Take Advantage of Network Effects with Mighty Networks Founder Gina Bianchini
Well thank you guys so much for having me. I am super excited to be here. And this is a topic near and dear to my heart. So, I am just going to introduce some of these thoughts with why I do the work I do. Because we're gonna kind of get into the value and business and all sorts of good stuff. But, so many people I know who are attracted to building communities are doing it for all of the right reasons. And so let's just have a moment of celebration for it, which is, fundamentally the reason why communities are so powerful is because each and every one of us wants to belong to something bigger than ourselves. And we as human beings want to belong to something bigger than ourselves. And when you as a leader, a businessperson, an organizer, can help people connect, not just to you, but to each other, and find their home, find their tribe, something really special happens. And, as you think about your role as, we talk about them as hosts. Because it's something we all actually know how to...
do a little bit. Some better than others. But, and I fall into the other category. (laughing) I almost feel like I'm much better at hosting a party online than I am at my house. But I still occasionally attempt that. They want you to break the ice. They want you to deliver instant value. And we'll talk about what that means. And as a host, when we do this, something really, really special happens. And I have seen this, I've been working in community software platforms for 13 years now, and prior to Mighty Networks I founded a company called Ning, which gave people a way to create their own social networks for anything as we talked about it at that point in time. And what I have seen over and over again is people being able to connect with a tribe in ways that they have never been able to connect before. And to become an even better version of themselves. And when we as hosts do this work, I mean there's no greater rush. And the ability and opportunity to have a profound impact, not just build a business, but to have an impact on someone and the lives of other people is something that I look at and I say, "Oh my gosh, like, this is the best way to spend my time." So quick commercial, Mighty Networks is our company. It is our software platform. We are not gonna talk about the software. But we are absolutely gonna talk about the strategy today. And as Tara introduced, I want to talk about network effects. So, community has come to mean so many different things to so many different people with the advent of social media. I actually think it's one of the great tragedies of social media that we think about building a community as I stand on stage, I talk out at you, you potentially talk back at me, and no one's talking to each other. And we are, we are celebrating this as one-to-one relationships and we're building these amazing communities. No we are not. Community forms when you are creating the conditions by which people can talk, meet, and build relationships with each other. And that is simply not happening when we are all yelling out into a feed. Or we are posting out. And you are posting back. And no one is actually connecting with the people that share the same interests. Share the same identity. Share the same goals. Share the same medical condition. Share the same practice. Share the same things that make us uniquely human. And again, I think that one of the most exciting things to me about kind of the reckoning that we've been having with social media over the last year is we have an opportunity to have a different conversation. Not just as business owners. And not just as entrepreneurs. But fundamentally how are we spending our time and how are defining community. Because I believe we should be defining community as how do we create the conditions by which people who have a shared interest or identity can meet, can build relationships, can actually take conversations and thread them and build on them and build on new ideas and create new things and innovate in new and interesting ways because we have a community that is not I talk out at you, you talk back at me, and no one's talking to each other. But that we are actually able to connect with the people who are going to help us be the best versions of ourselves. And to me that is the, the touchy feely part of network effects. And that to me is why I do this work. Why my team does this work. Why Tara does this work. Why you guys do this work. And, now I can shift into the fact, and it's a great friggin' business. (audience laughing) So, just to define terms. A network effect is the phenomenon by which a product or service gets more useful or more valuable the more people who use it. This simple concept that hopefully you sitting here today is like, "Well, of course. That makes perfect sense. That's completely obvious." Well, is it? When we think about the fact that we've defined communities as audiences. I talk out at you. You potentially talk back at me. And no one's talking to each other. Compared to the best businesses that exist today say something different. They're like, huh, if I actually set up the conditions by which you can meet you, and you can talk to you, and you guys can talk to each other, and I can introduce you because you guys actually live near each other, and then I can step back. And now I actually have done less work. You guys are actually getting a much better experience because you're connecting to people that you would not otherwise be able to connect to. Again, the value of the network with each new person who joins gets more and more valuable. And, everybody wins. To me this is the most obvious thing in the entire world. Which is that each and every person, the more that we have different and diverse networks that we can be a part of around a specific interest or a specific passion, a specific goal, the world's gonna be a better place. And then it also allows for each and every one of the hosts of each and every one of these networks has the potential to build something of value because as more and more people come in for that particular interest or that particular passion or that particular goal we have this amazing ability to create new and interesting and innovated networks and network effects because people are coming in. So, what's really fascinating about this topic, 'cause you should hopefully be asking yourself this question at this point which is, well, why haven't I heard about network effects before? Why is this the first time we're talking about it? And, I actually thought that what network effects meant was that you had to get millions and even billions of people together before you can actually make something valuable. Well that's just simply not true. So here's the beautiful thing about a network effect is that when you layer a genre, a specific kind of condition, a specific hobby, a specific interest, a specific goal, a specific purpose, a specific style of coaching or coaching business, you can create a network effect with a very small number of people. Because you are creating the conditions by which you are saying, "Hey this lifestyle, this methodology, this approach, is super valuable." And then as tens of people, and tens of tens of people, come in and participate in that network, and you've essentially allowed them to have a shared language, the network gets really valuable to each and every member even at small numbers. Which means that this amazing and powerful concept that has been really the foundation of every successful brand that you know and love and use everyday, is available to each and every one of us. And for hopefully obvious competitive reasons, meaning that somebody would prefer that you operate in their network effect than have your own, we don't talk about this. And it is a concept that every successful entrepreneur in Silicon Valley is thinking about day in and day out. And they want you to believe that it is hard. It required millions of people. And that you couldn't possibly build a network effect out on your own. Because otherwise why would you use their product. I think that's crap. (laughing) I think, I think the true power of the internet, the true power of connected technologies is all about unlocking a new breed of entrepreneur, online business, organizer, not for profit, for profit, C-corp, B-corp, I don't care. But each and every one of us has the opportunity with the right focus, or the right niche, to create network effects. And thereby creating a more valuable product and service and opportunity to connect people in new and interesting ways. And so, what does that mean in practice? Well, very simply today, and I actually, I'm super passionate about this because I actually think it's like a crime, which is that the most successful brands and businesses are built where you start with the network effect. You start with, hey, I'm setting up shop. And I want to bring people together who care about x, y, or z. Or that want to participate in my particular brand of coaching or my particular brand of diet, health, lifestyle, you name it. Methodology and approach for small business creation. You start with that. It has to be something that you own. You have full access to all the data so that you can actually figure out what's working, what's not working. And, that you hopefully can buy as a service because it means if we offer it and you can just set it up then more and more people have access to it because you don't have to be an engineer, you don't have to know how to code, you don't know, even know how to add a bunch of plug-ins to a word press site or stuff like that. Everybody's smiling 'cause everybody's tried to do that. (laughing) So, we believe, and certainly the data proves it out, which is, if you start with network effects you can start to do all sort of interesting things. Today the alternative is actually again a crime. Which is you can buy as a service a website from any number of hosted providers. Websites are static. They do not have network effects. They, a website does not get more valuable the more people who use it. An email list. Email lists are great. I love them. I use them all the time. I seem to get added to a lot of them. (audience laughing) But, even an email list does not actually get more valuable the more people who are on it. Because as far as you know, that's just one email that you're getting. And if I do that to this entire group, it's still just one email that you're getting. I'm talking out at you. An online store. An e-commerce store does not actually get more valuable the more people who shop at it. Now again maybe prices go down because you get economies of scale. But for the most part, it doesn't have a network effect. Even an online course, if it doesn't have a network effect or a community associated with it the course does not become more valuable the more people who take the course. And yet those are, each and every one of those, are online softwares or services that you can buy as a small business owner. The most powerful one, the most important one, each and every one of you have probably thought, oh, well, for my community I'm gonna set up a private Facebook group. And then I'll invite people in. And I'll send them around to these different places. So now all of the sudden you're doing a lot more work because you're managing a separate website, a separate email list, a separate store, a separate online course. Then you're sending your students, your customers, your members, your VIPs, the most important people to you, off to something else where you don't get any of the data. You're actually, the more people you work hard to bring in, the more that they are promoted other groups that are related to your group. And, you are trying to get their attention interweaved with updates from their friends and family, other groups. I sort of think about it as that super peppy dog where it's like, "Look, new toy. Shinny object." How can you build network effects if you have the most important and valuable piece to your business as a black box that you do not control, you do not own, you do not have access to? People are actually interacting with it and all of those stats that you have about it represents a view as 1.7 seconds. And then you're trying to send people off, they're distracted over here and you're sending them off to all of these other things that don't have network effects. No. We can do better than this. So, what, starting with a network effect gives you is a 10 x better customer experience. Because you basically are like, here's the one place to go. And in this one place, you are going to instantly connect to members who are near you, members who share the same category, members who are like you, members who care about the same topics, members who are taking the same course, members who believe in the same methodology and approach, and therefor as we are in this together, we are able to build on each other's ideas more effectively and more efficiently. The ability to make money and generate revenue, which them allows you to invest more heavily in making the content amazing or reach out to more people. Because again, you also know, that the ROI, the return on investment, of making money that then you can reinvest and bring in more people in is actually gonna get you more value. And also get you less work. Because as more and more people are talking it's like a party. It's like, maybe this is just me, but like, a great party is one where everybody is having an awesome time and I can go upstairs. (audience laughing) And I think that that probably makes me a bad hostess with the mostest. But at the same point in time, how awesome is that? And so, when I hear about people being exhausted. And how we as business owners and entrepreneurs are exhausted in this era of social media I think we have to take a step back and say what is making us tired. We're competing for connection. We are competing for attention. Where, when you actually say, look, not everybody's gonna come over into my little world that I'm creating and facilitate. Not everybody's gonna show up at my party. But when somebody shows up at my party I'm gonna have other awesome people there. We're gonna have great decorations. We're gonna have fantastic guest speakers. We're gonna have amazing music. And we're gonna give everybody the opportunity to share stories, their experiences, their ideas, interestingly not their advice. Because advice shuts down conversations. It doesn't actually facilitate them. The example I always use is, you should totally break up with him. Or her. And then it's like, they don't. And then it's really awkward. That's advice. (audience laughing) It shuts down conversations. It doesn't expand them and open them up. Which happens when you are sharing your stories, your experiences, your ideas, and inviting people to do the same. So, what's not to love? So, one of the things that at this point, you know, somebody's excited about network effects. And they're like, "Okay, what do I have to do to have them?" So, I'm sure there's a way that Diet Coke could create a network effect. I don't know what it is right now. What I do know is that the obvious opportunities for online business owners and entrepreneurs and organizers to create a network effect is when three conditions are met. One, members share an interest, an identity, a reason to connect to the other people who are taking your course or believe in the way and the lifestyle that you are promoting and you're building. Two, that they have a lot to do together. So I really love when there's a strong educational component or there's just a lot of meat. So if you think about anybody who's like a DIY maker. There's lots of different ways to do that. There's lots of different things you kind of have to get into and you have to understand to be able to do that. And that because of condition one and condition two, condition three is met. Which is, that you are motivated to meet other people who are in the same community. Who are in the same network. And that then there's all sorts of new and interesting ways for you to be able to meet the members who are near you geographically. The members who are like you because they are a certain kind of coach or they're a certain kind of business owner. I always use the example of a baker versus a wedding DJ. And that then you are able to have a lot of topics or things that you can connect to the people who have the same interests, the same topics that they care about. And so, when that happens you have the opportunity to do something super cool. I get asked this a lot. This is, this seems so obvious. This is your secret sauce. When you are creating a community, the opportunity is, you've gotta convince somebody to join your community. You've gotta convince somebody to joint your network in order to derive network effects. These are the greatest hits of why someone will join. They work over and over and over again. Which is, make better, more well-informed decisions about your practice, your condition, your lifestyle, your goal. It sounds kind of formal. So you can figure out a way to basically say it. But anytime that you keep going through the exercise of well what? Or why? And why? And why? It ultimately comes down to make better decisions about the thing that you care about. That's the power of joining a community that has network effects in it. Two, meet people like you. That's a pretty straight forward one. Three, support, encourage, and learn from each other. Our stories, experiences, and ideas. Not advice. This is actually a really popular one which is get answers to questions you can't get anywhere else. The things you can't Google. The other thing that's happening, especially when it's like people are just Googling for answers is, you know, people are very suspect about all of the SCO, how did, how am I seeing this thing from WebMD every time I wanna understand why I have that mark on my shoulder? And so what a community with network effects gives you is a face and a human being on the other side of that story. That then helps you look at it through the eyes of your own story, or the challenge or opportunity that you're navigating. And then you're able to really sort of piece those together and thread those together in new and interesting ways. And then it always is nice to be around people that get you. So there's inspiration every single day. So, how do we make this happen? So the beautiful thing about these motivations is that they will bring people in without fail. And when you layer on top of it more and more specific, whether it's a niche, or whether it's a genre, or a reason for people to get together. You know, one of the things I see a lot is everybody wants to have a really big idea at the beginning. Start narrow. And then add more and more narrow reasons. So that when you join a network, you're joining not because it is a network for women of the world. I've seen that more than one time. But instead it's about the specific type of lifestyle, or the specific type of condition you're navigating. So, number one, you have these motivations. You put it out into the world that you are already operating in. Whether that's physically. In your world. Whether that is online. In social media. And, you seed the network effect with getting out there with these motivations. From there, you're starting to build momentum because instantly members start to join. And they start to meet each other. So not only can you set up, one of our favorite things, it's like, what would you do at a party? Or what would you do at a conference? A retreat? You would have an icebreaker question. Everybody goes around the room. So we built that. So, and it works incredibly well. Which is just ask an icebreaker question. People start contributing. Other people can see other people's answers as they come in. If you actually ask people to contribute right up front as opposed to come in, lurk for two months, and then maybe answer something. They're gonna go away. There's, again, new shinny toy. Instead, get people to contribute right off the bat. And then you have this great opportunity because every time somebody contributes, it actually triggers a notification. Notifications then go out to the most relevant people. And those people come back in. And then as those, that loop happens, more and more people make it a habit. And then as more and more people make it a habit, you actually have more of a natural way of saying oh, this is where I go. Oh, you're a small business owner as well. Well, you should join coke commercial. It's awesome. This is what I get from it. This is what we're able to do together. Here's how I've made better, more well-informed decisions about my business by being a part of it. And it feels really natural. It's not, you know, content marketing referral things at the bottom of hypothetically speaking the Daily Mail. (audience laughing) And you're able to build this loop. And then as you build this loop, and more people make it a habit, you're actually having not just you having to share all of the time into social media, but you have the entire network of people sharing into social media. This is how brands are built in 2017. 2018. This is how you can create something incredibly valuable without being completely exhausted. You are exhausted because you are doing more work for less return because someone else is taking that return that you, that should be yours. So couple of different examples of this working in practice. Something called Better. I don't know if you guys have heard of an author named Gretchen Rubin, and her fantastic series of books that she has written over the years. Her latest is called The Four Tendencies. A tendency is basically, in her definition, how one responds to expectations that are put on them. So you can be a rebel. You can be a questioner. There's two more.
Obliger. Audra, what's the last one?
Upholder. (audience laughing) I, by the way, am not an upholder. Which is why I'm not surprised that I forgot that one. 76% of all activity in Better, which is you know driven, 45% of all members are in small groups. That they are actually doing what we just talked about together in a small group as well as in a larger community. Hairbrained is our, is the largest social network, professional network for craft hairdressers. So like the really crazy shit. (audience laughing) And it's amazing. It's beautiful. And, so, they have instruction. And they have inspiration everyday. 80, actually it's 86% of all activity is driven by members with other members. Own It was a small business network that we had. 97% of all activity was member-driven. And Beyond Type 1 is the largest social media brand for people with type one diabetes. 99% of activity in their mighty network is members for members. That also means that the hosts of the network are there. They're participating. They're involved. But they do not have to wake up everyday, stare into their phone with one eye and say, "Oh my god, this is what I have to do today. I have to, like what am I gonna to push out there? Like, what have I got?" You don't have to do that. You can have a party. Get it going. Have people. Have a great time and go to bed at 8 o'clock. Hypothetically. (audience laughing) So, how to turn this into, and apply this to your business? To your brand? We start with, just a simple question, and I think a lot of this is covered with slightly different language in the amazing community planning guide that you get as part of this course. How did I do? (audience laughing)
That was awesome.
Right? Right? I love this. So, how will your members discover your community? Your, again, network effect brand or business? And I'm really particular about talking about it in terms of a network, or a network effect, because I think the term community has come to mean so many things to so many different people. I was talking to somebody yesterday, and they were like, "Oh, I've been looking at all of these community platforms." I'm like, how many are there out there? Like I'm pretty familiar with the space. And she was actually talking about a website. She was talking about publishing. She was talking about how would she blog. And I was like, "Oh my god, why are you making your life so much harder if all you are thinking about in terms of a community is I talk out at you, you talk back at me, and you're not actually taking advantage and allowing and unlocking people to connect with each other?" So, how are your members gonna discover it? What is the first step you want them to take when they join? So this the icebreaker question. Or what kind of topics do you think are gonna be most engaging for somebody when they actually show up to your network? What, and how, are you gonna bring them back? So that can be with regular posting. It can be with polls and questions. We find those are sort of like the high fructose corn syrup of engagement. They always work. And they're actually, it's probably more like sugar 'cause it's kind of good for you. (audience laughing) You can learn a lot from them. And then how do you want to help your most engaged, or your most active members, take on more responsibility in the community? And level up? And you can do that in a number of different ways. But again, you're creating much more of a system and a network system where you're connecting people and you're also allowing people to ladder up. And then how and where will your members share and invite? Basically bringing more people into the network. Because again, with each person who joins, it gets more valuable. Which means that every single one of your members should be motivated to bring people in. That's how we invented social media in the first place. Each of us uploaded our address books. To like, bring people into LinkedIn. Or bring people into Facebook. Because the novelty of connecting to your professional network, or seeing you know, your childhood boyfriend or girlfriend or that long lost family member that you didn't, like you forgot about, was so profound. This next generation I believe will be driven by interests. Passions. Conditions. Goals. And I think that the way it's gonna happen is by individual online business owners, organizers, creatives, entrepreneurs, and innovators creating new and interesting network effects, brands, and opportunities for the people who share that interest, passion, goal, genre, market segment, whatever you want to call it. And this is truly just the loop that works. So, as you think about those individual questions in terms of bigger themes, it's discovery, onboarding, habits, mastery, and then sharing out. And, most of us have been to a junior high school camp retreat. It's kind of the same thing. This stuff is not hard. It does not require an engineering degree. It requires a love of a topic and a love of people. And you don't actually even need to love people in real life. (audience laughing) You just need to love them in terms of being able to facilitate and seeing the power of facilitating and curating and bringing people together in new and interesting ways. And each and every one of us has the opportunity to do this.