Deal With Issues Systematically

One of the fun things about starting your own business is the control you have over how things get solved. There is no legacy, no precedent in place for how to resolve issue X or problem Y.

Now, that’s both a blessing and a curse. Especially in the early days, when your mind is focused a few steps in front of you, it can be tempting to “just deal with it” and solve the problem NOW. 1-2-3 DONE!

But you’ve missed an opportunity.

In fact, when you are faced with one of these issues, take just a moment to adopt a “systems” approach:

  • is this issue ever likely to crop up again?
  • are there steps I can take now that will prevent the issue from reappearing?
  • is the resolution to the issue something that can be repeated?
  • can the solution be automated?

If the answer to any of these is “yes” then take the time to solve the problem now in a manner that also solves it for the future – if not in total, then at least in process.

Saturday’s Facebook Gold Rush

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Beginning Saturday, June 13th at 9pm (Pacific), Facebook will allow users to register usernames and custom URLs. Yes, you will finally be able to register Facebook.com/YourName as your own. Long overdue, in my opinion, this change brings Facebook in line with Twitter and MySpace, both of which offer “vanity” URLs for profiles.

However, there is a catch – if you have a fan page, you’ll need to have 1,000+ fans, and have created it prior to June 2009.  More information on “page” limitations is available on Facebook’s blog.

I don’t particularly like how Facebook is rolling this out, but with over 200 million users, there may simply be no way to make this change smoothly. However, I see a serious internet tumult taking place on Saturday, as everyone rushes into try and secure their name. If one has a common name, look out.

In other words – John Smith’s of the world – set your alarms…

Twitter as a Medium, not an End

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There was a furious bout of handwringing in the blogosphere this week when a new study conducted by Harvard Business Review revealed many Twitter users don’t use the service much, or even at all.

The question that followed seemed to be “well…what’s the point, then?”

The proliferation of tools that function on the backbone of Twitter (aka – the Twitterverse) speaks to the fact that “using” the system as a communication tool alone misses the point.

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As you can see from Brian Solis and Jesse 3’s visual depiction of the services that currently use Twitter, dialoging is just one spiral on the arm.

Whether you fancy broadcasting, search, trend or buzz analysis, or content production and syndication, Twitter seems to be a medium that other services naturally take to. It’s the “ether” in the universe that seems to knit things together.

What I find fascinating is that even though RSS has permeated a lot of the web, it never really “made sense” to people. I don’t think Twitter makes a lot of sense to folks either yet, but I can tell you this – people WANT to learn about Twitter…I’ve never encountered anyone who wanted to learn about RSS.

What does this mean to you? Don’t worry about how your neighbor uses Twitter. What is important for them might not be important to you. Think about what this sort of medium can do for you as part of your overall strategy. And then go for it.

Make the Tool Work for You

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Are you rubbing your eyes wondering why in the world your business should bother with Twitter, or why your non-profit would ever want to set-up a Facebook Fan page? You’re not alone.

Chris Brogan recently published an article called “Getting Back to Your Desk,” that—while aimed at social media experts—really speaks to business owners and social entrepreneurs.

But what I mean is this: social media is a set of tools and tactics that people use as part of their larger business communications efforts. They are functions of a job, not something shiny that hides off on a magical island away from the job.

I couldn’t agree more. When I first introduce social media concepts to business owners, some of them look as if they are about to get hit by a truck. “How could we possibly do this?” Or…“I don’t have staff for this.”  Twitter and Facebook or Yelp seem like big, complex things that must certainly become a job all by themselves, right?

Now let’s reframe the conversation. Most of us don’t think of customer service as a separate “job.” After all, customer service is part of every interaction we have with our customers or patrons. So if I showed you a few simple tools that would inexpensively and easily amp up your customer service efforts, that would probably be interesting to you, wouldn’t it?

Well guess what, that’s really all we’re talking about here. Tools. Aids. Levers. In fact this is the beauty of social media; it can be and do many things—limited only by your creativity. The key is to understand that the tools are here to help you meet your goals. They should not be your goal.