Working online can be a really isolating experience. Yes, there are networking and training events – and, we are all real people so there is an opportunity, if you live nearby to someone, to catch up and share a drink. But how many of us do?
Masterminding, brainstorming and just kicking around potential ideas until it forms into something that you can use – is one of the best ways that excellent products are created, better traffic methods are generated and wow… the monetization techniques that I would have never thought about without going through the process with some people – well, it makes money whichever way you look at it.
My main excuse for not getting to as many offline events as a few of you guys get to go to, is that I live out in the sticks (ok… not actually in the sticks… but far away). I catch up with people at the odd Affiliate Summit get together, or if someone I know heads ‘Down Under’ I will try and see if I can meet up. I also know though, that although I don’t get to meet face to face with people – it’s ok, there ARE other options.
Nothing beats hanging out in a bar with some amazingly clever people, or sitting down to a brainstorming session over coffee and Chinese takeout… but there are some tools online that let you have the ‘bar’ experience, minus the overpriced bar tab.
There are tons of options, and I would welcome you to share some more with me. I generally try to not get too involved in TOO many places, because if you are not careful it can just become a major time-suck, rather than a catalyst to more powerful action. Here are my top 3 places that I like to go, to bounce ideas around, do some brainstorming, learn from people who know their sh*t and everything else that comes with niche specific mastermind groups.
If you aren’t familiar with Skype (omg… where have you been…), it is an instant messaging tool that lets you keep in touch with people from around the world. In 2011 it was bought out by Microsoft and is a bit more commercial.
Skype lets you do text type, or voice/video chats with people either free (if you are contacting via a person’s Skype account) or for a really low cost when you are phoning them.
Most people have Skype running in the background as they work, so it is a great tool if you want to get in touch with people fast – and it is a pretty reliable way to get a message through.
A Skype chat group lets you pull a bunch of people (I think the max limit is 300) into a single chat room, so you can all talk and share information which becomes visible to the whole group. It can be really useful to be a part of a larger group, because chances that somebody will be online to help you out, bounce ideas around etc, is higher – and it also gives you more of a chance to connect individually with these people after you have ‘met’ them from within the group and plenty of scopes to develop that relationship further in private chat.
There are chatrooms for IM’ers in general, some product/launch announcement rooms, straight mastermind rooms, adswap rooms, platform-specific groups and more. The Mutrie boys have a good room, so does John Cornetta – just ask if you want intro’s into them.
1. The biggest problem with managing Skype mastermind groups is that it is just too time to consume to sift through all of the chat that comes through. Get 100 people into a conversation and maybe… only 10-20% of what is said, is going to apply to you.
The easiest way to deal with this issue is to change your notification settings. You can change the chat notifications for each different group you are part of so that it only alerts when certain words are typed into group chat – and doesn’t ‘blip’ with comments that don’t relate to you.
Doing this is easy on a mac. You right click on the group name and open up the menu that says ‘notification settings’. I set it to ‘notify me only if these words are mentioned’ and place my name, my product names and the word group into there – and then if those words are said by anyone – I will get notified. I also check the box where it says to mark unread messages as read immediately.
If I have time some days, I’ll flick through whatever else is being discussed – but my productivity and output is my priority. I am not sure how to do this on a windows machine, so if anyone knows how you set that up and wants to share it!
2. The other thing I wanted to mention is to not be afraid to add people as contacts. If you meet someone that you want to talk more with one-on-one, or do some more business with, add them. Instant messaging with people, or if they have the time, getting on the phone with them for a few minutes (always ask first), is a great way to get to know people and make a ‘meeting’ into a more productive and long-term partnership.
3. Finally – it probably goes without saying… but DON’T is a dumbass and spam people. There, I said it.
Most people have Facebook accounts now too – it’s a great way to stay in contact with people, reconnect with family who lives far away and talks about your awesomeness in front of people you used to go to school with. It has become one of THE biggest time sucks though, with games, meme posts and of course ‘poking’ – so although there are some good uses for it, you really need to be good at managing your time and just being aware of how much time you are spending there – or you could just end up losing entire days.
Finding Facebook groups is pretty straightforward. You can do a search in the search bar and then when you see a group that looks like it is going to be targeted and beneficial to you, you can request to join it by hitting the button to the top right of the page.
If you wanted to learn more about setting up groups, joining them and commenting in there, Facebook has a list of FAQ’s for FB groups here.
- Almost everyone has an account
- You get notifications when someone posts in the group (instant eyeballs)
- You can put names to faces – it humanizes people and makes everyone more ‘real’
- Easy to get fast social proof
- No limits on the number of people in a group, so you can get large exposure or feedback pretty fast
- You can ‘tag’ people into certain threads of comments if you want to grab someone’s attention
- You can have multiple threads/topics running at once and it doesn’t get confusing.
- Difficult to select WHO sees WHAT content
- Too many distractions
- Segmenting social life from Business can be difficult
- You have to GO to Facebook to see messages, instead of it being something you constantly have open
There are now a lot of different products that work together with Facebook to give you more exposure for your ideas/websites/blog posts etc. Some networking applications work within Facebook like BranchOut, BeKnown and lately Klout allows you to connect on a more business/professional level too.
LinkedIn is probably still one of the best professional online connection resources – allowing you to build your online network, meet like-minded people to work together.
What I didn’t know (until Len Wright showed me recently) is that there are groups similar to Facebook groups – where you can post questions to the group, get feedback etc. and there are heaps of them – full of professionals in your niche that you probably haven’t had a chance to talk with yet.
Something else pretty cool is that they have a directory of the groups here: Linked in Group Directory – downside is that there isn’t a search function in the directory, but you can do group searches from within your LinkedIn account.
LAST MINUTE WRAP UP…
I have deliberately avoided adding some of the actual group names and/or links for accessing them – because in a few cases, these are by invite only – and I really don’t want to take away anything in the effectiveness of these groups by turning them into public rooms and annoying the owners of these groups with tons of not-so-useful connections. If you think that you could really benefit and contribute to some of the groups though, and want more info – introductions or whatever, just ask me and I’ll let you know what will be a good match for you.
Also, there are a bunch of Skype, Facebook, LinkedIN (etc….) groups that are niche specific that I haven’t gone into a lot of detail either. If you have a specific need, i.e. one for Health and Fitness marketers, or CPA guys, mobile marketing – app development, Personal Development etc. there are a LOT of things out there. Please share with me if you have come across any (not only in IM), or if you want some intro’s to people who are part of various niche groups too.