Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Growing a Social Network

There's currently so much hyper-ventilation surrounding "social software" and Web 2.0 that it's easy to lose sight of the underlying humanity. I may as well say it clearly: social sites extend and accelerate our ability to participate in a greater number of communities than we would have otherwise experienced but they don't fundamentally change how we should treat each other. The suggestion that an online ID is a license to behave badly and without consequences is neither a recipe for inner peace nor social success.

Treating people properly, ala Dale Carnegie's How to win Friends and Influence People (no matter how badly they may behave) counts for a lot.

So, what actually steps can you use to strengthen and grow a social network? Here is a short check list -
Gather people into your network that have a shared interest, history, objective. One of my favorites is 11 Friends in Germany.
Born out of the friendship of two crazed soccer fans who met on the grandstand of the Bielefeld stadium, it's no surprise 11 Freunde (11 Friends) reads more like a love letter than a typical sports magazine.

Don't just sit there - make a contribution. Take a chance, ask a question, leave a comment, add a post - this is the fertilizer in your network garden.
Now do it again, apply some care and feeding to your network - this is where a watering can comes in handy! Keep in regular touch with group members(it takes more than a Christmas letter).
Actively connect others within your network, after all that's what this is all about! Hey, now that you have a new suite of social skills don't assume that everyone has achieved the same level of enlightenment! Be an enabler, make introductions, you'll be surprised how well your network responds.
Ask for feedack, solicit help. I clearly remember the first time I left a comment on a website - just a "thank you" for creating the resource. I was astonished to get a personal response from the webmaster saying how much they appreciated my note and how rare it was to have visitors acknowledge their work.

So, there it is. A few obvious ideas to make the planet a little better. Finally it goes without saying that these comments DO NOT cover Nigerian Banking offers, "lucky" chain letters, sure thing penny stocks etc.; for these I hope there's a very special corner in hell.

Monday, November 06, 2006


You are reading this on a computer monitor but it is a little like a message in a bottle. We are connected to each other only in the sense that I threw this note into a virtual tide for anyone to read and you have been kind enough to open it. Were we ever to meet we would both ask - where do you come from, how did you get here, and always, what do you look like? (you KNOW it, the differences are the spice!)

Yet we are already connected. Long ago we had the same parents, uncles and aunts - in many ways it was not that long ago at all! Within each of us, within every cell, there's a little marker that tells who you are, where you come from.

IBM and National Geographic have teamed to gather sufficient information over a five year project to map out the migration details of our ancestors as they explored every corner of the Earth. You can contribute your DNA to this project if you wish.



Sunday, November 05, 2006

Hoovers Connect - Business to Business Social Networks

Hoovers and Visible Path have just released a beta version of Hoovers Connect. This joint effort extends the current trend of attempting to monetize SNA by using it primarily for Sales enablement. It will be very interesting to see how this turns out. The barriers to success seem fairly formidable - on the one hand it is necessary to install software that monitors email traffic patterns (from/to, not content); on the other hand network participants are expected to accept communications from "trusted" third parties... and you can expect a majority of these to be sales related. Just what the doctor ordered - more sales calls!?

To be fair, I am a strong advocate for Referral Based Selling. Both in theory and practice the number one rule of sales is "people don't buy from people they don't trust!" so that building a network of trusted contacts can make the difference between being just OK, and being great. Whether this can be achieved through mining email contacts is an open question.

Ideally I'd love to see more of Web 2.0's core ideas incorporated into these models, particularly with respect to user-generated and mediated content. I believe there would be a much greater level of participation in these networks if the outbound communication was framed as a request for help - "help us create a product that will meet your most demanding needs" - rather than "I know you through Ferris when can we meet?"

Reference Links
Hoovers Connect Beta
Visible Path