The Six Keys to the Success of The Yorkshire Mafia

3 May 2011 By Northern Lights

The Six Keys to the Success of The Yorkshire Mafia image


mafiaThe LinkedIn group, The Yorkshire Mafia is a really great social media success.  With more than 7,000 members joining in just over two years, there is a lot to learn from why this group is so successful.

I spoke to Geoff Shepherd, founder, at the Mafia’s latest event at the Balmoral – a great turnout of 280 people in Harrogate.  This is my analysis of why it works.

1. Choose a thought provoking name for your LinkedIn group

I confess when I first came across The Yorkshire Mafia, it did not appeal.  It felt male, parochial – and Yorkshire has its fill of traditional men’s clubs.

When I said something on these lines to Geoff, his response was ‘if we’d called it The Yorkshire Business Club’ would anyone have noticed us?  You need something that grabs attention and sounds different’.  He is absolutely right and there are few business people in Yorkshire who have not heard of our Mafia.

And there is certainly nothing traditional about this group – as Richard Tyler of the Telegraph said in his article, “Where the Yorkshire Mafia model may have an edge is that its brand is fresh, slick and fun, and its public execution, so far, has been impeccable.”

2. Don’t use social media to sell, but to help

Geoff absolutely gets social media.  He makes it very clear and keeps repeating it, that the Yorkshire Mafia is not about ‘selling’

  • Badges at the event had people’s names – not their companies.  It was up to us if we wanted to exchange cards and get to know each other better
  • There is a clear message on the LinkedIn group about protocol (see below)


3. Clarity about who you want in your LinkedIn group

From the beginning Geoff was very clear about his vision for the group – and therefore who he would accept as members.

Geoff turns away two thirds of applicants and spends four hours a day researching each person who applies – looking at their LinkedIn profiles, websites and blogs.

Geoff has no specific criteria for who he takes on – I suspect this is partly gut instinct and that he is looking for people who will contribute and help others, rather than just take and sell.

Word gets around about this selectivity – and increases the cachet of the group.  By now it is very much a group that business people expect you to belong to if you are any good!

Four hours a day is a huge commitment, but reinforces our own message about social media – if you think it’s a quick mass marketing tool, forget it.  It only works when you make it work.

4. Good social media goes ‘offline’ as well

If you read any of the business ‘guru’ books on social media (Chris Brogan, Brian Solis) there are often references to meeting up in cities.  They tweet and Facebook to get groups of people together.

In the business-to-business world, we tend to want to know people before we give them any significant business.  So you can’t expect accountants and lawyers necessarily to win business just from a blog or seeing you on LinkedIn.  Online activities need to work in hand with good old-fashioned networking as well.

Geoff has done this well.  He has

–          Introduced regular drinks evenings, as in the one at the Balmoral

–          Held the first conference and exhibition at the Armouries in Leeds – attracting more than 1,000 delegates and dozens of exhibitors

5. Let selling happen naturally

The example below is a perfect example of why The Yorkshire Mafia is working so well.  People ARE getting business from it – but in a natural, organic way.

Members posting requests for information and recommendations is the perfect way to spot new business opportunities.


6. Social media is as much about listening as talking

We’ve looked at this in our book on social media.  Social media is about two-way conversations, and LinkedIn and other social media make it very quick and easy to test out ideas and gauge opinions.

The Yorkshire Mafia is very good at this.  The latest is whether members would like a Supper Club – which has generated 115 comments so far (all positive!).


This listening is really important.   How many other business clubs and forums are there in Yorkshire – yet how has a newcomer on the block succeeded so quickly?  Geoff is painstaking in making this group work for his members and he does this by putting the members at the heart of everything he does.

Do you agree with this analysis – have we missed any key ingredients as to what makes The Yorkshire Mafia work?

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Written by Northern Lights


  • I agree with all of above and being a fellow Mafia member feel very much part of the family with the main appeal to me being the no sell policy. There’s a feeling of support in a relaxed but professional atmosphere which is unique to this group and will only go one way……….upwards!!

    After 2 years you feel proud to be part of something big that will only get bigger.

    The key to The Mafia is of course the members but it has to be said the hard work, commitment, and most importantly the enthusiasm Geoff provides the group is paramount.

  • Well said Alan, you summed it up perfectly. The no selling approach is so refeshing and we have received lots of useful help and advice from The Yorkshire Mafia members so congratulations to Geoff and his team, but also to all those members who help make it what it is.

  • I agree with Alan and Mark. I’m new to the Yorkshire Mafia and have never been involved with networking groups for various reasons (mainly a lack of time…mother of two young children and run the retail side of our business). However, having been asked by a number of business associates and friends if i was a member and hearing nothing but positive about this group i decided to look into it and eventually to join. So far so good, i have already found the group to be very helpful and informative. I totally agree with Geoff and the team’s ethos ‘together we are stronger’ and i think this group is a good example of how we can help each other in business and in life. Well done Geoff and thank you for your forward thinking approach which is obviously proving to be of benefit to yorkshire business.

  • Thanks to Geoff for posting a discussion on Yorkshire Mafia’s LinkedIn group and for everyone who has been commenting

    I was writing a LinkedIn guide last night to help the fee-earners of a professional firm – most of whom are probably still sceptical about social media. I used a whole chunk of the current Mafia discussions to show why this isn’t chitter chatter and celebrity stuff. People asking for help on everything from professional indemnity and QR codes (whatever they are!) to ideas for photo shoot venues and new legislation for websites.

    The government spent years trying to get businesses to ask for professional help – hence Business Link etc – but this is the no cost (except to Geoff) way to do that. Thanks for stepping into the breach Geoff!

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