Using Social Networking to Grow Business

Over the 10 years of owning Ecademy I have learnt so much about myself, about building an online brand and about being me.

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.

 

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 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?

You may be thinking these thoughts yourself, but 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 learning 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 10 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 a social network 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?

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.

 

Lets face it, what you do is not interesting. Sorry. Anyone can find a stranger in the Yellow Pages and buy from them; however YOU are interesting, you have all sorts of experiences, thoughts, vulnerabilities and ideas that make you fascinating. 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 it 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.

 

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 have 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!

 

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

 

Your brand is everything about YOU, I have explained earlier that this is not just about getting sales, it is about making trusting friendships and showing genuine interest in the community and people. It would be fair to say that every time you ‘touch’ another person, when you visit their profile (you leave a profile hit), when you send a message, when you comment on a Blog, when you write a Blog, when you list in MarketPlace, when you contribute to a Club, you are leaving a trace of who you are.

 

 

So, do you know who you are? This is not a deep question, this is actually really basic. Why would someone want to know you? How can you make their life better? How can you help them?

The fact is, you can do this in so many ways. Everyone needs to feel valued, to feel important, and to be worthy. Make everyone you ‘touch’ feel like that; this will say so much about you. The amazing part of this is that there is no such thing as an unselfish act — by helping others you are helping yourself, you will feel valued, you will feel helpful, you will have higher self esteem, and in this world, the battle isn’t just for money, it is for emotional wealth too.

 

There are several levels to You: —

1. Who you are
2. What you do
3. Your expertise
4. How your expertise makes a difference to others

When you capture and understand these four things, you will find it easier to leave the right ‘trace’ behind you.

 

My ‘job’ is to connect business people to one another, but I do this with emotion, thought, care and passion.

I am known for being the heart of Ecademy, this is who I am; I believe it is who I am that makes the difference, not what I do. I believe people remember me and advocate for me because of who I am, not because of what I do — there are hundreds of places to connect, Ecademy is special because of who it is. Life is not just about features and benefits, it is about emotion too. I wonder — what ‘emotion’ you give off; does it leave an impression of you?

So, when you 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 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.

 

 

Visibility and Credibility

 

Ivan Misner fellow BlackStar and Founder of BNI, teaches about V.C.P. (Visibility, Credibility and Profitability).

 

You need to have VISIBILITY — You need to be seen and known, Social Networks will enable you to achieve that.

You need to have CREDIBILITY — Blogging, testimonials and having a good network will give you that.

 

You need to be PROFITABLE — Being in your ‘flame’ will take you there faster.

 

Networking is about being talked about when you are not in the room. Networking is about building close relationships with others, and making sure they really understand your value — this will enable others to be your advocate. If you do not create this environment for yourself, then networking will be no different to telesales — you will just have to keep doing the numbers, and it will not be rewarding.

 

 

 

©  Penny Power 2008