Hector the Connector Predictions for 2016 and Beyond!

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By Hector E. Cisneros

Every year I write a predictions article based on what I see coming to the web in the not so distant future. These predictions cover the gamut from conventional advertising, to digital marketing, from new tech toys for our homes and personal use, to innovative game changing technologies that will alter the world as we know it. Some of my predictions are based on research, visible trends and the emergence of breakthrough technologies. Others are based on what I see as missing in a world full of me too products, poor customer service and blatant false advertising. In this episode of Working the Web to Win, I am going to go out on a limb (again) and see if I can keep my 98.5% prediction batting average streak going for another year. So read on and discover what my crystal ball has in store for 2016 and beyond.

Do Smartphones Dream About Facebook?

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By Carl Weiss

You may not have noticed, but artificial intelligence, otherwise known as AI, has been sending its all-knowing tendrils slowly but surely onto the World Wide Web.  Many of the largest tech companies are arduously working to be the first to perfect this technology so they can corner the market. The big players include Google, Apple, Facebook, Microsoft, IBM, and Amazon. Google has been in the headlines a lot recently. At first, its foray online was tenuous at best and comical at worst when Google created an AI that it turned loose to try to make sense of the images it encountered.  Hoping to find a workaround for one of the search engine’s biggest lapses, which makes search engine spiders blind to images and videos, the attempt resulted in hilarity when Google’s creation began to morph images as it tried to make sense of queries posed about them. 
Courtesy of iflscience.com

For example: When asked to display a picture of a dumbbell, it created a representation of the dumbbell, complete with the arm holding it.  (See image at right)

f this were the only aberration exhibited by the AI it would be considered a humorous anomaly.  However, this proved to only be the tip of the AI iceberg.  Many of the requests for images put to Google’s neural net returned bizarre pictures that produced chimeras that were one part animal and one part object.  (If you want to see some truly bizarre creations, go to this link to see the blog post on iflscience.com entitled, Google’s AI Can Dream and Here’s What it Looks Like.

Other than answering Isaac Asimov’s query as to whether Androids Dream of Electric Sheep, what Google may have inadvertently done was to create the world’s first robotic Picasso.   What they also did was unleash the same image recognition facility that causes people to see a Man in the Moon, or recognizable patterns in clouds.  The difference is that not only can Google’s neural net find the shape of a pig in a cumulous cloud, it can also “See” visual patterns in sound. 
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Undeterred by the psychedelic tendencies of its creation, Google then went on to unleash its AI on everything from its digital assistant, called Google Now, to search engine tasks, the latter of which has been dubbed RankBrain. 

Using what it learned from its foray into image recognition, Google’s latest AI iteration has been tasked with making sense of queries posed to its search engine, particularly long-tailed queries.  The best way to understand the purpose of RankBrain is to read this a short paragraph posted on Bloomberg.com:

The system helps Google deal with the 15 percent of queries a day it gets which its systems have never seen before. For example, it’s adept at dealing with ambiguous queries, like, “What’s the title of the consumer at the highest level of a food chain?” And RankBrain’s usage of AI means it works differently than the other technologies in the search engine.

What makes RankBrain different from traditional search engine algorithms is that it “learns” from
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experience.  While it isn’t yet ready to pass the Turing Test, where an AI is indistinguishable from a human when conversing with it, it appears to be on the right track. RankBrain has for the past few month been asked to deal with the 15 percent of queries a day Google gets which its systems have trouble deciphering.  And while it doesn’t exactly “converse” with search engine users, it has already proven 10% more efficient at guessing which pages on Google would rank on top.  (Not bad for a 4-month old.) 

One of Google’s senior scientists, Greg Corrado, even admitted that in the few months it has been deployed, RankBrain has become the third-most important signal contributing to the result of a search query.

Google’s CEO Sundar Pinchai also admitted, “Machine learning is a core transformative way by which we are rethinking everything we are doing.”

While currently RankBrain is the tail that wags the Google’s dog, there are a number of tech analysts that think AI is going to take on a larger portion of search engine duties for the world’s most popular search engine.  There are also several who think this might not be a good thing.

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In a blog post by thesempost.com entitled, “Google’s RankBrain – 9 Industry Experts Weigh In,” Jack Clark commented that, RankBrain cannot learn on its own yet. It needs to be retrained by engineers at the moment. But what happens when algorithms are unleashed on the web that can learn on the fly based on the billions of queries being performed each day globally? When that happens, not even Google’s engineers will fully understand how each algorithm works.”

Now I don’t know about you, but I feel more than slightly uneasy about giving up control of the Internet to a thinking machine.  Especially when the Internet is wired into nearly everything that humans do on a day to day basis.  Now some people would say that I am taking this view to the extreme.  I mean, RankBrain is only a tool being employed on one search engine, albeit it a search engine that dominates search.  Taking the alarmist view of “Today the Internet, tomorrow the world” is going a bit too far, right?  Not if you ask several public figures, such as Stephen Hawking and Elon Musk their thoughts.

Prof Stephen Hawking, one of Britain's pre-eminent scientists, has said that efforts to create thinking machines pose a threat to our very existence. He told the BBC: "The development of full artificial intelligence could spell the end of the human race." His warning came in response to a question about a revamp of the technology he uses to communicate, which involves a basic form of AI.

Billionaire Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla and SpaceX put it more bluntly, when he expressed the opinion that, “With artificial intelligence, we are summoning the demon.” He also admitted that he “invests in companies working on artificial intelligence, just to be able to keep an eye on the technology".

This philosophy is hardly what one could call paranoid, since a number of other major players, including Facebook and Microsoft are also investing heavily in AI.

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For more than a year Facebook has been quietly building a project called Facebook AI Research, which it intends to use to make sense of the tidal wave of text, photos and videos housed on its social net.  Boasting well-funded research teams in Menlo Park, New York and Paris, its espoused aim is to, "work openly with and invest in the AI research community in France, the EU, and beyond as we strive to make meaningful progress in these fields”.

Facebook’s director of research, Professor Yann LeCun, one of the most prominent figures in Deep Learning research, stated in September that, “One of the dreams we have had for years is some sort of intelligent agent that seems clever enough to do a lot of tasks, including organizing meetings with friends and accessing information that might take you an hour or two on Google.”

To assist in those aims, Facebook recently launched a virtual assistant called “M”, which is an obvious response to Apple’s Siri, Google Now and Microsoft’s Cortana.  The difference with M is that it was created with AI from the outset.

“What we are hoping to do is take this digital assistant idea to the next level. If you think about Siri, Cortana, Google Now – most of the answers they provide are scripted. Someone has imagined the possible answers and figured out a tree of possibilities. If you go outside of the script, the machine responds with a joke or tries to get out of it. All of its behavior is programmed by humans, but what we are trying to do with M is test the ability of a machine to learn.”  Professor Yann LeCun

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To those ends, Facebook has been spending time and money acquiring talent and AI firms in their quest to enhance machine intelligence.  In 2014, they spend $40 million to acquire Vicarious FPC, an artificial intelligence firm whose avowed goal is to “replicate the neocortex, “which is the part of the brain that sees, controls body functions, understands language and processes math.  Not only did Facebook go in on the deal, the buyout was split between it, Apple Computer and none other than Elon Musk.

Can Microsoft Reinvent Itself Via AI?

Not to be outdone and vying to climb back to the top of the tech pyramid, Microsoft has also been pushing a pile of chips into the AI pot.  Entering the fray on two fronts, machine learning and what is referred to as “invisible interface technology,” Microsoft is looking to reinvent the way we access technology.

Yoram Yaacovi, who heads up Microsoft’s research and development center in Israel, said in a Wall Street Journal interview in 2014 that, “User interface started with the command prompt, moved to graphics, then touch, and then gestures. It’s now moving to invisible UI, where there is nothing to operate. The tech around you understands you and what you want to do” — and that’s what people expect, he said. “We’re putting this at the forefront of our efforts".

Courtesy of commons.wikimedia.org
The last statement begs to ask, “What if your device understands the request, but fails to comply?  In the sci-fi classic, 2001 a Space Odyssey, HAL, the artificial intelligence that controlled the spaceship Discovery decided that the best way to complete its mission was to kill the human crew that manned it. Mirroring that sentiment, Elon Musk recently quipped on stage that a future AI system tasked with eliminating spam might decide the best way to accomplish that aim was to eliminate humans. 

Whether this is just a case of life imitating art, or whether it’s something we need to take a hard look at, the bottom line is that AI will soon worm its way into every Internet-enabled device on the planet.  Since everything from appliances we have in our homes and offices to the vehicles we drive, or are driven or flown by are connected to the World Wide Web, only time will tell if having a “brain in the box” is a good thing or a bad thing.

All I know is that I have enough trouble trying to keep my smartphone from rewriting every text I post.  What really causes me to lose sleep at night is worrying about how long it’s going to be before I’m forced to say, “Open the garage door, Hal.”  

In this article I discuss how the development of AI (artificial intelligence) is creeping into all aspects of the web and global communications. This article further provides details on how the largest tech companies including Google, Apple, Facebook, Microsoft, IBM, and Amazon are all in a race to corner the AI market. It also discusses how little regard is being given to the idea that AI could pose a threat to mankind.
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If you found this article useful please share it with your friends, family and co-workers. If you would like to learn more about this subject, visit the notes page on this blog for the BlogTalkRadio show dated 12/15/15. I recommend checking out "Has the Internet Made Us Smarter?“, “When Will Computers Out Think You?”, “Is Google Watching You?”  and “The Robots Are Coming - Are You Ready?”. You can also search for other related articles by typing in “artificial intelligence” in the search box top of this blog.

If you feel your business could use some help with its marketing, contact us at 904-410-2091,We will provide a free marketing analysis to help you get better results. If you'd like a free copy of our eBook, "Internet Marketing Tips for the 21st Century," please fill in the form below and we will give you immediate access to it. Your information is always kept private and is never sold. Don't forget to Plus us on Google+.


Carl Weiss is president of WorkingtheWebtoWin.com a digital marketing agency in Jacksonville, Florida that routinely works with bloggers and other online marketers to grow their businesses. 

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Marketing 101 – What you need to Know before Buying Advertising

By Hector Cisneros
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You’re a new business owner, ready to buy your first advertisement, so you call the local newspapers, radio and TV stations along with several coupon and website vendors to see what they have to offer. Unfortunately, you have never purchased advertising before and you’re hoping the advertisers will help you figure out exactly what to do. You may not realize that most advertising sales reps are paid mainly on commission and their primary mission is to sell you advertising or they don’t make any money. What happens next is all too often the scenario that plays out. In this article we will follow this scenario and cover a simple 10 step program that will insure you’re buying the right advertising and that your return on investment has the best chance of making a profit. Now let’s get back to that scenario.

The Grinch Goes Digital

(We'll cover 12 ways online scammers can steal from you this Christmas.)


By Carl Weiss
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TIS the season… to be scammed by online scammers who are out to steal your holiday cheer.  Every year as online commerce grows, so do online scams.  Today’s cybercriminals are going to try to entice you into giving them your hard earned cash through a number of ever more imaginative scams.  In today’s blog, I will endeavor to give you a leg up on the top 12 ways to avoid getting Grinched this holiday season.

Has the Internet Made Us Smarter?

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By Carl Weiss

For all intents and purposes the Internet has been in existence for 20 years. During that time, the entire world has literally been at our fingertips online.  But has the advent of the World Wide Web made people smarter, or has it truly made us dumber as we become more reliant on having access to all kinds of information at the click of a mouse?  In today’s blog, I will look at how the Internet has affected us as a species, as well as examining whether it appears to be helping or hurting our intellectual evolution.  I will also delve into the rise of web-enabled “smart devices” that will soon be taking control of everything from our appliances to driving our cars. 

Caution: Slippery Road Ahead

As I entered the office building where I work, I spied a young woman who works in the office across the hall coming down the stairs.  Wearing high heels with her head canted forward, she was looking at her smartphone and texting as she descended the staircase. 

“You’d better be careful before you wind up taking a tumble,” I told her as she made her way through the lobby.

“Not to worry,” she responded without looking up from her phone.  “I do this all the time.”

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“I know,” I shot back.  “That’s what I’m worried about.” As she headed toward the exit, I looked back to see if she ran into the door, as well as wondering whether I was the only one who seemed to realize that the world is becoming an increasingly impersonal place?

Maybe it’s a generational issue, but I remember a time when people weren’t so absorbed in technology that it became a hazard to their health.  I also remember when people took the time to meet and talk without having to bring their technological ball and chain with them. 

Think about it, the same technology that puts the world at our fingertips has actually caused our species to become more and more isolated.  Between texting, social networking, chat rooms, home delivery apps and virtual worlds such as Second Life, it is now possible to avoid interpersonal contact altogether.  (Any parent of a teenager will agree with this conundrum.)  What’s even worse is that technology has insinuated itself into practically every corner of modern society.  If you don’t believe me, go to a restaurant or coffee shop and see how many people are either texting or surfing the web while they eat, even if they have a dining companion sitting across from them.  Most people refer to this as multitasking.  I call it rude.

Besides, research has proven that multitasking isn’t helping us as a species.  It’s hurting us.  Everyone from Stanford Professor Dr. Clifford Nass to Michael Gazziniga, Director of the Sage Center for the Study of the Mind, agrees that multitasking negatively affects everything from attention span and writing quality, to task completion and brain function.

Stanford researchers compared groups of people based on their tendency to multitask and their belief that it helps their performance. They found that heavy multitaskers—those who multitask a lot and feel that it boosts their performance—were actually worse at multitasking than those who like to do a single thing at a time. The frequent multitaskers performed worse because they had more trouble organizing their thoughts and filtering out irrelevant information, and they were slower at switching from one task to another. Ouch.”

Courtesy of  acreelman.blogspot.com
What’s even more alarming is that the study found evidence that persistently heavy multitasking was shown to actually lower IQ scores by up to 15 points. 

(Score Internet 1, Evolution 0)

Far from pushing a “down with technology” agenda, when the Stanford research was performed, it was assumed that there must be some advantage to multitasking.  So they set out to find it. 

"We kept looking for what they're better at, and we didn't find it," said Ophir, the study's lead author and a researcher in Stanford's Communication Between Humans and Interactive Media Lab.

In the tests, the researchers created two groups of students, those who heavily engaged in media multitasking and those who didn’t.  Each group was then given a series of exercises to test everything from pattern recognition and organizational skills to their ability to filter out irrelevant information.  To their surprise, the research indicated that the more heavily students engaged in multitasking, the worse they did at these tasks.  Puzzled at why the multitaskers did so poorly, the researchers thought that maybe they excelled at switching from one task to another.  So they tested this hypothesis only to conclude that once again, the light multitaskers outperformed the heavy multitaskers.

"They couldn't help thinking about the task they weren't doing," Ophir said. "The high multitaskers are always drawing from all the information in front of them. They can't keep things separate in their minds."

So profound were the discoveries made in this study that it led the researchers to wonder if it was the Internet that had somehow interfered with the cognitive function of the brains of students who were heavily into multitasking, or if they were in fact born with an inability to concentrate.  Either way, the heavy multitaskers, by exhibiting an inability to filter out irrelevant information were clearly at a disadvantage.  Even more alarming, some of the heavy multitaskers also exhibited the same physiological symptoms as drug addicts.  In other words, the more they multitasked, the more electronic stimuli they craved.

Can You Say Crackberry?

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Digital addiction is nothing new.  Ever since video games were introduced back in the 1970’s a percentage of the population has espoused a propensity to playing until they dropped.  Back then to feed this Jones meant lining up with quarters at the local arcade or locking yourself in your bedroom to play game consoles until your parents dragged you downstairs for dinner.  But with the advent of the smartphone, the ability to feed your need at any time and place means that a much higher percentage of the population is psychologically addicted to tech in one form or another.  This is creating a problem for many.

Benjamin Wong, a counsellor at Richmond Addiction Services, said he works with individuals between the ages of 12 to 25 and their families to support them in dealing with digital addictions — when they just can't separate themselves from a screen, be it a smartphone, computer or gaming device.”

Just like drug addicts, the effort to break a digital addiction takes a lot of time (as much as a year).  It also isn’t relegated merely to Millennials.  Even Baby Boomers can get hooked on tech.  And the tawdry road that leads to digital addiction is a more slippery slope than that experienced by devotees of illicit pharmaceuticals.  As opposed to back alley deals, digital addiction can be as simple as accessing your favorite social media site.

In a 2014 CBS News report entitled, How Real a Risk is Social Media Digital Addiction,” social media marketer Jason Thibeault reported that he quit Facebook cold turkey when he realized that it was becoming an addiction.

"Just imagine that Facebook is like a digital water cooler. I was drinking A TON of water every hour," he wrote. "Although I'm not a neuroscientist, I'd venture to say that what was happening was related to my Dopamine levels--when I was checking status updates on Facebook, my brain was rewarding itself with Dopamine; when I wasn't, and Dopamine levels dropped as a result, I started 'jonesing for a fix.'"

Courtesy of  en.wikipedia.org
Jonesing for a Facebook Fix?  You heard that right.  You and the 700,000 other people that read Jason’s essay.  Is it any wonder that professionals, including the National Institutes of Health are becoming increasingly concerned over the deleterious effects of digital addiction.  While Information Addiction Disorder (IAD) is still not listed as an official psychiatric disorder, its counterpart, Internet Gaming Addiction was added in 2013, (better late than never).

(Score: Internet 2 Evolution: 0)

As our wired world continues its march toward technological domination, far from being an isolated incident, IAD will continue to spread as the Internet becomes available to more and more of the world’s population. (Google is building blimps that are intended to bring the Internet to isolated parts of the world.) To make matters worse, a new age of internet-enabled appliances, clothing and devices such as cars are going to inevitably make inroads into a number of areas that were once thought exclusively the domain of human beings. 

While I could wax apocalyptic about how smart houses, clothes, cars and appliances are going to lead to the disintegration of what’s left of society, I think I’ll let IDG Enterprise CEO Mike Friedenberg chime in with his post on cio.com:

“I look back at the time my parents taught me how to parallel park, and it's a very fond memory. Now all you need to do is push a button and your car will parallel park itself. Makes me wonder what our lives will become. Is the future really about pushing a lot of buttons to get things done?
Courtesy of  en.wikipedia.org
Attending the Consumer Electronics Show this year, you would have thought it was the Year of Smart: smart homes, smart cars, smart fridges, smart forks and spoons, smart watches, smart TVs, and even smart toilets. All of these devices have the ultimate goal of tracking, storing, analyzing, optimizing and educating us humans on how we can be better, healthier, fitter or smarter. It was all a bit overwhelming. If only everything that happens in Vegas really did stay there. ”
(Score: Internet 3 Evolution: 0)

My partner Hector told me about the new Terminator movie where it depicted a possible scenario of our not too distant future. In this future, everyone was wanting and waiting for a single operating system called Genesis. This new OS would run every machine and appliance that we use. The reason people wanted this change was so that it would make it easier for us to learn and use these devices. However the new OS in the movie was actually the artificial intelligence called Sky Net - poised to take over the world and kill off most of the human race. This is not too different from the doomsday proclamations as those issued by the likes of Elon Musk and Stephen Hawking concerning the emergence of artificial intelligence. 



There is no doubt that the Internet has allow us access to vast amounts of information and given us a huge knowledge base to draw from. With this the huge amount of knowledge also come a vast amount of responsibility. As to whether the Internet is going to wind up making us smarter or dumber, all I can say is this - that if society takes just a few more steps toward technology, it’s probably going to be game, set, match as far as human evolution is concerned.


----

In this article I have discussed how the improper use of the internet has created a large segment of tech addicted humans worldwide. I provide real studies that show how multitasking people preform much worse than those who don’t multitask and how people actually show withdrawal symptoms when access to their social networks are not available.

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If you found this article useful please share it with your friends, family and co-workers. If you would like to learn more about this subject, visit the notes page on this blog for the BlogTalkRadio show dated 11/17/15. I recommend checking out "Are You Prepared for Technological Extinction?“, “The Basics of Biohacking”, Is Too Much Technology Bad for Business?Is The Internet of Everything Really, Everything They're Cracking it Up to Be? and “How to Safely Whet Your Appetite for Smartphone Apps” You can also search for other related articles by typing in “casinos” in the search box top of this blog.

If you feel your business could use some help with its marketing, contact us at 904-410-2091,We will provide a free marketing analysis to help you get better results. If you'd like a free copy of our eBook, "Internet Marketing Tips for the 21st Century," please fill in the form below and we will give you immediate access to it. Your information is always kept private and is never sold. Don't forget to Plus us on Google+.



Carl Weiss is president of WorkingtheWebtoWin.com a digital marketing agency in Jacksonville, Florida that routinely works with bloggers and other online marketers to grow their businesses. 

Social Networking Secrets & Best Practices: Part 3 – There is no Substitute

By Hector Cisneros

I have been actively networking in a number of organizations since the early 1980’s. My experience, tells me that most people get out of social networking what they put into it. People often come up to me after a speaking engagement and ask, what is the magic formula for networking success. How can they become successful as a social Networker? My answer is always the same, it’s not a magic formula, although many perceive it to be a secret, a powerful principle or other hidden system of techniques. My answer always state that the secret is in plain sight. Look at the word “network” and the answer is in the title itself. The first parts of this series addressed the relationship between face to face networking and social media. Part two addresses the secret aspects of Giving. In part three of this series, we will discuss the habits that must be acquired and followed, in order to become a consummate Networker. We’ll be looking at 15 important habits which will guide and drive your success. So let’s get to work and begin by dissecting the term Social Networker.


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(1) Its Net Work! – The term Social Network is made up of three words. Social, Net and Work. Word of mouth marketing means that when you go out, its net “work”, not net “sit,”  “eat,” or “socialize.” I don’t mean being unfriendly or uncordial, but you have to be focus. Is your conversation about football or the evening news or is it about networking?  Ask questions related to networking. Ask questions like: How can you help them out? What are they looking for? Who are you looking for this week? Who are they working on this week?  What's the biggest challenge you faced this week? Likewise, let them know who you’re looking for when they in turn say – what are you looking for? By the same token, if you are engaging in social networking online, you have to stay focused. Don’t get distracted by all of the posts. Do your work first. Thank your referral partners, influencers, and testimonial givers first. Post you’re curated and authoritative post before socializing with your friends and family.

(2) There is no such thing as “least effort, most gained. -  In networking, most effort equals most gained. Even when you have leverage, like when speaking to a crowd, you still have to be prepared. Cutting corners, skipping meetings, winging your short presentations, dressing inappropriately, wearing wrinkled clothes, being late, etc., won’t help you be successful.  Being successful requires effort. Not only right effort, but attention to detail and consistent effort. There is no substitute for serious effort.

(3) It's Not a Meeting, its Marketing – Remember, word of mouth is marketing, not just a meeting. You have at least four opportunities at most networking events to network with others. The first, open networking before the event begins. The second is when you get to stand up and give your short presentation. The third is when you are a spotlight speaker, and the fourth is after the networking event where more open networking takes place. Don’t waste any of your marketing opportunities.

(4) Everyone is not your potential referral partner or client - Another myth about networking is that you have the potential to pass referrals to every business in the group and likewise also receive business from everyone in the group. The reality is you can probably do lots of business (about 70% of your referrals, passed and received) with only a few members of the group. This is usually a select few, around seven people that you meet regularly with. The rest of the group will at best provide about 30% of your referrals (both passed and received.) Even if you have a product or service that “is used by all”, it doesn’t mean they are your potential client or referral partners. They may already have pre-existing relationships that will preclude them from doing business with you. The only way to find out for sure is to put in the time necessary to meet all the members of your group and explore how you can help each other.   

(5) Meeting with people one on one is the best way to get more referrals. Listening to
Courtesy of  commons.wikimedia.org

other short presentations and discussing current needs during open networking is helpful, but it’s no substitute for a one on one face to face meeting to explore how you can help each other. The face to face meetings also need to be focused both on education and on learning what's important to each of the parties present. You not only have to learn about each other’s businesses, you also have to learn what drives each of you to get up in the morning, what motivate each of you to succeed. Both the business education and the personal motivators need to be explored if you really want to help each other. Lastly, it’s important to learn about the personal aspect of your referral partner’s lives. Things like their kids and spouse’s name, hobbies and past times they like to engage in. Learning these aspects and then taking them into account when interacting with your partners also helps to strengthen the relationship. This is why I think so many sales are made during golf outings.

(6) There are many Networking Skills that need to be mastered. - Being skilled at working a room or presenting will not take you to the top two percent of all Networkers. You need to have a givers mindset to start with and a willingness to do whatever it takes. You also need to learn other skills as well.  First, you also have to have good communication and selling skills. I don’t mean closing tricks or techniques, but solid business consulting, listening and solution-designing skills. You also need to ask for the order. Another way of giving is being active in the management and production of the network itself. What I am referring to here is being active in the group’s leadership. Serving the group gives you more visibility, and this can eventually lead to more referrals. However, doing a poor job in a leadership position can also lead to less business as well.

(7) Specific is Terrific. - When presenting at a meeting or online, being specific will increase your results drastically. If you’re asking for a referral, being specific can be the difference between failure and success. It can mean the difference between an easy qualified referral and a referral that not only is a lead, it’s a bad lead. Being specific is most effective when you have already built trust among the members of a networking group. However, it can also help you find what you need when posting on your social networks. I often see Networkers ask for a specific referral by name and then another members of that network respond by saying, “I can connect you with that person.” This is very common in BNI and on LinkedIn. By the same token, if you post a question asking for help with a specific issue on a social network you will almost always get that help. Even if you’re asking for one more sale to reach your goal. Again, this assumes you have taken the time to build trusting relationships with your social networks.

(8) Practice Improves Performance. -  You would never pay a radio station or TV company to “just wing” your commercials.  So why do so many Networkers’ just wing it when doing their short presentations? Spend time every week writing down and practicing aloud your short presentation. This should be a “Must Do” item on your networking checklist. I spend about 20 minutes writing out my 60-second presentation for BNI.  Once written, I then practice saying it aloud. I then practice it again the night before and the morning of the meeting, each and every week. Practice is an easy way to improve your performance. Don’t be lazy, the practice will improve your ability to get more referrals.

(9) One-sized Presentation don’t fit all Networks. - Every Networker needs to create and practice a 30-second, a 60-second, a two-minute, a five-minute, and even a 15-minute presentation. There are many networking opportunities and each group has its own rules. Being prepared gives you a leg up on the competition when it comes to building your credibility among the other members. By having these five different presentations ready to go at all times, you will be able to step in with short notice and take advantage of more speaking opportunities.

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(10) Presentation Necessities. - Make sure your presentation includes your name. It should also have some type of “hook or catch phrase.” Consider telling a compelling story, adding an offer, and/or a call to action. I like to tell my referral partners to remind their prospect that I’ll provide them with a web analysis worth $600 for free, if the three of us can schedule coffee or lunch meeting. Also make sure all your contact information is listed on your handouts and at the end of your power point presentations.

(11) To be the best, you have to PROVIDE the best. – Always deliver the best product or service you’re capable of for the money being paid.  Most companies provide “just good enough” products or services for the money they receive. Exceeding your customers' expectations should be your goal. I’m not saying to give away the farm, but to be considered the best, you have to provide the best. This, however, does not mean you charge the most for your product or services. It means you provide the best value for the money spend. People shop value not price. Be more valuable!

(12) Networking as a team works best. - When attending networking events, it’s best to team up with another referral partner where you both know each other’s objectives; this allows you to “split the room” to work it more efficiently. Let each team member know who you're looking to be introduced to and vice versa, be ready to help your partners find their and introduce prospects to them. I generally set a goal of finding one or two new prospects/referral partners every 10 to 20 minutes. My goal is not to sell anyone anything but instead to set up meetings at a later date to have a more meaningful conversation that allows us to find mutual benefit.

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(13) Track and measure as much as possible. - It’s important that you track your actions and engagement. Both face to face and social media Networking can be tracked, measured, and the results can be predicted. Word of mouth marketing is quantifiable. It can produce predictable results. If you know how many events you plan to attend each year (approximately) and you track how often you meet with referral partners, and track the results of the referral (i.e., close ratio to referrals received), you will quickly learn what your average weekly, monthly, quarterly and annual sales results are. I know that I received about two referrals a month from my BNI chapter, and I usually get four referrals when I am the spotlight speaker. I know that if I get in front of qualified referrals, and actually provide them a business proposal, I will close about 57% of them. By the same token, I know on average home many followers read our blogs based on the number of social post published each day. I also know that the more quality interactions I engage in raises the number of social leads I receive as well.

(14) Always bring your networking tools with you. Never attend a networking event without a name badge, something to write with, your business cards, a list of potential prospects, and a how can I help you attitude. On the social media side, always make sure your profile is complete, answer all engaged followers, help all influencer  and provide useful, relevant and timely content, preferable your own authoritative material daily.

(15) You should calculate what your time is worth. - If you understand the time value of
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money, you can better measure how effective you are when spending your time at networking events. You can come up with this figure in many ways. I look at my annual production rate in dollars and divide it by the number of working hours that I spent to produce that dollar amount. Some people take their annual pay and divided it by the amount of time they spend networking. Others look at the total cost of networking activities (including drive time, parking fees, meal, meeting fees and organization fee, etc.), add that to the hourly value of time they spend networking to come up with a figure. If you do this exercise you will realize the word of mouth and social media networking are not free. First of all, it’s not cheap because there are hard cost (membership fees, meal fees, parking and other travel cost), and lastly they actually consume a considerable amount of time and energy (which also equals money)! That means you have to be efficient as a Networker, otherwise you’re throwing your money away. This will make you understand the importance of delivering a polished and practiced short presentation. It will make you realize the value of effectively engaging in meaningful one to one meetings. It will also make it perfectly clear the value of leveraging your long presentations when you get to deliver your message to a large group of networking enthusiast.

In this article I have provided 15 specific Social Networking Secrets & Best Practices that will elevate your social networking performance to new levels. These 15 best practices will provide the reader with an effective way to increase their networking efficiency and improve their social networking effectiveness. Yes it will help you get more referrals. It shows how teamwork, practice and planning can mean the difference between coming up empty handed and walking away with several referrals and new referral partners.

That’s my opinion. I look forward to hearing yours.

This article is a part of a three part series. I recommend reading parts one and two as well to
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make sure you get the big picture along with fine detail. If you found this article useful please share it with your friends, family and co-workers. If you have a comment or a different opinion, join the conversation by adding it to the comment section below. I recommend checking out "Six Cardinal Rules of Social Media Success" or "Seven Secrets of Social Media Magnets", “12 Secrets of Social Media Success “ and "How to Win Friends and Influence People in the 21st Century.".  You can also search for other related articles by typing in “word of mouth or social networking” in the search box at the top of this blog.


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Hector Cisneros is a partner, COO and Social Media Director for the award-winning, Internet-based marketing firm, Working  the Web to Win, in Jacksonville, FL. You can connect with him on TwitterFacebookGoogle+,  LinkedIn,  and YouTube.  He’s also the co-host of BlogTalkRadio’s “Working the Web to Win,” where he and Working the Web to Win’s co-founder, Carl Weiss, make working the web to win simple for every business. He's a published author of three  books, "60 Seconds to Success"(available at Amazon and B&N), and "Internet Marketing for the 21st Century," which you can get by filling out the form above. He’s also the co-author of the new book, “Working The Web to Win,” which is now available on Amazon.com.

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