Archives for July 2004

6-week course on online business networking begins July 27

Following a very well-received pilot a couple of months ago, I’ll be launching the first widely-available session of Virtual Handshakes: Building Quality Business Relationships Online on July 27.

This is a 6-week course combining live interactive sessions, printed materials, asynchronous discussion, and applied learning exercises for a one-of-a-kind educational experience on developing a powerful and effective social network and personal presence on the internet.

Topics covered include:

Week 1 – Know Thy Virtual Self
– Self-discovery
– Online personal branding
– Seeing yourself as others see you online
– Finding your privacy comfort level
Week 2 – Be Prepared
– The Master Document
– Aligning your networking plan with your business objectives
– Determining the right networking venues
– Getting engaged in online communities
Week 3 – Finding Your Online Voice
– Blogging
– Mailing list & forum posting
– Publishing online
– Netiquette & the Golden Rules of Posting
– Building credibility, trust & intimacy
Week 4 – Going Fishing
– Proactive networking
– How to be everywhere at the same time
– How to market without marketing
Week 5 – Managing Infoglut
– What you really need to know about time management
– How to handle 500+ non-spam e-mails a day
– Effective contact management
– Avoiding internet addiction
Week 6 – How to Be a Super-Node
– Making yourself memorable
– Making yourself useful
– Making yourself a leader online

The cost of the class is normally $197, but I’m offering it to our blog readers for just $147, which includes:
Each week, attend your choice of:
– Live web seminar 9am Pacific / 12pm Eastern / 4pm GMT
– Live teleclass 5pm Pacific / 8pm Eastern
– Recorded webcast available the following day
Plus:
– Private discussion forum for continuous learning throughout the course
– A copy of The Five Keys to Building Business Relationships Online
– Several special reports, including “Blogging for Business”, “Privacy & Security in Online Business Networks”, and more.

More information and registration here

Jigsaw.com–creative new business model

I think Jigsaw : The Business Contact Exchange has a very creative business model. I learned about them from a conversation I had with Vanessa DiMauro of CXO Systems. Many people will be offended by the idea that Robert gets benefit by selling Simon’s contacts…but fortunately, the Jigsaw system is anonymous. Jigsaw has potential to be quite successful, if they do not get sued into submission.

From their site:

Jigsaw is a Business Contact Exchange. Members exchange contact data they have for contact data they need.

Jigsaw is a collaborative system. Each member provides a few pieces of the puzzle. Jigsaw assembles them for the benefit of the community.

Quality contacts. Members are given strong incentives to add quality contacts and help keep them current. All contacts in Jigsaw have complete contact information

Mission:Jigsaw’s mission is to map every business organization on the planet, contact by contact, and keep them current through a collaborative effort. The resulting database will help business people perform their jobs more strategically and efficiently.

Value Proposition:For every contact a member adds, s/he gets two in return.

How does Jigsaw work?Members join Jigsaw in order to get contacts. Contacts are obtained with points.
Points are obtained by adding contacts, correcting contacts and referring other members.

Members choose which of their contacts go into Jigsaw. Members usually exchange contacts of lesser value for those of much higher value. All contacts are added anonymously.

Every contact in Jigsaw requires five points regardless of title or position.

Adding a contact earns ten points – provided other members don’t challenge the entry. Challenged contacts result in a ten point penalty. (Jigsaw is a self-correcting system).

Referrals drive Jigsaw’s growth. Members get 150 points for each referral (25 contacts).

Jigsaw is NOT:

A data aggregator (like Hoovers). Jigsaw leverages the collective knowledge of its members to provide great contacts at all levels of an organization.

Contact Management (like Plaxo). Jigsaw is for finding contacts you don’t have.

Social Networking (like Linked-In or Spoke). Jigsaw is about contact information, not relationships. Use Jigsaw when you need to find specific contacts at a given company and want to contact them directly.

Business Model:
Jigsaw is currently free, but will charge a flat $25 monthly fee upon formal launch. The low cost and the very high quality of contacts will help Jigsaw to quickly grow into a global community and create an unprecedented map of the business world.

An urban legend: face-to-face communication is the best vehicle for communication

Many people believe that the lack of non-verbal cues makes online communication inherently inferior to face-to-face communication. Albert Mehrabian, a UCLA professor, completed research in 1967 showing the significance of non-verbal cues in communications. He concluded, in part, “The combined effect of simultaneous verbal, vocal and facial attitude communications is a weighted sum of their independent effects — with the coefficients of .07, .38, and .55, respectively.” (Albert Mehrabian and Susan R. Ferris, “Inference of attitudes from nonverbal communication in two channels.” Journal of Consulting Psychology 31 (1967): 248-252. ) Out of context, this implies that in face-to-face conversation, 38% of communication is inflection and tone of voice, 55% is facial expression, and only 7% is based on what you actually say.

This statistic has grown into a very widely quoted and oft-misunderstood urban legend. Many communication skills teachers and image consultants misuse this data to indicate that your intonation, speaking style, body language, and other non-verbal methods of communication overpower your actual words. As a result, many people are concerned that online communication is much more difficult because body language, tone of voice, and facial expressions cannot today be effectively conveyed over the internet.

Not true. Mehrabian’s study only addressed the very narrow situation in which a listener is analyzing a speaker’s general attitude towards that listener (positive, negative, or neutral). Also, in his experiments the parties had no prior acquaintance; they had no context for their discussion. As Mehrabian himself has said explicitly, these statistics are not relevant except in the very narrow confines of a similar situation.

The conventional wisdom that face-to-face interactions allows more trust-building also makes us more vulnerable to false appearances. We may be easily duped by a nice suit, a firm handshake, and direct eye contact.

Pablo met Jonathan at a business networking event for Princeton alumni. Tall, handsome, and well-dressed, Jonathan looked like the very picture of a respectable businessperson. Pablo was favorably impressed.

When Pablo came home, he did a quick web search on Jonathan. The very first result that he turned up was an Administrative Proceeding by the Securities and Exchange Commission against Jonathan for violation of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934. In his future interactions with Jonathan, Pablo was careful to keep the information he learned in mind.

In online dating, people are frequently concerned about misrepresentation, because almost everyone in online dating sites is using a pseudonym. However, when building business relationships online, most people use their real name and real company. As a result, it is much easier to double-check the background of someone you meet.

If you suspect someone of misrepresentation, just check alternative sources of information. For example, try calling their corporate switchboard and reviewing their corporate website. A more subtle method is to check their domain name registration. Let us say you are investigating a startup company, like LacunaInc.com. Go to WhoIs.net and type in “LacunaInc.com”. You can see who owns that domain name. The address and phone number there are an alternative way of verifying that a business really exists, and where that business is really located.

Before doing business with any individual over the internet, we recommend doing an extensive search on both their name and their business name on an internet search engine, as well as running a literature search on them (e.g., with Lexis/Nexis). If the list of search results is too large to review them all, be sure not to just start on the first page of results and work your way forward—start at the back and check some random pages in the middle. This is where you are more likely to find any less-than-favorable information. F——Company.com is probably the most useful website for finding negative information. (The F—– stands for a common vulgarity.) Ed. note: F’dCompany is a highly biased source and not always reliable source of information. But if you’re looking for dirt, that’s one place to find it. Take what you read there with a grain of salt, though.

The internet puts information about people at your fingertips before and during your interaction with them. The public information about them can give you even more useful insight into their motives than non-verbal cues, such as facial expression and tone of voice.

Fakesters for hire

In what appears to be the first-ever paid product placement in a social networking site, Wired News reports that Friendster is promoting profiles of characters from the new movie Anchorman. This might come across as just an innovative new marketing ploy, if it weren’t for Friendster’s history of dealing with “fakesters” (fictitious profiles set up for a variety of purposes, including movie characters, members’ pets, and topical interests) by deleting them without prejudice.

Blogger Andy Baio, who broke the story last week, explains that most of the fakesters were created to innovate around a shortcoming in the service:

“Friendster never supported communities or groups, so users filled that gap with fakester profiles. If you were friends with ‘UC Berkeley’ or ‘Polka’ or ‘Jesus Christ,’ you were part of a de facto community. When Friendster killed all the fake accounts, they broke all those ties.”

Friendster doesn’t see the irony. I guess you don’t have to be a real person as long as you have real money.

Global PR Blog Week

Wish I’d known about this sooner, but it’s still not too late:

The Global PR Blog Week 1.0 is an online event that will engage PR, marketing and business bloggers from around the globe in a discussion about blogging and communications. The event is scheduled for July 12 – 16, 2004.

There’s already some great content posted about PR in the Age of Participatory Journalism and Corporate Blogging.

Over 30 authors are participating, and several will be available for real-time chat. Comments are open for guests to participate. There’s a lot to explore here—set aside some time.

How to visit sites without sharing your real data

Many websites, particularly media sites, now require registration, usually to gather demographic data about users. If for any reason you don’t want to register but still want to view the site, go to www.bugmenot.com, which offers valid logins and passwords for hundreds, perhaps thousands, of sites.

Via Lee Dembart via Kevin Kelly’s “Cool Tools”

5 random Ecademy members

Ecademy is constantly experimenting with ways to make their data available for use on other websites. Here’s their latest — a Javascript snippet for displaying random Ecademy members. I’m not quite sure of the practical application, but I’m always intrigued by people pushing the interoperability envelope.

UPDATE: They’re not completely random — it’s the most recent people who’ve logged on to Ecademy.

I haven

Counterintuitively, a number of academic studies have found that people like each other better when they first meet over the internet, versus first meeting face to face. In a 2002 paper, three New York University professors (John A. Bargh, Katelyn Y.A. McKenna, and Grainne M. Fitzsimons) explored this pattern. (J. A. Bargh, K. Y. A. McKenna, and G. M. Fitzsimons, “Can you see the real me? Activation and expression of the “true self” on the internet,” Journal of Social Issues 58 (2002): 33-48. )

A key reason for this pattern was that people tend to project their ideal or hoped-for qualities onto those whom they initially meet remotely. Since you have no data, you err on the optimistic side when evaluating the person. Similarly, if we describe a potential spouse to you, you may assume that she or he is charming and beautiful, unless we give you reason to assume otherwise.

This expectation can become a self-fulfilling prophecy. You hold a belief that your ideal business partner is honest and loves golf. You meet Tim online and guess that he is that honest golf-lover. You treat him as a trustworthy person, and in response, he acts in a trustworthy way. When you eventually meet in person, you play a fair game of golf together. Countless studies have shown the power of your expectations in shaping behavior of those you encounter.

Bargh and his colleagues describe four key differences between online and face-to-face interactions which encourage greater self-expression and, in turn, greater bonding.

• You have greater anonymity while communicating over the internet. You are free of the expectations of your peer group, and the traditional sanctions for new behaviors are absent. For example, you are normally a quiet and reserved person. Online, you can be more aggressive in pursuing a sale than you normally would, or make more jokes than you normally would. None of your colleagues are around to mock you for being more aggressive than usual.

• Outside of your usual social group, you have much more freedom to discuss your taboo or negative aspects (or those that may be perceived as negative). In traditional face-to-face interactions, there are real costs to disclosing these aspects. In a job interview with a conservative firm, you are unlikely to discuss your gay partner, because of concern about discrimination. A gay investment banker may find it difficult to find and build relationships with other gay peers, some of whom may keep their sexual orientation discreet. However, that banker may join a web-based group for gay businesspeople, which could be a powerful network for him. This is comparable to the “strangers on a plane” phenomenon, in which you might discuss very personal aspects of your life with a complete stranger precisely because you are unlikely to see that listener ever again.

• The aspects of traditional face-to-face interactions that may make you anxious are absent. For example, some people are distracted and anxious about their physical appearance. They worry about discrimination because they have acne, they have a handicap, or they are unattractive. Your gender, age, physical attractiveness, ethnicity, weight, and speech impediments may all make it harder for you to communicate with certain people in person.

• Lastly, you have more control over the conversational pace online. Instead of having to reply almost instantaneously while talking in person, you have a few days to respond when communicating online. You are able to think about and even change your response before revealing it to the other person. Some people who are inarticulate in person may see that they are much more skilled communicators online.

Someone is researching the social networking space

I just received the email below from Amazon:

Correction: I just confirmed that this email did not come from Amazon, but from another (anonymous) firm which is motivating people to participate in the survey by giving people a $10 Amazon gift certificate. My apologies for the error.

You have been selected to answer a quick survey regarding online networking, online services that enable business professionals to store and generate new contacts with other business professionals online. You may or may not currently be an active user of an online networking service, however, we would be interested in hearing your candid feedback.

The survey should take no longer than ten (10) minutes of your time. After you answer the last question of the survey, you will be signed up to receive your free $10 Amazon shopping credit.

Translation: Amazon already has a powerful online network in their community of reviewers, their wish lists, and the huge amount of behavioral data that they have collected. Now, they are trying to figure out how to monetize this more effectively, and are looking at the social network software firms as models. I took the survey, and it looks like they are comparing the major social network services and determining the advantages and disadvantages of each.

Correction to above: Although I was incorrect that this survey came from Amazon, I think that what I wrote about Amazon’s strategy is still valid.

Better communication means more business

Joseph Sommerville, President, Peak Communication Performance, has some useful articles posted on his website:

+ The 5 Keys to Better Sales Relationships
+ Avoiding the Sales Sledgehammers
+ 25 Quick Tips for More Powerful Presentations
+ Frequently Asked Questions about Successful Presentations
+ etc.