Economist special report on social networking

If you’re a consultant, the place to make money is just before an idea / process / technology goes mainstream. Too early and you risk been seen as a nutcase. Too late are you get lost in the chorus of ‘me too’.

The best method of gauging when a technology idea is going mainstream is the Economist Magazine. When they publish an article about an emerging idea / technology, they’re doing it on behalf of their readers – the ‘informed mainstream, including the decision makers that you’ll be pitching you proposal based on that technology to. So far , they’ve called it right about the Internet, Agile Projects, Open Source and Cloud computing.

So, for all that have been calling for the last 18 months that ‘Social Networking is going mainstream’ , the Economist has published a special report on the issue.

Well worth a read, even if you think you know it all about Social Networking already.

Dear Mr LinkedIn, will you show me yours if I show you mine?

I like LInkedIn a lot, and have written about the business social networking tool before, so I’m not going to repeat myself.

There is one small change I’d like them to make – you have only the black or white option of either showing , or hiding your connections.

I think there should be a third option: ‘Show mine if you show me yours’. I’ve only met a handful of people that hide their connections; I’m still happy to connect to them – I typically scan my LinkedIn list when asked to recommend people. But there’s no incentive for them to open their list – they get a free ride no matter what they choose.

It may be co-incidence, but all of the people with hidden connections make their living from their professional network (e.g. recruiters, high end management consultants).

What do you think? Are these people being business savvy, or just parasites stealing our networking time?

Business Bloggers – Pre Awards Meetup – Open to all

At what other awards could you mingle with the Oscar nominees before the event? See them preparing the acceptance speeches, display their pre-show nerves and ask them for tips on the secret of their success? At the Irish Blog Awards – Business Blogger Meetup next Saturday March 1st , of course.

Details : The blog awards kick off at 7.30pm. So lets do it one hour earlier at 6.30pm. Same venue , Alexander Hotel, has a nice big foyer area. There’s no food at the awards themselves , but the hotel does a waiter service in the lobby if you’re just up ‘from the country’. Just look out for me (I’ve been told I look like my photo on the top right. Which is not a good thing) , or any of the nominees (although I suspect Rowan and Michele aren’t as cartoonish in real life).

You don’t have to be a nominee to come along. Just come along and talk about what has worked for you as a Business Blogger.

Irish Blog Awards Sponsor

Update: I would put good money on Kieran from Ice Cream Ireland turning up in full ice-cream-man gear. Click here to encourage him. It does solve the problem of ‘you-dont-really-look-like-your-photo’.

Denise Fay (Achieve Marketing) – the latest Irish Business Blogger

Denise Fay of Achieve Marketing is finally blogging over at achievemarketing.ie. The guide to Business Blogging in Ireland is a direct result of Denise’s Marketing Session at the Ballymascanlon Hotel, Dundalk, but even so , it’s taken 6 months of intimidation sorry encouragement since the Barcamp Belfast meetup to get Denise to this point (she insists on using her time to look after customers).

A couple of things that I’ve learnt if you want to get people in your business network blogging:

    1. Everybody wants the site traffic, but not everybody can / wants to make the effort. Not everybody is suited to writing stuff (but then again, they’re probably a natural at professional networking). Denise writes press releases already , so not only does she have interesting stories to tell, but she has those stories already written down.
    2. Blogging probably seems natural to you now, but you forget how much you’ve learned. Set aside some time to go through the basics with your victim. 1 hr should be enough if you’ve done the ground work (i.e. have wordpress already setup). Get a blogpost out within the first 10 minutes (to show how easy it is). Then work your way through the other tabs in wordpress. Concepts (like categories, linking , trackbacks, url structure) will naturally flow in the conversation.
    3. I was lucky that Denise had already setup Google Analytics for some of her clients. Even so the latest version of wordpress makes setting up analytics easy , and those charts are so damn addictive!
    4. I found that a combination of having the new blog (Achieve Marketing) and my one (People and Technology) open at the same , and flicking between the the old and new blogs worked well. Some stuff like themes, archived blogposts, spam prevention is easier to understand on a blog that’s been in use for a while.

To set the background, Denise is very knowledgable about her area (Marketing), has people to get the techie stuff done and definitely knows more about the web than she admits, but would in no way be classed as a ‘techie’!

Business Blogging in Ireland – Who, What , When, Where and Why

At yesterday’s Plato marketing training event, the topic of business blogging came up. Seems like our 100,000+ unique visitors is nothing in the blogging world, but most Small to Medium Irish Business (SME’s) would kill for that kind of traffic. So since I’m an ‘expert’ (and when exactly did that happen ?!) here’s the 10 minute guide to get your business on it’s way.

Plato rules presume that member companies remain confidential (until they choose to break cover!). So, if you want to leave a comment below (feel free to link back to your website) I’ll be happy to apply the advice below to your business. I don’t sell blogging advice (although there is a business idea!) – more Irish Business Bloggers there are the better (all, hopefully, linking from their websites back to here!)

What is blogging?

  • A Blog is a new way of doing that same old things. You already network, talk (and listen!) to your customers and are passionate about publicising the thing you love (your business idea). A Blog just helps you do the same things online.
  • A Blog is the easiest way to update a website. If you can email (remember how scary that used to be?) you can blog. And yes, I can give examples to back that one up. And that’s you updating it, not paying some web design company to do it.
  • A Blog is the quickest way to get a good website. If you haven’t a website, a blog is the quickest way to get one. It does most of the Vodoo Search Engine stuff out of the box. Likewise, a blog can easily added to your existing website.
  • A Blog is an online Diary. Think one of those reality TV shows. But about your business. And without Jade Goody in it. There is a reason that ‘Big Brother’ and ‘Blogs’ score highest in the ratings – they’re all about people. Remember ; People don’t buy your business, they buy you.
  • A Blog lets you have conversations with your customers. It allows customers to say what they think about you on your website.Scary? Yes. But not as scary as not hearing what they are saying about you.Yes you can delete offensive comments, but I’ve only had to remove 2 out of 700 comments in the last 3 years.

The Who, What, When , Where and Why of Irish Business Blogging

Who should blog

  • You, as the owner of your business. If you have people who are equally passionate, then (a) you’re very lucky and (b) you should let them write as well. But chances are, it’s going to be you.
  • Blogging works very well for people in the professional services area. There are hundreds of people in IT, but blogging lets me stand out and gives me credibility.
  • I’m confident (and can give examples) of ways of how Hotels and Tourism, Shops and Engineering Companies can blog successfully), but it’s a little be fuzzier (i.e. not direcly linked to my personal experience)
What should they talk about

  • Talk about what you love – your business. But remember who you’re talking to; your customers, and people who will either link to you online, or recommend you to new customers.
  • I find a personal style works best. We’ve all seen the bland corporate website and we don’t believe them. Speak personally of your experience.
  • Set your own red lines, and respect them. I don’t blog about my personal life (or lack of it!). I don’t reveal customer details. But outside of that, if it’s interesting, I’ll talk about anything it.
When (or how much time is involved)

  • Like all marketing , you’re in this for the long haul. It’s important that you measure using Google Analytics (free). You’ll be surprised at what works and what doesn’t.
  • Blogging is cheap in money but expensive in your time. I reckon about 1hr per week for a post like this one, sometimes more, sometimes less.
  • Don’t forget the extra time involved in publicising your blog; leaving useful comments / links on other sites back to yours. But you’d be doing this anyway as you surf the web.
Where do people find out about your business /blog

  • Those comments on other (relevent) sites and more popular blogs link back to yours. If somebody likes your comment, then they will often come back to your blog.Remember, useful comments not spam! – your comment /link should always add to the site you are leaving them on.
  • Google loves blogs, because of all those incoming links.
  • The links on the top left of the page allow you to subscribe to this blog as if it were an email newsletter. Some people like this. Most people prefer RSS; Like an email newsletter RSS notifies you of new content but, RSS gives you a summary of all the blogs you are interested in. And it doesn’t clog up your inbox. I use Google Reader, but there is plenty of choice out there.
Why

  • Because you’d like more business. You do want more business, right? The only question: ‘is blogging the best use of my time?’
How
Two main choices, the second one being better as it gives you more choice.

  • Sign up for a free blogging account at Blogger.com (backed by Google)
  • Ask your (existing / new) web host for the following. It should cost a lot less then Eur500 , including the first year’s hosting.

‘I’d like WordPress (free) setup on my website at www.mywebsitename/blog. Use one of the standard templates. Please add Google Analytics (free) to the this template. Please explain where I can get the number (from Google) that you will need for the analytics. When finished let me know the address, username and password to log into my blog.

Remember, blogging is cheap to try out (in money , if not in your time) . It’s still new enough to forgive people who make mistakes. Dive in , give it a go, and when (not if) you learn something new, tell me about it.

And after all that, you couldn’t be bothered blogging?
Try LinkedIn.com. As a business networking tool , it’s excellent, with more Irish business contacts than anywhere else.

Irish Business Networking – Investnet.ie – better than OpenCoffee, Barcamp or BNI?

Derek Organ left me a comment about the new Investnet site. Investnet run the successful (offline, Dublin based) Wireless Wednesday and First Tuesday networking events. In terms of cold financial payback, the latter is the most successful IT-Business networking event(s) that I’ve taken part in. Now all these networks are available online, in a Facebook / LinkedIn style site.

Good to see an Irish Organisation ‘get’ the networking possibilities that Web2.0 brings.

InvestNet Ireland Logo
Also came up in conversation at Barcamp BelfastBusiness Networking International (BNI). Great if you do lots of little sales – e.g. Accountants, Solicitors, IT shops , as the aim is do to cross referrals between close, but not competing , companies.

I’ll (finally) get to OpenCoffee Dublin tomorrow (Thurs 5th July). Will it be better for networking than Investnet, Barcamp or BNI?

Plato – more networking , people not computers

It’s a co-incidence of timing , but a reminder that there are many more meetups than just Barcamp (Dublin Event is on this Saturday).

Plato North West (Louth – Newry and Mourne) launched last night – thanks to Coca-Cola concentrates in Drogheda for hosting.
Plato Ireland Logo

Plato is a self help group for small business owners. (‘Hello , my name is Paul and I’m self-employed’). All the people involved are looking to grow their business. What Plato offers includes:

  • A support group of other people in similar situations that will meet regularly over the next months.
  • Networking opportunties , both within the group, cross border , and with other Plato groups (e.g Dublin, Cork and South East).
  • Clusters of companies in related sectors that would benefit from linking.
  • A struture to plan business expansion and a peer review to ensure you execute the plan.

Most of the details of the meetings are confidential , but I’m (happily) surprised at the cross section of companies involved. External companies can be invited in by consensus of the group.

Related posts: How to network , people not computers.

How to network (people, not computers)

If you’re blogging, you’re interested in meeting people. Partly on a genuine personal level, partly on a mercenary ‘you scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours’.

Nothing wrong with that – it’s no good being the best at what you do if nobody knows about it. This list from Tricia Murphy’s Website (articles – no blog) shows how to network without feeling like a politician. I’d disagree with number 3, but the rest seem common sense.

1. Keep in mind that networking is about being genuine and building trustful and mutually beneficial relationships.
2. Tell people how they can help you, if they don’t know, they can’t help!
3. Send handwritten thank you notes, in an electronic world it makes a great impression!!
4. Keep people in the loop – let your sources hear how they have been of help FROM you!!
5. Stay in touch when you need nothing from the other person.
6. Ask someone you know to introduce you to someone you particularly want to meet.
7. Lead by example – pass on information, introduce people and be known as the connector, a valuable place in any network.
8. Keep an open mind when meeting new people – you never know who you need to meet until you have met them!
9. Be involved – be seen on the scene.
10. Nurture your network it will nurture you!!

Thanks to Tom for the (indirect) link to this via the Events Day conference.

Bar room brawl forecast for the Irish Blog Awards …

Seems that both Michele and Tom will be at the Irish Blog Awards (but not the Barcamp in Waterford this Saturday). Tom’s not happy with his hosting. Make that Tom is very unhappy with the hosting. Will it all end in a barroom brawl in the basement of the Alexendar hotel?
My own opinion is that all hosting contracts, like politics, end in tears. I’ve sympathy with Tom , having recently been in a similar situation. In my case , I have nobody to blame but myself:

  • I should have backed up my files if they were that important to me.
  • You get what you pay for. In my case , I was on shared hosting for next to nothing. I was unhappy , but not surprised when it fell over.

Overall , I can understand , but I’m slightly disappointed with Tom. He’s the closest thing we have to an ‘A-List blogger’. With that power comes responsibility – I wouldn’t diss a companies hard-won reputation (even though they may deserve it) without thinking over ‘what could I have done better’)
Note, I don’t host with Blackknight and have no connection to them.