Reid Hoffman just posted a fascinating article about networking and business relationships. He wrote that opportunities revolve around individuals, and you have to make real, human connections if you want to create something big. He should know. In the middle of the last decade, he and many former employees from PayPal met frequently in person while they were building some of the biggest social media properties around today.
But it’s interesting that the “PayPal mafia,” as they are known, relied so heavily on face-to-face meetings to build sites like Linkedin, which facilitates virtual ones. Are social networks simply not up to scratch for creating real human relationships?
Let’s not get carried away. First, nothing beats getting together in person. But that doesn’t mean you can’t build similar relationships online. It’s just that many people don’t or don’t even try. Part of the problem is that while social networks make it easy to connect, they also make it easy to be lazy about connecting. Want to stay in touch with someone? Simply click a like button to remind them you’re around. Want to let everyone know what you’re doing? Post a 100 character status update. Because it’s so fast and easy, and so many people are doing the same thing, your communication can easily get lost in the noise.
Social networks also tend to blur the line between shallow acquaintances and real connections. You can easily make 500+ connections on Linkedin, but it’s impossible to remain in close contact with 500+ people. If you send Paris Hilton a connection request, she (or someone who works for her) will almost certainly reply yes. But if you want a job in fashion, she’s probably not going to help you.
So how do you break out and build real relationships online? We’ve started a list of ideas below, but the basic principle is simple: Whether virtual or in person, you get out of networking what you put into it. If all you’re doing is clicking buttons, don’t be surprised that you’re not getting calls.
Anyway, here are some ideas that can help your network work harder—and feel free to add more below:
Make a plan. Figure out what you want out of your network. Then separate your connections into two camps. Those who can help you reach your goals are in your network, the others are simply friends. Don’t neglect the latter, but concentrate on the former.
Communicate one-on-one. Posting in your feed or clicking a like button is fine. But remember, you get out of networking what you put into it. When someone in your network gets a promotion, why not send a thoughtful note that shows you are paying attention to their career?
Make your connections more than professional. Reading what Reid has to say about the PayPal alumni, it becomes clear that getting together helped turn colleagues into friends. If you’re just a connection, people will hire you for your skills. But if you’re a friend, they will find and create opportunities for you if they can.
Don’t just connect with people, connect people. Networking is not a one-way or even two-way street. Actively think about things that can help your connections and reach out to them if you see an opportunity. They’ll do the same for you.
Stay persistent. Even if people don’t respond, don’t get discouraged. Networking is work, after all, and you have to realize that not everyone is going to answer your requests immediately.
Of course, this is not an exhaustive list, merely a few thoughts on getting started. If you have additional ideas, and especially for ways that brands and companies can “network,” please add them in the comments below. As I said, what you put into sites like Linkedin is what you get out of them. A thoughtful comment can always lead to a useful connection.
Today is so complicated, and we humans have become so accustomed to using alternative, easier ways to do things, that sometimes, the most obvious ideas elude us.
So what do you do when you see a perfectly good idea that you could have thought of, and didn’t? What if that idea sold to make millions, even billions in cash?
Here are some of those simple, uncluttered ideas that went on to make it big in the world of technology. Burn with envy as you read about:
1. Million Dollar Homepage
Originator(s): Alex Tew
How it took off: Alex Tew needed to raise money to go on and do a business degree, (since a study loan would take years to pay off); and his idea made more than a million in 5 months.
Tew saw an opportunity to make millions– in selling out space. He made a homepage, one that consisted of 10X10 blocks of pixels, and sold them out at $10/block. Advertisers could put on any picture, from their logo to any other picture, which would be linked to their site at the back end. The last 1,000 pixels were put up for sale on eBay. His was so deceptively simple and neat an idea that he cashed in on $1,037,100 in just about 5 months!
Originator(s): Mark Zuckerberg
Worth: $70-$100 billion
How it took off: Sure, there have been a lot of other social networks before Facebook, but none of them made it this big. So what made Facebook this hot? Well, it was personal (note the ‘was’) and you could personalize your settings to keep things personal and yet connect to people you knew. Also, it was targeted at the college audience. The site was kept minimal and gave people just about what they needed, and kept improving over time to include features. Facebook filed for an IPO a couple of months ago and is in its “quiet period”, but it estimated to be worth anything from $70-$100 billion.
Originator(s): Eric Nakagawa and Kari Unebasami
Worth: $ 9,984,120 (estimated, as per data from worthofweb.com)
How it took off: Eric Nakagawa, a blogger from Hawaii and his girlfriend Kari Unebasami, started the site with a picture of a cat that had a caption reading “I Can Has Cheezburger?” in a style that was popularized by 4Chan (an imageboard website). The pair went on to post more humorous pictures like it. According to the inspiringinterns.com blog, they later sold it for $2 million to the site’s current CEO, Ben Huh who blew the site up to six other sister websites, and brought home a book deal that made a New York Times Best Seller– the company makes about half a million from book sales alone every year! The site is said to receive as many as 1,500,000 hits and as many as 8,000 uploads from its users every day. According to worthofweb.com, the site is worth almost $10,000,000.
Originator(s): Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger
Worth: $ 1,000,000,000 (as per Facebook’s announcement of acquisition)
How it took off: A free photo-sharing program isn’t a bad place to start either. Kevin and Mike put their heads together to let photos get shared in a way that wouldn’t annoy those it was shared with. Users were able to see other’s pictures, follow photographers, and post their own artistic-looking photos with the help of digital filters. The photos were made to resemble the Kodak and Polaroid square-shaped pictures, and so struck a chord with the legacy of photography as well. Although Kevin and Mike had no plans to sell the site, Zuckerberg made an irresistible offer of $1 billion, and Facebook on April 9, 2012, announced that it would acquire the company, along with its 13 employees.
Originator(s): Adam D’Angelo and Charlie Cheever
Worth: $86 million (as of 2010, according to data from gigaOm.com)
How it took off: Two ex-Facebook engineers (Adam was Facebook’s CTO and Charlie was its head of engineering) created Quora, a Q&A website that sought to answer questions in a way that gave quality of experience. Adam reportedly was inspired to create Quora when he thought ‘that Q & A is one of those areas on the internet where there are a lot of sites, but no one had come along and built something that was really good yet’. It has been in SiliconValley media especially since it features questions about startups and entrepreneurship (it even attracted senior Silicon Valley executives who answered questions about their experiences). It is organized and edited by its community of users, so answers are relevant to those who post questions.
Originator(s): Jack Dorsey, Evan Williams, Biz Stone, and Noah Glass
Worth: $8.4 billion (as of December 2011)
How it took off: Dorsey came up with an idea (after a day-long brainstorming session with the others on Twitter’s board) that had a person communicating with a group of friends using a single SMS. Williams, Glass, and Stone later came up with a name for the service, and the way it would work. Things really took off when people started using the 140 character limit to express themselves and to keep tabs on people they knew. From 2006 to 2011, Twitter has grown from a small social medium to a platform worth $8.5 billion, with more than 140 million users worldwide. Talk about explosive growth!
Originator(s): Angelo Sotira, Scott Jarkoff, and Matt Stephens
Worth: $19 million (estimated, according to a report on entrepreneur.com)
How it took off: deviantArt, one of the biggest, longest-running social networks was created when its founders wanted “to build the deepest, most vertically integrated network that ever existed.” They’ve succeeded, and dA is the one online community for artists that has more than 14 million users, that aims at giving any artist (from the fields of art, literature, film-making, and photography) a platform to exhibit and discuss his or her work.
Originator(s): Darren Morgenstern (as per reports from CBS news and Yahoo), Noel Biderman (as per reports on MSNBC)
Worth: $ 6,549,230 (estimated, as per statistics on worthofweb.com)
How it took off: Infidelity is bad. Everybody knows it. But after people tie the knot and are still unsatisfied, this site helps them have an affair. “Life is short, Have an affair,” reads the site’s motto. But whether it’s right or wrong, it definitely is profitable–one of the founders of the ‘service’, Noel Biderman, is worth around $100 million, according to an MSNBC report.
Facebook and other social network services offer far more than just the chance to organise a party or show friends your holiday photos.
According to the German trade association Bitkom, social networks serve especially well for identity management – or the presentation of individual interests, experiences, opinions or competence.
In addition, it assists in relationship management with the maintenance of contacts and making new relationships as well as information management. Those who want to be effective publicly for business or personal reasons must be present on the web.
‘Social networks are not just a channel which can be used in the same way as a local newspaper or perimetre ad in the local stadium,’ said author Thomas Pfeiffer. ‘Social networks are more like an open house day. People are invited in and you want to present your best side.’
The decisive difference to the traditional marketing is that there is a back channel. Therefore, according to Pfeiffer, you have to continually answer questions – even if that can be downright annoying.
The design of one’s profile should take into consideration the features of the different networks, according to the Hamburg native Kixka Nebraska, who counsels clients through the first steps of the social networks. ‘It is important to acquire a specific media competence for these portals. It is a culture technique that must be learned.’
Facebook, the world’s largest social network with 800 million members, suggests users be authentic, likeable and expressive. ‘Those are things of which you should be mindful – just like in real life,’ according to spokeswoman Tina Kulow.
Google+ offers an especially extensive space for self-presentation – which should not necessarily lead users to write long texts. The attention span on the web is limited.
The short message service Twitter is an entirely different world. It seems like the beginning is especially difficult. ‘First, write well. Second, write something useful. Good content is essential for every publication – even if it only comes in 140-character bites,’ suggests Twitter expert Pfeiffer. ‘Answer the questions of other Twitter members even if they are not directed at you but also at the general public.’
In Twitter, it’s good when the resonance increases through the number of followers and re-tweets. The personal network meanwhile is the centre of attention in Facebook and Google+. In those networks you must continually decide if you want to accept a contact or with Google+ put them into you own circle of friends.
‘It is important that people consciously consider with every friend request if they really want to be friends with that individual,’ said Kulow. One should not have a bad conscience if a friend request is denied.