Launching The Virtual Handshake Company

I’m pleased today to announce the launch of The Virtual Handshake company.

When we published The Virtual Handshake book in 2005, we were on the leading edge of what’s now known as social media marketing. We envisioned then what has now come to pass: social becoming a ubiquitous channel like the telephone, mail, television, radio, and email before it. And along with that, an entire ecosystem of specialized products and services: technology, education, strategy, implementation, content creation, and outsourced engagement management.

But in 2005, the market wasn’t ready for all that. Now it is.

Our initial offering is consulting services focused on social strategy and social technology. We’ve been doing this since 2002. We’ve worked with Fortune 10 companies, mid-market companies, and major social media platforms, on down to startups and solo professionals. We have a unique framework for social media strategy based on our book. We also have 10+ years of experience working with social listening and social data on a massive scale. We bring that expertise to mid-market and growing businesses that are running into the challenges of scaling their social media operations.

In short, we do social at scale.

Coming in 2020, watch for:

  • Educational programs, focused on leveraging online networks based on your business role: social selling, relationship marketing, finding a job, business development, finding employees, and more.
  • The Virtual Handshake podcast, featuring our insights into social strategy and technology and interviews with industry leaders.
  • The Virtual Handshake 2020, a revisit of our ground-breaking book, updated for 2020, on our blog.

For updates, follow our blog and connect with us on LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook.

We look forward to exploring the next phase of the social web with you.

Fun with Klout

I’m not going to bash Klout. plenty of others have done that already, and besides, I like getting free stuff, so, more power to them!  I just want to have fun with them.

A few weeks ago, I did a post about Wikipedia’s fundraising ads, entitled Jimmy Wales, Serial Killer?, which got retweeted by a few people. Well, thanks to that, Klout decided that “Wales” and “Serial Killer” were topics I was influential about (sorry, didn’t get a “before” snapshot). Now, they weren’t among my top 3, which were “Social Media”, “Internet Marketing” and “SEO”, but it was in my top 15.

I decided to have a little fun with it, so I posted on Twitter and Facebook, and sent out a shareholder mail on Empire Avenue, asking people to give me +K in “Wales” and “Serial Killer”. Within 5 minutes:

KloutFun

Awesome!

I think, though, I may have overdone it, because within an hour:

KloutFun2

LOL! Oh well. makes for a great blog post. I wonder what kind of perks that’ll trigger for them to send me?

Feel free to +K me in Social Media and help me get back to normal. Or not. 🙂

Happy Birthday to Me, and How Distributed Cognition Enhances Relationships

It’s 9am on my birthday, and already, 65 people have posted birthday wishes on my Facebook wall.

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Several more have Skyped me.

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Sure, it’s just a simple act – some might argue it’s only slightly more social than a poke, but I disagree. Frankly, I think this is really what the social web is all about: using distributed cognition to truly enhance relationships.

How so?

Ever heard of Dunbar’s number? Basically, it’s the theory that the size of our social network is limited by the size of our neocortex, and for human beings, the maximum number of “close” relationships we can theoretically have – the number of people whose names and faces you remember easily, who you can remember details about them, like what they do for a living, the last conversation you had with them, etc.

But what happens when our capacity for social relationships is no longer limited by our brain capacity?

Some people think that tools like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and even CRM or contact management systems have created an illusion of having more “real” friends than we actually do. I suppose, for some, that’s true.

I look at it differently, though. I look at these tools as distributed cognition. Essentially, we’re making our brains larger by using external tools to enhance our memory. I can “remember” hundreds of people’s faces, because they’re right there when I interact with them. I can call them by name – one of Dale Carnegie’s most important tips for winning friends and influencing people. I can easily recall the last conversation I had with them with a couple of mouse clicks. I can see what they’re up to and ask specific questions about it rather than wasting my time and theirs with small-talk questions like “So what are you up to these days?”  LinkedIn already knows, so I already know.

Social media isn’t just a way to have a bunch of trivial relationships; used properly, it’s a way to treat more than 150 people that you truly care about like you treat those 150.like you would if you were smarter, or had better memory.

To put it in Virtual Handshake terms, using Information well demonstrates your Character and helps you increase the Strength of your relationships.

This isn’t a new concept, by any means. It’s the same principle behind The Mackay 66, a collection of 66 questions that uber-networker Harvey Mackay used to build the strong relationships that allowed him to build a phenomenally successful company in the face of much larger competitors. It includes information such as the client’s college fraternity/sorority, children’s interests and birthdates, their immediate and long-term business objectives, health conditions, etc. Before every call, Harvey would pull out the client’s file so he could have that information at his fingertips. As he gleaned little bits of information during the course of the conversation, he would note it in their file.

As a result, his customers were constantly amazed at his apparently great memory, and the remarkable personal interest he took in them.

Cynics might say that it’s just a brilliant ploy to manipulate people. Harvey will tell you that it’s just the only way he could keep track of the information that helped him show how much he truly cared about people. And that’s also good business.

So this is why you should wish your Facebook friends happy birthday. Congratulate your LinkedIn contacts on their promotion or new business venture. Comment on their blog about how adorable their new baby or puppy is. It’s not being manipulative. It’s not being trivial. It’s acting like you want to act towards people you truly care about, and like you would on your own, if you were just smarter. Let social media make you socially smarter.

P.S. In the 30 minutes it’s taken to write this post, 7 more people have posted to my Facebook wall and 4 more have Skyped me. What a great way to start the day!

Online Dating is the Future of Your Business

I gave a talk today as part of TEDx Silicon Valley on “Online Dating is the Future of Your Business”. Here’s the video and an expanded version of the slide deck.

In the talk I discuss how some of the successful online dating startups are models for new businesses, many of which in various ways help businesses get more and better clients. Specifically, I discuss some of the interesting companies in the dating space — True, BeautifulPeople, 420Singles, HowAboutWe (portfolio company), STDSter (a dating site for people with sexually-transmitted diseases), ignighter, InterracialSingles, AshleyMadison (a site for finding a mistress) — which are models for some of our portfolio companies: Identified.com, Voxy, 500px, LocalResponse, Hashable, ThinkNear, and InfoChimps.

I’d greatly value your feedback!

Watch live streaming video from tedx at livestream.com

Thank you to interns Raphaela Sapire and Wei Deng for their help researching this presentation, particularly some of the more questionable dating sites.

30 Seconds of Your Time Could Mean the World to Me

UPDATE: Chevy was so impressed with what all the participants produced, as well as the turnout for the voting, that they did the smart thing and decided to declare us all winners! Thanks to everyone for your support.

I have a small favor to ask that will only take a few seconds of your time, and could really do something amazing for me.

Super-short version for super-busy people:
Please vote for me. No registration – just 2 mouse clicks (Scott Allen, Vote).

Longer version if you have more than just a few seconds:
A couple of weeks ago, I took my son and his best friend on a "mancation" sponsored by Chevrolet (who ever said blogging doesn’t pay?). We had an absolutely fantastic time, the video is at the bottom of this post.

Well, it’s also a contest, and the winner gets a second mancation (with a little more spending money). I’d greatly appreciate your support in the voting. It’ll only take a few seconds of your time, and winning it would mean the world to me. You can vote here. For extra karma points, tell your friends, share it on Facebook & Twitter, blog about it, etc.!

Thanks for your support.

I’m joining ff Venture Capital

 

I am delighted to announce that I’m joining ff Venture Capital as a Partner. Official blog post and more details here. In addition, Michael Yavonditte, CEO of Hashable, is joining as a Venture Partner.  

 

Since 1999, ff has made over 100 investments in over 35 companies, and from the beginning has been highly focused on generating industry leading returns. Among the firm’s most successful seed investments that have reached maturity are Cornerstone OnDemand (which raised $137m in a March 2011 IPO, ticker CSOD) and Quigo Technologies (sold to AOL for a reported $340m). We have a large crop of exciting growth companies that are starting to come into their own.

 

I’ve known John Frankel, the firm’s founder, for a year and a half. I’m very impressed by the organization he’s built and his track record. I’m honored to be the second partner in the firm’s history.

 

Before making the decision to join the firm, I did some research on early-stage tech investing as an asset class. What was striking was what an attractive asset class it was. Although any given early-stage company is quite risky, when aggregated across a large portfolio, returns are very attractive. There is also low correlation to risks that investors inherently have in most of their other investments, e.g., interest rate volatility, exchange rates, macro factors such as unrest in the Middle East, commodity fluctuations, unfunded pensions, etc. In addition, angel investments historically have a low correlation level with other asset classes, given the nimbleness with which small companies can adjust to changes in the economy, and the great diversity of companies in the typical early-stage portfolio. As a result, various analyses have shown annualized returns of 18-37%, 27%, and 30%.

 

As part of my new role, my mandate is to continue the institutionalization of the Firm, accelerate the growth of our portfolio companies, and look for great entrepreneurs and companies with which we can work. In addition, we’re extending our successful summer intern program and looking for some fall interns . If you know of any companies or people with whom we should talk, please be in touch! 

 

Due to my new responsibilities with ff, I’m transitioning to a Chairman role with Navon Partners, the startup that I’ve been working on with our all-star team for the last year.

How the Networked Economy is Changing the Deal Origination ROI Paradigm

 

Peter Lehrman of AxialMarket posted on his blog this must-read Powerpoint on the evolution of private equity deal sourcing.  I definitely agree with the points he makes here.  Most interesting are his estimates of the cost for different methods of deal sourcing.  We discuss in more depth a lot of these ideas in The Virtual Handshake.

Using LinkedIn to Reach the Right People at the Right Time – Free Webinar 11/30

3229285946_e2e1391972 Wouldn’t it be great if you could connect with your ideal clients before they needed your product or service?  And wouldn’t it be even more amazing if you knew immediately when something occurred that triggered their need for your service?  Imagine running an appliance repair service and receiving an email any time someone in your service area has a broken appliance – before they start the process of finding someone to fix it. Or running a Chinese restaurant and knowing any time one of your regular customers gets a craving for Chinese food.

Science fiction?  Well, yes.  But the reality of what’s currently possible may be closer to that than you think.

Most marketing is focused on creating a message that matches the prospect’s need and attracts them…after they’ve started the buying decision process.  But there’s a window of opportunity before that, between the time that something occurs that causes the need – the "trigger event" – and the time they start the buying process.  If you can connect with people during that window, you can establish yourself as a trusted advisor and perhaps even block out the competition entirely.

image This is known as "trigger-event selling", and Craig Elias, coauthor of SHiFT!  – Harness the Trigger Events That Turn Prospects into Customers, is the world’s leading expert on the topic. He’s also, like me, a very early adopter of LinkedIn and uses it as one of his core business tools.  With in-depth profiles of more than 80 million professionals, LinkedIn is one of the best tools for directly identifying and connecting with people who match your ideal client profile.  It’s also a great place for identifying trigger events – new hires, promotions, new projects, and other company news that may not make it to the usual public channels.

Craig and I will be conducting a free webinar next Tuesday, November 30, at 2pm EST on using LinkedIn to connect with your ideal clients, monitor for trigger events and establish yourself as a trusted advisor to them before they even start the buying process. This webinar will be jam-packed with practical how-to information that you can put into action immediately. Register now to reserve your spot.

P.S. – This is seriously advanced stuff.  I’ve used it with a handful of my high-end clients, but this is the first time I’ve taught it to a group. If you’re serious about using LinkedIn to improve your sales process, you don’t want to miss this.

Top image: Anders Ljungberg

Oodle acquires Grouply

Grouply Logo Congratulations to the team at Grouply on their sale to Oodle!  I’ve been on the Advisory Board of Grouply since its very early days, and am an enthusiastic user.  It very significantly increase my efficiency by allowing me to monitor more online communities than I could otherwise keep an eye on. 

 

I have to admit I was surprised that Yahoo/Google didn’t either acquire them or copy all their functionality, given how dramatically Grouply increases the functionality of traditional Google/Yahoo groups.  However, lately Yahoo at least seems to be focusing much more on shedding assets (and sometimes people) than on acquiring them.

 

Free release below:

Oodle Acquires Grouply

Oodle announced today that it has acquired Grouply, the online hub for social groups that offers features for building customized social networking groups. Oodle, a pioneer in social commerce, is reinventing the online experience for "classifieds" by building a social marketplace.

 

The Grouply platform and the groups hosted there will continue to function as before.

 

“Affinity groups such as mother’s clubs, neighborhood groups, and alumni organizations can be hot spots for trading activity,” says Craig Donato, CEO and founder of Oodle. “People care about who they are transacting with and would prefer to deal with others they know or who share their interests. With over 500,000 active groups, Grouply is a leading platform for interest-based social networks and is a natural partner for Oodle.”

 

The majority of Grouply’s employees will move to Oodle.

 

“Oodle is the perfect fit for the Grouply team and a great place for us to continue our mission of allowing people to build groups that share specific interests,” said Mark Robins, Grouply founder and CEO. “We look forward to working with our partners at Oodle to introduce some exciting new products.”

 

Oodle’s Marketplace lets users easily buy, sell, lend and give with other friends, friends-of-friends, and other real people in their local community. It is available on Oodle, Facebook and the iPhone. Financial terms of the transaction were not disclosed.

About Oodle

 

Oodle is a pioneer in social commerce and brings a social experience to the local online marketplace. Users can easily buy, sell, lend and give with friends, friends-of-friends, and other people in their local community. Oodle’s Marketplace, which has over 14M unique monthly users, is available on Oodle (www.oodle.com), Facebook (apps.facebook.com/marketplace), iPhone & Android phones (www.oodle.com/mobile) as well as dozens of other local partner marketplaces. Oodle is available in the United States (www.oodle.com), Canada (canada.oodle.com) & UK (www.oodle.co.uk).

About Grouply

Grouply is pioneering the “social group” – a new type of online community that combines the best features of social networks and online groups. Social groups offer the social interactivity, media sharing, and modern design of social networking sites like Facebook; and the rich discussions, popular email interface, and people-discovery opportunities found in traditional online group systems like Yahoo! Groups. Grouply gives existing Google (NSDQ: GOOG) and Yahoo! (NSDQ: YHOO) Groups an “extreme makeover” including a fully customizable website, and active Google and Yahoo! Groups users can access all their groups in one place on Grouply.

Twitter Automation #FAIL

Some people have this crazy idea that automating content to their Twitter profile will be effective. Besides the fact that, for any real business trying to reach real people, it doesn’t work, you also run the risk of ending up with something like this:

TwitterAutomationFAIL

There are a couple of key lessons here for business owners exploring social media:

First, use automation with care. I generally recommend reserving it for mundane, low-risk tasks like following people back on Twitter, scheduling a Tweet for later, perhaps even automatically following people who meet certain criteria. All of these are low-risk, i.e., if they fail, they won’t affect your image or reputation.

Secondly, if you use any automated content publishing, e.g., syndicating your blog to Facebook or your LinkedIn updates to Twitter, check them fairly regularly (at least a couple of times weekly). If your social presence is worth investing time and effort into at all, it’s worth checking regularly to make sure you’re not embarrassing yourself.