Saturday, February 26, 2011

Results of the Leeds Clubber Survey 2010

The Leeds Clubber Survey 2010 was placed online for one month in July 2010, it was completed by 295 respondents. The survey was intended to gather information from clubbers in Leeds with relation to their clubbing habits including: their nightclub preferences; frequency of visitation; influences on their visitation to nightclubs; reactions towards club night promotional materials; and attitudes towards flyers. The survey was promoted to clubbers by several Leeds based club night promotion companies, each of whom sent a link to the online survey to their e-mail lists and social media groups.

74% of respondents indicated that they went clubbing in Leeds, therefore the target audience of Leeds clubbers was reached with this survey. The key findings of the survey are listed below, for further information, please contact Stuart Moss at the email address at the top of this page, or through Twitter @ents_leeds_met .

Respondent demographics

In terms of age, the respondents represented the age range of under 18 up to 55, with the largest single segment being the 18-23 age group at 51% of respondents.  24-29 year olds made up 19% of respondents, 30-35% year old made up 13%, 36-40 year olds made up 10%, and out of the remaining 7%, 6% were aged 41-55, and 1% were aged under 18.

With regards to student status, 46% of respondents indicated that they were a student.  With the largest single group of these being full-time university students (39%), with the remaining 7% of students being either part-time or at further education institutions.  47% of respondents indicated that they were not students, which was a higher than anticipated figure, however this is feasible considering the spread of ages of respondents.  7% of respondents indicated ‘other’ or did not respond to this question, out of the ‘other’ responses answers were mainly: ‘on a gap year’; ‘just graduated’; and ‘on a work placement’.

In terms of employment, 49% of respondents indicated that they were full-time employed, with 23% indicating that they were employed part-time, 20% of respondents indicated that they were unemployed, and the remaining 8% indicated ‘other’ or declined to answer the question.  Out of the ‘other’ responses, the predominant answers were ‘home-maker’; ‘self-employed’; and ‘work voluntarily’.  By definition ‘unemployed’ refers to people who have stated that they do not have jobs, it does not mean ‘unemployed and claiming benefits’, it is entirely feasible to assume that a proportion of those labelled unemployed may also be full-time students.

Where respondents go clubbing

74% of respondents indicated that they go clubbing in Leeds, this was followed by Manchester (18%), London and Sheffield (11.5% each), Barnsley 10%, Wakefield 9%, Birmingham 7%, Newcastle 6%, Liverpool 5%, Bradford, Huddersfield, Nottingham and Preston (3% each).  37% of respondents also indicated that they went clubbing in other UK towns and cities, and 6% stated that they went clubbing in non-UK towns and cities.  It should be noted that the majority of respondents stated that they went clubbing in more than one town / city.

Clubbing frequency

In terms of frequency of visitation, 41% of respondents indicated that they visited a nightclub at least once per week, with 8% stating that they visited a club three or more times per week.  15% of respondents indicated that they visit a club every two weeks, and 23% indicated that they visited a club every 3 - 4 weeks.  21% of respondents indicated that they visited nightclubs less than monthly. 

55% of students go clubbing every week or more, this compares with only 30% of non-students.  35% of employed people also go clubbing at least weekly, but this compares with 62% of unemployed respondents.  20% of students go clubbing once per month or less, compared with 51% of non-students.  41% of employed respondents go clubbing once per month or less, compared with only 15% of those respondents who are unemployed.

Club preferences

In terms of preferred club types visited by respondents, the most popular club type was mainstream high street clubs, which typically have an offering of commercial chart music and ‘classics’.  This was followed by niche music clubs that specialise in a particular music genre, and live music clubs and superclubs (large clubs with numerous rooms and several DJs).  Mainstream commercial music nights were slightly more popular amongst students (28%) and the 18-26 age group (27%).  The least popular types of club were gay clubs, strip clubs and supper clubs.  In terms of status i.e. students, non-students, the employed and unemployed, all categories of respondents had very similar preferences, with the only marked difference being that strip clubs were twice as popular amongst non-students, as they were to students. 

95% of respondents indicated that they tend to visit the same nightclubs.

Musically, respondents preferred nights that involved mainstream and commercial music, which involves ‘pop’ music, music in the charts and previous chart ‘classics’, this was closely followed by specialist dance music nights, which mainly includes commercial dance, house, techno, drum and base, dub step, basslines and their associated musical sub-genres.  The least popular music nights identified by clubbers were hip hop / RnB and ‘other’ which included: previously unmentioned genres of dance music; jazz; ska; northern soul; acoustic; bhangra and Asian music.

89% of respondents stated that music was either a strong influence or a very strong influence as to their choice of club night, with only 5% of respondents stating that music had little or no influence upon their choice of club night.

The reputation of club nights in the minds of clubbers is important in their decision making process with 60% stating that reputation was either a strong or very strong influence in their decision making process.  31% of respondents stated that reputation was of some influence, and 9% stated that reputation was of little or no influence in their decision to visit a particular club night. 

When clubbers go clubbing

The clear majority of clubbers tend to go clubbing on the same nights of the week with 72% stating that they visit clubs on the same night either all of the time or most of the time.  Only 9% of respondents indicated that they rarely or never went clubbing on the same night of the week.

The most popular nights for clubbing are clearly Friday and Saturday, with the least popular night being Sunday, which is followed by a steady increase through the week until the weekend.

Clubber finance

62% of respondents stated that entry charge was very important or important in their decision making process, with a further 26% of respondents stating that entry charge was of some importance, 12% of respondents considered entry charge to be not important or of no importance.  Demographically, students (71%) and the unemployed (70%) were the two single largest groups that were concerned with door entry price.  A similar pattern to this followed with the importance of drink prices within clubs, with 61% of clubbers stating that drink prices were very important or important, 27% of respondents stating that drink prices were of some importance, and 12% stating that drink prices were not important or of no importance.  71% of student clubbers stated that drink prices were either important or very important to them.

Clubbing as a social activity

98% of respondents indicated that clubbing was for them a social activity, by either going with a friend or friends to clubs, or meeting a friend or friends at clubs.  47% of respondents indicated that friends had either a lot or complete influence on their decision as to whether to visit a club or not, 45% indicated that friends played some influence on their decision making process, and 8% claimed that friends had little or no influence as to their decision to visit a club.  In terms of the influence of friends upon which night(s) of the week to go clubbing, respondents indicated in similar levels with 49% stating that friends had a lot or complete influence, 37% stated that friends had some influence, and 14% stated that friends had little or no influence as to which night(s) of the week to go clubbing.

Research by clubbers

When respondents were asked how they find out information about club nights, word of mouth was the most popular response and stated by 88% of respondents, followed by social media websites (68%), and nightclub flyers (59%).  The least popular responses were: advertisements on radio and television; by directly contacting clubs and promoters; and other, which included: through working in the nightclub industry; using Internet search engines; and through visiting online bulletin boards and discussion forums about club nights. 93% of students and 97% of the unemployed indicated that word of mouth was a major way from which they found out information on club nights.  Social media websites were similarly popular amongst all demographic categories, with only a very slight standard deviation of 6 on the overall average of 68%.  The 18 – 26 age group were the single largest demographic group to use social media websites at 76%.  There was a wider dispersal of flyer usage for finding out information about club nights, with a standard deviation of 14 on the overall average of 59%.  Students were the single largest demographic group to use flyers (72%), those aged 27 – 35 were the least likely to use flyers (40%).

From the above list of methods by which clubbers might find out information about club nights, respondents again deemed word of mouth as being the single largest influence, followed by social media and flyers.  Respondents considered text messages from club promoters, and radio and television advertisements as being the least influential methods in their choice of club night.

With regards to how active respondents are in terms of searching for information about club nights, 26% of respondents always or regularly search for information about club nights, 35% stated that they sometimes look for information about club nights, with 38% stating that they rarely or never look for information about club nights.  Further analysis of this reveals that student clubbers (21%) are less likely to always or regularly search for information about club nights than non-student clubbers (30%), there is less difference between the employed (26%) and the unemployed (23%), but larger differences are apparent when looking at age.  As the age of respondents increases, there is a steady increase in the number of those who always or regularly search for information about club nights, from those aged 18-26 (23%) to those aged 46-55 (46%).  Further analysis of age and always and regularly searching for information reveals a correlation of 0.97, which is a very strong positive correlation demonstrating that as respondents age their propensity to search for information increases.  This is also enforced by looking at the ages of respondents who rarely or never look for information about club nights, here where age increases there is a slight increase before a decrease in the percentage of respondents who look for information about club nights, with a moderate negative correlation of -0.78.

Clubbers and flyers

Clubbers were asked how often that they themselves chose to pick up and collect flyers, there was quite an even spread of responses given, 32% of respondents indicated that they picked up flyers at least weekly, 28% of respondents picked up flyers between weekly and monthly, 23% of respondents picked up flyers less than once per month and 17% stated that they never picked up flyers.

Further demographic breakdown of respondents propensity to pick up and take club night flyers, reveals the following: students are much more likely to pick up and collect flyers at least weekly (43%) compared to non-students (23%); the unemployed are more likely to pick up and collect flyers at least weekly (43%) than the employed (27%); younger people are much more likely to pick up and collect flyers at least weekly; and those aged 46+ do not pick up and collect club night flyers more often than monthly (16% monthly, 58% less than monthly and 25% never). When correlating age against the percentage of respondents who pick up and collect flyers at least weekly the resulting figure of -0.93 indicates a strong negative correlation between the two variables, which enforces the point that as clubbers age, they are less likely to pick up and take flyers.

Of those who picked up flyers, those most likely to do so regularly were also regular nightclub visitors, and those who were least likely to do so, or never did so were those who visited nightclubs less than once per month. Respondents were most likely to pick up and take flyers from nightclubs, followed by pubs and bars, and service industry retailers such as hairdressers, coffee shops, launderettes and takeaways.

When asked what aspect of a statically placed flyer might influence respondents to pick it up and take it away, 66% of respondents stated that special offer(s) promoted on the flyer was the main influence to respondents in picking up and taking a flyer with them, followed by information about a club night contained on the flyer (58%) and the design (colour, images and wording) (53%).  Other answers respondents gave in relation to this question included: special events being promoted on the flyer; mention of musicians, DJs or celebrities of interest to the respondent; interest in the music genre being promoted; and if the nightclub the flyer is for, is one that the respondent already likes.  Students (77%) and the unemployed (71%) are most enticed by special offers, as were younger respondents (18 – 26 year olds 73%) compared to older respondents (46 – 55 year olds 42%).

81% of respondents stated that they took nightclub flyers from people in the street.  The largest influence upon respondents for taking flyers from people in the street was the appearance of the person giving the flyer (42%), followed by a feeling by the respondent that they should take the flyer (41%), and then special offer(s) promoted on the flyer (40%).  Aspects of design and the information contained on the flyer were considered of a lesser importance to these. When respondents were given the opportunity to elaborate upon their response to this question numerous reasons were given, they have been categorised as follows: a feeling of pity for the distributor; flyer content; friendly sales technique by distributors; physical attractiveness of the distributor; flyering taking place in relevant locations; forceful distribution by distributors; respondents going through the motions of taking flyers; out of politeness; friendly appearance of the distributor; out of guilt; feeling under pressure to take one; a shared musical interest with the distributor; and the distributor appearing representative of the club night.

A number of respondents left negative comments in relation to on-street flyering, along with reasons for not accepting flyers from distributors.  These have been listed and categorised as follows: respondent annoyance; respondents being in the wrong target market; invasiveness of distributors; distributor overkill; discrimination of flyer distributors; poor sales technique of distributors; and respondent apathy.

A minority of respondents (32%) stated that they received nightclub flyers through their letterbox, of those 74% were students.  The comments made by respondents in relation to flyers that have been placed through their letterboxes are all negative.

Flyers that were picked up and taken by respondents were more likely to be kept for a period of days than those given in the street or posted through letterboxes.  Those flyers that were posted through letterboxes were most likely to be disposed of within seconds with an overall downward trend in terms of length of time that the flyers would be kept.  Those flyers that were given in the street were most likely to be kept for seconds or minutes before disposal, with an overall downward trend after minutes, in terms of time that the flyers would be kept.  For those flyers that were picked up and taken, the pattern is less clear, with the majorative answer being days, but with a second placed answer of minutes.

In total, respondents did not indicate that they would keep nightclub flyers for very long periods of time, with 54% of respondents indicating that they would dispose of flyers within seconds or minutes, 16% indicated they would keep flyers for a number of hours, and 21% indicated that they would keep flyers for days.  Only 9% of respondents indicated that they would keep flyers for over a week.

In terms of flyer design, some respondents revealed that aspects relating to special offers, flyer design, information being of interest, and flyers containing information about favoured artists may cause them to keep flyers for longer.  This section also highlights respondent annoyance at flyers containing information deemed by them as being irrelevant, which includes the names of ‘unknown’ DJs being listed on flyers.

When questioned qualitatively where else respondents come into the possession of club night flyers from, the answers given were as follows: friends (16%); from the floor (12%); in magazines and newspapers (12%); in promotional flyer packs (12%); under car windscreen wipers (8%); by email (8%); in shopping bags (8%); on tables outside bars (8%); in bar toilets (4%); with CDs (4%); given with change when buying drinks (4%); and printed on till receipts (4%).

Many respondents raised environmental concerns about the use of paper flyers, these were around: the litter caused by discarded flyers; and the opinion that the use of paper flyers is wasteful.

As a result of this survey recommendations have been made to nightclubs and club night promoters in Leeds, these will be featured in a future blog post.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Street Sounds on Campus

Students on the BA (Hons) Entertainment Management had an exciting and energetic guest lecture from music industry mogul Morgan Khan (pictured left), owner of record label Street Sounds. Final year students on the BA (Hons) Entertainment Management have been working for Street Sounds since September as part of their ‘Entertainment Consultancy Project’ module. Morgan visited Leeds Met on Wednesday 23rd February to meet the students who are working as consultants for Street Sounds and to give a guest lecture to them along with second year Entertainment Management students studying upon an entrepreneurship module.

Morgan has signed a string of successful artists and singles, including soul / dance band ‘Imagination’ who had numerous chart hits in the early 1980s. Morgan has also signed, worked with and developed many other artists including Dina Carroll, Barry White, Edwin Starr, Rose Royce, Gladys Knight, Al Green, Donna Summer, Dr Dre and Boogie Down Productions. Morgan also spoke about his music label Street Sounds which was largely responsible for bringing 1980s hip hop, electro and house music to a mass UK audience through many very successful series of compilation albums. In 1988 the Street Sounds label went into liquidation, but was re-launched in 2009 with a ‘Nu Electro’ series of compilations, which feature various sub-genres of electro music, and electro / hip hop fusion. Most recently Street Sounds are about to release an R&B compilation called ‘R&B Anthems, Vol. 1’, which Morgan described as his most exciting project to date.

Morgan’s guest lecture chartered his career in the music business, from being a teenage ‘post-boy’, through artists and repertoire (A&R), to a record label director, entrepreneur and record label owner. Morgan spoke extensively about the need to be passionate about what it is that you do if you want to be successful as an entrepreneur. Morgan’s intrinsic rewards through the satisfaction achieved by his work was self-evident, and left the audience feeling highly motivated, as well as giving them an exclusive insight as to the inner working of the music industry. We would like to thank Morgan for sparing us his very valuable time, and hope to see him again on campus in the not-too-distant future.

Students working on a 'new music' project meet Morgan

Students working on a marketing project pose with Morgan in front of the James Graham building

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Student and graduate networking in the connected age

The following is the accompanying narrative for my keynote presentation at the 2011 EWS Kongress, at the Messe Dresden. The Twitter hash tag for the Kongress is #EWSKongress. The presentation that is based upon this narrative can be found on Slideshare here.

Networking can mean the connection of one computer to another for the exchange of data, and it can mean the connection of one person to another for the exchange of information. In both instances each computer or person is referred to as a node. A node is a connection point, where lines or pathways intersect, in the case of computers this happens physically, and in the case of people this happens metaphorically. This paper is designed to give students and graduates information about people networking methods and techniques, and highlight best practice to improve the effectiveness of their networking capabilities in order to maximise their chances of personal success during and beyond their studies, through the establishment of supportive and meaningful networks.

There are several sub-terms in common usage to describe people networking including: social networking; business networking; academic networking; research networking; political networking and professional networking. All of these terms involve connectivity and information sharing between people, and these terms are often used interchangeably, so as to avoid any confusion, from this point onwards the terms to network and networking will be used as ‘umbrella terms’ for all types of people networking, which are of relevance to students and graduates.

Expert definitions of networking vary, although they all follow a similar philosophy, and include the following:
• The action or process of making use of a network of people for the exchange of information, etc., or for professional or other advantage (Oxford English Dictionary, 2011).
• The practice of making contact and exchanging information with other people, groups or institutions (Your Dictionary, 2011).
• The process of using one contact to gain others (Travel Industry Dictionary, 2011).
• Communicate with and within a group (WordNet, 2011).

Networking may occur casually when it is unintended, or it may be planned and strategically focussed. In order for networking to take place, a minimum of two people need to be involved (there is no maximum number), and information must be traded from at least one person to another. The content of the exchanged information varies due to the nature and rationale for the contact taking place, but very often involves the exchange of contact details for further follow-up beyond the initial contact, and any action that results from the initial contact.

When considering networking it is important to formulate a strategy by asking yourself:
• Why do I want to network?
• What benefits do I want to achieve from networking?
• Who are the people that I want to be networking with?
• Where can I feasibly network with these people?
• When are the best times for networking to take place?
• How should I present myself to others?

The reasons for networking are limitless and dependent on personal circumstances. For some people making new friendships and relationships is reason enough, for others it could be to attract investors onboard for an entrepreneurial undertaking, or to seek career advancement. Whilst the rationale for networking varies, the predominant reasons are as follows:
• Social, for purposes of: meeting new people; gaining knowledge; learning new skills; and engaging with like-minded individuals in communities of practice.
• Academic, for purposes of research; sharing practice; learning new skills; and improving chances of success.
• Business, for purposes of: seeking entrepreneurial opportunities; attracting investments; improving ways of working; researching competitors; establishing relationships with clients and customers; learning new skills; and improving chances of success.
• Career, for purposes of: seeking out work placements and internships; finding job opportunities; learning new skills; improving prospects of promotion; and achieving greater rewards and job satisfaction.

Whatever the rationale for networking, it’s key purpose is to lead to improvements in personal circumstances for those parties who are engaged in it. Networking generally leads to development, and those who are more active networkers are more likely to succeed in their endeavours, by maximising their network of contacts, which in turn can lead to greater support.

For both students and graduates, networking provides an opportunity for you to sell yourselves, particularly your skills, this is especially relevant when you are dealing with potential future employers or professional contacts. In terms of skills, consider those skills, which are attractive to employers, which you should have developed during your course of study. According to Prospects (2011) general headings for skills that are desirable to them include: self reliance skills; people skills; general employment skills; and specialist skills, a breakdown of what these terms mean can be found on the Prospects website here.

As part of a networking strategy it is necessary to consider the type of person with whom you would like to network. People are generally targeted due to either their position, knowledge, assets, capabilities, circumstances, connections and / or reputation. In order to network with particular people it may be necessary to invest in your networking strategy, by joining an association, or getting membership of a particular body, which may then give access to additional individuals that previously may have been difficult to contact. Students and graduates should be networking with:
• Other students, graduates and alumni.
• Academic staff from their own institution and elsewhere.
• University staff that specialise in liaison with industry and career guidance.
• Employers and industry figures.

Networking can happen at any time and in any place, typically it takes place in the following physical and virtual settings:
• Specific networking events, such as business lunches.
• Conferences / seminars.
• Staff development sessions.
• Work placements and internships.
• Industry events such as trade shows.
• Informal ‘rubbing of shoulders’ in social locations such as the gym, coffee shops and whilst travelling on public transport.
• Online in a plethora of locations, but most notably, bulletin boards where users have a shared interest; social networking websites / web applications; and other communicative internet based applications.

Whilst there is no hard evidence to support this, anecdotally it can be said that connections made online may be weaker than those made face-to-face, due to the personal contact element of the meeting, and the higher level of trust and understanding that can be established through meeting face-to-face. None the less, online contact is often a pre-cursor to meeting in person, and the use of the internet is practically the norm, when it comes to researching the type of person with whom you would like to network.

The best time for you to network is dependant upon your personal circumstances, and the circumstances of those with whom you would like to network. If motivations for networking are financial, there may be better times in the financial year than others when finances are more readily available. If networking is for career progression beyond university, this should be undertaken whilst you are still a student, in order to make contacts, and gain competitive advantage over other students who will also be seeking such career progression. As a student, it is never too early to begin networking, those who are more likely to progress quickly into their careers beyond their studies, will begin networking with industry practitioners early, and will use such contacts to help with the growth of their industrial knowledge and skills, and in making further contacts, thus expanding their networks. Opportunities to network, including training, staff development, meetings and conferences should be taken whenever possible.

The presentation of yourself to others when networking, is largely circumstantial as to the type of networking that you are undertaking, with whom you are networking, and where you are networking. It is essential that you consider the culture and image of those with whom you wish to network, is the image a ‘corporate’ image? Is it a ‘casual’ image? Is the image somewhere in-between, or is it a different kind of image altogether? Understanding the culture of those whom you wish to network with is important, as is adherence and respect of cultural ‘norms’ i.e. values, customs and beliefs. The answers to these questions, will need to be established through the initial research that is undertaken into those with whom to network.

As well as the above, a confident and friendly persona, along with handshakes, eye contact, conversation and questions are all a part of face-to-face networking. If you are networking face-to-face, a business card is an essential item to carry, this should present yourself, your position and most importantly your contact details for follow-up beyond your initial meeting. If you are handed a business card from somebody else, make sure that you take a few seconds to look at the details on the card, holding it carefully, before placing it in a pocket or a wallet. Offence can be taken in some cultures by nonchalant handling of business cards.

The communication revolution and the rise of online networking

We have come a very long way in a relatively short space of time when it comes to the power, speed, spread and reach of our communications. It is now possible with the touch of a few buttons to communicate with a potentially global audience. Making efficient and effective use of the communication mediums available is essential for networking to be a worthwhile endeavour. Internet usage in the home is for the majority of users, still less than 20 years old, it’s uptake was exacerbated by the spread of broadband services in the late 1990s and early 2000s. The use of the Internet as a medium for networking is as old as the Internet itself, after all the Internet was designed as a facilitator of communication. After ‘pings’ of data, and then written text emails, the world wide web allowed for the use of bulletin boards (BBs) for the purpose of networking, idea sharing, and as a virtual meeting point for those with a shared interest. BBs are also now known as Internet forums and online message boards, and despite being around for a long time, they are still extremely popular today, and exist on almost any subject, displaying largely user-generated content in what is essentially a ‘community of practice’.

By the mid 1990s mobile telephones that could access the Internet became commercially available, since then phone memory size and speed have increased, and for the majority, accessing the Internet from mobile phones has become more affordable. In the last decade, the continual development of the smartphone to take advantage of faster 3G Internet, and wi-fi networks, and for phones to include a wide range of applications (apps), which serve numerous purposes has revolutionised the way that smartphones are used. Making and receiving telephone calls is now only a minor function of smartphones for many of their users. According to Weber (2011) ‘for every desktop computer, there are 10 mobile devices. Around the world, mobile phones outnumber toothbrushes two-to-one’.

Numerous networking apps are now available for smartphones, and the adoption and proficient use of these by smartphone owners, will certainly facilitate networking with a global reach. For graduates that are likely to be mobile in their physical location beyond university, the use of networking apps could prove to be a highly effective way of keeping in contact with people in a number of locations. Many of these apps are useful for social, professional and business networking, but all of them tend to be labelled beneath the term of online social networking apps or social media.

Online social networks transcend the barriers of distance, geography, time and finance that existed for networkers before the emergence of the Internet. After bulletin boards, specific websites emerged with a more social remit, allowing people to register and become members and then ‘connect’ to other members for all manner of reasons. Social networks allow us to share our lives with a potentially global audience, everything from written messages, sounds, photographs and video can easily be uploaded and distributed with just a few clicks. Never has it been easier for networkers to expand their contact lists with those whom they would like to be connected to.

A very efficient mechanism amongst many online social networking apps is the ability to link and connect with other apps, so if a user enters an update, statement, or photograph into one app, it immediately updates the other apps, thus spreading the message to all connected networks. A practical example of this is as follows, Twitter can be synched with Facebook, so that posting a message on Twitter, will at the same time update the status of the Facebook user, thus allowing all connected Twitter contacts and Facebook friends to read the update.

This also comes at a price, there are inherent dangers associated with the use of social networking, including identity-theft and cyber-stalking, and users of online social networks, should be careful about what personal information they post online, and whom it is visible to, it is also all too easy for any user of the Internet to pose as anybody else from behind a keyboard. This is one of the disadvantages of online social networking, those with whom you network, may not always be as bone fide in person as what their online persona suggests. A well known example of this on Twitter is @CEOSteveJobs who despite having the name and profile picture of the Apple Chief Executive Steve Jobs, is in fact an imposter, who writes posts which are often humorous in nature – at the expense of both Apple and Steve Jobs. What follows is a review of a selection of online social networking tools, which may be useful for both students and graduates, with advice upon how they may be used most effectively for networking purposes. It should be noted that there are thousands of other networking tools and applications, with more being constantly created, the ones which have been chosen, are recognised as already having a sizeable user-base, or of being of particular use to student and graduate networkers.


Love it or hate it (and most students love it), there is no getting away from Facebook, and just why that is, is that seemingly everybody is using it. Since it’s 2004 launch Facebook has accrued 600 million global users (Carlson, 2011), which equates to around 10% of the world’s population, making it the worlds largest social networking platform. For social networking purposes, Facebook is difficult to surpass, however it may not always be the most appropriate platform by which to professionally network. From a student perspective Facebook is often used to share stories, gossip, status updates, photographs, videos and links to online content between friends – this is often good humoured, and presents a picture of the account holder’s personal life, including their ‘likes’ and ‘interests’.

Facebook users often enter many personal details on their accounts, including contact details and date of birth. A word of caution should be issued here, as identity theft is on the increase globally. Facebook users connect to other users as ‘friends’, a ‘friend request’ is sent when once person find the profile of another that they would like to ‘add as a friend’ and clicks on the associated link. It is recommended that only other users who are genuinely known as friends are added on Facebook. Adding strangers and people who are not really well known can be potentially dangerous. It is also a strong recommendation to change privacy settings within Facebook, so that only friends can see profile information beyond the initial page found in searches, it is also a suggestion, to opt-out of having your profile available to search by search engines, and not to use too outrageous a photograph for your profile image.

The dilemma with professional networking on Facebook, is that adding ‘professional’ contacts as friends, exposes a user’s personal life to them. This may not always present a Facebook user in the best possible light, and could in fact be counter-productive. A suggested way around this is to have more than one Facebook account, keeping one for personal contacts, and another for professional ones. However, maintaining these may prove in practice to be time-consuming, if the accounts receive regular postings / messages, and require much checking. Some students opt to change the name of their Facebook account from their real name to a pseudonym and keep this account for social networking, this means that they can then either have a second account in their real name for professional networking, or choose not to professionally network with Facebook. Having a pseudonym should minimise the risks in professional contacts finding a user on Facebook.

Another factor to consider, is that relationships with professional contacts, may over time change, so that contacts become much better well known, and indeed do become friends. Under these circumstances, becoming Facebook friends and sharing personal details may no longer be an issue. Caution and sensible judgement is urged on behalf of Facebook users.


LinkedIn is the world’s largest professional networking platform, which as of January 2011, had 90 million users worldwide (LinkedIn, 2011). The LinkedIn site allows users to maintain a list of professional contacts, in a similar way to what Facebook does with friends. LinkedIn members can search for the names of individuals, companies or groups, and from these find people with whom they would wish to connect. When somebody is found with whom a connection would like to be established, users may click on an ‘add to your network’ link. This will then generate an email to the LinkedIn account holder, who has the option to accept or request the address. Based upon user settings (predominantly companies worked for and connections) LinkedIn will suggest the names of people that may be of interest to connect with.

LinkedIn works through users posting updates on their statuses and sending messages around their professional networks to advertise opportunities such as job vacancies, and developmental opportunities. Employers can also search for suitable job candidates by performing keyword searches, and job-seekers can follow company announcements and look for openings that may arise, which are subsequently advertised upon LinkedIn. Members tend to display professional information such as companies worked for, positions, qualifications, professional biography, publications and awards in what is an online professional resume. This is ultimately a very efficient way for professional details to be stored, and accessed by those with who users network. The bank of connections that users collect, can be likened to a database of business cards and curriculum vitaes. LinkedIn users can also request a ‘recommendation’ from a specific contact, a recommendation is like a reference that somebody may request for a job application.

Whilst LinkedIn is the most used professional networking platform, it is still lagging behind many of the social networking platforms in terms of membership. It’s potential is yet to be truly exploited, but it is certainly an investment for the future to become a LinkedIn member. As many of the current ‘Facebook generation’ who appreciate the value and power of online networking platforms, leave university and become professionals, the uptake of LinkedIn will certainly increase. Many graduates will opt to keep their Facebook account for social networking, and create a LinkedIn account for professional networking. Making the transition from Facebook to LinkedIn will not prove too much of a challenge for many, and will of course help to keep business lives and personal lives separate.


Twitter is a micro-blogging site, which allows users to make text based posts of up to 140 characters per post, posts may include hyperlinks to other websites, or media clips such as photographs or videos. Twitter has been likened to ‘thinking out loud’ albeit to a global audience, each individual Twitter post is called a ‘tweet’. According to Quantcast (2010), Twitter currently has around 190 million global users, who generate 65 million tweets every day, and make 800,000 Twitter searches daily - these numbers are constantly increasing as more people sign up to and use Twitter.

Twitter is possibly the most useful and effective global networking tool in the world today, it’s simplicity and relatively uncomplicated nature make it reasonably easy to search, looking for the items which are of most interest, and from a networking perspective, allowing users to connect with those Twitter members who are discussing subjects that are of most interest. To connect to another user in Twitter users must opt to ‘follow’ them, which then sends a notification email to the user that is to be followed, informing them that another user is now following them. In the notification email that is sent, a link to Twitter profile of the follower is also contained, allowing the person who is to be followed the opportunity to look at the profile of who has elected to follow them. This then gives users the opportunity to decide whether or not they would like to the follow the user who is now following them (it also allows users to block other users from following them).

Tweets are publicly visible to a global audience by default, however it is possible to restrict posts to only followers, or to send directs messages (DMs) to particular followers only. It is also possible to forward the posts of other Twitter users so that they become visible to your own network of followers, this is called a ‘re-tweet’ (RT). Student and graduates studying in a particular discipline, should actively research useful contacts from both academia and industry via Twitter and follow their posts, so as to be kept up-to-date on key issues. At the very least they should find out if any of their tutors or course / department / faculty have a relevant Twitter account. Some examples of potentially useful Twitter users (tweet feeds) for both students and graduates to follow include the following:

• @artsjobs – features jobs in the arts around the UK.
• @ents_leeds_met – an example of a degree course tweet feed for the BA (Hons) Entertainment Management at Leeds Metropolitan University.
• @ICGUK - professional association for career guidance practitioners.
• @jobsintech - job postings around the U.S. in technology.
• @leedsmet – Leeds Metropolitan University’s official tweet feed.
• @mashable – this feed helps Twitter users make sense of the social web.
• @mycareersadvice – career advice and guidance for graduates.
• @NSDL - teaching and learning resources for science, technology, mathematics, and engineering.
• @postgrants – feed about educational grants and scholarship for various groups of people.
• @SocialMediaJob - jobs and internships in social media marketing, product management, community management and related fields.
• @thestartupeu - this feed supports business startups and entrepreneurship.
• @uclcareersblog – careers advice from the University of Central London’s blog.
• @zappos – this feed educates about customer service and marketing.

Twitter users often use a # symbol, known as a hashtag before key words in their tweets. These key words are typically searched for by other Twitter users, and putting a hashtag before a certain word allows for its recognition as a search term. Some examples include #employability, #olympics and #ewskongress – for this very conference. Twitter hashtags are increasingly used by marketers, who are keen to encourage Twitter users to search for something that they are promoting via a hashtag. Students and graduates should consider what exactly they are interested in searching for by terms, and then do Twitter searches to see what is shown in the results, some examples of potentially useful hashtags are as follows:

• #careers – careers advice and guidance.
• #dissertation – student dissertations.
• #employability – issues associated with employability skills development.
• #ERASMUS – ERASMUS exchange programmes.
• #ICrEAM – Issues in contemporary entertainment and arts management.
• #intern – Information relating to internships.
• #yep - young entrepreneurs and professionals.

Above are just a few examples of the many hashtags that are available as further resource check to search for a hashtag term, and to look for definitions of what hashtags mean, and to offer your own hashtags.

Twitter can be accessed either via the Twitter website – or through a variety of third party applications, that are available for both computers and mobile smart phones. The third party applications that are available for Twitter are numerous, some examples include: Tweetdeck; Ubertwitter, Tweetie and Twitterific. The interface by which these applications allow Twitter to be viewed and used is arguably more user-friendly than the actual Twitter website itself. The proliferation of applications such as these has helped to increase Twitter usage, particularly as many smart phones now come with a Twitter ‘app’ pre-installed, with many more ‘apps’ available in online stores, which are easily accessible from smart phones, and often for free. This allows Twitter users to Tweet from wherever they are, and not rely on having to be on a computer. ‘Thinking out loud’ to a global audience whilst on the move has never been easier!

If you are considering using Twitter as a student or a graduate for the purposes of networking, you need to realise that your Tweets are publicly visible, and will influence how those who read your Tweets see you, an abundance of Twitter posts about the minutiae of your personal life might not be the best way to impress a potential employer. If you want to make use of Twitter for professional networking purposes, it is suggested that you create a specific account for this purpose. It is not unusual for Twitter users to have multiple accounts, particularly those who use Twitter for a variety of reasons (including social networking, professional networking, and product marketing). It is relatively easy to manage multiple Twitter accounts from applications such as Tweetdeck, although confusion and mistakes can happen when a Tweet is broadcast from the ‘wrong’ account. One useful suggestion for managing multiple Twitter accounts from a Smart Phone, is to install several Twitter applications, and use one for each account, e.g. Tweetdeck for social networking and Ubertwitter for professional networking.

It should also be noted that anything controversial posted in a tweet may be re-tweeted by others and become viral, this may lead to criticism or even abuse to the original tweeter. Deleting a tweet is possible, but once it has been re-tweeted, there is little that can be done to stop a tweet spreading around the networks of Twitter users.

Twitter is still very much a growing online social networking platform, and to get involved with it now and become proficient in how it works, will certainly help to future-proof the skill-set of students and graduates. In years to come, the ability to use such tools as Twitter will be the expected norm, just as it is for email today.


Foursquare is a geo-social networking platform that allows users to register their whereabouts in specific locations, and at the same time leave comments, tips and take photographs of locations, which are known as venues. Foursquare requires users to have a ‘smartphone’ with the Foursquare application installed. It works by calculating the position of the phone through its GPS function, so users need to be very close to the venue into which they are checking into. Foursquare is also a social network, in that users can search for people they may know and add them as ‘friends’. For many users Foursquare is treat very much like a game, whereby friends compete against each other to check into the most number of venues, and become Foursquare venue ‘mayors’. A mayor is the person who has checked into a venue on the most number of days over the previous 60 days. For checking into venues, Foursquare users are awarded points and various badges.

From a professional networking perspective, Foursquare is a novel tool, which allows users to see who is at the same venue as what they are. The real usefulness of this is when the venue is an actual networking setting, for example a conference, lecture or trade show. This would allow users to see which other users have checked into the same venue as them. From a business networking perspective, Foursquare allows venue owners the opportunity to communicate with, and listen to feedback from their customers. Foursquare synchronises very easily with both Facebook and Twitter, this is part of its appeal, for social networkers, it easily allows Facebook friends to see where they are, but for Twitter uses, this allows for social or professional networking to take place, by tweeting the users location, along with a short message or photograph.

At present Foursquare has a relatively small user-base, as of December 2010, there were 5 million registered users (Merino, 2010). As the proliferation of smartphones continues, so will the number of Foursquare users. This is certainly a networking tool with a great deal of potential, and one that in future will have a greater significance for professional, business and social networkers. It is advisable to any student or graduate with a smartphone to investigate Foursquare, as with LinkedIn, becoming au-fait with this platform, at this early growth stage, will equip users with skills, which will be more recognised and desirable by employers in future.


MySpace is one of the longest running social and business networking platforms that is still in use today. However the sustainability of it’s future as a useful business networking tool has been brought into question. MySpace was overtaken by Facebook in terms of numbers of users in 2008, and has largely suffered in the face of Facebook’s success, in 2009 the company made 30% of its workforce redundant (Goldman, 2009). As of December 2010, daily unique visits had fallen to around 5 million, from over 22 million two years previously (Google, 2010).

From a networking perspective, MySpace is useful for creators of original content such as music and videos to showcase their work to potential fans, indeed MySpce has helped make famous both Kate Nash and Lilly Allen through them showcasing their work on the MySpace website, and building from that an increasing network of fans.

MySpace is generally targeted towards a ‘teen’ market, and as a professional networking platform for graduates, unless users are creating content to showcase, its usefulness may be limited.

The future

We live in the connected age, where we hardly ever need to be far away from the people we know, thanks largely to the mobile Internet and a plethora of apps that are designed to facilitate networking. In an increasingly competitive jobs-market, students and graduates need to become familiar with the networking tools, which are of most relevance to themselves, their discipline, their careers and their future aspirations. Some networking tools such as LinkedIn and Twitter can easily transcend numerous areas of academic and professional networking, whereas others such as Facebook tend to have a more social aspect. The creation of newer networking apps will continue, and both students and graduates should keep an eye on websites that highlight such developments.

To some industry figures, the use of such apps may be scorned due to their relative newness. The same thing happened around 15 years ago with the adoption of the Internet and domain names, leaving many companies and organisations red-faced and behind their competitors. Students and graduates are advised now to register with networking apps, and for those apps that are being used to professionally represent the user, create professional profiles, with sensible credible usernames and profile images. In years to come the value of established and well-used profiles, and the value of usernames will become apparent. Those who are not prepared will find themselves disadvantaged – it could be a good idea to register your username as your own name now, with a variety of networking apps, whether you actually go on to use them very much or not.

The only certainty with networking in the connected age is that it will continue to become faster, easier and more prolific in future. Students and graduates need to appreciate the power and value of online networking. Making the transition from Facebook to LinkedIn for students who become graduates will become an accepted right of passage, designed to facilitate future career progression. Being prepared to make that transition, and being prepared to be open to using new and emerging networking tools, will help to future-proof the skill-set of graduates. Embrace the technology, because its proliferation into our every-day lives is only ever going to increase.


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