My 4 hour startup :: tweetmytee.com

Last weekend, I launched an online business. In 4 hours. From idea, to a live website … and all within the comfort of my bedroom. I’m not telling you this to show off. Anyone could have done what I did.

OK sure, I started an online T-Shirt business, not a Nanotechnology business. But nonetheless, it’s incredible how much you can do these days with an internet connection, a laptop, and an idea.

The idea? Users submit memorable / funny / interesting Twitter posts, or Tweets each week. The best Tweet submitted each week is then turned into a real T-Shirt, ready to be printed and ordered online. I figure with the massive growth of Twitter at the moment, it was potentially a good idea.

I had the idea quickly, so wanted to implement it quickly. It was about 11:30 on a Friday night. I ran the idea past my wife. She didn’t look at me as though I was a complete lunatic. So I set myself a challenge to get the concept up and running before I went to bed that night.

(Yes, this post is also an admission that I’m often a Friday night computer nerd, but that’s another story)

I got started. I registered a domain name (http://tweetmytee.com) and a matching Twitter ID (@tweetmytee). I signed up from an account on Spreadshirt, the DIY T-shirt community site. I came up with a design for the T-shirt. I threw a logo together. I chose the T-shirt styles and colours. One style, 3 colours. Keep it simple. Keep moving quickly.

With a short deadline, I found myself in a strange rhythm. I deliberately made decisions in a split second:

How much to price the t-shirts for? How about $2 less than at Threadless.

What colours? The first 3 that spring to mind.

What does the logo look like? How about a simple bird design.

Has anyone done this idea before? Don’t know, no time to check right now.

And within 4 hours, I had the site up and running, with the first set of T-shirts up for sale. And I’d spent a total of $25 US (on the domain name) to make it happen.

indefensible
So, my key point here is … that it’s easy to get a business started? It’s best to move quickly? To launch any idea that springs into your head?

Well, they’re part of it. Regardless of whether this idea will take off, it was a real learning experience to do something like this. To completely avoid planning, and to just jump in head first is definitely worth a try. And to make the most of the fact that it has never been easier to start a business (especially an online business) as it is now.

But my key point, I guess, is that you can’t just launch a business quickly and expect it to take off with only 4 hours of labour. If I really want my idea to gain traction, I have to nurture it like any other business.

I’m now finding myself spending more time than I’d initially planned to get the word out, to generate submissions for the next T-Shirt. Regular readers will know that I have a full time job AND another business, so perhaps I’ve bitten off more than is chewable. If entrepreneurship’s like a rollercoaster, this has been like the Mad Mouse.

And it isn’t easy. It hasn’t become a viral success like I imagined it might. I learnt that others have come up with similar concepts before. I’ve made a couple of major mistakes. And I haven’t sold a single T-shirt yet.

But you know what? It’s been fun. And it sure beats any of the crap on TV on a Friday night, anyway.

As if you needed any more reasons to hate John Mayer…

Over the weekend, James Duthie posted an excellent piece entitled Twitter whoring goes mainstream” – a brilliant rant about singer John Mayer plugging products via his twitter stream.

First there this:

johnm11

And then this:

johnm21

Horrendous!

This sort of behaviour, ladies and gentlemen, is why I worry about the future or Twitter, and any social network that becomes too popular.

Help me save Twitter!

twitter

This week, Twitter became mainstream. At least in my world.

It happened when Rove McManus – a questionable Australian television chat show host – spoke to Lily Allen about Twitter on Sunday night. And that was that.

Already this week I’ve experienced a surge of new followers to my Tweets. And I’m expecting plenty more friends, colleagues and old acquaintances and others to be on board by the end of the month. Like Facebook did in 2007, Twitter is infecting the internet-enabled world like a virus.

I’m wondering if that’s a good thing. Actually, I suspect it’s not.

One of the many delightful things about Twitter has been that no-one has really known about it. The world goes by, but anyone Twittering has a whole other world going on. Connecting with Smart people. Funny people. Interesting people. Ridiculous people. It really is amazing.

But now it’s getting popular. And you know what happens when social networks get popular – Their value starts to diminish. And once they go mainstream, all hell breaks loose. The spammers come in droves. It gets harder to keep up with your network. Before you know, your mother-in-law wants to be your friend*.

At the same time this is happening, the social networks are figuring out how to monetize. How to build their business model. And since we’re all addicted to free these days, that can be tricky. So, with an influx of new users beating your door down, the temptation to adopt an advertising based model will increase.

And then something happens. The magic is lost. People feel as though they’ve been duped. And they leave.

This happened to Myspace. And I’d argue this it has started to happen on Facebook. How many of us really use Facebook as often as we once did?

It hasn’t happened to Twitter yet, but I’m worried it could. And if Twitter is not careful, Twitter will fall in on itself.

So I’m proposing something different. I have an idea that would put the brakes on Twitter’s enormous growth, before it’s too late. An idea that would give the company a proper business model, not one based on advertising. An idea that may even strengthen the network. Something that I believe could save Twitter.

The idea? No More Twitter Accounts.

That’s right, Twitter should stop giving away new Twitter accounts.

The only way anyone can join Twitter from now on, would be if they bought their account from an existing Twitter user willing to give it up. Twitter should create a marketplace for Twitter accounts. 50% of the sale goes the ex-Tweeter, and 50% to Twitter themselves.

Given the popularity of Twitter right now, there’d be plenty of people willing to pay for a Twitter account to get in. And Twitter users who never ‘got’ Twitter would probably be willing to sell a Twitter account.

After a while, supply and demand would push the cost of a Twitter account sky high, and that’s where the revenues would kick in.

What do you think about this idea? I’d love to hear your thoughts, good or bad. And if you like the idea, why not re-post it? Or re-tweet it? My ultimate goal would be spread the idea back to Evan Williams / Biz Stone. I honestly think it’s a good one.

So, what do you say? Help me save Twitter before it’s too late.

* No offence dear mother-in-law, but that was a Facebook-has-jumped-the-shark moment for me.

Talkin’ Skittles

This is fairly interesting. Skittles have changed their homepage to a link to a Twitter Search on Skittles.

All sorts of conversation, is happening right now about it. I mean RIGHT NOW:

ryancarson : http://skittles.com is now a Twitter search for the word “skittles” – Interesting (via @laughingsquid)
sushimonster : I can imagine the ad agency’s pitch now to skittles… “We’re not going to design you a new website. Your site will be THE INTERNET”. $80k pls

durbin : has anyone else heard about the skittles salmonella outbreak? be careful tasting the rainbow, its deadly.

emilychang : watching the tweets about skittles coming in and LMAO. the backlash has already begun. geek irony rules.

j3thr0 : I have a sudden craving for Skittles

and, ahem, my favourite:

ivoteforart: I’d rather spend my pocket money on a great piece of affordable art at http://www.ivoteforart.com, rather than a measly packet of Skittles

This graph, taken from Twitscoop, shows just how much buzz there has been in the last two hours:

To be honest, I’m not really sure what to make of this tactic. It will definitely create a bit of cheap PR for them, as media and bloggers alike talk about it. And then it will probably fizzle into nothing. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing. At least they’re having a crack, I guess.

What’s your take?

Sharing or blurting?

I liked Keith Burtis’ guest post over at Chris Brogan’s blog today. He talks about people and brands that are using twitter to “Blurt”:

When you post to your twitter feed is it all about YOU? Is your reason for being on twitter solely to generate traffic to your website or Blog? Do you just post links to YOUR content? If you have answered yes to any of these questions you “Blurt!”

The old ‘party’ analogy is as relevant as ever here. If you’re at a party, where you don’t know don’t know anyone, do you just stand there and shout about yourself? Or do you listen to others, share your thoughts, and do your best to fit in?

When it comes to blogging, I’ve spoken about a 3 to 1 ratio before: If you write blog you should comment on at least three other blog posts to every one of yours. With Twitter, I think the ratio is much higher. Perhaps 10 to 1. Perhaps 20 to 1. I’m not sure.

I don’t think it’s a bad thing to promote yourself. I use twitter to promote new artwork on ivoteforart. Like this tweet from yesterday. But I try to limit these self-promotional posts. And spend the rest of the time talking to others and posting art links that I think my followers would enjoy. 

In whatever conversation you’re in, be it in the blogosphere, twitterverse, or just at a BBQ, the key is to try give more than you get. It works out better that way in the end.

Twitterise … Shitterise

Today I learned about Twitterise, a Twitter Marketing tool that let’s you schedule messages for future publication, for sending out press releases, or advertsing messages.

It completely misses the point.

Here’s what their website says:

Twittertise allows you to advertise on Twitter and track the success of branded communications with your customers.

Using Twittertise you can schedule your communications on Twitter and using URL tracking technology measure the effectiveness of your traffic driving techniques on the platform.

So, what’s wrong with this message? Well, let’s pull it apart, shall we:

  1. “Twittertise allows you to advertise on Twitter” – They’ve got it wrong from the first sentence. Anyone who thinks Twitter is a vehicle for advertising doesn’t get it. Advertising does not belong here.
  2. “track the success of branded communications” – This phrase just feels slimey. The reason a brand would use Twitter shouldn’t be to track success, it should be to make connections with people. And what exactly does “branded communications” mean anymore anyway.
  3. “with your customers” – Twitter is a place for humans to talk to other humans. Start thinking of Twitter as a vehicle for “customers”, and you’re bound to turn them off.

Now on to paragraph 2:

  1. “Using Twittertise you can schedule your communications on Twitter” – Scheduling communications? So Twitterise is suggesting you should send out messages when you’re not online? Which, to me, sounds like spamming.
  2. “measure the effectiveness of your traffic driving techniques” – Wrong wrong wrong! You should never be posting tweets to drive traffic. And who even talks like this?

Now don’t get me wrong here. I use Twitter to announce news and offers on my site. I’ve got Twitter search feeds set up so that I can be alerted if you’re talking about me. I’m finding it to be an incredibly cool tool to keep in touch with customers, friends, and people I admire.

I’d recommend that big brands do the same. There are definitly good reasons for joining twitter.

But like any other social media tool, the 1.0 approach doesn’t work. It’s not about spamming. It’s not about measuring and tracking. It’s certainly not about driving traffic. It’s about real, human connection. It’s about conversation, individuality, personality.

So if your brand’s Twitter feed is being driven by an automated service, and not a real person, you don’t know a thing about what marketing is about anymore.