Saturday, January 22, 2011

Facebook: what's it worth?

Fourteen hours ago leading techie website Mashable just tweeted:
Facebook Raises $1.5 Billion, Now Worth $50 Billion -


I have a problem with Mashable: the volume of its tweets just swamps everyone else I'm following on Twitter, but occasionally you get an interesting gem like this that is just dying for a rant. Don't you feel like ranting?

The inclination to rant seems to be one of the keys to social media. And also what makes it dangerous. It gives people immediate, and unlimited outlets to thoughts which might otherwise have been limited to friends standing less than 10 metres away within the hour the thought popped up.

However it's also being a catalyst to rant that makes a tweet or post valuable. If you post something that induces a rant (Likes, replies, retweets, comments etc.), you're considered an 'influencer' and your posts will get more visibility.

So today's experiment is to try and get noticed by ranting.

Firstly, I commented on Mashable's article about Facebook: It had reminded me of my somewhat Marxist professor at university who delivered a lecture sometime before June in 1987 forecasting and explaining why the global economy was going to crash because value was no longer being created by the primary means of production (or something like that) but rather by buying and selling the proceeds of that production many times over by bankers.

The Hertford Women's 3rd VIII struggle to understand rowing as they attempt to 'row on' for Eights Week 1987

You should have seen the smugness in his subsequent lecture in November 1987 which frankly should have been entitled "I told you so".

The comment on the article posted was:

I recall a Marxist professor of mine in Uni in the '80s warning about the imbalance of economic value between the primary means of production and everything after it. In those days it was mainly banks. 'Black Monday' followed soon afterwards.

I know the world has moved on but I wonder what he'd be saying these days..

An aside: my favourite of the 28 comments on the article posted so far is:
"Translation [of a comment by Facebook's representatives saying how they would use the money]: With this investment completed, we now will move into our secret lair hidden inside a volcano and practice our maniacal laughter. "

No-one 'Likes' me so far.

Secondly, I posted a status update on Facebook:
Apparently Facebook is worth $50 billion. Amazing what you can do with a discounted cash flow statement. I say, sell the thing and invest the money in Africa.

Two very different friends had 'Liked' me within 5 minutes.

Scores will be updated as we go along... I've left twitter for the moment.. I haven't quite worked out how you know if your 'tweet' was picked up by anyone else.

The question is: how do you make this propensity to comment/rant help your business - or indeed yourself?
Once again - I qualify this blog with the fact that if you google this question you will get upwards of a few million bloggers, like this one, asking the same question. You might even get some answers.

But I don't have the time to sift through millions of (insert appropriate adjective) blogs to find an answer. Experts always say you learn better if you work it out for yourself.

That's my excuse for writing this blog instead of researching the gogol of information out there in cyberspace. And how do I know if any of it's true anyway?

(Excepting of course for the internet marketing course I'm attending on Wednesday).

The Hertford Women's 3rd VIII a few weeks later, having worked out rowing (notice position of my arms relative to my legs). That and the fact the opposition hadn't turned up contributed to the cheery position.

There's an allegory in here somewhere.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

What happens next?

I’m slightly afraid that this might be my last post. But I hope I have the mettle to see it through.

The question that my one of my novice LinkedIn invitees (see last post) asked is: ‘What happens next’?

I confess I don’t really know how to answer that question.

Am I just helping to fill up the junkyard of cyber space? How does all this posting and linking actually achieve anything? And, each time I look at a site like – all the information makes me think: can I ever catch up with the ‘social media’ world or should I just give up?

Is it possible to succeed in this field without an iPhone?

I just googled ‘social media blog’: 272 million results came up in 0.16 seconds.

272 million.

I am undoubtedly contributing to that junk yard. But, of those results, (and after displaying 1,000 results Google stopped to asked me if I wanted to continue because the other entries were ‘very similar to the 987 we’ve already displayed’), how many have YOU, the reader of this blog, read? Huh?

Does this social media participation actually achieve anything? ...

Well... so far not much. I think I’ve probably managed to irritate a few people I could have done without irritating by sending them unwanted LinkedIn invitations. I did get in touch with a few people out of the blue who I might not otherwise have made contact with (and we’ve promised to meet up.....).

I did discover some things that I might not have otherwise discovered by checking out Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook more often than usual. I know that X (a potential customer of a company I know) is friends with Y (a competitor of same company). I know that a fair number of Americans want to see Sarah Palin’s communications go where the sun don’t shine... And I know that a jet-setting friend of mine just returned from a luxurious tropical holiday and has jet lag.

Some undercover investigating of targets who are very active on social media has allowed me to make deductions about them that may, or may not be to their benefit (and are perhaps to my benefit). I also had to ‘unfollow’ inveterate Twitterer Duncan Bannatyne (he of Dragon’s Den fame) because it seems every time someone visits one of his leisure clubs they have to sycophantically tweet him about their simply marvellous experience and beg him to ‘retweet’ back and make their day.

But therein lies the rub.

I bet Duncan Bannatyne does well out of Twitter. But if he (a) hadn’t been a successful businessman (b) been on national TV would he be doing any better than Cicely Brown? He’s also got something to sell to the general public. Though exactly how: “Having quite lunch in Covent Garden. London seems very quiet today” helps... I’m not quiet sure?

But before I get very negative and sad. I did find – and vigorously re-post the best joke this year:

Q: What do you call an Aussie who can handle a bat?
A: A vet.

OK – I promise not to write anything more until I have something useful to say.

Below: some other things that Aussie vets might be able to handle.

Friday, January 7, 2011

'Just Do It'?

One thing I have learned from the inspirational leaders and companies that I have worked for is the importance of ‘just doing it’. The best projects, the most progress in business and even success in sport have come from people who don’t analyse an opportunity to death before making it happen.

There’s a bit of this in my attitude towards this blog.

I found myself whingeing to myself one day about the futility of so-called social media. I sat up, stopped whingeing and decided to try and understand it before criticising it and enrolled myself on a ‘Digital Foundation’ course with the Internet Advertising Bureau (due at the end of this month).

Taking the plunge in Turkey a few years back

But before it came around, I was sitting at home without a permanent job, getting angry that people weren’t snapping at the opportunity of a lifetime to employ me (OK, keep the comments to yourselves), I thought to myself "Right – let’s try this social networking thing" and started reading the “Seven Secrets to Getting Your Next Job using Social Media...".

Way 4 is titled: ‘Capitalise on LinkedIn’: “You should import all your contacts from Outlook, Gmail etc. so that you can start to build your network or grow your existing network.”

OK. So here I am a little bit careful (see previous blog about Christmas card lists). You see you have to be. LinkedIn cleverly takes just about EVERY name from your Yahoo mail account (not just those in your address book), identifies which ones are currently on LinkedIn and puts them first in the list and leaves the rest till later.

The system ticks every single blessed contact creating an instruction to send them an ‘invitation to link in’. However it does give you the option to ‘un-tick’.

Lesson number one all you other Netwerps out there: First of all de-select everyone and ONLY select the ones you want. Me, I found the two clicks required to de-select - too much like hard work and went through individually de-selecting.

When I got to the end of the list of existing LinkedIn members I thought: Right. All sorted. And I pressed Send.


Off goes an irretrievable invitation to 400 people. The 400 people at the end of the list without an existing LinkedIn account. None of which has an interest in LinkedIn.

Two people I have scarcely been in touch checked with me that my account wasn’t sending out automated spam.

Two elderly people, including my father, were completely spooked by the long questionnaire LinkedIn requires you to fill in when registering, having been invited to ‘join’ by their good friend or daughter, Cicely. Terrified of offending me I received apologetic emails or phone calls asking for advice.

However the reply from one friend did get me thinking:
Haven't done this with anybody else, but if it helps you I would be delighted to say that I know you and add my name to your professional network on LinkedIn! - not quite sure what happens then - if anything?!”

So – what does happen next?

(Left) Today's picture is provided by the children of rural village Kono, in Kaduna State, Nigeria. My friends, despite only having set foot in the village 30 minutes previously. They probably know me about as well as some of the people I just invited to connect with me on LinkedIn.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Christmas card lists

After creating this blog, step 2 was to start strengthening my networks, starting with LinkedIn. And it’s not difficult: these days you don’t have to decide who to invite. Websites like Facebook and LinkedIn seem to find every email address that appears in your email folder and give you the option of sending them all an ‘invitation’ or selecting certain ones to invite.

Of course, given the popularity rule of social media, those potential friends with the most connections will add more oomph to your network, so when you’re selecting who to invite, you’ll also be told how many connections/friends they have.

So here I am going through this long list, and deciding who to or not to invite to my network.

One factor in the decision process was how many connections do they have?

Another factor was – do I actually know this person? (and you’d be surprised).

But thirdly, and, because believe I’m still human and have not yet turned into the sort of cyber junkie prepared to jeopardise all relationships for the chance of a ‘cyber high’, would they welcome the invitation from me?

And how would I know if they would welcome me? Would they ‘accept’ me as their friend?

This reminded me momentarily of Christmas cards and the emotional trauma that some people go through updating and amending their annual Christmas card list based on who did or didn't send them a card the previous year.

I just googled ‘Christmas card etiquette’ and it returned 618,000 results. ‘LinkedIn introductions etiquette’ returned only 50,800 results, but I'm sure it's growing by the day.

I have to confess I’m not going to read any of the advice thrown up by either of those Google searches. I hope I can make my own decisions and, at the end of the day, life is too short to research everything you can find on the internet. But that’s a story for another day.

But now I’m worrying: have I become a cyber-junkie? I didn’t send any Christmas cards this year. I did take the time to design a card and write a nice little poem which I threw out to the wider world and pasted on Facebook.
Can I trust myself to manage my own LinkedIn etiquette without offending?

[And the answer to that question is 'No'... I'll explain why later...a cautionary tale for all netwerps].

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

“Why Facebook is really like high school”

It was probably obvious to everyone else, but until I read an article by Thomas Weber that a friend posted on Facebook, I didn’t understand why my status updates and comments sometimes took so long to appear (if at all) when other people's popped up in the blink of an eye.

At the end of the day, successful social networks like Facebook and Twitter have millions (billions!) of feeds, status updates and other postings. They can’t put everything up there. So they use complicated algorithms (and I’m still not sure what that means, though I like the idea of a former US Vice President playing jazz guitar).

These algorithms are instructions which filter the feeds based on how many friends, followers you have, how many comments or re-tweets your postings have earned: the bottom line is you have to be popular to become popular.

And you need to be ‘active’. You can’t be a couch potato surfing the channels. You need post regular updates and feeds.

But back to point one. Those updates need to be interesting. People need to retweet or comment for you to earn the right ‘jock of the class’ points. “Just had to wait 20 minutes on Shooters Hill for the 486” probably won’t get you noticed as well as “Just read a great blog on using social media for dummies (with link)”. Well that’s my hope.

That’s why this blog is here. The aim is to make it interesting (and please be prepared for the odd random picture. It just brightens up a blogspot page) so people might want to read it. And to give me something worthwhile to update.

You like?

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Day Zero

Tomorrow will be exactly 3 months since I landed back in the UK from Nigeria. At the time I had a brace of interviews and was confident that I'd be squeezing into the tube every morning with the best of them before you could say 'recruitment consultant'. On the bright side, I've been extremely lucky to be doing some enjoyable, yet challenging part-time work with a printer in central London.

Despite my optimism at what I thought were a couple of good interviews, and nine carefully honed job applications to online advertisments which just seemed to be calling my name, I've had either no replies (grrrr) or 'Dear Johns' usually followed by something to do with 'more suitable qualifications'.

At the same time, I have been casting the 'skin' network as widely as possible... attending events at my livery company - Stationers, meeting with old friends and colleagues (and that's nothing to do with the offer of a free lunch, but thanks to all those very much) and attempting to comment on relevant magazine websites.. (I say 'attempt': PrintWeek - please sort it out!).

I've also decided to put my CV online, and I think it's not bad ( however despite having welcomed over 200 visitors into its hallowed virtals (virtual portal - I kinda like the sound of that), none has felt compelled to comment, contact me or... ask me for an interview.

So what next? Cue "7 Secrets to Getting Your Next Job Using Social Media".

I'll let you know how I get on.