Friday, September 3, 2010

A Plot Idea is Not a Story, A Business Idea is Not a Strategy

When I teach writing workshops, the most common question I get is "where do you get your story ideas?" My answer to that is, "I live. I wake up, I eat food, I talk to people, I see things."

What no one ever asks is, "So you get story ideas from everything - but how many of those become actual stories that get written?"

Having an idea for a story is not the same thing as plotting one out to completion or actually writing it.

The same is true in the business world. On LinkedIn, I constantly see questions like, "Which is better for a business, to fill a new niche, or provide a better mousetrap?"

This is pretty much the same question - in other words, I don't have an idea, and I'm trying to figure out where to find inspiration. Help!

Of all the people you've ever met with an idea for a business - how many of those ever became an *actual* business? Many? Few? None?

As I tell folks in my writing workshops, it is incredibly easy to come up with an idea. Smart people have ideas all the time. You probably have business ideas, and invention ideas...maybe even story ideas.

An idea for a story is not the same thing as a whole story, and an idea for a business is not the same thing as a Business Strategy.

Before you move forward with crafting a Social Media Strategy for your idea, you have to do some research.

1) Does this idea already exist?

Many people do absolutely no research on whether there is someone out there already successfully building the exact same kind of mousetrap as the one they envision. (In part due to the assumption by smart people that their ideas are smart, and therefore revolutionary.) Knowing who (if anyone) is already doing it, how and why, can make a big difference in how you build you business - and the strategy for marketing it.

2) What makes this idea special?

Just because someone is doing a thing already, doesn't mean you can't do it better. Decide what you bring to the idea that gives it something special - but forgo delusion as you do. You being you (unless you are among the Hollywood or Washington DC A-listers) is probably not enough to appeal to a large audience. The more niche your field of interest, the more you will need to have a slow-steady-growth, long-term outlook on your business. Those unique qualities are going to be your springboard for your Online Marketing/Social Media Strategy, so know them well and become comfortable within your niche. Spend time developing a reputation as an expert, as opposed to you just knowing that you're an expert.

3) What is your message?

In writing, I tend to discuss the importance of the first three lines of a short story or the first three paragraphs of a novel. These *must* be compelling or people will simply stop reading.

Whether you are pitching a business idea to an investor or crafting your first Social Media campaign, you must have more than, "Here is my idea." Your first sentences need to answer questions like, "Why should I care?" and "What can you do for me?" If you cannot answer these questions, the rest of what you write is meaningless.

4) What is your goal?

I've run into this a number of times, in which a person's true goal is to get attention and they basically want to do it anyway possible. Their idea isn't about the people they hope to attract to their business - it's about the attention they desire for themselves. In almost every case, these people are sure that they are way ahead of the curve on idea construction. Again - smart people are smart. The problem is that in most cases, they don't *actually* have anything concrete. Just a vague set of ideas that might work out. Blogs, sites, Facebook pages, whatever gets them in front of an audience.

Before you create a Social Media Strategy, you really have to know what you want to do. Approaching this issue without delusion allows you to focus where you spend your time and why.

Think of your business as a story. Start from the beginning with a strong, hook-y opening, then work the plot out until the final bit of the conclusion. Your plot is your strategy, your crises are your tactics and your climax is the return on investment. Do the work up front, and you'll have plotted out a successful Social Media Strategy for a strong Business.

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