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Using Social Networking to grow your business

Using Social Networking to grow your business

(Updated Blog 9th October 2010)

Penny PowerI am a member of Ecademy, OK, I am also the Founder, but like you I want to have a place where I can build my personal brand, be known and liked and through the followers that I attract - I want to continue to offer them my advice, support and perhaps inspire. Over the 12 years (edited 2010) of owning Ecademy I have learnt so much about myself, about building an online brand and about being myself. Ecademy was created to help people just like my husband and myself. Normal people. Working hard, raising a family, wanting to earn respect for our expertise, wanting to be needed and wanting friendships. I am sure you are just like that.We have achieved a balance and a life through leveraging our personal network and through leveraging the tools on the Internet that everyone can. I have written this Blog to explain how Ecademy can help you.

Being self employed, owning your own business, going out on your own for the first time, or being inside a business and wanting to share your thoughts are common place here on Ecademy. We are all in the same bucket, needing to find customers, 'YES', that is the big one, but also, needing to feel useful to others, needing to answer business questions that we do not have the expertise to do, tax, websites, accounting, legal issues, marketing, branding, selling — the list goes on, running a business is not solved just by having another customer.How these lists of needs are achieved online and within a Social Network remains a mystery to so many. Why is that? It is because this is a scary new world? Once conquered you will ask yourself 'why was I so afraid'? Indeed once understood, you will ask yourself, 'why did I think it was so complicated?' Isn't that always the way? In May 2010 Thomas Power summed up the shift and the difficulty many have online and that is the shift to having a Digital Mindset. A Digital Mindset is a state of mind. As business people many of us have built our plans and business persona with 20th Century thinking. We have been Institutionalized in our thinking and we have built businesses with tasks, plans and controllable networks and filtering methods. We call this being 'Closed Selective and Controlling'. In the Digital Age we need to be Open, Random and Supportive.Look at your children, or look at any young person under 25 — they are not scared of sharing information, of building up a network of random people, and critically, what they are demonstrating all the time, is how to achieve a personal brand. For some it is not a good brand that they create, we all hear the stories of kids who failed to get a job or failed to get a place at the University of their choice, due to their FaceBook or MySpace profile, however, this is new to them too, they do not fully understand values, morals and the dangers of displaying a dark side, this is why Ecademy is devoted to ensuring your safety and to achieving a good ethos.Ecademy was created and lives and breathes 12 years on, with the total determination that you will network in a safe place with like-minded people — and through this you will learn, develop and build a brand that you are proud of, a brand that is clear, reflects who you are, and draws people and opportunities to you at the right time.

The right people, at the right time.

This is the first learning point for us all. You are on a journey in your life, you have not reached the end yet, and your needs now will be different to your needs in one month, 2 months, a year, 5 years. Joining and being part of Ecademy is about finding solutions to your needs in real-time with real people, right now. Ask yourself — what are my needs now? You will probably answer, more sales, but is that true? If you need more sales, why is that? Are you networking effectively? Do people really want to buy what you are selling? How are you marketing your business? Is your website efficient and optimised? Do you get many people coming to you, or do you always have to find your clients?I created this slide for my presentations, it demonstrates the difference between putting out a fishing net, when we focus on Transactions or Being a Magnet, when we want to attract Followers.Fish or attract - the digital divideOnline you want to create 'Followers', these people will follow what you are leading. They will notice what you write and say and they will share with others of it is something that they want to be associated with. This is why we have added the ability to Tweet Blogs, and we now see this happening several thousand times on the blog page each day. Belonging to a Social Network gives you the opportunity to build a very successful business based on advocacy, referrals, collaboration, advice, care, kindness, inspiration, tough feedback and friendships, this is why we call it a Social Business Network.The shift I ask you to make is one of

  • Meeting a Stranger, who becomes your friend, who becomes a Follower of what you stand for and share

A big change to

  • Suspects, Prospects and Customers

Take a look at this slide I use, it shows the Traditional Mindset 'doing it all alone' and the Supportive Mindset - doing it with friends around them.Transactions or Followers

So how do you switch to being supportive?....................Become a friend - be yourself Your journey to this point in your life is interesting, why you do what you do is interesting. All these factors lead to your expertise, to your passions, and that leads back to your business, and to you as a person, that can be trusted and liked — and it leads to others caring about your success.So, don't treat Ecademy like some giant networking event where everyone stands around and throws business cards at one another, and then go home feeling that they have just spent another night out and question 'what was achieved?'. Treat Ecademy as your new community, your friend, someone that wants you to be successful, and a place where you can feel safe asking for help, telling your story, and gaining respect because of who you are — an expert, and someone who is living the dream of loving what they do.

Your Attraction Zone

I said at the beginning, attract the right people to you at the right time — and remember this:if you pretend that you are already a millionaire, and life is a breeze, then no one needs to help you. There is also a danger in this. I like to think of you being bang on your 'attraction zone'. Imagine a graph, with 3 lines. The middle line is your attraction zone — when you are there, everyone likes you, you are humble, patient, kind, relationships are good and you feel good. When you first step into networking you can be in danger of going above this zone or below it. Above it, you will come across as arrogant, big-headed or even too successful for anyone to feel worthy of speaking to you. Below it, you will come across as angry, bitter and even scared and people will feel you are either too nasty, or will see you as a liability to be associated with.Think about this when you network, it is critical.

Your Flame

Something very valuable was taught to me by Roger Hamilton a few years ago, and that is all about being in your 'Flame'. I love this, so I want to share it, it is something I apply in my life every day and since I have, life has been very good to me. This is all about leveraging your talent, your expertise, and ensuring that others can see it displayed. You decided to own your business, or perhaps take on a role in a business, as you felt that was going to be a way to focus on what you are great at, a bit like the moment when you get to drop seven subjects at school and focus on three you like and then, eureka, at University you get to talk and study about one subject. Working and owning your own business should feel like that. However, has your life turned out like that, do you love every minute of what you do?Imagine you are a candle — part of you is a flame, and part of you is the wax. When you are in your flame, you are on fire, you can light a million other candles without using any energy, you can shine brightly, you go home feeling energised, happy and know that you have contributed in the way you want to — money flows when you are like this. When you are in your wax, you are reducing in value in the way the wax reduces. You feel tired, you don't feel good at what you have done that day, life feels tough and you probably reflect this in the relationships around you. When you started your business, or a new job, you were in your flame. Over time, other things take over, and the moments of feeling on fire reduce, your wax increases and you do not shine. To attract people to you, you need to shine, you need to feel positive, and you need to feel you are contributing. Creativity and energy is critical to your survival, but that becomes harder to achieve. This is when collaboration and getting help from your network will make the difference. Your wax is someone else's flame, your flame is someone else's wax, wow! What a match-making opportunity, if only we all spoke openly to each other and really got to know one another... that's where Ecademy comes in.

Understanding the difference between tools and community

Ecademy has two dimensions to it. On one hand Julian Bond and Glenn Watkins have created the most amazing set of tools to enable you to 'use' Ecademy effectively. On the other hand, Ecademy is a community, somewhere that you can feel you 'belong'. Let me explain this using an analogy:—

I used to work in High Wycombe in the 1980's, a town in the UK, built up, it had drug problems and massive graffiti and was perceived to be a dangerous place at night. Did I care? No — because I drove there in the day, left in the evening, 'used' the facilities, and didn't have any relationships with anyone there. It was a 'tool' to enable me to earn money. However, my home was Farnham, a small market town;I loved it, cared about it and wanted it to be safe, caring and clean. I felt I belonged there, in fact 18 years on and we still live there;I have invested time in running clubs in Farnham, helping others and the love, help and care I have received has made me very happy. I also have a brand in Farnham, people know what I do, and my life revolves around me using the 'tools', shops, offices, newspaper, roads etc, but also about caring for the community.

Ecademy is the same, you can 'use' it and visit it, get what you want from it, and it will satisfy some of your needs without doubt, but you can also contribute to it, care for people, take part in its community, and in time, you will reap rewards that you never thought were possible for you and your business.

So, how do you learn the tools and learn how to be part of the Community?

I guess like most things you have to dive in and get wet, get very wet, feel scared, feel vulnerable and go though the pain barrier to get to the other side. BUT, if you don't, what then? The internet is not going away. Social Networking is becoming common place. You need to be found in Google, and you do need friends in wide, random ways. I would say learning is not an option — you can chose to procrastinate, but it will only get tougher, and unless you plan to retire in the next 3-5 years, the Internet and Social Networking is something you have to learn in order to compete with the bright and connected young people that are coming up fast behind you. No one is immune; everyone needs to have a brand as an expert, have a voice, and be found. I realise I sound very forceful about this, but let me tell you that it took us eight and half years to get to the first 100,000 members at Ecademy, and in less than 10 months, we doubled that. This is scaling, we are not doing anything different to get more members, members are finding us as they can feel the beat!The tools we supply for you to 'use' go from basic tools through to advanced:— The basic ones are having a Profile page, Blogging, listing in MarketPlace, sending messages, searching for people, you will know these fairly quickly.Then we get into more advanced, creating a Club, setting up meetings, that can be chargeable, setting up Search Alerts so we can push the information and people to you when it arrives, managing your contacts, the list goes on... Additionally we have created the Ecademy Digital School Ecademy Digital School LogoA place to 'find an Ecademy Digital Coach' or maybe become one and help us spread the knowledge and close the skills gap that is so apparent in the business market.We also have over 500 offline events and meetings each month on the calendar, so you should be able to meet people near you, or search them out. The main thing to break through is your motive for learning and spending time on this — that is the reason for my Blog, and if you want to contact me directly, I will be very happy to help you personally.To get more involved in the community, just do exactly that, be who you are in the offline world, show an interest in others, read their profile, and ask them questions. The questions you will ask them usually reflect your expertise — funny that, isn't it?

So I want to start to build my brand, now what?

You can build your brand in many ways on Ecademy, find the way that suits you. You can do it in a public way, through commenting and writing Blogs, or you can join Clubs that interest you. You can use the MarketPlace do advertise and you can send Private Message to connect with people and get to know and like them.If you decide to Blog, write about what you care about, but don't broadcast — start a conversation. Create a discussion, give others a platform to share your thoughts and add theirs — you do not need to own your space, as sharing it will bring more people to you, and will endorse you as The Expert. When you list in MarketPlace, get across your difference, and what happens to the customers you have when they have consumed your service. When you receive random messages, don't dismiss them, help those who send them as they will then help you. Treat people politely, warmly and with care — we are all vulnerable in one way or another, and your self esteem and self worth will rise the nicer you are to others.Know Me, Like Me, Follow MeIn 2009 I wrote a book to help business people learn how to be successful inside Social NetworksCalled Know Me Like Me Follow Me for a good reason, we want you to become Known, Liked and Followed.You will see that we take you on a journey when you join Ecademy, provided through our e-leanring tools, you can see what you need to do to utilize Ecademy to the fullest with a thermometer on your profile that shows you how Know, Liked and Followed you are, represented by the tasks we set you.To simplify thisKnow Me is about becoming Known and utilizing the Broadcasting Tools of Social Media, - Blogging, YouTube, SlideShare, Twitter, to name a fewLike Me is about having conversations and engaging with people, don't forget to do this, don't be in a hurry all the time, take time to share and converse and show an interest in other people's Blogs and messagesFollow Me, this happens when people Know and Like you but critically they understand WHY. To achieve followers you need to be leading something so we ask that you think about what are you passionate about, what is your message, legacy and how do you deliver this though your business - this opens up the 'emotional business you' which means it opens up your heart to others and they will like that.

The advice I have given here will help you to create the advocates and friendships that will help you though your business life, it will also make the journey to your goals a great deal more enjoyable.I hope you have enjoyed this, it is a long read, written with such passion and with the hope that this really makes a difference to you and your business.