Is a digital coach worth paying for?

A bit of a debate has kicked off on Quora prompted by the question “How much should a digital coach be paid to help develop and implement a social networking strategy?” Answers  varied from “impossible to answer” to “zip, nada, squat”. As I read through the difference in opinion it became obvious to me that the root cause of the disagreement is the fact that the term Digital Coach is not really understood. Or at least, there isn’t a definition that we can all agree on.

So, what do we mean by a digital coach? For a start, a coach, digital or otherwise, is not a consultant. To be clear, a consultant is someone who advises someone else directly using knowledge transfer. Coaching purists would say that a coach NEVER gives advice. Rather they help the client to find the right solution for them based on insightful and probing questions. The benefit of sector experience for a coach means that they know WHAT questions to ask. But they don’t do the DOING bit. Nor do they advise.

Digital coach is a recent term that I think applies more to assisting individuals than to business teams. Sure, the individual may own a business, but the business requirements themselves are met by social media/digital consultants. In the current climate where more and more of our lives are conducted online and through social networks, understanding the landscape is critical for one’s success in whatever endeavour we may be pursuing. However, for many people this landscape is foreign and very scary. Believe it or not there are people out there who have only just got onto facebook, they haven’t heard of Linked In and think that Twitter is something to do with Stephen Fry. For these people, learning to go digital is something that they need support with. They need someone to hold their hand and help them to make the right decisions (not TELL them). And it is for these people that digital coaches will be useful. These people will need to get their head around what they want to be saying about themselves in the digital space, how they present themselves and what networks they should be a part of. And then, the big bit - get comfortable using it all and adopting the digital/social mindset. All this is why coaching is a critical part of the process. Nobody else can tell you what you should be saying about yourself, or indeed what’s right you, other than you. Hence a coaching approach is more appropriate than a consultative one.

So, back to the question! If you can find someone who uses a coaching-led approach with a blend of gentle guidance and credible knowledge of the digital landscape with an ability to help you get started, then surely that is worth paying for. Especially for someone who hasn’t set foot online properly.

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The rise of the digital coach?

Yesterday I attended a session run by Ecademy’s Thomas Power. They’re in the middle of recruiting what they’re calling Digital Coaches for their Ecademy Digital School.

Digital Coach is a term that was coined by Seth Godin in few years back. I’ve only recently come across it. If it sounds new to you, then let me take a few moments to share with you how they define such a person;

• A digital coach teaches you how to do things digital and how to get those things done.

• They help you to use value and optimise Twitter, Facebook, Ecademy, YouTube, LinkedIn etc

• A digital coach understands the difference between personal branding and company branding

• A digital coach is a friend, ally, support service, professional lifesaver, protector and brand guardian.

• They are someone who is a companion and change agent who helps businesses transition and benefit from the Digital World.

During the session Thomas spent a lot of time delivering a very clear message:

if you do not define yourself you will starve

If you can’t define yourself, then other people won’t be able to either. And, if they can’t, then they can’t recommend or refer you. Bummer eh? But you know what? Working that out isn’t a quick process. I have the T-shirt!

Thomas shared a great quote from Penny during the session

“Network value happens when others talk about you when you’re not there”

This quote is very similar to another great quote by Amazon’s Jeff Bezos

“Your personal brand is what people say about you when you’re not there”

So, what we’re talking about here is the same thing, we just can’t agree on a good name for it.

The old adage, it’s not what you know it’s who you know has never been more relevant than today. Thomas rammed this point home several times. Generation Zero have grown up having hundreds of friends, connections and followers. For them, having a network of people who know them for being them is natural. It’s everyone else who needs to worry. Everyone else needs to start thinking about growing their network. Not only that, they need to ensure that their network know who they are. And by this I mean, know what they stand for and what they can be relied on. Oh look! Now we’re back to branding!

So, both Penny and Jeff are talking about the same coin, just different sides. Yes, you need to know what you stand for and can be relied upon for, but then you need to leverage the power of the network. And today, that network is online. If you’re not engaging and publishing online, then you’re not visible. If you’re not visible, then you won’t be chosen.

Oh dear!

And that’s where Digital Coaches come in. They can help you to both these things and walk with you on the path to discovering and defining who you are.

If you’re reading this and thinking “I’m an employee not a freelancer or a business owner, I don’t need to worry about this sort of thing”

WRONG!

Just ponder this; in 2017 all of IBM’s 400,00 employees will become suppliers. How do you think that is going to affect other employees?

In the current climate of austerity and cutbacks, many businesses are moving to using contractors and virtual teams, so now more than ever, defining yourself clearly is a matter of survival.

Have you defined yourself?

If you want to have a chat about discovering and defining YOUR brand, give me a call!

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