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Lurker Alert: The Art of Audience, Student and Mastermind Group Engagement

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Who are those people who attend your mastermind group or class but never talk (or who friend you on Facebook or Twitter, but never respond)? And how do you get them talking?

Back in the mid-90s when I first went online via CompuServe (remember those days??), we noticed that for every 10 people looking at the message forum, one person was interacting and the other 9 were logging on and reading the message threads, but never interacting. Back then, we called them “lurkers” — people who didn’t participate actively in discussions, and this 10:1 lurker ratio was commonplace back then.

Fast forward 25 years, and we find that Lurker Ratio of 10:1 still exists – in online message forums, in my classes and webinars, in mastermind groups, and any other place where groups of people congregate offline and online.

In some places, especially Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and other online social media forums, the lurker ratio is closer to 100:1 — for every 1 person who participates, there are 100 people just reading and absorbing the conversation.

Why?

There are a number of reasons why people don’t comment on Facebook or blogs:

  • too busy
  • nothing to add
  • feeling shy
  • hard to use your technology

That’s why they use the “Like” button on social media: if they don’t want to leave a comment but want to let you know that they’re interested, they click it.

Jakob Nielsen calls it Participation Inequality. I see it most often with “virtual” groups of people who meet online or through video conference meetings.

Want to learn how to start a mastermind group? Click here to get my free video tutorial on how to start a mastermind group of your own.

But here is what I think is most important:

We all have something to add to a conversation — our feelings, our experiences, our knowledge, our questions. What comes from within counts for a lot with me. I love when people leave comments on my blog, interact in my classes, or join the discussion in a mastermind group meeting.

And let’s face it: the whole point of a mastermind group is to brainstorm together, right? Conversation brings immense value.

In your business, you want to build connections and relationships with your customers and your entire audience. Being aware of the lurker ratio when you’re using social media for marketing — as well as in your classes, groups and online message forums — will help you gauge the quality of your connections and relationships.

For all types of classes and mastermind groups, here are some guidelines:

  1. In live, in-person classes and mastermind groups, the lurker ratio is much better. There’s something about being face-to-face in a sharing environment (especially with a good teacher or mastermind group Facilitator) that brings people out of their shells and encourages them to participate. In my live classes and groups, I’d say that for every 100 people who attend, 30 will be lurkers. 10:7 isn’t a bad ratio!
  2. The larger the group, the larger the lurker ratio. Social psychologists call this the social loafing phenomenon.
  3. The longer the event, class or program, the lower the lurker ratio. Sometimes it takes while to get people warmed up. They might not begin to participate actively in the discussions until they get a feel for the others in the meeting.
  4. If you want high participation in your classes and mastermind groups, you have to build in interaction into your plan. Don’t wing it: plan it. Design discussion-starter questions that get the group talking within the first five minutes of every meeting.
  5. Pay attention to those who don’t ask questions or make comments. Call on them by name, or say, “Let’s hear from someone who hasn’t commented yet.”
  6. If your class or mastermind group includes an online message forum, set some rules. For instance, in some of my classes I’ve set this rule: each week all students must post one new message and reply to two messages that someone else has posted.

For social media engagement:

  1. Studies show that you get 65% more engagement if you post before noon, as compared to afternoons and evenings. My experience confirms this with my audience: they’re much more active in the morning on social media. Test it to see if it’s true with your audience, too.
  2. Don’t just post thoughts, ask questions, too. Instead of simply saying, “Hard work yields results,” consider adding a question to that statement, like, “Do you find this to be true for yourself?” Invite responses and comments.
  3. Comment on other people’s posts. It’s a two-way street. If all you do is post your own articles and thoughts, but never respond to someone else’s blog posts and Facebook posts, why should they communicate with you? It’s all about building relationships.
  4. Engagement isn’t just commenting. Make sure you put links in your blog posts to other posts that are related. When someone reads a blog post and clicks on a link, that’s engagement, too.
  5. Respond back. When someone responds to your blog post or social media post, respond back and acknowledge it. They need to know you heard them.
  6. Let them see you. Too many small business owners hide behind their content. They post links to articles on Facebook and Twitter, but they never share any of their own story. I don’t mean those “I used to live in a box but now I live in a mansion” stories…I mean everyday stories about what you’re doing, what you’re thinking, what you’re reading or watching, and even what you’re eating. Give them a window into your personal life. Yes, you can keep most of your personal life as private as you like — but telling them you made Chickpea Burgers for lunch isn’t an invasion of privacy, it just plain fun! 🙂

If your lurker ratio is still 100:1, take heart — it means that for every one person who responds to your post, 100 are reading what you write!

These are just a few of the tips to get people to join the discussion. I’m sure you have your favorite ways of getting your audience involved, yes? I’d love to hear your stories and thoughts!

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Category: Creating, Marketing & Teaching Classes, Internet & Social Media Marketing, Running a Strong & Efficient Business, Start and Run a Mastermind Group

9 Tips for Summer Business Cleanup and Planning

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Many businesses slow down in July and August, so summertime is a great time to get reorganized for autumn. September always reminds me of “back to school season,” the beginning of a new year.

While there are always plenty of tasks for organizing your office, remember to focus on your upcoming marketing campaigns and projects so that you don’t get that overwhelmed feeling come September and October.

Here are nine great tips for getting ready for September’s busy season this summer.

  1. Enter all revenue and expenses into your record-keeping system. If you don’t have a record-keeping system for your business finances, create one. You can use Quick Books or Quicken Home & Business to keep your records in tip-top shape, and get great reports to measure your financial success and the growth of your business.
  2. Reconcile your bank account records with bank statements. I don’t know anyone who really loves to reconcile bank statements, but as a business owner you have a responsibility to know where every penny enters and exits your business. Just the other day, while reconciling my bank statements, I noticed a $745 deposit that never showed up in my business checking account!
  3. Estimate your tax payment for the current year; typically you’ll have one more estimated tax payment to make in autumn and a final one for this year that’s due in early January of next year. Have a plan for saving money towards your tax payments so that you’re not caught short when the tax man cometh.
  4. Clean out old paper files, emails, and books you never read. Now’s the time to do a clean sweep of your office! You’ll feel so much better without the clutter.
  5. Speaking of books: take a look at your bookshelf and make a note of which books you’d like to read by the end of the year. You can choose them based on a topic you’re interested in studying, or just select them intuitively. If you’ve been wanting to purchase some new books, now’s the time to visit the bookstore or Amazon.com and browse their selection. And don’t forget your local library: why pay for a book that you just want to scan but don’t want to own?
  6. Compare your financial and other goals to your current reality. Are you moving towards your goals? What tasks do you have to do to make sure you complete the goals you’ve set in the time frame you’ve chosen? Make a task list and assign deadlines to even the smallest task, so that you’ll be on target for the year. And why not start day dreaming about your goals and projects for next year?
  7. Organize your desk. Put things that you need often in a logical place and things that you rarely use in a drawer or cabinet.
  8. Figure out a system for keeping track of your To Do list. The biggest anxiety producer that people face is having to keep all their tasks in their head.
  9. Plan next year’s vacation! Hey, why not??

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Category: Running a Strong & Efficient Business
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Courage, and the Self-Employed

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Each week, I hear people telling me they want to build their small business, but they don’t (or can’t) move forward on their dreams because they’re afraid.

There are so many things to be afraid of when you’re self-employed: fear of failure, fear of success, fear of illness, fear of lawsuits. No money, no time, no skills, no help, no support.

Being a small business owner takes a particular type of courage

You have to be willing to take action with no guarantees of success.

You have to be willing to put all your heart and soul into your enterprise, and you have to be willing to face and overcome the roadblocks that get in your way.

You have to be willing to dream big dreams — and have the guts to learn new things that you never knew how to do before.

On top of all that, you need the type of courage that shouts, “I must do this or I won’t have lived my life purpose!”

It takes strength, focus, and responsibility to succeed or fail on your own merits, and to be willing to ask for help or education when you need it.

Do you have it?

  • Do you have the courage to face your fears and keep walking towards your dream anyway?
  • Do you have the strength and dignity to act consistently and responsibly towards your business growth, on a daily basis, without whimpering in self-defeating behaviors and excuses?
  • Do you have the guts to set a big goal, create reasonable action plans that stretch and challenge you, and move forward on those tasks knowing that you have no guarantee of success?

Every business owner feels fear at one time or another

The next time you hear yourself saying, “I’m afraid,” reply with a knowing smile and say to yourself, “Join the crowd.”

Then, summon up that well of courage and take responsibility to create the life and business you’ve dreamed of.

Because, if you don’t have that type of courage, you probably shouldn’t be self-employed in the first place. Being self-employed is about challenging yourself and the world. It’s not about taking the easy way; it’s about taking the only way that will give you a sense of self-fulfillment and success.

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Category: Running a Strong & Efficient Business

Motivational Minute: Ben Zander on Leadership and Awakening Possibility

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A little inspiration…

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How to Pick the Best Training Class For You and Your Business

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Every month, you’re innundated with offers for workshops, classes, weekend intenstives, bootcamps, and webinars. How do you decide which one is best for you?

Here are six tips:

  1. Decide on your MOST important business goals first. Only choose classes which will help you achieve your business goals for this year. If you learn materials that you can’t implement immediately, you’ll forget most of what you learn by the time you really need the information.
  2. Decide how you like to learn — and how you learn best. Some people prefer intensive, immersion experiences; others like to learn a little at a time. Some people like to have time in class to practice what they’re learning; others like to take the exercises as homework and work on it at their own pace. Some people like small group classes where they can get one-on-one help from the instructor; others thrive on large conferences. Some people like a lot of interactive discussion with the other students; others want to have a ton of information given to them and find classroom discussions to be an interruption.
  3. Decide what you need to learn and at which level. For instance, say you need to learn about internet marketing techniques. Do you want an overview class, or do you want to learn a specific internet marketing technique? If you want to learn a specific topic, do you already know something about the topic (and therefore are looking for an “advanced” class) or do you want to learn from the very beginning, where an introductory class would be right for you? If you choose a class that’s too easy, or too hard, you’ll find your learning diminished.
  4. Decide how much time you have to devote to the learning experience. Can you take two days away from your business to attend a weekend bootcamp, or do you only have one hour a week available to attend a webinar series? For those training events that aren’t local to you, factor in travel time and costs.
  5. Decide on your financial budget. Most business classes should make you money, once you implement what you’re learning. But spending huge amounts of money on a training class when you can’t predict Return On Investment (ROI) can feel uncertain. Ask yourself, “How soon will this training repay me in increased revenue for what it cost to attend the training?” Do the math: how many new sales or increased sales will you have to make to recoup the cost of your training? How many hours will you save by implementing what you’ve learned?
  6. Choose the teacher with care. What is the instructor’s reputation, both as a topic expert and as a trainer? Have you ever sat through a class where the teacher droned on and on? No matter how exciting the topic, a boring, poorly prepared teacher will put you to sleep instead of offering a training experience that helps you to cement your learning in your mind and in your daily life. And a self-serving teacher who only wants to upsell you to the next level will dimish your learning (and your attitude towards them). Be sure to ask your friends and colleagues about their experience with different instructors.

Lifelong learning is an extraordinary backbone to a successful business. Just be sure you choose the best class, and the best instructor, for you and your business. Then, sit back and enjoy the training experience!

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Category: Running a Strong & Efficient Business

Warming Cues to Make Your Prospective Customers Feel Welcome

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I know you’ve heard it a thousand times: make your prospective customer feel welcome and safe while they’re learning about your products and services, and they’ll buy from you.

But when you actually see this in action, it’s a miracle to behold.

One afternoon, with several hours to spare before I had to appear at a speaking engagement in New York City, I wandered into Macy’s Herald Square. It’s one of the busiest department stores in New York, and it didn’t help that it was pouring rain and everyone wanted to get inside to dry off a bit.

So how does Macy’s welcome its customers? With the most brilliant — and inexpensive — solution that can be handed out at the door on a rainy day: Umbrella Bags. A very nice man in a very nice business suit stood at the door for hours, offering people plastic bags (with the Macy’s logo on it, naturally!) so that they could tuck their wet umbrellas away while they shopped.

You might think this is no big deal, but if you’ve ever shopped in a crowded store, trying to figure out what to do with your web umbrella is a real distraction. Macy’s made every person who walked through the door feel welcomed and cared for.

Net result: less distracted people who could focus on buying.

Now apply this to your business:

  • If you have an office or a place where you meet customers, how welcoming is it? What color is the decor? Do you see to their basic and common needs, like bathrooms, water, etc.?
  • If your business has a website, do you give them the information they’re looking for, in a simple and speedy way? Are your text, graphics and colors friendly and welcoming?
  • When you answer the phone or connect via video conference, how is your voice modulated? Do you act rushed or do you relax into the conversation and create a great environment?
  • When you answer emails, what’s the tone of reply coming off your keyboard?

Make your customers feel welcomed and cared for, and they’ll return again and again.

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Category: Running a Strong & Efficient Business

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