Become A Fortune Teller in Just 10 Minutes – Part 2

Posted by Heather Villa, CMA, MBA, MSM on November 14, 2010 in: Business - Plain & Simple, Social Media Marketing, Tips in 10

Your business will be more successful when you can act on the future before it happens. In the last article of Tips In Ten I started talking about trendwatching and why it’s important for your business, and I gave you some homework so you could start preparing to watch trends. In this article of Tips In Ten, I’m going to give you the second and third steps you need to do to be a successful trendwatcher.

The preparation step (from the last article) may have taken some time to do but the next two steps will barely take any time. Step 2 is not going to add any extra time to your schedule. Step 3 is going to add ten minutes to your schedule maybe every week or two.

I would also recommend that you think of this 3 step effort as a cycle. The more you prepare in step 1, the more effective you’ll be in steps 2 and 3, and your successes there will feed back into step 1 so you can know even more… which will make step 2 and 3 even better. Get it? This is something that will build on itself over time and every piece of information you gain will only contribute to your success.

Brief recap
So in the last issue I had you prepare your trendwatching file (a mindmap or document or something). And you wrote down a few areas of focus along with their current situation, as well as the influencing factors that contribute to those areas of focus.

The areas of focus I’m using as an example are:

  • Top social media: Blogs, Facebook, Twitter
  • Things my clients want to know: How to do it to grow my business
  • Ways I market my business: Social media, AdWords, word of mouth

And the influencing factors that make up some of these areas of focus are:

  • Facebook. Influencing factors: A desire to be more connected with others; technology that allows for sharing; word of mouth to invite others on (“the more the merrier”); a consolidation of platforms (for games, video, blogging, chatting, pictures, etc.).
  • Twitter. Influencing factors: A desire to be more connected with others; a combination of desktop-based and mobile technology; a desire for real-time information.
  • How to use social media to grow business. Influencing factors: Businesses see other businesses succeeding and want the same thing; businesses recognize that more and more people are joining social media; businesses are always looking for new marketing opportunities.

And again, I’m only writing down a few of the possibilities so this issue doesn’t get too long. If you were doing this, you’d want to list influence factors for all of the areas of focus listed above.

And, you also listed some of the key influencers:

In our example of Twitter, I listed

But there are others, too.

Trendwatching Step 2: General news
Once you know at least some of the influencing factors of the trends you are focusing on, you can go about your regular day while keeping an eye on how these influencing factors are changing. You basically do this by watching or reading the news. While you’re doing that, here is what to watch for:

  • How are the trends I’m focusing on being mentioned in the news? A lot of negativity might suggest that the trend is going to decline. Achieving the cover of several magazines (like Time or Newsweek) could signal a late growth or early peak. (In fact, there’s a school of thought in the investing world that says you should sell your stocks when the company is featured on these magazine covers!)
  • How are the influencing factors being mentioned? In a similar way, are the influencing factors still being discussed? Also, be sure to watch the news for influencing factors that will influence your influencing factors! One of the influencing factors in our example was that businesses are always looking for a way to market their business. But an influencing factor of THAT influencing factor is the economy. The worse an economy gets, the more motivated businesses are to market themselves.
  • What are the key influencers doing? Are they joining? Are they encouraging others? Are they doing something else? Just one or two might not make a difference (as we’ve seen when Miley Cyrus and John Mayer publicly quit Twitter) but over time you might see more and more of them choosing a particular action and you need to pay attention to it.
  • Watch for news in the technology and science field that might impact your trends. Are there new technologies being developed? How soon before they reach the market?
  • Watch for news about political, economic, or social patterns that could influence the trends. Is there pending legislation or a groundswell of positive or negative thinking?
  • Watch for celebrities who jump on board. Many people will do what celebrities do.
  • If the trends you are watching are related to a particular business (i.e. Facebook or Twitter from our example), watch how they are spending their money and their executive’s time. Is it wasteful? Is it an investment? Are they spending money defensively?
  • If the trends you are watching involve a particular demographic (i.e., small businesses in our example), watch for news related to what that demographic is doing.

Trendwatching Step 3: A targeted approach
You’ve prepared by focusing on just a few trends to watch and you’ve thought about their current situation and what the influencing factors are. Now it’s time to get targeted. This step might only happen every 1-2 weeks but every piece of information you pick up here will feed back into your notes in step 1 and your review of the news in step 2.

Spend 10 minutes every couple of weeks and choose one of the following to do. Over time, you’ll probably do them all and when you have, go back and do them again and pay attention to the changes:

  • Every trend has early adopters, mass adopters, and late adopters. Identify who the early adopters are of the trend you’re watching and figure out what they are doing. (And, when you’re watching the news, be sure to pay attention for their names!) One good example is Twitter. There were a few early adopters who jumped onto Twitter in 2007, two full years before everyone else did. If Twitter is one of the trends you’re focusing on, figure out who those people are and find out what they are doing now: What else are they interested in? Are they as active now that the mass adopters have started? Just to be clear, this might be a different list than your influencers (from step 1). The key influencers might not be early adopters. If you want to know where the trend is going, you need to observe what the key influencers are doing right now AND what the early adopters are doing, too.
  • Visit Google Trends and look at the trending issues to see if any of them impact what you are focusing on. Sometimes there is an obvious link between your area of focus and a trending issue but sometimes there is a link but it’s not as obvious. Look at each of the trending topics in the list and brainstorm if and how there is a connection.
  • Visit Google Trends and type in the trend you’re focusing on into the search line. You’ll get a graph, along with some news items, that can help you to see how searches for that term have evolved over time. (The word “economy” and “recession”, for example, tend to climb prior to an actual economic downturn).
  • Visit Twitter and view the Trending Topics. And, just like Google Trends, brainstorm whether or not there is a connection to your focus trends and the influencing factors that make up those trends. (And don’t stop there: Watch for trending topics related to the big names who influence each of those trends).
  • Visit Twitter Search and search for terms related to your focus trends or your influencing factors. (This one can be more difficult because some of the influencing factors aren’t easily searchable so you might need to use different terms). Watch how people are talking about that topic and pay more attention to people with a lot of followers who are making those statements.

That’s it. Just take one of those points from above and spend ten minutes on it. Then the next week, spend ten minutes on another of the points from above.

Here’s what will happen when you do all 3 steps
At first, you’ll be taking a lot of notes because this could be a learning curve for you. But within about 3 months, you’ll be totally in-tune with quite a bit of the current situation and with what is happening. You’ll soon start to see the bigger picture as influencing factors, key users, early adopters, consumer attitudes (etc.) change how they are thinking about your particular trend.

Ultimately, you will have a clear picture of where things are right now, what will compel change, and where things are likely to go in the short-term and medium-term. And once you know that, act appropriately. You might add new demographics to your customer base, improve your marketing, become an early adopter yourself, change the product or service you offer, or any other number of ways to optimize your business and prepare for the future before it happens.

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