Networking, openness and vulnerability

Networking group Networking

Look for groups who are NOT “closed” to additional participants Image credit: careerealism.com

Most people in business welcome and, to some extent, enjoy networking. There are the oft-quoted urban myths, of course, that many of us fear walking into a room full of strangers or would rather climb Everest than talk in front of an audience. The truth is that we often do these things and, while some are better than others at public speaking and emotional intelligence, they are part and parcel of running any sort of a business, particularly in business-to-business settings.

Most of us make continuous efforts to improve at these skills. For those who feel they are forever about to make a faux pas in a public gathering, psychologists have made a discovery that should bring some comfort. The “pratfall effect”, first popularised by Harvard University psychologist Elliot Aronson, shows that displays of weakness and fallibility make us more likeable, providing your core competence is not involved. If you do admit a weakness, you need to have already established a general level of competence.

Aronson’s experiment showed that while successful people who admitted a weakness became more appealing, those who were perceived as incompetent beforehand became less appealing.

Making conversation

One of the hardest parts of networking is entering the room and knowing where to start. One gambit is to head for the drinks table, where many conversations start quite naturally. An alternative is to scan the room and observe the body language of those already present. Groups of people in a tight huddle will be difficult to engage but, if you see two people more casually arranged, it should be more straightforward to strike up a conversation.

Not every conversation is crucial. A few light-hearted remarks can help get you in the right frame of mind and make the event more productive. As you start to enjoy yourself, your brain releases dopamine – the motivator – and serotonin, the happy chemical. Others will then enjoy your company more because you have relaxed and are patently enjoying their company.

“ARE” mnemonic: anchor, reveal and encourage

Paul Russell, co-founder of training company Luxury Academy, teaches a three-pronged approach to networking called ARE, which stands for anchor, reveal and encourage. Find common ground with someone (anchor), reveal something about yourself and then encourage others to talk. Everyone’s favourite subject is themselves.

I was quite shy in my early twenties and was quite nervous about public speaking, social and networking events. However, as an Army Officer, I was forced to confront my anxieties until I became relatively desensitised to my acute self-awareness and emerged as a confident speaker and participant at social gatherings. Though introverts will always feel some trepidation at networking meetings, practice will help them perform better.

You can’t change your personality but you can change your behaviour and your reactions to a given situation. If you are very nervous about networking, the best thing you can do is to do more of it.

Make your aim at an event helping others and making connections. Humans are social animals and we often act together for mutual benefit, even with our competitors. If someone helps us, we feel honour-bound to repay the favour.

Be prepared to admit that you don’t know everything and be open to revealing shortcomings, especially if it implies a strength.

Practise active listening. Showing interest in others makes them feel good and enables us to learn. If you can offer anyone any small gesture of help or information, note it on their business card and follow-up swiftly before their memory of you fades.

ORS (Open, Random, Supportive)

Thomas Power founded one of the first social networks for businesses in 1998, called Ecademy.com. It built a sizable number of users in the UK and was a forerunner to LinkedIn, which was purchased by Microsoft for $28 billion. I made many online and offline contacts through Ecademy which I retain to this day.

Power developed a concept called ORS and the shift that organisations and businesses must make to achieve success online using social media. ORS was a useful concept in recognising the shift from institutional thinking to network thinking online. The shift from institutional thinking to network thinking is marked by the shift from Closed, Selective, Controlling thinking (CSC) to Open, Random, Supportive thinking (ORS).

He observed that organisations operate in a closed, selective and controlling way when directors focus on corporate governance. In institutions, you need to operate discreetly to protect the organisation, be selective about how you communicate and work to a command-and-control model. This is driven by the demands of public policy, shareholders, staff and the law. It’s institutional thinking, or CSC.

On the other hand, ORS thinking is natural for outward-facing activity – sales, marketing, networking offline and online. New ways of behaving in business are a major contribution to disrupting current business models around the world and generating ideas for start-ups. ORS is about being open and accepting everything that comes at us, randomly, unpredictably and serendipitous, and supportive of everyone in your network.

As social beings, we all know the benefits of having a good network of friends and acquaintances. Interestingly, studies have shown the benefits to be more powerful in our secondary networks than those closest to us. That new job offer or business opportunity is more likely to come from a friend-of-a-friend than one of your direct contacts, for example. Of course, being more open can make us feel more vulnerable.

Being vulnerable is often perceived as weakness (particularly in the boardroom). Yet it is this vulnerability that could be a strength. Through vulnerability, people can see us for who we are and begin to trust us. As TED speaker Brené Brown says: “Vulnerability is our most accurate measure of courage… The difficult thing is that vulnerability is the first thing I look for in you and the last thing I’m willing to show you. In you it’s courage. In me it’s weakness.”

The fear we have of taking an ORS approach is that people will confirm the idea which we may have about ourselves that we are somehow not worthy of connecting with, a fear that we are not loveable. It might seem easier to protect ourselves by being closed, selective and controlling.

The CEO that admits to the failings of their business publicly and sets out how they will change to try and prevent these things occurring again is the one we trust over those that try and cover or hide their mistakes. There are business leaders that support new start-ups and celebrities that talk openly to random fans directly on Twitter. The truth is, in the new world of social media and big data we are already exposed before the world whether we like it or not. We can no longer hide, even if we want to.

The companies that aren’t afraid to make mistakes, ask for feedback, listen to us (no matter how small or seemingly insignificant our questions) are the ones that are thriving and growing. These are the businesses we all want to buy from. These are the companies that millennials are drawn to.

Public Wi-Fi hotspot provider? Check out our solution for legal compliance

If you provide a public Wi-Fi hotspot as a service provider, you are legally responsible for what actions people take when they are connected to your network. Recently, this area has become regulated and further regulation is likely over the next couple of years.

Your hotspot could be a public venue Wi-Fi network for a restaurant or museum, a hospital or school, or a professional firm offering a courtesy Wi-Fi facility for reception visitors.

What are the worst-case scenarios? Someone in nearby premises could have hacked into your system and using your Wi-Fi for illegal file downloading. A visitor could be innocently using social media, after logging in, but infringing copyright. Someone with more ominous motives could be logged in and using your Wi-Fi network.

Penalties for non-compliance

Your organisation can now be fined up to £50,000 for allowing illegal or inappropriate downloading and file-sharing, as defined in the Digital Economy Act of 2010, in the UK at least.

Organisations that give out their Wi-Fi password are putting their network, and data, at risk. Ideally, you should provide a secure system for guest Wi-Fi separate from your own staff or business network.

Through Purple WiFi, Digital Supremo not only provides a secure login process and wireless environment but also separates business Wi-Fi from guest Wi-Fi, protecting your private network and EPOS (electronic point of sale) systems.

Digital Supremo provides packages that include a secure Wi-Fi network and legal compliance. Data retention complies with The Data Retention (EC Directive) Regulations 2009 and user tracking is accessed through a single click login through popular social media platforms

The ‘Friendly WiFi’ scheme

Friendly WiFi logo

The ‘Friendly WiFi’ scheme has been designed and developed in collaboration with the Registered Digital Institute and The UK Council for Child Internet Safety (UKCCIS).

Child-friendly filtering is also included. The ‘Friendly WiFi’ scheme has been designed and developed in collaboration with the Registered Digital Institute and The UK Council for Child Internet Safety (UKCCIS). The Government and UK’s main Wi-Fi providers support the initiative after concerns were raised that children and young people were being put at risk of viewing and accessing inappropriate material when using public Wi-Fi. The ‘Friendly WiFi’ icon has been created to ensure that organisations who offer their customers public Wi-Fi and who wish to join the scheme to become a ‘Friendly WiFi’ venue, have had their WiFi services verified to check that the correct filters are in place to block anyone from accessing inappropriate material.

Data protection

Public Wi-Fi providers need to be aware of their obligations under the Data Protection Act 1998, whenever personal data is collected or processed about individuals. Purple WiFi stores this data in line with the requirements of the Act and is registered with the Information Commissioners Office.

Data retention

The Data Retention (EC Directive) Regulations 2009 assists in the prevention and detection of organised crime and terrorism. It is best practice for Wi-Fi service providers to retain communications data. Our supplier, Purple WiFi, stores communications data in line with the requirements of the regulation on secure Amazon Web servers.

Illegal online activity

The Digital Economy Act 2010 (DEA) targets online copyright infringement by end users, covering illegal or inappropriate downloading and file-sharing. Digital Supremo helps you to provide evidence that you have taken steps to try to prevent copyright infringement: users have to both register and accept terms and conditions that cover

The Digital Economy Act 2010 (DEA)

The Digital Economy Act 2010 (DEA) targets online copyright infringement by end users, covering illegal or inappropriate downloading and file-sharing

appropriate use. In addition, our Premium Product provides content filtering.

Section 42 of the DEA amends sections 107 and 198 of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 (CDPA), which deal with infringing articles and illicit recordings respectively, to increase the maximum fine that may be imposed for these offences from the statutory maximum (£5,000 in England and Wales and £10,000 in Scotland) to £50,000.

This follows the recommendation of the Gowers Review of Intellectual Property, advising that penalties for online and physical copyright infringement should match.

 

 

 

 

 

Setting a “Briefing” Alarm in Android

Fancy something different to awake to other than a melody or vibration? If you select the Clock app and select Alarm Type, you choose Briefing.

This wakes you up to the Weather, News Headlines and Calendar entries (Today’s Schedule) for the day. And you can further control the content in each. Tempted?

Selecting the type of alarm

Selecting the type of alarm from the Clock Settings on a Samsung Galaxy S3. 

Tweetadder 4.0 tip to avoid crashing or hanging

TweetAdder

Unclick the “Add Twitter Profile Images” box

There have been many complaints about TweetAdder 4.0 on Twitter. Whenever a large list is loaded, it seems to hang or crash.

When the box for “Load Twitter Profile Images” in >Settings is ticked, you don’t need to be a geek to work out that loading thousands of avatar images will slow the app down! Admittedly, this makes some Twitter users harder to recognise or identify but I have found that the app is very flaky when trying to load these images.

Here is some background: on April 6, 2012, Twitter launched a lawsuit against five services, one of which was Tweet Adder, claiming that the service violated Twitter’s spam policy by providing auto follows/unfollows.  Tweet Adder was the only service of the three to settle with Twitter and agree to provide alternative solutions. The result was TweetAdder 4.0, with significant changes from 3.0.

The primary issue Twitter had with Tweet Adder 3.0 was the app’s ability to enable Twitter users to follow and unfollow people automatically. Twitter states in their official Terms of Service that the only automated following they permit is automated follow-backs (automatically follow-back people who follow you). Tweet Adder, however, enabled users to set up ‘to follow’ lists, using a variety of customisable parameters and users could then set it up to follow these lists gradually over time.

I found this capability extremely useful. Whenever I found a good Twitter list (often containing hundreds of people sharing common interests with me) I would queue it up and then follow a modest amount of people every day. Then, if they didn’t follow me back after a few weeks, I would unfollow them. This allowed me to spend my time focusing on creating good content for my audience instead of sitting in front of my PC going “click, click, click” every day (or paying someone else to do it for me).

Despite TweetAdder 4.0 losing some of this automation, it hasn’t lost it all. It is still the most useful tool out there and can still be purchased for a one-off price of $55. There are plans to convert to a monthly subscription.

Switch off your content creation autopilot

Many actions in digital media are process-driven. Most mornings, I have a routine for getting my digital content to the most effective places online. We tend to work on autopilot, following several well-honed processes.

In everyday life, too, most of our behaviour is semi-automatic, without conscious analysis. This works well on a day-to-day level: we would never have time to think through every single decision consciously. On the other hand, if we want to change the results we get interacting with our environment, then we have to consciously choose many more of our actions.

Let’s look at this principle in a different environment. Take the most dangerous thing most of us do on a day-to-day basis – driving a car or motorbike.

I have recently done an advanced driving course and learned to become much safer on the road – for myself and those around me – by switching off my driving autopilot, a series of semi-automatic responses. I have improved my concentration, anticipation and hazard assessment. I have learned a systematic method of car control and a more conscious approach to driving, and my assessment of risks, that will serve me well in the years ahead.

Content creation

Find a contemplative “place” to create your content`

Digital content is important to most organisations. It is the footprint you leave online and the trail that allows people you want to interact with to find you: inbound marketing (communications), in other words.

It is vital that this content reflects your organisation and its uniqueness. It should tell your story, the ups (and downs), the struggle for excellence, the milestones. You should use emotion and not just dry facts and figures.

It is easy to get caught up in routine. Creating content is not a semi-automatic process. It needs your full attention and, like changing from a routine driver to an advanced driver, you need to learn new ways of expressing and unlocking the passion in your organisation.

So switch off the autopilot when you sit down to create content. Leave aside the references, the how-to-do-it handbooks. Pick the time of day when you are most energetic . Dig deep and surprise yourself…and us!

How micro-enterprises use digital marketing communications

Trying to make a presentation interactive is always a challenge. I gave a 4Sight (a 20 minute presentation) to the Stockport Group of 4Networking. The results were interesting, if not statistically significant.

I might have asked more questions, or different ones, but the results paint a reasonable picture of current practice in digital marketing communications.

Less than 10% of the audience had a digital marketing (communications) plan in place.

Over 60% had an e-newsletter sign-up form but only 15% claimed to be active in email marketing: how does that work? Nearly a third “planned to be active”. Three primary digital tools that smaller businesses can use to get quick results, email marketing, Google+ and a digital marketing plan were used by less than a fifth of the businesses present.

I would estimate that 90% of the audience ran business-to-business enterprises so the low figure for a Facebook Business Page is understandable. It seems to reflect an attitude that what small businesses do in their own time is separated from their business lives. If they work hours like I do, this just can’t be true. In many cases small business owners are their brands, in B2B, anyway. Facebook gets me results and my Digital Supremo Page is in its infancy. Don’t ignore Facebook.

Graph

Results of a recent survey of small businesses in the business-to-business sector

Less than a third of the audience used micro-content, mainly Twitter but we also included Instagram and Vine.

Just over a third were active bloggers, with a quarter planning to be active in blogging.

It is not surprising that micro-enterprises find it difficult to get results from digital marketing. Many of the tools are low-cost but it is time-consuming and it takes time, effort and skill to do it effectively.

The secret is that even the experts in marketing and social media  have been using these techniques for less than a decade.  New tools, networks, and strategies are appearing all the time. The top social media practitioners spend more time learning, than they do working – they need to in order to keep up with the rate of change. I would include myself in this category.

Also, the strategies that work on social media are different to what has worked in the past, in other marketing channels. As a result, even experienced marketers are struggling to get the most out of their social media efforts.

So here are five tips, partly based on the results of my mini-survey:

  1. You need a digital marketing plan. This can be very simple but the old adage that says plan and execute a few digital tools well is much more effective than stretching yourself too thin and doing nothing effectively. You don’t have to “be” on anything. You should identify tools that will work for your business and do them well, with professional help if necessary.
  2. You need a sales pipeline. The pipeline should be on your own website, computer or other medium that you control completely. It should be capable of capturing qualified leads from a variety of digital sources and helping you turn them into sales. Social media is one  source of prospects from your sales funnel (networking is, of course, another) but, as is well-known by now, if you try to sell on social media you will usually just kill the social aspect. A pipeline can be built into a contact management system (like MS Outlook or Gmail) or a CRM system, like Nimble. It could be as simple as a spreadsheet and some of the most successful sales pipelines I have seen are sales dashboards based on spreadsheets.
  3. You must really mean business. Social media can be an enormous time-grabber. Its easy to spend hours on Facebook and not complete anything really concrete. People who succeed on social media do so by having a plan and working their networks in a purposeful manner. This still means being fun, friendly and social but it means working to a plan.
  4. Build an email house list. Always ask contacts whether they would like your e-newsletter (opt them in). Write and send one monthly, even in plain text, and use an economic platform like MailChimp, Sendicate or Constant Contact to send, monitor and measure results so that you can improve.
  5. Build a simple digital marketing dashboard. A dashboard is an information panel which pulls together your main statistical results and measures effectiveness. Use the power of spreadsheet to add data manually, if necessary, and analyse it weekly. It will help you direct your efforts to what works and prevent wasting time.

Make a plan, choose your ground carefully and work the system in a friendly, helpful and businesslike way.

 

 

Five ways to tease out valuable blogging content

It’s hard, isn’t it, to provide value and original content for your blog reader over a period of time? Yet, most of us have a huge reservoir of expertise that we need to tease out of the recesses of our minds.

Here are five ways of jogging your memory, stimulating your creative juices and providing a go-to stimulus when inspiration becomes tough.

1 Problem-solving

Show your readers how you solved a common problem in your area of expertise. Give them a template so that when a similar situation crops up, they have a guide to follow. Case studies are often cited as a way of doing this but move from the particular to the more general. The bonus is that this approach will be brim-full of your keywords.

2 Tell a story
SpeakeasyGroups

Speakeasy Groups is a trade mark of MojoYourBusiness

I am indebted to Andrew Thorp and Sarah Knowles of MojoYourBusiness for helping me with storytelling through their Speakeasy Groups™ events. According to Andrew and Sarah, there are only five common types of story. A more powerful way to communicate with our audience is to fit our post into one of these types of narrative framework:

2.1 The quest: people find it easier to get behind you if you’re clearly on a mission. They can admire your zeal and what you stand for rather than what you do. Simon Sinek presents a simple but powerful model for how leaders inspire action, starting with a golden circle and the question “Why?”

2.2 Stranger in a strange land: if you’re a small business, perhaps you moved from the corporate world and started working with SMEs, bringing better systems and professionalism to a new arena? It shows a certain humility that you didn’t know it all at first but you’ve gained from the experience and, over the years, you’ve adapted and grown.

2.3 Love story: one way of incorporating a love story into a blog post might be explaining how two matches came together – customer and product – perhaps through unlikely circumstances, or not in the way you anticipated, and it’s turned into something deeper and longer-lasting than a business transaction.

Gladiator

The movie, Gladiator, is a good example of the revenge story theme.

2.4 Rags-to-riches: In business, this translates to great case studies. Michael Margolis (Your Story is Your Brand) prefers the description ‘before-and-after stories’. If you can show how you’ve moved a client from a poor situation to somewhere significantly better, it’s a great way to demonstrate the value you bring to people.

2.5 Revenge: every post is enriched by a fight between good and evil, even if it’s a metaphor. Channel your energies against the “system” rather than your competitors and fight the cause for your customer.

3 Provide useful resources

Create a list on List.ly of some invaluable free apps in a specific area. I am getting used to storing my lists on List.ly so that they can benefit my prospects and customers as well as act as a personal reminder. There is even a List.ly WordPress Publisher Key and embedding List.ly lists with the Key and WordPress plugin gives you SEO benefits over just using Javascript code.

4 Explode some common myths in your business area

Over the past few months, I have been explaining to businesses what Google+ is and what it can do for their inbound marketing. The myth is that it is just another social media platform and, of course, it is much more – and less—than that! Explode a common myth in your industry to show that you are original and worth-knowing.

5 Interpret data into usable action

Data pours out of nearly all business activity but few take the time to understand what it means. Even fewer translate that into actionable information for time-poor management. If a new survey comes out, interpret what it means in everyday terms for your audience.

Homage to Web 1.0 and the handwritten word

As Scott Monty, head of social media for Ford Motor Company, said recently, it’s “helpful to return to a time when the world’s information didn’t move quite so fast, when we had more time to think without the need to check more than a handful of email accounts and social networks and before we were drinking from a firehose of information”.

Somehow, our paper-based information has to meld with our digital data and work together. I’ve been caught once or twice with a discharged iPhone or a laptop without its charging lead. Paper has its uses.

Thank-you note

In the land of the digital, the handwritten note is king.

The more we communicate digitally, the more that crafted, paper communiques stand out. I still carry a mini-Filofax and a paper journal/notebook and been able to do useful work even when power was down and there was no wifi or mobile signal. I use a fountain pen, pencils and sketching paper.

Hand-written notes, cards and letters now have real value and differentiate themselves from the cacophony of email, texts, messages and posts. And those other senses, touch and smell are amply rewarded by written media.

Google+ and the social meme

We are evolving into a world where we constantly have access to datastreams and where we stream data individually. It is a fast-paced, real-time world and, for a small minority, it is already here. It is a big adjustment, not just for individuals and organisations, but also for society and for Government. You can run from it but you cannot hide.

Into this data maelstrom, Google – and its baby, Google+ – have entered and are playing a key role. Social, in the technological sense, is now not just a trend but a meme – an idea, behaviour or style that spreads from person to person within a culture. Google+ is a young social media platform by the standards of LinkedIn (2002), Facebook (2004) and Twitter (2006). Like all fledgling applications, it was difficult to understand, at first, how it worked and where it was going. Now, with Communities and Hangouts and the capability of connecting with anyone through Circles, all you need to have in common is an interest, business, idea or activity.

You don’t need to “know” someone previously, as in the Facebook or LinkedIn worlds. It shares with Twitter the “follow anyone” principle and opens your experience to serendipity and opportunity. Every visit brings floods of new information and experiences. In fact, it’s not really a people-centred social media platform at all, more a content-sharing medium. It’s content that’s the focus with people as content-providers rather than “friends” or “business contacts”.

Google+ seems to be aiming to become an operating system that has social built into it, reducing the cost of social information to almost nothing. Like its cousin, Android, it will dominate mobile devices and add a layer of social connections to all communications technology.

I hear people complain that their business and personal contacts “aren’t there”. Whether they are there or not (and many of them probably are!), Google has a Profile for them so they might as well manage it actively and, because it is integrated with other Google applications, a Google+ Profile has benefits inside and outside, Google+.

Using Google+ and Gmail together provides you with an astonishingly powerful relationship management system. It ensures that your business shows up on Google Local and Google Maps, improves the online visibility of your brand and facilitates user reviews.

Google is now giving brands free space on one of the most valuable pages in the world: the search engine results page. For almost every brand, their own name is the most valuable search keyword they have. Try it now: key in “John Lewis” on Google and, next to the familiar ten blue links on the left, you’ll see the brand’s latest post on Google+, complete with a timestamp that demonstrates freshness and relevance.

And next to it? A button more prominent than any link on the page enticing users to “Follow” the brand on Google+. A click on that link begins a relationship that is worth many times over the value of the search itself. Implicitly, Google has made a new offer to every brand: set up a page on Google+ and you can own a huge and prominent PR space on your search results page.

The Google Authorship feature allows you to claim validated ownership of all the content you publish on the Web. This is done by linking your Google+ account with the content you publish. If you have used Google Authorship to mark your online articles and posts, those posts come up in a search results along with your Profile picture and a “More by Author” link. This makes the content look more authentic and personalised, improves the visibility of both the author and the business and leads to improved SEO.

Google’s AuthorRank is shaking up inbound marketing and SEO. The concept of AuthorRank is that the reputation and influence of content creators seriously impacts the ranking of search results. AuthorRank does not negate the importance of PageRank but it utilises social signals to make search engine results smarter — taking into account the social influence of content and weeding out spam and unoriginal content from top search rankings.

Google+ growth curve

The incredible growth of Google+ (Credit: Technorati.com)

To fare well under Google AuthorRank, you and your organisation should be active on Google+. Each time someone gives your content a +1, it gets a stamp of approval — increasing its reach and magnifying your opportunities for higher rates of traffic and lead generation. Capitalise on these opportunities by using Google Authorship to index all your original content.

Thomas Power (+Thomas Power) has postulated that Circle Relationship Management (CRM) will emerge and become a part of the business vernacular. A business organises their customer base by circles of interest, circles of revenue, circles of location, circles of demographic values. These circles are all interconnected and maintained by users themselves, the company’s data systems and Google’s social graph layered over search to build a rich understanding of the client base.

So what can Google+ do for you and your business? To get your business page on Google Maps, you used to have to register your business with Google Places. Now it’s all about Google+ Local Pages. Not only is it integrated with Google Maps but it’s integrated directly within the search engine results pages (SERPS).

Use Google+ Authorship as I mentioned earlier. Review your Circles and devise a way for moving people in your Circles closer to you as they recognise and interact with you. Set up your Circles so that they reflect closeness and value in a series of steps.

Join Communities and, as you get to know them, set up one or more of your own. Mine have other Moderators so that, if I miss a day or two, someone will step in and manage the Community.

If you want to stay in touch with apps that are helping to change social into social business, you can join one of my Communities here.