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The Secret History of Social Networking

February 2, 2011 Leave a comment

I’m not wanting my blog to become a review of the BBC’s output – but they are creating some terrific programming around networks. The latest find is a BCC Radio 4 report called “The Secret History of Social Networking”.

In the aftermath of the success of the movie, “Social Network”, BBC journalist Rory Cellan-Jones has traveled the globe to interview many of the “actors” who helped to create the Social Network phenomena. Interestingly, this story starts 37 years ago with “Community Memory” in Berkeley, California.

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The series is in 3 parts – the first was broadcast last week, and I tuned in to the podcast of it last night. It’s a good listen – and I think will become even more interesting as it races towards the modern day take-off of Social Media.

During the series there are contributions from Twitter’s Biz Stone, Path’s Dave Morin, Foursquare’s Dennis Crowley, Facebook’s Chris Cox, the WELL co-founder Stewart Brand and writers Howard Rheingold and Julia Angwin. There’s a nice preview video interview with quite a few of these contributors on the main BBC webpage.

In the UK you can “Listen Again” with iPlayer. It seems that those outside the UK can also get access by subscribing to the Podcast.

Are the People you REALLY want to know Social Networking?

November 18, 2010 1 comment

One of my personal projects is being Chairman of a charity – the Belvoir Castle Cricket Trust. it’s a start up non-profit – which gets children involved in sport and lets youngsters explore the countryside. It’s a small venture – but we’ve gathered some excellent supporters, including some heavy-hitting, influential Trustees from the world of business, finance, the aristocracy and cricket.

Chairing our Trustees Meeting yesterday, it struck me that this star team would be the sort of people many would want in their Personal Networks. However, it would be very unlikely that Social Networking would be

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the route. This afternoon I thought it worth doing a little audit of how my Trustees used Facebook and LinkedIn. Her goes:-

Emma, Duchess of Rutland. The chatelain of Belvoir Castle – and mother of 5! She is on LinkedIn (with one connection), but has not made it to Facebook yet. She’s probably one of the most sociable and energetic people I know.

John Barclay. Has been the President of the MCC this year (for those non-cricketers, the MCC is the Marylebone Cricket Club, which is the custodian of the Laws of Cricket). John has not made it to LinkedIn or Facebook. One of the most charming communicators – and an excellent writer.

Mrs Moneypenny She is one of the FT’s columnist and an internationally renowned headhunter. She is probably the best networker that I know – counting anyone from PM’s wives to Elle MacPherson in her network. She has one connection on LinkedIn – and is not connected to Facebook.

Phillip Hodson. He is Chief Executive of the Oval Group and played county cricket in England and rugby in South Africa. No presence on either Facebook or LinkedIn.

Emma Agnew. She is Editor of BBC East Midlands Television and the wife of BBC Cricket Correspondent Jonathan Agnew (Aggers). She’s the “modern girl” of the bunch. No LinkedIn membership – but 171 Friends on Facebook …. and an active Twitter account!

I chatted with a friend about this. She’s a heavier user of LinkedIn than me – and comes from a corporate rather than entrepreneurial/small business background. I said that I thought that the “big hitters” just did not join LinkedIn. Why would they spend time being shielded behind their gatekeeping PA, and then go public on social networking?

My friend pointed out that some Chief Executives of the UK’s major businesses were on LinkedIn and active One she cited was Euan Sutherland, the CEO of B&Q (UK equivalent to Home Depot in the US).

Maybe it’s an age thing – but I do think that REAL relationships are properly developed by REAL WORLD interaction. I’d be interested in your experiences. Are the heavy-hitters in your Personal Network social networking?

“The Social Network” – and the school drugs & alcohol chat…

October 17, 2010 Leave a comment

I had a really thought provoking Saturday…

In the morning, my wife and I had been invited to our children’s school for a “Parents Alcohol and Drugs Information Talk” – and on Friday I’d read Mastin Kipp’s blog at the Huffington Post “‘The Social Network': 13 Lessons Entrepreneurs Can Take Away” – and decided to spend Saturday afternoon at the cinema.

What did they both have in common – you guessed it Personal Network support…. (stop me if I am becoming a PN bore – do I see it in everything??!!)

Let’s deal with the less obvious first

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– what has Alcohol and Drugs got to do with Personal Networks? Well, our children’s PSHE (Personal, Social & Health Education) co-ordinator stressed one key point about the school’s strategy to protect our kids – they want the children to form in to groups at an early stage to support each other. They encourage these small, tight groups so that they deal with issues on a collective and supportive basis. Individuals feel that it’s not “peer” pressure to do things – because they work as a group to support individuality. Cool? I hope so – because I think their network of friends will be the best protection to the big, bad world that some of the talk illustrated.

“The Social Network” was a good film – not great – but I loved the topic. In the HuffPost, Mastin outlines the “lessons” of the film – so please do take time to review his blog. For anyone interested in business, social networking – it’s a must see.

From my point of view, the key lesson was that you really need a Personal “support” Network around you to stay sane in any business (small like most – or huge like Facebook). Marc Zuckerberg, the Facebook founder featured in the film, really didn’t seem to have this (partly through his destructiveness – and partly through poor judgement). He’d have done well to read Keith Ferrazzi’s book “Who’s Got Your Back” – before embarking on his enterprise (maybe he should read it even now!).

The film’s story is fiction (based on fact). Even so, you can see how his individuality and focus drove him to create Facebook – but his isolation (and not having a real “friend” to trust) lead him to make some poor decisions. I was lucky in business to have had good people around me – including my wife, who was (and is) always a trusted friend and mentor who “has my back”. However, I could see in the film many of my experiences in creating, building and exiting a business – especially the casualties in friendship/trust along the way.

Anyway, both my morning session at school and afternoon at the movies convinced me that a Personal Network is going to be the most valuable asset I have in my life – and hopefully my children will realise the importance too. Let’s hope Marc finds the same – because you can have all the money in the world … but things get done (and you live your life) through your relationships with people!

LinkedIn – Love it or cancel it!? Facebook – don’t know what to do with it.

October 13, 2010 2 comments

I’m in danger of becoming a bit of a Personal Network “bore”. At the moment, it is a novelty with friends and contacts to discuss the area of Personal Networking (they’ve been wondering when I would end my prolonged spell of “funemployment”) – and I’m really enthusiastic to chat!

Here are a couple of example conversations from today around social networking.

This afternoon, I chatted over a cup of tea after watching my son’s rugby match with a mum who is a professional life-coach. We both have an interest in social networking – and are connected on LinkedIn. She’s currently having a race with one of her friends to see who can reach 500 connections first! She likes LinkedIn – and uses it for

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Alumni meetings for a large company she used to work for. It’s a good way to keep in touch with her more distant network.

Then, this evening, another contact mailed me with feedback he had had from an American colleague about LinkedIn.

“I have cancelled LinkedIn because of on-line spoofing. I think that it is not a waste of time at all but the harassment is simply not worth it. All is monitored by Homeland Security here but these computer sites are being used here in the United States simply to harass people – thus destroying their networking value.”

Interesting reaction. In discussions with my friend, I compared it to someone cutting off their home phone-line 20 years ago because they got a few sales calls. The challenge is that we are in a “gold rush” in the area of social networking – and you can therefore end up in a territory with a lot of cowboys! I’d be more inclined to stick with it and find ways of avoiding the cowboys.

The two examples above – show the diverse reactions to LinkedIn (race to the top … or press the cancel button!).

I am facing a challenge at the moment – what to do about my Facebook account? As you will have read in earlier blogs, I use it mainly to keep an eye on what my children are up to!

Yesterday, in a quiet moment, I thought I would have a play and tweak some Facebook settings. I made my Birthday private – it’s not that I’m worried about my age, but (as a Brit) I find birthday greetings from distant contacts a bit strange. Also, I thought I would follow Mitch Joel’s advice and have a consistent photo in all social media. No sooner had I done this – than my sister (who I don’t see enough of) had written on my wall “Wow! Distinguished new profile pic! xx”. It was nice that she’d “pinged” me – but embarrassing that I’d tried to change to a “corporate” look in her space!

Anyway, I reverted to being Facebooky – and have now changed to a picture of me and my sister as kids on the beach!!

Do I close it down, lighten up – or have different Facebook pages for Phil the human and Phil the entrepreneur??

Decisions, decisions….

LinkedIn Polls – the older you are, the more network savvy you get!

October 11, 2010 6 comments

Logging in to LinkedIn this evening – I was greeted by a LinkedIn Poll. Not been asked to participate before – and the question was relevant (sure they’re watching me!)

What is the most important aspect of a business membership organisation?

There were 4 options:-

1. Practical Support
2. Networking
3. Information & Advice
4. Prestige & Status

Needless to say – you guessed it … I responded “Networking”. As it turns out,

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of the 189 responses so far – 66% agreed with me (or I agreed with them!).

No real surprise there – but what’s great with this LinkedIn service is that they give you the ability to drill down/cross tabulate the responses. The most fascinating statistic was the age analysis. At one extreme 83% of the 55+ age group give a thumbs up to Networking – but surprisingly less than a third (29%) of 18-24 year olds went for Networking.

Maybe the Twitter/Facebook generation is not as Personal Network focussed as we think?

Other observations are that for some reason women are not as keen on networking as men (these stats hold out in the O’Brien Household)

And equally “stereotypical” are the stats segmented by Job Title. Biz Dev execs rate Networking at 83% – whereas those Finance guys have it down at 33% Networking/33% Practical … and the final stereotype Marketing is 71%/0% Practical!! Go figure…

Check out the stats for yourself at LinkedIn Polls. Would be interesting in how you read the stats!?

Simon Johnson – BNI Master Networker (and thoroughly nice bloke!)

October 11, 2010 1 comment

I wrote a blog post yesterday about Simon Johnson. Simon has just won the accolade of being BNI’s (Business Network International) most successful networker in the UK – with £634,233 of business after creating 102 money-making referrals in 12 months. I said in the blog that I would try to track Simon down – and get his thoughts on networking (and what he thought about my blog).

Simon gave me a call this afternoon – after contacting him via email. He’s a thoroughly likeable chap – and you can understand why

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his contacts want to spend time with him (and trust his referrals). He’s definitely a master networker – and says that “from networking as a whole I get 50% of my business – and BNI probably accounts for 10-20%.”

He has a great philosophy on networking: “Anyone can create a network – but you have to look after that network and keep in contact.” He’s got quite a reputation for knowing people – and his recommendation is obviously trusted. He quips: “people locally ring and use me as their Yellow Pages!”

He’s a big fan of BNI – and he talked me through how things work. He explained that the main principle BNI (and himself) is “Giver’s Gain”. They seem a very efficient organisation and monitor everything using “referral slips” and “thank you” notes. He did say it is “very American” – but once you cut through the jargon and adapt to a British audience it works well.

As an outsider to BNI, I’d certainly been confused (and probably misunderstood the model). BNI forms local “chapters” and in these, there can only be one representative of each trade. Simon explained that they operate a system of “Power Circles” – so for example he would spend most of his time with say Architects, Plumbers, Electricians, etc to make referrals. He estimates that involvement in BNI this year has brought his own business £60k. The Chapter meet weekly – early in the morning. All members start the session with a personal 60-seconds update – finishing with a catchy tagline (his is “For all your furniture and flooring – it’s simply Simon!”)

What I found refreshing was that the BNI model does not work on a commission/kick-back basis. As Simon told me: “No – you’d probably get drummed out of BNI if that went on.” The system works on having a network of professionals devoted to “Giver’s Gain”. Good stuff – if you are in a professional trade with a local client base, BNI must be worth a try. As you know if you have read previous posts, I am a big fan of Tom Peters – one of his mantras is “what gets measured, gets done!” … so I approve the measurement principle too.

Finally, we had a good chat about on-line vs. off-line marketing. I had done a bit of research on Simon’s on-line presence … and at this point it’s not prolific.

LinkedIn – Simon has 15 contacts currently
Twitter – Simon is currently not active – but is considering this
Website – currently “under construction” (news of the BNI award came in the middle of a redesign of the site)
Facebook – Personal – 401 Friends – and he says has had “a few jobs” through. Looks a fun guy to be around – describes employment as “Same shit I’ve been doing since I was 12″ and lists activities as “Hockey, Alcoholism”.
Facebook – Business. 145 Members.

However, as we finished our call he told me he was off to a Round Table meeting. Another networking opportunity. I think that Simon is a great networker – and he’s doing a brilliant job “off-line”. With BNI, Round Table and his general network circle I am sure that he’ll be a better networker than any twitterer! All people interested in Personal Networks can learn from Simon – it’s so important to be generous and gain people’s trust. He obviously is excellent at both.

Nice bloke – and if you need furniture or flooring in East Anglia, Cambridgeshire or Lincolnshire, you should give him a call! 01945-476517.

“I’m right behind you” – but how far can that be when you are online?

October 3, 2010 Leave a comment

I spotted an article in the Observer today about Malcolm Gladwell’s views on Twitter.

If you’ve read my blog before, you will know I’m a big fan of Malcolm – especially his book “The Tipping Point”. His views on Twitter in the context of campaigning and protest have

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further convinced me he is one of the most insightful writers on the subject of Personal Networks. He “gets” the difference between the Facebook “friends” phenomena and real-life commitment of a Personal Network – and explains it clearly with excellent examples.

The Observer is following up an article Malcolm wrote this week in the New Yorker (“Small Change – why the revolution will not be tweated”). Please do click through the link and read – you’ll get a great article outlining the difference between “real” protest and Facebook/Twitter “noise”.

The story centres around the Greensboro Woolworths Lunch Counter protest in 1960. This is seen by many as the launch for the civil rights movement in the US. Malcolm’s writing clearly illustrates the bravery – and commitment – these protestors showed to fight for their cause. He argues that that commitment to “real” causes is made through “strong ties” – and this is a fine example. This is very different from the ability to have networks of “weak ties” – which is currently the domain of Facebook and Twitter. Malcolm says:-

“So one crucial fact about the four freshmen at the Greensboro lunch counter—David Richmond, Franklin McCain, Ezell Blair, and Joseph McNeil—was their relationship with one another. McNeil was a roommate of Blair’s in A. & T.’s Scott Hall dormitory. Richmond roomed with McCain one floor up, and Blair, Richmond, and McCain had all gone to Dudley High School. The four would smuggle beer into the dorm and talk late into the night in Blair and McNeil’s room. They would all have remembered the murder of Emmett Till in 1955, the Montgomery bus boycott that same year, and the showdown in Little Rock in 1957. It was McNeil who brought up the idea of a sit-in at Woolworth’s. They’d discussed it for nearly a month. Then McNeil came into the dorm room and asked the others if they were ready. There was a pause, and McCain said, in a way that works only with people who talk late into the night with one another, “Are you guys chicken or not?” Ezell Blair worked up the courage the next day to ask for a cup of coffee because he was flanked by his roommate and two good friends from high school.

The kind of activism associated with social media isn’t like this at all. The platforms of social media are built around weak ties. Twitter is a way of following (or being followed by) people you may never have met. Facebook is a tool for efficiently managing your acquaintances, for keeping up with the people you would not otherwise be able to stay in touch with. That’s why you can have a thousand “friends” on Facebook, as you never could in real life.

This is in many ways a wonderful thing. There is strength in weak ties, as the sociologist Mark Granovetter has observed. Our acquaintances—not our friends—are our greatest source of new ideas and information. The Internet lets us exploit the power of these kinds of distant connections with marvellous efficiency. It’s terrific at the diffusion of innovation, interdisciplinary collaboration, seamlessly matching up buyers and sellers, and the logistical functions of the dating world. But weak ties seldom lead to high-risk activism”.

It’s a very valid point – although the Observer article focusses on the backlash and “outrage” against Malcolm’s view from Twitterers.

As mentioned in my last blog, it’s hard not to be cynical about “friends” on Facebook when my 12 year old son has 310 of them (no disrespect to his obvious “likeability”!). Twitter for campaigning and protest is the modern equivalent of that famous quote “I’m right behind you!”. Trouble is that on-line your supporters can be a very, very long way behind you!

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