Saturday, 16 March 2013

7 Tough Business Lessons Social Edge Africa Taught Me

    1.   It’s a Good Business but the wrong one for me!
SocialEdge Africa is a social media consultancy company offering companies with social media solutions in areas of strategy, monitoring and management of brands and campaigns on social networks. The business was good due to the fact that firms & people need help with having a strong presence & visibility of their businesses on social media; there’s a market for what we do. On the upside it was the wrong one for me because it could not survive a week without me! In the past one year I have been 70 % involved in pitching our ideas, literally almost at every meeting (Gitonga Munene, Nick Stewart and Marete Dennis) helped me a lot though we had to work on presentations together! I want something that could go on a week without but that was kinda a challenge!
Lesson Learnt: If your business cannot survive a week or two without you then it’s the wrong one to spend your time on!(Don't follow this if you follow what motivational speakers tell you! I guess there's a faint line between patience & persistence and learning to let go!)

    2.   Rogue Clients & Prospects.
Do not get me wrong here, they say the customer is the king so is the client in our case. Some were good others were just not that cool & easy on us. I am not in anyway trying to say this doesn’t happen to other business but when you do consultancy there’s a pitching process which involves literally sharing ideas you have for the client. A lot of effort, IP, money and time go towards this process and then the nasty prospects would lift us off our ideas, hire some other guys to execute them or get cheap interns! When you’ve spent time preparing a strategy and it’s execution, showcased the content plans and the management schedules of different platforms in a presentation then a sly prospect will say; “kindly send us that on email so that we can forward it to our boss”. That was kinda the last we heard from some of those prospects before we saw our ideas being executed by them and as their fans or followers we’d RT, LIKE, SHARE, COMMENT or maybe just leave a REPLY on their Twitter handles! That felt awful! So before you go to consultancy know this will happen!
Lesson Learnt: Don’t run your business like a brothel where every man with money or thinks he has walks in and gets served by his terms! Take time to select people you want to work with; just think of what you’re giving away and what you might get in return.

    3.   Most people think social media is their silver bullet!
People want to make money and more of it (guess that’s common between us); enter social media, with all the buzz some business owners especially the small ones saw a huge opportunity to break even without spending much money and effort! First of all marketing will not fix it if the product doesn’t have a value proposition or a clear need that it satisfies. Secondly before money changes hands there has to be a distribution process or channel, there product needs to be available when the buyer wants it not when you want to deliver! So social media marketing doesn’t solve that. The other thing is employees of a social media agency aren’t your sales people so don’t ask us why orders are not improving. Marketing and PR involve communications to a large scale, actual closing of sales isn’t done in most cases on Facebook so you need some people to follow up on those inquiries, knock on doors and befriend strangers online just because they showed interest in your product or service. All I am trying to say here is some clients had the wrong expectations! One being a computer accessories business that wanted us to increase his turnovers from X to Y. The best we could do was say NO to them!
Lesson Learnt: Work with clients whose expectations you can deliver! It’s much simpler as you won’t have to answer calls with questions you’ve got no answers to.

     4.   Most managers still don’t understand social media.
Some old school brand, PR and Marketing managers still do not have a clue of how to do social media. Leave that, they don’t understand how to be social; how to handle the attention craving teenager who wall posts you on everything she thinks or that 40 year old guy who will ask virtually for everything you sell and never buy anything!
However that isn’t the big problem here, the metrics are. So how do we measure success or failure? Some of these guys just wanted numbers and we gave them because that’s easy to get, others wanted to see comments and likes and we delivered! However those are not business metrics that show you are a getting a ROI on your social media efforts. Do you show your boss comments and number of fans when he/she asks how your social media is doing and why you spent amount X between period A to B? NO!  That was a challenge because a sales manager will show his increase or drop of sales in region Y over a certain period, for us we use various analytical and metric tools to show how far the message reaches, level of influence, set up keywords on monitoring tools to up your reputation game on social media, track what people are saying about you or the industry you’re in and scan conversations around a client’s key publics. It’s rather tough to put a cost/price/ROI on human interactions and measure outcomes especially in the short term! So the old school marketers gave us a hard time! They just don’t get social and here’s 8 reasons why you need to hire a social media manager!
Lesson learnt: Work with people who understand a bit of what you do! They appreciate what, how and why you do it plus they will pay for it.

    5.   In this business, the client is not the king!
I have had the opportunity of working with tough developers, designers and some creative guys who know you really can’t do much without them! How? The best I can do is preparing a PowerPoint and present awesome ideas, the designer does the mock ups for the pitch and they developer explains how we’ll do it! If you get the business you can’t do it without these two people! To be on the safe side and work as team we ganged up, I know there are other agencies (more expensive ones) but since we offered an averagely priced solution and did awesome work we decided if the client thinks he is the King then our business should be the queen! Treat us fairly and we’ll do all there can be done to ensure your brand becomes ‘social and friendly’.
Reminds of me an email I sent to Sunny Bindra’s PA; the response was if you want Sunny to speak at your event, you need to book him 6 months before and provide XYZ! I thought about it; the guy is on top of his game, he’s good and organizations want him to help so here are his terms! Get there first before you think of taking this point seriously!
Lesson Learnt: If the client insists that he is the king just let him know that your business is the queen! Don’t use that to be cocky and bitchy though. Just let them know for you to offer X you need Y! 

    6.   It has to be scalable!
This is simple, I guess you’ve read amazing stories on startups in leading blogs such as Mashable and felt like you too can do the same here in Kenya or elsewhere. The truth if you’re solving a true market need and filling a niche then you will and if you have a superb business model you’ll make lots of money while at it. Social Edge Africa is a good business as I said in point one but it’s needs me. On scalability the capital investment of putting up branches, running the business, recruiting people in other regions and finally making money on it will take time and that could be a decade! I guess these days we want breakthroughs in 3 or less years and so do I. So I did some soul searching and thought of what else I could do still on Social Edge and it has to do with disrupting education in Africa; making professors cool and edgy using web 4.0 to ‘digitize’ them! Stick around for more!
Lesson Learnt: Being cool and awesome alone doesn’t make you money, inquiries don’t pay bills, think ‘cool, superb business model, scalable and disruptive’ that’s all am doing as I type this!

     7.   If you can tolerate the worst outcome then be open to it!
I started Social Edge in my 4th year in campus and went on straight to it after school till now. Guys went to the big 4 audit firms, others got into MNC’s and others are ‘somewhere’ out there! I resisted that urge to head that way and went for something rougher and more challenging! That journey hasn’t been easy but I figured out that if I could tolerate the worst possible outcome then I could do it! If the worst outcome is sleeping hungry, being homeless, being unable to provide basic needs for your family (if you have one) then DON’T DO IT! If the risk is too high, think twice; if you’re not too sure don’t do it! The smaller the risk, the smaller the reward! So don’t expect to make so much when you took smaller risks!
Lesson Learnt: Those who take small risks will never starve!

1 comment:

  1. Majority of the business owners and thier managers aka decision makers have not fully understood the value of social media. Wait untill we have 10 million facebook and an equal number on other social sites and they will realize the good and bad of social media and the need to have a professional guide them.