10 Years of SOCIAL GROUP ENTERPRISES LIMITED 2003 - 2013
When the internet was in its early days in the 1990s, Andrew Haglington, who had come through several bad years following illness and divorce, recognised there was a lack in society of a mechanism by which people could connect, interact, and socialise. Through personal experience of how difficult it was to make new friends, Andrew guessed he could not be the only one looking for some sort of socialising / friendship outlet, and a means to make it easier to meet people, network, and improve his social life.
Existing provision for meeting people and making friends was very sparse. At the time, pre-internet, so-called 'singles clubs' were thought of as 'sad' and 'dating agencies' were thought of as 'dodgy', Andrew found, for good reason. Other people joined night school classes or drama groups in the attempt to make friends. Andrew was dismayed at how little there was of any substance or quality.
In 1997, to test the water, Andrew established an informal 'group of friends' to be run on a casual non-profit basis. The working title 'Devon Socialising and Connecting Friendship and Socialising Mechanism' was shortened to 'Devon Social Group'. The solution to the gap Andrew had perceived in the market was a ready-made 'group of friends' anyone could join in with and go out with, with Andrew organising a programme of social events for people to take part in and enjoy.
In 1999 Andrew met Cathy, who would become his wife in 2002. Andrew had previous business experience with Stocktaking & Business Services Ltd, a stocktaking and accountancy firm based in the north. Cathy had two decades of customer service and admin experience with Lloyds TSB. Together the couple built up and expanded Devon Social Group, funded by subscriptions and donations. In 2003, they put together a business blueprint for what Andrew named a 'social enterprise' business.
Social Group Enterprises Ltd is now celebrating 10 years in business, 2003 - 2013. A social enterprise looks at its track record differently from a conventional business. There is the proven success of staying afloat and making a small business viable for 10 years, covering costs, paying taxes, covering bank charges, running an office, and making enough profit to enable staff to make a living. At the same time, success can be quantified in terms of the hundreds of people the organisation has helped each year, enabling people to come together, interact, socialise, have fun, and make the most of their free time.
The initial Devon Social Group has been supplemented with the addition of Cornwall Social Group, Somerset Social Group, Bristol Social Group, and a group travel company, Social Group Holidays, all under the generic banner of The Social Group, as operated by Social Group Enterprises Ltd.
Since its inception, The Social Group as a new type of business has developed through trial and error, evolving into what it is today. It could have easily headed off in another direction.
In the early days, Andrew did look into if the organisation could be formulated as a registered charity. Government restrictions soon closed doors on that idea, not willing to consider anything with a 'social' element to it.
At the same time Andrew contacted numerous banks, government departments, well known British entrepreneurs, and other potential sources of funding to see if he could secure backing to develop what has since become known as a 'social networking service'. That was 7 years before Facebook and 10 years before Twitter were funded in the USA, and obviously just too soon for anyone to see the potential in what they were being offered. British attitudes were less entrepreneurial and less willing to take a risk on a vision of something so new - otherwise, global social networking services might have been based in Devon.
Instead, without massive funding from corporate backers, Andrew and Cathy ended up taking a small business approach to social networking, working much more hands-on, dealing with people face to face as well as on the internet, and on a more local scale.
Of course, in the years since the beginnings of The Social Group, there has been massive technological change. This has required constant adaptation, utilising emerging technologies as they have appeared; web sites, email, digital cameras, graphic design software, text, printing technology, sat navs, social networking services, laptops, tablets, and smart phones.
Being first got Andrew off to a good start. Staying ahead of the game has enabled the company to keep building up its profile. One of the quirks of the internet is that David can look just as big as Goliath, and with more and more importance moving online, this is changing the way the economy works. Andrew believes that understanding how to make use of online mechanisms is the key to success in the years ahead. His initial 1990's conception of how far the social media revolution could actually progress, he says, is still far from its full potential, and he predicts a inevitable demise of many more well-known High Street names before it is over.
In many ways, today Social Group Enterprises Ltd is very much a dot com / social media publishing company. The majority of the day to day workload focussed on researching, writing, and publishing a magazine and programme of events for members, and in generating awareness and publicity via web content and social media pages via the internet to attract new customers.
So accomplished at this has the company become, that another revenue strand to the business is developing offering social media marketing services being used to promote other businesses. All that needing to know a way around a computer and being years ahead in identifying ways to make use of the emerging tech has not only given Andrew & Cathy an edge, but expertise in using skills they never expected to have.
In the early years, what Andrew and Cathy found most difficult in setting up such a ground breaking concept was explaining to potential customers exactly what The Social Group offered. They found it needed a lot more description than could be put in a simple title and phone number style box ad. Fortunately, many local journalists were happy to enable a more detailed explanation of what a social enterprise was and what it offered to the community, seeing all the good this could do. And as more and more people have jumped on the bandwagon with Andrew's ideas, it has become easier to get it over to the public with who they are and what they do.
Being a new kind of business, making a living in a different sort of way, over the years threw up all sorts of pitfalls. With no established example of anything like Social Group Enterprises Ltd to follow, Andrew and Cathy very much had to improvise and develop their own methods of working, their own ongoing inventiveness backed up by outsourcing to local firms who could, from time to time, offer support and advice. Always Andrew & Cathy tried to benefit local firms, believing this helps keep money in the local economy to the benefit of all.
Accounts are handled by Bromhead of Plymouth. Internet services are provided by Eclipse Internet of Exeter. Stationery is sourced from Martin Luck of Plymouth. Printing services are provided via Crown Copiers (1st Office) based in Saltash.
After a long day at the office, Andrew and Cathy often then go out to host social events. Original concepts of being able to take a day off 'when they wanted' soon vanished under a heavy workload and little free time. Combining business with pleasure, their 'free time' is now often spent hosting events and socialising with members. In order to promote their business and the services they offer as something that only they can offer, they cite a unique selling point as themselves, in recent years deliberately making the company more about the two of them offering a very personal service, and in keeping with the age of social media celebrities, now live out a lot of their lives in public.
The couple have over the years come up with a wide variety of original and unusual socialising occasions, but the vast majority of what they do consists of dining out with the 'group of friends' at restaurants and pubs, as well as organising dinner and disco parties, murder mystery dinners, black tie balls, themed events, and other social functions, plus a choice of outdoor activities, adventure sports, boat trips and days out.
To mark the 10th anniversary of the company, it seemed appropriate to offer an activity, a meal, and a party - comprising a toboggan ride, a fondue dinner, and a disco at Plymouth Ski Centre on Saturday 13 April 2013. Photos can be viewed via Social Media pages @AHaglington and @CathyHaglington.
Social Group Enterprises Ltd provide a 'group of friends' to go out to things with. They do not own their own premises. Instead, members meet up at restaurants, pubs, hotels, golf clubs, activity centres, and attractions across the region. The venues Social Group Enterprises Ltd take business to on a regular basis are the ones offering good quality, hospitality, good value, and a warm welcome. Aware of the considerable custom and publicity Andrew & Cathy can bring to a business, and with The Social Group being a long established and well respected name, many venues will now offer preferential rates and good deals. The ethos of local business helping each other has obvious advantages, especially as relationships grow over a number of years. Understanding that 10 years in business and a considerable internet presence gives them both influence and bargaining power, Andrew & Cathy are always keen to get the best deals they can for their clients, while at the same time the couple are very loyal and are passionate about rewarding those who have supported them.
Joining The Social Group is the best way to make friends.
Just one friend can make the biggest difference to your life. If you join The Social Group and take part in just one social event a week for a year, that will be 52 events, and if you meet 9 people at each of those events, that will be 52 x 9 = 468 people, each of which might become that friend to make a difference in your life.
Someone recently asked what benefit to the community it is we offer. Well, helping people to make one friend will make a difference to a life. Giving you the opportunity to make hundreds of friends can transform your life completely.
In our view, everyone can benefit from what we offer. No matter what age or what background or what profession, this is for you!
Couples can meet other couples and enjoy having some company.
Singles can find a good friend, and over the years, many have found that special someone to fall in love with too.
Life is too short to waste it wondering "what if..." We cannot tell you exactly what you will get out of Social Group membership, as it's different for each person, but over the years we've seen people get all kinds of benefits from being with us. So sign up today and give it a whirl. You'll probably surprise yourself!
Dear Santa, I don't want to be by myself on Christmas Day and Boxing Day. Having lost family closest to me, this year I have no-one to be with on Christmas Day and Boxing Day. If only there was a ready-made 'group of friends' I could go out to Christmas Day Lunch and Boxing Day Lunch with, who would welcome me at their table, and who I could join in with, then it would make the festive season much more festive. xx
The Social Group's "NO NEED TO BE LONELY THIS CHRISTMAS" events programme includes party nights and meals out during November, December, and January, and special festive meals on Christmas Day and Boxing Day. Everyone is made welcome. Join us. Join in. Enjoy yourself!
The Social Group is a social enterprise making a real difference to people's lives. In a civilised society, there should be no need for anyone to be lonely at Christmas or any time of the year. We've dedicated our lives to bringing people together to connect and socialise. Good times! Good company!
Don't be by yourself! Join The Social Group and enjoy a better quality of life!
Some people care. Some people don't. It's a sad fact of life that some just can't be bothered.
If you've been on one of our Social Group Snorkeling Holidays you will have witnessed how people treat the coral reefs. Some take care not to touch or harm the corals, would not dream of feeding the fish and encouraging them to get nippy, and visit the marine environment without leaving anything more than a footprint on the beach. Others stand on the coral and kill it, break bits off for souvenirs, leave plastic rubbish to litter the sea bed, and disrupt the underwater world in numerous ways, destroying what everyone has gone to see, making you feel dismayed to be a human being.
It sometimes feels the same with The Social Group, and unfortunately, with the way some people behave, we have reluctantly needed to cover all eventualities with our Terms & Conditions. All of which basically comes down to just being a decent humand being and treating others properly. All we ask is that people who join as members cause no harm to the organisation as a whole, treat organisers with respect, and do nothing to damage attendance at events. After that. it's all about having fun and appreciating the good times and socialising opportunities we provide. Enjoy yourself!
Here at The Social Group we mostly focus on encouraging each of you to have a good time and enjoy your lives. Life is often tough and we all deserve to find some time to enjoy ourselves. Most of us work long hours and very hard. There's often more demands on us than we have time for. With so little time to spare, we are often told that members are delighted to have Social Group organisers to do all the hard work in putting together a programme of things to enjoy. Saving time. Having it all on a plate. Making it easy. A reliable short-cut. Joining The Social Group is all about enjoying good times, good food, good drink, good company, good fun. In our experience, we see it does everyone good to take some time out, indulge, and have a treat.
Life is short. Enjoy yourself, it's later than you think. Make the most of the time given to you. And so on...
Of course, as well as hedonistic pleasures, it makes the world a better place if we are also kind and considerate to those around us. There's validity in the old saying about treating others as you would like them to treat you. Many people believe in karma, where the more you put into life, the more you get out of life. Remember, karma's only a bitch if you are. Good things come to you if you do good things for others.
An old Chinese proverb states, "What is a life that is not wasted? Perhaps one in which we learn something."
Giving can often give you more back than you expected. Not just giving with money. Also with time and effort. Dedication and a determination to help others. With sincerity. It can mean so much.
Ask yourself, "Did I make a difference?" Today. This week. This month. This year.
Helping someone other than yourself will make you feel good about yourself and boost yourself-esteem. It's all about making the world a better place for one another. Being kind. Being generous. Being aware. Being attentive. Lift your head and open your eyes to what those around you are going through.
Ask yourself... Are you aware if there are people living on your street who are suffering? Have you taken any notice if the people next door are unwell and could do with some help? Do you know if there is someone nearby who has a disability? Is there someone who you see using a walking stick, crutches, or a wheelchair? Do you know someone with a blue badge? Do you realise how tough life may be for them? Are they in pain? Are they suffering? Do you ever ask them if there is anything you can do to help?
A recent report on ITN spoke of "increasing numbers of elderly people being confined to their homes". Feeling lonely and isolated. Unable to get out and about. Not seeing anyone. With no-one to share things with, no-one for company. With families not being as close as they used to be, this situation is getting worse and becoming more serious.
Commonly, elderly people once had three or four children and a host of grandchildren to visit them. Today, families are often less well knit, with relatives who don't bother to keep in touch. Many elderly people don't have anyone at all. Sometimes, any family they know of may be on the other side of the world. Or they may have no idea where those who should be close to us have gone. Individual selfishness in modern society and the scattering of people far and wide via globalisation has done anything but encourage families to stay together.
Here at The Social Group, we've dedicated our lives to bringing people together, encouraging people to connect and socialise, and be better to one another. So the situation of an ageing population, when more and more people are isolated, is of great concern to us. We'd like to encourage people to be nicer to those around them.
Being caring and kind should not just be sending off £5 to something you watch on a TV commercial. We should all make a lot more effort than that.
One of the great joys of doing our jobs is all the interesting people we have met over the years. From socialising with you we know that many of you are fit, healthy, and strong, and many of you spend hours each week at dance classes or exercising down your local gym or health club. There's nothing wrong with keeping fit and healthy of course. But we would like to encourage each and every one of you to consider if you might put some of that "me time" you spend on yourself to better use helping others? Could you, for instance, mow a neighbour's lawn or paint a wall for them? It doesn't have to be a regular commitment. Often disabled and elderly people manage routine things, but are struggling to find a way to get a repair done. One off occasional jobs that you take for granted can be a real headache for others.
With less government assistance now forthcoming for people who find themselves disabled or long term sick, life can be really hard, and they may now have too little money to pay tradesmen to do bigger jobs such as decorating or hedge trimming. What's just a few hours work for an able-bodied person can be an impossible task if you are sick or unable to stand up.
Being a good person and a good neighbour goes further than being sociable. We would argue that if we truly are a civilised society, our community spirit needs to be more than just occasionally saying "Good Morning!" to the person on the other side of the wall. That's nice, but once a month you could make a more determined effort to check everything is okay and see if there is anything you can do. If each of us did just one good deed for someone else this week, just think what a difference that could make to everyone's lives!
Especially in the depths of winter, over Christmas, and during bad weather, especially in cold spells and if it snows, there has to be a responsibility for all of us to come together, and do more to be better people, better neighbours, and better human beings.
Please check if the people you know need some help. Especially if you are fit enough to spend hours exercising at the gym, see if you can spare some of those exercise hours to help to keep your neighbour's property in good repair. If their garden is overgrown, maybe it's because they are not able to keep it up? If their walls need painting, maybe it's because they are not strong enough to paint them? If you don't see them much, perhaps it's because they are laying in bed, in pain, seriously ill?
In good conscience, can you live happily knowing that people on the other side of a wall from you or living directly across the road may be suffering and desperate?
A gym is all about you. Knocking on a neighbour's door to offer to help is all about others. Please make an effort to be a better person and offer to help people around you who are elderly, sick, or disabled. You may get much more out of it than you ever expected. A friend. Self respect. The knowledge you made a difference. Your kindness will be appreciated and never forgotten.
Please do what you can to make a difference today to the lives of other people living around you and truly be social.
The Social Group is a socialising organisation based in the UK.
Social Group Early History
The Social Group began in Devon in South West England in 1997, first known as Devon Social Group. It's founder Andrew Haglington is often referred to as "the man who invented social networking".
Following his own experience of divorce and ill health, resulting in years of isolation and loneliness, Andrew Haglington became sure he couldn't be the only one who felt alone and in need of making some friends. As such, Andrew Haglington was the first to recognise a need in society for a "socialising mechanism" to enable people to connect, interact and socialise, him shortening the word "socialising" to "social", hence naming what became known as social media and social networking.
Andrew Haglington's solution to the perceived need was to utilise both the internet and to organise real world get-togethers via a printed magazine.
1997 - 2000: The Social Group in it's early days was based around a group of local people in Devon meeting up to socialise. Ahead of it's time, the online social networking element of the early Devon Social Group website proved too controversial. When people misused the facility and began to insult each other online, it's creator Andrew Haglington was blamed for making it possible. Following a chorus of disapproval and threats of legal action against what he had created, Andrew Haglington reluctantly dismantled the social networking element of the early www.devonsocialgroup.com website. Without an American style freedom of speech right in the UK, it appeared Haglington's concept of online social networking would never be possible.
2000 - 2003: After meeting Cathy Dent through the organisation in 1999, Andrew Haglington developed social networking in a more hands-on way. As a members' socialising organisation, Devon Social Group organised all kinds of social events, quiz evenings, dining out, and party occasions, and operated on the basis of an informal not-for-profit 'group of friends' anyone could join in with. The aim was to enable people to find friends, have fun, and enjoy a good social life.
Social Group Organisers Andrew Haglington and Cathy Dent married in Las Vegas in September 2002 in the middle of a Social Group Holiday organised group tour of Las Vegas and American Wild West National Parks.
The couple then set about running The Social Group on a more formal basis and are credited with a key role in the development of social networking.
Social Group Events
The Social Group organises a wide range of social events, dining out, parties, outdoor activities, UK weekend breaks, and international holidays. The socialising organisation attracts singles and couple of all ages and from a wide range of professions. People pay to join as a member, then choose from a large menu of social events, social activities, and social holidays which are listed in Social Group Magazine. The aim being to enjoy good times and good company.
As well as organising large numbers of standard dining out at restaurants with a group of friends, The Social Group has also featured many more unusual events. Amongst these, in 1999, Social Group organisers Andrew Haglington and Cathy Dent were the first to bring singles speed dating to the UK after Andrew watched a television report on similar in New York, where elders in the Jewish community were using it as a way from young Jewish boys to meet young Jewish Girls. Devon Social Group held the UK's first ever singles speed dating event in Exeter, Devon in 1999, and, while not a dating agency, have continued to offer occasional singles speed dating events for over a decade.
Social Group Holidays
The Social Group has organised group travel all over the world. From what started as a trip across the English Channel to Brittany, France, Social Group Holidays has organised holidays to resort destinations all around the world, including France, Italy, Greece, Egypt, Thailand, Australia, USA, and the Caribbean. Andrew Haglington and Cathy Haglington, hosting the social side of the holidays and acting as international tour guides, have escorted groups which have included many people who have never travelled before, enabling them to enjoy some memorable experiences.
In the middle of a Social Group Holiday to Las Vegas, Andrew proposed to Cathy in front of a tour group (which included close family) at Red Rock Canyon state park, and the couple arranged their wedding within a few days, marrying in a helicopter over the fabulous lights of the glamorous Las Vegas strip at night, with a reception with members of The Social Group on the 50th floor of the Rio Hotel Las Vegas afterwards, and the newlyweds being given one of the largest suites in the Hard Rock Hotel Las Vegas to start off married life together.
In 2005, a special 'friends around the world' trip from Exmouth Devon to Exmouth Western Australia included a civic reception at the Exmouth Shire Council offices and a personal guided tour of the Western Australian Parliament by the then Speaker of the House of Commons Fred Reibling MP.
Joining in with a group of people to go on holiday with has advantages with costs and safety. Group discounts and savings are often available. As well as being able to look after the social side of things, occasionally Andrew & Cathy have been on hand to get medical care for someone accidentally injured and to make sure they can manage.
Social Group Organisers Andrew & Cathy have campaigned to keep the costs of travel as low as possible, supporting lower tax on petrol, airports, flights, etc. and the basic human right of freedom of movement. Having seen how much people who have never travelled before have taken from the experience, they feel being able to afford to travel and see different countries and cultures is of benefit to everyone.
Around the Millennium, Andrew Haglington spent a lot of time writing to investment banks, government departments, investors, and entrepreneurs in the UK, hoping to attract significant backing to develop his vision of what could be done with all things social via the internet. Doors slammed in his face at every turn. Andrew Haglington's concept of social networking was too innovative and forward-thinking for anyone to really understand the potential.
Instead, with him failing to attract financial support, Andrew Haglington's ideas were left to be developed in America. Instead of UK investors backing Andrew Haglington (like American investors later backed Mark Zuckerberg), many chose to copy or steal his ideas. Andrew Haglington had offered the UK a brand new multi-billion pound sector of the economy, but the UK was too blinkered to seize the opportunity and social networking, as portrayed in the Hollywood movie The Social Network is now regarded as American.
At the same time, the UK Government made it clear a 'social' organisation such as Andrew Haglington had created would not be allowed to be a charity and made it clear they preferred The Social Group to be run as a business. Based on his love of the science fiction TV series Star Trek, when it came to needing to find a suitable name to reflect the entrepreneurial nature of what needed to be set up, Andrew Haglington came up with the term 'social enterprise' before it was adopted more widely by the UK Government with the Department for Trade and Industry's 'Social Enterprise: a strategy for success' report. Again, Andrew Haglington felt his ideas had been taken from him, without him receiving the credit he deserved.
In March 2003, Social Group Enterprises Ltd. was set up to run The Social Group on a professional full-time basis.
The Social Group expanded with Cornwall Social Group, Somerset Social Group, Bristol Social Group, and other local area social group branches across the UK and around the world, with numerous copies appearing, and other organisations choosing to re-brand themselves as 'social groups' as testament to what a good idea Andrew Haglington had come up with.
The Social Group, as an independent social enterprise operated by Social Group Enterprises Ltd. aims to generate a profit to pay running costs and salaries, while achieving it's social objectives in tackling loneliness and bringing people together to enjoy their lives. Everything is run without any government funding and the organisation is totally independent, being funded entirely by subscriptions, events booking fees, and donations.
Benefits To Society
The Social Group has made a clear benefit to society in many different ways.
The efforts of Andrew Haglington, Cathy Haglington, and their team of helpers, volunteers, members, and people who have made donations to help with running costs, have strengthened bonds in the community, made a difference and touched numerous lives. As a social enterprise, The Social Group has done a lot of good work to bring together people in the local community and enabled thousands of people to be less lonely. The dedication and hard work of the organisers has resulted in numerous friendships, relationships, marriages, and families.
Many who have taken part in organised social events on a regular basis, and had the benefit of Andrew & Cathy's advice and experience of life and relationships, and who have become accustomed to meeting people and making friends at Social Group events, have gained in confidence. The experience of regular social contact has improved social skills and given many a boost not only to their own self-esteem and interpersonal skills, but also in their careers, with a more balanced attitude to life.
Numerous people who have just moved into a local area have used The Social Group as a quick and easy way to meet local people and find their feet. Also, organisers Andrew & Cathy are experts on the best pubs, restaurants, hotels, activity centres, and tourist attractions.
The bi-annual Social Group Awards are given to pubs, restaurants, hotels, activity centres, and tourist attractions, based on hospitality, service, good value for money, and quality. Many small businesses have received an increase in business as a result of this vote of confidence in all their hard work and dedication. The Social Group Awards are seen as very prestigious and a reward to those who work so hard to "get it right".
It has been a long -running theme of The Social Group to encourage everyone to support local small businesses, in the face of a general apathy (and sometimes hostility) to anything deemed as "commercial" by a section of the population in the UK. Social Group organisers have campaigned for more dedicated support for local private sector small businesses from the public sector, including central government, local councils, and organisations such as the NHS, Public Libraries, and the BBC.
Annually, sometimes in conjunction with local churches, The Social Group has operated the "NO NEED TO BE LONELY THIS CHRISTMAS" campaign, encouraging people to look after the less fortunate in society and not leave anyone on their own over the festive period.
Hours are often spent talking to people on the telephone, with organisers being there as "someone to talk to", especially after divorce or bereavement. Many have said how grateful they have been to know Andrew & Cathy were there and cared about them at a difficult time in their lives. The Social Group has often helped people after serious illness who need to re-connect with the world.
During extreme weather, such as heavy snow or floods, The Social Group network of organisers, members, websites, social media content, and contacts, has acted like an additional emergency service. Social Group Twitter accounts have done all they could to offer assistance.
Along the way, the organisation has also raised funds for numerous good causes and charities, including good causes such as Cancer, M.E., respite care for families where someone is ill, holidays for disabled people, tiger conservation, monkey sanctuary, children's hospice, and many more.
The Social Group is seen as playing a key role in the development of social networking and social media. In recognition of this, the British Library in London has archived the early websites of Devon Social Group and Cornwall Social Group as being of historical importance.
Organisers say, "All donations to help with running costs are appreciated. If anyone would like to make a donation or leave us some money to give us ongoing financial security, we can assure them the money will be put to very good use."
Social Group Magazine
Social Group Magazine is the in-house publication of The Social Group, published in the UK twice a year, in Spring and Autumn. Written and edited by Andrew Haglington, Social Group Magazine is sent out free to all new members when they first join The Social Group.
Social Group Magazine publishes features, news, photographs of social events, photographs of Social Group Holidays, travel reports, puzzles and jokes, and contributions from members, as well as a large menu of forthcoming social events, dining out, parties, balls, outdoor activities, and adventure sports, plus weekends away, short breaks, and international Social Group Holidays.
Advertising is accepted, but the magazine remains independent.
Embracing Social Media
2010 - 2012 saw new Social Group websites and new social media content coming online, with Andrew Haglington embracing American-based social media services as tools to expand The Social Group nationally across the UK and internationally around the world.
Haglington Media now manages numerous websites and social media pages, including an online newspaper of the same name.
Andrew Haglington and Cathy Haglington are best known from the large volume of internet content about them, as well as for numerous interviews in the press and the couple are now referred to as social media celebrities and social entrepreneurs.
THE SOCIAL GROUP UK (Cornwall, Devon, Somerset, Bristol)
In 1997, Andrew Haglington had an idea for a group of friends anyone could join in with, enabling people to connect, interact, socialise and have fun.
Andrew Haglington shortened the word "socialising" to "social" and, as he lived in Devon, came up with the name "Devon Social Group".
In what the Plymouth Herald newspaper has dubbed "the birthplace of social networking", the start of Devon Social Group was the start of social networking in the modern sense. As such, the British Library in London has preserved the Devon Social Group website of the 2001 - 2011 era as being of important historical importance.
Devon Social Group is widely recognised as the world's first social networking organisation in the modern sense. Organisers Andrew Haglington and Cathy Haglington are often invited to do interviews based on the key role they have played in the development of the social media sector of the economy and are widely regarded as UK experts in the field.
7 July 2012 saw the Twitter page for Devon Social Group @DevonSG attract 2,000 followers for the first time.
I am the founder and managing director of The Social Group, which was first conceived in the 1990's following a difficult time in my personal life.
The story of all things social begins with my former life falling apart. My first marriage had never been solid, not after I uncovered my wife had lied to me over a period of three years, with the man she passed off as her brother turning out to actually be her first husband and me suspecting adultery. After that, our relationship was never easy, but when you have a child there are other considerations, so I tried to forgive my wife and devoted 17 years of my life to raising my daughter to the best of my ability.
I had loved my first wife, but betrayal is harder to handle that you might think and over many years dark secrets eat away at you. Many felt it was surprising our marriage lasted as long as it did. It was often stormy. In our attempt to hold everything together and make a new start, we ended up moving away from constant reminders in Sheffield to make a new life in Devon. It went well to begin with, but after a skiing injury I sustained to my lower back, I no longer had the strength to hold the household together.
Separation and divorce followed. Worse still, I was poisoned. Pain in my stomach, then my heart, then my limbs. It left me extremely ill, and disabled, I was pretty much confined to bed for years afterwards, unable to walk or even stand up most of the time. What I went through could not have been any worse. Those were dark days indeed. I repeatedly ended up as an emergency admission to hospital in a serious condition, convinced I could not possibly have much longer to live.
Somehow I found the strength to survive. But keeping going was never going to be easy. Severely weakened physically, shamelessly abandoned by many of my closest family and friends, shunned, outcast, ignored, overlooked, forgotten, lonely, I was in a very bad place.
It was a living nightmare. So extremely sick with what doctors dismissed as M.E. Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. Imprisoned within my own skin, with me unable to do almost anything. Constantly in a great deal of pain and suffering. For a time, so weak that I was forced to rely upon home helps supplied by Social Services to look after me and keep me alive. I tried to focus on what little I could still do, but to say that wasn't easy, was an understatement.
After years of nothing, laying almost dead in a fever, pretty much confined to bed, screaming out in pain and sobbing my heart out in utter despair, day after day, week after week, month after month, laid staring at a ceiling, eking out an existence, hardly caring what happened to me, I could not have known how dramatically everything was about to change.
The Social Worker in who's care I had been left was so worried about me that I was given a grant to go on holiday and the wild and vibrant city that is Las Vegas exploded into my life. My parents had been there and suggested I would like it, medical opinion suggested the sunshine and dry climate would be good for me, and I knew I could hire a car to get around, saving me having to worry about walking, which was close to impossible much of the time with my health as it was.
So it was that in the summer of 1996 I drove up to the front door of Caesar's Palace (because I recognised the name), and went to ask if they had a cheap room. I was in luck, with the rooms by the front door where all the famous celebrities arrived in their VIP limos being due to be renovated, but available for just a last few days at a knock-down price.
And so, I found myself standing next to iconic actress Elizabeth Taylor, then spending time with pop singer Peter Andre and his brother Chris at the swimming pool, surrounded by beautiful women, and going out driving through the awe-inspiring wild west countryside surrounding that amazing city!
Feeling alive, it gave me something to live for.
Building a new life for myself was the challenge ahead. Returning home to England, I realised just how much the years of physical illness and emotional trauma had taken their toll on me. I had no wish to go back to that. The resultant isolation was hard to cope with. I went nowhere, saw no-one. I felt very much on my own. I was desperately in need of some company and contact with the world.
It was only after I started looking into ways of connecting with the world and making new friends, that I realised it was not going to be at all easy. As things stood, especially as I was not working at the time, meeting people and making friends proved really hard.
I eventually recognised that society was missing something important, with there being no mechanism dedicated to bringing people together to enable them to connect, interact, and make friends. The day I decided to do something about this was to change the whole world.
In 1997, 7 years before Facebook and 10 years before Twitter, I conceived an innovative idea. I was the first to identify the need for a mechanism in society whereby people could connect, interact, and socialise. After much consideration, I decided to shorten the word 'socialising' to 'social', and everything eventually referred to as 'social' in terms of social networking and social media all stems from my idea.
After coming up with the concept of 'social', the first step was to bring together a 'group of friends' that people could socialise with. I was ahead of my time and had to start with a printed newsletter and telephone. The technology of the last years of the 20th Century did make things difficult - computers were unreliable and kept breaking down, digital cameras did not yet exist, there were no smart phones, and the internet itself was still in its infancy.
It took time to get it all up and running, and as no-one had ever done what we were doing before, everything had to be worked out from scratch. There were no set rules as it was all brand new. What would and would not work had not yet been discovered. I was still very ill and it was a struggle, but gradually things came together.
At first, a friend put a simple one page website online for us. Then we had a better web page designed. Then a proper web site built.
Our interactive social networking section of our website enabled people to connect, chat, and interact via the internet, and we had high hopes! Unfortunately, the public in England were not ready for such a radically new concept. All too soon, without any accepted etiquette, it was being mis-used, with some people behaving really badly.
Lots of people started getting upset with us, blaming us for what others had written online, and there was a real furore. Without a freedom of speech right in the UK and following threats made against us, we reluctantly were forced to take the social networking part of the website offline. When our early website was lost after technical problems at the company hosting the server, with it having caused so much trouble, I told them not to re-build that side of the website on the replacement. The world's first experiment in social networking had not been the success I had hoped.
Nevertheless, I am extremely proud the social events side of our business progressed as it did. Over the years it has helped countless thousands of people to be less lonely, find friends, gain in confidence, and enjoy a better quality of life. We have done a lot of good for people and have been the catalyst to change many lives for the better.
At the same time, as my health gradually improved, I continued to work on taking my online social networking idea forward. Right from the start, I saw some incredible possibilities and knew I was onto something that could become enormous. So I spent years trying to explain to people what I meant by all things social and trying to get people to understand the concept.
UK PLC proved much less receptive than I could ever have imagined, often seeming uninterested, lumbering, clunkingly old fashioned, and at times, downright stupid.
The public struggled to understand my concept. The media dismissed us as a dating organisation. Newspapers had no comprehension of how what I had started might put them all out of business. Investment banks were short-sighted and either ignored my letters or turned me down. While famous entrepreneurs you might have expected to at least give me the time of day, simply stole my ideas and instead of backing me, just set up their own versions of different types of social events and experience days.
The British Government were incredibly out of date and unreceptive. Can you believe they turned down a multi-billion pound new industry for Britain? It seemed incredible. I could not believe how ignorant and short-sighted they were.
Despite all my best efforts to alert the British Government, they were worryingly out of touch, with no comprehension that we were now in the 21st century. They consistently refused any help and at times were downright unpleasant. We got no assistance whatsoever. They were all stick and no carrot. They would not allow us to have charitable status. They adamantly refused to allow us to remain a not-for-profit 'group of friends'. They bullied us into becoming a business. When I devised something I named a 'social enterprise', they even stole the phrase from me, ignoring the fact that we had already called our company Social Group Enterprises Ltd. (partly in fun, with us being such Trekkies!)
Then, once we were a business, you would have thought 'commercial' was a dirty word in this country. Even though we were still helping people and doing good, and had ambitions to expand and help more people, as well as now trying to generate an income, pay taxes, and provide jobs, we were frequently treated as if we were doing something really wrong.
The people who run official charities often get paid many times what we earn, but as a social enterprise that was apparently overlooked. Meanwhile, public sector bodies such as the BBC or Public Libraries stepped back from having much to do with us, and some of the public were openly hostile. Our reward for trying to do the right thing was to be sidelined. It all felt very unfair.
With us unable to get backing from luddite Britain, social networking became American. The forward-thinking USA showed why it is such a dynamic economy. I'd given England something special on a plate and they'd turned their noses up at it. Americans had a different attitude to embracing potential and threw billions at making all things social their own.
I often get asked if it irks me that my words, ideas, and concepts have been stolen and copied by so many people around the world, and I'm not yet a multi-billionaire. I'm sure the answer to that one is obvious.
In 1999 I met my second wife Cathy when she enquired about joining The Social Group. We fell in love and married in a helicopter over Las Vegas in September 2002. Cathy gave up her job at the bank and we went into business with Social Group Enterprises Ltd together in March 2003. Developing all things social since then has kept us both extremely busy.
Mostly people associate us with running social events, dining out, parties, balls, outdoor activities, weekend breaks, and international holidays with a ready-made 'group of friends' to go out with, meeting people, making friends, and enjoying a good social life. We've helped a large number of people to enjoy lots of good times and benefit from plenty of good company.
At the same time, I have not ceased from developing my original concept. As I had started all things social, no-one knew this sector like I did, and once again, I spotted opportunities as they arose, mostly long before anyone else did. It occurred to me that it wasn't just what you had, but what you did with it. By embracing American social media as a tool, I have actually been able to develop my original vision much further and I now feel we are more on track than ever.
As well as numerous websites, we now have presence across social media, including Friends Reunited, LinkedIn, Wordpress, Facebook, Twitter, and many others. What started as simply a newsletter, Social Group Magazine, continues to be printed. While our web content under the banner of Haglington Media now includes online newspapers.
We have come a long way from the days when some in the press held us to ransom, refused to feature us in the editorial, and often tried to sell us advertising space at exorbitant rates in order to get any exposure.
Of course, all those who offered any kindness or helped us in any way over the years, we are very grateful to, and always take every opportunity to repay the favours. The internet was always supposed to be a web, and I make sure that those who were good to us now get lots of good publicity and benefit from our considerable network.
I am now told I am a social media celebrity and social entrepreneur, even though it's clear most people still haven't got a clue as to what I actually did and where I am heading with all of this. I'm sure some journalists view me as a curiosity, believing I had a good idea in 1997 and that was as far as it went - with them unable to grasp how much further I have taken things since. No-one gets just how far this can go. Many still haven't caught up to where I was in 1997, let alone be where I am this year.
I am recognised by some as having invented the entire social sector of the economy. At the same time, it's amusing that others now find it difficult to believe. You've got to laugh. Years trying to tell people what I'd come up with, then years with people not believing I actually came up with the concept and named it in the first place - all those deaf ears, now finding it preposterous that it might have been what I was trying to tell everyone!
I always expected that eventually the world would catch up and someone who 'got it' would want to put some serious money behind me or buy me out. However, there are signs that some have started to open their minds. Some in business in the UK and in the British Government do appear to have finally understood at least a portion of what they have been missing out on.
As founder of The Social Group, and the one who started all of this, I find myself at the heart of all things social media and social networking. I am Managing Director of Social Group Enterprises Ltd. (an independent social enterprise), Editor of Social Group Magazine, and Chief Executive of Haglington Media. Through our Moor Business consultancy, we offer advice to people about how to make use of social networking, as well as offering a range of social media marketing services.
I am currently writing the autobiographical "THE MAN WHO INVENTED SOCIAL NETWORKING", where much more of what we have had to cope with, how badly we were treated by the British Government, how much damage certain individuals caused, and what really went on 'behind the scenes' in a lot more detail will all be revealed. We have a lot of very funny stories to include, and are certain people will not believe the half of it. Any publishers interested in publishing our remarkable story of all things social, please get in touch.
ANDREW HAGLINGTON http://twitter.com/AHaglington
THE SOCIAL GROUP http://www.thesocialgroup.uk.com
NATIONAL UK SOCIAL GROUP http://uksocial.wordpress.com/
DEVON SOCIAL GROUP http://www.devonsocialgroup.com
CORNWALL SOCIAL GROUP http://www.cornwallsocialgroup.com
SOMERSET SOCIAL GROUP http://www.somersetsocialgroup.com
BRISTOL SOCIAL GROUP http://www.bristolsocialgroup.com
SOCIAL GROUP HOLIDAYS http://www.socialgroupholidays.com
MOOR BUSINESS http://twitter.com/MoorBusiness
SOCIAL GROUP MAGAZINE http://twitter.com/SocialGroupMag
HAGLINGTON MEDIA http://twitter.com/HaglingtonMedia
Taxes on travel are making it difficult for any but the rich to be able to afford to move around. Whether you travel by car, train, bus, boat, or plane, the government are making it too expensive to move.
It's the big TRAVEL RIP-OFF!
Train and bus fares are taking a big slice out of the wages of commuters. For some, it's hardly worth going to work!
Petrol tax is currently an outrageous 57.95p per litre and the government are intending to use the budget to raise this to 60.95p per litre! Not surprisingly, instead of petrol being relatively cheap, the UK has the most expensive fuel in Europe, crippling our economy by making all goods stupidly expensive and preventing people from being able to go where they wish. Many are now calling for petrol tax to be abolished completely so that the private sector can boom and make the country successful again!
Flight taxes are an obscenity. Unethical and unfair - steadily making it impossible for any but the rich to be able to afford to enjoy an international holiday! In our view, this is an utter disgrace! Travel is one of life's greatest pleasures and both educational and a boost to health. In short, it's good for everyone! It's not the role of the government to stop everyone but the rich from being able to afford an international holiday!
We are supportive of a lot of what the government are trying to do, but we don't feel they are considering just how tough they are making life for people who don't earn over the average wage of £20,000 p.a.
According to reports on Twitter, the UK Government's increased spending and refusal to cut the wages of those earning £100,000+ in the public sector, has made the national debt even worse. It is now over £1,000,000,000,000 ONE TRILLION POUNDS DEBT!
Quite simply, the government have over-spent and given away billions to the banks.Now they are ruining the economy and robbing you of a holiday to pay for their mistakes - while greedy bankers continue to be paid vast sums in bonusses, evn though their banks are not even making a profit!
Please support our campaign to abolish all tax on travel.
The British people work hard and are industrious and successful - they don't need the travel tax boot of the state on their backs!
* UK short breaks
* Brittany weekends
* Egypt & Red Sea
* Thailand - Bangkok & Phuket
* Western Australia * Central America * USA - Miami, Key West, & Caribbean Cruise
* USA - California * USA - Las Vegas & National Parks