Business and social media folly

My wife Gloria and I met an apparently very pleasant fellow at a weekend barbecue recently. We had a long chat covering a wide range of non-contentious subjects, and it emerged we had a hobby in common – amateur radio, or ham radio if you like. He is also good at repairing gadgets such as vacuum cleaners. One might think a useful person to know.

Afterwards we thought it would be good to stay in touch, so I went to “friend” our new acquaintance on Facebook. It was then I saw that not only was his personal page full of extreme politics (and I do not do politics in social media) but that he had used profanities of the worst kind to describe those whom he saw as political opponents. That might include me although as I say, I keep my politics to myself.

Needless to say, I have not “friended” this guy. I do not want anyone to think I approve of such strong language by association with this individual, especially when so many of my Facebook friends I know in a business context.

Suppose the guy is looking for work in the future, applies for a job and the prospective client or employer sees all this stuff on Facebook. Will he get the work? I think not.

What a pity.

A clear business message?

The other day I had a connection request on LinkedIn. When I looked at the person’s profile, I was none the wiser as to what he did for a living. There were two paragraphs of jargon. I did not understand a word.

I did try some research and believe he might build websites or maybe write software for building environment systems, but I am not really sure. He probably thinks that a search on LinkedIn for his specific skills will have him found by a recruiter. However if I knew what he did I might remember when someone was looking for a person like him… if I knew what a person like him did.

Politics, social media and small business. Yikes!

Here in the UK we have had a steamy time, and I do not mean the weather. There have been huge political debates adding heat to a very poor summer. All that is fine in news programmes, documentaries and in the newspapers which I read avidly on-line.

What I do not need is political opinions on my Facebook pages. Many of my FB friends, probably most, are people I know through business. If I had not had respect for them they would not be my friends. Yet more and more on my Home Page I see political opinions and diatribe. You might gather I do not agree with a lot of it, or in fact most of it that gets served up there. They will not get referred by me or I suspect other people too.

Of course I find certain opinions annoying as will many others. That is not why I would not refer the politicals. The reason is that I believe it disrespectful to foist one’s political views on my friends. I would not want to go to dinner with people who spent the whole time criticising my views and beliefs. Why should I put up with it on Facebook or any other social media site?

On Twitter I can choose who to follow and it makes it more selective. On Facebook I can “unfollow” someone while remaining their friend. That way I will not see their political output in my Home stream. But then why should I bother to be their friend?

Politics? Just leave me alone, please.

Twitter? How do you find the time?

I was asked the above question over lunch at a meeting of tax practitioners. I was a bit surprised, but on reflection the guy asking is an employee. He is engaged to work on particular clients and tasks which are assigned to him. He does not understand what it is like to run a business. He keeps working at the coal face.

For those of us who work for ourselves, we not only work at the coal face and engage others to do so, but we have to sell the coal. Otherwise there is not much point in digging it out. We need customers.

I do not claim to be the greatest user of Twitter for business purposes. It is an important part of my marketing – not advertising because we do not use Twitter for that, do we? Interacting with my Twitter contacts means I can give business to others in order to receive. I can point people towards useful information. They might remember that information later, and remember me.

Marketing is one of the issues we manage in running a business, so we have to make time and also bill our customers enough to give them good value and make a profit.

Put like that, I think we all should be finding time to make a profit. Twitter is part of that, but try explaining that to an employee.

Politics, religion and social media for business

Some signs we ignore at our perilHere in the UK we have had an election. In the run-up, many people in my business circles have shared their opinions on the parties’ policies, and post-election they are sharing their views on those who have a different opinion from them.

We all have political opinions, and unfortunately when they are attacked we cannot help taking it personally. It seems they are taking pot shots at us. Yet in a business environment we may like those who differ from us, but it is inevitable their politics colour our opinion of them. In other words, their opinions damage our relationship because we see them in a different light.

Generally online, via Twitter or Facebook amongst other places, I do not see small business people spouting their religious views, which is a great relief. Religion is a cause of conflict when people do not see eye-to-eye.

When I became a radio amateur (ham) as a young chap, passing the exam, I knew that it was rule that we did not discuss on-air either politics or religion. That way we avoided bad feeling. To me, using social media to maintain my business circles, it should be a rule that we avoid politics.

Of course that is just my opinion.  I am human and can be offended by others’ beliefs if their outspoken opinions seem directed at my friends or at me.

How do you feel about mixing politics with business?

Was it small business or the internet that changed my life?

Seafront bikes

Seafront bikes

It is no secret that I started my own business after the world of employment left me, and I could not get another job. There was no grand plan. I just got “on my bike” to get some money coming in.

Back then, 2002, the main way of getting business (I thought) was advertising. I have written before about the money spent on directories such as Yellow Pages and Thomson Local. They were a waste of time and that was because they really said nothing about my business apart from listing it under a category, but also because customers were actually talking to each other, exchanging information on-line, and yes, getting out of the door and networking.

I did not have much idea about social media in those days, but they were early days. I wonder how much I would have become involved if it had not been for business needs. Would I ever have “done” Twitter and Facebook? I suppose it was the other way round as Facebook was first, but I “do” Twitter a lot more.

It is not as though I ever was exactly afraid of computers. I am a techy sort of guy. I had a Sinclair ZX81, a BBC computer and an IBM AT PC running DOS. I programmed in Sinclair BASIC and in MS BASIC, not very well, but I had the enthusiasm. I frequented bulletin boards. It did not make me social.

In 2003 I had realised that face-to-face networking might be a good idea. I had a business coach who thought it was, though he had not tried it. I went to the local Ecademy group, and three days later met Thomas Power at a seminar in London. He and Ecademy taught me so much about networking, on-line and off-line that it is hard to imagine a business or personal life without it.

I have become a very social person, and social media and on-line marketing are how I get most of my business. Of course the biggest benefit is in making so many new friends; real friends who have helped me as I hope I might now and again have helped them.

I know a lot of employee techies who do not really “get” social media. They may mess around on Facebook but I wonder if they have really made new friends as I have, or whether they just interact with the old ones. Some techies view all social media with disdain and are paranoid about personal security and identity theft. They know how everything works, but they cannot see the purpose or the potential, only the low-risk threat.

For myself and my business there is a great world out there, I have made a lot of real friends I could not have found in any other way, and I am grateful. I think I am a totally different person from the one I would have been, stuck in a job in town. I feel I am happier and more at ease with myself as an independent player, and have been set free by the tools I first found through Ecademy. Being in business brought me to social and business networking. Would the second have happened without the first? I don’t know.

Has your life been changed in the same way?

Avoiding taking the rough with the smooth in your business

iStock_000020557146LargeI started writing On Our Bikes to help others who, like me, found themselves with no work and had to go out and find it as an independent business person. I had no experience of running my own business and had not expected to have to do so.

It was for me a really tough position to be in, especially when like many, I expected that someone was bound to want my services. Of course I did not understand that clients have to be convinced that they need us, and understand our value to them.

Someone I have known for quite a few years through social media and face-to-face networking is Rory Murray. He has written a great Kindle book, The Saw-Tooth Dilemma (this is not an affiliate link) on getting work as a consultant and how to avoid the “feast-and-famine” scenario so unfortunately familiar to independent service providers and consultants.

Here is my review of his book on Amazon:

“Rory has written a roller-coaster account of his feast and famine experiences in work opportunities, and most importantly he tells us how to avoid them. This is a very personal account which would help anyone who is unemployed, who is a contractor or a consultant without a guaranteed stream of work. You will learn how to apply your social skills to gain work and how to use the on-line networking sites to best effect.

I cannot recommend this book more highly.”

Other reviews are here.

This book gave me a lot of food for thought, and I have run my own businesses for a dozen years now. We are all learning all the time, or we should be.

Do buy the book and download it onto your Kindle, PC, Mac or whatever device you choose. As I said, I am not on commission for this. I must really mean it, don’t you think?

Come back and tell me what you think of it.

 

Difficult people we do not work with

We know how to deal with customers who are making our lives less fulfilling. What about the non-customers who are unkind to us?

Many of us market our businesses on-line. That does leave us open to abuse. I do accept that many high-profile people have to put up with targeted abuse. The rest of us just catch random abuse. It is important not to take it too hard. After all it says more about the abusers than about us.

The on-line world has highlighted that there is a small minority of people who enjoy being unkind and who harbour dreadful prejudices, often based on ignorance, although with the web has been up and running, there is no excuse for ignorance. Maybe it is studied ignorance, but one only has to look at comments on stories on newspaper websites to realise that there are some with serious chips on their shoulders.

Those people spitting bile we do come across now and again. We do not need to take notice and let them spoil our lives. It is probably not personal (but if it is, that’s different). Sadly it is their lives that are already spoiled if they do not get help. Rise above it if you can. Have you had to rise?

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Promoting your start-up business – Part 6 – Making business friends

 

Widen your market

Widen your market

Most start-up businesses start with one person – you. You might have one or two part-time staff or subcontractors. However there is a danger of feeling rather lonely. After all, you have to make all the decisions, and while you probably have experience of working in someone else’s business, the buck definitely stops with you now.

The good news is that you need not feel lonely. You should make some friends in your own line of work, preferably others running small businesses. Do not worry that they will try to take your clients away. There are plenty of fish in the sea. I have found that you can pick up ideas from others and perhaps you can help them too. Maybe they can help out with certain types of work you are not so keen on, do not enjoy or are simply not to skilled act. Perhaps you can help them out with their less favourite areas which you enjoy.

So that means you have a potential for getting business from your friends and acquaintances. How do you find those people?

Networking is the obvious answer, but a local trade association or professional group would serve well too. I can vouch for this. My monthly lunches with fellow professionals not only helped me feel part of the local community in my line of business, but we shared and still share problems that we come across. That sense of belonging to the group is a positive and valuable asset.

Another way of finding support from fellow-professionals and others in your business is through social media. I value greatly the friendship and camaraderie from people in my line of business with whom I have connected on Twitter. Sharing repartee and swapping business has been very valuable for me and Twitter is a great asset. Of course I have shared business from people in other lines of business through Twitter, and gained work from them as well as having subcontracted to them. Any way you can get known is useful marketing.

I talk to people through LinkedIn too and contribute to the discussions with specialist forums, but Twitter has built my on-line community rapidly, and I have added many to my LinkedIn contacts later. Twitter and LinkedIn have helped my businesses transform from local to national and beyond in terms of where my clients are located.

Consider having a Facebook page for your business and make sure you are active with a business page on Google+, not only to build your community but also because Google will help people to your website and your business once it knows where you are.

The more people you know, the better it is for support for your business and the more business will come your way. If you remember that as with face-to-face networking it is a matter of “give and take”, with perhaps more giving of referrals than taking, actually you will receive a great deal of business.

Get out there virtually as well as physically.

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The meaning of influence in networking

Photo by LordNikon

Photo by Lord Nikon

These days in business marketing, and especially on-line, we hear a huge amount about influence. How much influence does a marketer or networker have?

In social media, some measure influence in terms of their Klout or PeerIndex score. Actually they are very crude tools, especially Klout. What they really measure is how much we Tweet or post on Facebook. PeerIndex does index blogging, but all these tools really measure is how much noise we make on-line.

It is the same with off-line networking. We may put out our message to the room and we may do so in a very loud voice. We might go to every networking meeting there is in our area and eat breakfast out every day of the week. However it does not mean we will get loads of business.

The confusion is between, on the one hand, being seen everywhere trilling our message on Twitter or over our scrambled eggs, and on the other, our networks actually listening to us and taking notice because they believe we have something to offer. It is easy to shout the loudest and most often, but more difficult to get over our message that we are people to be trusted with business.

We do not want our Tweet or a fried breakfast message being taken with more than a pinch of salt. We need to be genuine, sincere and ourselves to get that trust, don’t we/

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