Are You Getting The Most Out Of Your Social Network?
I hear them all the time; I don’t get Social Networking. I have a Facebook account but what good is it? These things just waste time. I don’t have time to Tweet. Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, how do you choose?
First an admission. My name is Randy and I use social networks. What does that mean? It means I am no longer just a casual Facebooker. It means I actually use social networking tools as business tools. This isn’t new. Business professionals have been networking for generations. Formally and informally people have been using their connections to benefit their business. All the social networking tools have just moved this into the digital age. I no longer have to physically interact with someone to make contact. I can be in front of my network multiple times a day while still in my office, or sitting on a beach. This in no way replaces personal interaction. Face to face meetings are, and always will be, the best way to build relationships. Social networking allows me to enhance these relationships very efficiently. It allows me to be in front of my networks and interacting, in at least a limited way, with these people far more often than is possible in the physical realm.
I won’t get into a discussion here as to weather or not social networking is a beneficial activity. I will assume if you are still reading that you have already come to that conclusion on your own.
So now to the heart of the discussion. How does one “get the most out of your social networking”? Like most other things I have experienced in life I find the old saying to be true: “what you get out is directly proportionate to what you put in”. This means I have to be proactive. If I want people to pay attention to me I have to be relevant. I have to post comments that are consistent with the image I want to portray. But one of the keys in this statement is that I do have to post comments. Just like in the physical realm, people are attracted to people who are interesting to them. So if you want to build a network of business professionals then post interesting comments on business. Talk about your business world.
The other key is that developing a good social network takes work. If you are developing a social network in the physical realm, you have to get out and meet people. You have to interact. It is the same in the digital realm. There are some things you have to do. I have already discussed the importance of posting regularly but that is just the obvious part. You also have to work at building your network. You need to invest time. LinkedIn has done a good job of helping us do this. You will notice they have 1st, 2nd and 3rd degree connections. Look at the connections of your connections (2nd degree). Invite people who interest you to connect. The most obvious of these are the people you already know but are not connected to already. You can of course also do this with Facebook and Twitter.
The bottom line is that being a great networker takes work in both the real world and the digital word. So if you want the benefits of having a great network then you have to put in the time and effort to build one. The other tricks and tools for building your network will be another blog. Hopefully this one just got you thinking.
Always Finish The Deal
I have been reminded lately of the importance of finishing the deal. Any deal. In the eloquent words of Yogi Berra, “It isn’t over until it’s over”. Or put another way, the deals not done until it’s done.
Too often people get a deal agreed to without having it formalized and then proceed as if the deal exists. Make no mistake; until you have the deal defined and agreed to in writing it can, and will, change.
Time has a way of effecting people’s perspective. Views on what is fair, what is enough, who should pay for what, what should be interest bearing, who should have control, all change regularly. They are based on perspective. It isn’t that anyone is trying to cheat anyone or trying to squeeze out more money. Although these things do happen, it is usually just that at least one persons perspective has changed.
When two parties are focused on getting a deal done, their focus is different than it may be in conducting day-to-day business. There is an energy that contributes goes in to working a deal that is gone once the dance is over. Just this week I have seen three examples of people struggling with what feel like changes to a deal that was supposedly agreed to some time ago. The challenge in each case is that the deals were never actually formalized.
My point in all this is that whoever is driving the deal needs to keep their foot on the gas until all the paperwork is in place. The best time to get agreement on paper is while everyone involved is still in their “let’s make a deal” mind set.
Will There Be A Backlash In Alberta Politics?
Alberta has seen two big election surprises this year. First Naheed Nenshi is elected Mayor of Calgary and then Alison Redford wins the election as leader of the Alberta PC party, which automatically made her the provinces premier. Neither of these candidates were favored going in to the election. So, what happened? How did these two long shots both capture unexpected wins?
One of the things these two candidates had in common was that Stephen Carter was their strategic advisor. The tactics he employed were brilliant. For years pundants have been talking about social media playing a larger part in politics. The belief was that if you could engage voters through social media you could energize a segment of voters who had never before become involved in the process. The thought was that the reason these voters had not been involved to date was that conventional politics didn’t resonate with either their needs or their interests. So they tuned out. The challenge was how do you get them to listen to your messages. Many analysts have credited the Obama campaign with employing tactics that successfully engaged this group of voters. In Alberta however this social networking engagement theory was just that, a theory. We had never seen it actually make a measurable difference in a campaign. That all changed with the Nenshi win in Calgary.
Although the Redford campaign employed the same effective use of social media they also employed another successful tactic that no one saw coming. They believed they couldn’t win the party election within the conventional party members so they aimed their campaign messages at non-party members. They engaged people who had never been members of the PC party and probably never will be again. The campaign message was so good these people actually joined a party they would not normally support just to get Redford elected as the party leader and thereby the provincial Premier.
What was the same in both of these campaigns is that engaging voters who were not being addressed by any of the other candidates won the elections. In both cases the strategy worked brilliantly.
What isn’t known is what the final result of this strategy may be. I am sure a large group of people woke up in Calgary the morning after the election and asked; “We elected who?” Similarly many members of the PC party of Alberta are asking themselves the same question.
So we know how these campaigns were successful in getting their candidates elected. The challenge now becomes how do they hold power. The single biggest voting block in all areas is still the Baby Boomers. These Boomers are not the social media generation and in the case of the Alberta PC party are the group who to a large extend just stayed home rather than voting in this recent leadership campaign. But if these Boomers aren’t happy with the results there could be a backlash the size of a tsunami. You can engage whatever groups you want but these boomers still make up a huge majority if they decide to take action.
I spent this past weekend at Kananaskis golfing with the Edmonton management team of one of my clients. There were 16 of us in the group. The experience brought back many memories of the great times spent on get-aways with the Creative Door management team.
These experiences are invaluable team building times. The small talk and jokes on and off the golf course bond the participants and build comfort as well as trust levels. It is also amazing how much business talk takes place in a non business setting. From a cost justification perspective the business issues resolved by putting this group together for two and a half days would easily pay any expense incurred by the company. The dividends paid in the future will be immeasurable.
The experience was new for this company but they are already talking about doing it again. They also have a high level national management team that will no doubt benefit from similar experiences. This trip was purely recreationally focused. My experience is that when you add focused business meetings to the agenda the benefits to both the company and the individuals grow exponentially.
I want to congratulate Bee Clean on their first successful business retreat and thank them for honoring me by including me in the group.
KPMG hosted a meeting in Edmonton last week with Brett Wilson
of CBC’s The Dragon’s Den
fame. A group of about twenty business leaders were invited to meet Brett over lunch at the Royal Mayfair Golf Club. I would like to thank Tony Bencivenga for my invitation.
I am a fan of The Dragon’s Den and have particularly liked Brett since his first appearance on the show. He appears to be a down to earth businessman who mixes an astute mind with common sense. I’ve respected the reason’s he has used to fund certain projects on the show as well as his willingness to stand alone amongst the other Dragon’s when his principles dictated he was doing the right thing.
Having met him I was even more impressed. He really is the epitome of “what you see is what you get”. Brett is a bright, energetic, charismatic businessman who really believes that being successful in business and being a good steward of the world can not only co-exist but that they may actually be symbiotic. He talked about Marketing, Entrepreneurialism and Philanthropy as going hand in hand. It is his personal mission to see these three subjects as core courses in all post-secondary education programs.
A shining example of Brett’s actions matching what he talks about is his investment in The 7 Virtues
. Barb Stresemann
, the founder of The 7 Virtues, accompanied Brett at the lunch and told the story of the company. Barb is a fantastic woman. Her company is truly an amazing story of what can happen when you combine a bright energetic entrepreneur with a passionate cause.
Brett is an engaging speaker, a principled entrepreneur and a great man. I enjoyed our time together and hope to spend some more time with him in the future.
Wrong is wrong no matter how you spin it. I don’t believe that unethical business practices are ever justified. I am on the board of a private Edmonton company that is being attacked by a union. I know the word attacked is very strong and some readers are going to automatically think I am just a “union bashing” Capitalist.
While anyone who knows me will tell you I am definitely a proud capitalist, that does not automatically mean I am anti-union. In some cases I believe unions are beneficial to their membership and can form an important part of a company’s culture. For example, unions can at times be an important communications link within an organization. In this company however that is not the case. I do not believe the union would bring anything constructive or beneficial to the table within this organization.
The company is a family owned business with a 35 year track record of taking care of their people and growing through their employees. This growth has been so successful that they are the acknowledged market leaders in their particular business sector. That success is what has put them on the radar screen of the union. There is no unfairly treated workforce, no history of abusive work practices and no line up of workers pleading for help. This is a good company filled with great people who just happen to be extremely good at what they do. Their success means they now employee a large number of people and it is that labor role that is attracting the union. The union has not been called in to fix some great wrong or to defend some poor weak group that needs a voice. The union’s motives are clear and simple. They see a great potential of dues, income, money!
This particular union has a well-documented track record of moving across North America using media smear campaigns against the employer and intimidation tactics against the workers to further their own success. In this case the union is smearing the name of a good company with no regard for what is right or wrong or who might be getting hurt. The family that has proudly grown this company for generations feel like they are being personally attacked and they have a lot of trouble understanding why. The basic principles of providing a quality product and offering superior customer service to customers with whom you build a relationship and respecting and take caring for the people who deliver these services mean nothing to this union. They will say anything and do anything to achieve their own goals and who they are doing it to or what the truth is seems to be irrelevant.
So the court documents are being filed and the lawsuits are piling up. This reputable Edmonton company finds itself in full defense mode. New skills are being learned about how to proactively defend yourself from an unwarranted and unfair attack. The owners of the business feel attacked, senior management is angry and the front line workers are scared and confused. But to the union it’s just business.
It is disgusting that this can occur in our business community. Wrong is wrong no matter how you spin it.