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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!

Penpals & Pensioners

September 19, 2010 1 comment

Starting a new venture around Personal Networks has been a topic of conversation around the family dinner table. Our children (aged 11 & 12) are fascinated by mum and dad considering working again – after nearly 5 years of being “funemployed”. Also, we met up with with Carrie’s parents this week for supper – and they wanted to hear all about what we planned to be doing.

Somehow, during our discussions of Personal Networks with the children, we got onto the subject of how we kept in touch with friends when we were younger. We did a little comparison of our children’s Facebook activities and “friends” (yes, I know strictly they are too young!) – and our mates

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growing up in the 70s & 80s. Comparisons were….

* We both have/had roughly the same number of close friends that we chat to/hang out with every day. 4-8 seems a good figure on this.
* Mum & Dad did know people around the school, activities, etc – but just really knew their names. Millie has 247 Friends on Facebook & Joe has 319! Our children (and their Facebook Friends) seem to be like impassioned football sticker collectors. These seem to still come from the same base of school and activities – but their stretch through the age groups is interesting. Was there anything quite like this in our generation?
* The kids couldn’t understand the idea of Penpals (for the younger readers of this blog – penpals were children of similar age abroad that kids of my generation exchanged letters with Also, see Wikipedia’s overview.). The concept of writing long letters (often practicing your feeble skills in another language), sending this by post – and then waiting some weeks for a reply was very difficult for Millie and Joe to understand. I know that my sister (now 50) still has a couple of Penpals that she keep in contact – and has in fact visited in USA & Austria. Who will be this generation’s penpals?

Our children have amazing tools available to access and communicate with a wide range of people. It will be intriguing to see whether they will be traveling around the world when they are 50 meeting their Facebook friends?

Supper with Carrie’s parents was an eye opener. No need to explain to an older generation the benefits and value of a Personal Network. Gerry was a bank manager before he retired – and a network was important to him to support his working life. He joined (and actively participated) in traditional networking groups like RoundTable and Rotary. Also, Marina had to use her networking skills to “settle in the family” as Gerry was moved around to different branches with his job.

The most interesting part of the discussion for me was to understand the challenges faced by pensioners as their Personal Network dwindles. While Millie & Joe race up the league table of Facebook Friends – sadly, Gerry and Marina see their network reduce as age takes its toll. Also, the traditional “networking” methods of their generation (meeting up face-to-face and spending time together) – still further reduce the opportunity to be in touch/communicate as mobility/routine get in the way. Gerry and Marina do a great job of maintaining links with their network – in fact this year they have made a resolution to meet up with an old friend that they’ve not seen in ages at least once a month. However, they both see that the tools that Millie and Joe use on Facebook (status updates, short bursts of chat, passing on bits of info, etc) – would be great for pensioners of their generation who suffer isolation and loneliness.

Keeping in touch, building a Personal Network, choosing the right form of communication are all challenges – no matter what generation. Finally, please take the time to read this blog post on Wired – it’s a sad account of when the use of modern communication with a close friend misses the mark!

Facebook Friends vs. Quality Connections

September 13, 2010 2 comments

While exploring the world of Personal Networks – I have spent most of my time “hanging out” at LinkedIn. It’s more business focussed (which I understand) – and probably more attuned to my age group. However, I do have a Facebook presence – which, as explained in previous blogs, is really there just to keep an eye on what the kids are up to (until they block me!!)

I do believe that future trends are more likely to be driven by a younger age group – and this last week I have been taking some time to try and understand the Facebook phenomena. I’ve come across two interesting bits

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of research – both support my gut feel that Facebook has a difficult model to sustain.

First discovery came via the chaps at the Simply Zesty. They created a very interesting blog post saying that “Facebook is trying to be too many things for too many people”.   In amongst their views, they reference the work of Paul Adams – an executive at Google who researches User Experience. I encourage you to go to Slideshare and look at Paul’s presentation on Facebook, Friends and social networking in general – or scroll through below. Paul draws great analogies with the real world – and shows how the Facebook model of “friends” just doesn’t work.

The second discovery came via a chance dinner conversation with a contact. I mentioned my new project and he explained his wife works for The Future Company – a leading consultancy on future facing-research and innovation. Amazing what this networking turns up…. I had a look at their blog this afternoon – and there’s an excellent post (supported by their research) on people losing interest in Facebook. Here’s a paragraph from the post that makes a very interesting point:-

“Curiously, this also tallies with a general trend that we have picked up with our Global Monitor survey this year – when asked, people in almost every country overwhelmingly expressed a preference for a small number of quality connections they can rely on rather than a large quantity of connections they can call on (levels of agreement are practically the same across all age groups as well – which you might not necessarily expect from those gregarious Millennials). Facebook’s business model is built on the opposite assumption – that people want to continually add as many contacts as possible (and then lump them all together in the same group as their ‘friends’).”

I’m beginning to draw the conclusion that developing your Personal Network Value is similar to growing a business. In commerce, we’ve all met (and occasionally been) the busy fools who chase Turnover (Revenue) & Activity – with no eye on Profit (Income) & Value. It seems to me that currently Social Networking is mostly about the race to get more contacts – but I believe this will soon be replaced by a more mature view of developing a small, quality network to help personal growth and value.

Judged by the Company You Keep

There’s a great post on Mitch Joel’s Six Pixels of Separation today entitled “The Next Big Think On-Line could well be Anonymity”.

It got me thinking about (and researching a little) the idea that you are “Judged by the Company You Keep”. WikiAnswers tells me that “This comment is known as early as 1541 in an Old English form. In 1591 is appears as ‘if a man can be known as nothing else, then he may be known by his companions’. In 1912 it is quoted as we know it today, by Saki, in the Chronicles of Clovis.” Ralph Waldo Emerson says similar “Show me who a man’s friends are and I will tell you who he is.”

I’ve tried to approach this is a simple way on LinkedIn – I have turned my connections to “Your connections are not allowed

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to view your connections list.” It’s not that I don’t like my connections (I personally know them all!) – but the on-line crowd for someone my age (47) and British (not as web-friendly/gregarious as our North American friends) – is a little eclectic. If you took ALL “the company I keep” – I’d be pretty happy at you judging me in the round. I’d think that around 5% of the people I know are connected to me via LinkedIn.

I suspect readers of this blog are less of the younger, “Facebook crowd” – and more looking to examine and extend their Personal Networks. In building and developing your Personal Network – it’s important to consider the effect the “company you keep” has on your personal brand. Don’t try to be someone you are not – but remember your Personal Network (company you keep) is a significant indication of this. Make sure that your “public’ presence (especially on-line in this day and age) is a fair reflection of who you are.

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