I recently spent half a day with Thomas Power and attended his Digital Mind Set Seminar in London. The purpose of the seminar is to help attendees understand the role of the Ecademy Digital Coach and whether this is for them. Ecademy is one of, soon to be many, organisations which are moving its Social Media expertise into the coaching market. The reason for this is simple, there is a huge market of corporates and individuals who need to learn more about Social Media and Ecademy needs to scale its teaching business and use greater scale to leverage its knowledge.
But what does this all mean? What is a Digital Coach? Why is there a market?
Lets start with a definition. A digital coach is a teacher/mentor who can lead the change (in an individual or organisation) to adopt new business practices embracing Social Media. In Thomas’s words the company needs to move from a Closed, Selective, Controlling mind set to Open, Random, Supportive approach. Corporate Structures are based in the baby boomer theories of business which emerged with military-like hierarchies and processes following World War 2. Social Media today has no such structure, the content of your twitter streams are random, followers and friends are concepts which encourage support.
The transformation is effectively a 180 degree about turn in how companies address their markets – through online channels. The old offline channels will not work.
To be a digital coach you will need:
1. A sound grasp of the Social Media Ecosytem
2. A clear understanding of how to operate within the Ecosystem
3. An understanding of your client’s business and its customers
4. The ability to help your client devise a strategy consistent with its offline message to engage online
5. Staying power to take the journey with your client (and help them with the bumps in the road)
6. Continual evolution of your go to market strategy as the technology evolves and changes.
Is there one? In my opinion the answer is a resounding YES. I meet many companies and few of them have any idea of the importance of Social Media or the potential benefits it might have for business. I listen to many US based podcasts (see previous posts) and it is clear that (as usual) the US is already far ahead of us in the UK. I agree with Thomas Power – we are falling further behind not catching up. In part this is a generational problem – Baby Boomers are running these big corporates and yet Social Media requires a Millenial business approach.
The key problem is that the young start up companies are run by Millenials and they are changing the rules – frankly whether we Boomers like it or not. There really is no choice. Just as companies had to embrace “Just in Time” business processes to compete with Japanese manufacturing efficiencies in the 70’s and 80’s, today Social Media is throwing down the gauntlet!
Its time to Pick it Up!
What is the market opportunity for a digital coach? I would have thought it is considerable but I have not attempted any quantifiable market studies. Intuitively, taking a ROI approach, any significant sales arising from better connections with existing and new customers make the cost benefit analysis a no brainer. From the company’s point of view, a corporate could offer part fee, part % commission on additional sales. I would imagine that they would switch back to a fee based only structure quite quickly. For a Digital Coach to make a reasonable living, this per diem would have to be a sensible figure.
I think the required skills mix is more complex than just knowing about Social Media. I believe that coaching and training tools are important. As critical is the ability to hold your own in the Board Room infront of the collective board of the company. To my mind this means that some consultants will be comfortable advising large companies, others will be more suited to advising smaller companies or individuals. It will be critical to the success of the process that your advice is accepted and respected. That will be largely down to you.
Resistance is likely to be more than the “not invented here syndrome”. The “A” type personalities who typically make successful CEOs are likely to be the antithesis of the personality type who will naturally be inclined to address the issues of the apparent chaos of Social Media. It will be important to recognise this character based challenge and work closely with the CEO and the whole board to win their support. The best route to this may be to have a small pilot project which can demonstrate the effectiveness of the Social Media Strategy.
The challenge for the Digital Coach is to monetise his expertise. While so much is free on the web, good business advice is very valuable and should be priced accordingly. Chris Anderson, author of the “Long Tail” and “Free” talks about Freemium model. It is necessary to share some information for free (this blog is a good example – published under a Creative Commons licence), but beyond this some initial consulting can be charged on a day rate which is relatively low risk for the client and only later ask for commitment to a strategy process which would entail higher costs – but backed by the confidence that the pilot project has proven the model. Don’t let your clients think this is a freebie or a contingent arrangement. If they don’t pay you they won’t value you. It is important to have your fees and monetisation strategy clearly defined and ready to explain before you have your first meeting with the client.
In summary, I believe that there is a huge need and market for digital coaches. I have spent months and months learning about Social Media because I think it is important for corporate strategy and business development. If you think the Ecademy course and qualification might be for you, check it out here.
Full Disclosure: I am a Blackstar in the Ecademy Network but I have no financial arrangements with Ecademy regarding its Digital School. I am an informal (unpaid) adviser to Thomas Power and Ecademy. I have written this blog because I think what Ecademy is doing is important and not for any financial incentive or benefit.