Last night I completed a twelve hour round trip to Manchester after speaking at a conference, and finished my journey at Guildford station around 8.30pm.
I popped into M&S (Marks & Spencer) Food at the station, and along with about ten other people, tried to quickly grab something to eat for dinner. As we queued to pay, I noticed that there were only two people on duty, despite there being six check-out points. The two members of staff were positioned next to each other at adjacent positions.
Furthest away from me there was a polite, friendly, courteous and helpful young lady serving a customer, and next to her was a tall and confident young man who was inviting only customers who were paying with a card to come forward because he had no change. People called out to enquire what the minimum payment was that he could take on a card, but out of everyone queuing up, nobody was paying with plastic. So he just stood there.
So we all had to wait for the young lady – who seemed to have plenty of cash in the drawer of her till. Now, I know what you’re thinking… because I was thinking the same.
When it was my turn, my items came to a total of £10.11. I handed over a twenty pound note, apologised that I had nothing smaller and asked if she was able to spare the change. “Yes thank you” she assured me with a smile.
“Could your colleague possibly borrow some change so that these other customers can be served?” I enquired.
“Oh, we’re not allowed to do that. There are lots of rules.”
“It sounds like simple common-sense to me” I added helpfully.
“We’re not allowed that either” came her reply with a friendly wink.
I smiled back, thanked her and went on my way as she added a cheery “Have a nice evening Sir.”
In the great scheme of things, this isn't a particularly remarkable story, but a simple demonstration of how some businesses put rules before common-sense solutions to help customers. But what is remarkable and exciting, is that in this day and age, through Social Media and blogging we can share folly like this with other people and hopefully prompt a change in a company’s approach to customer service.
I work with both large and small businesses to help them to increase sales through LinkedIn and other Social Media. Some industries really struggle with Social Media, and are literally terrified of what might happen when they start using it to truly engage with today’s Internet-savvy consumers. Some industries have other reasons to be cautious because they also have to consider regulation and compliance.
The common denominator amongst these businesses is that for the most part, they see Social Media as a broadcast tool – to communicate messages, to sell, to promote and to articulate marketing messages. What they often ignore or forget is the massive potential to be gained by using Social Media to listen to customers rather than to talk at them. But often they don’t listen – or won’t as the case may be.
Quite recently, a global corporate client (who wasn't in a regulated industry) told me that whilst they are keen to use Social Media, they consider communications from customers who are using Social Media to be less important or significant than those who communicate with them through traditional communication tools such as the telephone, letters and email. In fact, “we deliberately ignore customers who contact us via Twitter”.
I wanted to be clear on this and checked:
“So you choose to ignore customers who want to engage with you through Twitter, but you respond if they contact you through more traditional means?”
“Yes” was the answer.
Their reasoning turned out to be that they felt Twitter to be a trivial and less serious form of communication. Perhaps I’m biased, but something tells me that this just isn't tenable in this day and age. Am I wrong?
But what these companies are conveniently forgetting is that their customers on Twitter and elsewhere are far more concerned about customer service than the means by which they communicate, and are using Social Media to talk about them, their brand, their products and their service out loud and it would seem behind their backs. And yes, they use Social Media to talk about brands and companies when they do things well too.
So not only are these companies failing to engage with customers at a human level, but they are missing out on hearing feedback, ideas, and valuable pearls of wisdom that might make their business or customer proposition even better. In short, whether people use Twitter or Facebook or LinkedIn, Google+ or something else, Social Media is merely software. Behind every communication to a company or brand or organisation – however that communication may be articulated, is a real person – a customer or potential customer who just wants better service. Nothing more.
I tell you this story of an otherwise uninteresting trip to M&S Food, because I can. You may have experienced something similar and I’d be interested in hearing about it. But the question has to be, does M&S and other big brands want to hear about it, so that they can do something about it, or is Social Media just an irritant that they wish would go away?
Social Media works both ways. Yes, there are fantastic and exciting tools to broadcast information to customers, but the price to pay for having powerful broadcast tools is that customers will also use them to tell you their feelings about your product or service. And they can shout a lot louder than you can online.
If brands say they are serious about using Social Media to talk to customers, then they also have to be serious about using it to listen to customers too.
By Philip Calvert
There are a very small number of Internet experts whose blogs and material I read consistently and conscientiously. One of them, Internet Psychologist Graham Jones also has an unswerving belief in posting regularly – several times a day if possible.
You’d think that blogging on a daily basis is a tough ask - let alone posting quality material which people look forward to reading, but Graham achieves it and has done so for a long period of time.
And Graham’s right; when I manage to post regularly I get more site visits, more enquiries and more speaker bookings. I appear higher in Google results for certain keywords and I see an unexpected knock on effect with more views on my LinkedIn profile page – which in itself leads to more connections.
Some would argue there is quite enough noise on the Internet as it is without people being encouraged to blog as often as possible. Many people believe that information overload on the Internet is a big problem because it makes it harder for people to find and filter what they are looking for.
Whatever way you look at it, the Internet is a cacophony of noise – much of it valuable and pleasant to ‘listen’ to – and much of it of little or no value. The competition for who can be the loudest online is at fever pitch.
So what an agreeable, shocking yet satisfying surprise it was recently to walk into a book shop in London, to be met by complete silence. Yes, complete and utter silence – broken only by my footsteps on the wooden floor and the occasional beep beep of the shop assistant tapping items into the till.
There was no background music, no roaring heater over the door, no incessant chit chat, no traffic noise coming through from outside – just silence. When the assistant said ‘Good morning’ to me, I all but whispered my reply and made a conscious effort to move around the shop more quietly in reverence.
And it wasn’t that this was a traditional old London book shop with roots going back hundreds of years; this was a modern, striking, brightly painted (white everywhere), friendly, attractive and welcoming store. After the initial shock of the soundless environment contrasting with the daily explosion of noise of a London street, the shop became more and more appealing, and before I knew it I’d spent forty minutes inside.
In fact, I’d only gone in it to buy a birthday card (I could see a rack of them through the window), but ended up purchasing two books. When I went to pay at the till, it was all I could do to stop myself asking the assistant if she wanted the radio on to break the silence, but somehow that felt silly.
Soon I was back out on the street, once again to be wrapped in a familiar but uncomfortable blanket of noise, but my moment of stillness and hush stayed with me for the rest of the day. I can’t wait to go back again.
As I write, it’s 7.18am on Monday morning and a new week is starting. I can see people I know tweeting feverishly about this and that, about footballers biting people, reflections on the Boston and London Marathons, photos of their early morning dog walk, train delays on the way into London, conferences that are just about to start, client meetings that they are looking forward to, news, more news, job advertisements, retweets from celebrities – and more and more and more noise.
My inbox is filling up with links to Blog posts, Google+ posters are gushing wisdom on every topic under the sun, and people on LinkedIn are sharing content as though today was our last day on Earth. And that’s just the potentially useful material; scattered throughout it is a wealth of adverts and spam and junk, which whilst it might be of value to some people, is of no value to me.
And in reality I’m no better. It won’t be long before this Blog post will be winging its way around the Internet, in the hope that someone will find it useful during their day. In addition to my website, it will be tweeted, posted on LinkedIn, added on Google+ and it will also find its way onto my Facebook page and elsewhere no doubt.
I’m sure we’ve all looked at Twitter or Facebook or LinkedIn and other sites, and just occasionally wondered how people have the time to post, not just daily but seemingly every minute of every day. Whilst Graham Jones often posts several times a day, his material has a theme, has focus and has value. And he knows when it’s better to be quiet and to say nothing – to be silent.
The fact that we have access to multiple steams of information via the medium of the Internet is something to be treasured and valued. Experts, authors, commentators, business owners and people with value to add have a wonderful and powerful outlet with which to communicate. But just occasionally, the person who shouts the loudest is not always heard. There is value in silence and reflection.
Since my wonderful experience in the book shop, I for one will be making more of an effort to be conscious of whether the material that I post just adds more noise to people’s day or whether it adds value to it.
By Philip Calvert
Ask LifeTalk - a new way to find an IFA or financial adviser
This week we launched a project where we use elements of social media to help people find a financial adviser or IFA (Independent Financial Adviser). It's called Ask LifeTalk and can be found at www.asklifetalk.com
Using the Internet to search, find and choose a financial adviser to help with your financial planning, financial products (e.g. pensions, investments, life assurance etc) and other personal finance questions can sometimes be a bit ‘hit and miss’. You often end up in an online directory of financial advisers, with little to differentiate one from another. "They all look the same - how do I choose someone and how do I know that I'll get on with them?"
is all too common a comment.
We launched Ask LifeTalk as a new way to find, assess and, if you wish, make contact with professional financial advisers. Call us old fashioned, but it’s based on the idea that ‘people buy people’.
Consumers can use the site to ask a question (in confidence) about personal finances, and financial advisers from the LifeTalk network of 9,000 professionals will answer it by offering you generic observations, remarks and comments – entirely free. And although people regularly use open forums on well-known money websites to ask personal finance questions, our research suggested that a lot of people would like to use the Internet but would rather have a layer of privacy. So we built that in too.
It’s likely that you’ll personally prefer one or more answers over the others, so you may then want to find out more about a particular adviser by checking out their profile page on the LifeTalk website. That way you’ll get to know them a little better and discover more about them, their experience, qualifications and expertise. We're also giving advisers a website badge which shows how many questions they've answered and how many of them have been 'Liked'.
If you feel that you’ll ‘click’ with a particular financial adviser, you’ll probably want to make contact to see how their services work and how they can help you.
We're encouraging people to 'Like' and favourite particular answers to their questions, and when they do, a tweet goes out on Twitter. It's a public recognition of the effort the adviser put in to helping - plus the tweet will also attract other financial advisers to make use of the site. A tweet also goes out when someone asks a question - again encouraging more advisers to sign up.
We're very excited about the project, because although the Internet is the place we all go to find service providers, it's vital that the 'people buy people' element is included if we are to really gel with service professionals and ultimately build trust.
By Philip Calvert
My wife relaxing at a property we found through Social Media
I’m very much looking forward to speaking at the International Conference on Travel Technology India
in June next year.
Hosted by the Association of Travel Trade Organizations India, the event is a first-of-its-kind travel and technology conference
in the country, and will examine how the travel industry there can leverage Social Media and Internet technology. I am delighted that the organisers asked me to speak at the event.
The idea behind the three days, is to help hotels and tour operators to learn new and innovative ways to market, sell and generate business through the Internet. It will also assist tour operators and travel agents to adapt to new trends online, and also act as a platform for Travel Technology companies who have developed new software and mobile applications to showcase their products and innovations.
It’s clear to anyone how technology is changing the travel industry – particularly in terms of how we find, assess and book long and short breaks locally and overseas. Just a few years ago, finding a holiday destination could take many hours sitting in a characterless travel agent’s office in your local high street. Choice of hotel and destination was usually fairly limited, and often your selection of location and venue came down to the experience, enthusiasm or knowledge of the travel agent you happened to be sitting with that day. Yes, one person and perhaps their supervisor could end up being the people who could make or break that year’s hard earned vacation.
Today it’s very different. Indeed, the world of travel is one of the industries most changed by technology and the Internet; I don’t think I can even remember the last time I set foot in a travel agent’s or tour operator’s office. From booking a taxi, through to arranging a wedding in the far off land of your dreams, it can now all be done with a few clicks of a mouse on your screen or a few swipes of your finger on your mobile device.
No longer do you have to rely on the recommendation of a spotty part time Saturday boy in your local travel agent; reviews, videos, maps – everything you need is at your fingertips to help you make your decision and to book and pay with ease. And if you fly with one airline, you can even choose who you sit next to on the plane simply by calling up the other passengers’ Facebook profiles. Two years ago, I had my own experience of how technology is changing the travel industry in a quite unexpected but dramatic way.
My family and I had booked two weeks vacation in southern Spain. We had found and rented (online) a lovely villa and arranged the flights separately with easyJet. A hire car would speed us from the airport to the property.
As the day came closer before we were due to fly out, we started to notice news reports on the TV of forest fires which were raging in an area near to the property in which we were staying. My wife and I nervously joked that it would be a terrible shame if the villa we were staying in would be affected by the fires.
As the days went by, we joked less about it as we watched Spanish fire-fighters struggling to gain control over the blazes, which were now enveloping a wider area of the region.
And then sure enough, seven days before we were due to leave, the property owner sent us an email saying that the worst had happened – the property had been destroyed by the fire. Indeed, many people had lost their homes – not just their holiday homes. To be precise, the property owner said that the house was still standing, but the garden and surrounding countryside was ash. Other than that we were still welcome to stay at the property!
We politely declined and thanked the owner for his offer of returning the money we had paid and wished him well. That left us with easyJet flights for four people that we were unable to reclaim on the insurance because they had been arranged separately from the villa.
With a week to go until we were due to fly out, we wondered whether we might find a replacement property in the region that was a) available at this late stage (and in peek time during August) and b) not yet ravaged by fire.
I took to Google and searched. And searched and searched, but to no avail. There seemed to be no properties at all that were still available and any hotels were either unsuitable or full. And then, as a last resort I thought I’d search in a different way – using Social Media
. After all, statistics were starting to show that the number of visits to Social Networking sites were gradually overtaking the number of visits to Search Engines. Maybe real people out there on the Internet might know of a property that was available at this short notice? It felt unlikely, but worth a try.
So I posted messages on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn – plus on my own site at IFA Life along the lines of “Does anyone know someone who happens to have a villa in southern Spain available for a family of four in two weeks’ time?”
Helpfully adding “…with a pool and access to a range of nice local restaurants.”
Even as I typed it out, I realised how unlikely it would be to find something.
And then to my amazement, after just thirty minutes of posting the message, I had three responses. One from someone I knew and the other two from members of my own website – who I didn’t know personally but with whom I had previously connected online.
Twenty four hours later I had five responses in my inbox. One of the properties couldn't have been more perfect (see photo above). Not only was it available, but it had just been refurbished, had a massive pool and the owner even offered us a discount if I could take a few photos for his forthcoming website where he would be promoting the property. Within a couple of hours, we gratefully accepted his kind offer and the rest is history; a perfect holiday was had by all, local villages, bars and restaurants were frequented and we had made new friends.
As I said at the start of this blog, the idea behind the International Conference on Travel Technology India event, is to help hotels and tour operators to learn new and innovative ways to market, sell and generate business through the Internet. Like in a lot of industries, many travel companies around the world will see Social Media as another way to push its destinations out to a wide audience who increasingly travel through cyberspace.
And because Social Media is perceived to be so powerful, many businesses simply can’t resist using it for sales and marketing. Yet, time and time again they will discover that Social Media is even more powerful when used to listen to people
– rather than to push and sell to people.
Social Media is increasingly being used by us all as a search tool, and we tend to favour results we receive from real people
who care about helping us.
Now that the Internet dominates how people find, review and assess everything from holiday destinations to hotels, restaurants and flight operators, I’m looking forward to sharing a variety of ways for the delegates at the International Conference on Travel Technology India to use Social Media to listen to and to engage with consumers online - and to further enhance their customers' vacation and travel experiences..
India, here we come.
By Philip Calvert
Here's a short video we made recently for Nucleus' YouSpeakTelevision on YouTube.
It's for the financial adviser market and highlights some key tips on how to use Social Media in their businesses.
Throughout 2012, we've been asking Financial Services product and service providers (that's life, pension, savings and investment companies, financial software providers, Wrap platforms, RDR support service providers, financial services recruiters etc) about their feelings towards using Social Media to add value to and to engage with IFAs and financial advisers in the new post RDR (Retail Distribution Review) regulatory world.
What has been exciting to see is that almost everyone now agrees that Social Media is something that will definitely form part of their overall communication strategies with IFAs
– in due course.
This is an important step forward from last year, when, a good 20% of financial product providers felt that Social Media "had no place whatsoever in the communication mix with IFAs".
Some described it as “inappropriate”
and “really for kids”
How things change. In fact, most Providers now agree that Social Media offers them huge opportunity, which simply needs planning and a clear strategy
...whilst almost everyone now intends to use Social Media to engage with IFAs and professional financial advisers in some way shape or form, around 98% are telling us that:
- they don’t know where to start
- they don’t have a strategy
- they don’t know who owns it within the organisation
- they have concerns about Compliance and
- they have no resource or expertise within the organisation.
Other than that, they are still very keen!So how can Providers move forward, given their ‘issues’?
IFA Life (the social networking site for financial professionals) has always been at the forefront of pioneering the use of Social Media within Financial Services. We passionately want
Providers to benefit from Social Media.
IFA Life's workshops for Providers consistently receive top reviews, leaving attendees with a much clearer path for moving forward with Social Media in their companies. Many have built their plans around what they learnt at our workshops.
Our final workshop of 2012, hosted by me Philip Calvert, takes place in London on the 21st November – so don’t miss this chance to finally get a grip on how to use Social Media to engage with IFAs and financial advisers
The workshop is suitable for anyone at any Provider – whether you are in Sales, Marketing, PR/Comms, Customer Service, Compliance or even at Board level. The workshop will benefit everyone.
And by ‘Provider’ we mean any company, large or small who provides products and services to IFAs and professional financial advisers.
We still have a small number of discounts available for small Providers, so grab this opportunity while you can. If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org
We look forward to meeting you on the 21st November. Please sign up here: http://providersocialmedia3.eventbrite.com/
One of, if not the central benefits and tenets of using Social Media, is the human, conversational aspect of it, which allows people to feel that you are being engaged with, rather than being advertised at.
‘People buy people’ and all that, and great use of Social Media helps to replicate the human experience. Getting a human face into your Social Media efforts is, not surprisingly a key part of humanising your brand online – something that most marketers agree is essential for companies who are looking to engage with and add value to their customers.
So it was with some disappointment when I turned on the sports news on television this morning, to be greeted by a clutch of Premier League football managers explaining to the media how they saw this weekend’s games panning out. They sounded like they were preparing for a funeral.
True, most Premiership football managers usually tend to address the media in a tone that suggests they are about to lose their job, and this may well impact their demeanour, but come on guys – cheer up! Let’s see some energy, spirit and fight and let’s kick into touch the incessant dour expressions.
If that’s your idea of a human face, then frankly it doesn’t have much appeal to me, or I’m sure many other people. I don’t know about you, but the people and brands who use Social Media to try and engage with me, need to be friendly, approachable, upbeat and helpful; you know, kind of normal.
And when I stop to think about the companies and brands whose updates I most enjoy on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn, they all, without exception have a human face – and an attractive, sociable, responsive one at that.
Does your brand have an open, pleasant, gracious and friendly human face online? Do you listen, answer questions and help people out – or does your brand's face look miserable and depressing to the core?
I know which I prefer.
Photo courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net
It's not long now until Social Media Week - 24th to 28th September 2012.
In the organiser's own words 'Social Media Week is a worldwide event exploring the social, cultural and economic impact of social media. Our mission is to help people and organizations connect through collaboration, learning and the sharing of ideas and information.
In the past few years social media has shown us the true power of what a connected society can accomplish. Over the next 10 years, 3 billion new people will connect to each other through the Internet and mobile technology - more than three times the number who are currently online.'
One of the core themes of my conference speeches and presentations, is that despite our love for the Internet and the acres of column inches that are written about it and Social Media, we still don't really appreciate just how much it will eventually impact our lives - at work, home and play.
We are already starting to see this happen, with many companies and industries being profoundly impacted by the Internet. Some have their heads buried firmly in the sand, refusing to acknowledge that everything is changing - rapidly and on a daily basis. All too soon, the day will come when they wake up to discover that they have no more customers because they no longer have a product or their service is no longer relevant in an online digital world.
On the other hand, sharp-eyed entrepreneurs and Internet-savvy companies of all shapes and sizes can't contain their excitement at the opportunities that are starting to emerge.Social Media Week
has a vision of helping people and organisations to connect, learn and share ideas by focusing on collaboration, content and conversation. A phenomenal schedule of events has been put together, with seminars, workshops, presentations and meet-ups taking place in key cities around the world, including Barcelona, Berlin, Bogata, Chicago, Glasgow, Hong Kong, Jeddah, Los Angeles, Sao Paulo, Seoul, Shanghai, Torino, Vancouver and London.
I'm delighted to be taking part in a small way, and during the week I'll be training a private company on how to use and leverage LinkedIn, plus also taking part on the 26th in an official Social Media Week event The Secrets Behind Social Content
- hosted by the Content Creation Collective in London.
It's taking place on board the HMS President, which is a permanently moored ship on Victoria Embankment, and an amazing venue for meetups. If you are a blogger, author or involved in creating content, then please do sign up. Details here
If you are attending the Content Creation Collective on the 26th, please come and say hello - or tweet me at @PhilipCalvert.
I took this of the Olympic road race just outside Shere in Surrey
As London and the world reluctantly get back to work after the amazing Summer of Sport, commentators are reflecting not only records made on the track, but records made by the Olympic and Paralympic Games themselves.
Record levels of tickets were sold, and demand for tickets exceeded all expectations. But many people are also staggered at how Social Media came into its own over the Summer, with more tweets and Facebook posts about the games than ever before.
In many ways that’s hardly surprising because users of Facebook and Twitter have increased significantly since the Beijing 2008 Games. Nevertheless, the conversational nature of Twitter brought an additional human dimension to coverage of the events. I also enjoyed seeing countless photos of families and people I know posing at the Olympic Park – with many of them striking Usain Bolt’s now famous pose.
And we didn’t hold back with our use of Social Media. According to Twitter, there were 150 million Olympic related tweets sent over the 16 day period, with Usain Bolt’s 200m victory alone seeing 80,000 tweets per minute. What’s more, 40% of all Britons online visited the official London 2012 website, which is an incredible number whatever way you look at it.
And according to figures from Neilsen, the London 2012 Games featured in 19% of all Social Media conversations on 27th July – the day of the opening ceremony. There were also more tweets about the Olympics on that single day than during the entire duration of the Beijing 2008 Games.
The point of this post though is not to spout statistics; we can take it as read that Social Media played a massive part in enriching the overall experience of the games.
But for me, one of the most valuable ways that Social Media ignited the Games, was how it connected athletes to ordinary people. Before the Games, there were stories that athletes were going to be banned from tweeting and using Social Media, but right from the moment that they started checking into the Olympic village we knew that we were going to be treated to wonderful behind-the-scenes glimpses into their world.
What was particularly heartening for me, came at this week’s special parade of athletes in London. Many of our new Olympic and Paralympic heroes were interviewed by radio and TV, and it struck me how many of them said how amazed they were that people – many of them children, had been inspired by their performances, and that through Social Media they had been able to express that directly to them.
Nicola Adams was the first woman to win an Olympic gold medal for boxing and is now widely seen as a role model for a new generation. Nicola told an interviewer that people had tweeted her saying that "she had inspired them to take up sport". And Jason Kenny the track cyclist said that people had been tweeting him telling him how excited they were that they had just bought a new bike.
With all the talk about which Brands had won Gold in the ‘Socialympics’, it was great to hear the human side of how Social Media played its part in the Games – connecting people to each other and to their sporting heroes.
And that surely is what Social Media is all about? (There’s a clue in the title: Social.)
Many of the Brands sponsoring the Games gained many new followers, but also failed where it really counted – engaging with people. According to Unmetric (a social benchmarking company), despite posting almost 11,000 times (the highest of any sponsor), Coca-Cola were failing to engage followers - whilst the most engaging sponsor was Omega, who posted just 37 times.
There’s a lot to be said for the numbers game and having a high number of followers, but ultimately it’s what you do with them and how you engage with them that really counts.
As to whether you can truly inspire them and change their life is another matter entirely.
I came into my office today and smiled. Not just because it’s the start of an exciting new week, but because the room has a lot more space in it than usual.
That will be the big clear out that I had over the weekend, when for the first time in my thirty four year career, huge quantities of card and paper were removed from shelves, shoe boxes, plastic stacker boxes and ‘filed’ in the circular filing cabinet.
It’s not that I’m a hoarder; no, this was stuff that I just had to keep. But over the weekend I finally let it go.
The material that headed for the recycling facility was my collection of literally thousands and thousands of business cards.
Before I became self-employed, I worked for a number of large financial institutions in Sales. Over twenty five years in Sales and Key Account roles, I averaged ten meetings with prospects and clients every week. I also attended every conference, every industry exhibition and had developed a technique for collecting audiences’ business cards after every seminar and conference where I was speaking.
That resulted in a massive collection of business cards. In fact, I didn’t stop collecting them when I went self employed. At that point I started running several seminars each month and was speaking at even more events, so my business card collection grew even faster.
It goes without saying that a large business card collection can mean a very large list for your newsletter, and that can mean a truly valuable prospecting list. And if you enjoy networking then a large collection can make networking almost a full time occupation! But it was this collection which formed the foundation for my own social networking site, so it proved to be valuable in its own right.
One observation I had, was that in the financial world where I was collecting these cards, the turnover rate (i.e. people changing jobs and companies) seemed very low. In fact, a quick look through the cards over the weekend showed that many people whose names were on cards I was given twenty/twenty five years ago are still there. In many cases the logo and name of the company has changed (due to takeovers and endless reorganisations), but a lot are still in a similar role and at the same organisation. And although a lot of people had changed companies, they were still in my card box – still a part of my network.
But all of a sudden technology has changed things. Over the last five years, I’ve experimented with various business card scanners and devices, all of which have promised to make my life a little less cluttered and a lot more organised. Most of which have done nothing of the sort. A lot of names on cards ended up as Contacts in Outlook and more recently in Google Apps – but essentially they are still just names on cards – whether on paper or kept digitally. They’re static – they don’t live and breathe.
It has been since I’ve been running workshops and consulting on how to use LinkedIn that I realised that I now, finally, no longer need to keep those business cards. Why, because the overwhelming majority of those people are now on LinkedIn and other social networking sites – where not only do I have a simple record of their name and company, but I can now get a much more detailed sense of who they are, what they are about, their areas of expertise, what they’re doing, what projects they are working on, where they are in the world – and much more. They even let me know electronically when they change jobs.
In fact, their online profiles are telling me much more about them than I had ever known in the first place when I originally met them face to face. Many of these people had great reputations in business in the ‘real world’, but now they are developing reputations in the ‘online world’ too.
But a word of caution; if you had a great reputation in the real world, it does not necessarily follow that you have a great reputation in the online world. In fact some people’s online profiles (particularly on Facebook and Twitter) tell people a lot more about them than perhaps they had intended.
Social Media enables and empowers people to highlight their expertise and their personality to the world and reputation matters. It always did and always will; don’t get too carried away with the visibility that Social Media gives you – think carefully about what you want people to see and experience about you.
The relief was palpable and like a weight off my shoulders when the business cards headed for the recycling via the shredder. But I was also relieved that every single person is still part of my network and still just a click away.
Where is your network – in a card index on your desk or dead and buried in a box on your office floor? Or living and breathing online?
Tip: If you can’t yet get your head round finally ditching your business card collections, check out LinkedIn’s cardmunch app which enables you to scan a card and connect with them on LinkedIn – all in one process. It’s a really neat way to integrate your ‘real life networking’ with your ‘online networking.’
Want more help and tips to leverage your profile and generate business from LinkedIn? Click here