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I met a man on the internet….

June 17, 2011 6 comments

Don’t worry – it’s not quite how it sounds. I’m not joining those newspaper headlines about Facebook fuelling divorce. However, I am meeting some very interesting people on-line – and then meeting up in the “real world”.

I had breakfast with one of them this morning. Rob Geraghty is an entrepreneur – involved in many projects – including his presentation training company the Wow Factor. Rob got in touch with me (via LinkedIn) after stumbling across my blog – and in particular liking the idea of “funemployment”.

We met for breakfast this morning – and one of our similarities was how baffled our wives are by this concept

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of people connecting via the web and meeting up. There is always a raised eyebrow when the response to “what are you doing today” is “I’m having a coffee with a man I met on the internet.” It does seem strange…

However, I’ve been thinking about it – and actually, it’s one of the brilliant opportunities thrown up by social media. In the past you would try and find like-minded people by traveling to conferences, speaking to lots of people with vaguely similar interests – and occasionally finding someone worth connecting with.

In our new world, you can easily find like minded people. You can do the research and understand what makes the person tick – and get to a stage of comfort way before you decide to write that first introductory message to initiate a connection.

I read today about Google’s new tool for “on-line reputation management”. It’s called “Me on the Web” – and can be found in your Google Dashboard. Google and many others recognise that our on-line presentation will be increasingly important as we build our Personal Networks of the future. I don’t believe this to be just a marketing exercise – it’s a way of reflecting on-line your values, interests and character.

Rob has added to my list of men met on the internet. Others include:-

Chris Redmond is an inspirational leader – and thought provoking blogger. (Attended one of his charity fund raising events in Reading.)

Jordi Robert-Ribes is a internationally respected speaker on networks. (Met for lunch in London when he was over from his home in Andorra)

Benjamin Wirtz is a young entrepreneur creating applications to help people manage their networks. (met for coffee in London)

Anyway, Rob was good fun to be around – a very similar connector. Within a week of his email – and before we met in person – we’d made a connection that should be of benefit to the Cricket charity that I’m involved in. Today, we worked through a few ideas that might be mutually beneficial – and our on-line “research” of each other before this meeting has already accelerated the level of connection and trust.

Connecting via the web is undoubtedly the most efficient way to meet like-minded people. I will be continuing to meet men on the internet – and I do recommend you give it a try!

End “who you know” culture – War declared on nepotism!

April 5, 2011 10 comments

Well there’s nothing more “King Canutish” than trying to stem the tide against human nature! Today, the UK’s coalition government has declared war on nepotism. See the report here at the BBC website of an interview with Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg.

Regular readers of the blog will have seen a post about British culture called “Posh & Posher: Education & the Old Boys Network” earlier in the year. The main point of the post was that Personal Networks can bring influence and power. Alongside this was a more worrying trend that the increasingly closed network of “old school chums” in government leads to our politicians being out of touch.

I happened to be watching breakfast TV when Clegg was being interviewed. I nearly choked on my cornflakes!

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He said: “We will stop all informal internships in Whitehall, in government, so that you can’t just have this network where people get an internship because of who they know. They should get an internship because of what they know.”

I’m a big fan of meritocracy – we’ve all worked with people who have little talent, but great connections! However, what needs to be recognised is that in the absence of knowing a person, we test out people ultimately through reference to others. Here are two personal examples from the last week that illustrate that “who you know” is so important.

First example, I’m planning to invest in a small US start-up in the area of crowd sourcing. I had a conference call with one of the advisers of the business who is based in San Francisco last week. We’d not met/spoken before – but I have the luxury of checking out his CV via Wikipedia and LinkedIn. He can do the same for me. CVs over – how do we connect. Well, he knows and is trusted by my friend (and start-up founder), Todd, who I’ve know for 20 years. At the end of our first call, the guy in SF floated “do you know ****”? No, but I did know someone who knew **** well – who used to be my companies chairman – and onwards. We’re all reassured by the trust of the “who we know”. CVs are the “what you know”!

Secondly, I had a tweet last night from a Friend of a Friend – Chris Book. We’ve not met, and this was his first tweet to me. He’s from Bath and is very good pal of one of my first connections in my new home town. He tweeted me because of who I know – and knowing my interest in Personal Networks. He wanted my opinion. His tweet was:-

Interesting thought (ish) – my last contract I got through linked in (exactly 3 years ago) this one through twitter

My opinion is that LinkedIn is primarily a CV – and has filled a gap in finding candidates, collating information. The “recommends” service has little use. If you wanted to business with someone or employ, you would pick up the phone/email and check with their connections. Twitter has moved this on so much, you can see whether people are genuinely active – and who wants to know them and engage! Twitter gives the who you really know and have a relationship with – and how they interact with you in a transparent format. LinkedIn gives you the “what you know” and “what you’ve done” presentation.

Sorry Nick! I’m a big fan of the coalition but you need to accept that “who you know” will always be our way of quickly building trust to offering partnerships, employment, opportunities – and internships! As Social Media develops Personal Networks will become more valuable every day. Everyone need to keep focussed on the “who you know”. It will always be the most important and valuable asset you have in life. The CV and application form doesn’t tell the true story….

POLL RESULT: If LinkedIn closed down – would you REALLY miss it?

March 17, 2011 2 comments

The polls have closed – and the results are in…

4,657 LinkedIn members took the time to vote on the poll – and 239 added their comments. 55% of respondents “Would REALLY miss it”, 30% said “I would for a while, but I’d get over it” and 14% said “Not one bit.”

The poll was set up to get feedback on my original post – which reflected the “risk” statements in LinkedIn’s SEC filings on their way

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to an IPO (Initial Public Offering) later in the year.

I’m not great at analysing this sort of data – and would be interested to see if you can see any trends in the spit of demographics for each question.

It seems like the younger you are, the more you would miss it. The older your are – then the less you are bothered. Also, LinkedIn members who are Owners or CxO/VP level would be happier to make do without. Can you read anything more in to the graphs?

It was great to read so many comments – wish I had so many on my blog ;-( Some of the highlights that made me smile/think are below. Thanks for voting….

Is Facebook the “McDonalds” of your Personal Network?

February 22, 2011 10 comments

I’ve been listening to an excellent BBC radio series called “The Secret History of Social Networking” – and reviewed the first in the three-part series about three weeks ago. I got the chance to listen to the other two parts on a podcast the other day – and both were gems. The podcasts are available internationally – so do follow the link at the bottom of the last post to load up to your iPod or listen on-line.

There were two different quotes in the interviews by Rory Cellen-Jones that struck me. The first was from John Perry Barlow. In the 80s John was on the board of the prototypical social network, The Well, and continues to be a respected

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commentator. In answer to Rory’s question about Facebook he said:

I think that it has enough of the characteristics of group connectivity that it seems to be fulfilling that need in the same way that treacle can make your appetite go away so that you don’t go out and eat your broccoli. It’s the white sugar substitute for the brown rice nutrition that real community might be able to provide you.

Wow – that’s powerful stuff. The analogy with fast food and wholesome nutrition is particularly thought provoking – especially when I see the time spent on Facebook in my household (and by the stats available on-line)

Also, in the programme was an interview with Chris Cox, one of the “Inner Circle” at Facebook. He was asked about how Facebook had gained popularity and overtaken the likes of Beebo and MySpace. Rory placed Chris, at this time in 2006, as being “connected with every Facebook innovation – all of which were hated”. He asked Chris – “what was the worst single reaction to any change.” Chris immediately said “Newsfeed”:

Before Newsfeed your home page just said ‘you have 2 new messages – go look at your profile.’ And afterwards it was a story line, it was literally a newspaper of what people were saying and what photos they were posting. … Nobody liked it. I remember my entire inbox being full. Personal messages from friends and family ‘can you please turn this thing off – we all hate it’.

When asked why Facebook had persevered with this controversial feature, Chris said:

The usage told us people were fascinated. But getting through these first few days…. You just need to have your own vision and need to be willing to stick to it in the face of criticism.

I love the entrepreneurial drive to see changes like this through in the face of negative customer feedback. Interesting that the guys at Facebook could read the numbers – the usage – and understand the addictiveness of the Newsfeed!

One of the best commentators on the dynamics of Social Networking (and Personal Networks) is Paul Adams. He has been featured on this blog before. He was a key User Experience guy for Google – and is just about to take up a post at Facebook. On his personal blog, he’s just posted an excellent commentary called “The Problem with On-Line Reputation”. In it he states:-

As with most people problems, I feel the roots of the solution lie offline. From our ongoing face to face interactions, we learn who is knowledgeable, who to turn to for an informed opinion, who is likely to say it like it is, and who has hidden agendas. There is no substitute for that. Reputation is built conversation by conversation at the desks, halls, cafes and meeting rooms of businesses all around the world.

I’m feeling that in the long run, the “quick hit” of Facebook will backfire. Who fancies putting down that “junk food” for a minute and treating yourself to some more nutritious “brown rice” …..face-to-face??

I have created a LinkedIn Poll called “Is Facebook the ‘McDonalds’ of your Personal Network?” – my last poll “If LinkedIn closed down – would you REALLY miss it?” has had over 1400 votes in a week.

Please go and vote, add comments – and do tell you friends (via Facebook – or face-to-face!).

If LinkedIn closed down – would you REALLY miss it?

February 15, 2011 14 comments

I’ve been wading through LinkedIn’s IPO registration document. It’s called an S-1 and can be found on the SEC site in the US. I used to spend time wading through these things when the main competitor in my photo business, Getty Images, were listing in the US. The language has got even drier and risk averse. Do have a read – but you will have to skip over a substantial part of the document that tells you why they might fail. Here’s a section I found particularly “entrepreneurial” … must have driven the “forward looking” execs mad…

SPECIAL NOTE REGARDING FORWARD-LOOKING STATEMENTS

This prospectus, including the sections entitled “Prospectus Summary,” “Risk Factors,” “Use of Proceeds,” “Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations” and “Business,” contains forward-looking statements. In some cases you can identify

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these statements by forward-looking words such as “believe,” “may,” “will,” “estimate,” “continue,” “anticipate,” “intend,” “could,” “would,” “project,” “plan,” “expect” or the negative or plural of these words or similar expressions. These forward-looking statements include, but are not limited to, statements concerning the following: …………

I had been chatting to a friend about how we use social networking. He’s not a fan of LinkedIn – the classic argument of “you only go there if you are looking to find a new job”. However, he did make a good point: “If LinkedIn closed down tomorrow – would you really miss it?”

It got me thinking. Then today, I was pointed in the direction of a post from 2009 by Lea Woodward entitled “What If Twitter Went Down & Never Came Back Up?” How dependent are we on social media?

Let’s take a look at LinkedIn’s S-1 filing. The two elements that I highlighted – in amongst the legal backside watching – were:-

We believe we are transforming the way people work by connecting talent with opportunity at massive scale. Our goal is to provide a global platform capable of mapping every professional’s experience, skills and other relevant professional data to his or her professional graph, including connections with colleagues and business contacts.

and

Business Model with Powerful Network Effects. The size and growth of our member base, the number of enterprises and professional organizations that use our platform, and the amount of rich and accurate information generated by our members increase the value we deliver to all participants in our network. A larger member base provides more opportunities to form professional connections for members, as well as increased opportunities to identify and attract talent for enterprises and professional organizations. At the same time, an increasing number of enterprises and professional organizations accessing our network enhances the relevance for members who stand to benefit from professional insights and opportunities. We believe the breadth and depth of our network would be difficult to replicate and represents a significant competitive advantage.

It seems to me that in the trade for free use of LinkedIn’s platform – they are benefiting from the network effect immensely. Personally, I find LinkedIn an interesting peripheral service that helps get a perspective on who I know – and keeps me in touch with what they are doing.

Are the key relationships in my Personal Network supported or “managed” through LinkedIn. Definitely NOT!

If the doom and gloom of the LinkedIn prospectus all came home to roost – would I REALLY miss it? I got over SixDegrees.com closing down during the .com fall out over 10 years ago – so I could get over LinkedIn closing its doors too.

I’d be interested in hearing about how critical LinkedIn is to how you carry out your work. What’s your opinion?

[Have now created a LinkedIn Poll. Please take the time to vote -
http://linkd.in/gaeWb1]

“Old” Friends and Digital Dog Years

February 9, 2011 9 comments

As you might have seen in the comments on yesterday’s post – life can’t be lived in a vacuum. I’m enjoying having the opportunity during my period of “funemployment” to step back and review the “world” of Personal Networks – and my own personal network.

For my part, I’ve recently done an audit of my Personal Network. Analysing in particular who I knew – and the cross over into social media. During this process, I also mapped out my objectives – and several weaknesses.

1. I am moving my family across the UK to Bath – and I only know a handful of

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folk there. Action – use social media to check out the noise and ask friends if they know anyone who they could intro me to.
2. I’ve got a passion for understanding Personal Networks, I believe there is an opportunity somewhere within – but I’ve no academic background & no contacts on the periphery. Action – write the blog and try to engage with people in and around the sector.
3. I do want to create another business in the next couple of years – but don’t have mentors to help me with that (I’ve spent the last 5 years doing that for others – and forgot myself). Action – go and meet interesting, bright people from all different areas. Find that support network.

Interestingly, the first objective is the hardest. We’ve got out house in Bath (still living mostly in Leicestershire) – but my current close connections are the builders (and jolly nice chaps they are too!). My wife and I are getting out and about – even going to the local quiz nights when we are there on a Sunday evening. However, time is tight – and there is always something to do … and friendships will come slowly.

However, since starting blogging back in July last year – I feel I’m really making process on objectives 2 & 3. In fact, there’s at least one person met on-line who ticks the box for both areas – and feels like an “old friend”! Isn’t that strange? Maybe there are “social media” years like dog years? Digital Dog Years. So 9 months on-line = 3 normal years?

I’ll embarrass my new “old friend” by talking about him a little. Now that will be a test of friendship….

I met Joel D. Canfield when I was given an invited by Seth Godin to join a private network that Seth runs called Triiibes. It was kind of a personal invitation – me and a couple of thousand others. Joel was one of the first people to greet me as I “walked through the door” into this daunting on-line world. He was sincere – and we struck up a conversation. After a day, he took a risk – and sent out the note below to 20 or so of his closest connection on Triiibes:-

a new friend who feels very old guard Phil O’Brien is a new Triiibester; we’ve only just met. But his comments and his blog just might resonate with y’all. He writes about the value of personal networking. He seems like a kindred spirit :)

Joel is leading a very different life at the moment – roaming around North America with his wife and daughter. They’re home schooling – and running a virtual business at the same time. He’s living a nomadic life to the full.

We’ve done a Skype call – but essentially our “to and fro” is via email. I can trust him to throw out my thoughts on what I want to do – and he is helping and mentoring me. I’m the proud owner of his book “The Commonsense Entrepreneur” in audio and iPad format – and the writing/ethos shared strikes a cord. Copies of the book are flying out to real-world friends and contacts.

There are also people who I’ve “met” on-line who I hope will be friends. People like Beth Campbell Duke (who was the first person to comment on my blog) and Neal Schaffer (whose LinkedIn book I reviewed). We chat occasionally – meeting for that “digital coffee”.

I’ve also enjoyed making the connection with all the people that I’ve interviewed for the blog – and those that have kindly commented. It’s an environment I like – and I think the transparency of social media makes getting to know people (or at least the basic information) quicker and easier.

Another person I’ve struck up an on-line friendship with is Chris Redmond. He’s a busy international executive (today Moscow – tomorrow Africa!) – but finds time to run marathons, write a blog and twitter. I found a blog post last September that resonated, I commented – and we struck up a conversation. I joined his SuperRedNetwork on LinkedIn – as what he described as a “wildcard”. They’ve made me feel at home – and next week I will meet some of them (plus Chris) for the first time in person at a charity dinner in the UK. Now that will be strange. I wonder if meeting “off-line” will increase or reduce our relationship’s “Digital Dog Years”?

What impression am I making? Who do I know? What do I know about them? … and many more questions – SUMMARY

February 8, 2011 4 comments

Well, it’s been a great experience pulling together this three part series. I hope that in reading it, you have found some insight in to your Personal Network – I certainly have in writing it.

I’ve reviewed three new products/service – from MyWebCareer, Connected and Nimble. I have also had the privilege to interview the founders of each business.

The first step with each of these solutions is going off to the “cloud” and pulling together personal information

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from the likes of Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Google. However, each solution has a different angle on aggregating this information.

I started this series of posts by asking a series of questions? They were:-

* What impression am I making?
* Who do I know?
* What do I know about them?

My exploration of the value of Personal Networks constantly throws up questions – and these are only three of many.

What impression am I making?

MyWebCareer, undoubtedly answers this question. Although, like everything in life – it’s only an opinion.

If you are developing and cultivating your Personal Network – you should be concerned about your “brand” and how you are perceived by your network. I don’t see any reason for not giving it a try – and using its clever scoring system to bench mark your Personal Brand and on-line presence. I’d also recommended this service to Personal Brand consultants (like Beth Campbell Duke) – it’s a simple way to get clients thinking about how they shape up … and how they can improve. I will certainly diary time each month for a brief review of which direction my MyWebCareer score is moving – and why.

So, this is the easy bit of the post – if you want this question answering .. then just log in to MyWebCareer.

Who do I know? What to I know about them?

This is a tough one. The undoubted, sure fire winner of the commercial race is Nimble! It’s driven by an inspirational founder, Jon Ferrara – with the conventional CRM customer base waiting with open arms for a Social CRM solution. It will work for SMEs (Small & Medium Enterprises) at all levels from management to sales staff to customers.

However, my interest is in Personal Networks. As regular readers will know, my favourite quote is from Mick Cope, who wrote the FT book, “Personal Networking”:-

“By professional networking I mean a set of close contacts or associates who will help deliver my value to market. The key thing is that these are people who will ‘help’ you in the market, THEY ARE NOT THE MARKET. Sorry for the full-on letters, but my definition of a network is ‘people who will help amplify my personal capital in the market’, not a bunch of friends and colleagues to whom I try to sell under the guise of giving them a great opportunity. Active management of these people is not networking; it is client relationship management, a whole different ball game…”

This is the third time I’ve quoted this in my blog – it sums up the idea of a Personal Network for me. Mick will be charging me royalties soon….

During the interview with Sachin Rekhi, the founder of Connected, we discussed who was his customer. He said: “We looked at delivering this products to companies – chasing the VP of Sales. However, we decided that Connected is a more personal product – and we’re committed to take the harder track of acquiring customers one at a time.”

So, for someone with the long-term/life-long strategic goal of cultivating and developing their Personal Network – I think Sachin has set the best strategy. Unfortunately, this does not make it a sure fire commercial winner like Nimble! Getting people to stand back, take stock, work out where they are going – and recognising that their Personal Network is the key to long-term development will be a challenge.

While writing this series of posts, trying out the software and interviewing the founders, I’ve started to get a much better feel for the support needed for a Personal Network to function. The “Who do I know? What to I know about them?” is a fundamental building block in this.

I’ve also taken a look back my blog post “Personal Networks, Soloware and ‘The Individual is the new Group'”. In summary, that post makes the argument that the power of the individual through “Soloware” is much greater than that of the Enterprise through “Groupware”.

From all this deliberation, I am starting to understand that the Linchpin society put forward by Seth Godin in his book (indispensable, unique people are the future) – means that enterprise driven CRM systems are not the solutions required for the social media connected 21st century.

I always believe that when I am getting to grips with a complex issue, if I can visualise it (or in my case create a block diagram) that I am getting near a solution. Here’s my first iteration:-

Here the individual has their Personal Network, gathered from the “cloud” – which we see in solutions like Connected and Nimble. However, the significant difference that I envisage is that the enterprises we engage with as “Linchpins” to deliver projects will need to give access to their corporate information in the same cloud based way.

This will demand a whole new level of trust between individuals and enterprise – and a shift of power. In our new world – The Personal Network is king!

Thank you to Nip, Sachin and Jon – I’ve really enjoyed connecting with you … and wish you and your ventures every success.

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