Four years as a member of Ecademy

June 5, 2008

I’ve been a member of (a social network for business people) for four years now.  I’m still a newbie in many respects, because some members have been on the site for ten years.  I’ve ‘met’ 2928 people on Ecademy and continue to connect with people most days.  Last night for example, I had a beer with Richard Derwent Cooke – someone who I’d not met before but whose Blogs are good reading.  He’s an expert on managing change in large corporates and he made great company.

So what have I noticed about Ecademy in those four years?

For starters, it reflects real life. That might sound like an obvious thing to say, but there is a perception that because Ecademy is an online community it is somehow different from real life. But increasingly it is real life – particulary for the increasing numbers of people who have the Internet integrated into the fabric of their daily lives. Unfortunately for many larger organisations, they just don’t realise this yet.

Only the day before I was talking to a major (global) high street brand about integrating Social Media into their marketing and communications mix. The meeting was in London, and a senior manager responsible for ‘customer experience’ had come over from Bristol. After listening carefully and politely to my presentation he said:

“I hear what you’re saying…” (You know what’s coming next)

“…but this is something we just don’t do.”

I mentioned that his customers do – every day.

“No they don’t” he responded.

“How do you know they don’t?” I asked

“They just don’t… (pause) do they?”

A live demonstration of Ecademy proved that they do indeed. Four years on Ecademy has shown that whilst there are more and more members joining from the corporate world, this new way of interacting and engaging with their customers is still very alien to them. They will need their hands holding for a while yet until they understand what ‘customer experience’ is all about in the modern world.

Then it occured to me that every supplier to my business is from Ecademy. Even the person who’s supplying our hens is now thinking of joining wink

The idea that you might choose a supplier simply based on their profile, recommendations and testimonials – and without even meeting them would seem daft just a few years ago – but I suspect it happens all the time now.

Four years on Ecademy has shown that the platform itself, and the increasing number of other social networking tools now available adds a lot of value to the lives of thousands of people. It’s clear that different people are using Ecademy for different reasons, and often one person dislikes the way other people use it.

I for one enjoy the richness that this brings, and don’t mind if some people use Ecademy solely to attract Google. I don’t mind if some people use it to blatantly sell their products and I don’t mind if some people use it to enhance the perception of their expertise and credibility. It’s real life – just online.

We all have our own views on how Ecademy should be used, but there’s no doubt that the people who work hard to add value appear to be well thought of. For those people who do use Ecademy just to blatantly sell their products – good luck to you. But a key message has to be that the more you try to sell – the less you’ll actually sell. And anyway – there’s a place for that – Marketplace. But either way – you’re welcome.

What of the future?

Ecademy will continue to grow. Members will come and some will go. Some will join in and some will lurk. One thing’s for sure – there will be fun, arguments and business to write – just like in ‘real life’. The only option is to enjoy it.

But whatever the shape of online social networking in (say) 2020, and whatever the latest toy is – it will still be all about people.

People buy people. Never forget it.