Using TweetDeck to manage Twitter

25 01 2011

I’ve been using a fantastic program called TweetDeck to manage my tweets on Twitter. Rather than checking in every couple of hours, the program allows me  to schedule tweets either the night before or that morning all in one sitting. It also shows any mentions of the company’s Twitter account (@teamrocketlabs). I’ve provided a screenshot of the program and a description of how I’m using it as part of the company’s marketing strategy below.

Tweet Deck

Tweet tweet!

The crux of our online marketing strategy is to provide value to potential clients in the form of relevant information and support. We seek first to establish a relationship based around a mutual interest in solving a common problem. In our case that problem is how to achieve physical fitness in the face of time constraints, motivational issues and lack of knowledge. We seek to engage in a dialogue and share solutions. Since our products are potentially part of the solution to said problem, discussion of them can occur organically and the nature of the discussion differs from traditional marketing methods in that we have hopefully earned a degree of trust and our message will be more warmly received.

So what does this have to do with TweetDeck? Well, providing pertinent information is a full-time job. It requires searching for relevant information and then disseminating it through media channels such as Twitter on a regular basis. We try to send out at least 4 tweets a day spaced evenly during peak Twitter viewing hours (roughly between 8A-4P). TweetDeck allows us to write the tweets ahead of time and then schedule their broadcast. So instead of finding a smart phone or computer every hour or so and sending a new tweet on the fly, its all set the night before or even earlier if you, say, need to take a vacation.

Another cool feature of TweetDeck is you can pre-program a tweet to anyone who signs up to follow you. Ours is a simple welcome plus a link to a relevant articled followers in our demographic will find helpful. It adds a personal touch and its automated.

Finally, there is a separate column that shows any mentions of your Twitter handle. If someone retweets you, you are notified which helps identify what information your followers find most useful. This also allows you to monitor any tweets about you but not directed at you. You can reply to these tweets and capitalize on a good mention or try and resolve a bad mention. You can also try to attract those who are interested enough to tweet about your company and try to engage them in a dialogue. The best part of this program that makes Twitter so much more user-friendly is it’s FREE! Maybe it can help your business as much as it helps mine.

Here’s a link if to TweetDeck’s site if you think it might help you. And if you’re wondering, I don’t get anything for pumping their product. I just think its great and I’m glad to receive it for free.

Do you know any social media software, devices or tactics that help manage your social media marketing efforts? How do you use social media to interact with and develop your client base? What methods have you found most helpful? What lessons have you learned as to what NOT to do? Any shared knowledge is greatly appreciated!


“Our first marketing campaign”, update 1/11/10

11 01 2011

Launch in T – 5 weeks.

48 hours into the campaign and we have gained 10 new fans. Normally we gain on average 1 new fan a day so probably 2 of those 10 were organic, but based on early data we are gaining an additional 4 fans/day from our advertising. We have spent a whopping total of $2.56 at a cost per click (CPC) of .32 and a cost per fan also of .32. Additionally, we are getting visual exposure from all the ads that run without being clicked on. We also have 12 verbal commitments from people wanting to participate in the challenge and another 10 considering. It appears we will easily surpass our target threshold of 50 participants extending our reach to an estimated 12,500 people.

What is significant about these numbers is that they all come from the West Palm Beach area. This has 2 major benefits. First, we have the advantage of appearing like a larger company than we really are. Second, when we go out to win retail accounts this will be a major selling point. We can demonstrate a targeted advertising campaign which will help drive local retail sales. We will also have a page on our website listing all retail outlets carrying our product, Rocket Fuel.

In the next installment I’ll be outlining what I call the reverberation strategy which involves giving colored shaker bottles away which match the bright yellow-green color of the liquid which clients will be drinking from during their workouts. The visual presentation is striking – the color was chosen partially because it is the most intensely perceived color to the human eye. This is a biological fact, not a psychological  one. We will then start running Facebook ads featuring black and white photos in which the shaker bottle and Rocket Fuel will be color-enhanced (think “Tron”) to show a bright yellow-green thus echoing and reinforcing the visual presentation many will be seeing at their local gym. The text will also be in the same color and will feature our logo, thus tying the visual impression from the bottles and liquid to out brand. Combined with our other marketing efforts, we will be essentially creating a feedback loop akin to a microphone set close to the speaker it is feeding, thus gaining an exponential return from our marketing efforts.

A brief history of Rocket Labs, part 1: Attack your convictions

8 01 2011

I’ll alternate future posts between current events surrounding the company launch and background history of the company. In this post we’ll start on the history behind the company beginning with its inception as an idea. Before it could take root in my mind as an idea, I had to make room for it. I had to let go of a piece of erroneous “knowledge” and open my mind to a better understanding of the truth. This is how it happened.

I’ve been an avid weight-lifter most of my life. I ordered a Joe Weider book on Bodybuilding at the age of 15, convinced my mom to buy a weight set, and commenced to build what by the age of 19 was a radically improved physique. Around that time I started to train in kick-boxing, a cardiovascular intensive sport. Before the few fights I had,  like many in the sport, I cut weight to move down in weight class  in an attempt to gain a power advantage. An unwanted side effect, however, was that I typically ruined my stamina and explosiveness in the process thus not only negating my hoped-for advantage, but putting myself in worse position than if I had simply remained at my natural weight. The problem, although I was so ignorant at the time I had no idea there even was a problem, was that I lacked a fundamental understanding of muscle fuel systems and the metabolic processes governing the break down or synthesis of muscle tissue. I know how to punch and kick, but I didn’t know how to cut weight properly and, more importantly, how to put it back on to restore athletic performance.

My kick-boxing career was a short one. I found that I didn’t enjoy the competition, writing myself off as just a little too slow to be good at it. In the years that followed I did learn more about what fuels muscles for work and growth and how to prevent the body from scavenging them for energy. But my knowledge was still basic.

My interests in martial arts remained, however, and in 2009 I found myself training in mixed martial arts at the Integrated Fighting Arts Academy in Austin, Texas. I noticed that the harder I trained in MMA the more muscle I had gained in the gym was lost. This was not necessarily a bad thing as I lost fat along with the muscle, but I though it would have been better if I could keep the muscle and just lose the fat. Although the effects were far less pronounced, they reminded me of what used to happen when I cut weight.

However, there was a trainee there named Randy who was over 50, was built entirely out of muscle, and had virtually no body fat. I wondered how he was able to train hard and maintain his lean body mass so successfully. I asked him how he did it. Although I didn’t fully realize it at the time, I had taken a large step forward in improving my knowledge and by extension, improving myself as a martial artist. I recognized a particular problem and began to seek a solution. As it turned out, the solution became much more valuable than I could have known at the time.

GenieRandy’s solution was simple: drink a solution made of water, dextrose (a sugar) and whey protein immediately after training. Without getting into too much detail, the drink triggered a large insulin response which drove the sugar and protein into muscles at the time when they were most receptive to nutrient uptake. Once there the sugar and protein became the substrates for new muscle tissue and glycogen, the most abundant fuel source in muscles. I had heard about this protocol before and dismissed it on the general grounds that “sugar was bad”. But at it would turn out, I was making decisions based on a misconception. I believed that there were no instances in any context in which consuming sugar would be beneficial. The truth of the matter was that, at least from an athletic performance perspective, there was a context in which consuming sugar would be beneficial. My adherence to a belief to the contrary, to a misconception, was preventing me from seeing the solution to a problem that not only I had but others shared as well, albeit in slightly different forms.


Attack your convictions

Although I had missed opportunity to learn and apply a solution in the past, I was impressed enough with Randy that I decided to suspend judgment and give his solution a try. It was no momentous decision culminating from a sustained period of self-examination. I was just a dude who wanted to put  back on 5 pounds of muscle that had been lost from months of cardio-intensive training and could see that someone else appeared to have the answer. It was more of a stumbling into the solution and then being flexible enough to suspend my belief  in light of new evidence that seemed to contraindicate that belief. It was sort of a poor man’s version of Nietzsche’s dictum have the courage to attack one’s convictions.  It turned out to be one of the best decisions I ever made.

I wish I could tell you I put 15 lbs. of muscle in 3  months or dropped to 5% body fat.  I didn’t. But I did see a steady improvement in my body composition and athletic performance. After a few months, the progress was undeniable. I had to admit that I had been wrong. In exchange for my erroneous belief and perhaps a little pride, I received a solid solution to one of my problems, the impetus to study the problem and solution in greater detail, and the nucleus of a business idea which I would later embrace and throw myself into heart and soul and from which I would derive tremendous satisfaction – a good trade by even the most stringent criteria.

I guess the takeaway from this experience is that finding the courage for an attack on one’s convictions comes in many forms. Sometimes it might come from a deliberate decision to question an existing belief structure, but in today’s busy society I suspect this is a rare event. Instead, I imagine this process happens in a more pedestrian fashion, the heart of which consists of being confronted with an instance or fact that appears to contradict  one of our beliefs and then being flexible enough to explore the reconciliation of this  instance with our belief structure. In this case courage comes in the form of keeping an open mind and a watchful eye for refinements in our understanding, particularly when such refinement can lead to solutions to commonly held problems.

I realize that the readership of this blog is quite limited at the time of this writing, but I’ll ask anyway: what experience have you had with finding a misconception in your belief structure, refining your belief and then finding a better solution to a problem? Was it a dawning or a sudden realization? What did you do to capitalize on your new knowledge?

Our first marketing campaign

5 01 2011

I’ll be giving some background history on my company, Rocket Labs, in future posts. But for the moment it will suffice to know that its 9 months into its inception and, almost like a real infant, it’s 5 weeks away from officially entering the market with the first shipment of it’s first product. In anticipation of the arrival of our inventory, we started our first marketing campaign. This is an overview of what we are doing and our reasons for doing it.

Our marketing strategy is to position ourselves as a sphere of cultural influence in the two metropolitan areas where we will have the largest footprint, South Florida and the Phoenix metropolitan area (long story). We will have a retail presence in both of these regions in nutrition stores, gyms and MMA schools. Concentrating our advertising and communication through social media primarily to these two regions we hope to have multiple exposures to our core demographic, 18-35 year old males at the moment, thus giving ourselves the appearance of a larger company. We also believe that 2, 3 or more exposures to one person is superior to one exposure to 2, 3 or more persons. An exposure could be anything from seeing a banner ad on someone’s Facebook page or seeing a Rocket Labs tweet, to seeing our product on the shelf of a retail outlet. Our reason for seeking multiple exposures is that with each subsequent exposure to very similar stimuli,  say seeing a product logo or reading a product name, people pay successively more attention after a certain threshold has been crossed, the reticular activating system in the brain will be primed to recognize similar phenomena and call them to conscious attention. Paying attention is likely to arouse curiosity, prompting learning and for some leading eventually to a purchase.

Rather than merely advertising our product and attempting to move the recipient directly into a purchase, we aim instead to attract and capture the person as a Facebook fan, Twitter follower, or website blog subscriber. From these platforms we can interact with those we have pulled into our sphere of influence and share with them our culture, which could best be described as familial, innovative, optimistic, and energetic. Following the advice of the excellent book “The Zen of Social Media Marketing” by Shama Kabani, we will work from within this sphere of influence, i.e. our followers, fans and friends, to inform about our products, special offers and events and establish a dialogue centered around customer problems to which we possess a solution.

This approach has several advantages over traditional marketing. For one, once we have pulled a person within our sphere of influence, that is prompted them to fan us on Facebook, follow us in Twitter, or subscribe to our blog or email list, we then have the ability to communicate with them for little or no further cost. This represents a substantial cost savings over running ads in traditional media or ads on social media and search engines which aim at an immediate sale or one way exposure to our brand and then is much less likely to lead to further unsolicited interaction. Tweeting and updating blogs and Facebook statuses cost almost nothing monetarily, whereas banner ads and the like must be paid for every time they are used.

It is our belief people are more receptive to updates and tweets than unsolicited banner ads since the former come from a source that is closer to one’s “inner circle”. Somewhere in the continuum between total stranger and best friend or immediate family member, companies whom people have fanned or follow lie somewhere in the middle.  Fans and followers will likely be more receptive to communication with these companies than companies who haven’t established a social media rapport and thus lie closer to the stranger side of the continuum.

Working within that strategic framework, we initiated our first multimedia marketing campaign. The campaign consists of  a fat loss challenge replete with prizes for top vote-getters. Actually, I have to thank Rocket Labs spokesmodel (and Ms. Bikini Florida 2010 lauriete), Brittany, for broadcasting the message through her social media network, which is more than double the size of mine and the company’s put together. We created an event page on Facebook, sent it out to everyone we could on the network, and then broadcast a link to the page on Twitter with a brief invitation. Within 30 minutes we had 10 commitments or inquiries from people who expressed serious interest. Not an avalanche, but we haven’t even started running targeted ads.

Our goal with everyone with whom we come into contact during the campaign is to leave an impression of our culture and brand as well as win over adherents to our various online media platforms, particularly Facebook and Twitter. Quantitatively, our goal is to win 1000 new fans on Facebook and 200 new followers on Twitter. For our product launch, we’ll be relying heavily on social media outlets, primarily Facebook, Twitter, and, a site which includes a well-subscribed social media component whose user base is squarely in our client demographic.

We will be seeking 50-75 participants. Prizes will be based on who receives the most votes. Votes will be entered as comments on participants progress photos which they will update bi-monthly. It is through this voting system that we expect to make contact with participants’ personal social networks. An obvious strategy to garnering votes is to send updates and tweets to one’s entire network to vote from them on the Rocket Labs fan page. The page has been configured so that anyone who has not yet “liked” the page enters the page through a landing page which contains a picture of our spokesmodel asking them to like the page. At the low end of the participant goal and at an average Facebook friend network of 250 per user, we will be broadcast to 12500 people if participants request votes one time. It is our belief that many will broadcast their call for votes several times during the challenge. People will be allowed to vote once per update, so multiple votes and visits are possible. At an rough estimate of 15% voter participation, that would lead to 1875 visitors, many of whom will visit more than once and be exposed to the landing page prompt to like. Estimating that 15% of visitors will like  the page, our new fan base would grow by 281 plus a high percentage of the participants themselves.

The remainder of fans we expect to get from Twitter mentions and clicks on our page from banner ads by people who choose not to participate, but who press like when landing on the landing page. Our projected cost including prizes, shipping and targeted banner ads is  $200 which works out to .40 per new fan. On an ongoing basis we will  be exposed to the networks of these new fans and this will result in a secondary harvest of new fans. We will also be receiving a constant stream of content in the form of photos and dialogue. The activity, photos and the fan count constitute what Shama Kabani and other social media experts term social proof, a form of tacit validation and endorsement from the public.  I’ll be posting results and insights learned from the campaign on this blog as we progress through the challenge.

What is most appealing to you about running your own business?

3 01 2011

People are attracted to starting their own business for a variety of reasons. What is the most compelling reason to you? Share your reason and an explanation of why it’s compelling to you. I’ll start.

The most attractive facet to running my own business is the freedom it offers. I don’t mean the kind of freedom that allows one to take off to Australia for a summer of self-exploration in the outback. Starting and running a business is hard work and takes a lot of time and sacrifice. But a business is also a means of expressing one’s self. As an employee in most companies, their is little freedom to do things your way. There are exceptions of course, but usually it’s the company way or the highway. As a business owner I have the freedom to create a culture and style of my choosing.

One of my entrepreneurial heroes is Richard Branson of the Virgin Group fame. Their is a distinct culture and philosophy that pervades Virgin’s various enterprises and much of it derives from Branson himself. Branson built his business empire by breaking many of the rules of the established business management orthodoxy. If he had been an employee of Virgin he wouldn’t have had the freedom to market his business in his own unique way nor to create the unique Virgin culture–and Virgin would never have ascended to the towering status it enjoys today. Besides the lives I will touch and the relationships I will form, building the culture of Rocket Labs will be my greatest pleasure. And I couldn’t do it without the freedom that comes from being a business owner.

Welcome entrepreneurs and aspiring entrepreneurs!

3 01 2011

My name is Steve and I started this blog to serve as a forum where entrepreneurial minded individuals can share their successes, setbacks, lessons learned and business knowledge with one another in a respectful and mutually beneficial manner. I’ll be sharing the story of my company, Rocket Labs as it unfolds, but I encourage and welcome all relevant contributions.  I also welcome any advice on running and promoting a successful blog as this is my first.  Best of luck to us all!