1 December 2011

What about LinkedIn Premium Accounts ?

LinkedIn is the most important online network for professional use. If you are a business owner, manager, freelancer or consider yourself a professional in what you do, you SHOULD have a profile on LinkedIn. Today LinkedIn counts over 135 Million members and is still growing by 2 members every second !!!

Most people use the free available tools, which are already a fantastic toolbox to grow your network and keep in touch with your contacts.

In recent financial updates we have read that (paid) Premium Accounts have doubled. People don’t throw away money, so we got interested in the extra available options once you become a Premium member.
What are the available paid subscriptions on LinkedIn ?

In general there are 3 different series of paid accounts :

·         Accounts for Recruiters
·         Accounts for Job seekers
·         Premium Accounts

In total LinkedIn offers 10 different paid accounts, each of them offering a different mix of extra tools to enhance your networking capacities.

I’ll give you a short introduction to the most important tools. I also added links to short video’s for most of these tools. 

Inmail : Send emails to people outside of your network. Inmails are included in some of the paid accounts, but can optionally be bought in all accounts.

Openlink Network : When you join the Openlink network as a paying member you allow anyone on LinkedIn to message you free of cost. This makes you reachable for much more people.

Advanced searches : In all accounts you get extra search options that help you reach your target audience. You will also get more results compared to searching with a free account.

3th degree and group connections : Normally names outside your second degree are hidden. Paid memberships all get to see at least the first name of these contacts.

Who has viewed my profile : Instead of the last 5 people you get the complete list. This was actually the single reason why I upgraded my account. This complete list together with the extended statistics on the same page make a very valuable tool to measure your networking efforts on LinkedIn.

Profile Organiser : This is a very useful rolodex tool to keep your most important contacts close at hand. Bookmark profiles for later use and add notes about this person.

Priority Customer Service : All paying members get priority customer service.

Full overview of tools and features of all 10 paid LinkedIn accounts

A.      Accounts for Recruiters

B.      Accounts for Jobseekers

C.      Premium Accounts
If you are not a recruiter or jobseeker, the Premium Accounts will be the most interesting and offer a range of very useful tools to enhance your networking efforts.

There is a little catch to this overview, when you click on the upgrade buttons on LinkedIn you will usually find options to upgrade to Business, Business Plus and Executive. You will have to do some extra effort to discover the cheaper option to upgrade to Personal Plus. In this video you will find a possible solution for this, I have also found other ways.

2 November 2011

What do I post where on Facebook?

If you are an entrepreneur or business owner you probably wonder where to post your content on Facebook. You might already have started a Page or Group for your business, next to your own profile. Sometimes it’s very hard to decide where to post. In this article I will explain how we are handling this for our own activities. This guideline is also usable for entrepreneurs with multiple businesses.

First I would advise to use a Facebook Page for your business instead of a group. Groups were the first option a long time ago but today Pages are more convenient and give you the tools to operate as easy as with your own profile. Sometimes I also notice personal profiles that are used for a business, but this is not allowed by Facebook’s terms of use.

Important to know is the fact that you can moderate a Facebook Page with multiple people.
A Facebook Page can also have a username (e.g.
www.facebook.be/itconsultservices), a group doesn’t have this option !
So now you have your Personal Profile and your Facebook Page.

What to post on the Facebook Page of your business ?

·         Links to your own blogarticles, written on your company blog. If you don’t have a company blog you can write short articles using Facebook Notes, directly on the page.
·         Links to interesting articles about your industry or expertise, found on other blogs or newspaper websites.
·         Status updates directly connected to your business.
·         Pictures of business events or trade fair visits, directly connected to your business.

What to post on my Personal Profile on Facebook ?
·         Status updates regarding your activities, your business(es) or even your personal life when still appropriate to build your credibility and reputation.
·         Links to your own blogarticles, shared from the Facebook Page of your business (Or articles written on Facebook Notes)
·         Check-in’s from Foursquare or Facebook Places, when appropriate to build your credibility and reputation (e.g. When you are attending business events, workshops, trade fairs, …)
·         You can share even more personal updates, postings and photo’s, but I would recommend to limit these shares to the people you want to be able to view them.

Last month I wrote about the perfect mix of mindsets needed to be successful in using Social Media for your business. This is of course directly related to the lists above.
Networking should always be the Nr. 1 activity, marketing should be the least present among your postings. Nevertheless visitors should always be able to see and experience your skills and credibility.

You can be the expert in your industry within your network. Make sure your profile wall and Pages are always fine. Don’t allow garbage postings by games etc.
Your personal profile and business page should always look professional and display you as a true professional in your industry.

1 November 2011

Je (baby)foto op Facebook ?

De voorbije weken viel het ons weer op hoeveel vrouwen een foto gebruiken van hun kind als profielfoto op Facebook. We kunnen ons met de beste wil van de wereld geen enkele valabele reden voor de geest halen waarom iemand dit zou doen. Allereerst omdat het in strijd is met het gebruiks-reglement wat stelt dat al je profielgegevens van jezelf moet zijn. Deze regel geldt voor zowat alle Sociale Netwerken en is niet meer dan een uitstekende ethische netwerkregel waardoor je de persoon van het profiel waar je naar kijkt met zekerheid kan identificeren.

Enkele weken geleden heb ik persoonlijk nog een profiel gerapporteerd (en laten verwijderen) omdat die persoon een foto van mij als profielfoto had ingesteld.

Vergeet niet dat op Facebook door de verbeterde privacy instellingen je bij een vriendschapsverzoek meestal nog enkel de profielfoto te zien krijgt en geen enkele andere. Op basis van die foto ga je dus proberen te herinneren of je die persoon ooit al ergens bent tegen gekomen. Veel geluk als je dan enkel een babyfoto ziet !

We herhalen nog eens de top redenen om een duidelijke en herkenbare foto van jezelf te gebruiken als profielfoto :

·         Herkenbaarheid – Wanneer je deze persoon tegen komt op vb. een netwerkevent zal je hem of haar ook herkennen. Dit is nogal eens een probleem met vrouwen die graag hun uiterlijk wijzigen zonder hun profiel mee te wijzigen (Lengte van haar, kleur van haar, … )
·         Vertrouwen – Een profiel met een duidelijke foto straalt ook vertrouwen uit. Tests met foto-loze profielen hebben aangetoond dat bezoekers amper het profiel bekijken voor ze verder surfen. Netwerken is iets wat je bewust en persoonlijk doet en dus zeker niet anoniem.

Ons advies is nog steeds om te kiezen voor een semi-professionele foto die toch een open indruk geeft. Als mannelijke bedrijfsleider betekent dit om vb. te kiezen voor een foto in een mooi maatpak, maar dan wel met een mooie glimlach die uitnodigt om met jou in gesprek te treden.

3 October 2011

5 Mindsets to use Social Media for Business

“Social Media for Business” is the title of our most popular workshop, but this month I want to focus on the exact mindset you need to use Social Media and networking for your business.

In total there are 5 different mindsets that I can define and you will be most successful if you apply a perfect mix of all five.

Mindset 1 : Non-professional use

Almost 10% of all people on earth use Facebook. Recent numbers show 60% of Internet users in Belgium are using Facebook. Lots of people are using other networks too. Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Netlog, Xing and Ecademy are the most popular networks in Belgium right now. 
Those people who aren’t entrepreneurs or business owners probably use Social Media to share photos, connect to their family and friends, search for old school friends, organize a street BBQ and so on. Professional users will also engage in these activities with their family and friends.

This is what I would define as non-professional use. It does however take part in building your image and credibility. Do you share drunk pictures of a bachelor weekend or do you choose to share pictures of a trade show visit which could also be interesting for your job ?
You are the one who decides what people get to see when they visit your online profiles. And remember … You never get a second chance to make a first impression.

Mindset 2 : Networking

Social Networking websites were originally designed to get in touch with people you know and connect to new interesting people. You can grow your network with minimum effort and get to know people through their online profiles, blogs, comments and other actions. Easy to use communication tools make it easy to start a conversation and get to know more people. Even for the most timid people the threshold is very low when using online networks. To boost the relationship it might still be needed to meet face to face, but this will be easier because you already had contact online. The first thresholds have disappeared

Mindset 3 : Building credibility

LinkedIn, Facebook and some other networks allow you to share links to interesting articles, blogs, video’s, … any possible content on the world wide web. By sharing content from your industry you will build credibility on your expertise. Even better is to write articles yourself on a blog and share those on your Social Media profiles. You will provide a mix of your own views together with expert advice from your industry leaders. People in your network will automatically link the topic of your choice to your name and refer people to you with any question or demand on that topic. I strongly believe that in your network you can grow to be an expert in your industry just by sharing high quality information and views on that topic.

Mindset 4 : Marketing
Social Media websites offer many possibilities to market your products and services. You can set up events or groups to connect to your audience and get them involved. This however is still the trickiest mindset because your network won’t allow you to spam them daily with commercial information. If you apply a mix of all mindsets the smallest amount of posts should be the marketing related posts. If you share great value, people will also be interested in your commercial message. If your focus is only on marketing your business, people will turn away and loose interest.

Mindset 5 : Peer support
Last but not least there is a different kind of networking which is very important for small business owners. While many networking websites and events cater the need to grow your network, some other networking formulas cater the need to have your own advisory board or brainstorming group to help you with problems and ideas. This kind of peer support needs a lot of communication which can easily be established through the use of Social Media. By creating a safe and secure forum on a Social Networking website you can have your own advisory board ready for input at any given moment of the day.

Apply the right mix
Whenever you meet newbies on social networking websites or events they often focus too much on just one of these mindsets. Often they focus very hard on marketing their business, while the nr. 1 target of networking is of course to grow your network of contacts.
The magic formula to be successful in networking is to find the perfect mix between these 5 mindsets. In the first 3 years, you only need to focus on a mix of the first 4 mindsets. Once you have established a quality network you will possibly want to add the fifth mindset to create a secure source for peer support. At the end you will need all 5 mindsets, but you have to be very careful to apply the right mix. Your story will become more interesting and people will be more attracted to you.

People will see you as a real person (1) who wants to grow his/her network (2), who is an expert in his/her industry (3), who has interesting products or services to offer (4) and who has surrounding him/her with other high quality networkers (5).

16 September 2011

Foursquare Verified Business

Don't forget to check-in next time you visit Zakenkantoor Conard-Vanhove. Both IT Consult Services BVBA and Geert Conard Management Solutions VOF are now Foursquare Verified Businesses !

2 September 2011

Networking for Business

A few weeks ago I was networking with a couple of entrepreneurs when we decided to answer the question “What is your most important professional frustration ?”. I didn’t need much time to think about it and my answer can probably be translated to any expertise, industry or occupation.

Since 2004 I’m spending at least 5 hours each day, every day of the week, networking and using Social Media. During these years I have attended many networking events all over Europe but also spend a lot of time exploring websites such as LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Xing and many others.

From my personal and practical experience I have distilled valuable tips and advice for entrepreneurs. Always with a razor-sharp focus toward small business owners, but also applicable for management teams in larger companies. Networking events and Social Media are accessible for everyone and the huge load of social networking tools can be used in many ways to grow your contacts network, build credibility as a professional in your industry or use it for social media marketing.

So what was my most important professional frustration ? Every dog in a jacket calls himself a Social Media Expert and jumps on stage all over the country to speak to an audience, trading their knowledge for a bottle of wine and a sandwich. I have seen speakers who handled topics like fiscal tips, investments and Social Media in less than 6 months. They jump on every hot topic and talk about any subject that’s demanded.

I often hear negative comments when I meet people who have attended a presentation or workshop on my favorite topic. In most cases this is caused by a lack of practical experience from the speaker.
I don’t mean the technical experience, but the right mindset you need the audience to understand.

It’s very important to really transfer the right mindset you need while networking and using Social Media, to be able to receive a positive return for your business. When an entrepreneur or business owners is using social media for business, he or she is actually networking while using social media as an instrument.

Until the breakthrough of Facebook there were only 5 speakers in Belgium who handled these topics, while being heavy users of social networking themselves. Today these pioneers are still active as speakers, trainers and coaches, but their names start to fade away in the large list of available speakers.

I am very grateful that I was part of this group of pioneers and during the past decennium I was able to study the evolution and growth of social networks. A growth in speakers on this topic could be a good thing, if they challenge themselves to deliver high quality. We would love to see many more qualified speakers who put lots of work and effort in researching their topics. It hurts to see that Social Media has grown into a ‘quick win’ for many others.

Now what does networking really mean to me ? What is the most rewarding way to network ?
What should be avoided ?

During the past decade I have heard and read many definitions and statements on networking, something that I won’t do right now. I do however want to try and make clear what it’s all about. Some time ago I heard a brilliant lady say “The value of your networking efforts can be measured by how much people talk about you when you are not there”. It isn’t enough to meet and get to know many more (business) people and grow your network, you also have to make sure they remember you when an opportunity comes by!

I consider a person to be part of my network when I know who he or she is and what he or she does for a living. Of course this also has to be true the other way around. Only if this is true we can also refer people to each other successfully and that’s what networking is all about : Helping each other !

Helping each other is something you can do by referring someone to the right person to help with his or her demand, question or problem. Helping each other can also be done by giving some advice or a good tip to set them off in the right direction toward a solution. Many times you will be contacted by someone in your network to get them in contact with someone very specific from your network. You can open a door to enable them to contact someone much more easy. Some Social Networking tools like LinkedIn and Branchout have specific tools onboard to make this easier.

Social Media are no substitute for offline meetings. By meeting each other face to face and exchanging stories while enjoying a cup of coffee or a glass of wine you will create an extra level in your connection which will make it easier to remember each other when needed.

An important issue is the ‘Elevator pitch’ in which you have to be able to present yourself in just a couple of minutes. Most entrepreneurs will keep it short and tell you who they are and what activities they handle in their business. It’s often more valuable to tell people what you are looking for and how they would be able to help you. In some businessclubs (e.g. M4M) moderators will help you to make sure you have a positive networking experience.

My golden networking tip never changed since 2004 : “Don’t sell !”. Networking is building a network, selling is something completely different. Sales can be a logical result of your networking efforts, but networking and selling are really two completely different activities.

I wish you a lot of success with your networking efforts in this new season !

1 September 2011

Netwerken met je business in het achterhoofd

Onlangs zat ik met een aantal ondernemers te netwerken toen we besloten om te antwoorden op de vraag “Wat is jouw grootste zakelijke frustratie?”. Lang hoefde ik er niet over na te denken en mijn antwoord is vermoedelijk ook heel eenvoudig te vertalen naar gelijk welke expertise, sector of vakgebied.

Sinds 2004 besteed ik minstens 5 uur per dag, 7 dagen op 7, aan netwerken en Sociale Media. Tijdens deze periode heb ik dus niet alleen heel veel netwerkevents bezocht in binnen- en buitenland, maar ook gigantisch veel tijd doorgebracht op Social Media websites als Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Xing en vele andere.

Uit mijn persoonlijke praktijkervaring distilleerde ik bruikbare tips en adviezen voor ondernemers. Steeds met een scherpe focus naar bedrijfsleiders van kleine ondernemingen, maar evengoed bruikbaar voor management teams van grotere bedrijven. Netwerkmeetings en Sociale Media zijn immers toegankelijk voor iedereen en de ettelijke beschikbare online netwerktools kan je op meerdere manieren gaan gebruiken voor het opbouwen van je contactennetwerk, om jezelf als professional te profileren of voor Social Media Marketing.

Wat was dan mijn grootste zakelijke frustratie? Dat elke hond met een hoed op zich vandaag profileert als Social Media Expert en voor een broodje en een fles wijn overal in het land presentaties geeft. Ik zag zelfs sprekers die op een tijdspanne van minder dan 6 maanden op podia stonden met achtereenvolgens topics rond Fiscaliteit, Beleggingen en Sociale Media. Ze springen dus voortdurend op elk onderwerp wat ‘hot’ is of waar er vraag naar is …

Ik vind het dan ook bijzonder jammer dat ik soms negatieve commentaren hoor als iemand naar een presentatie of workshop over mijn favoriete onderwerp is geweest. Heel vaak is de oorzaak te vinden bij het gebrek aan praktijkervaring van de spreker. Dan spreek ik niet over de technische kant van de zaak, maar over de juiste insteek voor je doelpubliek. Het is belangrijk om duidelijk te maken welke gedachtegang noodzakelijk is om uit al die inspanningen ook iets positiefs voor je business te kunnen halen. Als ondernemer succesvol gebruik maken van Sociale Media betekent immers dat je gaat netwerken met Social Media als instrument.

Tot aan de grote doorbraak van Facebook waren er in België amper een vijftal sprekers actief over deze onderwerpen, die ook zelf intens gebruik maakten van deze netwerken. Deze pioniers zijn ook vandaag nog steeds actief als sprekers, trainers en coaches al vervagen hun namen meer en meer in het overgrote aanbod aan sprekers. Ik ben heel dankbaar dat ik bij die eerste pioniers mocht zijn en dat ik in het voorbije decennium de opmars van de sociale netwerken van nabij kon zien gebeuren. De toename aan sprekers zou geen probleem mogen zijn, ware het niet dat de kwaliteit eraan ten onder gaat. We zijn er zeker voor te vinden om een groter aanbod aan gekwalificeerde sprekers te vinden, die werk en tijd steken in research en gedreven zijn door hun onderwerp. Het is echter storend om te zien hoe Social Media een ‘quick win’ geworden is.

Maar wat betekent netwerken nu concreet voor mij? Wat is de meest vruchtbare manier om te netwerken? En wat is zeker te vermijden?
In de loop der jaren heb ik meerdere definities en statements over netwerken gehoord en gelezen, waarvan ik me voor dit artikel bewust zal onthouden. Ik wil wel proberen om duidelijk te maken waarover het gaat. Ooit hoorde ik eens iemand zeggen: “Het succes van je netwerkinspanningen kan alleen afgerekend worden op hoeveel er over jou wordt gepraat wanneer je er niet bent”. Met andere woorden is het niet alleen de bedoeling om meer (zaken)mensen te leren kennen en je netwerk dus te vergroten, maar er tevens voor te zorgen dat ze ook aan jou denken wanneer opportuniteiten zich voordoen. Ik beschouw iemand als onderdeel van mijn netwerk als ik weet wie die persoon is en wat hij of zij doet. Andersom moet het uiteraard ook het geval zijn. Alleen op die manier weten we genoeg van elkaar om succesvol andere mensen naar elkaar te kunnen doorverwijzen en dat is uiteindelijk waar netwerken om draait : Elkaar kunnen helpen!

Elkaar helpen kan dus door mensen die op zoek zijn naar iets door te verwijzen naar de juiste persoon die hen daarmee kan helpen. Elkaar helpen kan ook door een advies of tip te geven die iemand weer in de juiste richting zet naar een oplossing voor zijn of haar probleem. Heel vaak zal iemand uit je netwerk ook bewust beroep op je doen om hem of haar in contact te brengen met een heel specifiek iemand uit je netwerk. Sommige Social Networking websites zoals LinkedIn en Branchout spelen daar ook op in en geven je een aantal tools in handen om dit proces nog te vereenvoudigen.

Sociale Media zijn zeker geen vervanging voor netwerkevents. Door elkaar in levende lijve te ontmoeten en onder het genot van een koffie of een glas wijn te luisteren naar elkaars verhalen creëer je een band waardoor je elkaar ook sneller en beter zal herinneren wanneer het nodig is. Een belangrijk aspect daarbij is de zogenaamde ‘Elevator pitch’ waarbij je jezelf in enkele minuten voorstelt. De meeste ondernemers houden het op een korte voorstelling van zichzelf en de activiteiten van hun bedrijf. Het is echter veel waardevoller om ook specifiek aan te geven waarnaar je op zoek bent en hoe anderen je hierbij het best kunnen helpen. Bij sommige businessclubs, zoals M4M, worden er moderators ingeschakeld die je hierbij helpen zodat je zeker bent van een optimale en geslaagde netwerkervaring.

Mijn gouden netwerktip is sinds 2004 nooit veranderd : “Don’t sell !”. Netwerken is bouwen aan je netwerk, verkopen is iets totaal anders. Verkopen kunnen een logisch gevolg zijn van je netwerkinspanningen, maar eigenlijk hebben beide activiteiten zeer weinig met elkaar te maken.

Ik wens jullie alvast heel veel succes met het netwerken in dit nieuwe netwerkseizoen!

10 August 2011

Anarchy in the UK - Impact for Small Business Owners

I absolutely know that there are deeper problems involved in these riots and some problems need to be handled with a structural solution. However I feel the deepest sympathy for those small business owners who see their stores trashed, destroyed or even robbed empty. These small stores which we all love to visit during our travels to the UK aren't multinationals with large bags of money. These stores are owned by hard working self employed people who followed their dream and opened a small little store of their own. In best case they even provide work for a few more people.

This kind of violence and destruction of other people's property is something that I just can't agree with. A lot of these businessowners will have to close their stores and horrible times will start for them and their families. Even if their business survives, it will cost them multiple years of hard work to cover the loss and finish the paperfight with their insurance companies. It's already known that lots of things are probably not even covered by their insurances (theft of stock, intentional fire, ...).

I do know that a lot of these rioters see this as their only way to get attention, but by using criminal acts they loose respect. I hope most of the victimised store owners will be able to survive and re-open their store to continue their dream. (Photo: Reuters)

1 August 2011

Running a Business in a Brave New World

Two years ago, in my second book ‘Friends with Benefits I described the growing need to network and collaborate because the world and the economy have changed drastically in the last 30 or 40 years. The economy is clearly moving toward a world of micro businesses, working together in partnerships and projects.

Earlier this month I read Penny’s blog on Ecademy asking the question whether most startups are self-employed businesspeople or ‘real’ startups. I didn’t comment to this blog because I had a problem understanding the question. This article will be my comment ;-)

Being self-employed is in no relation at all to the shape or size of your company. If you’re a one-(wo)man-business you are self-employed. If you are Mark Zuckerberg and you’ve built a +2000 people company from scratch, you’re also self-employed. It’s simple : You either work for a company and get a paycheck at the end of the month OR you run your own business.

I have more respect for a manager who has built a small company with 5 people and does a great job, compared to a 500 people company with a manager on the payroll who’s just earning his monthly paycheck and gets a big bonus when he gets laid off.

Half a century ago lots of businesses blew up to large sized mega-companies. In each large town we had factories and offices of the world’s largest players (Coca-Cola, Ford Motor Company, Procter & Gamble, …). The hardest labor in those factories was mostly done by men while their wives often ran a tiny microbusiness at home, earning a second income while taking care of the kids. Today those tiny café’s, grocery stores, candy stores and shoe stores have almost disappeared from our street view. I still remember them from my childhood days. But times are changing, aren’t they?

A record amount of companies have gone bankrupt over the last decades. Lots of companies have grown into a bubble that bursted and left many unemployed. Most new businesses which launched during the last decade didn’t grow into large companies. Most business owners deliberately want their company to stay a microbusiness. Less risk, less investments.

As also described in 2007 by Don Tapscott and Andy D. Williams in Wikinomics, in a networked society it will become easier for businesspeople and small companies to work together on projects, each focusing on their strongest skills.

I call this concept “Company 2.0” and I have been using it since early 1999. Back in those days we gathered a large group of freelance IT professionals and sold the empty slots in their agenda to large Internet providers. This group of freelancers became the installation and support field-team for several large telco companies in Belgium. By joining forces and operating under one strong brandname we could make them the perfect offer for a national support coverage.

A couple of years ago the big rush in broadband connections came to an end and I had to rethink the concept of this IT company. I refocused to a local market, serving small businesses in just two provinces. Because I’m a very strong believer in a networked economy I decided to build another team of professionals. Each member of the team is self-employed, flexible, expert in their specific skills and highly motivated. Today this IT company has a team of 6 people, all of them freelancers, shareholders or entrepreneurs. All of them strong believers in collaborating and growing together.

Together with my wife Tineke I’m now running three micro-companies. In each of these companies we surround ourselves with the people and skills we need.  For some specific projects this might not be enough, in that case we tap into our network and select the right people for the job.
Even as a micro business we are able to perform and deliver like a medium sized company.

So it’s actually possible to run a company like a project, bringing together the skills you need to perform the business activities. Without large investments, without the risk of having to pay expensive employees through a slow period and always offering top level skills of professionals you would never be able to afford if you would have to hire them as an employee.

At the 4th #TwunchQ networking event hosted by Minister Vincent Van Quickenborne, I asked the guestspeaker and Top Economist Geert Noels if he had any good Economy 2.0 tips for small business owners. The best tip he could give us was the statement that small businesses don’t necessarily need to grow. If you have a fantastic flowershop or a specialized cheese store and people drive 20 miles to buy products in your store, you ARE doing great and you won’t be any happier if you open 3 additional stores. In a new economy you can be the best of the best in your local neighborhood and by collaborating with others you can handle larger projects without the need to grow.
This is Company 2.0 or Running a Business in a Brave New World.

7 July 2011

Mixing Business and Pleasure with Branchout

Facebook is still the Nr. 1 Social Networking website where almost everyone is reconnecting to old friends and sharing holiday pictures with friends and family. The website has close to no competitors when we look at the free available communication tools and user friendlyness.

Many clever companies have tried to insert applications for business networking in this great platform but only few have succeeded (more or less)

After months of comparing I decided to give Branchout a try and up until now I'm actually very happy with the results.

Compared to the 3 degrees of networking that are included in your LinkedIn network, Branchout limits your network to the first and second degree. The most obvious tools are included, such as a personal profile, messages, endorsements, ...

Because of the very "we are all friends" nature of Facebook, people are very likely to endorse and recommend each other what actually makes this "professional network within your friends network" very valuable. Conclusion : Branchout is definitely worth a try !

30 June 2011

Are you REALLY doing business at the golf club ?

Lots of businesspeople are joining golfclubs, businessclubs or serviceclubs with the idea in mind that it might have a positive return for their company.But how does this work ? Will you really get sales through your membership?

Earlier this month I read a great article with the subtitle “Why relationship building on the golf course may be as important as ever for business networking”
(Link to the article :

Basically this is very simple : People like to do business with people they know very well.
It’s an easy way to avoid negative surprises.
When you are playing a round of golf with another businessman or –woman, you are out for at least four hours in a relaxing, quiet and natural environment in which often mobile phones aren’t even allowed. This is a fantastic opportunity to get to know each other and watch with your own eyes how the other person is handling stress. A golfball won’t always do what you want it to do and this may lead to an occasional explosion of emotions. Of course this never happens to you and it’s strictly against the rules of golf etiquette ;-)

Networking is nothing more or less than building a database of high quality business contacts.
These are people you know very well professionally and they also know you very well.
Will you do business with these people? Will you sell your products and services to the other members of your club ?
This might happen occasionally, but it’s not even the intention of business networking.
What we really want to happen is that people will remember you and actively refer others to you when they think you might be able to help them. When you are building a network in the proper way, you will create a network of active promoters for your business.
Will this lead to real business? Will this lead to sales? Absolutely !

Here we also come to the point where tax control services hit their golfballs into the woods. I have seen several examples where tax controllers demand a 100% evidence of sales directly linked to a membership of a golfclub, a businessclub or a serviceclub. That just isn’t the way it works …

29 June 2011

#TwunchQ 28/06/2011 - Economy and Social Media

Yesterday, June 28, Vincent Van Quickenborne organized the 4th #TwunchQ, a lunchtime networking event at the rooftop terrace of his official address in the heart of Brussels.

More or less 160 people had registered for this event (+75% showed up which is a record !). The concept is adapted from the original #Twunch formula where people just get together at lunchtime to catch up and eat something together. Mr. Q had a truckload of sandwiches prepared for us as well as a top level guest speaker : Economist Geert Noels.

What I will probably remember from this event is the fact that self-named economy nerds can also be very funny. Geert Noels knows his trade, but is also a gifted public speaker. Vincent Van Quickenborne is a Belgian Minister and speaks in public almost every day, but his charm is definitely his 'Tintin' like style. He loves to meet people and feel the pulse of society. The audience included Belgiums better bloggers, a few journalists and almost every early adopter of platforms like Twitter and LinkedIn. A very exciting buzz was constantly present.

There were lots of opportunities to ask questions, live and via Twitter. I also got my 5 minutes of fame by asking Geert Noels if he could share a good Economy 2.0 tip for small business owners. The answer was more or less that small businessowners don't necessarily need to grow. You can be an exceptional baker or florist and the top of your trade in your region. Nothing is wrong with that. An economy of successful and high quality microbusinesses can be great too.

Mr. Q is closing up for the holidays, next #TwunchQ is scheduled for September. I'll be back !

Missed it ? The recorded Live stream is still available at http://www.vincentvanquickenborne.be/blog/2011/06/herbekijk-de-live-stream-van-4e-twunchq-met-geertnoels/

1 June 2011

Privacy on Facebook - Problem of our generation ?

Privacy on Facebook is still a very popular topic. During each speech, presentation, panel discussion, interview or workshop I still get loads of questions on this tricky topic.
I already tackled this topic in an earlier blogpost :

This is still a short summary of my vision :
Whenever you want to post something on Facebook, stop and think.
Is this something that anyone would be allowed to see ?
If yes, click the button
If no, think twice before posting !
Maybe you are not prepared to make this consideration each time you want to post something ? Facebook is a platform that allows you to configure what your friends can see. Make sure to do this !

Our friends from Talking Heads have written a great manual (
blogpost) with tips on how to protect your privacy on Facebook (in dutch). Use this as a guideline and you can be sure that those wild or drunk pictures can only be seen by your drinking mates who were with you at that wild party.
Your boss or colleagues will NOT be able to see this photo album.

Another great blogpost (in english) on protecting your privacy on Facebook :

When looking at the angle of the questions I receive on this topic, it seems to me that this privacy problem is really a problem of my generation.
Young people have a very different way of handling this and are much more open toward each other. Mark Zuckerberg is also part of this young generation and in his vision it’s very normal to share a lot of stuff with each other. If you don’t want to do that, the necessary tools are available to protect whatever you want.

I also hear a lot of rants on how Mark Zuckerberg is abusing our privacy by selling our profile details to the highest bidding advertisers.
If you really think this through, this isn’t so bad at all …
Facebook allows us to use this fantastic platform for free, while it costs millions to keep it running. Ads are one of the only ways to support these necessary investments.
Would you choose to see some ads of stuff that might interest you while using Facebook ?
Or would you rather see ads that are of no interest at all for you ?
Personally I’m joining forces with the younger generation and choose to see ads that might interest me.

When I was thinking about this blogpost, my thoughts drifted away to the memory of my grandparents. I remember from my childhood years, that at my grandparents’ house the doors were always open. Through the backdoor of their house family, friends and neighbors were walking in and out all day long. I think they were much less concerned about their privacy than we are.
Maybe privacy is most of all a problem of our generation ?

2 May 2011

Passive Networking doesn't work

In my workshop "Social Media for Business" I'm describing 5 Networking Types (Originally by B. Guldager). These 5 types of people are getting different results depending on the amount of time and energy invested in networking.

Today I want to focus on the first type, The Passive Networker, because there lies a very interesting networking tip in this description.

The Passive Networker is one of those people who doesn't want to spend any time on networking. They are never attending networking drinks or receptions, but also online they only post a very basic profile and don't take any other actions at all.
I'm sure you all know people like this. I call this man "The Guy at the Fitnessclub"

Imagine we are early January and the Christmas Holidays have just past. They are the main reason why you are not feeling in your best shape ever. The feasts and champagne have invaded your body.

Your most important New Year's resolution is to start with Fitness !
You walk into a fitnessclub and throw enough money on the table for a yearly subscription.
Like a maniac you start to fitness, at least 3 times a week. After a few weeks you have a meeting on one of those days. Soon you are dropping down to 2 times a week, once a week, a couple of times a month ... and after a few months we will hardly ever find you at the fitnessclub anymore.
When anyone would say to this person at the end of the year "I'm not feeling too well after all these parties, I'm thinking about joining a fitnessclub", he would probably get this reply :
"I have tried that, it doesn't work !"

Buying a membership card of a fitnessclub doesn't do anything for your health. You have to take action and work out to become results.

Buying a membership card of a businessclub won't do anything for your business. You have to attend the events and get to know people to get some results.

Posting a basic profile on a Social Network won't do anything for your business. You have to get active, get to know people, write and comment on blogs, go to events, ... to get results !

1 April 2011

Which info is really important ?

You are an active user of most of the popular online networks and have configured your networks exactly the way you want.

By using tools as Tweetdeck or Ping you can send messages to your entire network in just one click. Imagine sending this message to your network : “Tonight I’ll be at the M4M Networking event at Ter Elst congress center in Edegem. Looking forward to a great guestspeaker”.

This message will be visible as your status message on all networks you are using.

On one of these networks, e.g. Facebook, someone is commenting to this status message : “Long time since I saw you. I might have a possible client for you. Can we meet in the bar of the congress center an hour before your event ?”.

If you missed this comment, you have a problem !

The contact that wanted to refer this client to you won’t try this again if you don’t react. It is very important to configure your networks to bring important messages to you as fast as possible (e.g. an email on your Blackberry or iPhone). Non urgent messages should be avoided.

To make it simple :

- Comments to status updates might be important or at least interesting. You want to see these as fast as possible.

- Notifications of new messages in forums or groups you are following are less important. You don’t need to see these as fast as possible, you can read them when you have time to spare.

Configuring your notifications correctly can save you a lot of time and will make you use your emails more efficient.

This is a very simple networking tip, but often I get very enthusiastic responses from people who ask themselves why they haven’t done this before.

16 March 2011


Monday afternoon Geert and Tineke became the proud parents of baby girl Elise.

Born 14/03/2011 - 13:09
50,5 cm - 3,320 kg

9 March 2011

The Power of Storytelling for Business

Up until 10 years ago most sales- and business conversations were focusing on details. People wanted to know all specifications of a device before purchasing it. Smarter salespeople were already describing the experience of using the device. This became more and more important in the last decade.
Storytelling is the conveying of events in words, images and sounds, often by improvisation or embellishment. Let’s get a bit deeper into the art of storytelling for business.

In these modern days business is very much driven by stories. Whether you are selling a car or computer, marketing your professional services or networking at a reception. It’s all about the stories.

You better make sure to have a rock solid story to introduce yourself to other business people. People don’t like to hear a boring “cv-style” introduction, but they really want to hear what drives your life. They want to hear the passion in what you do.
That same story can be told on your online Social Media profiles, and even more stories can be told in forum entries and blogposts, creating the canvas for your topic of choice.
Creating a story will always make your topic more comprehendible. Drawing the bigger picture by creating a story around your statement will make it easy for everyone to understand and really “get it”.

Hundreds of years ago storytellers travelled from village to village to tell their stories. In the next years professional storytellers will teach businesspeople how to create the stories they need to market and sell their products and services. User experiences, testimonials and all other available content can be combined into great and lively stories.

Storytelling is a topic that jumped into my eyesight several times in the last months. A few great examples of new professional services around this topic :

• Fortune/CNN : Article on TransMedia Storytelling : http://features.blogs.fortune.cnn.com/2010/11/09/why-storytelling-is-essential-for-business-leaders
• Corporate Storyteller Raf Stevens (http://www.corporatestoryteller.be/) came with a book-project on peer to peer storytelling (http://www.linkedstories.com/)
• Dirk Hermans starts with a one-stop-shop (Vertelpunt Uitgevers) where stories can be found in all possible formats : Newspapers and magazines can buy story-content, writers can publish their stories into books, organisations can hire a writer to bring his or her story live in front of an audience. (http://www.vertelpuntuitgevers.be/)

It is already more than clear to me that stories will be very important in the next years and this also relates in a new style of companies taking shape : Small but very active groups of people combining and concentrating on skills as copywriting, marketing, graphic design and communications. Communication Consultants like myself will have to concentrate on listening to people’s stories and reshaping them into a successful format. Like stated in the Fortune article, it’s not about creating hundreds of stories, it’s about creating one fantastic story that gets told over and over again to hundreds of people !

I think this new development will be very exciting for everyone in this industry and everyone who is passionate by the written word.

What’s your story ?

2 March 2011

Make a match. Risk-free !

This is a very simple but highly effective networking tip !
The more people you know, the more people you can actually help.

If one of your contacts is looking for someone to help him or her to get in touch with someone or something, don't hesitate to introduce this person to someone in your network who might be able to solve the problem.

If those two people have a successful match, your reputation and credibility will get a serious boost.
I often hear the fear for damaging your reputation if a match wouldn't be successful. I think you can perfectly get this under control. Let me show you with this example :

One of your contacts is looking for someone to help him with a task which needs very specific skills and knowledge.

First possibility :

You do know someone who can do this and this is someone you have known for ages.
You can highly recommend the services of this person. You would dare to say that this person is very accurate, professional and will probably be able to solve the problem.

Second possibility :
You don't have anyone in your direct network with the necessary skills for this job.
A few months ago you have briefly met someone at a networking event who claimed to have those skills. You still can make a successful match !

You have to tell your contact that this person is NOT a warm contact, but someone you have recently met on a networking event and possibly has the required skills and knowledge.
I usually advise to keep looking around for a warm recommendation, but if you come up empty please do contact this person because there is a good chance to a solution.
In both cases your reputation stays 100% intact and you have a chance to a serious reputation-boost if the match is successful !

1 February 2011

A Spotlight on your networking contacts

We survived this years New Year’s speeches and receptions and most companies are already back to normal speed. We do have the impression that the financial crisis is way behind us and this new year will bring many new opportunities.

Today I want to share the possibility to put a ‘Spotlight’ on some of your networking contacts. By doing this you will make a statement that these are very close and reliable contacts.
It might even bring them some new business !

On some business networks like Ecademy this is a feature which is included in the menu.
You will find ‘Spotlight’ in the submenu of your profile. To add someone to your ‘Spotlight’-page, just visit the profile of this contact, click ‘Spotlight’ in the profile submenu followed by ‘Add to my Spotlight’.

Because of the huge success of Facebook we often receive the question if there is also a ‘Spotlight’ feature on this popular network.

It is perfectly possible to gather specific friends in a list and display these in the left column of your Facebook profile. To do so, you can either create new lists or feature existing friend lists.
When you add someone to a featured list, they will receive a notification letting them know that you are featuring them on your profile.

To feature friends on your Facebook profile:

1. Click the "Edit Profile" button in the top-right corner of your profile.
2. Select "Featured People" from the left-hand menu.
3. Next to "Featured Friends" choose to add either an existing friends list or create a new one. 4. When you’re done, click "Save Changes"

If you have selected multiple lists, you can change the order they appear on your profile.
To do this, simply drag each list to where you’d like to place it. Then, click "Save Changes".

21 January 2011

Instream management for your networking group

Don’t you just hate it ?
One of the very first blogs I have ever written was about the feelings I had when I had to attend events where I didn’t know any of the other guests.
When attending receptions and events outside of my usual networking groups, I still spot the same behavior I wrote about many years ago.
People are automatically drawn towards those they already know. Pick any event you want and each and every time you will see this same behavior happening again. People greeting each other and gathering in small groups of 4 to 6 people, neglecting the other guests of the event.

I still think this is an important issue to be addressed by organisers as well as steady members of a networking or business group.
As organisers or members we mustn’t forget that each year you have a natural outstream from your members group. Some people just got bored, others have moved away too far from the location, some people may have even passed away.

If you want your groups and events to stay successful in the future you need to pay enough attention to the instream of new members. In my opinion good instream management doesn’t stop by selling a membership card or a ticket to one of your events. Excellent instream management also means making sure that new members get integrated in the group(s). In the same way a moderator tries to engage conversations online, the hosts of any event should ensure that nobody stays aside during his or her first events.

This is the only way to ensure that new members will also stay for many years, becoming the new steady members of your group.