Putting your network to good use

Have you ever counted how many family members, friends, acquaintances or business relationships you have? No, neither have I. But, if I rely on Linked in and Facebook, I know in excess of 1000 people and, I have a reach in excess of 14000 people.

Knowing each of these individuals has absolutely no benefit however, it’s what I do with this network of people that can make all the difference. How often do you connect people in your network to one another? And, how can you put your network to good use?

Last week I attended a Child and Youth Finance International event in Amsterdam. The first of many to come. Founder, Jeroo Billimoria, is a woman on a mission who makes things happen and someone who bangs on doors and makes her network, work for her. This event was attended by hundreds of business people, NGOs and individuals from around the globe. I met some very interesting people doing some exceptional work; Development initiatives network in Nigeria and Unicef in Nepal. People from organisations that need help in order to help others. Working for a global organisation has its benefits, so I immediately connected my Deloitte colleagues in India and Nigeria to the NGOs that I had met, in the hope that benefit will be found.

You can start closer to home though. A friend, Marianne Sassen, recently started her own company in the Netherlands, Marianne Communiceert. She consults businesses in communication strategy and translating this strategy to successful business activities. She realised that many local NGOs don’t have the financial resources to use a consultant, so she hooked up with a filmmaker, Tafelberg Films, to offer a day’s free communication advice and the production of a promotional film to a charitable organisation that takes the time to upload their business plan to their website, Operatie Spotlight. One, very lucky charity in the Netherlands will ‘win’ some free consulting work. A worthy activity, close to home, which I could immediately tweet and upload to my linked in profile. I know many charities that would be thrilled to receive this free advice.

Putting our networks to good use is therefore easier than you’d imagine. Think as local, regional or as global as your network will take you and remember, that a little (for you) can go a very long way for someone else.

Social Media for Dummies

As soon as you start living your dream, your dreams evolve.
I love technology and I would even go so far as to call myself a ‘techy’ where hardware is concerned. I don’t necessarily buy into all new hardware at first, but I’m certainly not a laggard either. The top drawer of my desk is a technology graveyard of just about every mobile phone known to man, PDAs, first gen mp3 players, ipods through the ages and digital cameras. I just don’t have the heart to throw them away. I mean really, they all still work!

On the software side however, it’s less techy and more of a tetchy subject. I’m not going to beat around the bush, I’m a dummy. I used to be able to glide around Word, Excel and Powerpoint with ease. But, every time Microsoft proudly brings out a new improved version of their pallet of software, I have the feeling that my knowledge goes backwards an era. Does anyone else share this sinking feeling?

The social media that I ‘got’ immediately was Linked-in. I notice that I’ve been a member since 2004. I use it for business. It’s basically taken over the rolodex that I never had. I owned a beautiful burgundy leather business card holder, filled with cards. Which, come to think of it, has joined the mobile phones in my technology graveyard.

When Facebook was launched, all those years ago, I just couldn’t imagine why anybody would use it. Why would I want to store all my private family photographs on a website for everyone to see? A little confusion on my part between Facebook and Picasa. I’m now a major Facebook fan of course, given my family is strewn all over the world. I have family members and friends on just about every continent so Facebook has become my kitchen table; a warm and friendly meeting place that always brings a smile and very often raucous laughter with it.

Then Twitter hit the streets. In February 2010, I opened up a Twitter account and never used it. I thought, “Why would total strangers be interested  in what I’m doing? Crazy people. I’m certainly never adopting that one.” This year, Roos van Vugt, our social media guru at Deloitte, gave my colleagues and I Twitter training. Thanks Roos. I now actually feel like I know what I’m doing and, thanks to you, I learn so much from other users on Twitter every day. Someone told me recently that I tweet too much. Is up to 10 tweets a day a lot?  Let’s face it, we’re not talking glasses of wine here!

The internal version of Twitter is Yammer. Or at least, that’s the way that I see it. We use this platform for knowledge sharing at Deloitte. It cuts down on email and questions are answered so much faster than in the past.

WordPress took me about an hour to really understand and the rest of the day to create a blog site. In the end, I was just being fussy about aesthetics. Or, does it always take this ‘long’ to develop a site? Fortunately, I had someone at home who had done it all before and he guided me through the toolbars. I’m not really into ‘reading funky manuals’. I learn by doing. I suppose this is why I’m often so challenged by Social Media.

Having a lack of Social Media wisdom is fortunately not age related. I know this for a fact. Recently Fair Chance Foundation (Dutch) asked third parties to offer us educational projects, which we will support on our annual ‘Impact Day’. Impact Day offers every Deloitte employee the opportunity to take a day off from work to do charity work.

Roos retweeted my call for projects and Linda Vonhof and Thijs van de Reep from Social Media Wijs (Social Media Smart) approached me. They’ve developed a social media bootcamp to teach kids all the fun things that they can do and learn from it. In schools they focus too much on the evils of social media, putting the fear of death into many a school child. Very seldom are kids taught what they can actually do with social media. But then go figure, they’re being taught by school teachers who are probably as clueless as I am. And to be fair, technology just moves so fast and the teachers don’t have a Social Media team to come to their rescue. Social Media Wijs is running a bootcamp for Deloitte’s Fair Chance Foundation on Impact Day on 28 September 2011. This date may differ in other countries. For more information about what they are doing, they can be reached through Twitter.

My most recent Social Media faux pas was whilst I was attending a seminar in Brussels. I tweeted that a lady speaker from the BBC was giving a fascinating presentation about SM. A BBC colleague retweeted my message, setting the record straight and changed my abbreviation from SM to Soc.Med. Well, it is the British Broadcasting Corporation with an image to uphold. And yes, realising my mistake, I laughed out loud. I continually live and learn. You may however want to read the advice which Harvard Business Review offers on The Simple Way to Avoid Social Media Failures.

PS. Google+ is still giving me nightmares. Circles. Yes, I am pretty much going around in circles and sparks are definitely flying. But, the sparks are probably coming from that part of my brain where the cogs go round and round. Help…….Roos!!