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Digital Mindsets: Creating the social networking game

internet

Penny Power, creator of Ecademy, believes that when it comes to social media, we shouldn't get tied up with the technology, we should focus on engagement.


It is 2010. Ten years into the millennium and 21 years since Tim Berners-Lee, the man credited with creating the world wide web said "The ultimate goal of the Web is to support and improve our existence in the world… we develop trust across the miles and trust around the corner".
So, is it living up to this promise?
My journey into the digital world started in 1998 when I created a network online, gave it a name – Ecademy, and without realising the significance of what I was doing, began to create one of the world's first social networks. My vision was simple, "...utilise the technology available to bring people together so that they can help one another and create wealth together". I saw the technology as a tool; I didn't love technology but I did love what it did for people. I wasn't transactional or commercial in my thinking, it just felt right to start this community.
 
"...we've watched people join networks with friendship in mind and we have watched people join with greed in their minds. Different objectives, which result in enormously different results."
Nearly 13 years have past since I first thought of this idea and began to execute it with my business partners, Glenn Watkins and Thomas Power. We have seen the rise of ecommerce, social networking and social media, we've watched people join networks with friendship in mind and we have watched people join with greed in their minds. Different objectives, which result in enormously different results.
Although I started a business-to-business network, it was always about friendship. Friends support one another, they are open with each other and they do not exploit each other. Five years after I started Ecademy we were blessed with the emergence of 'social networking'; finally we could give our business a name and it could become part of an industry. The 'social' industry. Social networking and social media became the buzz, simply owning a website, doing SEO (ensuring you were found on Google) and having a payment system (ecommerce solution) on your website was 'so last week'. It was expected that you would have a website, it was expected that you could be 'googled' and research could be done on your business and now, oh my goodness, people started to ask if they could 'connect with you', 'be your friend' and that is when we saw the world divide between transactional mindsets and supportive mindsets, or as I term it, that is when we discovered who had a digital mindset and who was still in the dark ages in their philosophy, but were determined to be online and connect all the same.
Connecting became a computer game. We all saw it; some of us took part in it. Who could be Number One on LinkedIn for their country? Who could have the greatest number of Twitter followers. Interestingly facebook made things tough, they capped how many friends you could have at 5,000. So now many social networkers are at their limit; they cannot have any more friends!
What is happening? How can businesses, large, small and tiny get a return on their invested time (and money) and actually make sense of this new world? This is not easy. There are thousands of social media experts shouting about their skills, but it is all about opinion. There are few proven models and success stories to say "they are right". For me, I look at what they are saying, how much others are talking about them, whether they are engaging, what their ethics are and yes, I look at whether they are on the networks and eating alongside us all and critically, how are they treating their 'friends' online.
 
"There is a step-by-step process to go through to understand your place in this online world, what I call these 'humanity networks'. It starts with understanding yourself, and then understanding the tools."
This new world is about engagement, but to make money at it is about recognising that being a friend online means openly, randomly and supportively helping people; finding the technology that allows you to do this without it impacting your daily working life. I look at my children and I see how they stay in touch 24/7 with their network of friends, sending supportive quick messages on their BlackBerry or iPhone, helping their friends out of a problem introducing them to one another, answering calls of help, providing assistance in real time through their network, solving problems without it having any impact on their ability to achieve their life goals at that time. They display digital thinking as they look to the technology to serve them and ultimately, although they don't know it yet, achieve a reputation within their network. It is this reputation and this ever-growing network that will feed many of them as they step into the world and look to their network to help them solve business problems.
Looking back at what Tim Berners-Lee said, it is the philosophy of this new world that needs to be understood and embraced, not the technology. Once you 'get' the reason why and you understand the heartbeat then the technology falls into place.
There is a step-by-step process to go through to understand your place in this online world, what I call these 'humanity networks'. It starts with understanding yourself, and then understanding the tools. I guess you could say the 'why' and then the 'how'. Once you know what you can offer that supports others you have started on the journey, but I suggest you don't create content, write blogs, build a library of YouTube videos of yourself until you understand the fundamental question:
"why would anyone want to follow you and share what you have to say?"
Penny Power is founder of Ecademy.com, a social business network that serves the needs of the small business in the digital age. Ecademy has now launched its Ecademy Digital School and is seeking people who would like to learn their coaching framework and become an Ecademy Digital Coach. For more information contact [email protected] or go to www.ecademydigitalschool.com to find an Ecademy Digital Coach.

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