Tuesday, November 29, 2011

How to Separate Work and Private Networking

One of the questions that I often hear in networking workshops is how to separate private and work networks. This is a problem for anyone but especially for those who are transitioning from study to work and need to add a layer of professional networking on top of their existing friends-and-family networking. Whatever your situation here are five answers to the question..

1. THERE ISN'T A SINGLE ANSWER TO THIS QUESTION -- there are many different ways of doing it -- but you have to choose some kind of answer. The worst thing to do is just to let things happen because then it is usually bad things that happen. Worse still, things can happen and you are not even aware of it because something you say to one person puts off someone else and they never mention it.

2. IF YOU CHOOSE SEPARATE NETWORKS DO IT RIGHT. One solution is to keep Facebook for friends and family and LinkedIn for work. This sounds simple enough though in practice you need to be very careful. To stop work contacts digging in your Facebook pages you need to set the privacy settings correctly and then test them. This means log out and then search for yourself to see what comes up. You need to check from time to time because Facebook has many times changed the privacy policy so you can never be sure your data stays private. If you'd like to express yourself freely without fear of consequences one alternative approach is to use your real name for things you want to be found and a pseudonym for the rest. Most networking sites do not officially allow this but they cannot detect it unless you use a name that is obviously fake.

3. IF YOU MIX WORK AND LEISURE BE VERY CAREFUL.  Another choice is to use the same account on Facebook, Google+ or whatever for both your work contacts and your friends. This saves a lot of time but the you need to be very careful what you say. It's probably a good idea to never say anything bad about your boss and colleagues anyway, in case someone leaks it -- maybe one of your trusted friends is not so trustworthy and shares your secrets with all the wrong people. You should also consider carefully what other things you post in a mixed network because it can get you into trouble one day. People have lost their jobs for being negative about their customers, their company's products and, of course, the boss. Maybe when you were hired you signed a Social Media Policy. Quite likely it lays down the rules for this so make sure you know what you signed.

4. AVOIDING ALL PERSONAL CONTENT MAKES YOU LOOK ONE DIMENSIONAL. If you are using a network purely for work it is a good idea to occasionally let a little of your personal life appear because this makes you look more human and easier to communicate with. Some mention of your personal interests can help break ice when you talk to people but avoid topics like politics, sport and religion that can alienate people. Remember that every time you mention politics it is likely that you are turning off about half your work contacts. There's no need to keep your politics secret but you also don't need to push them in people's faces.

5. CULTURAL FACTORS CAN BE IMPORTANT. When you work in a global community remember that there may be different views on networking activity in other cultures. Some are fairly obvious, like avoiding sensitive topics when sharing with people from strongly conservative cultures. Perhaps less obvious is that the distinction between work friends and friend friends is clear in some cultures and more fuzzy in others. In the US and other countries you can easily keep people in compartments but in those cultures that Fons Trompenaars calls "diffuse" you might find that this distinction is not understood in the same way and sorting people into categories can cause offense. Another non-obvious culture issue is that taboo subjects are not the same everywhere. In some countries you should avoid talking politics, in some you should never ask what someone earns and in another you should avoid talking sports. If in doubt ask someone for help!

Exactly how you keep your private and work life separate or mixed depends a lot on your circumstances, culture factors and your personal goals. There are many more things to consider and if you have any specific questions you are welcome to put them in the comments. But whatever you decide it's important to decide something and be in control of the way you appear.


Related Posts on Networking:

How to Separate Work and Private Networking
Involuntary Networking: Why First Street is Fascinating but Scary
LinkedIn Etiquette: How to Approach People You Don't Know
Selling Your Ideas: Influencing Your Way to Success
Professional Networking: Five Sites You Should be Using
How to Use Twitter for Professional Networking
Sign Up Now: Joining New Networking Sites Boosts Your Reputation
Zerply: Three Thumbs Up, Two Thumbs Sideways
Three Keys to Networking

Lectures, Workshops, Coaching, Writing about Networking

For information about lectures, workshops, coaching and writing on this topic visit andrewhennigan.com, email me at conseil@andrewhennigan.com or call 0033 6 79 61 42 81

Monday, November 28, 2011

Why Gidsy's MarketPlace for Experiences Could Change Things

With dozens of new websites coming every day, to impress me you either have to do something very original or do something very well. A startup called Gidsy has managed to do both.

Described as a "marketplace for experiences", Gidsy brings together people who are looking for interesting new experiences and people who have an activity to share with other people. You can, for example, book a place in a stop-motion animation workshop, a graffiti tour of the city, a bar crawl or even a trip in a Paternoster elevator -- the kind with no doors that never stop. Initially it is limited to Berlin and New York, but other cities will be added in future. With just two cities there is already enough content to show effectively how the idea works.

Gidsy is interesting for people who are looking for something new to try but it is equally interesting for people who have something to sell. When you are in Berlin you can probably find plenty of activities through the usual channels, but how could you arrange a snooker workshop with the Austrian champion of the game? Gidsy lets you do this and it takes the risks out of doing it. People who book an activity pay Gidsy who then pass on the payment -- less a 10% fee -- only after the activity has taken place, so that if there are any problems they can freeze the payment. If someone books then cancels at the last minute the host still gets paid -- 50% a week before before and 100% two days before.

The social element of Gidsy comes in two ways. First of all you meet the host and the other people who have signed up for the same activity, so you have at least one thing in common. You can also invite your friends to join you on an activity so you can share the fun. Today Gidsy connects to Facebook so you can share your activities and see which activities your friends have chosen. According to the description on the website other networks will be connected later.

Just the idea alone is interesting, but what impressed me more, though, is the excellence of the execution. Gidsy.com is a textbook example of simple, elegant and uncluttered design. It is also robustly functional and works so well I have not seen a single error message or "try again later" yet.

What makes Gidsy likely to succeed is the perfect storm of this impressive user experience combined with strong market factors. People would certainly like to try new things if the risk element is taken away and everyone from climbers to violinists would be happy to make some extra money and have fun at the same time.  I can only see two downside risks for the company. The first is that others will simply copy the idea - though this is made much harder by the great execution.  The other is that, like for eBay and Craigslist, policing the activities will be a key activity for the company, both to keep illegal or otherwise unwanted activities off the site and dealing with the PR fallout from activities gone wrong.

Gidsy has the potential to bring a new mindset to many businesses, small and large. This approach to marketing activities is going to attract the attention of companies already working in the leisure and tourism space as an alternative way to market their products. But it's greatest impact is likely to be that it levels the playing field so that individual and smaller companies can also reach potential customers in the same way. As soon as they hear about Gidsy people who had maybe never thought of hosting an activity before are already coming up with ideas. Gidsy is more than just a website for booking activities; it is an enabler for a global cottage industry of people sharing their skills and knowledge with other people, enriching everyone.


Related posts on Startups

Social Media Crisis Management: Odimax's Emergency Stop

16pics Automatic Photo Picker: Humans Do Better But Have Better Things To Do

Trading Influence For Equity Wahooly Boosts Startups, Raises Ethical Questions

Zerply: Three Thumbs Up, Two Thumbs Sideways

Thursday, November 24, 2011

You Don't Like the Way You Look in Photos? Here Are Five Things to Try

So you don't like the way you look in photos? You are not alone. Most people feel the same way -- and this includes some of the pin-ups and fashion icons you drool over. Just being in the majority isn't going to make it feel better so is there anything concretely you can do if you feel like this? Yes, it turns out that there are a few things you can try, and here are the top five in no particular order.

1. GET USED TO THE WAY YOU REALLY LOOK.  Most of the time you see yourself in a mirror, which flips the image left-to-right. This means that unless your face is perfectly symmetrical you really do look different in a photo. You can test this by flipping a photo left to right with Photoshop. Most likely you will like it better that way and everyone else will say it looks odd. But the real solution is to get used to seeing yourself the right way round. This doesn't mean smashing all the mirrors, but simply printing out a few photos and putting them where you can see them regularly.

2. DON'T OBSESS OVER DETAILS. Reflect about why you don't like your photos and usually it all comes down to some detail that really annoys you but other people don't see and don't care about. Do you think a lot about dancer Fred Astaire's big hands? Maybe you don't but he did and tried to keep them out of the frame so people wouldn't see them.  Maybe you don't like the little wrinkle next to your eye, or the Marge Simpson chin or whatever. But to other people that's just part of you. They don't notice it, they don't care about it and neither should you.

3. FIX THAT CLUMP OF HAIR.  If your problem is that there is always a clump of hair that is sticking out sideways then do something about it. Either get a low-maintenance haircut, apply a whole tub of wild hair glue to make it behave or just keep checking yourself in mirrors, windows, iPhone screens or anything else that reflects. If you are a man and you don't want to be caught checking yourself in mirrors all the time then go to an outdoors store and buy one of those compasses with a built in mirror, the kind you use when you go grizzly bear hunting. Then when you are checking your hair people will think you are just checking which way the bear forest is.

4. KEEP YOUR FACE ON.  If people often catch you with a grumpy face or scratching your nose you can try keeping a neutral-to-positive expression all the time and learn the discipline of never scratching or picking at anything unless you are locked alone in a darkened cellar. Once I had to scan through hundreds of photos of a PR event looking for the "keepers". One of the guests at the event was the US state governor -- I won't mention who -- and I noticed that there was not a single shot taken the whole day where he didn't have his political face on. His wife, on the other hand, more than once had the I-wish-I-were-dead expression.

5. DON'T GET TOO CLOSE TO THE CAMERA.  Back in the early days of photography longer lenses were often called "portrait" lenses for good reason. When you are further away and the camera zooms in your face will be flatter and looks more natural. When someone comes much closer and zooms out you get a  near fisheye effect. This makes your nose look bigger and your ears look smaller -- a very unnatural look since human eyes are not like fish eyes  (For more about fish eyes see If Fish Could Draw and If Fish Could Draw II). This means you are more likely to get photos you like when the camera is not in your face.

There are plenty of other things to try but get started with these five and there's a good chance that even if you don't want to start a career as a model you will at least be more relaxed in front of the camera. If all this doesn't work then come back here and ask for more ideas.

Related Posts on Video, Audio, Photos
Three Simple Ways to Make Video Event Streaming More Effective
You Don't Like the Way You Look in Photos? Here Are Five Things to Try
I Hate the Way I Sound on Radio Practical Tips for Politicians, Entrepeneurs
Recording Audio Podcasts: Five Best Practices for Fast, Professional Results
So You Hate the Way You Look Sound in Video? Here's What You Can Do About it
Recording Video Interviews Three Non Obvious Practical Tips

Coaching, Lectures, Workshops
For more information about coaching, lectures, workshops and writing on this topic visit http://andrewhennigan.com or email conseil@andrewhennigan.com or call 0033 6 79 61 42 81

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Involuntary Networking: Why First Street is Fascinating but Scary

Most people are happy to share information about their relationships with other people through social networking sites, though in all normal cases this information is shared voluntarily. But a recent announcement by a Washington political publisher raises the possibility of someone, somewhere might one day assemble and share this kind of information without your knowledge and without your approval.

CQ Press is a political publisher that has for years published directories for congressional and federal staffs, relying on voluntary disclosures to collect information. Initially these directories were meant to provide only information on the present and then be discarded when each new edition came out.  One day someone at CQ realized the company was sitting on a mine of useful information and digitized all of the data from directories going back to the 1990s. Combined together, the content of these directories gave the company a completely new product -- the possibility to track relationships between staffers, lobbyists and others over the years.

This data is now available through a website called First Street which gives researchers powerful tools to plot relationships, to understand who knows who, who worked with who and so on.  This website is not free and at $3000 per license it is clearly not aimed at the general public. Customers already signed up include leading media outlets -- AP, NY Times, Washington Post. Political parties, lobbying organizations and others are likely to sign up, too.

First Street is an excellent example of how a company can generate revenues from what would previously have just been considered waste paper. CQ Press is lucky in that their service is not easy to replicate, their data is presumably protected by copyright law and it was all disclosed voluntarily by the people involved, so they have protection against claims of inaccuracy.

At the same time this web site is scary, Nobody minds very much as long as the people involved are unloved characters like political staffers and lobbyists.  But what if that were done to people like you and me?  All of the information provided to CQ Press was given voluntarily, but when information from many different sources or periods in combined in this way the result is something else that perhaps was not intended when the original forms were filled in. Perhaps nobody in the 1990s could even have imagined this kind of re-purposing of data.

Suppose that someone were to apply this kind of technique to publicly shared social network data, generating maps showing who we are really connected to through likes, comments, views and other information.  This kind of involuntary networking would not be hard to do with existing technology. It would not be popular with users, but the management at more than one social networking company has shown that they are essentially indifferent to what the users think. This leaves only the law to protect us. Let's hope that the laws are strong enough, or that someone will strengthen them.  And perhaps it will be our unloved friends in the First Street database who will be taking the lead on this project.


Related Posts on Networking:

How to Separate Work and Private Networking
Involuntary Networking: Why First Street is Fascinating but Scary
LinkedIn Etiquette: How to Approach People You Don't Know
Selling Your Ideas: Influencing Your Way to Success
Professional Networking: Five Sites You Should be Using
How to Use Twitter for Professional Networking
Sign Up Now: Joining New Networking Sites Boosts Your Reputation
Zerply: Three Thumbs Up, Two Thumbs Sideways
Three Keys to Networking

Lectures, Workshops, Coaching, Writing about Networking

For information about lectures, workshops, coaching and writing on this topic visit andrewhennigan.com, email me at conseil@andrewhennigan.com or call 0033 6 79 61 42 81

Monday, November 21, 2011

Elegant Simplicity, Website Design and a Pilgrimage to Sundborn

When Google rolled out their first search site in 1998 their website amazed everyone for its simplicity. At that time most websites seemed to strive for the chaotic jumble favored by portals like Yahoo, where the aim appeared to be to use every word, every font and every color that ever existed in the same page.

Sadly, though Google inspired many me-too search sites, most other websites continued the tradition of complexity, though perhaps with a little more elegance as website creators became more design-focused and less concerned with the underlying technology.

This year I was pleased to see the emergence of many new sites which moved clearly towards elegant simplicity where the complexity of the machinery in the website was hidden from view and the user interface a pleasure to see and to use. Websites like the Vox.io internet telephony service and the Zerply networking site are two examples I use regularly and are very easy on the eyes but clearly functional. There are plenty others, though not so well known.  (If you have created a site you think I might want to use as an example in lectures and workshops please send me a link.)

Unfortunately many other new sites ignore this trend and either continue in the tradition of visible complexity, some even reaching levels of visual confusion not seen since the heyday of Myspace -- there are too many of these to list, too, but two that merit a mention here are Empire Avenue and Unthink. Perhaps there are some people who like this style but it does seem a step backwards.

Looking at these neo-complex sites set me wondering what would have happened if some famous artists from the past had been web designers (I also wondered what might have happened if Matthew "Oatmeal" Inman had not been a web designer but a renaissance artist). It might, I thought, be an interesting exercise for a designer with plenty of spare time to imagine a website designed by Tamara de Lempicka or Keith Haring, and that reminded me of one of the most influential figures in the shift from cuspy, baroque design to what we now would consider a "modern" look, the Swedish artist Carl Larsson.

A hundred years ago when all of his friends and neighbors still furnished their homes with dark, complex, scary furnishings, Larsson and his wife Karin Bergöö -- also a talented artist in her own right -- developed for their own home a style that was decades ahead of its time, pioneering the Nordic look now popular the world over, and available to everyone in a degraded form from discount furnishing stores. Quite possibly the Larsson's style would have been long forgotten were it not for the happy fact that Carl had been commissioned to paint illustrations for the then new, mass-market, full-color printed books and often used his home as the backdrop for these paintings. These illustrations put his design vision almost literally in every home, popularizing a taste for the Larsson style.

For most dead artists we have to be happy with books, websites and the occasional exhibition of their works. For the Larsson's we are fortunate that the family home, Lilla Hyttnäs, in Sundborn, Sweden, has been preserved exactly the way it was in Larsson's day a hundred years ago. You can visit the house and actually stand in the midst of familiar scenes like the drawing room -- the background of many paintings -- and see the studios where he did most of his other work.

If you are interested in design and you are in the north of Europe the Lilla Hyttnäs estate in Sundborn, Sweden is something you mustn't miss. It is about three hours from Stockholm but well worth the trip since you find yourself immersed in the world of Carl Larsson and his unique creative vision, perhaps marveling like me at how he could be so far ahead of his time while so many of today's web designers seem to be so equally behind their own.

There are details about visiting the Carl Larsson Lilla Tyttnäa estate on the official website.  To visit the house you have to be in a group touring with a guide. Because the house is so popular and the space limited you should book your tour in advance.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

LinkedIn Etiquette: How to Approach People You Don't Know

Every so often I get connection requests on LinkedIn from people I don't really know. Some users actually welcome any connection requests -- these are the "open networkers" -- but many people are like me and prefer to connect to people they know in some way. This does not mean I don't like to be contacted by new people, but I prefer to get to know them before I connect. This is not as hard as it sounds and here are some practical tips to help you do it the right way.

1. DON'T START WITH THE INVITATION. When I get a cold invite I will usually leave it on hold and initiate a dialog with the requester but not everyone is so patient. You will get better results if you first establish contact with someone and engage with them so that you are not such a stranger when you eventually invite them.

2. ENGAGE WITH THE PERSON THROUGH STATUS UPDATES, GROUP DISCUSSIONS, OTHER SITES. If you don't know a person already then you should engage with them first to get to know them and build up some trust. The best place today to engage on LinkedIn today is the groups space, but watch out also for status updates they have posted and like or comment if appropriate. Consider also other sites the person uses, including their own blog, other networking sites and other forums where they are active. Your goal is to get your name recognized and build trust.

3. SHOW INTEREST: READ THEIR PROFILE, FOLLOW THEM. One litmus test I often apply to see if a connection request is serious is to see if they have looked at my profile. When someone has not looked at my profile I assume that they are just trying to amass a large number of connections and have no interest in me. It also makes your interest more credible if you have been following me for some time.

4. CONSIDER CONNECTING THROUGH OTHER SITES FIRST. Of all the popular networking sites, LinkedIn has probably the highest barrier to connecting. People will engage more easily on sites like Twitter, Facebook and Google+, probably because you have the option of a one-way connection first. On Twitter you can follow people, on Facebook you can "subscribe" and on Google+ you can "circle" someone. This allows you to both learn more about the person and also to respond or comment on the things they say.

5. PERSONALIZE THE INVITATION. Probably the surest way to get your invitation ignored is to send the standard LinkedIn message. Always send a personalized message saying who you are, how you know the person and why you think that connecting would be a good idea. The only case where the standard message is acceptable is when you know the person so well that they will just click accept regardless of what you wrote. Before you send any invitations make sure that your profile is reasonably complete and with a photo. Most people don't like to connect to someone with no face. [UPDATE: the only way to personalize requests today is to click on CONNECT from the user's profile page. See How to Persoanlize LinkedIn Connection Requests]

For more about networking check out also Three Keys to Networking about the basic principles, Five Networking Sites You Should Be Using for Your Career and  How to Use Twitter for Professional Networking.


This post is based on content from Professional Networking; How to Plan, Build and Maintain your Network, available as a 60-90' lecture or half-day hands-on workshop. Visit http://andrewhennigan.com/workshops.htm . Personal coaching is also available to help people develop their network or improve their online reputation. See http://andrewhennigan.com/coaching.htm contact Andrew Hennigan at conseil@andrewhennigan.com or call 0033 6 79 61 42 81 or 0046 730 894 475 for more details.

Related Posts on Networking:

How to Separate Work and Private Networking
Involuntary Networking: Why First Street is Fascinating but Scary
LinkedIn Etiquette: How to Approach People You Don't Know
Selling Your Ideas: Influencing Your Way to Success
Professional Networking: Five Sites You Should be Using
How to Use Twitter for Professional Networking
Sign Up Now: Joining New Networking Sites Boosts Your Reputation
Zerply: Three Thumbs Up, Two Thumbs Sideways
Three Keys to Networking

Monday, November 14, 2011

How To Obtain Inactive Twitter Usernames

Twitter usernames are given on a first come first served basis so unless you were quick to register your name and your brands -- as I suggested in this post -- it is quite likely that they have already been taken by someone else. What's more infuriating, though, is that very often they are taken by someone who apparently leaves the account inactive. This means that many people ask how can you obtain an inactive Twitter username?

If the name you want to obtain is your registered trademark then the process is very simple. You just fill in the Reporting a Trademark Issue form on the Twitter support website. This is the easiest case and the only one that is likely to get you a fast result at the time of writing. Because of this some people have considered even registering a trademark just to have the proof of ownership needed to make a claim. You can file a trademark application through the US Patent and Trademark Office website but this costs hundreds of dollars and does not guarantee Twitter will give you the name.

When the name you want is not a trademark then it is much more difficult. Until a few months ago Twitter was releasing inactive usernames when people sent in a request through the support page. Recently Twitter has been responding that they are developing a new solution to this problem and suggesting you use another name. Some reports suggest that you are likely to get the inactive name released if you are well known, but you can't count on this method. Exactly what Twitter is working on is not clear, but it is likely to be some sort of automatic system that releases names after a certain period of inactivity. There is a discussion on the developer pages about this. Remember that an account that seems inactive might in fact be very active. Most people judge activity by the number of tweets but there are also users who have accounts only for listening and in this case Twitter would consider also the date of the most recent login in determining if an account is really inactive.

If the username you want is not a trademark and Twitter does not release it when you make a support request here are three other approaches you can try.

STEP 1. TRY TO CONTACT THE USER THROUGH THE TWITTER PROFILE. If the name is being squatted by someone who is hoping to sell it you should consider yourself lucky because they will make sure they can be contacted. First try tweeting @messages to the account because that will either be seen by the holder or, more likely, will trigger a notification mail that they will see. If there is no reply to the @mention then look on the profile page for web page address or some other contact information.

STEP 2. TRY GOOGLING THE TWITTERNAME. Many people use their Twitternames in other contexts as a convenient ID so there might be some other page somewhere that gives you a clue about their identity. When the twittername is a real name but not very common you might end up with a list of possible candidate owners short enough to consider trying to contact them all. If the name is something odd like OnionEars87 then you might find some unique trace. If there is no trace at all then you have to go to step 3.

STEP 3. TRY OFFERING A REWARD FOR THE NAME OF THE OWNER. Nothing motivates people more than free money so offering a reward for the person who can connect you with the account owner can also work. Remember that Twitter does not allow you to buy or sell usernames but in this case the reward is just for help in contacting the person. This is a long shot because it is difficult to know where to  post the reward. Many inactive accounts are owned by people who are not active in any social media and they could be physically anywhere so they are very hard to reach.

When all three steps have failed then the options left are to use another name or to wait until Twitter announces a new policy*. This means that if there are inactive names you would like to acquire then you should be watching carefully the news from Twitter. If I hear anything I will update this post immediately and tweet a link. Meantime if you succeed in getting a name released or encounter new difficulties please let me know, either through the comments or through any other channel, so I can update the information here.

And finally, remember to watch out for the launch of new websites and make sure you register your name quickly before it is too late. This is an essential part of any brand protection strategy.

* New policy update: I will check Twitter for policy updates and update this page when it changes. On 19 March 2013 Twitter's help service was still saying that they plan to release inactive names in bulk but that there is no timeframe for that. You can read their official explanation at: https://support.twitter.com/articles/15362-inactive-account-policy

If you would like to know when Twitter changes their inactive username policy one idea is to follow me on Twitter -- @andrewhennigan -- where I will pass on all the news i see.

Lectures, Workshops, Coaching, Writing.

For information about lectures, workshops, personal coaching and writing on this and related topics visit http://andrewhennigan.com , email conseil@andrewhennigan.com or call 0033 6 79 61 42 81.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Cleaning Up Abandoned Pages in Social Media Ghost Towns

After less than a decade of activity, the world of social media is littered with ghost towns that have not disappeared but practically nobody goes there anymore. Since they are not in the public eye many pages have been created and then forgotten. Maybe the community manager that started them has changed job, or maybe they were never official projects anyway.

But whatever the reason, there are now many abandoned pages for brands and promotions that are still there, untouched for several years. I was reminded of this thanks to the work of Badreddine Lehalali, one of my social media communication students at the IAE Graduate School of Management, near Aix en Provence (hint to recruiters: there are some seriously smart people here). He was studying the social media of sports drink companies and found two interesting relics: a Bebo page about the Powerade Never Give Up 2009 challenge, and an old Powerade Myspace page from the same era. Just in case they are taken down I have placed screen grabs at the end of this post.

What should people do about pages like this?  How can you avoid this problem recurring? What is your company doing?  I would be very interested yo hear your opinions.

One approach is just to leave them since the problem will eventually go away by itself and in the meantime few people will ever see them. This is perhaps the easiest to do since you don't need to take any action. Another view is that it is better to clean up this mess because it only underlines that you do not yet have the process fully under control. This takes a little more work but since it is usually not a high priority it can be done in the gaps between urgent tasks.

Personally I would be inclined to both clean up the mess and also to put in place a process to make sure that more mess is not created as social media proliferate, creating a worse problem in future. The same process can also help keep under control present day activities. This is still very much work in progress, but here is a strawman list of steps to consider for your company or agency.

1. KEEP A MASTER LIST OF ALL PAGES, PROFILES AND OTHER SPACES together with information about who created them and critical information like passwords. Don't wait till the person who created them has quit to discover that you don't have control. Make sure everyone who creates a page reports essential data to the keeper of this list. You can always try to get control of pages after the password is lost but this takes time.

2. SCHEDULE REMOVAL DATES FOR TIME-RELATED PROMOTIONS. For each page where there is a clearly defined end-of-lifetime schedule the removal action already in your calendar so that it doesn't just get abandoned. Decide if the page is simply to be deleted or replaced with an end-of-promotion page, also with a scheduled deletion date.

3. MONITOR THE UPDATES TO ALL YOUR PROFILES and when you see that one profile has not been updated for a certain number of months plan a review to decide if you plan to keep it or if it should be deleted. Put in place a process for this decision making -- who is to decide, who should be consulted and so on.

4. SEARCH GHOST TOWNS FOR FORGOTTEN, POSSIBLY UNAUTHORIZED PAGES. You know the reality of large companies. No matter how strict the rules you put in place almost any employee can create social media spaces with the company name, logo and so on. In some cases perhaps some pages were ordered by a manager who though they had the right to do it. Whatever the reason, you might not have the password so you would need to go to the site owner to get the pages taken offline. This is much more work than simple deletion, showing the value of doing (1) and (2).

Would you just leave abandoned pages until they pull the plug on the server? Do you take steps to clean up old profile and promotion pages?  And what would you add to the four suggestions listed here?


Powerade profile on Myspace apparently abandoned
since 2009. Retrieved in November 2011

Powerade's Never Give Up 2009" promotion
page on Bebo, retrieved in November 2011.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Three Non-Obvious Ways Culture Affects Email

A few days ago I wrote about some less than obvious ways that culture can impact your meetings (Three Non-Obvious Issues in Multicultural Meetings). Since that was so popular here are three equally unexpected ways in which cultural differences can derail an email exchange.

RISKY REMINDERS. Depending on where you come from you might think that sending reminders is a sensible, practical idea, but this is far from universal. In some cultures you would be expected to send a message about something long in advance of the deadline and then to send a reminder later. If you don't send the reminder people might assume that you have changed their mind and that you no longer need what you asked for. In other cultures you should send a single message with your request and then wait. If you send a reminder it might be perceived as rudeness. How do you know what to do? One way is to look at what the other person usually does. Do they send reminders or just a single message? If in doubt ask someone. Remember it is always OK to ask questions.

AWKWARD ATTACHMENTS. Be especially careful when you send emails with attachments to cultures where people are indirect speakers -- most of the world actually. The reason is that if they cannot open the file they will not say anything to avoid embarrassing you. And if you ask if the file is ok you might get a polite yes. I have seen this happen where someone sent PC files to people with UNIX workstations and the responses were odd because the recipients read only the message and not the attachment yet could not say that they had a problem. You can workaround this by asking open questions rather than ones where the answer is yes/no. For example, instead of saying "Can you open .xyz files" you can ask "What software would you use to open ".xyz" files.

DANGEROUS DISTRIBUTION LISTS. You can seriously upset people just by putting their boss or your boss in copy on a message. In strongly hierarchical cultures this is the norm, and to send a message without copying the management would be considered sneaky and somehow not correct. In cultures where hierarchy is less emphasized it is normal to send messages to a single person without copying their boss. In this case when you do copy the boss it will be perceived as an escalation and/or offensive. Again this is an easy one to get right. Just look what the other people do in their messages and do the same.


Related posts about intercultural issues:

Why the Office Weasel Can Play a Useful Role in Hierarchical Organizations
Managing Across Cultures Three Non-obvious Issues to Watch For
Three Non-Obvious Ways Culture Affects Email 
Three Non-Obvious Issues in Multicultural Meetings  
Culture, Innovation and the Curious Case of Pandora Radio.  

Lectures, Workshops, Coaching on intercultural issues.

All of these articles are based on lectures, workshops and webinars on intercultural communication and management created by the author. For more information about these visit andrewhennigan.com contact me by mail at conseil@andrewhennigan.com or call 0033 6 79 61 42 81.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Ten Tips to Make Conference Calls More Productive

Many people are frustrated by the amount of time that they have to spend in conference calls that are inefficient and unproductive. Avoiding these calls is one answer, but then you are out of the loop both for information and decision making. A much better strategy is to apply best practices and systematic preparation to make them faster, leaner, more effective. You can do this even if you are just participating, but the chair can contribute the most. Here's how:


1. CALL IN EARLY. One reason is that if everyone calls in before the scheduled time you can start on time, but even if the others come in later it makes it much easier for you to introduce yourself and get to know the others before the work starts. This is especially important if you are new to the group and don't know anyone yet.

2. PREPARE YOUR GOALS. Why are you on the call? What would you like to achieve? It is a good idea to think about what your goals are before the call starts. If you have a stake in the subject this is critically important; in all cases it means your time is less likely to be wasted.

3. MINIMIZE BACKGROUND NOISE. Find the quietest place you can, avoiding noisy equipment, open windows or anything else that can annoy other users. Be especially careful not to leave your mobile phone close to the phone because it can cause interference even in standby mode. Also don't have the microphone so close that you make breathing noises throughput the call.

4. INTRODUCE YOURSELF. Don't count on people recognizing your voice. The first time you speak you should say your name, and if you are coming back in after a long silence it helps to say your name again.

5. RESIST THE TEMPTATION TO MULTITASK. It is very tempting to write a proposal, take a call on another line, practice card tricks or whatever, but I do not recommend it. Concentrate and contribute to make the outcome of the meeting useful and relevant.


6. OPEN THE CONFERENCE EARLY. Start the conference call 10 minutes before the scheduled time to make sure the system works and to make it easier to get the discussion going as quickly as possible.

7. MANAGE THE DISCUSSION: Keep the discussion focused on the agenda items, requesting that off-topic conversations be discussed elsewhere. Watch the time, too, so that you can get through all the agenda items without going over time.

8. ENCOURAGE PARTICIPATION. Sometimes one or two people can dominate the conversation. You will get better results if you encourage everyone to participate, asking quiet peolpe what they think if they don't

9. DRIVE CONSENSUS, DECISIONS. After letting everyone speak you should feed back to the others what you think is the consensus position. If there is no consensus you can consider a vote or refer the question to a higher authority.

10. ALWAYS END OF TIME. People often have another call immediately after yours so it is very important to end at the scheduled time. Manage the discussion effectively and there is no need to overrun.

All business activities are strongly conditioned by culture so when the participants in a conference call are from different countries you will need to adapt the basic process. For example, in some cultures you have to be very careful when people of different levels are on the call because junior people will not speak when their boss is listening. Some of these differences are explained in Three Non-Obvious Issues in Multicultural Meetings. 

These tips are taken from Effective Communications for Marketing Professionals,  a two-day workshop that provides all the basics of communication theory and practice for marketing professionals. Contact conseil@andrewhennigan.com for details.