Friday, August 24, 2007

How Many Degrees?

How far are we from anyone else in the world? Stanley Milgram's theory of Six Degrees of Separation was devised 40 years ago, well before modern communications globalised business and business networks encouraged introductions worldwide.

In 2003 a team at Columbia University at New York ran a very similar experiment to Milgram's, involving over 60,000 people from 166 different countries using email to connect with one of eighteen random people. They still found that, in most cases, it took between five and seven connections to reach the 'target'.

So how do these findings impact on my beliefs that the number of links must have dropped?

Interestingly the key may be the medium used. Duncan Watts, the man behind the experiment told New Scientist, "Compared with offline interactions like work, school, family, and community, I don't see email as being a particularly compelling medium for generating social ties."

In a recent interview, Jeff Schick of IBM told me that email is now an outdated medium. Social networks clearly have a much greater potential to link people by providing visual representations of our networks and sharing them. Email is very one dimensional in comparison.

Does the 2003 experiment still stand up and have we moved no further since 1967? Or how many connections are we from anyone in the world?

Monday, August 20, 2007

Word of Mouse launches in Beta mode

Our new social network, Word of Mouse has now gone live in Beta Test mode.

Designed to provide a chance for referral networking, initially in the UK, for people who can't commit to regular breakfast meetings at BNI or BRE, the site will eventually consist of a number of local 'e-circles' where people can build relationships and pass referrals. Members will need to make time to see each other 'offline' as well as developing the online relationship.

Bear in mind that the site is in beta stage, we still expect there to be plenty of work still to do. But have a look and let us know what you think.

The Seven Principles of Effective, Successful Business Networking

I have invited Jason Jacobsohn, who regularly posts comments on this blog and who has an excellent blog of his own, Networking Insight, to give us his thoughts on what makes a successful networker.

1) Set Goals
Before you attend a networking event, you need to have some goals in mind. Ask yourself the following questions: Who do I want to meet? How many people do I want to meet? Why do I want to meet these people? Where will I meet these people?

Without a clear goal in mind, you won’t make the best use of your time when attending events. When you meet people, you should have a reason to talk with them so you can start to build meaningful relationships.

Do your research and find events that will allow you to meet the desired people. You can then put yourself in a position to reach your networking goals.

2) Carry Business Cards at All Times
A simple but often forgotten networking must is to carry business cards with you at all times. Whether or not you plan on attending an event, you should never leave home or the office without them.

You just never know what situation you will be in and who you will meet. It can be embarrassing if you don’t have a business card to hand out, which could show that you’re not an organized individual.

First impressions make a difference. Put business cards in your wallet, purse, briefcase, coat or pants and make sure your cards are accessible at all times.

3) Take Good Notes on Business Cards
When you meet people, it’s important to remember what has been said. Make sure to take notes on the back of their business cards.

By taking notes, you will remember your conversations and have information available when you follow up. Make sure to take notes about personal and business information such as birthdays, anniversaries, business interests and hobbies.

All of this information can help you to build your relationships with people. At the very least, it shows you took the conversation seriously and were paying attention.

In addition to taking good notes on business cards, it’s helpful if you transfer the information to an electronic format such as a PDA, Outlook or Act. That way, you can continue to add future notes and easily search for this information.

4) Be Genuine

Your networking demeanor can have a huge impact on how you meet people and build relationships. Make sure you come across sincere and don’t try to oversell.

When talking with people, apply your full attention by listening, giving eye contact, asking questions and not interrupting. You actions will go a long way and tell people whether or not you’re a good conversationalist.

Make sure to build trust and a good relationship with people before you ask for help or try to sell to them. Over time, it will be easy to approach your contacts with your needs.

5) Offer to Help Others
While talking with people, pay special attention to their personal and business needs. By doing so, you will have the opportunity to help them. Offering to help others before you ask for help is a networking must.

Ways to help are to share resources, make introductions, gather data and perform consulting. By extending yourself to others, you will build a reputation as a doer rather than a taker. Networking circles are small. Your actions will be known.

When the time comes for your needs, you will be able to approach your network with ease and they should be very willing to help you.

6) Follow Up
After you meet people, it’s important to follow up. Without follow up, you won’t be able to build relationships and your network. It’s a good idea to follow up with people the next day so you’re still fresh in their minds.

While e-mail follow up is easy and less intrusive, telephone follow up can be more personal and effective with some people. Choose the most appropriate method. You can follow up with just a simple “hello” to tell people it was nice to meet them.

You can also e-mail a Web site link or article about something you talked about the day before.

If you offer to help someone – no matter how big or small – you need to follow up. Without following through, you won’t be taken seriously and your networking efforts won’t be very effective. You’ll also create a bad reputation.

7) Build Relationships
After you meet people, you need to continue to build your relationship with them. Without fostering these relationships, your network won’t be very valuable and attentive to your needs. Find ways to connect with your network by inviting them to breakfast, lunch, dinner, drinks or events.

By reaching out to them, you will come across as genuine and someone who values your relationships.

A great way to be in constant communication with people is to create an e-mail newsletter. Tailor the newsletter to a general interest so everyone can benefit from it. You can include event information, business articles and economic data. Whatever you decide, make sure it’s of value.

In addition, when you come across articles or other resources that could benefit individual people, send these items to them. Your contacts will appreciate your thoughtfulness and they will remember you.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Social Networking in Plain English (Yayyy!)

Through the Technobabble blog, I've come across this very quick and easy guide to what social networking is and why it's so important. It's a very basic overview of what networks are and how social networks make them so much more effective and accessible.

The filmmaker, Lee Lefeever from Common Craft has similar quick and easy introductions to RSS, Wikis and Social Bookmarking. If you've wondered about all of the funny words at the end of each of my blogs, like DIGG THIS! and DEL.ICIO.US, then watch the excellent Social Bookmarking video.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Not Hunting but Farming

You may have heard about how networking is more about farming than hunting. Successful networkers sow the seeds of long-term relationships and reap the benefit over time, while failed networkers spend their time chasing down their prey at networking events, with the business card as their weapon of choice.

Now imagine that you are a graphic designer with a small business. You meet the head of a major local advertising agency at an event, someone who surely has a need for your services. How do you react?

It is lucky for Kelly Molson of Rubber Cheese that she is a natural networker and didn't launch straight into an elevator pitch when she did bump into the local advertising mogul eighteen months ago. For Kelly, it was more important that, despite a short conversation at the event, the two of them had a lot in common and 'clicked'.

Kelly and her new contact stayed in touch for the next year, talking on the telephone, exchanging emails and arranging to meet for coffee. At no point was business high on the agenda, they simply connected.

This week Kelly thought she should get in touch with her advertising contact as they hadn't spoken for a while. Five minutes after sending an email, Kelly received a reply, and one hour later her contact called her asking if they could meet as she wanted to discuss some business.

One of the designers at the agency is going on maternity leave and Kelly has been asked if Rubber Cheese can cover her absence.

Kelly is delighted with the outcome. "It's a completely unexpected result which I am really pleased about, but it wasn’t the reason I wanted to stay in touch.
We had made such a good connection initially and had so much in common; I really wanted to be her friend. After our meeting today I have even more respect for her and cannot wait to work for the agency."

Thursday, August 16, 2007

8 Random things about Andy Lopata

I have been tagged by Jason Jacobsohn, US blogger of 'Networking Insight' to tell readers of this blog eight random things about myself. Now here's your chance to find out more about me.

1 - A keen child actor, I auditioned for the Royal Shakespeare Company when I was at school.

2 - I am a big fan of Charlton Athletic but can't let my support rest at just going to games. I sold programmes and then worked on the turnstiles as a teenager, became a member of the Supporters Club committee running the train service for away travel and then launched a fanzine, 'Goodbye Horse' which went on to be voted the best in the country by 'Total Football' magazine.

3 - I've parachute jumped in Kent, rap jumped in Kuranda, abseiled in the Lake District and Scotland, climbed Ayers Rock and Ben Nevis and drank champagne on the Great Wall of China, all while scared of heights!

4 - I worked as a runner on film sets in South Africa and as a sound engineer for radio interviews in London

5 - I used to work in the Royal Albert Hall and have abseiled from inside the dome.

6 - I snorkeled during the coral spawning on the Great Barrier Reef and alongside Whale Sharks in the Phillipines

7 - I have danced on stage. Embarrassingly, the song was The Weather Girls, 'It's Raining Men'!

8 - After ten years, I still can't get my golf handicap down, having just broken the 100 barrier for the first time a couple of months ago.

In the same spirit of tagging, I tag the following eight people to share eight random things about themselves with their readers:

Dave Clarke
Michael Beale
Graham Jones
Richard White
Harun Rabbani
Jeremy Jacobs
Peter Roper
David McQueen

I think it's time for another tag, so I also challenge Kim Rix of The SaVVy Club to share eight random things about herself on her blog.

Monday, August 13, 2007

One Small Step....

It's amazing the difference a small step can make. Just doing one thing every day that you would not normally do can bring tremendous results. If you set goals from your networking, plan the results you want and then ask yourself what you need to do to achieve those goals, you are more likely to take those extra steps.

I recently ran a workshop for NatWest Bank Business Relationship Managers on developing a strategy for their networking. I asked the participants to set two types of goal:

Financial - how much new business were they looking to attribute to networking over the course of a year?

Intangible - What areas of self-development could networking help with? Many people network to benefit from peer group support, routes to suppliers, a better network of people to refer to clients, confidence, presentation skills and a host of other reasons.

One of the people on the course was Paul O'Sullivan, a Development Manager at Enfield Business Centre. As a result of the workshop,Paul set himself a target of increasing his network. He recently sent me this email:

Further to your Networking Strategy Workshop, one of my personal/intangible goals was to approach/talk to a person that I don't know everyday. As a result of this I introduced myself to a gentleman who I had seen in one of the interview rooms of the Enfield branch on the floor below the Business Centre, but whom I did not recognise.

He was the PMA(Personal Mortgage Advisor) for the branch and we had a quick chat. I told him that I had a customer who wanted to move quickly on 2 buy-to-let properties and could he help out. He was happy to do this and we arranged an appointment. Subsequently the 2 applications were processed for my customer. He had bought a acquaintance along with him who liked what he saw and said that he had 6 buy-to-lets that he would like to mortgage through ourselves. These were subsequently processed and are at NatWest Mortgage Services now.

Both customers are also well known and respected in the local Jewish Community and have said that they will have more contacts and business for us because of the prompt & efficient service provided by us.

An excellent return and possible future return from me going and introducing myself to someone I didn't know.

What is particularly striking about this story is that Paul worked in the same office, for the same company as the person he introduced himself to. They saw each other on a regular basis but had never met. That might seem quite strange initially, but then think about the number of people you see regularly but have never had reason to introduce yourself to.

What small step can you take every day that could have a tremendous impact on your business?

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

The Guardian Launch Social Network

It wasn't going to take long! has just been relaunched as the Guardian Weekly Global Network. A key part of the new site is a social network, with readers invited to submit a profile, comment on the site's articles and even submit their own articles.

In true social media style, members are featured on the front page of the social network section of the site, with their last comment displayed together with a link to their profile. An interesting innovation is the 'watchlist' where Members can track comments made by other readers. You can also search other members by location and by profession.

There has been a lot of talk about how blogging and web 2.0 are changing the way that news is reported and made. The Guardian have clearly looked at this and recognised the importance of not only engaging readers but also involving them. The site's editor, Mark King, explained, "We want to connect our readers, giving them the opportunity to truly effect change and providing a platform for voices that are often overlooked."

Of course, this is also a strong move from a marketing point of view. After all, people are less likely to surf to other news sites if there is a chance their views will feature on The Guardian's.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Business Networking on the Social Web

Social Networking blogger An de Jonghe has just published the results of an interesting survey into the use of Social Networks worldwide. An based the results on the responses of over 850 people from 54 countries over the first seven months of this year.

There are a number of interesting results in the survey. The first thing to take note of is An's disclaimer that the survey cannot be considered as scientific. It would be interesting to know how the survey was publicised as some of the demographic results are surprising, not least Belgium being the most active country for social networking and three business sites coming above Facebook as the most popular networks.

Accepting, therefore, that this is probably a reflection of a more mature and business-focused demographic than the average Facebook user (the typical respondent is a male parent between 30 and 40 years old), we can use this survey as an indication of trends in social business networks.

What can we deduce from the survey?

- Initially the survey suggests that people don't want to pay for their social networking memberships. According to de Jongh, only 20% of respondents were prepared to pay for membership. However, this needs to be put into the context of the question. Respondents were asked whether they preferred to pay for ad-free membership or whether they would prefer a free account with advertising. This 'either/or' choice does not tell us whether they will pay a membership fee if they can see value for money. With social networking sites like Facebook offering membership for free, it will be interesting to see which cost models prove popular for social business networks.

- Most respondents join primarily for business opportunities. de Jongh suggests that the future is bleak for niche 'hobby' sites if they don't offer business opportunities, with just 16% opting to join a social network because it caters to their hobby. However, in 'Marketing to the Social Web', Larry Weber suggests that many people will join social networks because of shared interests. Is there a difference in the way different generations use the web?

- 40% of respondents feel it is important to be able to use their own language when posting. With most of the major social networks having a global reach and using English as the common language, is there scope for country-specific networks and can they possibly be as successful given the global e-community? The success of Bebo in Ireland, where founder Michael Birch recently suggested they have a huge impact in the market, suggests that this is possible. In contradiction, three-quarters of respondents to the survey consider themselves global networkers in response to the question 'would you consider joining a network outside your own country?'

Meanwhile, the majority of respondents (54%) don't participate in offline meetings. See my post on Anti-Social Networking for more thoughts on this issue.

The full survey can be found here.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Top Class Speakers in London this Weekend

I don't often promote individual events on this blog because of the sheer number going on every week. However, this week sees one with a bit of a difference. On Sunday 5th August, five of the best speakers from around the world are speaking at an event at the London Palladium Theatre.

AKASHA 2007 is set to be one of the most enticing, entertaining and enlightening events of the year.

You have probably heard of these world class speakers:

Bob Proctor: The Law of Attraction
Dr John Demartini: Breaking Through the Illusions that Ru(i)n Your Life
Roger Hamilton: Finding your Flow and Creating Your Legacy
Getrude Matshe: Creating More and Contributing More
Christopher Howard: Turning Passions into Profits

The event is hosted by Triumphant Events who have a great track record for running quality events and attracting the right people to network with. I know that they have already sold well over 1000 tickets to the event.

All tickets to this event are currently just £39 and are allocated on a first booking - best seating basis so if you are around London on the 5th of August make sure you head to this event with your team.

Visit Triumphant Events for info and tickets.