Monday, October 26, 2009

eLearn 2009 Presentation – Twitter Along

Here is the original post I had planned, but as you can read on my post - Changes in Knowledge Work and Implications for Workplace Learning – The Keynote That Wasn't plans changed.

I'm beginning my final preparation for my presentation at eLearn 2009. As I did for my keynote at ASTD TechKnowledge in January, I'm using what I described in Twitter Conference Ideas. Particularly I'm using TweetLater to plan out my presentation and hopefully provide value to participants and people who are not attending but who might be interested in what I'm presenting.

The intent of this post is to simply alert you that I will be doing a series of tweets during my presentation that's scheduled for:

Wednesday, October 28 - 8:30 AM, Pacific Time – Convert to Your Time Zone

These will roughly go out real-time with my presentation. You can find these by following my tweets at:

@tonykarrer

But it's probably better to use twitter search to keep track of everything using the conference tag:

#elearn

Los Angeles Technology Connector – Kurt Daradics

Kurt Daradics (Facebook, @KurtyD, FriendFeed, MySpace, LinkedIn, Delicious) (pronounced dare-a-dix) is a great guy to know.  He recently co-founded CitySourced and I think Ben Kuo nailed him when he describes him as  "a connector. someone who makes things happen, and knows everyone, and does his best to make the world a better place."  Kurt has a great background in sales and marketing. He is well known in the Southern California Technology scene for his work producing the Digital Family event series, along with the MOTM (Meeting of the Minds) series.

What are you working on now?

I've recently co-founded the first political social network FreedomSpeaks and CitySourced.com a real time mobile civic engagement tool. CitySourced provides a free, simple, and intuitive tool empowering citizens to identify civil issues (potholes, graffiti, trash, snow removal, etc.) and report them to city hall for quick resolution; an opportunity for government to use technology to save money and improve accountability to those they govern; and a positive, collaborative platform for real action.

We were in the finals at TechCrunch50 this year and are waking up the neighborhood with our mobile application.

I'm also still busy working with Baron Miller to produce MOTM (Meeting of the Minds), which is a curated, invite only conversation we produce in SoCal. We have regular monthly meetings in Westlake Village, Hollywood, Santa Barbara, & Newport Beach.

I'm hoping that Baron and Kurt come up with one that's in Santa Monica / West LA.  I've heard great things about their events.

What's keeping you up at night?

Closing our our round and dealing with all the inbound requests.

You are a really great networker and help put on great networking events, what do you think about the concept of visible networking? What should I do to make this a good use of time?

Any sort of networking that gives more context is a plus in my book. That's why folks dig the MOTM events I produce. They can figure out who they really want to connect with.

What networking events in Los Angeles or Southern California do you go to? What was the best one you’ve been to recently?

Well obviously the Digital Family and MOTM events that I co-produce. I like Ken's METal Breakfasts. Digital LA is fun when I want to be social.

Besides Tony Karrer for technology, who are some of your go to people in Los Angeles?

There are too many to mention.  You should check out my blog for my 'go to' people - I have them listed on my posse section. 

That really is a good list of folks.  A few in there that I definitely wanted to capture.  Quite a few of these folks I already know, but I'm certainly going to be reaching out to more of them based on your recommendation.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Online Business Networking Los Angeles

Great by Cliff Allen Business Networking Online who I had blogged about previously in Marketing, Startups and Networking in Los Angeles.  In this post, Cliff provides some feedback on what works when you move towards doing business networking online.  I'm trying to get the concept of visible networking going, so his feedback is really valuable.  Cliff's feedback:

Your idea of "Visible Networking" can help people take the "glad to meet you" networking to the next level -- "glad to know you" relationships. Then, face-to-face meetings and activities become much more valuable. I see Visible Networking as a series of conversations around blog posts, and encouraging a group of people to actively participate. It's like a dinner discussion where a topic is discussed, then the group moves to the next topic.

Yes, blogs has been touted as a place to have conversations, but Tony is doing Visible Networking by starting the conversation in a blog post, then continuing the conversation in the comments. And, since he's using a public blog anyone can join the conversation.

Cliff create a great image for the group.  It's as if we were getting together to have this conversation at a dinner, but instead we do it online.  I'm going to be working with people like Cliff and Steve Gilison (see Product Management for Startups in Los Angeles) and Tom Humbarger (see Social Media to Build Reputation and Reach Prospects) to create this online business networking group for Los Angeles.

Cliff also sparked an idea that along with using in a separate conversations sparked the idea that we should be using Southern California Tech Central as a means of helping to aggregate the conversation.  We can use could choose a hashtag (e.g., #obnla … Online Business Networking Los Angeles) and then bring together posts that include that hashtag.  This would be easy enough to do.  I'm not sure if it will add value at this point.

Ambal Balakrishnan who I've been talking to about interviews and content marketing as it relates to B2B marketing as well as discussing aggregation in B2B Marketing suggested that I should answer the following about this business networking group:

  • What topics will your "conversations" be about? i.e, focus?
  • What will the objectives of these "conversations" be? i.e, goals?
  • Most importantly - How will you and fellow bloggers keep these "conversations" going - without fatigue

The answers to these questions will be collectively determined, but my guess is that the conversations will be around web, software, social media, online marketing, startups, business development, etc.  For example, I think that looking at Startup Metrics and the implications around that would be a really interesting conversation.  Right now the conversation is about visible networking.

What are the objectives / goals:

  • Learning
  • Getting to know each other
  • Helping each other with issues we face
  • Referring business, people, etc. as appropriate

In terms of how we will keep these conversations going without fatigue, that's a great question.  We've had amazing success with the LA CTO Forum but more so in-person than online.  For an online business networking group, I believe if we do things that revolve around monthly themes and help push each other, we can get to critical mass and keep things moving.  But this is certainly a bit of an experiment.

I would very much welcome input on how we can make this effective.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Social Media to Build Reputation and Reach Prospects – More Ideas

Based on a question I posted in LinkedIn, Serena Ehrlich posted How to Use Social Media to Find Prospects... Or Sell a House... and provides the following list of suggestions for ways to use social media to build a reputation and to reach prospects.  Her list included quite a few things that would likely be much farther down my list:

  • Create short videos of your presentations. Set up accounts on YouTube and Mixx (try Tubemogul.com) and use these videos to highlight the best of your presentations
  • Create a commercial for yourself, put on above sites
  • Tape record your presentations and make them available via podcast

For most service professionals, they might create one or two of these.  They still will need ways to get this out to an audience.  My experience is that it's okay to embed this places to get some additional traction, but it's probably not a great place to start unless it's key to your business.  That said, for professional speakers, they definitely should be thinking about video on their site to show them in action.

  • Answer questions in LinkedIn to enhance your professional reputation

I've found some great people who answered questions on LinkedIn, but I'm not convinced it provides that much value to spend time answering questions.  On the other hand, you might blog your answers and post a link.  That way you get value both places.

Her other suggestions around blogging, LinkedIn, twitter use pretty well align with how I think about it.  Thanks for the thoughts Serena.

Tom Humbarger had some great suggestions in his post Visible Networking with Tony Karrer – Los Angeles Social Media Starters.  You should likely check out some of his ideas from posts:

5 Ways to Maximize Your LinkedIn Profile

  1. Add a picture
  2. Update your status
  3. Get recommended
  4. Update websites
  5. Get your name in your public profile

Great suggestions.  Couple of additional thoughts… First, have a photo ready so you can add it to any social networking site.  It's important.  See Profile Photos.  To make life easier to update your status, especially across multiple sites, use Ping.fm.

His other posts have similarly great ideas for twitter, LinkedIn Groups, and more.

Great stuff Tom, thanks for sharing.  Look forward to discussing this more with you.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Social Media for Service Professionals

I did a presentation about the use of Social Media to a great group of people who mostly are different kinds of service professionals (attorneys, accountants, consultants, etc.). I promised that I would do a follow-up post with some thoughts out of the presentation and providing links. This is that post.

Value of Blogging

I started the presentation talking about the value of blogging. But rather than believing me, listen to Tom Peters and Seth Godin:

.

Seth Godin

Doesn't matter if anyone reads it.

What matters is the metacognition of thinking about what you are going to say.

How do you force yourself to describe in three paragraphs why you did something.

You are doing it for yourself to become part of the conversation even if it's very small.

Tom Peters

No single thing in the last 15 years professionally has been more important in my life than blogging.

It has changed my life. It has changed my perspective. It has changed my intellectual outlook. It has changed my emotional outlook.

Best damn marketing tool by an order of magnitude.

Both

And it's free.

Other thoughts on the value of blogging: Value of Blogging - Thanks Tracy, Common Questions and Some Thoughts Around Blogs and Blogging, Top Ten Reasons To Blog and Top Ten Not to Blog.

But from a value perspective, it really comes down to the numbers I showed for my eLearning Technology blog.

image

Over the past 12 months, I've had roughly 284,000 people come visit that site and get exposed to things I write. I have more than 10,000 subscribers and roughly 1,000 per day see my posts. Of course, those are highly suspect numbers from Feedburner. But the web site visitors are accurate.

I'll be doing a keynote presentation in a week or so where there might be 1,000 people in the room. The good thing about that is that most of those people don't know me today. The bad news is that my blog gets about that many new visitors each day. If I can do a good job with my blog content, then I can effectively be doing a keynote per day. It's great reach.

Similarly, I reached about 45 people in my presentation. Undoubtedly, this post will reach far more than that.

While I will continue to do presentations, there is a real question of which is the better use of time.

Blogging Tactics

In the presentation, I spent a fair bit of time discussing some different things you might want to do as a service professional just getting started. I'm hoping that others will help point me to other resources around this topic.

A few things we discussed:

Focus. Before you begin to blog, you need to decide on your audience and focus. Each blog post should be something that will interest that audience. And you shouldn't stray from that.

Be Interested and Interesting. Before you begin to blog, you should plan to subscribe to other bloggers who blog in your planned area. Get to know them. Be interested in what they write. Plan out how you will interact with what they are writing.

Separate Blogging from Marketing. I keep my blogs separate from by company web site. I do this intentionally because I don't want to have people feel I'm hitting them over the head with marketing messages. Instead, I think of it like a presentation. I never sell at a presentation. Don't sell on your blog. Readers will figure it out.

Services Pages. That said, it's pretty easy to add a page like: Tony's Speaking and Workshop Services when there are some services that really relate more to your blogging than to your company.

Importance of Search. You'll notice that 60% of my traffic comes from search. That's actually lower now than it used to be. As a blogger you need to continually be thinking about building a blog that does well in search. Unfortunately, that means that every post you should stop and think about the title and maybe even research it using the Google Adwords Keyword Tool. Will this title and URL be effective getting traffic. This is also true of your domain name. Choose wisely.

Use Feedburner or Feedblitz for Email. Sign up with either Feedburner or Feedblitz to provide email subscriptions to your blog. Make the subscription box fairly prominent on the site.

Engage other Bloggers. Link to other bloggers' posts. Form blogger carnivals. Comment on other bloggers' posts. Interview other bloggers. Send email to other bloggers when you post a really good post. Make sure that other bloggers get to know you. And make sure you spend time visible networking.

Linkbait. Create a top 100 post or top 10 list or something like that. It's great link bait. It will get other bloggers to link to you.

Twitter. Tweet your posts. See below.

Topic Hubs. Put yourself in the middle of a blog network. See below.

Twitter Tactics

I next talked about how I use twitter. I looked at a couple of specific examples, where I ask for help from my followers. But it's probably better to take a look at something like Twitter 101 if you are new to Twitter.

I discussed my use of TweetDeck and particularly the groups. I have groups for Close Friends and SoCal. So out of the people I follow, these are the people I most closely follow. Otherwise, I probably wouldn't be able to handle it. I also like TweetDeck for my iPhone.

Some other things I mentioned:

Find People to Follow. Use Twitter Search to Find people to follow. Also MrTweet.

Auto repost your blog posts. I use twitterfeed to do this.

Retweet your bookmarks. Delicious + twitterfeed.

LinkedIn Tactics

Then I went through a lot of what I've already talked about before. See my posts:

By the way, this group didn't all link to me after the presentation on LinkedIn. That was a big surprise. Maybe they are waiting for the follow up email. But someday you may want to connect with me. You are better served to take this opportunity to exchange cards, and in my case, that's link on LinkedIn.

Other Tactics

Some other tactics we discussed:

Link Searches – Use BackTweets to search for anyone who has linked to you in Twitter, and IceRocket to search for anyone linking to your blog. Subscribe the the RSS feed for each of these.

Use Ping.fm to update multiple statuses.

Create your own Network using Ningsee LearnTrends for an example.

Create a Topic Hub - Your goal should be to put yourself in the middle of the network of bloggers who exist in any field. Contact me about using Browse My Stuff to do exactly that. You can see examples like eLearning Learning which gets more traffic than my eLearning blog.

Other Thoughts

Common questions I get at the end of a presentation like this are:

  • Where can I go to get help getting going?

  • Where do I find out more about getting going?

I'm trying to build a network of people who can help with this as I discussed in Los Angeles Social Media Starters. One person I'm talking to about this is Tom Humbarger who recently did some visible networking with me in his post: Visible Networking with Tony Karrer – Los Angeles Social Media Starters. I'm going to blog some thoughts about his post shortly.

I didn't cover these, but I think that service professionals should really take a look at my Tool Set series, specifically Work Skills Keeping Up, Better Memory, Information Radar, Processing Pages with Links, Networks and Learning Communities, Collaborate, Search, Browser Short Cuts and Twitter as Personal Work and Learning Tool.

LearnTrends Speakers and Topics Accounced

Sorry - I posted this on the wrong blog. You can find it here:

http://elearningtech.blogspot.com/2009/10/learntrends-speakers-and-topics.html

Friday, October 16, 2009

Tags not Folders - LinkedIn Saved Profiles

I'm a big fan of LinkedIn and think that there's incredible value in the site.  And I'm happy that they now have the concept of Saved Profiles and that they provide the ability to organize your saved profiles.  When you add this to some of the other CRM type capabilities they are adding, it begins to make LinkedIn even more powerful.

image

But I'm a bit surprised that they decided to use a folder metaphor as opposed to tags.  Yes, there are a large number of people who really don't quite get tags, but you can always show them a folder view on top of tags.  This is how Google does things.  Allow tagging and treat tags a bit like folders in the interface.  Here's the Google Reader "folders" but really they are tags as you can assign them to many different folders.

image

Well I should be a little more exact.  What's the difference between tags and folders?  Both are really attributes of an object.  The object is associated with a folder or with tags.

  • Folders – generally pure hierarchy and well defined set of folders.  Folders themselves can be placed inside other folders.
  • Tags – arbitrary strings associated with an object.  By convention, tags can be used to look like folders in that all things tagged with the same value can be shown under that "folder".  And by convention you can make them hierarchical, but most often you don't.

With something as messy as people, I'm really surprised that LinkedIn would have gone with a Folder system – and only provided a limited number of folders.  Yikes.  There must have been some heated discussions around the design of this feature.

Just like building anything as installed software is questioned today, designing anything based on folders should be questioned.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Product Management for Startups in Los Angeles – Steve Gilison

imageIt was great to hear from a long, lost colleague the other day.  Steve Gilison worked as a market researcher and product manager at a startup where my company, TechEmpower, did the software / web development.  

Of course, I immediately gave him the whole spiel on Visible Networking and Steve was totally game to make our networking visible.

Remind me about your background Steve?

I have about 11 years in the technology sector including roles doing market research, sales and product development. My focus has been marketing strategy and product development. You can see more on my LinkedIn profile: http://www.linkedin.com/in/stevegilison.  I also blog at http://gilison.wordpress.com/ and you can find me on twitter: @gilbola.

What are you working on now?

I’m currently working with several startups, helping them launch new web businesses. Basically everything from initial feasibility analysis and business plans through defining the product (PRDs) and project managing the development of the project. My clients are typically entrepreneurs who have other jobs and are looking for help to get their side projects going but don’t have the time or skill set to launch it themselves. One interesting project, a bit different, is helping a paper-based collections agency implement a CRM/workflow software package and also select and integrate an eDocument Management Solution including scanning the paper-based backfile and putting in a go-forward process for capturing digital documents.

What keeps you up at night?

It’s very difficult to communicate the value of my services and it’s even harder to find people/companies looking to outsource their product development to a business guy like myself. Getting new projects is tough.

I can see that.  Most people think they can do product design.  But there's often a gap between what a technical group like ours is looking for and what an entrepreneur is able to define.  I'm curious how you've tried to define that?  Maybe we can get someone like Cliff Allen to weigh in on what would be a good way to position and market yourself?

We just reconnected and so far, what is it we would have talked about if we got together in person?

I’ve always respected your work and perspective on internet businesses and social media so I wanted to pick your brain about opportunities in this space for consulting and full-time employment; how do I position myself? Where are some interesting areas or companies in LA that you think are doing good things? If I were to pick a niche what would it be? And do you know anyone that I should speak with who might be able to help me find more work?

Wow, great questions.  You face a bit of the challenge that I face.  How do I find entrepreneurs who have a great idea that can get or has got funding who need a CTO and/or development team?  In your case, they need to be someone with a great idea who needs help fleshing it out into a product vision.  Or they need to be going into a scaling up mode.

I think that most first time entrepreneurs won't necessarily get the gap between their idea and what you could do.  More likely it would be people with more experience.  They want to do their second or third but need someone to do the real work/lifting.  Of course, it's probably harder to find these folks.  Or maybe not.  Likely any successful web entrepreneur has more ideas than time.

I personally think that your background with entertainment would mean that you could do something interesting around product management for hybrid online and entertainment plays.  I'm not sure how to find these and have wondered that myself. 

I'm hoping that other people can chime in on this:

Where do you find opportunities as a product manager?  Advice for Steve?

What networking events in Los Angeles or Southern California do you go to?  What was the best one you’ve been to recently?

Tony, it's great you'd ask since I've got a blog with a post about different networking events in the LA area.  These are one-offs that I mention in the blog rather than make the master list too cluttered. I have shied away from taking favorites in my blog or anywhere public.  But I typically go to the Docstoc, Dealmaker LA, and Digital LA events.

That surprises me because I either haven't been going to those or have been missing you there.  Your list is great BTW.  We should keep comparing notes on your list and my Networking Events in Los Angeles and Southern California.

So what do you think about the concept of Visible Networking?

How about you send some questions ahead of time like you proposed but then have the Q/A on IM so they can potentially paste in prepared statements/links, etc. and you can still get the real-time interaction going. It’s the follow-up questions to the responses that really create the dialogue and valuable nuggets beyond the information. Anyway, that’s my initial reaction.

I like the idea.  I didn't execute this time.  Maybe twitter as the channel for the follow-up?  And I can capture that and post it?

Besides Tony Karrer for technology, who are some of your go to people in Los Angeles?

I think that Tom Elliott at CKMG and Erlend Wilhemsen at Fabric Interactive do good stuff.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Marketing, Startups and Networking in Los Angeles – Cliff Allen

imageCliff Allen is someone I've known for quite a few years and he's a go to person for me when I'm thinking about issues around marketing, sales, technology, startups and networking.

Of course, when I started thinking about Visible Networking, I immediately went to Cliff to check in to see how he's doing and to get his feedback, thoughts and ideas on the concept.

Cliff, remind me about your background?

My first career was spent building radio and television stations, then running the programming side of those businesses. I moved into writing software to analyze audience data, and wrote a lot of computer graphics software. In 1986 I started an advertising and public relations firm to serve software and hardware companies, which became a marketing consulting business (www.Allen.com) when I moved to L.A. in 1998.

Along the way, I co-authored three books on one-to-one marketing (http://www.amazon.com/Cliff-Allen/e/B001H6OERG/) to help marketers learn how to built and nature relationships with their customers.

It's great to know that you have the radio and TV background. One of the places where eHarmony really took off was on radio. Lots of online marketing before that, but we had some great results when we were picked up by a national radio program. Hey, radio. Maybe that would make sense as a marketing channel.

What are you working on now?

A few years ago, my CTO spotted a need that local groups and organizations have in handling RSVPs and registrations for meetings and events. After a considerable amount of market research, we created the SureToMeet system that’s now used by organizations around the country.

I also write about holding events (http://blog.SureToMeet.com), and I’m writing a series about integrating marketing strategy with marketing tactics (http://blog.Allen.com).

I've been following both of your blogs for a while. Great stuff. Of course, part of the reason that I went to you when I started thinking about visible networking is that you run a company that's right in the middle of this. So, naturally I have to ask:

What are your thoughts on my concerns around networking and particularly visible networking?

Different types of people need different types of networking. For those of us who are online throughout the day, “visible networking” online is a lot more productive than driving across L.A. for face-to-face general networking events. I like the thread of comments that occur on popular blogs, especially those blogs that notify you when additional comments have been posted.

Blogs also make it easy for new people to find those interesting conversation. LinkedIn discussion areas are good, but it’s frustrating when people send me links to discussions in LinkedIn Groups where I’m not a member (and can’t join without leaving another group). In this era of “open source” everything, open conversations on blogs make a lot of sense.

That's great to hear. I'm going to be curious to see how this unfolds. Certainly having a chance to engage a bit with you, Cliff, is great. Normally we drive across town to spend two minutes together at an event. Never get all that deep.

Any specific thoughts on things I should do to make Visible Networking better? What have you seen elsewhere that works?

What keeps you up at night?

Growing our business! We’re pleased with its growth but, as with any Web-based business, we’re looking for additional organizations we can help.

It's good to hear that a person who I go to for marketing advice has the same challenge as the rest of us. What's working and not working for you? Are you leveraging social media at all? What do you think about using Browse My Stuff / a Topic Hub to reach influencers in the meeting organizer space?

On a separate note, Cliff, should I add your blog.allen.com to the B2B Marketing Zone?

And while I'm on the subject of your blog, you've got great stuff, but what are some of your best posts that I should go look at?

Since I have two blogs, here are a few from both:

Events Should Be Money Well Spent

Seems to echo some of my concerns about the value of events. It's interesting to see that from someone who runs a company that helps people hold events.

Top 10 Business Networking Tips Series

Using Storytelling in Networking

Great points about business networking and how storytelling is a better way to network. So, natural question for me. How do these tips change when you are talking about visible networking? Cliff, what recommendations do you have for me?image

Marketing 2.0 Strategy

Mind Maps Make Marketing More Meaningful

Good post talking to mind shift related to marketing today. The one on mind maps makes me wonder: (1) Cliff, where's your mind map for SureToMeet? (2) How do these mind maps change in a 2.0 world?

What networking events in Los Angeles or Southern California do you go to? What was the best one you’ve been to recently?

For most of this year I’ve shifted my networking to events where there is a speaker, who sets the theme, and meetings where there is a purpose and agenda.

For events where there is a speaker who is matched to the audience I like MOTM (www.motms.com). For meetings aimed at helping salespeople network, I like B2B Power Exchange (www.b2bpowerexchange.com).

If the MOTM is worth the drive out to the valley, that's saying something.

Besides Tony Karrer for software/web development in Los Angeles ;) who are some of your go to people in Los Angeles?

Here are a few people who keep me plugged into what’s happening:

I know Kurt and Heather. I'll have to get to know Hannah, Alan and Susan. Thanks for the pointers.

Where can I find you for more visible networking?

Here’s where I hang out:

Cliff, I'm looking forward to diving in a bit deeper on this stuff with you over the next few days/weeks.

And, since this is one of my first attempts at visible networking, I hope that people will chime in with thoughts around what aspects of this works and doesn't work for you.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Los Angeles Social Media Starters

I'm hoping you can help me figure out who I should be connecting with on this.

I find myself speaking at various venues in Los Angeles to tell people (most often service providers) about how I've used social media and particularly my blogs, LinkedIn, twitter and topic hubs as part of my own services business.  These presentations always inspire people to do more with LinkedIn, create or improve their blog, and maybe do more with Twitter. 

Invariably I'm asked by an accountant, lawyer, wealth manager, placement specialist, insurance agent, etc.:

How can I get more help setting up my blog?  Doing these things you are talking about?

And while I always tell people to just dive in and do it (and mention that if they get stuck, just ask a 25 year old to help you), there are definitely a lot of people in the audience that need more hand holding.  They need some help getting started.  They need someone who does consulting, hand holding, cracks the whip a bit, gets the stuff in place, knows different tricks and techniques.

Of course, this normally is a bit more complicated than just the technical aspects.

What's their specific niche?  Who's the audience?  Where are they online?  What do they search for?

So this person needs to understand how to quickly move through marketing analysis 101 type things.

My perception is that most services professionals like this are not going to want to spend a lot of money on these things, but I've not market tested it.

I'd like to be able to point them to a few different options.  I'd especially like to find people in Los Angeles.

Who do you know that might fit?

Monday, October 12, 2009

What is Visible Networking?

This past week has had an interesting confluence of events that's led me to conclude that I want to start doing a lot of visible networking among the tech / web crowd here in Los Angeles. I want to take you through a bit of what brought me here, because I think it will help explain what I mean by visible networking.

Networking Events – Questionable Return on Your Time

Last week I posted about Networking Events in Los Angeles and Southern California and received back some interesting comments, some of the best from a LinkedIn Group. Several of the comments there echoed what I've been feeling:

Person 1: I have attended a plethora of networking groups and have also found it harder and harder to continue to be motivated to go.

Person 2: Very discouraging (few if any happy with their networking efforts) but not unexpected. I've not found any great groups either.

There were some suggestions in the LinkedIn group, but nothing that made me think … wow, that would be great.

To top this off, at the LA CTO Forum we had Mark Suster as the presenter. I really enjoy his blog and I can't wait to mix it up with him some more on the value of Hollywood money / connections. But to the point here, when we were talking about networking events, Mark and the group generally were hard pressed to say what events were worth attending. Mark mentioned Twiistup and VentureNet, but generally the room felt that it was hit and miss with all events.

And when you think about the return on your time, it becomes even more discouraging. Most of the time when I go to an in-person networking events in Los Angeles, it takes me at least 3 hours. More often 4. Especially with traffic. And that doesn't count the time for Prenetworking – see Secret for Networking at Events – Prenetworking and Pre-network with LinkedIn.

I'm not saying that I'm giving up completely on in-person events, but I think visible networking will provide a more effective use of time.

Social Media / Online Networking – Better Use of Time

I present a fair amount on the topic of how to use social media. The same Friday as the LA CTO Forum with Mark Suster, I presented to a group of about 40-50 mostly service providers on use of social media to build your reputation and grow your business. I showed them how I can do a LinkedIn search and connect with all sorts of people in a few minutes. I discussed how I often will set up 30 minute conversations about particular topics with people I know or folks that I meet through LinkedIn. These conversations are generally really great and I meet all kinds of interesting people. I actually find that they are much better than conversations at most networking events.

While I was presenting, I said:

It's a much better use of my time to use LinkedIn to spark a conversation than it is to go to networking events.

Blogging an Online Conversation

At the same presentation, I told that audience that

Blogging is an online conversation.

I'm engaging in conversation with other bloggers all the time. And with my perceived prototypical audience member. I've talked a bit about this before in posts like: Conversation Topics.

Combined to form Visible Networking

The above events caused me to think:

Why don't I combine my online networking activity along with my blogging activity to network in the open – to do visible networking?

What do I mean by visible networking, well it's simply the idea that instead of having a 30 minute phone conversation, why not have that conversation out in public view. Twitter is pretty much that already. But I'm thinking about deeper conversations than I have on twitter. So, clearly it would make sense to do this in my blogs. And I'm thinking about having these conversations both with people I already know and people that I've just met or are just getting to know.

The advantages are simple:

  • I won't forget the conversation.
  • It's likely much more time effective than in-person networking.
  • I can have relatively meaty conversations.
  • And by making it open, then it provides value to other people and hopefully to the broader network.

I'm not 100% sure what this will exactly mean in practice. I know that I'll be getting to know more of the influencers in Los Angeles and having blog conversations with them. Sometimes, I'll send them a note through LinkedIn or even an email (gasp) and strike up a conversation. And I'll post about it. And maybe they will post about it. And I'll do my best to make as much of the conversation visible.

Now I'm sure quite a few people will be saying something along the lines of "Tony, no duh." That's what this stuff has been all along. But sometimes it takes me a while to catch on.

With that, I look forward to visible networking with you.

And certainly if you have ideas on how to best make this happen, please let me know.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Startup Metrics

A post by Fred Wilson pointed me to Dave McClure's Startup Metrics presentation. This is a great presentation and one that I'm going to point out to startup / early stage company CEOs.

Normally, when I am talking to the founder of any startup trying to figure out what they need to do, one of the things I always try to do is understand their business at its core. In many cases, I can break it down into:

  • Customer Acquisition Cost – how will you reach prospects, how will you convert them and how much will it cost to convert them
  • Customer Lifetime Value – how much will you make off of each converted customer

This very simple model works for a surprising number of business models. This kind of a simple model also helps:

  • Define the early proof points for the company. Often, what we are trying to do initially is show exactly how these numbers play out. You only build what you need to prove that model. If these numbers work out, then often scaling is more a question of capital. In fact, this often becomes the mantra that we live by.
  • Define what you need from a metrics and reporting standpoint. We'll need to look at different customer acquisition channels, figure out how they are converting, and the expected lifetime value of customers acquired through those channels, and apply cost to those channels. We need to make sure we have these numbers. Quite often the goal is to get them into an excel spreadsheet in a form that allows people to easily play with them.

What Dave McClure's presentation does is point to some additional metrics that are useful to think about and consider:

  • A: Acquisition - where / what channels do users come from?
  • A: Activation - what % have a "happy" initial experience?
  • R: Retention - do they come back & re-visit over time?
  • R: Referral - do they like it enough to tell their friends?
  • R: Revenue - can you monetize any of this behavior?

These are captured fairly well by his slide:

StartupMetricsModels

The beauty of what he's defined is the relationship between retention and referral efforts and lifetime value. Often, what you find in simple, first cut models are a very simple pipeline. His picture provides a much richer understanding of what will be going on, but still in an understandable and measurable way.

I'm not quite sure I believe the way he exactly models the value from each of these points as is shown in the following graphic, but a similar kind of model can certainly be developed.

startup-conversion-metrics

The other thing that I think he's really done well is his look at value of different marketing channels.

Marketing-Channels-Startup-Metrics

A couple other great things – wow – I'm going to have a lot to come back to and comment on:

  • Progress is not equal to features (Less is More)
  • Focus on User Experience
  • Measure Conversion; Compare 2+ Options
  • Fast, Frequent Iteration + Feedback Loop
  • Keep it Simple and Actionable

What's my business model?

  • Get Users (= Acquisition, Referral)
  • Drive Usage (= Activation, Retention)
  • Make Money (= Monetize)

Startups have problems in 3 key areas:

  • Management: Setting priorities, defining key metrics, reporting progress
  • Product: Build the right features, getting product out quickly, testing for conversion/adoption
  • Marketing: Accessing "web 2.0" channels (search, social, viral, new media), cost-efficient distribution

He also points a fair bit to Eric Ries – The lean startup.

Great stuff. I'm sure I'll be coming back to this and pointing people to it.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Software Development Companies in Southern California

I've helped organize the Los Angeles CTO Forum for almost 10 years. As part of doing that, I've had the opportunity to interact with a wide variety of different chief technical officers from different kinds of companies over those years. This is a private group of CTOs who are responsible for software development within their companies. They are generally the senior most person responsible for custom software development, database design, database administration, web development, etc.

In a recent conversation with a fellow CTO, we lamented about the fact that while there's very active software development and web development going on in Southern California and West Los Angeles, yet there didn't seem to be as much of a community around it. Yes, there are some events around particular technologies. But where do the software development companies in Southern California congregate?

Part of the reason is that when I look at the CTOs, we see that the industries (games, entertainment, aerospace, retail, etc.), size of company (startup to very large), stage (early stage to established firms) vary widely. Most networking events tend to either focus on specific technologies (PHP, .Net, C#, Microsoft, LAMP, MySQL, Open Source, Hadoop, Java, etc.) or focused on industry or type of company. They are most often not focused on a particular functional area. Actually, there are some CFO events. But not really CTO events. Part of this is that CTOs have a tendency not to go to networking events. :)

Actually this is something that the Software Council of Southern California realized a few years ago as we changed to focus on broader set of companies – and rebranded to become the Technology Council of Southern California. It was an interesting discussion among the board during that transition.

Even still, this barely touches all the different companies in Southern California where software development is happening. For example, an online retailer probably doesn't see themselves as a technology company.

What that means is that while Southern California is a vibrant software development location, when you look around for Software Development Companies in Southern California, often you come up fairly empty. As an example, I did that as a search on SoCal Tech Central and Software Development Companies really didn't come up with much.

Bottom line – if you are looking for Software Development Companies in Southern California – you are probably going to need to drill a bit deeper. This is also discussed in Los Angeles Web Developer.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Networking Events in Los Angeles and Southern California

I've updated this a few times now. Most recent additions to Los Angeles Networking Events:

  • Open Stack Meetup - cloud computing and storage, discussing OpenStack deployment, coding to further the project, and creating a collaborative local community.
  • LA Ruby Meetup - anyone interested in learning or sharing experiences with "Ruby" or "Ruby on Rails".
  • SoCal Web Designers - Web designers and developers talking about technology and design process.

Additions Fall 2011

  • LeanLA Startup Circle Meetup

    I’ve gone to a couple of these. Often the presentations are pretty basic because of a fair number of newbies in the audience. However, there are some great folks who have lots of experience also attending so the networking and discussion is generally pretty great. Especially if you are looking at early-stage start-up issues.

  • Social media week Los Angeles

    Runs week of Sept 20 - 24. Lots of scattered events around LA on social media.

  • SoCal Kanban/Lean software meetup
  • Coloft

    They have a line up of events there. Doing a good job of helping to make events happen. And for what it's worth, a few folks I know have used their space as a coworking space and say they really like it.

Don’t forget to check out Plancast. I sometimes find some interesting events through that system.

Great post by John Shiple. He talks about a bunch of the different networking events that occur in Los Angeles and other parts of Southern California. In his post, he mentions the following events / event organizers, and you should visit his post for a bit more on each of them.

In addition to these, I'd recommend looking at:

Update: I was just sent a link to Todd Zebert's blog where he has a list of networking events in Los Angeles and Southern California along with some commentary. Here some of those groups:

Update: Just pointed to another great post. It discusses more than just local events, but offers quite a list of organizations and events, so here are some additions to the list:

And here's where you can find more events:

  1. SoCalTech Calendar – A great aggregation of events around Southern California that has been pulled together for years by Ben Kuo.
  2. Mixergy - A great calendar of events.
  3. TechZulu - Another great calendar. I believe that a lot of the events on Mixergy come from TechZulu.
  4. Meetup – My personal experience has been mixed with these.
  5. Southern California Tech Central – Brings together posts from top bloggers around Southern California including John's blog and this blog. You can use keywords like: Events in Los Angeles or Southern California Events or even Santa Monica Events.
  6. You can also use Southern California Tech Central's list of Organizations to find possible events: UCLA, CalTech, Twiistup, USC, AeA, TCVN, OCTANE,
    BarCamp, Enterprise Forum, TCOSC, LAVA, UCI, LINC, UCSD, AWT, Digital Hollywood, WITI, TechBiz, ASP, Stirrers and Shakers, AMA, ACG, Pepperdine, PMI, CTC, LMU, LARTA, AITP, iHollywood, Media Leaders.

Quality of Events

Of course, the bigger issue with events is finding the ones where you will have a really good opportunity to network with interesting people. I guess I should confess that I used to go to a lot more networking events. Now, I'm more likely to only go to a few and to heavily use Prenetworking – see Secret for Networking at Events – Prenetworking and Pre-network with LinkedIn. This is why I say that Local Event Organizers Need to Adopt Social Media.

These days, it might be more effective to just invite a small group of people to get together for an interesting discussion than it is to attend an event.