If you’ve read my new book, Superfans, then you know that we’re at a crossroads when it comes to how we engage with communities online. On the one hand, the traditional social media tools like Facebook that we’ve been using to build communities have gotten so hard. On the other, it’s getting harder and harder to even know if you’re reaching everyone, even if they’ve said that yes, they want to hear from you. What’s more, you put all that hard work in to drive engagement and what does Facebook do? It recommends all the groups that are similar to yours to actually drive people away from your community.
For all these reasons, I’m super psyched to have a conversation with Gina Bianchini, the founder of a platform for communities called Mighty Networks. This tool lets you create your own groups and puts you back in the driver’s seat. Your users get more control over what they see, and you can rest easy knowing that your content is actually getting in front of the people who need to see it. Courses and billing are integrated directly into the platform, so you can have a public community, a smaller private one for your mastermind group, and another one for your class.
This conversation with Gina was so great, and echoes a lot of things I’ve been hearing and talking about with my team as we think about what we’re going to do in the future. One thing she talks about that really resonated with me is the feeling that Facebook’s algorithm has been increasingly outrage-driven. She talks about one customer with a large Facebook group, in the tens of thousands, who set up a parallel Mighty Network as a test. They made the same posts, pushed the same content, and what they noticed over time was that the Facebook conversations had that same intensity and outrage, so much so that they eventually made the switch and went all-in on Mighty Networks.
There are so many more amazing nuggets of wisdom and insights that Gina has around building courses and communities that create that network effect feedback loop effect you’re looking for, so listen in to the full episode and enjoy.
- Why what people really crave is community.
- The tool Gina created in 2011 that really caught my interest.
- Why Gina believes communities need to be creator-led.
- What she took away from Superfans.
- How you can start small with creating your course.
- How Mighty Networks gives you more control and more data.
- How they’ve used their customers to roll out new features.
- Why you’re already asking people to move if you host courses.
- What one creator discovered when she compared interactions on Mighty Networks and Facebook.
- Why Mark Zuckerburg never wakes up in the morning worried about his content.
- Mighty Networks
- The Mighty Networks Community Design Masterclass
- Superfans by Pat Flynn
- Will It Fly by Pat Flynn (Amazon link)
- Course From Scratch
- Find What Feels Good Kula
Pat Flynn: Back when I started Smart Passive Income—this was back in 2008—the community lived on the blog. People were leaving blog comments and that was how we connected. And then, later on, social media came about and first it was Facebook pages and that worked but then they throttled that. And then Facebook groups has become a big thing and that still continues to be a great thing. What I've realized over time is that people crave community. They crave supporting and seeing and meeting with and being a part of groups of people like themselves and no longer are blog comments the place. Facebook groups, although still quite popular, there's a lot of them, we're subscribed to many of them. It's just more noise in our feeds now. How do we best build our community, attract people who are similar and serve them better and have them serve each other too? Today we're talking about just that with Gina Bianchini, the founder of Mighty Networks.
The funny story is back in 2010, 2011 and even a little bit before that, there was a tool called Ning that just came out. I don't know if you might've recognized the name, N-I-N-G, and it was this place where any person can go and create their own community and it was hosted on Ning. You would get people to sign into it as members and they would connect with each other, much like you would with a Facebook group. It was just a cool platform to be with people who are just like you. But then for whatever reason that company went away.
It's interesting because Gina was also a founder of Ning, so she founded Ning and then some stuff happened and I didn't get into the details of that in this conversation. But she's back and she's with something even more powerful. That is Mighty Networks, this platform that any of us could use to potentially bring in our community in a place outside of social media with more control. With the ability for people to see what they need to see, not what some other giant company with investors to pay chooses for you to see or whatnot. Anyway, we have an amazing conversation today about community, how important it is, the idea that if you don't do this, you're actually going to be left behind. Your competitors are going to bring people in because this is what humans crave, belonging community. Something I talk about in my book, Superfan and something I'm excited to chat with Gina today. But first before we get to that, let's get to the intro. Let's do this.
Announcer: Welcome to the Smart Passive Income Podcast, where it's all about working hard now so you can sit back and reap the benefits later. Now, your host, if he was stranded on a desert island, the one thing he'd bring would be his ukulele (and a firestarter), Pat Flynn.
Pat: Hey everybody. Welcome to the Smart Passive Income Podcast. This is Session 405. My name is Pat Flynn, here to help you make more money, save more time and help more people too. Let's just dive right in to the conversation today with Gina Bianchini, the founder of Mighty Networks.
Hey Gina, welcome to the Smart Passive Income Podcast. Thank you so much for being here today.
Gina Bianchini: Thank you for having me. I'm excited to be here.
Pat: This will be a lot of fun. I want to talk to you a lot about Mighty Networks and the idea of community and why we should all be thinking about building a community and why not on places that we already have access to. But before that, I want to talk a little bit about your history because when I learned about you and I learned that you were also the founder of Ning, N-I-N-G, for those of you listening, I got really excited because I was a member of Ning. Tell me about why community and creating groups of people online who are all interested in a topic or each other. Has that always been a part of your nature to be a connector like that?
Gina: Yes. As soon as you were asking that question, my answer was because people are awesome. The thing that makes people awesome is their interests, their passions, their stories, their curiosity. With Ning, our whole approach—and this goes back to the early days of social networking and for those of you who remember it was called “Web 2.0.” It was the services that were emerging out of the ashes of the dotcom bust. That was really the beginning era of social networks and social networking and where Facebook was about connecting people you already knew. LinkedIn was about your professional identity. Where we were focused at Ning was on all of the interests and passions and topics and choices that make us all really unique and amazing as human beings. Our whole approach was there wouldn't be one or two dominant social networks that we're supposed to do everything in one place but rather there would be this rich, vibrant world of millions of different social networks for every conceivable interest and passion and goal and purpose.
We were probably fifteen years too early on that idea, flash forward to 2019 and 2020—there are some very real trends that have been afoot for the last ten years that makes it a really special time and moment. I believe that that original vision of Ning where we would live in a world similar to the internet, where there are millions of different websites and people have different websites for different purposes and building brands and communities and selling products or selling services. What we will see over the next five years—and I'm happy to talk about what I think those trends are—but what the end result is going to be is a world where we get our choice of different communities that we want to go deeper with.
The reality is that the friction is just simply so low today between apps and between notifications and all of the things that now exist for a creator to be able to build their own community that connects people in such a way that it gets more valuable to everyone with every new person who joins. That this vision that . . . I've certainly had and we had it at Ning and are passionate about it at Mighty Networks, where we'll live in a world of many different communities that allow us to go deeper and build new relationships with people around the things that are most important to us is as normal as breathing.
Pat: It takes me back to even before Web 2.0 stuff and it was Bulletin Boards I think, and forums . . . like this has always been a part of our nature.
Gina: And again, it makes a lot of sense. I think it's a relatively small percentage of the world that basically wants to just interact with the people that they happen to be born living near or that they happen to go to to X, Y, or Z school with. Those are important relationships to have but they are one small part of who we are as people. I think the most positive moment and the most important and energizing aspects of the technology that is now available to us, has the potential to do is to allow us to find our people around the things that are most important to us.
Those things are going to change over time. It's going to be dynamic but that's the opportunity for creators and entrepreneurs, is really owning a particular topic or a different . . . a take on an interest or a take on a career or spiritual practice or lifestyle choice or lifestyle choices and welcome the people that that is the most important thing for them to master at that moment. And build really strong relationships and contribute to that rich, vibrant technicolor community that's being developed and I believe this is going to be creator-led. I think this is going to be entrepreneurial, it is going to be the way that a creator who has any kind of following or an email list or aspires to create the things that come with an email list or a social following, this is the most exciting place to be right now in creating what we talk about or think about as the creator economy or experiential commerce.
But basically, it's all the digital products and services that you can now offer with very little startup costs, no inventory that you need to keep, and where the value of the experiences is the expertise and the relationships that are being built through these communities. It’s the thing that feeds our soul and is the thing that we need and want and are thirsty for as individuals, especially as we're spending more and more time looking at our phones but feeling more and more lonely
Pat: I think you're right, it's going to be entrepreneurs slash creator-led because we creators, we thrive on community when we're on YouTube. It's the community that really supports us and keeps us going. When we're entrepreneurs, we know that when we invite the community in and they get involved, they get invested in what we have to offer and they support the brand and spread it out even more for u. I want to take us to ConvertKit. [Full Disclaimer: As an affiliate, I receive compensation if you purchase through this link.]
ConvertKit's a company that I'm an advisor for, they throw an event called Craft and Commerce.
I was there earlier this year in 2019 and at the speaker sort of closing speaker dinner VIP thing, there was a representative from Mighty Networks there who was just so passionate with the same kind of things that you were talking about. She didn't even mention like really what the tool was but I was just so engaged with her and her love for her community and the drive for all of us to have the tools at our fingertips to be able to lead those communities. She really, really represented your brand by the way, just FYI.
Gina: Jessica Shambora and she's amazing.
Pat: She is amazing. This is why we're having this conversation today. She connected us and so I want to take us to the origins of Mighty Networks. Ning was a thing and then it went away for a while and now you're back and even stronger. What was the origin for you getting back into this and going even full on with it to create a product for all of us to use?
Gina: It's a really great question. I left Ning in 2010 and we started the precursor to Mighty Networks in 2011, 2012, and our vision for Mighty Networks was quite simple. We wanted to build something that was ad-free. We wanted to build something that was mobile-fast and something that was creator-led. Because of my Ning experience, my passion is for the entrepreneur and giving an entrepreneur or a creator, the tools and technologies that are going to be the most valuable for creating a longterm sustainable business that only gets more valuable over time with more people. As opposed to where I think, unfortunately, the world has been over the last couple of years—and I think this is changing quite rapidly—which is the way that you build a digital products or digital services business or a creator business is through marketing.
Marketing's not going to go away. Email's not going to go away. But the more that the email and the marketing can funnel you and your members into something that gets more valuable with every new person who joins, there is something inherently amazing about that. Our vision with Mighty Networks was to create something that allowed you to bring your people together in one place, do more with them, run online courses, have virtual workshops or even organize in-person events because of some of the features we have related to people near me. The ability then to charge for whether it's online courses or mastermind groups or an online course and a mastermind group, which we just launched in July and is available on every platform. And some of the things that are really interesting—or at least they're interesting to me, I should say—are the fact that a year ago in October, thirty of our traffic was on native mobile, iOS, and Android apps. Today over sixty-five percent of our traffic and engagement, which is about two to three hundred times what it was last October is happening on native mobile.
When you start to think about the tools and technologies that most people are using in are out there, again trying to bring their people together. But for many creators, they start with the content, they start with the following and the content and then I'm going to build my email list for my content. And I'm going to try to sell different levels so that people can access my content. Here's the thing: every successful technology platform that you use today has a set of underlying dynamics, whether it's Airbnb, like eBay, Facebook, LinkedIn, the list goes on and on, called a network effect. What the network effect means is that you are . . . each of these platforms have created a business that gets more valuable with every new person who joins. It gets more valuable to everyone with every new person who joins.
Facebook's valuable because other people are there. eBay is valuable because other people are there. Airbnb is valuable because other people are there. There is no reason today that a creator who might have online courses or mastermind groups that they charge for, that they should be doing these things on all these different platforms. One, it’s just a headache to manage. It's a headache for your members to manage or your people to manage and it doesn't allow you to do the thing that is the most valuable to any creator which is to create a network effect.
The way that this shows up at Mighty Networks is we hear from creators, “I want to bring my community and my courses together in the same place. I just want to have fewer SaaS services that I have to manage.” What they're really saying, though, is the way that I achieve results and transformation—which is ultimately what people will pay for it and they will pay a premium for results and transformation—is if I can bring my people together in the same place that I am running my online courses or I'm running my programs or I'm bringing together all of the UX designers, or all of the people that have a goddess-based pagan spiritual practice, or financial advisors who specialize in serving physicians.
All of these are our Mighty Networks today. What's powerful about a Mighty Network, unlike having a Facebook group plus your online courses on a different platform, plus you squeeze pages and other things on yet another platform and your events on yet another platform is that when you bring these things together, you're not just bringing your community and courses together in the same place, you are in fact creating and taking advantage of the same underlying dynamics that have built some of the most successful companies in really the history of companies. The difference is that where those have all been centralized platforms that feel big and overwhelming and don't let creators have data, don't let creators even control the . . . like sending a message and ensuring that everybody's going to receive it in a Facebook group, for example. What's different today is that services like Mighty Networks, and I'm sure they will be other ones because we are growing very quickly and so there would likely be copycats, is we basically say you as a creator should take advantage of the same underlying dynamics that built those platforms by having your own network effect that is creator-sized, that is for your people that built your business.
You get full access to the ability to talk to every single one of those people. You get full access to their data because you are the Mark Zuckerberg of your Mighty Network. And create something that would allow you to grow faster, charge more money because people are finishing your courses and seeing better results. They are making the transformations in their own lives and so they're going to have amazing testimonials that will allow you to sell your programs at a higher price point and people get even more value from them and that it's ultimately all less work for you as the creator because you're not waking up every day being like, “Oh my gosh, I have to feed the beast.” But rather you've created something that essentially runs itself because what you've created and convened is that the people that are all as passionate as you are, your superfans in your amazing book, which I read recently and I was like, “This is so spot on. This is spot on.” Then I proceeded to share it with a zillion people.
But when you think about those superfans, you can feed them not just with your own content because content can get tiring. But you're feeding them with other superfans and that is where the world is going. The world is going to creator-sized networks that are bringing people together to inspire and fuel each other in the context of a creator-led community that is generating revenue from subscriptions, memberships, online courses, events, and the connections being made. One of my friends puts it this way, it's like, “Come for the creator and stay for the network.” That's really what I think is going to continue to happen here.
Pat: I love that. You're speaking my language. Thank you for the support for Superfans, by the way. I think a few of us who are listening right now have an advantage of already having an audience, already having online courses, in which case it just makes complete sense to bring everybody together. But how do you speak to those who are just at the start of their journey, they don't have that community yet. How does one even begin to build that community and invite people in right at the start? I think the big worry is it's going to be crickets. Why would people come when nobody's here yet? Can you help those of us who are just getting started?
Gina: I love this question. I think about this all the time. Here's the first thing to just reframe. We have this mythology and this narrative around communities or even a following or an email list that it has to be hundreds of thousands of people to be valuable. One of the first questions I get is what's your biggest community on Mighty Networks? Here's the thing that I now . . . since we've launched payments, I can look at the numbers. Here's the amazing thing: there's never been a better time to start an online course or a digital products business. Here's why. When you have a purpose, we'd like to think about it as a big purpose, that is valuable to people and represents results and transformation, you can launch a live course. Danielle Leslie, in what she's doing with Course From Scratch, is just simply amazing along these lines as well.
But the fundamental idea is that it's not about creating something that has to be big day one. But rather, you can create something small and intimate that actually looks a lot more like group coaching and be an equivalent that is better and more profoundly transformational for people than what they would do otherwise in terms of hiring a coach or a personal trainer. The idea would be can you find the topic? If you're just starting from scratch, can you find the topic that represents something that people want and also that your unique story, Danielle Leslie calls it your “culture-ad,” can really deliver value to the people that you would bring together. You essentially bring together five or ten people and with Zoom, and I would argue a Mighty Network, you can actually bring those five or ten people together at a premium price to see results and transformation that then you can turn around and use their testimonials and their transformation and results to expand your community and bring more and more people in.
This strategy of essentially launching a course live with five or ten people, when you're charging over five hundred dollars, it actually becomes really valuable and it becomes something that anybody can start. The power of doing it on a Mighty Network is that you can actually then have the community and the course in the same place. You can expand and scale really effectively from there. I'll give you an example.
So we . . . I never thought that I had permission to teach a course. I know that might sound weird but in . . . I was, especially before we launched online courses at Mighty Networks, I had been talking to people that the first thing they would say to me or anybody on my team was, “I've been building online courses for a decade and are pedagogy is this and this is how you do it.” It was really intimidating. I thought that there was like some special certificate you had to get to launch an online course. So I didn't do it for like a year. Then finally I was like, “You know what, I'm just going to launch it in a way that I'm comfortable with, which I'm going to start with a group. We're just going to start with a group within our Mighty Host Network,” which is our Mighty Network for people who are starting and running Mighty Network. And we had four hundred people sign up and then we ran it live. I basically had five weeks, five topics, and I just did a topic every week and I just prepared for that topic. On Tuesdays, we had a topic session, and on Thursdays, we had an hour of office hours.
And five weeks later I had had one of the most profound experiences of my professional career. The reason was when you create something that is live—even if it's a small group, you don't need four hundred people, you can have five people in it—it's really profound and energizing. We built it together. We created something that was living and breathing together and it was so much better than if I had gone off and spent six months or a year perfecting my content and then launching it in one fell swoop to crickets. I basically started with people, I brought them together and now we're just finishing our fourth cohort of this Community Design Masterclass. And we have been able to replicate the results from it. It was all because we had done it live with people. That might be a really long-winded way of saying if you are just starting out, start, don't make community an afterthought, make it the first thing you do.
A community can be five people that you are taking on a journey of this notion of one concept per week, over four weeks or five weeks or six weeks. It's magical, it's energizing, it's creative. I don't tend to want to get off the phone or get off our video chats with people because they're so fascinating and so cool. One more thing to add, now that we launched it, it has this ripple effect as well. We have had folks that have participated in this Community Design Masterclass that we started from scratch again, go on to do fifty-thousand-dollar launches in seventy-two hours.
The reason is that they understood what they would be able to do and they had the confidence that it's like, “Hey, I've got this locked in. I know what I'm going to do with this community. I know what I'm doing with this course. And I'm not afraid to charge a thousand dollars because I know the value that I'm bringing to people.” When you have fifty people willing to spend a thousand dollars, you’ve got something. Especially if you already have an audience, you can do that very quickly. If you don't have an audience, five people paying five thousand dollars, you know you've got something.
Pat: Yeah. For sure. I mean this goes along the same lines as what I teach in my other book, Will It Fly (Amazon link). It's using the customers that you are serving as your way to validate whether or not what it is you're doing is actually working or not. Essentially, like you said, they're creating it with you and for you, that way you don't have to waste the brain space, time or money—
Pat: . . . when you're in creation mode. And I love that and it's really cool that Mighty Networks was source set up and supports that. I'm curious, what are some of the other features of Mighty Networks and beyond the feature itself, I'd love to know from your perspective why that's important for a community creator, even agnostic of platform, why is that built into it and what is the psychology behind it to encourage the engagement that you want and the community and the feel that you want in there.
Gina: You mean just any feature or are there specific features you're curious about?
Pat: Yeah. I mean any feature. I mean, I know that you do some gamification within the community to bring people back and to reward people who are more engaged.
Gina: It's funny you say that because I'm actually not a believer in gamification and we don't really have a point system. We do have top members but it's really designed—and a Mighty Network is designed for intrinsic motivation. We want, absolutely, this loop and this ability to come back through native mobile apps, through native mobile notifications. I will say that some of our most engaging features are things like polls and questions. But fundamentally, just going back to the prior point, the reason a Mighty Network exists the way that it exists where it has the ability to produce amazing articles, online courses, organized events, is because we want the creator to be in control of a Mighty Network and to be able to bring their content, their courses, and their community together in one place.
It's also super important that that creator has control and the ability to talk to every single person who's in their community, in their Mighty Network. We also have a couple then features that are pretty unique in the market for connecting your members to each other. We have member categories so that you can set up a way for all of the copywriters to meet other copywriters and the operations directors to meet the operations directors, whatever it is, and then also members near you. Those two things and we're about to do a whole revamp of that. The underlying purpose of that is that when you can quickly and easily and naturally find the people who are most interesting to you or that you should know in the context of being a user experience designer or coming together around a spiritual practice, that's how you create a network effect. Meaning that it would get more valuable with every new person who joins, gets more valuable to everybody with every new person who joins.
We started with and have from day one believed passionately that it's about enabling a creator to build their own creator-sized network effect for their people and their business and their purpose. What has been the most fascinating part to me is that when we did that, about two years ago, we started really three years ago, we started to have more and more creators show up, whether it was Tara McMullin or Missy Elmer. These different people showed up and they were like, “Can you just build online courses into this?” And we're like, “Why would we build online courses into this?” That was never on our roadmap. That was not something that we had even thought about. We put it off for like eight months and we were like, “We'll just . . . We'll get Zapier involved here and like it'll be fine.”
They just kept coming back and saying, “You should really build online courses and this is so silly that we have to go to these different places. We love Mighty Networks for a community but it would just be such a better user experience for everybody if my courses were built in.” So we launched courses. Today, over sixty-five percent of our paying customers, people who have the premium Mighty Networks, have online courses turned on. When surveyed, eighty-three percent of them said they would be very disappointed if they lost the ability to have their courses and their community in the same place. We were like, “My gosh, that's pretty amazing.” Normally you'd say a product is a must-have at like thirty percent of very disappointed. That was something that we created and we built because we were co-creating this with our creator customers.
And then they basically said, “Okay, that's great that you put online courses out, love having my community and my courses together in the same place but now I need the ability to charge for them.” And we were like, “Well, you can use it in different payment gateways. And again, like our friends at Zapier could help us out here.” So we put it off and then we didn't stop hearing about it. We finally built in the ability to not only charge for an individual online course or charge for an individual group—because a Mighty Network is the house, if you will. And then there are either the option of having groups or courses, or both groups in courses within your Mighty Network. It's almost like rooms in a house. And so when we built out payments, we did it so that you could create different membership levels, you could have different bundles, you could offer them externally, you could offer them just to your members internally and then also have all sorts of privacy levels where your network can be public, your groups and courses could be paid, you could do bundles of groups in courses and we launched that in July.
To say that it's been a hockey stick would be an understatement. It's growing very rapidly and in three months, we have our first half-a-million-dollar run rate on a Mighty Network that is charging directly through our platform. What this tells me is one, creators are super smart and while we're always going to have this North Star of creating a platform where a creator can show up and build their own network effect, they can have the same underlying dynamics that have built the most valuable services around the world today, we're also going to keep listening to creators, to our partners, to our customers and build out the things that they continue to tell us are important.
That's where we're probably the most proud of what we offer, is because we sit there and we're like, “We're not the geniuses who came up with this. But we're really good at executing and we're really good at bringing these things together that haven't been brought together before.” Sometimes people are like, “This navigation, I'm not sure where I am.” It's like, “Well, that's fair.” We're also bringing together things that haven't been brought together before because creators understand that when they can have their own unique world with focus, with connections being established between members, where because of the focus and the relationships that people can accomplish their goals more efficiently and effectively and therefore the creator can build a stronger business that essentially runs itself at higher and higher price points and greater and greater growth, that that's the magic of what we've created with a Mighty Network.
The features are cool. I love them. I love using it every day. We run our Community Design Masterclass on a Mighty Network using our payment structure, using our courses that's built right into a Mighty Network. But all of them, all of the features are in service of the ultimate goal that I believe in. I feel incredibly fortunate to talk to creators every day who share this goal, which is their ultimate goal is to create a healthy business that allows them to invest their time, effort, money into their passion. Typically, that passion is how do I bring what I have experienced or what I uniquely understand to more and more people so that they can have a more successful career? They can build a more successful business, they can make more money for them and their families. They can navigate stress and anxiety with a series of practices that have helped that creator and now they're ready to share it with others or they are bringing together a community-powered course and business related to parental burnout.
Whatever it is, it is fundamentally grounded in let's bring people together to master something that is interesting and important to each of us in this community and the power of being able to make money from it. I think, Pat, you know this and see this every day is not just so you can drive a fancier car or have a bigger house. It’s that you can have those things but you can also invest more of your time, energy, and presence into helping other people achieve the results and transformation they want to have in their lives and overcome the obstacles that without a community mastering this thing together, would be very difficult for any of us to do on our own.
Pat: Thank you for that. How does one navigate the idea of when trying to build a Mighty Network, for example, and a community outside of these popular social platforms where we can create groups and things like that and invite our community in? I know there's a little bit of friction because there's people who go, “Everybody's on Facebook already. Isn't it easier to set up something there?” There's a lot to ask to have somebody dedicate time to somewhere outside of the places they're already at.
Gina: I'm so glad that you asked that question. A couple of things that I think are very important to put into perspective. First of all, as a creator, if you're running online courses, you're already asking people to go somewhere else. You're already asking people to go somewhere else. If you're running any kind of subscriptions, you're asking people to go somewhere else. You have a website already. One of the most popular use cases for a Mighty Network is a creator who says, “You know what? I'm sick of having a static website. The fact that I can have my website and my community and my courses and my payments and my marketing pages all in one place is what I want because I want to move from having something that's static to dynamic.”
Fundamentally, this notion that we're not asking people to go somewhere else is just false. It's not true. Then the second thing I would say is that in no way shape or form would the strategy for a creator who is building this type of network effect be, “Hey. I'm going to shut down my social accounts.” That would be dumb. The goal is to say, “Look, I'm going to put teasers out there. I'm going to be present. I have a following. I have an email list but instead of having this legacy, somewhat janky solution of having my courses in one place but my Facebook group in another place, I'm going to actually bring these things together because that's going to make it more valuable for people.”
So it's reframing from I'm afraid to ask people to go somewhere where they're not at today because we're already doing that in other places. It's saying, “I'm going to create something that is an immersive world where my people can focus, they can achieve the results that they want to achieve. We, together, are going to be able to master something interesting. It's going to be much more likely that the thing runs itself because my superfans are going to be there building the core of this and then bringing other people who are moving up the pyramid into this community.” And that now, all of a sudden, I have my own mobile notifications that I am a hundred percent confident that is reaching all of my people. Because in a Facebook group you cannot predict what people will see. You actually are fighting the Facebook algorithm for what they decide your members should see, not what you believe is the right way to start to build relationships between the members of your group.
Because people are struggling to build those relationships. The feed is whizzing by and let me share two examples of this. One Mighty Network that's very successful, it's called Find What Feels Good. It's the community for a YouTube star named Yoga with Adriene. Her name is not Yoga with Adriene but the channel is called Yoga with Adriene. And they had a twenty-five-thousand person Facebook group before they discovered Mighty Networks. In that Facebook group, they were finding, especially in 2016, and since we've seen just this overwhelming prioritization by the Facebook algorithm for things that are angry or things that have very strong outrage associated with it. And because they were seeing in Facebook that people were interacting in their yoga community, Find What Feels Good Kula, with the same intensity and outrage trigger sense in a yoga community as they were—because they were just coming from another post of their friend who was showing the latest outrage of what's happening in the world. That prompted them to launch, as an experiment, a Mighty Network, which was their own standalone community.
Then they started to see something very fascinating. They started to see when they would post the same thing in their Facebook group versus their Mighty Network—this is not because Mighty Networks is in and of itself special. I'm certainly biased and think it's pretty amazing but just because it's not on Facebook is why this happened. They were starting to see a very different dynamic evolve on their Mighty Network. One that was more supportive. One that was more focused, one that was gentler, and when they saw this they realized, “Okay, it's time.” They shut their Facebook group down. And again, there's a lot of people that are like, “My Facebook group’s so big.” They had twenty-five thousand people. Today on their Mighty Network, they have nearly a hundred thousand people and this community is one that is supportive, highly engaged and totally not on Facebook.
Pat: That's great. How does one manage a group of that size with all the noise in there? I think this is part of the reason why Facebook wanted to control because it was just getting too much for some people on the other end. How is that mananged?
Gina: The way . . . so we did a lot of the R&D on Mighty Networks by partnering with a few companies and helping them manage some very large—helping them create and grow some very large communities in the hundred-and-fifty-plus range. What we did was we essentially built a creator-led community where, unlike a Facebook group or unlike the algorithms on Facebook, we have built in a way for a member to personalize what they see with one exception, updates from the host. What we have created is this really nice balance between, hey, a person can really personalize what topics they opt in or opt out of. What groups that they want to have. Because again, on Facebook you have one group and then you have to try to create other subgroups but they're not actually subgroups, they're just different groups, which then is best to manage.
In a Mighty Network, all your groups are under the umbrella, they’re rooms in the house of the network or courses are rooms in the house of the network. It's all in one place. So your feed on Find What Feels Good Kula is all the stuff that you belong to. It's all the stuff that you care about. That scales beautifully. And then, on top of that, what is different because we created Mighty Networks from day one to be creator-led is that the creator has the ability to access all the data about the members and analytics and everything that you just don't get on a Facebook group.
The second thing is to be able to message and to send a notification to everyone when there's a new post or there's a new course or there's a new group. All of your marketing can actually, instead of doing it over just email or conversion pages, you have those things but you have them all related and centralized to this dynamic network. That has allowed for some really . . . and the way our personalization or algorithms work is, it's different when you have a Mighty Network with ten people and you're just getting off the ground versus when you have a Mighty Network with a hundred thousand people but for the member, their experience shouldn't be overwhelming. It should be, “There's cool new stuff that I care about.” And that's what we show you.
Pat: I like that. You'd think that's the way it would be everywhere. But it's not. To finish up, I have a question because I know that . . . I've managed communities before on all kinds of different platforms and typically when they're launched, everything's really exciting. People show up. It's just a lot of discussion. Everybody's excited. And then there's like this honeymoon period where it's awesome and then it can potentially fade away. How might a creator just continue to . . . in the long term, continuing to encourage people, especially those who aren't the superfans who had come on because of the initial excitement. But then they've got other things going on. How do we keep them excited other than just relying on the community itself to keep them excited?
Gina: First of all, relying on the community itself to keep them excited is how a network effect works. It's why Facebook works the way it does. Mark Zuckerberg doesn't get up in the morning and say to himself, “Oh my gosh, I need to push out some more content today to keep it alive and going.” Here's the beautiful thing, is that there are just some very simple principles. Again, we teach it, we talk about it as community design but when you have a clear motivation and purpose for your community, you have just some really lightweight monthly themes. You have a weekly calendar that can again be very lightweight and these interactions that only take a few minutes but keep people engaged. You don't have to lose the energy and if anything what you're looking to do . . . and we have things like scheduling posts out in advance but fundamentally, you can create something that is so valuable you can charge for it and yet so well designed it essentially runs itself. And it's just about taking advantage of some of the techniques that tie the motivation for your community and making it about what are your people mastering together, as it is about your content.
If you are like, “The community is reliant on my content,” that is somewhat challenging. And this is a place, I will say, that the software matters. The reason why it is hard to keep a community going, certainly on Facebook, is that every interaction that the members of your group have with your group on Facebook, it's a competition for their attention. Meaning that they count a view as less than three seconds. It's really hard to engage with other people at less than three seconds. It's certainly hard to meet people in less than three seconds.
The other thing is on Facebook, what are they doing? They actually don't care what your group is about. They don't care about the work that you're putting into your group. That's really demonstrated by the fact that the more effort you put into your group, the more that they actually market other groups to your members. And specifically, other groups like your group to your members, which means that you have to work harder and become more exhausted just trying to keep everybody's attention in this ever-flowing waterfall of outrage and new things and context switching and all this stuff. When you make the decision to create a community that is mastering something interesting together, you shift the purpose of it such that one, you don't have to be there every single second of every single day but you can create something that is valuable and transformative to people that they can take and really run with.
Pat: Thank you, Gina. I appreciate that. I want to talk to you for more hours just about this because my team and I are actually looking at creating something later this year related to community. And we're exploring our options and just this discussion is so important and so key, so thank you for that. I appreciate you. For anybody who's listening, who's interested in Mighty Networks and exploring it, where might you recommend they go?
Pat: Easy enough.
Gina: Easy enough. What I would say is for anyone who any of this resonates, that you just know intuitively you should be bringing your people together to meet and interact and build relationships with each other in the context of your brand, your purpose, your courses. This is happening and the results that people are seeing are pretty profound and pretty awesome. People's expectations, consumer expectations of . . . you know what? I actually value and will pay more for focus. I will pay more for something that is outside the noise and distractions of Facebook. I want to live in the world that you as a creator is creating for the people that love you, your superfans. This is the time. If your intuition at all says I should be exploring this, you're right and it is happening.
It is happening right now. You would not be the first person to shut down a Facebook group or move your courses to something where it can all be integrated and that you can create a network effect. You can create something that gets more valuable to everyone with every new person who joins. It's exciting. It's a really exciting time and I look forward to meeting anybody that's interested in this. Especially if you feel like you want to explore this further without necessarily making the move, making a move. Our Community Design Masterclass, which we're starting our next one in a few weeks, it's been a pretty profound experience for the folks, the nearly a thousand people who have been through it. And I know every time I do it, it's a profound experience for me.
Pat: That's awesome. Well thank you for the work that you're doing, Gina. I appreciate you. At MightyNetworks.com is where you want to go. I can absolutely—and I think everybody could agree—we could feel and hear the passion from your voice related to all this and I think it's so important. Thank you for your work and I look forward to connecting with you again soon.
Gina: Wonderful. Thanks so much for having me, Pat.
Pat: Alright. I hope you enjoyed this conversation with Gina. Again, from Mighty Networks, you can check out MightyNetworks.com and I would agree, community is amazingly important. And me and my team, we’re looking at different options—Mighty Networks being one of them—as different ways that we could bring the community together. We actually have a community on Facebook with over forty thousand people and it's great. There's a lot of amazing conversation there. Thank you to those of you who are a part of that community, if you want to go ahead and check it out, you can go to smartpassiveincome.com/community. However, there is something to be said for a lot of people who go in there, wanting to hear from myself and others. They're just not seeing that and to have place where we can, as creators, have a little bit more control over the experience that our audience and our members have, whether that's for free or for paid or if they're in courses or just a part of a conversation, that's so key.
I'd recommend you check out Mighty Networks. I know a number of my colleagues are using it to support their communities and we're interested in looking at it, too. Definitely worth checking out. Thank you, Gina, for coming on today. I appreciate you, mightynetworks.com. If you want to get the links and the resources mentioned in this episode, head on over to smartpassiveincome.com/session405 and you'll be met with some great content and some information there. And again, big thanks to those of you who are brand new to the show. Make sure you hit subscribe if you haven't already. We've got a lot more great content coming your way, so make sure you're subscribing. Thanks for being a member of Team Flynn. I appreciate you. Until next time, keep on doing what you need to do to grow your business, help and serve others and as a byproduct, serve yourself, and make more money, too. Cheers. Take care. And as always, Team Flynn for the win. Peace.
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