Thursday, 29 May 2008

Social vs Business Networking - My Tips

The rise of online Social Networking (SNS) is a phenomenon which is itself phenomenal. I suppose it shouldn't surprise us - since the first homo sapiens formed communities on river banks it has been in our instinct and through the formation of companies, societies, clubs and interest groups we have always thrived on forming like-minded groups with common interests. But the internet changed all that - it brought us the power to reach far beyond our normal limits and touch literally millions who wished to explore and reach out to others. lists over 350 SNS sites whereas some estimates now put the figure as closer to 500 online networks or communities. And it continues to grow. There is a very good online thesis on the growth of the phenomenon at written by two students danah m. boyd at University Berkeley and Nicole B. Ellison at Michigan State University. It's a good background.

My experience has been very mixed. In the early days, I joined Ecademy ( which has just celebrated 10 years mainly as one of my former proteges, Penny Power and her husband Thomas, had founded it. I liked the idea as it had more of a business angle to it but it rapidly lost my interest as I was working for a company and was really looking for leads. I dabbled in MSN communities and by accident got into social chatting and messenging which was a huge distraction if fun. Latterly, after starting my own business, I decided to follow the conventional advice and grow my network rapidly. I joined Linked In, Xing, Plaxo, Passado, Ecademy (again), Merchant Circle, GoBigNetwork, Friends Reunited, Konnects and more lately - I avoided MyDogSpace as I didn't want my dogs corrupted. Of all of these I have stuck with 3 - Linked In, Ecademy and I am still registered on the others and their derivatives but I actively use the 3 mentioned. I can't even begin to estimate how many others I have been invited to join.

Here's my take on it

Linked In ( has been the best of the 3 for creating interest in business and has directly led to nearly 10 excellent hot leads, of which 3 have converted directly to actual revenue-generating business. I spent $100 to upgrade my membership which was not a bad return on outlay, although it is free to sign up and post a pretty detailed profile that can help people search you out.

Ecademy ( I use to network amongst like-minded individuals who mainly have small, artisan-style businesses. It is free to sign up and post a profile, again very detailed but there are various, pretty expensive upgrades on offer to Powernetworker and Blackstar which have many benefits which have no interest for me. The upside on Ecademy is that it is predominantly UK based, it has (depending on who you ask) anywhere from 198,000 to 300,000 members worldwide, but only 2% chose to pay any subscriptions. Naturally there is a significant amount of advertising to fund the site. What I like about Ecademy, and this is a reflection of the founders, there is a real belief in the concept of 'Pay it Forward' (an excellent film starring Kevin Spacey and Helen Hunt) - i.e. if you do many good things for others, you will eventually get your due rewards. For me, I have networked with around 60 people who have various businesses from business improvement, business finance, cleaning franchises, business mentoring, employment arbitration, blog expertise, web design, telecoms experts and more. I have also joined several clubs and forums, from the Vision 2020 to Business Referrals, to Brand Networking and a club for Entrepreneurs. I have not got a single piece of business, although I had one good lead which led to nothing, but I have made some very good contacts and friends, who have a genuine interest in what you do, you personally, have some fun, meet and really try to help you get the best out of networking. It's very humbling as everyone seems to galvanise around you and sincerely offer advise and insight. I like it a lot. Thomas Power talks a lot of the concept of trust at Ecademy and I think he is right. The network I have there are all vetted by myself and I could happily trust them should I recommend anyone to a client. I think it would be reciprocated also. The downside is that it doesn't really cater for businesses like mine which relies on healthy US contacts and the ability to contact companies - it's a Business/Social Networking hybrid and support system for small business. ( is new to me but it is exciting. I have taken an annual subscription and it actively presents your profile and 'pitch' to other members in the form of classifieds and other ways. The jury's out but it is the closest I have seen to really trying to drive a platform to produce business to business contacts.

Back to Linked In

There are literally millions of members on LI - and they are signing up at a rate of thousands a day. It's strength lies in its search functions and it has become a hunting ground for recruiters and a shopping window for job seekers. In fact, it is leaning too far that way. There are many on there who are Linked In Open Networkers (LION) who basically tout themselves around for anyone to contact them - some have thousands of connections which is absurd as you can't manage that many. But recruiters love that. I have around 170 connections, many former colleagues and friends, most are those I have solicited connections to for business.

My Top Tips on Linked In To Get The Best Out it For Business

  • LI is not a good CRM package as it purports to be. Think of it like a strong list of potential connections much like a bought-in list. Use it in conjunction with your current CRM package and methods.
  • Upgrade and spend around $100. What this allows you to do is to use the Search facility to find like-minded people or potential customers and then send them an Inmail or request for introduction and add them to your network.
  • Inmail is a great tool BUT if you abuse it you will get embargo'd. If you think of it as your chance to impress the other person then you have to construct the mail with a good introduction, a succinct, relevant and clear hook, a clear value proposition and a strong reason to connect. Anything short of this, it can be considered spam and that individual can veto your usage of Inmails for a period. Make them good, make them tell.
  • Inmail ratings - your Inmails get rated by the recipients and if they are well thought out and relevant, then you will get good ratings. This helps for the next person you approach as they will see you are highly rated and therefore more likely not to be wasting their time.
  • Questions & Answers - this is a really great section on LI. There are many very good, thought provoking questions. Some are there to tout for business, some as genuine requests for help, and some to create discussion around topics. They are informative from the replies and very interesting. Even better, by participation by either asking questions or better still, freely giving your insight and knowledge in the form of an answer to a question, you are likely to get noticed and your opinions/knowledge valued.
  • Experts - by answering questions well (and there are those who go for volume only to get noticed), the person who asked the question may rate your answr as 'Best Answer'. This will appear in a section below the section in which you answered as there are subject matter headings. The more 'Best Answer' ratings you get, the higher you appear in this Expert section under that subject matter. Automatically, those seeking expert advice and service will see who is giving good advice. This will drive people to your profile and it certainly has done so for me.
  • Profile Viewings - this is a great feature that allows you to take a look at who has viewed your profile each week. Many times it will not show who specifically has viewed your profile but by following the link it will give you a good idea. The critical thing is to then contact those who have viewed it and find out their specific area of interest.
  • Be Disciplined and Invest - LI is no good if you just stick your profile up there and wait. You might get lucky, but as with all networking you have to work at it. I invested $100 for an annual subscription upgrade that allows me a certain number of introductions and Inmails I can send a month. It is great for my targeted way of working. I also invest a minimum of 30 minutes of my time EVERY DAY to look at the Q&A section, answer any that I have some expertise and knowledge on, check the job board to see who is active, answer any Inmails to me, see who has viewed my profile and follow up and sometimes I do some prospecting by searching executives at target companies for my services (although I find far better for this). Business success from networking, just like any other form of marketing or cold calling is directly proportional to the investment in time, effort and money you put into it.
  • Job Seekers - if you are a job seeker, then LI has a job board which can be easily searched upon for relevant jobs. It is fledgling and there aren't that many for the UK and they tend to be Hi Tech orientated or it seems that to me. Still as the recruiters are very accessible on the platform, it means that you can get much more background and information before you apply. Mind you, as with many jon boards, there is a growing trend to put up adverts with no real job behind it. I will address this particular theme another time.
  • Recruiters - if you are a recruiter then networking is simple and there are many job seekers on the platform. Also, the cost of advertising is very low. Particularly in the Hi Tech space, there are many profiles of interest.

The Power of Networking

Make no bones about it, SNS for business has a way to go yet. But think on this. As a direct result of my profile on LI I have generated 3 contracts for my services for an investment of $100. Further, some years ago, I was contacted and asked to an interview by a senior executive at Microsoft and next found myself on a plane to Seattle and spent a whole day with his team and got to meet one of Bill Gates' top people - nothing came of it which I am happy to talk about but would that have happened if I had not been on LI? No chance.

And recently, Bill Gates himself, posted a question on LI regarding how to get more young students to take science and technology degrees and fuel future inventions. Along with many thousands of others I sent a reply. Coincidentally, two weeks later I got an Inmail and connection with a senior Microsoft person absed in Seattle, no reference made to my answer but his reason for connecting was spookily close to what I had written. Had Bill Gates read my reply? Probably not, but maybe one of his executives had and hence the connection. Such things are not possible without the new medium of SNS.

Do Not Think It Is Hocum

The Gates story is one end of the spectrum. However, I am in the business of managing US Hi Tech firms' entry and growth in Europe. From an answer I posted I recently got an inquiry from the most senior technologist in HR systems at one of the world's largest pharmaceutical Companies. Not my market, you may think. His reason? He was interested in one of the fastest growing HR SaaS applications ( who recently closed the largest SaaS order ever. He wanted to find out what their growth plans in Europe were and as I had demonstrable interest and expertise in this area from my answers, he contacted me to contact them on his behalf as they had not responded to his requests. Serendipity strikes again, they happened to be a company I had prospected and contacted very recently. Now I had a my mandate to talk to the senior executives with a major customer's interest in my back pocket.

Never underestimate the power of the network. For more information or a direct discussion about my experiences using Social Networking for Business, please drop me a line at or call me on +44 207 193 2356.

Wednesday, 28 May 2008

Welcome to the Calx Europe Blog

Welcome! My name is Nigel Dunn and I am the Principal at Calx Europe - I think the profile about says all is needed about what Calx Europe does so I shan't repeat it.

The aim of my blog is to open up discussion on key topics that 1) challenge companies that want to enter the European market and what thinking is needed, and 2) the issues that face all companies and organisations about finding the right talent to fuel their business for the future and then retaining it. I dare say I will introduce other topics as time goes on and feel free to mail us and let us know what other areas of topics you may want dealt with.

I hope in the coming weeks and months to share some insights in how to start thinking and preparing for business expansion in Europe and much more. I am passionate about helping Hi Tech companies grow in Europe and I am passionate about businesses finding the right people.

I can be controversial in my thinking but as a marker, for those of you who read Linked In and view my answers, you will know I believe the standard of recruitment in business today is very poor. Okay, I am mincing my words - it's dreadful. What it is more it is costing business vast sums of money for which no one is accountable, wasting opportunity, squandering profit, lowering standards and putting the wrong people in important jobs. Yet companies are prepared to shell out vast fees for contingent recruiting time and again for at best a few hours work. Further, mainstream blue chips are outsourcing one of the most vital services to the business to enhance its future profitability, preserve its culture and vision and keep its customers happy, to third parties who can even be offshore. To save a few quid? It's creating a time bomb - a talent deficit - that will hurt the companies that do so. The time bomb may possibly go off in recessionary times - so stand by!

I will also be introducing some trusted partners of ours who help us deliver the quality service to our clients from company set up, to back office accounting firms, to legal counsel, to IFAs for employee benefits, web design, IT support, Psychometric Testing, Business Improvement, Training, Recruitment and many more - but of course our most valuable partnerships, our clients will take pride of place.

For those of you who may have come into contact with Calx Europe or me personally in the past, please feel free to contact me and help me add to the blog (

One of the most interesting topics worth discussing early will be Online Social Networking and its adaptation to business - is it just a fad or will it really become a key way to generate business for the future? In the coming weeks, with the aid of a few expert friends, I will hope to shed some real light on that but I will give you my direct experiences in this blog.

The Economic Climate - I will try to keep politics out of the serious business discussion but we can't ignore the impact of political decisions on business. I hope to introduce a few insights on business conditions in the UK and Europe with the aid of some experts who have unique insights.
I shall also be introducing my extended colleague set - the TBK Network which spans all the major countries in Europe, USA and beyond (latest addition is in India). The TBK Network is a network of business professionals who work together on projects and assignments to help companies rapidly expand their global presence, check out the website ( to start but I will be featuring the CEO of the founder at TBK, Hans Peter Bech in the blog in the near future.

And finally, I will be looking for new topics to discuss that may not even relate directly to my business. The blog will obviously help promote my business but I hope it will become much more than that for the future.

I look forward to interacting with all those that take the time to read it.