Is Ecademy's brand value a true reflection of what it can offer to members?
On this occasion, Glenn asked me for my perception of Ecademy in the general marketplace. Although Ecademy clearly provides a lot of value, including substantial value to my business, I don't think it is sufficiently well-positioned in the public's mind. In this sense, the site suffers the same fate as many other networks, both online and off.
As I have often stated, people are joining networks because they are invited and not because they have aligned the benefits of their membership with challenges they are facing in their business. Even when they do have a benefit in mind, such as new business development, I believe that many fail because of a lack of strategic thinking. Little focus is given to exactly how the network they have joined can help and what they must do within the network to ensure those results.
In my opinion all networks, both online and face to face, need to focus more on the value they add to people's businesses and less on their features if they want to win over the cynics. People are being turned away from Ecademy, LinkedIn, BNI and others because of the mass of functionality/formats available, and general noise. The message they need to hear FIRST, is "This is the difference participation in this network will make to your business".
I have written elsewhere about the different reasons we network. In general people network for one, or a combination, of three reasons. We network to become:
- Better known (profile building)
- Better equipped (brain building)
- Better connected. (referral building)
If you understand how each of these areas are relevant to your business you can look to networking events and networks and ask how they can then help you overcome your challenges. Your networking strategy can then be built around your individual challenges and how each network might help you overcome them.
Different people will join networks for different reasons. For example, for me LinkedIn is a referral-building network (helping me become better connected). Twitter helps me build my profile (becoming better known in the process) while Mastermind groups I join help me overcome my challenges (better equipped). That doesn't mean that I won't get other benefits from each of the networks I join, but I do understand my primary reason for being there.
In conversation with Glenn, we identified that Ecademy is strong in all three areas. The challenge is communicating those effectively to both existing and potential members so that everyone understands how to maximise the value from the site. You could, quite easily, use Ecademy for all three areas. The difference is the understanding of what you are trying to achieve and how your activity helps towards that goal.
If you wanted to raise your profile using Ecademy, you have the ability to blog and comment on blogs. You can seek out the groups that reflect the area in which you want to raise your profile, whether geographic, industry specific or interest specific. Ecademy have just introduced Company Profiles, which can take your profile to another level, while the SEO optimisation on the site, together with integration with other social networks such as Twitter, help to spread your name beyond the confines of the network.
If you are looking for brain-building and personal development once again Groups come in handy. Find the groups populated by people with the expertise you seek and ask questions and follow the debates. You can do the same with blogs and polls while the live events, such as Blackstar Boardrooms and Training events introduce you to people who are happy to help you overcome your challenges.
I am a member of Wild Card Pack (WCP), a group on Ecademy who, among other activities, meet every month to brainstorm members' challenges and will also offer support through the forum on Ecademy. Members of WCP helped me to turn around my business when I was focusing on the wrong areas and was one of the groups of people I turned to for feedback on my new website before launching it this week.
Most of my referrals come through Ecademy. They have come through building trust and developing relationships with fellow members over the years I have been involved. Many of those relationships have been accelerated by membership of Blackstar and, through that, WCP. You can't rely on the site itself to build the levels of trust needed to develop a referral relationship with someone, you need to meet regularly face to face. But the site does help to both bring like-minded people together and to maintain a presence in each others' minds when you are not in direct communication.
There is tremendous value to be found in membership of networks like Ecademy, but my fear is that they are being obscured by the noise made by mass-connecting without engaging, spam messages and self-promotion.
More effort is needed by people who truly understand networking to get the message across about where the value truly lies. It is in all of our interests to guide and educate people to use networks effectively. As we do that, there will be less noise and more people who understand the value of co-supportive relationships and network with more focus.