What happens when someone invests 30 minutes per day for 10 years on Linkedin? I know the answer, because I invested that time. And yes, that investment has paid off.
Several years ago, when Linkedin surpassed the 100-million member mark, I was surprised to receive a personal letter from Reid Hoffman, the cofounder and chairman of Linkedin. Hoffman thanked me for being one of the first people to join Linkedin. Today, Linkedin has over 250 million members, and I am ranked as one of the "Top 10 Most Connected People" on Linkedin.
Many people have asked why I created my large network. I enjoy introducing people with great minds to other people with great minds. The reason some people call me Solutionman is that I have been very effective in introducing people to other people who can help them solve problems. I've been blessed with meeting people with great brains, and I go out of my way, to introduce them to other people who also have great brains.
A few years ago, FAST COMPANY's "Influence Project" ranked me as one of the "Top 25 Most Influential People Online." Since Linkedin limits the number of an individual's first-level connections to 30,000, there are over 10,000 people who are waiting to connect with me. I apologize if you are one of them.
So how did I achieve such a milestone? I joined Linkedin on February 3, 2004 and was member number 188,322. Besides being an early adopter of Linkedin, I made it a priority to invite my network of current and past customers to join Linkedin. Since I was nicknamed "Solutionman" by a client from AT&T, I saw Linkedin as a solution for keeping in touch with my network. I already had a database of thousands of connections accumulated from traveling and leading the innovation workshops and giving keynote speeches.
At first, people were hesitant to join me on Linkedin, but they trusted my opinion and joined. Years later, hundreds of people were grateful to follow me for my advice to join Linkedin.
In 2007, I was one of the first people to take advantage of Linkedin's new feature for creating Groups. Taking advantage of this new opportunity, I asked the people in my network what groups they would like me to organize. Since my company had focused on providing innovation training for over 20 years to customers in 26 countries, naturally much of my network had a passion for innovation.
I created a group focused on "green and sustainable" innovation, which now has over 20,000 members. Next, I created a group for people focused on "product and service" innovation that now has 6,000 members. As I traveled the globe, I also created geographically-based groups for people in Asia, South American, India and the Middle East. Today, I have over 50 Groups on Linkedin that include Brand Innovators (14,000 members), Healthcare Innovators (4,800 members), App Innovators (6,500 members) and a small group of Futurists (1,100 members). Since I created these groups before Linkedin started to limit the number of groups people could join to ten, I am fortunately grandfathered in so I own the large number of groups.
However, I had something bigger in mind. I created one of the largest groups on Linkedin. My "Marketing, PR, and Sales Innovators" Group has over 260,000 members and is adding about 1,500 members per week. Soon, the total number of members belonging to my Linkedin Groups will surpass 500,000 people. By combining my 30,000 first-level connections with a half million group members, I've been called "the most connected innovator" in the world.
Many social media experts and people curious to know how I created my large network of innovators. Here are several ways I network to keep ahead of the curve keep building our brand:
I devote 30-45 minutes per day replying to Linkedin messages and introduction requests.
I seek to connect with five different types of networkers: (1) Innovators, (2) Investigators, (3) Creators, (4) Evaluators and (5) Activators.
I invite everyone who attends my workshops or hears my keynote speeches to join my groups. For example, I spoke to 8,000 people at the Singapore stadium, and they were all invited to join my networks.
I brand groups my so they stand out from the other 1.9 million groups. For example, all my groups have purple logos and unique graphics. My customers know I drive a purple car, have purple walls at my Thinkubator and wear purple clothes.
I facilitate weekly networking webinars for 20-30 people in my network. All participants share their needs and goals so that other people can offer help or solutions. There is a waiting list for people to be invited to attend my networking webinars.
I host monthly live "networking events" at my Thinkubator Studio near downtown Chicago for up to 50 guests. The Thinkubator invite list is carefully selected from my Linkedin network in Chicago to ensure the group is diverse. Like the networking webinars, there is a waiting list for people to attend the networking events at my Thinkubator Studios.
I organize networking events for my Linkedin group members when I travel to other cities around the world. I have organized large networking events in New York, Los Angeles, Hong Kong, China, Germany, Brazil, Mexico, Switzerland, Thailand and the Philippines.
WOULD YOU LIKE TO LEARN MORE ABOUT MAXIMIZING YOUR LINKEDIN NETWORK?
Gerald Haman was recently interviewed by Barbara Rozgonyi for a publication from Meeting Professionals International (MPI). Below are his answers to her thought-provoking questions.
What does "Experiential Engagement" or "Branding" mean to you?
The meeting experience is the brand. When people experience a seminar at our Chicago Thinkubator, they never forget the constructive experience designed by our team. When groups complete our Know Your Brain Game or Thinkathon at a meeting, our brand is what each individual retains.
Something that's been effective in branding our experience is through the senses, specifically use of the color purple, which stimulates imaginative thinking. We havepurple walls at the Thinkubator, I wear purple clothes - I even drive a purple car.
My goal is to engage the minds of all seminar guests by stimulating their entire brains. We design and facilitate interactive gathering experiences that motivate people to use all four quadrants of the brain (Lesson one: The human mind has more than just two hemispheres: right and left).
How do "Experiential Engagement" or "Branding" relate to innovation?
I believe that an objective for every meeting, event or conference should be to inspire innovative thinking. I define creativity as the process of developing new or interesting ideas and innovation as the process of transforming creative ideas into valuable or profitable solutions.
Most meetings are focused on sharing creative ideas and do not make it easy for people to take action, share and apply the ideas after the meeting. Successful events integrate meaningful activities and tools that inspire people to take action after the meeting.
What are the biggest mistakes/roadblocks to innovation that meeting planners face?
Too much energy is focused on making the speakers look good and sound good. We try to showcase the amazing minds of the audience during every event. I think it is just as important for the audience to feel impressed with their own brains, then to be impressed with the speakers.
They do not allocate time for audience reflection and reactions. Most meetings are filled with "talking heads" that stream a steady flow of creative or interesting ideas to the audience. Sometimes they shorten lengths of presentations (like the 18-minute TED-style talks), but then simply add more speakers with the extra time. I doubt the TED audience had much time to reflect on taking actions inspired by the presentations. We have helped designed several events featuring 18-minute TED-style talks. However, we then followed the 18-minute talks with 18-minutes for reflection and action-focused discussions called ReActivate-to-Innovate.
Another obstacle is that the presenters focus on communicating "message points" that do not engage the audience. We design questionated agendas and train presenters to communicate turn traditional message points into questions that engage minds to reACT, and most importantly make it easy for the ACT on applying ideas that can be solutions.
What do people need to know about your upcoming MPI presentation?
First, I'd like to let you know that I prefer the term experience in contrast to presentation.Attendees will encounter proven new tools, techniques and activities that will assist them in planning meetings that inspire innovation. I will share secrets I've learned from planning and facilitating events with audiences as small as 50 guests to over 8,000 people. I will also be providing every guest with their own KnowBrainer Innovation Tool(version 5.0) and the latest edition of my 88 Great Meeting Planning Questions book, so they may apply my concepts to their upcoming events.
How can people find out more about you and your companies?
In Creating Customer Evangelists: How Loyal Customers Become a Volunteer Sales Force, authors Ben McConnell & Jackie Huba explain how to convert customers into influential and enthusiastic evangelists. The book outlines the framework for developing evangelism marketing strategies and programs. The ultimate goal is to create communities of influencers who drive sales or membership for your company or organization. Many companies have been effective at applying the book's "six basic tenets" to create evangelists for innovation and sales growth.
The book explains how IBM, Southwest Airlines, The Dallas Mavericks, and SolutionPeople have successfully built their customer base and created targeted marketing programs to involve their biggest fans. These programs have produced legions of unofficial salespeople and a cost-effective and powerful marketing force. McConnell & Huba interviewed SolutionPeople's Gerald Haman, clients, and spent several days at the Thinkubator, and wrote a book chapter entitled The High-Flying Solutionmanthat chronicles Haman's 20 years of growing his business through customer evangelism.
6 Tenets to Create Customer Evangelists 1. Customer plus-delta: Continuously gather customer feedback. 2. Napsterize knowledge: Share knowledge freely. 3. Build the buzz: Build word-of-mouth networks. 4. Create community: Encourage communities of customers to meet and share. 5. Make bite-size chunks: Devise specialized, small offerings to get people to bite. 6. Create a cause: Focus on making the world, or your industry, better.
Download a PDF of the entire chapter from the book on SolutionPeople’s applications of the Six Tenets by clicking HERE. Order the book from Amazon.com by clicking HERE.
Join a group of Very Innovative People for a live simulcast of the sold-out TED 2014 Conference held in Vancouver, BC, Canada. Enjoy learning and networking at the comfortable, inspiring environment of the Thinkubator Studios that overlook the beautiful skyline of Chicago. Seating is limited and provided at no cost to colleagues of SolutionPeople, The Thinkubator Studios and guests of Gerald "Solutionman" Haman. Request details from Gerald by emailing Solutionman@Chicago.com.
Are you tired attending boring meetings with traditional formats and meaningless teambuilding activities? Are your audiences bored with "talking head" presentations, panel discussions and pointless PowerPoint slides? If you answered yes to any of the previous questions, you should learn about the following 22 activities that have proven effective for small meetings and large conferences with hundreds or thousands of people.
The following activities have incorporated into meetings for Google, Kraft, Xerox, Pepsi, Samsung, American Express and FAST Company magazine. The activities have also be shared with thousands professional event planners from Meeting Professionals International (MPI), the Professional Convention Management Association (PCMA), the American Society for Training and Development (ASTD) and the Association Forum.
Want to learn MORE about these meting activities?Schedule a webinar or phone call with Gerald "Solutionman" Haman. Solutionman has designed and facilitated all the activities that have been experienced by more than 100,000 meeting attendees. Solutionman facilitated the world-record-setting Thinkathon brainstorming activity for 8,000 people at the Singapore stadium. Haman's Thinkathon generated over 454,000 ideas in just 60 minutes.
FAST Company magazine suggested readers "look inside" the Thinkubator. Now you can! This brand new video showcases one of the most amazing meeting spaces in the world. Find out why leading companies have hosted their events at the Thinkubator. See the space that has been home to innovators from Google, Kraft, Abbott, Leo Burnett, MillerCoors, DDB, Motorola, Nestle, AT&T, State Farm, Samsung and Northwestern University.