Dear Empower Network – Blog Off!

Recently, I’ve picked up a whole legion of new fans of my blog.

Now, I know that neither my writing nor my life has got any more interesting, so I was puzzled over how I’d suddenly doubled my audience. Call me cynical, but my first thought was SPAM or scam.

So I had a little peek at my new followers’ profiles. And I found that they all had something in common. Not only were they now part of my flock, but they were also followers of A.W.O.L.

AWOL stands for Another Way of Life. It is part of the Empower Network, which claims to give people the tools and insider knowledge to be able to make money from blogging.

According to the blog of one of my new follower, Anna Linnehan’s, under the heading:

How To Create An Income Online ANYWHERE!

Most people don’t realize it. But there are an abundance of opportunities to create an income online ANYWHERE. An income that can completely pay for whatever lifestyle you choose, …

That all sounds very lovely. And very “empowering”. But c’mon people.  Let’s get something straight here.

Online income vs an online business

Anyone (in theory) can create an online income.  Whack up a basic website, scrape some generic, attention-grabbing, utter dross content (Lose 5lb of belly fat in 5 minutes with Amazing New Hollywood Diet), stick on some affiliate marketing buttons and a load of Google AdSense adverts…

And hey presto.  Watch those pennies roll in.  Very slowly.  If you’re lucky, you might make a few quid a month.  That’s an online income.  Not sure what lifestyle it is that you’ll be choosing off the back of this income, but I guess your buddies at AWOL will help you figure it out.

An online business, however, requires a bit more than that.  Trust me.  I’m on it like a car bonnet, but it’s a tough one to crack.

So what’s the deal?

I did a quick Google search under “Empower Network Scam” (lucky guess) and learned that it’s run by a couple of Dave’s, who, allegedly, have taken their own advice and gone totally AWOL – living in the kind of jurisdiction that Edward Snowdon’s looking for.

Ancient Egypt has nothing on these guys.  For anyone who hasn’t sussed it yet.  This is a Ponzi.  With a capital Ponz.

It’s actually pretty clever.  You see, what they claim to be selling is access to a blogging platform and combined internet marketing clout.  Higher rankings in search engines.  Increased traffic to your blog.  Easy ways to monetize. Em-Po-Wer.

money for nothing…

What they are actually selling is nothing.  Well, nearly nothing.  For upwards of $25/month ($100/month for the “Inner Circle”), you get your very own EN affiliated blog, hosted on their platform.  It’s called empower-network-something-or-other.  The significance of this will become clearer.

What’s less clear is why anyone would pay $25/month for a blog when the rest of the world is blogging for free on WordPress or Tumblr or the like.  But each to their own.

Now here’s the clever bit.  Pay attention.  When you join Empower Network, you are let into the secret that the way to make money from the internet is by…wait for it…promoting and reselling Empower Network.  Hold the fanfare.

If you look at the content of member blogs, you’ll notice a couple of things.  Firstly, there’s very little in the way of content.  A few pages.  All with titles like “Make Money Online!”, “Flog Your Blog!” and “Just Give Me Some Money!”.

Secondly, all of the content is about A.W.O.L. and Empower Network.  All links are effectively affiliate buttons.  They take you to the EN sign-up page.  And if you, too, become Empowered, the owner of the blog that referred you gets paid a commission.

So, as a newly Empowered blogger, if you want to make money, you need to sign up as many wannabe empowerees as you can.  And the way to do that?  By visiting as many blogs as you can, “following” and “liking” and spreading the EN gospel.  So it’s an endless viral blogging go-round.  Work, work, work.  Sell, sell, sell.  Because, remember, you’re paying a minimum of $25/month for this, so you’d better be recruiting new followers to cover your subs.

This is also the “secret” behind the claims that EN can get your blog higher up the search engine rankings.  Not quite true.  What happens is that all this recycled content, the constant pingbacks to A.W.O.L. or EN, confuse the searchbots.  It means that Empower Network, the brand, ranks top in Google.  If you’re searching for “Empower Network”, that is.

But since EN is all you have to sell, ain’t it grand that it ranks so highly on Google?

There is something quite beautiful about its simplicity.  You buy into a scheme to make money online.  Turns out that the product you need to sell to make that money is the scheme itself.  You’re paying money to a company to promote their brand, which makes them a lot of money.  If you do enough promotion and make enough sales, you might make a little bit of money.  Maybe I’ve missed something, but it looks awfully to me like the only ones making real money from this are sitting high and dry atop their pyramid.

The best bit about it?  By writing about EN, I’ve probably pushed them even higher up the search rankings and helped them peddle their snake oil to some poor schmuck.

Do me a favour will you?  Don’t Google them, don’t click on any comments, follows or likes that they send you, and definitely do not fall for their scamming ways.

Just like naughty children or dogs, the best thing we can all do is just ignore them till they go away.

start-up snakes and ladders

Confession time.

I’ve been working on one of my projects since Autumn last year and it still isn’t ready.

I started it with enthusiasm.  I was free from the shackles of employment.  This was my chance to create something for myself.  Put it out there.  Show what I’m made of.

I attended lots of start-up events, went to pitch evenings, watched live-streams that educated me on “how to work with developers”, “UX journeys for the uninitiated”, “AWS and the Elastic Beanstalk”.  Yes, really.

I followed the rules of first business projects (keep it small; base it on something you know about; don’t spend too much money).  I designed the layout of my website whilst I was away in India before Christmas.  Every evening after sunset, I’d work on it a little more, figuring out the work-flow, the right colour combinations, how many pages my site would need, what features were essential.  My mock-ups were beautifully simple.  I was ready to take on the world.

And then it turned 2013 and my enthusiasm fell off a cliff.

can’t I just go back to bed?

There’s a reason why so many successful entrepreneurs all seem to have boundless energy and the sort of pep that repels me at twenty paces.

It’s because keeping up any degree on motivation on a project is really, really hard.  And it becomes a vicious circle.

circle of despair

spiral of despair

Helpfully, the Mack has taken away all of my shoelaces, belts, etc.  And I’m no longer allowed out on the balcony unsupervised.

a real product development cycle

You see all these articles about product development with fancy graphics and jargon about the key stages of the development cycle.  They make out that there’s a sign-posted, well-lit cycle path, shielded from oncoming traffic, leading you to your dream destination.  Not in my experience.  It’s closer to a cruel game of snakes and ladders…

game of life

game of life

tantalisingly close

My project, which is a website where creatives (designers, photographers, film-makers, copy writers), can buy customised contracts for their businesses – so they don’t have to waste time and money on lawyers – is so very close to being ready.

But it feels like my bastard child.  I’m struggling to give it any love and attention.  I’m favouring other projects.  And, as a result, it keeps throwing tantrums and breaking things.

Every time I go to test that it works, the entire site crashes and comes up with a MySQL error message that sends shivers down my spine.  I have developers on standby to complete the last tidying up bits, but I can’t tell them what needs doing because I can’t get past a certain point before it boots me out.

I try to purchase a contract through the site and my Paypal account is blocked.  They need to verify my home address by calling my land line.  What is this, 1992?  Who the hell still has a land line?  I try to call customer services (from my mobile, not my non-existent land line).  The number they give doesn’t connect.  I’ve emailed them, but who knows if they’ll ever get back to me.  I’m stuck in a Paypal freeze-out.

I can’t help but have that feeling that the closer I get to completion, the further away it recedes.  Taunting me from just out of reach.  Probably sipping on pina coladas in some tropical oasis.

If I’ve learned one thing from this process it’s that you have to do some work on your project every single day to stay on top of it and keep momentum going.  Even if it’s only a small thing.  EVERY SINGLE DAY.  No excuses.  No let up.  No quitting.  Projects fail because people give up on them.  I don’t care if my projects fail because people (ungrateful morons) don’t want my product.  I do care if they fail because I couldn’t be bothered to see them through.

Woo Hoo.  Feeling pumped.  Dear Paypal….. I’m not sure you noticed, but it’s not 1992….

creating limboland

These past few days, I’ve discovered that the thing I like most about my Be Neighbourly business project is being able to design miniature villages and bees.  I spent several hours on Saturday creating a teeny weeny butchers’ shop complete with ham on hooks and I was deliriously happy.  Then I designed many, many bees.  A whole hive in fact.  And I went to bed feeling fulfilled and at one with the world.

BNneighbourhood2

This tells me two things:

1.  That I missed my calling and, instead of wasting all that time being a lawyer, I should have been working on Sim City or LEGOLAND; and

2.  I am avoiding doing the real work on the projects.

I know this to be true, because the post-its tell me so.  They are always there, surrounding me, with their accusatory neon hues.  Always pointing out what I haven’t done.

The Mack has a new post-it system (he is nothing if not progressive when it comes to post-its).  He adapted it from a project management seminar that he went to recently (one which overran and didn’t cover half of the promised material… hmmmm).

We used to have a 3 tiered system, with the most urgent tasks on the top line.  But this has radically changed.  Now we have a 3 tiered system, with the most urgent tasks on the top line.  But these tiers now have names: Work In Progress, To Do and Backlog.  And there are rules for the number of post-its that can go on each line.  You must not have more than 2 post-its on your Work In Progress line (in fact, it’s labelled Work In Progress (2), so you are in no doubt).  And there are a maximum of 6 tasks for To Do (6).  Backlog is more relaxed.  You can fill a whole wall if you so choose.

It has revolutionised my working life.  Because now I look at my two priority tasks and they’re on a line that says Work in Progress.  And I think: Great!  Someone is progressing these tasks.  So I can kick back and concentrate on designing some more pastel-coloured town houses…

Limbo, limbo ah-hah

We’re in a bit of limbo, the Mack and I.  Our projects are in the hands of developers, busily trying to turn my rudimentary powerpoint mock-ups into working websites.  We’re passed the design stage, so there isn’t much for us to see.  Occasionally, my developers Skype me when they’re having some “doubts” about my requirements (I choose to see this as a language issue – I’m pretty sure they’re not feeling that negative towards my entire concept).  But really we’re just waiting for them to finish programming, so that we can test the sites.

I’m not very good at waiting.  I get twitchy.  I’m a humungous control freak and leaving things to others to complete goes against everything I stand for.  I like to be able to watch over people when they’re doing a task for me, so that I can snatch it out of their hands the very moment that they make the slightest error.

Bit tricky when your developers are in Jaipur…

If I were a different (better?) person, I would be using this time to get ahead of the curve.  Drawing up my checklist for testing the website; pulling together all of the content sources that I need to get the first info up onto the site; identifying the local businesses that I want to partner with to attract users in the first few months post-launch.

Alas.  It seems that my time is already taken up with designing tiny meat products.

Still, I’ve got as far as putting those tasks on post-its on the “To Do” tier, so I’m bound to get round to them soon.

eliminating obstacles to success…one at a time

I realised today, whilst strolling along deserted beaches to a beautiful lagoon in Tibau do Sul, Brazil, that I’ve written a lot recently about my travels and not quite so much about my business. Which probably leads most of you to think that all this “business” stuff is just my way of saying that I couldn’t hack it in the rat race and have decided to give myself the rest of my life off.

Nearly, but not quite.

If you remember, the idea wasn’t so much to drop off the grid entirely, it was more to set the grid to roaming. Seeing if it were possible to have a work/travel/bank balance.  Not spending more than 4 months at a time in the UK unless there was a very good reason (either I was incarcerated, or in traction, or my mum simply forbade me from flitting off again).  But getting some sort of business up and running to pay for the travels, so that I wasn’t burning through my cash.

Again.  Nearly, but not quite.  (Getting there.)

At the time I started all this, I hadn’t factored on The Mack getting in on the act.  With hindsight, it’s probably one of the reasons that we got together.  But I was so busy thinking that he’d Derren Brown-ed me into being his girlfriend that I wasn’t paying attention.  All that tappety-tap-tapping my shoulder and repeating seemingly innocuous words.  And leaving a trail of gingerbread men on my route to our first date.  I mean.  The Mack is ginger.  And he’s a man.  The fact that I didn’t see them because they’d been squashed by passing commuters didn’t stop their subliminal power.

Anyway, much as I would love to lay the blame for my lack of results squarely at The Mack’s door by saying that he’s diverted my focus, jumped on the start-up bandwagon, addled my brain with wantrepreneurial jargon… that would be (1) wrong, (2) wrong and (3) wrong.  Because, if the truth be told, I probably wouldn’t have got as far as I have if it weren’t for him.

Thanks to The Mack, I’ve identified the top 3 things that have been stopping me making progress on the business side of things and I’ve figured out a solution to each of them.

Issue #1:  Never Seeing Anything Through to the End

I am excellent at starting things.  And doing a nice design.  I am less successful when it comes to completing anything.  Or caring at all after about 2 weeks.  Or when someone distracts me with something shiny.

Apparently, this lack of motivation for really pushing through on my projects is down to my inherent pessimism.

You say pessimist, I say realist.  Let’s call the whole thing off…

Solution #1:  Learned Optimism

The Mack bought me a great book by a guy who made up the idea that you can learn to be more optimistic and that it will transform your life.  I was a little sceptical.  Oh wait…

I started reading it and my productivity levels went right up.

Unfortunately, I **accidentally** left it in the seat back of the plane to Buenos Aires.

What a downer.

Issue #2:  Contrasting Working Styles

I have discovered through this process that I’m quite difficult to work with.  I can’t quite put my finger on exactly why that is, but it seems to have something to do with the fact that I need to get my own way on everything because my way is the right way and everybody else is stupid and wrong.

I don’t know.  It might be that.  It probably isn’t though.  Probably it’s The Mack’s fault.  For being stupid and wrong.

Solution #2:  Working Space

I think that space is very important when you’re a couple working together.  Right now it’s about 4,500 miles and things seems to be going well.

Issue #3:  Hating the Game

I have a slight problem with the whole start up scene.  I think it’s the combination of self-congratulation and jaw-dropping naivety that sticks in my craw.  And when I say slight problem: what I mean is utter contempt.

I’m not even sure how I ended up working on start ups.  I think my plan was just to have my own business.  I don’t remember ever talking about wanting to build a start up.  Tappety-tap-tap….

Solution #3:  Hate the Player

Hell, this one’s easy.  Every time I catch The Mack reading one of Paul Graham’s essays or signing up to a General Assembly workshop, I openly despise him.

I think now that I’ve eliminated these issues, progress will come in leaps and bounds.  Stay tuned, people.

early adopters, where for art thou??

So I’ve spent the past few days leafleting for one of my business ideas in various parts of London.  I’m testing some basic assumptions about the concept – i.e. that anyone, however remotely, anywhere in the whole of London, gives a gnat’s toss about what I’m trying to set up.

oh lovely flyer!

oh lovely flyer!

Which is all about real friends and happy, safe neighbourhoods.  And the flyers are nice, bright colours with pretty pictures of cute little houses.  And I spent a lot of time designing them.  So you’d think that someone would give a damn.  You’d think that friendship and belonging were pretty basic tenets of civilisation and happiness. Apparently not.

Even the blatant bribery attempt (“fill in our 5 min survey at www.beneighbourly.com for a chance to win £50 Amazon voucher”) – which still stands, by the way, so get filling – hasn’t spurred many people on to bother.

Yesterday was a particular delight.  I had trench foot by 3.30pm and not a single bloody response to my survey.  People of Cricklewood,  I two-finger salute you.

On the strength (um weakness) of feedback received so far, I think we’re going to have to pivot and start selling unicorns, ‘cos we’ve got about as much chance of making a go of it.

early adopters

One of the pillars of wisdom in startupville (which I imagine is a place where people are really friendly and create nice neigbourhoods and use the website www.beneighbourly.com to enhance their sense of community), is that for your product or service to succeed, it needs to appeal to early adopters.

“Early adopters” is a fancy term for people who like new, cool stuff.  They are the ones who actively get involved with new technology before the rest of us.  They are like Umbrian truffle pigs, always snuffling around in the dark, dank woods to unearth little nuggets that go on to be worth gazillions.  They are the lifeblood of start-up businesses.

Trouble is, most of these people live in California.  Or, at a push, New York.  The three that live in London are so exhausted by being the epicentre of all things new in business that they’ve barricaded themselves into a rec room at Google campus and are communicating only via an hourly twitter feed.

no thanks, we’re British

It’s tricky trying to start up a business in this country.  Particularly an online, networky type business.  Because we’re just not very networky type people.  And we’re not very good at cheerleading.  Or responding to surveys.

If you’ve ever worked with Americans, you’ll know that, on the whole, they’re incredibly perky, upbeat and enterprising.  Sure, statistically there must be a few really grumpy ones in each state, who just spend all their time on the couch, mithering about how unbearably cheery everyone else is.  But most that I know are optimistic and believe in that whole land-of-opportunity thing.

I think it could be because they have space.  A lot of space.  So they feel that there’s room for everyone to grow, and that one person’s growth isn’t going to leave less room for everyone else.  So it creates a culture of encouragement.  Whereas we Brits, on our very small island, are always worrying about someone encroaching on our personal space.  So we don’t really like it if someone has ambition to outgrow their little patch.  And we don’t go out of our way to boost one another.

You see it acted out daily, in a microcosm, on the tube.  I was on the victoria line yesterday evening.  I had my own space, next to the door, on that leany-ledge bit (which is the next best bit after an actual seat, as long as you’re on the opposite side to the opening doors – small wins, people).  This 20-something girl got on at Oxford Circus.  And stood into me – not next to me – into me.

And by that I mean that she pushed herself backwards so that her right shoulder was just touching the back of the leany-ledge and her left shoulder was in front of mine.  So she was at a slight diagonal.  But not for long.  Because, keeping her eyes averted at all times, and maintaining the unflinching posture of the self-righteous, she then just jimmied her sharp little shoulders until she’d crow-barred me out of my space.  At which point she became still.  For 2 stops.  And then she got off the tube.  Inwardly triumphant, no doubt.

And I’d like to thank that deeply discourteous girl.  Because I was starting to feel discouraged about beneighbourly.com.  But now I’m even more convinced that we need something like it.  So I think I’m going to build it and see what happens.  And if that means skinning my knuckles on a few more letterboxes, then so be it…

…………………………

I have included some incredibly subtle subliminal messaging in this week’s post.  Don’t worry if you didn’t pick up on it – that’s means it’s working (and thanks for completing the survey!).

trouble and strife – the reality of living and working together

I’m staying at The Mack’s this month, before we head off to South America.  We just about survived the moving in of my stuff.  Mainly thanks to The Mack getting rid of 95% of his possessions to make space for the 10% of mine that I carefully calculated I could hide about his place and get away with.  That and his vow of silence.

It’s been a week so far and, put it this way, I’m pretty sure that The Mack cannot wait for our 3 week trip, just the two of us.  On the strength of my performance so far, I think we can safely say I’m not in the running for Girlfriend of the Year 2013.

the taming of the shrew

Now some lesser men might have taken the view that, if you give houseroom to an unpredictable, highly-strung creature with a history of fiery outbursts, you should probably try to maintain a calm, stable home environment.  And avoid anything that is likely to rile the beast.

Not The Mack.  His view is that if he is kind enough to give houseroom to said creature, then it gives him free rein to wind it up. stand back – taser in hand – and watch it run itself into exhaustion.

I’m starting to suspect that he’s using this as some sort of social experiment.  He knows I know I’ve got nowhere else to go…

I hate you so much right now

Two things I really don’t like.  The whole start-up over-exuberance and slavish adherence to made-up methodologies.  And anyone checking up on me.

So The Mack has kindly decided to combine both of these in what has proven to be a foolproof system of destruction of will.

There are too many things that make me mad to list them all here, but I’ll give you the highlights (and don’t worry, I’ve got the others safely filed away in my brain under “things to bring up in our next big public argument”):

– his enthusiasm for our business ideas and general upbeat attitude vs my rightly-held belief that everything we’re doing is a pile of crap and an utterly pointless big fat waste of time.Post its

– making me write tasks on post-its, which we stick on the wall for each of our projects.  Colour-coded for the different types of tasks (concept/content, technical, marketing).  Ranked in order of priority.  Allocated to one of us to action.  “Action”.  Oh dear lord.

– his insistence on having “team” meetings every morning where we update one another on progress.  It’s an interrogation, people.  The man is never satisfied with my answers.  And I’m realising I’m quite a defensive person.

– scheduling our time each day “cos it’s the only way things get done”.  2 hours on my project, 1 on his, 30 minutes on planning our trip, 1 hour off for lunch where we watch either an episode of Girls or Modern Family (there are no other options, soldier).

– using an egg-timer app to make sure we stick to the schedule.

– endlessly using the phrases “engaging the pre-frontal cortex”, “synapses”, “gamification” and “what’s for lunch, babe?”.

work-life balance

I know, I know, you’re wondering how it is that I’ve managed not to crack under this inhumane regime.  Well, I’ve developed a few strategies for dealing with this toxic environment.  They include:

– crying.

– talking in a really shrill, harpy-like voice.

– sulking.

– cursing (both like a navvy and like a witch-doctor).

– taking myself off for a late night walk through dodgy estates in South London (there’s nothing like fear of personal attack to make you want to come back “home”).

– watching Rambo I and II.

The worst bit about it all is that I know that The Mack has a point.  We need to start making some money fast, and getting on with our projects is the only way that’s going to happen.

Doesn’t stop me wanting to stab him repeatedly with a fork every time we break for lunch though…

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PS:  I’d be really grateful if my UK readers could take 5 mins to fill out an online survey for a new business venture I’m working on to do with friends and communities.  Please go to www.beneighbourly.com.  Thank you!!

Fear or Desire: what motivates you??

The Mack and I spend an inordinate amount of time thinking and talking about food.

The Mack’s one of those guys who’s always thinking at least one meal ahead.  We’ll be mid-way through a big cooked breakfast and he’ll start wondering aloud what we ought to do about lunch, smacking his lips and emitting deep belly groans at the thought of more food.  Worryingly Homer Simpson.

With me, it’s more the typical no-carb obsessiveness of someone who worked on the fringes of fashion and who has an entire wardrobe of size 8 clothes.  Dullsville.  But absolutely necessary.

primitive motivation

The Mack says that it’s simply his genetic coding.  He’s hardwired to be a hunter-gatherer, so it’s only right that he’s always planning where his next meal is coming from.  It’s usually coming from Sainsbury’s, but I guess it’s good to plan…

We’re all ultimately driven by two things: fear and desire.  The proportions vary from person to person and often from situation to situation, but whatever gloss you add to justify your particular actions, if you strip it back you’ll find plain old fear or desire (or a combination of both).

Marketeers have had this sussed for yonks.  They play us constantly on both sides.  The aspirational longing – if only I had that watch/car/phone, I would be instantly cooler.  The insecurity and inadequacy – I must buy all the anti-aging creams I can afford because no-one wants to be with a wrinkly old hag.

New-fangled marketing is no different.  Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, FourSnore, all are built on these two pillars of what it means to be human.  It is the desire to belong, to be connected, to share.  And the fear that if we don’t participate in these collective obsessions, then we are marginalised, we’re not really living.  You’ve probably noticed it amongst some of your friends too – they upload so much of their day-to-day existence: it’s as though they believe that if it’s not captured and published, then it doesn’t count.

Strange, but maybe that’s what those cave paintings were all about…?

fanning the flames

I’m largely immune to the normal desire sales triggers.  Show me all the magnum adverts in the world and I’m still not buying.  Even those ones with triple caramel and almonds all swirling around hypnotically.  Spare me.  I grew up in the 80s with soft-focus Flake adverts and the Caramel bunny.  Do you really think I’d fall for that lame old seduction routine??

So desire doesn’t really do it for me.  I know this because I contrast my approach to starting up a business with The Mack’s.  He’s a go-getting, nothing-stands-in-his-way, smash-some-walls-down, bish-bash-bosh (his words, not mine), laser-beam-focused, machine.  He has energy, purpose and clarity of thought.  He makes decisions quickly, moves on and gets shit done.  And then he howls at the moon and beats his chest.  (That last bit is, unfortunately, not made up – he hired a lion mask last weekend for my sister’s fancy dress party and seems in no hurry to take it back to the shop).

This is because he is driven by desire.  He wants to succeed and he enjoys the process of making things happen.  It’s quite impressive in action.

Whereas my approach is more stagnant puddle than flowing torrent of ambition.  Sure, I get the occasional burst of enthusiasm for my projects, where I’ll splash around happily in the puddle for a day or so.  But ultimately all that happens is that I churn up the mud at the bottom.  And no-one’s investing in mud.  So I stop.

scaredy scaredy…

But fear, now that I can relate to.  According to The Mack, the 3 little words that I say to him most often are, “Babe, I’m worried…”  And I have a really good scared face.

I think, on the whole, women do anxiety better than men.  Maybe it’s because we’re so adept at multi-tasking.  It means that we can worry about 821 things simultaneously.  What a gift.

The downside of using fear as your primary motivator is that it has a tendency to paralyse you, rather than spur you on to greatness.  You don’t often hear really successful people interviewed saying that what made them was sheer blind terror.  It’s always burning ambition, passion, desire for self-improvement.  Fear and self-loathing don’t seem to feature much in rags to riches stories.  Well, unless Oliver Twist is your mentor.

On the one hand, my lack of need to prove anything or to feel productive just for the sake of it, is hugely liberating.  On the other hand, it might be the thing that hampers me making a go of this new lifestyle.  I’ve chosen a path that requires me to be enthusiastic, proactive and self-starting.  And then I’ve basically covered myself in quick-setting tar and feathers and wondered why I’m struggling to move off the sofa.

I’m essentially living the life of a still-sprightly octogenarian.  Those little chores that used to sit on the periphery of my life (the supermarket run, online banking, hoovering) are now right up top of my to-do list.  I haven’t got to the point where I need an afternoon nap yet, but it can’t be far off.

But I’m not worried (well, maybe a teensy bit).  Because I know that the longer my state of apathy and paralysis lasts, the more anxious I will become about it.  And one day soon, the fear of losing this lifestyle will force me into action.  I just don’t think it’s a job for today… I’ve got some washing up to do.

what’s the tweeting point?

I’ve noticed a trend recently.

I’ve been spending a fair amount of time in various pubs.  Ahhh, I hear you think.  No job.  Slippery slope.  I saw this coming. Tragic waste.

Um, that’s not the trend I’m talking about, but thanks for your concern.

That said, I do now understand where Cheers was coming from. When your only company most days is the real housewives of [insert place with readily available plastic surgery], you find solace where you can.  And now that cafes are called “coffee shops” and are overrun with speccy beardie types brooding oh so creatively over their macbook airs, it’s no wonder I need something stronger…

But I digress.

So what I’ve noticed is how many pubs (and cafés and bars and local shops and hairdressers and and and…) now have their own Facebook and Twitter accounts.

Firstly, what I love is how there’s still no other way to advertise your adoption of that most modern of marketing media than by putting up crappy posters around the place.  Delicious irony.

Secondly, I love that the language of Facebook and Twitter makes insecure schoolgirls of us all. Like me. Follow me. Why don’t you like me? Why won’t you follow me? You like Zara but you don’t like me? Am I not pretty enough?  **sob**  Terribly damaging stuff.  I’m sure there’s a PhD thesis in there somewhere.

But mainly I’m wondering what the tweeting point of it is?

Sure, I can see merit in having a Facebook page instead of a website. It’s cheap, quick and you can get your minimum-wage student bar staff to update it, since they’re probably spending most of their working time on Facebook anyway.  I get that it provides a way to let punters know about the Wednesday pub quiz or Friday night’s covers band.  I get that you can offer discounts and exclusives for Likers.

But I find it bizarre that loads of little businesses now seem to think that they need to have an all-singing-all-dancing fully integrated social media marketing campaign.   Why oh why oh why??

I’m going to go out on a limb here and suggest that Facebook and Twitter are a humungous waste of time for most small businesses.

I mean, what on earth are you going to tweet about?  That you’ve just changed the barrel on the Erdinger?  That most of your female clients are going Hollywood over Brazilian this season, so you’d better get strimming?  I have visions of pub landlords and artisan bakers having sleepless nights as they desperately try to think of enticing status updates and witty tweets about buns and baps.

I’d hazard a guess that most of us are happy just to turn up to the pub and see what’s occurring.  And most of us stick to local pubs, so we already know what’s going on. Because we go there. And they have it written down on boards with brightly coloured chalk.

The truth about Twitter (as in life) is that the followed are few and the followers are many.  So unless you already have a loyal bunch of customers who just happen to also be very widely followed on Twitter, you’re unlikely to pick up any new business that way.  It’s like the old philosophical conundrum:  if a business tweets in a forest but no-one’s around to hear it, does it make a sound??

Facebook and Twitter can work well for big businesses.  That’s because they have lots of money to create marketing content that they can then spread via social media.  For those companies, it’s not radically different from the advertising model of the 80s.  They spend money and they get customer eyeballs.  We’ve just swapped TV for Facebook.  Same audience, same spiel.  No-one’s doing anything particularly cool or innovative.  There’s a formula to it, just like with any other type of marketing.  And those which are most successful at it are those who already have a strong brand presence and have the money to do it properly.

But if you’re a small business, I’d say don’t bother.  The pickings are slim and the maintenance is tedious.  I would do a leaflet-drop over a twitter campaign any day – it’s targeted, relevant and proactive.  Leave the F-ing and T-ing to the big boys.  They’ve convinced themselves that it’s an essential part of their marketing strategy.  And maybe it is, just like TV advertising was in the 80s….