I joined Ecademy in March 2008 and was full of interest and excitement as I hadn’t come across anything quite like the site before. Online networking was new to me then and I was keen to talk to as many people as possible to get my name known and my business recognized somewhere other than this blog, which was 6 months old at the time.
There was a flood, literally, of new contacts in the first few days of my membership. It seems some members, particularly the black stars, who prey on the new joiners and catch them totally unawares. I was flattered at the attention, all these impressive business people striving to add me to their contact list. After a while though, my research showed me that there are several tools that are available to black star members that the mere mortals such as myself where not privy to. It seems the black stars can send standard messages to anyone who joins and anyone/everyone in their contact list. Every time they write a post they email me, every time they post a marketplace listing, they email me, every time they start a club or are looking for members to their club, they email me, every time they do anything, they email me.
Other membership levels there are power networkers, of which I was one, and free members. Although there are some good and genuine people on Ecademy, They are hard to find and I stumbled on a few by pure chance that I want to keep in contact with. Actually 5 out of 272 (my contact list at date of leaving). Not a good percentage eh…
The power networkers seem to resent the black stars because of the way they keep pestering everyone as I mentioned above as I was invited to join a power networkers club – strictly no blackstars allowed!
So it became clear there is a two tier structure at Ecademy which was not particularly pleasant. Each time I posted an article or a listing, the same few “experts” immediately, I am talking of a few minutes, literally, commented and pushed their own point of view. Some of the comments were not pleasant, or called for, but these “experts” did not post their own views up for others to read – I wonder why!
I was a member of a club specifically aimed at Ecademy members in the East Midlands. For months there was talk of starting regular meetings in the real world. Endless discussion but only 1 meeting actually took place recently in Long Eaton at a time I couldn’t attend. Oh well. Up until I left there was no feedback about this meeting so I have no idea how it went. I would have thought though, if it had gone well, they would have told the club members at least.
There are some good points about Ecademy that I will miss. Within a few hours of joining and setting up my profile, I was on page 1 of google for my name. That was cool! The articles and blogs, despite attracting all the attention they did, are found in google and other search engines due to the key words and the little summary box Ecademy have on the site when you post them.
The main drawback though was constantly being contacted by people to be added to their network. These people often didn’t bother reading my profile to see if I may be remotely interested in them or their business, to see if we had any common interests. And these contacts came from all over the world. A fantastic achievement for Ecademy who are trying to build a worldwide network and helpfully show your ranking in the UK and globally constantly. But a bit tiresome. I doubt I will ever leave this country, and I doubt even more if my business will stretch even to France, let alone New Zealand or India or Chile, or Morocco or China or……
So what now?
Back in July, I was approached by a chap called Mark who was starting a UK only business online community. He was experiencing the same problems with Ecademy and started approaching others who were flamed each time they posted, or constantly had helpful and free suggestions to offer other Ecademy members for no financial reward to see if setting up such a forum would be of interest.
Well it was, and it is. I am now a founder member of a forum called UK Business Labs. I advertise it here on my blog because I like it. I really like it. There is no pressure to find unknown people and chase them to be added to a contact network. No major ego’s at work. Just UK business people who want to avoid some of the loneliness of being in business on their own, who want to chat about topical issues of the day, who want help with their websites or business models, who sincerely want to help other people in the same boat as themselves just because they can.
There is ample opportunity to write profiles, blogs, advertisements and postings that are all search engine visible and guess what? My UKBL profile appears in google above Ecademy. That is an amazing triumph for a forum that has been going just a few months. Ecademy have been at it for more than 10 years!!
I did think I would have more regrets about leaving Ecademy but no. I only now have to concentrate on one site which is a real pleasure to visit. There have been occasional attempts to spam the forum by new members but the moderators are on top of this and deal with it immediately. I can ask any question on the forum about business, topical events or stuff in my personal life and get solid, measured, helpful, friendly, meaningful responses.
The forum is UK centred so there are no approaches from elsewhere that are destined to go no-where.
So, if you want to find me these days, look on UK Business Labs and say hello. Have a good look round and you might actually start to realize that what I have been saying is right. It must be because membership is growing daily and there are a lot of ex and current Ecademy members already there!