Download The Virtual Handshake for free

UPDATE: The book is no longer available for free download. We are proud to have offered it for free for many years—one of the first books from a major publisher to do so. We have retained the original post below for archival purposes.

We finally did it: we have made our new book, The Virtual Handshake: Opening Doors and Closing Deals Online, available for free download. Of course, we encourage you to buy the bound book at your local bookstore. It’s much easier to read that way (and actually cheaper than printing out the whole thing on your printer).

Just as online dating has revolutionized the way singles connect, very similar technologies are revolutionizing the way that businesspeople close deals. We wrote The Virtual Handshake to show you how to sign new customers, meet new business partners, recruit star employees, or even find a new job, all by using online networks. More technically, it’s the first mass-market guide to “social software”: blogs, social network sites, virtual communities, relationship capital management software, contact management software, and so on.

This was not an easy decision; we had a lot of discussions between ourselves and with our publisher, the American Management Association, about this. We were very hesitant to give away 2.5 years of hard work at no cost. The top five reasons we’re doing this are:

1) We’ve gotten rave reviews for the book, but it’s very hard to get people to notice a new book. The Virtual Handshake has received extremely strong reviews in BusinessWeek, Harvard Business School Working Knowledge, countless bloggers, and many other leading publications. It has also been excerpted in and I just received a great review from Ron Lichty, in the Software Development Forum News:

“It’s not often that you read a book in an area where you have interest and passion and discover authors who both deepen and broaden your thinking. It’s equally rare to find a book that, despite being published, as books are, months after they’re written and more months after they were researched, that nonetheless introduces technologies and applications and services that seem as fresh as if they were posted to a web site yesterday. The Virtual Handshake was that for me.”

We invested far more effort than we probably should have in writing a rigorous book that met our standards, with dozens of case studies, 300 sources, and extensive peer review. Our explicit role models were academics who write for the popular audience (e.g., Bob Cialdini, Deborah Tannen, Robert Putnam, Howard Gardner).

Readers appreciate that; the problem is getting readers to be aware of the book, in a world that publishes 600,000 new books every year. Providing a complimentary ebook is a way to increase trial of the book.

2) Frankly, we make very little money on each book. We earn in the range of 5%-20% of the publisher’s sale price (depending on various factors in the nature of each book sale), and 15% of that goes to the agent, and then Scott takes a chunk of course! In many cases, you as the affiliate marketer earn more on the sale of a book than we will, since you can earn up to 10% of the retail price as an affiliate, with no other parties involved. This is evidence that in the book value chain, the marketer adds more value than the content creator.

If the book becomes a bestseller, we’ll make real money on it. But in the unlikely instance that it does not become a bestseller (grin), then the real value of writing a book is the marketing of my company, Nitron Advisors and our Circle of Experts; of Scott’s consulting/speaking services; my speaking appearances; and anything else we choose to market.

There are also a lot of other ancillary benefits to writing a book, which I won’t discuss here. But to achieve any of these marketing benefits, we just need to get the book in peoples’ hands.

3) Distributing an ebook is particularly appropriate given the subject of our book. Long term, we think that every professional businessperson would benefit by learning from our system. In the short term, the obvious sweet spot of our market are highly computer-literate people who are heavy Internet users. Those are exactly the sort of people who are likely to be highly receptive to a free ebook marketing campaign.

4) Providing free downloads has worked very well for Cluetrain Manifesto, Naked Conversations, Seth Godin, and Cory Doctorow, all of which were significant influences on our book, and all of whom we’d be happy to emulate.

5) Insatiable curiosity. It’s an experiment. If it works, we can recommend it to others. To our knowledge, most of the authors who have tried free ebooks were self-published. AMACOM Books (the American Management Association) is experimenting just as we are.

So, download it now, tell a friend, post a link to on your blog, etc. Once you’ve read it, we’d greatly appreciate a review on your blog, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, company newsletter, or any other appropriate venue. And of course, we always value your feedback.


Summary: Oxford & York Media Conference: In the Age of the Blogger

Back in October, I blogged my contribution to Oxford & York’s New Media & Entertainment Summit. Christopher Clark just sent me the official executive summary of the program. If you’re interested in the impact of blogging on the media industry, and vice-versa, this is well worth reading.

Executive Summary here.

Here are the panels that are summarized:

Evolving Revenue Models in Media and Entertainment
John Nendick, Ernst & Young LLP
Chris Ahearn, Reuters Media
Robin Johnson, The Financial Times
Thomas V. Ryan, EMI Music, North America
Thomas Gewecke, Sony BMG Music Entertainment

Technology and Social Change
Anthony Hopwood, Saïd Business School, Oxford University
Sandy Pentland, MIT, The Media Laboratory
Howard Bass, Ernst & Young LLP

New Media Meets Old Media
Josh Manchester,
Jay Rosen, PressThink
Evan Williams, Odeo
Roger L. Simon, Pajamas Media
Jeremy D. Zawodny, Yahoo! Inc.

The Big 3: Media Piracy, Fraud, and Music Licensing
Bob Kohn, RoyaltyShare
David Teten, Nitron Advisors

Instinct and Promoting Entrepreneurship!

J.P. Donlon, Directorship
Thomas L. Harrison, Diversified Agency Services
Paul Maidment,

Powerpoints from the Virtual Handshake Conference

handshake I

Image by oooh.oooh via Flickr

I just posted many of the slides from last month’s Virtual Handshake conference, "Beyond Blogs and Social Networks: How the Virtual Handshake and Consumer Generated Media Will Make or Break Your Business".

Following are the presentations/topics for which I just added slides:

Managing Relationships with Influencer Bloggers (Idil Cakim)
Panel: New Trends in Marketing via RSS
Anne Berkowitch, cofounder and CEO, SelectMinds
Geoff Hyatt, CEO, Contact Network Corporation
Glenn Gutmacher, Microsoft, on Recruiting with Online Networks (see the comments section)
Sanford Dickert: Blogging for Business Performance
Larry Bodine on Marketing with Blogs
Steven Cohen, Senior Librarian , Pubsub, on Real-Time Web Search
Monitoring Real-Time Consumer-Generated Media
Corporate Blogging�Real World Success Stories
Michael Wing, IBM, on Corporate Blogging and Jamming
Rob Key, CEO Converseon, on Consumer-Generated Media
Jonathan Carson, Buzzmetrics

You can download my two keynotes here:

  • Introduction to Social Software. What is it? Who are some of the major players?
  • Your Life is Online…Now What? Social and business implications of the growth of social software.

    Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

  • Wrapup of Virtual Handshake Conference

    Chairing last week’s Virtual Handshake conference, “Beyond Blogs and Social Networks: How the Virtual Handshake and Consumer Generated Media Will Make or Break Your Business” was an honor and a pleasure. I’d like to thank Stuart Williams, Ali Curi, and Don Friedman of the Strategic Research Institute for making the conference happen.

    For those of you that did not attend, you can get a feel for the event by looking at all the blog posts at for December 1st and 2nd, 2005. I have also included links to the slides that were presented, in those cases where I had access to them.

    You can download my two keynotes here:

  • Introduction to Social Software. What is it? Who are some of the major players?
  • Your Life is Online…Now What? Social and business implications of the growth of social software.
  • Following are the key blog posts:

    Managing Relationships with Influencer Bloggers
    Panel: New Trends in RSS
    Anne Berkowitch, cofounder and CEO, SelectMinds
    Geoff Hyatt, CEO, Contact Network Corporation
    Glenn Gutmacher, Microsoft, on Recruiting with Online Networks
    Marty Schwimmer on Marketing to Large Corporations with a Blog
    Sanford Dickert: Blogging for Business Performance
    Larry Bodine on Marketing with Blogs
    Steven Cohen, Senior Librarian , Pubsub, on Real-Time Web Search
    Monitoring Real-Time Consumer-Generated Media
    Corporate Blogging—Real World Success Stories
    MediaBistro and GoBigNetwork CEOs on Online Social Networks
    Dan Burstein on Blogging
    Michael Wing, IBM, on Corporate Blogging and Jamming
    Rob Key, CEO Converseon, on Consumer-Generated Media
    Steve Rubel on Blogs/Consumer Generated Media
    Notes from today’s Virtual Handshake conference: Jonathan Carson, Buzzmetrics

    We hope to host a similar event next year, and very much hope that all of you can attend again! We welcome your suggestions for speakers, topics, and other ways in which to make next year’s social software conference as valuable as possible.

    Review: The Complete Idiot's Guide to Growing Your Business With Google

    Disclosure: Our new book is about networks, and the process of marketing a book has certainly emphasized for us how important networks are. Honestly, we have to admit that most of the reviewers of The Virtual Handshake book were people with whom either my coauthor Scott Allen or I had some sort of relationship. There’s such a deluge of new books every day that you have to have some connections to get covered by influencers. If you dont have the right media connections, then you artificially create them by hiring a public relations specialist.

    Because relationships are made up of give-and-take, we have to admit that some of the people who have written reviews wouldn’t mind a positive review of their next book, some Google juice from a linkback, our acting as a source for a future news story, positive coverage, or some other form of compensation. There’s nothing wrong or improper about that; it’s just fundamental to human relationships…but of course, should be disclosed.

    There are a few reviewers (e.g., Harvard Business School Working Knowledge; Kirkus) who reviewed the book simply because they think it’s worth reviewing. We haven’t done anything for them; we have no connections to the reviewers; and we’re not too likely to do any significant favors to HBS and Kirkus in the near future. (Although perhaps I should give a charitable donation to HBS…)

    Learning about how books get reviewed has certainly raised my skepticism about all the reviews that I see! This also explains why you see very few negative book reviews any place outside of certain major media (e.g., the Wall Street Journal).

    With all of that as introduction, Dave Taylor recently wrote a positive review of The Virtual Handshake, which we greatly appreciate. He also sent me a copy of his new book, The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Growing Your Business With Google .

    Quite a few people have sent me books lately to read, but Dave’s is one of the few which I actually am writing about. So that should tell you that I actually believe in what I’m writing! However, Dave has very high search engine placement, so that also could bias my writing, insofar as I may be hoping for a linkback or other subsequent traffic enhancers from him. Although I strive to be neutral in my evaluation, I’m just as vulnerable as anyone else to the fact that Dave has done me the favor of some links to our site and a positive review.

    Enough disclosures. I read Dave’s book and do strongly recommend it. In fact, I liked it so much that I promptly gave my copy away to some of my friends at, and I plan also get a copy to my mother, who runs Dancetime Publications.

    First, I should mention the title is a misnomer. It’s really The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Growing Your Business With Search Engines. Of course, putting Google in the title spikes book sales, so I understand why Dave used that title, but 95% of the book is relevant to all issues around using search engine in your business.

    This is an excellent, easy-to-understand overview of the basics of Internet presence, marketing, and advertising. He goes in depth into some issues that we skim only very briefly in our own book, e.g., maximizing search engine visibility and how to use Google adwords most effectively.

    The book is well-organized and easy to follow, particularly because of Dave’s extensive use of callouts and other devices to make the content as bite size as possible. My strongest criticism is that the book is based primarily on Dave’s (extremely extensive) experience. I would have liked to have seen more analysis of other peoples’ revenues earned from following his counsel. Also, I think that the book is somewhat short on financial analysis: what is the ROI from following all of his advice?

    With all that said: if you work with any sort of business that needs to be visible to the search engines, and are interested in monetizing your traffic, The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Growing Your Business With Google is a very useful book.

    Virtual Handshake NZ Yahoo Group

    My long-time Ryze friend John Stephen Veitch recently launched Virtual Handshake NZ, a Yahoo Group “to encourage New Zealand residents to join online networks, like Yahoo Groups, but also social network groups like Ryze, Ecademy, OpenBC, Soflow, LinkedIn, Academici and ZeroDegrees.” It’s open to non-kiwis, too.

    John is kicking off the discussion with a chapter-by-chapter commentary on our book, The Virtual Handshake, and the quality of discussion is excellent. If you’re interested in sharing ideas and learning more about online social networks, this is definitely one to add to your list.

    Which are the best blog search engines?

    Who Really Are the Elite Bloggers? And What are the Best Ways to Measure a Blog’s Reach?


    Our NYU college intern Chris Duncan and I (much more Chris than I) have been researching the efficacy of the various blog ranking engines:


    As part of the Virtual Handshake marketing plan, I was charged with the task of identifying the top influencers in the blogosphere. We are in the process of reaching out to them, mentioning our book, and encouraging them to consider writing about it. The easiest way to identify these thought leaders is to review the ranking lists created by the blog directories or search engines, including PubSub , Technorati , Bloglines , Blogrolling , Feedster , and Icerocket . Influencers use these lists as leverage in ad rate negotiation, to establish their level of influence, and simply as a bragging point. More generally, as in most areas of life, success is sticky. The more visible sites attract more visitors, and therefore become even higher ranked.


    These sites profess to show the top blogs. But how do they measure popularity, and how accurate are they?



    Top 5 Sites by Inlinking Sites for one day

    Top 5 Sites by Outlinking Sites

    Top 5 Sites by Link Rank (based on number of incoming links, plus other factors such as recency)

    Site ranks and link numbers as of September 18, 2005

    PubSub has two different types of top lists, "in-links" and "out-links". Both have limited relevance. The in-link list counts how many sites link to a site (each site only counts once) and the out-link list counts how many sites a blog links to. The problem is that neither of these two lists have many actual quality blogs in them. The in-link list is cluttered with news sites, blog resource sites, and random spam. 20+ sites that make the list are adult web sites, and they’re not even good adult sites . The majority of the sites on the out-link list are spam, since all you need to do to appear there is post large numbers of links outgoing from your site. No sites appear on both of the lists. Add all of these factors together, and it is extremely difficult to find any influencers on this list.


    Pubsub does have an interesting feature called “Site Stats” which tracks the in-links, out-links, and entries (new and modified entries discovered in a site’s feeds). It also creates graphs of these statistics. PubSub claims that “the intent of this system is not to measure the strength of any particular domain, but rather the relative likelihood that you’d find and follow a link to that domain. As such, the links are what’s really important, not the pages themselves.” I interpret this to mean that they are calculating the odds of reaching a certain site instead of measuring in-links, visitors, or hits. Regardless of their claims, the list is of limited accuracy, as shown by the .info spam domains that appear on both lists. No list is ever going to be perfect, but PubSub doesn’t appear to incorporate any more sophisticated criteria than the raw number of links. A better system would incorporate other factors, e.g., how credible are the sources of the links, while weighting them appropriately.

    PubSub’s LinkRank system is much more effective than the other two lists they maintain. Initially, I was skeptical of their new system because it had a spam site listed number one the day after they implemented a new ranking formula. Since then, the rankings have fallen in line with my expectations and it seems to have evolved into a useful list.




    Technorati’s top list has many more relevant entries. Its primary criterion is the same as PubSub, the number of sites that linking to a particular site. The top sites on PubSub’s in-link list approach 2,000 links for the top 10; on Technorati, they are all above 8,000 links. .


    # of Sites Linking to Top 5 Blogs






    Site ranks and link numbers as of September 18, 2005


    Alexa , a site commonly used to evaluate a site’s traffic, also has conflicting rankings for the top five sites above. BoingBoing is not first in Alexa traffic rank out of all the sites; Fark is now number one. By checking more relevant sites, Technorati does seem to capture the “buzz” better than Google or Alexa. Technorati is clearly better than PubSub in terms of analyzing in-link lists, although, as Jason Calacanis notes , they still have some less-than-relevant entries such as Yahoo Messenger on the list. I’m not sure how they’re reducing the number of spam entries, but they’re probably doing it by weighting the source pages by the number of links that go into them. That’s exactly what Google does for the Web as a whole. Jason Kottke says that Technorati also has trouble counting links . A post of his received 159 trackbacks (!), but Technorati only listed it as having 93 sites linking to it.



    Top 5 Sites by Subscription


    Bloglines takes a different approach by looking at feed subscribers instead of links to the web site. Their list looks like a good mix of PubSub and Technorati. It has sites such as BoingBoing, Gizmodo , and Engadget which also appear on Technorati’s list , as well as the New York Times and BBC which show up on PubSub. Bloglines also provides a simple description beneath each link, which helps you to scan a list of bloggers very rapidly.


    The Bloglines system has a clear advantage over both of the other lists in that it is an “opt-in” list. The advantage of using feeds is that it more accurately measures the interests of the average blog reader (who doesn’t have an active blog), as opposed to the opinions of fellow influencers (who run blogs that can carry link weight). Bloglines is comparable to using TV’s Nielsen Ratings to evaluate a show’s popularity, as opposed to asking the commentators who speak on PBS what TV shows they most like. Of course, the downside is that feeds are very susceptible to manipulation. I’m assuming that Bloglines has already run into the problem of fake subscribers used to pump up perceived traffic for certain blogs. As of now, I would rank Bloglines as more useful for our purposes than PubSub and Technorati.



    Top 5 by Site Linking



    Another approach can be seen with the Blogrolling Hot 500 . Blogrolling is a service that manages the link lists on blogs to make trading traffic easier. The fact that they count permanent links instead of looking at individual blog posts makes the list unique. When a blogger blogrolls a site, he has indicated his belief that that site is worth monitoring on an ongoing basis. Blogrolling also provides a reverse look-up feature that shows which blogs are linking to a specific site. We can see that some of the same sites appear in these rankings as the top five, including Instapundit , Boing Boing , Dooce , and Daily Kos . The only new site to appear in this top five is Slashdot. It really is quite a battle to move up this list; #500 is linked to by 125 users while Mark Cuban and The Guardian are tied at 200 links (which puts them at #228). This is a testament to the impressive reach that the top ten sites have. Michelle Malkin comes up on just over a thousand Blogrolling lists to put her at the tenth spot. I would say that the power of this list lies in the users of Blogrolling rather than their ranking system. It’s simplistic and imperfect (sites are listed twice but with different domains; is 20th with at 21st ; their link totals combined would put Ana Marie Cox easily in the top five).



    Top 5 on Feedster 100

    Top 5 on Feedster 500


    Feedster provides both an RSS feed aggregator as well as a search tool. They maintain two different top lists which use different analytic techniques: the Feedster Top 50 0 and the Feedster Top 100 . The Feedster Top 500 is much like the in-link lists that Technorati and PubSub have. I’m assuming (they don’t say) that the in-links counted by the Feedster Top 500 are taken from individual blog posts. This puts the top five sites at well over 20,000 links each; it takes 809 links to make the top 500 list. While the Top 500 is more of the same, the Top 100 is more useful. The Feedster Top 100 is like Bloglines; it looks at feed subscriptions to form its list. Boing Boing makes this top five, yet again. Otherwise, we see different sites but ones that we would expect to make the top five: Wired, Slashdot, and Dilbert. I’m not sure how fairly special-interest Google Weblog ended up on this list; perhaps Aaron Swartz has a lot of friends who use Feedster.




    The last site I looked at was IceRocket, backed by Mark Cuban. They don’t have any ranking lists, but it is a useful resource. At IceRocket, you can search for blog posts by topic or by URL (find out who is linking to it). This way, you can also compare trends for certain topics to see how they are being posted about over about a two month period.

    Link tracking is the other useful tool provided by IceRocket. They provide a service that lets bloggers track the links to their own posts with a short line of code. This can also be done through the search feature by entering a URL. The aforementioned post by Jason Kottke comes up with 59 sites linking to it. You can really see whose posts are creating buzz around the internet.



    Google has just released their version of the blog search engine. Its advanced functions and speed are consistent with other Google products. It can search for blog title, authors, and by date (but not any posts before March of this year). Unfortunately, they do not provide a general ranking list of the top X number of blogs. However, we can use the "link:" feature to see how many sites are linking to some of the more popular sites we’ve seen. I’ll also compare this to their Google "link:" numbers so we can see how the differ.


    Google Blog Search (# blogs linking to this blog)


    (# sites linking to this site)











    Obviously, the numbers vary greatly. This can be attributed to the fact that the Google Blog Search has a much smaller pool of sites in which it finds results and possibly in part due to the fact that these results are only from the past 6 months. In any case, Google Blog Search rankings and in-links will probably become important benchmarks.




    There is obviously no perfect ranking system on the internet–either for blogs or for sites in general– and there probably never will be. Our recommendation is that PubSub try to focus their results on real blogs; too many of their results are commercial sites or blog utilities. Technorati needs to become more accurate in their counts of links. Bloglines and Feedster could be substantially improved if they took the next step and separated the blogs into categories. Blogrolling is always going to be an imperfect system, but they should really remove sites off of their ranking list that haven’t been updated in months.

    The ideal system would probably incorporate elements from all of the services that I’ve discussed–link tracking, in-linking, feed subscriptions, tags–and then find the best way to weight them. David Teten observed to me that it’s a (much-disputed) truism of biology that " ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny ,” but it’s happening here. Blog search engines and ranking tools are recapitulating the evolution of Web search engines such as Google.

    Two more possible elements that might allow for a more comprehensive grade (and probably more controversy) would be visitor and expert rating systems. The latter would only come into play if a site has enough strength in the other categories to make it to the top list. With these tools, there would be a human element of judgment added to these rankings.

    Blogs need a tool tailored to their type of content. It is clear that traditional search engines have trouble handling blogs because they are slow to react to new content and topics and do not have a reasonably comprehensive database of all the blogs that exist. These new search tools take the nuances of the blogosphere into account. They strive to correctly identify blogs and posts by their relevance, timeliness, and popularity. Eventually, more criteria will be added to their equations. As more and more websites incorporate blog-type functionality (frequent updating) and technology (RSS), figuring out how to search blogs will be more and more important.


    What Is a Virtual Handshake?

    In my Virtual Handshake Network on Ryze, Lamar Morgan asked me to define “a virtual handshake”. This is a great question, and considering the many, many hours David Teten and I sent brainstorming titles (I think we came up with over 200 candidates), it seems appropriate to offer an explanation.

    In a business context, the handshake is the universal hello/goodbye (OK, at least in most Western cultures). We shake hands when we first meet people. We shake hands when we first see them again, and usually when we part. When you think about it, almost all of our face-to-face business interaction with people we see infrequently, i.e., not our co-workers, is framed by handshakes.

    Moving deeper into the metaphor, historically, the handshake was a gesture of trust. By placing my hand outstretched to you, rather than on my sword hilt, I’m signalling that I want to greet you, not kill you, and that I trust you to do the same. The latter part is particularly important — it’s not just that I am being peaceful/civil, it’s that I trust you to be, as well.

    So more than just being a universal greeting, the handshake is a universal symbol of trust. It seems that many people feel that the most difficult aspect of virtual relationships is the matter of building trust, and since so much of our book is about how to build trust virtually, it seemed a particularly appropriate metaphor. What we try to do is show people how to frame their virtual interactions in ways that build trust.

    Of course, we also liked the fact that “virtual handshake” is an oxymoron. Oxymorons tend to make people think, and tend to be memorable. We figure any time anyone spends more than half a second thinking about the title of our book, that’s a good thing.

    FastCompany book excerpt: 10 Steps to Leverage Online Networks

    FastCompany has just published an excerpt of our book on the ten basic steps necessary to take full advantage of online networks. The excerpt is called, Leveraging Your Links.

    Years ago, when I interned for Procter & Gamble, we were told to never write a memo longer than one page. This excerpt is our book written on one page.

    Internet Radio Interview: Career Acceleration with Online Networks

    Peter Clayton, Senior Producer of, just posted a 27-minute podcast interview with me on the show, focused on how to use online networks for career acceleration, and particularly the job search. You can download the interview here. is the first internet radio career show. To quote from their ‘about’ page:

    “While just 3.4 million Americans subscribe to satellite radio, about 19 million listen to Internet radio each week, according to research firms Arbitron Inc. and Edison Media Research.”
    Source: Wall Street Journal, December 13, 2004

    “Internet radio is quietly emerging as a mass-market phenomenon that attracts tens of millions of consumers on a weekly basis. Mainstream radio advertisers and trackers of terrestrial radio airplay are starting to take note..”
    Source: Billboard, June 26, 2004

    In other words, regardless of your profession, internet radio is an increasingly important medium.