without your shoes on. You shouldn’t step out into social media that way either.)

2. Listen & Respond – Chances are, people are already talking about you on social media. First and foremost, set up searches so you can find these mentions and respond to these people, whether they are saying positive or negative things. This applies whether you’re monitoring FourSquare checkins or Twitter mentions.

3. Be Genuine – A first-person, human voice works best. Some brands’ styles are more casual and others are more formal, but either way people like to know that it’s a real human behind the logo-avatar. That’s how you build relationships and make the most of social media.

Here’s the information: