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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!

Googleing, Networking – and the activity of Pandas

February 16, 2011 2 comments

One of the best blog posts I’ve read in a long while is by Adam Rifkin.

Adam posts and twitters under the name “I Find Karma”. The post I liked was called “Pandas and Lobsters: Why Google Cannot Build Social Applications…” – and amongst other things drew the analogy of our behaviour on Google being very “panda like”. I love analogies – and Adam’s navigation

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of the social media landscape in this way is well worth a read.

Here’s the intro of the much longer article:-

After researching what pandas do all day, I was struck by how panda-like we are when we use the Internet.

Roaming a massive world wide web of forests, most of our time is spent searching for delicious bamboo and consuming it. 40 times a day we’ll poop something out — an email, a text message, a status update, maybe even a blog post — and then go back to searching-and-consuming. For a decade, Google has trained us to optimize our pandic selves:

The kind of application that Google knows how to make well are the kind that embody a panda’s “eats, shoots, and leaves” model of Internet behavior. Pandas spend every waking hour foraging — aka searching — and consuming. The most successful Google applications serve such a utilitarian mandate, too: they encourage users to search for something, consume, and move onto the next thing. Get in, do your business, get out. Do a Google search, slurp down information, move on. Pull up Google maps or Gmail or Google news, do something, leave.

I’m constantly reading blogs and articles in the press. A couple of articles have filtered through the reading pile in the last couple of days that are relevant to this panda analogy.

The first was an article in Intelligent Life (currently free to download as an iPad magazine). The article was called “Appleism v Googleism” by Robert Lane Greene – and discusses the clash of cultures between gadget-maker and search engine. The writing is great – and one particular point in the middle of the article struck a chord:-

It’s worth noting “to Apple” is not a verb.

There’s a subtle difference between the activity – Googling – and the long term affinity/passion that many have for Apple.

This linked through to a recent article I’d read by “corporate anthropologist” Karen Stephenson called “Network Management” which she had written back in 1997.

What is a network? In today’s popular literature and business press, there is a lot of talk about social and organizational networked the role they play in fomenting change. Typically, this literature focuses on the notion of “networking” as an action orientated, i.e., network as a verb……

There is a second meaning to network, however, and it is far more profound than the first. ….. network as a noun…

The three separate threads help me to conclude that Networking can be a very short-term – “eats, shoots and leaves” – style of activity. We’ve all heard of turnover focussed “busy fool activity”. Don’t get suckered in to networking without a strategic objective – it’s definitely in the “busy fool” category!

I think that more and more people are coming around to this way of thinking. I read a great blog post yesterday by Penny Power (founder of Ecademy). In her post, “#Slow Media – can we get off the Social Media hype and take care of one another”, she has one quote in there that particularly resonates:-

the ‘digital age’ that believes that connecting means ‘manipuating a connection for my own gain‘.

Networking whether face-to-face or via social media needs to be a slow process – building trust. There are way too many insincere “eats, shoots and leaves” networking activities going on. Your Personal Network should be your “fan club”/supporters – and you theirs … it’s not the people you sell to or manipulate.

Building a Personal Network, I believe is nurturing and creating your most valuable asset to last you a lifetime. It’s a strategic issue – where sometimes networking is a tactic.

Don’t be a panda with your Personal Network (pandas are an endangered species, you know!?) …..

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.

What impression am I making? Who do I know? What do I know about them? … and many more questions – PART 2

February 4, 2011 2 comments

Hopefully, you are visiting this post after reading Part 1 yesterday. Today, I’m focusing on a new service called Connected that was launched earlier in the week. However, there is a summary of both Connected and MyWebCareer at the end of the post.

The review of Connected is interspersed with quotes from Founder Sachin Rekhi. He kindly gave me 45 minutes of his time (very generous for a man launching such a major service) – and I only wish I’d recorded

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the chat for you. He’s an inspiring person to interview.

Connected grabbed my attention while waiting for a flight that had been delayed for 30 minutes. I checked my Twitter feed and spotted a message by Guy Kawasaki that announced the new service – it sounded exciting.

I’d only got my iPad to hand – so thought I’d boot up Safari and check out the service. I’m glad I did – because the service was a WOW! You don’t get many of those from start ups….

In the time that I had free before the flight left I’d “touch screened” my way to connect all my various repositories of information (and there are many), explored some fantastic apps – and bored my wife by saying “look at this!” several times.

I was surprise by three things on first impression:-

1. It worked great on the iPad – looked as if it had been made for the device
2. All the connections to Gmail, Twitter, Facebook, etc were seamless – and merging/matching was excellent
3. I’m very used to services offering integration to contacts via these services – but Connected also brought your communications/messaging in to the system, as well as calendar

I mentioned this to Sachin on our Skype call. He said: “We started the business a year ago, went live to the world two days ago – but have spent 6 months in private beta. I had a couple of beta users using iPads – and they beat me up on the interface … They were happy when we launched, and I am glad you are too.”

The result of this trawl of personal data collated all the information I need to answer two of the big questions in Personal Networks – “Who do I know? What do I know about them?”

I discussed this with Sachin. My view was that Connected was producing the sort of contact report that I would expect to get from a good (maybe great) personal assistant before a meeting/call. Sachin said: “I’m really delighted to hear that. Many of our potential customers already value relationships and are willing to do the work – and Connected makes their life easier and saves time. There are another group who just want things on a plate – and it works for them too. Our focus is to make Connected easy and lightweight for the user.”

I have a real interest in the language used to communicate a fresh idea. My particular issue when I talk about Personal Networks is that people say “Oh, you mean like Networking – going and giving business cards to lots of people” (which I hate) or “Ah, It’s Facebook then – isn’t that just for saddos. And why do people keep pestering me to friend them on LinkedIn.” (well not quite!).

Sachin and I discussed whether he felt there was “baggage” associated in words he had used in his blog posts like “Rolodex” and Personal Relationship Management (PRM) service – with connotations of CRM. Sachin said: “We talked a lot about this. Rolodex can be connected with salesmen from another age. CRM has a lot of issues too. However, these terms bridge the gap to help people to understand what we are offering – and then we’ll show them the new way we are approaching things. I’m still staggered that there is still such a huge installed base of products like ACT! and Goldmine. I’ve been driven by the fact that there are abysmal tools available for people wanting to develop their Personal Network.”

We both agreed that the initial WOW of Connected was not in question – but the retention of customers to make it THE dashboard for the the Who and What of their Personal Network was the real challenge. Sachin said: “We’ve no doubt that folk who want to do a better job will like Connected – it will appeal to many. Retention will require us to get users to understand that with the benefits come constraints and disciplines. However, I think we are keeping this to an absolute minimum. Beta users are reporting that they are putting aside 10 minutes each morning to use Connected and then keeping it open in a browser tab to review during the day. We are also offering a daily email which gives a summary of who you are connecting with – and who you might want to connect with.”

It’s still very early days for Connected – and although the list of integrations is long (Gmail, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google Contacts – Calendar – Voice) there are some missing. Sachin said: “We wanted to start the conversation with customers – so have gone to market with many features still in the pipeline. We are a long way down the road with prototype integration with Outlook – and will hook up with mobiles (already doing that with Google Voice) with either an iPhone App or at&t piece. In the long run we’ll be aiming to get all communication in there – including SMS and Skype”

The user features are rich. For example, there are a range of Apps including Contacts Maps. This is an integrated solution similar to MapMyConnections which I reviewed earlier in the week.

I’ve tried out quite a few services in this space. Gist is the most well known – which personally I find an information heavy experience. I don’t feel that it really gives me the Who and the What – and is especially annoying at not matching contacts. Also, in terms of contact integration, I have used (and paid for) a service called AddressBookOne (which has some nice iPhone integration).

I found the experience of Connected – and chatting to Sachin – energising. I would recommend that everyone who has a Gmail/GoogleApps account and a social media network to give it a go. It will be a challenge to make it THE key app for your Personal Network – but it’s got a great chance. If Path founder Dave Morin is turning down offers for $100m from Google – then Sachin will soon be beating off offers too! He seems to have this area sussed. Remember, you heard it here first … well except for Guy Kawasaki and a rather nice review by Yesware.

This post has gone on a bit – and I’d like to summarise in another post (Part 3 on Monday!). There was also another late entry to this theme in the form of Nimble (another PRM). Nimble was originally introduced to me by Neal Schaffer of Windmill Networking (whose book on LinkedIn I reviewed last year). I was invited to their Private Beta yesterday – and will be interviewing their Founder, Jon Ferrara (who also helped to create Goldmine) in the next couple of days. It will be interesting to chat with him and make the connection – my old business was a Goldmine user “way back when”.

Back on Monday with Part 3 – and I promise not to drag it out to 4 parts! Have a great weekend…

Keith Ferrazzi – “Personal Network” Survey

October 29, 2010 3 comments

As you will know if you have read this blog before, I like the work of Keith Ferrazzi. His books “Never Eat Alone” and “Who’s Got Your Back” are great reads if you want to get an understanding of the dynamics behind building a Personal Network. The style is a little “American” for a shy, retiring Brit like myself – but the principles are good. As you can see from the banner above – he’s much more in to rubbing shoulders with the famous than is realistic for us mere mortal Personal Networkers!

With the success of his books, Keith has followed up with “The Relationship Masters Academy”. I’ve seen a good

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review of it from one of my LinkedIn contacts – Peter Osborne who runs Bulldog Simplicity blog. He says: “As someone who participated in Keith’s Relationship Management Academy, I can tell you that Keith’s teachings will indeed change the way you approach relationship-building.” He also offers this link to download Keith’s “Executive Relationship Management Blueprint”, which is basically a “cheat sheet for everything Keith teaches”.

I found it very interesting to receive an invitation from Keith today for a Free Webinar on 4th November – “Networking Secrets for Thriving in Totally Screwed-Up Times!” It’s unfortunately at 9pm US time (so in the middle of the night in the UK) – however, they will send a link to a recording of the session.

To sign up, there is a brief survey – and low and behold … the first 4 questions are about “Personal Networks”. Give it a try – I’m chuffed to seeing the term getting more usage (as you know from previous posts – the term hardly registers on Google at the moment).

There’s an interesting study in Chris Brogan & Julien Smith’s book “Trust Agents” about how the term “Lifestyle Design” was unknown until Tim Ferriss promoted the idea in his book “4-Hour Workweek”. Maybe I can get “Personal Network” to the same status (with a little help from Keith!).

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.

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