Thursday, July 26, 2007

Can Social Networks Drive TV Listings?

A new group on Facebook has been launched to promote 'The Dudes', a new cartoon series which is described as the UK's alternative to 'The Simpsons'. The creators are trying to launch 'The Dude revolution' by building a big enough following on Facebook to convince programmers to screen their production. As an incentive, they are offering the chance for two of the group members to be turned into a 'Dude' and provide a voiceover for the first full episode.

Interestingly, the group, currently 190 strong, is also being used to provide ideas for character development and ideas for episodes. This is very much in the tradition started by Skins earlier this year.

Are we entering a new phase of the Social Web where content will increasingly be generated by consumers? Will teams of scriptwriters will become redundant? And if TV is driven more and more by who can prove the greatest support online, will the quality of programming improve or get even worse (if that's possible)?

A Networking Man of Mystery

When someone asks me what I do at a networking event, I always respond "I network", "I'm a networker" or something similar. I do this because I want to intrigue people and get them to ask me what I mean, and listen to the answer. After all, when someone asks you what you do in that situation, it is no more than the networking equivalent of "Do you come here often?"!

Last night I was at a networking event. Over dinner one attendee, who had asked me earlier what I do, asked me how being a networker could be a business. This was exactly the reaction I look for, it had obviously been on her mind for some time and she really wanted to know the answer.

This led our group into a discussion about when to let people know what you do. If you tell people straight away, they will immediately decide how relevant you are to them and how much more they want to listen. Because they haven't bought into you yet. Intrigue people so that they really want to know and they'll listen far more carefully.

But to what extreme can you take this intrigue?

I had been in a meeting earlier in the day and was describing a contact from my network. As I described him I suddenly realised that I don't really know what he does. He has an excellent reputation as a successful businessman with great contacts and as someone really worth knowing. But I don't know what he does. I had enjoyed a 1-2-1 with him only a couple of months ago, but still I don't know what he does.

At my next meeting I asked my colleague, who also knows this person, what he thought he did. He has known him for four years...and he doesn't know! And at last night's event I saw someone else who shares this contact, and he doesn't really know!

The upshot is that I (and I'm probably not along in this) am very keen to get in touch with my contact to arrange another meeting as soon as possible and really try to understand his business and what opportunities he is looking for. I don't know if that is the outcome he is looking for, if so it's brilliant networking, or if he simply doesn't know how to communicate his business.

At what stage do you tell people what you do and how effectively do you communicate this? Do you trot out the standard 'elevator pitch' fare as soon as someone asks what you do? Do you make your answer relevant to the person asking or give everyone the same response?

Or do you make them wait for an answer, ensuring that they really want to know?

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

The Rise of Anti-Social Networking?

Are the so-called 'Social Networks' taking over our lives? According to new research, 6% of 10,500 respondents to a survey spend more time each month networking online than meeting with family and friends! The 'hardcore' respondents are currently spending more than 10 hours a week networking online.

This figure isn't surprising and is only going to grow. Consider that the survey, carried out by, was among broadband users. 6% is perhaps still a low number of people who have easy access to the internet to be 'high users'. And anyone who has got their teeth into Facebook recently will know how sticky the site can be.

The growth of social networks, and I include business sites such as Linked-In and Ecademy within the genre, is at the very start. It may seem hard to believe to readers of this blog but there are still a lot of people who still haven't heard of Facebook, let along been Poked on it!

More and more networks are starting, a number of them targeting particular communities. As the social networks become more focused on particular communities, people will become more drawn to participate in the network relevant to their interests. And the number of people spending more than 10 hours a week online will grow further.

What does this mean for a networker? Well, obviously it provides more opportunities to raise your profile and expand your network, both socially and for business. I have found Facebook to be a fantastic tool to keep in touch with friends I only see very rarely, and also to get to know better people I have met through business.

It is so important, though, that you use the networks as a tool to spark and revitalise relationships, not to replace meeting people in person. As one person said to me recently, 'the money is still in the face to face meetings'. I believe that you can only get to truly know, like and trust people when you see them in person, as often as you can.

Used correctly, the online communities can be great social tools. I'd hate, however, to see them replace meeting people in the flesh.

*The uSwitch findings were based on a survey of 10,513 adults in Britain carried out by YouGov in May.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Effective Networking Skills....In Action

Reading Dave Clarke's Business Networking Blog, I came across this wonderful visual guide to working a room from American networking author Diane Darling. If you need to know how to work a room at a networking event, this is an excellent tool.


Thursday, July 12, 2007

The World's Smallest Ever Networking Event

How many people constitute a 'networking event'?

That's the question I was asking myself after attending the world's smallest ever event tonight. With only two of us present, surely that's a record that can't be beaten?

The event, an intimate monthly dinner with normally around 12 people present, was hit by low registrations because of the time of year and a number of cancellations on the day. Even the event host gave up when no-one had turned up twenty minutes after the start time.

As he left, little did he know that I was turning up, worried that I was twenty minutes late as my meeting had overrun. Naturally I was a bit concerned when I was seated in the restaurant...on my own. Never mind, I ordered a beer and munched on olives, sure that I had got the times wrong and everyone would turn up in a few minutes.

Twenty five minutes later I was a lot more concerned. I had busied myself with the menu, having experienced the food in this restaurant before I definately wasn't leaving now, and figured it had become 'dinner for the sad man on the big table in the corner'. But then another latecomer came down the stairs, looking equally confused and joined me.

When I was involved BRE I was often frustrated that people's first question on being invited to attend a networking event was 'how many people will be there?'. There seemed to me to be too strong a focus on quantity over quality. I always believed that this is a very misguided approach, having been to many good events with few people and an equal number of well attended disasters.

As it was, Julian and I had an excellent meeting, finding out a lot about each other's business, discussing people we both know and our attitudes and experiences of networking. We had both heard of each other before but never met.

We were able to discuss things in a lot more depth than we would have done ordinarily and there are good chances that we will be able to develop our relationship further and hopefully, in time, introduce some very valuable contacts to each other.

So how many people do you need to attend to create a networking event? As tonight proved, in the right circumstances two can be company enough.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Networking is good for your health

On my way back from yet another networking event this evening, the excellent Web Wednesdays, I read an interesting piece in the London Lite newspaper:


Shy men who avoid contact with people are more likely to die of heart disease than their more sociable peers, a study claims.

The 30-year study of 2,100 men reveals that withdrawn introverts have a higher risk of death from heart attacks, strokes and other forms of cardiovascular disease than other men of similar age and social class.

Looking at the stress and strain on the faces of people standing on their own at networking events, compared to the relaxed, happy manner of others engaged in conversation, there are no real surprises in this survey.

So go on, relax and enjoy yourself at networking events. And whenever you feel pangs of panic when you need to approach someone new just remind yourself, you're doing it for your health!