Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Whatever happened to the 'Social Media Election'?

In the wake of Barack Obama's use of social networks in the Democratic Primary and US Presidential Elections, everyone was expecting the current UK General Election to reflect the growth of social media. We now find ourselves over halfway through the official campaign and such a shift is yet to happen.

On the contrary, at present 'old media' seems to be winning out over new. The television debates have, to date, had a bigger impact on the campaign than almost anything that many generations can remember. Social media use by the major parties has been limited, with many of the major figures spurning the opportunity to connect directly with voters through the medium.

Last night I went to a talk by Justin Webb, the former BBC North American editor and presenter for Today on BBC Radio 4. Justin was comparing the UK and US election processes and provided some interesting insights on both similarities and key differences.

I took the opportunity to ask for Justin's view on the role of social media. He is clearly not a big advocate, often berating his co-presenter at the BBC, Evan Davies for using Twitter. His feelings were that it will be some time before social media makes its presence felt in a positive way in the British electoral system.

"The key impact Obama's use of social media had on the US elections was as a news story", he told me. "The media all said, 'look, Obama's using social media', and that provided him with more coverage.

"The other interesting influence of social media was how it benefited Obama's fundraising efforts. It allowed him to attract millions of small donations from ordinary people. I think the Liberal Democrats may already be benefiting from this here. Perhaps social media could have a big impact on political fundraising in this country."

At present though, Webb believes that social media's role in electoral politics is limited. "We need a generation to get old with social media for it to have a major impact in general elections", he said.

Don't underestimate the power of a politician's gaffe during the closing days of the election to have a much bigger impact than ever before, thanks to social media . With camera phones and Flip cameras at the ready, any slip up can be both shared globally and repeated ad nauseam irrespective of how many people witness it in person. The news media pick the stories up and run with them as people share them on Twitter, Facebook and Youtube.

This may not be the 'Social Media Election' many people expected, but new media can still have a role to play.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Networking Video Tip: What do people say about you?

In the last video tip we talked about the importance of it not being just what you know or who you know, but who knows you.

Successful networking also depends on what people say about you when you are not there, something we perhaps put too little thought into.

I discuss this further in this video:

Friday, April 23, 2010

Connecting is not Enough - The Newsletter

The latest edition of Connecting is not Enough is now available.

In the latest edition, I answer questions from readers, including:

- How do you leverage old networks like school?

- What key points should you consider when setting a Networking Strategy? 

- Can online networking succeed without offline?

In addition, there's the usual mix of articles, video and fun as well as jobseekers and an opportunity in the events industry. 

Thursday, April 22, 2010

What Businesses Can Learn From Clegg - New Networking Newsletter for Fresh Business Thinking

Launched today is a new monthly networking newsletter I'm editing for Fresh Business

Each issue will contain a series of more in depth articles on networking, both from me and from friends of mine who are each experts in their own right, both from the UK and internationally.

As I'm sure you haven't had enough of the UK General Election at this stage, we have launched today with an election special. Included are an article I wrote at the time of President Obama's inauguration on the lessons businesses can learn from his election campaigns, an update from the US on the impact of networking in politics since the election, a 24 year-old's view of how well UK parties are engaging with young voters and the view from the social media campaign manager of Independent grouping Jury Team.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Networking Video Tip: It's not what you know or who you know...

It's often said that success is based on not what you know but who you know. I don't agree.

Networking is much more about who knows you, as I explain in this networking video tip...

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

The power of finding something in common

Breaking the ice at networking events is simple when you know you share something in common.

A few weeks ago I was at an event speaking to someone I have known for a number of years. Another long-term contact came over to join us. I didn't realise it at the time but he had never previously met the person to whom I was speaking, yet they launched into conversation as if they had known each other for years.

The reason that they immediately felt at ease with each other is that they are both members of the Masons. They share traditions, culture, history and knowledge of rituals that give them a wealth of things to talk about. They talked about their different lodges, the approaches taken, the levels within the order they had reached and much more.

Interestingly, one of my colleagues explained to me that despite never having met our companion before, he knew that he could trust him implicitly because of the level of the Mason's he had reached and his knowledge of the challenges he had to overcome to reach that level.

A strong bond was immediately formed without either of the two asking the other "what do you do?". Prior knowledge of something they shared accelerated the relationship and the trust between the two.

Networking is about relationship building and we naturally find it easy to build a relationship with people with whom we have something we feel passionately about in common. Find out about people's interests when you network with them, or even look for opportunities to network with people who share the same passions as you.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Networking Video Tip: Building Successful Relationships

I am often asked how you develop strong relationships with people you meet at networking events. I answer the question in this video:

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

CONNECTING IS NOT ENOUGH: The Power that Lies Within

This article originally appeared in The National Networker

I have held my personal account with one major UK High Street Bank for over fifteen years now. My business account is currently with the same bank, but this wasn’t always the case.

It used to be that our business would bank with one of their competitors. Our offices were close to a small town with one main street in which all of the major banks had a branch. Quite often I would go into the main street and visit one or both branches of the two banks I dealt with. I was known by the staff at both.

Occasionally I would be asked by my personal bank to verify my details. One of the questions they would always ask me was to confirm that my occupation was still ‘Managing Director’. They never asked me where my business banked.

The staff in the branch for our business account knew that I would come in to pay in cheques for the business or for other related matters. They never asked me where my personal account was held.

Hundreds of millions of pounds worth of business must be lost every single year by employees not looking out for opportunities for their colleagues elsewhere in the same company.

Go to a referral-focused networking group and listen to the presentation given by the solicitor present. In most groups of this nature they will have locked out any other solicitors from joining. Yet if they are an employment lawyer, it is highly unlikely that you will hear them talk about litigation, mergers and acquisition or family law. Week after week they will only focus on their own area of speciality, not referring to other divisions within their firm.
I have discussed elsewhere how trust, understanding and opportunity to refer are the key foundations to enable good quality referrals. Then where better to start than within your own firm? Yet, cross-selling is overlooked by many firms whose staff are more likely to compete than look out for each other.

Trust and Understanding

Part of the problem lies in the relationships between different parts of the same company. While team-building and meetings may be in vogue, less effort is spent encouraging different sections of the same company to interact. We talk about trust and understanding between people across your network, how strong are those relationships with people working under the same roof as you?

After I left university I spent four years working in the Civil Service. The culture within the large departments within which I worked was very much one of silos. Each team worked in a sectioned off area. When lunchtime came my colleagues would put their work to one side, open up a pack of sandwiches and eat in the same seat in which they’d been working all morning. They would spend all of their time not just in the same department but with the same person with whom they’d worked with all day.

I bucked the trend. It’s funny to look back now at my behaviour considering what I do for my living now. While all of my colleagues remained in their seats during lunch, I would go out with friends from other departments. I was considered quite odd, yet it was ironic how I would get more support from elsewhere in the department when I needed it!

On Wednesday mornings our offices would open to the public thirty minutes later than normal for ‘staff training’. Traditionally these sessions would see each team in its own silo covering areas of consequence to them. I started visiting other teams and telling them about what we were doing and we invited them to join our meetings to do the same.

In my experience, too little of this happens in business now. Teams are kept apart from each other with people generally socializing with others within their own department. Even in smaller businesses where people from across the company sit close together and are more likely to socialize with each other, it’s not common for people to discuss their jobs and goals.

Companies who focus on building connections between different parts of the business and educating their staff in more than just their own job will be able to tap into a wealth of opportunities.

Social events within the firm are great opportunities to mix. Working with a property development company I asked the participants on my workshop to list the networks they belonged to. A number of them had the company’s ‘Sports and Social Club’ at the top of their list.

Internal networking events, such as women’s networks, also offer great opportunities for staff to mix and learn about each other. If you have the opportunity, go to these and make sure you speak to people from other parts of the business, rather than just those you know. Find out about their role, their challenges, who they deal with.

Most importantly, find out if there are opportunities for you to learn from each other, share experiences, work on the same projects and whether you are targeting similar clients.

Communal areas such as the staff canteen also offer the opportunity to build your internal network. If you are in the habit of finding the empty table and eating on your own, or sitting with your colleagues all of the time, break that habit and ask others if you can join them. Get to know other people in your own firm and find out how you can help them achieve their goals.

The Trouble with Targets

Another big block on generating referrals internally is the way people are rewarded for new business. Although a number of companies are now changing, in many cases it is just the salesman responsible for the client who gets rewarded for the business.

If the targets and rewards are dependent on just one area of work, why would you focus any time and effort elsewhere? Companies need to recognise and reward efforts to create connections that may impact another department or division if they want to stimulate more referrals internally.

This highlights one of the main reasons why so few referrals come in from clients. In many businesses the roles of new business generation and account management are separated.  The person who deals with the client on a day to day basis and who is best placed to ask for referrals has no responsibility and receives no reward for asking for those referrals. Meanwhile, the person who does have the focus and stands to benefit has no further influence with that client.

Put simply, personal goals lead to selfish behaviour and restrict the flow of referrals internally. This problem gets reinforced in times of economic turbulence, as people become more concerned with protecting their own job and meeting their own targets, perhaps at the expense of the firm’s wider interests.

Personal targets and rewards also reinforce narrow 'tunnel' thinking, with people solely focused just on their own sale and own bonuses.

Companies need to break out of this narrow thinking and inspire their staff to refer each other. Bonuses and commissions should be in place for introductions to other departments, a share offered in business won to

It’s not just the sales team who should be included. PAs, Receptionists and Customer Service representatives all have jobs where they deal with the company’s clients and suppliers. Everyone who works there has their own personal network.

Whenever I work on referral strategy with companies, I try to encourage them to send staff from across the business on workshops, not just the people targeting new business. In one case the Financial Director came on a workshop. He had never passed a referral over to the sales team before that session. In the next two months he passed seven.

Cross-sales and cross-referrals need to be taken seriously and encouraged in any referral strategy. Without it, companies are just throwing money away.

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Can you get your message across in five words?

Today sees UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown travel to Buckingham Palace and ask the Queen to dissolve Parliament, triggering a General Election next month. Cue four weeks of campaigning, debating and electioneering as the major parties try to capture swing votes in an election that's currently too close to call.

A big factor in deciding who wins the election will rest on a handful of words. The BBC News this morning included a picture of the Liberal Democrats' 'Battle Bus', with their campaign slogan 'Change that works for you' proudly pasted across the vehicle. Expect to see similar coaches from the other major parties, with Labour campaigning under the slogan 'A future fair for all', while the Conservatives are urging the electorate to 'Vote for Change'.

In each case the Parties are attempting to get across in as few words as possible their core message. They know that a large part of the electorate won't listen to much of the detail of the debates, watch Election Broadcasts or read their manifestos. Their best chance of capturing swing votes is to make an impression with a strong phrase that reflects what they stand for.

In the US elections, Barack Obama said 'Yes we can'. And he said it time and time again. Pretty clearly, enough of the American electorate believed him.

Other memorable political slogans include:

Britain deserves better (Labour Party, 1987)
Catch up and overtake America! (Nikita Kruschev, USSR 1957)
Labour is not working (Conservative Party, 1979)
Vote yourself a farm (Abraham Lincoln, 1860)

In each case, and many more, a strong message is carried in a few words, leaving voters in no doubt about what they are voting for.

Just as this technique is so important in elections, so it is in business. People won't necessarily read your promotional brochures from cover to cover or listen intently to your 'elevator pitch'. If you can, however, sum up your core message in just a few memorable words, they may well take that away. Make them intriguing, easy to understand and strong enough to recall at the right time and, if appropriate repeat.

I use 'Connecting is not Enough' to get across my stance on networking and give an idea of my approach.

Please feel free to share here what you use for your business or ask for some feedback.

Thursday, April 01, 2010

Connecting is not Enough....The Newsletter

A new edition of Connecting is not Enough - the newsletter came out this afternoon and you can enjoy all of the networking wit, wisdom and just a little April fooling here.

This Easter edition includes:

- Social Media and the UK General Election - How the Chancellors were tweeted

- 'Looking for...' . Two new candidates looking for your help finding them work, and a vacancy to be filled.

- Tips on following up, getting testimonials and taking the perfect picture.

- Working out your Networking ROI

- Some Easter fireworks from Greece.