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So what’s the point of all this social network stuff, eh? It’s just sharing pictures of cats and avoiding doing proper work, isn’t it?

Well, for some that’s undeniable. And for some of us, some of the time, it’s probably true as well. But I thought I’d do a bit of an ROI analysis of the value of the Tweeting and Blogging and LinkedIn-ing that I do (alongside all of the other networking I get up to). I’m running a short session on using LinkedIn for a bunch of smart graduate schemers next week, so I thought I better put some effort into thinking about the benefits of such services before they start asking tricky questions. So I drew up a diagram…

network map annotated (1)

This is a rough map of some of my current clients and prospects, and how I’ve acquired them. I’ve obscured the actual names – and have just numbered them off.

Client 1 (C1) came through a talent management company that I know, called Cielo (formerly Ochre House). I know one of their senior people, Andy, because I was introduced to him through a mutual contact Roger. Roger was introduced to me via a lady called Emily. Emily also (separately) introduced me to Ochre House. I know Emily because after I appeared on Channel 4 News a few years ago talking about Cloud Computing, she got in touch via Twitter to ask to have a chat. I was on Channel 4 because of deploying Google Apps at my former company Imagination. I found out about the Imagination job through LinkedIn.

Clients 2 & 3 came about after they had seen me speak at two separate events organised by IDG. I was appearing at both as a result of my Blogging for CIO Magazine (also owned by IDG). I got to blog for CIO partly because of my own blogging (since about 2007) and also because I was introduced to them whilst running the Imagination Google project.

Client 4 is a result of being involved in the UC Expo event. I spoke about the Imagination Google project at UC Expo in about 2010, and after that event needed to find someone to help with another project I was working on. I contacted one of the UC Expo organisers, Mike, who put me in touch with the company who I used then as a supplier, and is now a client and partner.

Client 5 came about because of a chap Andy I know who used to work at The Guardian, where he interviewed me for a job which in the end I didn’t get. However, I then went to Imagination and got to know him better as they were also moving to Google. We stayed in contact, and he got in touch when a particular piece of work raised its head.

Client 6 was introduced to me by a guy Matt, who I got to know for his tech blogging whilst I was at Microsoft, and who I got in touch with via Twitter after I had left. He and I met up a couple of times to share notes, and then the client came via a referral to Matt. It wasn’t something he could do, but he thought I could, so he pointed them in my direction.

Prospect 1 came from a meeting at the IT Directors’ Forum last year. I’d been speaker at the event a couple of years before when I was at Microsoft, and stayed in touch with one of the organisers. The potential client attended one of my sessions in the May 2014 event.

Prospects 2 and 3 both came from people connecting with me on LinkedIn. The CEO of prospect 2 found me on the network and got in touch about some changes they are going through. For prospect 3 it was an introduction via someone who had connected with me on LinkedIn and I’ve met a few times. Next conversations is at the end of the month.

Finally, with Prospect 4, we met through Twitter, sharing each others’ blog-posts (about self-driving cars). We’ve had a couple of meetings about organisational changes that his company is currently going through, and there are further meetings next month.

Whilst there are no cases where I’d say that I had won (or might win) the work purely because of my social networking, in most of these ten cases LinkedIn, Twitter or blogging have paid a part, either directly or indirectly. That’s significant. But traditional media outlets shouldn’t be ignored either – events are a very important part of my business development, as is the occasional bit of TV.

But it’s not, as you can probably see, a straightforward sales pipeline. Maybe my life would be easier if that’s how I operated, but in many cases what I’m selling is my expertise in helping with unusual, complex problems that don’t have precedent elsewhere. To my mind, you don’t get to win that kind of work by having an a la carte consulting offer that can be simply sold through a funnel process. It’s about finding like minds, gaining trust, sharing, and being in the right people’s minds at the right time to get the call. Heaven knows how I’d be doing all of that without the support of social networks.


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