Why do so many communities fail to take off? Because they weren't designed to be the greatest party you've ever attended. So says Gina Bianchini, CEO and founder of Mighty Networks, one of the first platforms that allowed people to create standalone, branded communities.
Okay, so there's a lot more to building a sustainable community. Thankfully, the party analogy is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to Gina's knowledge and insight about how great communities are built.
If you've ever thought about starting a community but you don't know where to start, today's episode will give you the Cliff's Notes on how to accomplish just that. As Gina says, the challenge is, “How do you create a highly engaged community mastering something interesting or important together?”
And since it's in the episode title, yes, there will be data, and talk of data. (Spoiler alert: Did you know that retention rates in communities that charge are higher than in free communities?)
Gina Bianchini is the CEO and founder of Mighty Networks, where creators and brands start and grow businesses powered by community. Mighty Networks is trusted by creators from Yoga with Adriene, Wall Street Trapper, Luvvie Ajayi Jones, and Project 863 to brands like TED, Mindbody, and Fortune.
Before Mighty Networks, Gina was the first entrepreneur-in-residence at Andreessen Horowitz. Prior to A16Z, she was the CEO and cofounder of Ning, a pioneering global platform for creating niche social networks she started with Marc Andreessen in 2004. Under her leadership, Ning grew to ~100 million active users across 300,000 social networks led by brands and creators across subcultures, professional networks, entertainment, politics, and education. The company was sold for $150 million in 2011.
Gina and Mighty Networks have been featured in the Wall Street Journal, Fast Company, Wired, Vanity Fair, Bloomberg, and the New York Times. She has appeared on Charlie Rose, CNBC, and CNN. She grew up in Cupertino, California, graduated with honors from Stanford University, started her career in the nascent High Technology Group at Goldman, Sachs & Co., and received her MBA from Stanford Business School.
In This Episode:
- What inspired Gina to build two community platforms
- What the network effect is, and why other social media platforms miss the mark there
- The “mental model” for Mighty Networks and how it helps members feel instantly connected
- Why Gina teaches that “learn, share, and grow” models should be retired
- Why words like “belonging” can feel static for potential community members
- Creating culture through community design
- Communities as catalyst for results and transformation
- Why paid Mighty Networks have higher engagement than free or “freemium” ones
- Creating a sustainable community … with just 10 people
- The usual suspects when communities don't take off
- The power of calendar consistency when you're getting off the ground
- The five agreements of community design
- All about the Mighty Networks Accelerator for community designers
- Atomic Habits by James Clear [Amazon affiliate link]
- Can't Hurt Me by David Goggins [Amazon affiliate link]
- Gatheround platform
- “The Power of Focus as a Creator” (James Clear at Audience Driven Summit 2021)
The CX 020: Using Data to Design Sustainable Communities with Gina Bianchini
Jillian Benbow: If you've ever thought about starting a community but you don't know where to start, today's episode with Mighty Networks founder Gina Bianchini, will give you the cliff notes on how to accomplish just that. And it's much easier than you think. Tune in for today's episode of The community Experience.
Everyone, I am Jillian Benbow co-host of The Community Experience with my co-host Tony Bacigalupo.
Tony Bacigalupo: Oh, man. You just pronounced my last name so comfortably and it never gets old. Anybody who pronounce my name right, just a little extra respect.
Jillian: And it took me a while so thank you, I still get hung up. I'm like, "Did I say it right?" It's like when people call me Julian, don't do it, that is not my name.
Jillian: No, you.
Jillian: Julian, what, stop it.
Jillian: So yeah, did you just call me Julian?
Tony: Gina Bianchini.
Tony: Gina, founder CEO.
Jillian: Who is Gina?
Tony: Founder CEO of Mighty Networks, which is...
Jillian: The boss lady.
Tony: Yeah. I mean it is social platforms, community platforms, is something that has been under development in the internet world for a long time. And I feel like it's one of those things that took like 20 years to arrive.
She was formally the CEO of Ning, if you remember Ning from little while back, that was also like a roll your own community platform. And so she's been through this. She's been thinking about how do you do a good job of building a community online and how do you build a great platform for it for a really long time?
Jillian: Yeah. And you can tell Mighty Networks is one of the first kind of big “build a community on our platform” and really helped open the doors to creatives and creators to create community that wasn't a forum in Facebook or anything like that. Like you can have a standalone branded community, it's pretty amazing.
And we'll talk to Gina about this when we interview her, but Mighty Networks just has an amazing amount of reporting, and data, and support that you can tell that Gina's been in the game a long time, because she is very smart with data. And I love that we got to talk to her about that.
Part of that data has helped inform them on what it really takes to launch a successful community, and you may be surprised at the low barrier of entry. You don't need a ton of people to start a smart and sustainable community. And we will talk to Gina about that and more on today's episode.
Okay. Welcome back. Tony and I are so excited for our guest today. Gina, welcome to The Community Experience.
Gina Bianchini: Thank you for having me.
Jillian: We are so excited.
Gina: I'm so excited.
Jillian: Well, and so are we and I think everybody knows but you created one of the platforms for community and so I'm just so excited to talk to you. I have very passionate views about communities on Facebook and how, especially if you have a paid community, it should not be on a social network.
I was reading your bio and you have the bay area darling upbringing, like went to Stanford, sold a company, did all the things, what made you get into... What inspired you to launch a community platform?
Gina: So Mighty Networks is my second community platform that I have built. So for me, what I found with my first one called Ning, which gave people a way to create their own social networks at the height of social networking, even before it became social media, which is always a transition that I have been skeptical of.
But obviously, I was in the minority on that, but fundamentally communities are awesome. And specifically the kind of community that I am passionate about building certainly seeing success with it at Ning and now with Mighty Networks, our north star, our vision, is first and foremost, we want to live world where there are millions of unique and vibrant communities led by creators, and entrepreneurs, and brands but also just like people who want to just raise their hand and say, "I want to bring people together around this interest, or passion, or goal, or life style, or topic."
And for us as the software platform, our vision of unlocking this world of different cultures, different look and feels, different kinds of members all building our own things is to create software that allows a community get more valuable to every member with each new person who joins and contributes.
That is the underlying, it's called a network effect, and it is the underlying source of value creation of 90% of all software over the last 30 years. And the reason we are sitting in the situation that we are sitting in today, where social media feels like this sort of overwhelming thing that is not providing a tremendous amount of value in our lives is because those platforms have kept the network effect for themselves and then basically turned around to great folks like all of us and said, "You're going to produce a bunch of content on our platform, we are going to give you an audience, but we are not going to give you the ways and the means for you to create your own community that gets more valuable to every member," where your audience or your followers aren't just talking back at you over DMS but rather they're meeting and building relationships with each other.
So that is why Mighty Networks exists, it is, we are 5% of the way to what we ultimately view as really a decade of community innovation, where it is as important for us to really innovate around, how do the most relevant members find each other? How do they break the ice? How are they coming back for the most valuable not just valuable conversations but in a way that they can look around and see, wait a second. I'm surrounded by people similar to just this conversation, with both of you where it's like, "I'm surrounded by people who care about the same things that I do. And we just met." Imagine we can do that a billion times. What would the world look like and feel like and like, if we can join individual and unique communities that the community actually owns and operates.
So that's why I love what I do. I really figured this out for myself probably a decade ago where I'm like, "Oh, I'm going to work on community forever until I'm literally like can't work on it anymore." Because I think that the number of things that when you start to think about, maybe we can talk about a few of them, but when you just start to think about what is viewed as mainstream community platforms today, they're all about, and designed for people who already know each other. None of them are designed for Pe- for actually meeting and building relationships.
And somebody is going to be like, "Well, I don't know about that. I'm able to learn, I made a friend on a Facebook group, or I was able to do this." Sure. You can kind of work your way around that but imagine a platform, and this is certainly our vision with Mighty and why we have members near you, members like you, members who care about the same topics, members who are taking the same course with you, members who are in the same more exclusive or focused membership group within a Mighty Network.
All of those things are there because they are the first version of where we think innovation is going to go around connecting the most relevant members to each other and already we're seeing some pretty incredible results that... Oh, that was actually something we just looked to add some numbers that have been pretty phenomenal in terms of demonstrating the power of bringing together your content, your subscriptions and payments, and your community together in one place under your brand and instantly available on every platform. And it's been pretty profound.
Jillian: It's amazing. And something I particularly like something you mentioned that I want to talk about is in your platform, you have really fun things built in. So someone who is leading a community who launches a community, they can do these things that are so important in community building pretty easily.
Like you have icebreakers, you have fun ways, and you really make it easy for someone to create a fun post, if you will. And I'm curious, did that come about organically? Or did you just notice a bunch of people doing that? And you're like, "We could make this better."
Gina: Yes and no. So our mental model for a Mighty Network is like the best party that you've ever been to, the best workshop that you've ever been to. And when you just think about whether it's a workshop or whether it's a party, parties are more fun. So we'll start with that.
But if you think about it, a party without an icebreaker question or a workshop without an icebreaker question, you would never do that, and what are you trying to accomplish in these communities? Well, what you're trying to accomplish, especially at like a great party is that the host plays this role of being like, "Oh my gosh, Tony, you've got to meet Jillian."
You guys both love community, you're doing amazing things, and I know both of you, but you guys don't know each other yet, so you are going to... And then the host can move and guess what happens?
You guys now have a bridge to start that conversation beyond like so what do you do? Do you have kids? Where do you live? Which is so boring, it's so much better, and this is again, what a great dinner party or a great party is, is one where you can break the ice and get so much more real so much faster around the thing that you're coming together.
So the good news is we make so many more things easy by just basically saying, "Hey, we are a platform for when you want to have your own community, your own courses, your own events, your own memberships around..." Like what we talked about is your big purpose, the motivation for your community. And so when we do that, we're able to build more things in like an icebreaker question.
The other benefit, if we put our nerdy product design hat on, which is not nerdy in and of itself but is you want members to at least have a prompt to contribute in their first session. So it's like they just know like, "Hey, wait a second, I'm supposed to contribute here. I have..." It's a little bit like if you showed up at a party and nobody asked you anything about yourself, you'd be like, "This is kind of a lame party."
But rather if you're just enveloped in like, "Oh, I'm so happy you're here." This is great. So tell me what do you want to get out of this party? Or what do you want to get out of this workshop? You feel instantly connected. And then members like you, members who care about the same topics, all of those are designed to bring more context to each and every member in a Mighty Network.
And then beyond that, polls and questions, but really polls, they're designed to start to make those immediate connections, not just, "Hey, I'm going to contribute." But also one of the things that we always do and we didn't build this into the software but it's certainly something we teach in our Community Design Accelerator is always in a multiple choice question, have other add in the comments and some of the best conversations where members are actually meeting each other, happen in the comment section of a poll.
But we also have hot and cold polls. How do you feel about X, Y, or Z topic? How do you feel about working with friends? Are you positive or negative? We also have one of my favorites and we did, we just wanted the answers to the... Okay. If I'm being honest, I was like, "I'm really curious about this. So let's just build this," which is what we call a percentage poll.
And a percentage poll is what percentage of time, effort, resources, hours in a day, whatever it might be, do you dedicate to X, Y, or Z? And so many communities, especially in today's moment in time, it's a lot of us are by ourselves, we're isolated.
So a percentage poll is great just in terms of not only how you answer it but how does the community answer it to feel connected and also... I sort of think about it as like a little bit of the, "Well, am I crazy poll?"
Jillian: “Am I the only one that—” Yeah.
Gina: Yeah, exactly. Am I the only one that is spending two hours a week, organizing the rest of the week? Or is that normal? ? And so these are some of the things that we built in, and then we're just trying to have some fun with it as best we possibly can. Because again, our mental model is not something that's boring, it's something that's just online, it's the best party you've ever been to.
Tony: So it seems like it's the eternal question of community software is can the software create connection? And it sounds like your ambition is really to crack that code and that my dream as a community organizer is I wake up in the morning and a new member has joined.
And through the onboarding process, the automated process, they've been invited to introduce themselves, answer a question, et cetera. And other members have already started welcoming them in, before I even knew they were there. That's a dream we're going for.
Gina: Tony, that's not a dream.
Gina: That is not a dream. Now look, the software is there. It's going to just, again, because this is the decade of community innovation, that's going to get better, and better, and better, and better. But I will tell you today that is happening across Mighty Networks and it gets even richer and more energizing and possible.
Because again, let's talk a little bit about, well, what's getting in the way on other platforms? Or again, even on a Mighty Network when that doesn't happen. And it's typically because one, the purpose, the big purpose of the community is missing, it's too generic.
One of the things that I teach in our Community Design accelerator, I teach “learn, share, and grow” needs to be retired. If you're using, "Oh, my community exists because I want to bring together humans of earth to learn, share, and grow so that we can get better."
No one is going to join that community. But rather when a big purpose is specific and narrow, again, you can start narrow and then add more and more profiles. But when you start with I or we bring together women who are navigating, whether or not they should take a gap year before they start college to identify what their goals and aspirations are, learn about new programs, identify where and how, what they want to get out of their gap year so that they can or so that we can together define the optimal experience for our gap year. Use it to start to create our life out of high school.
I'm making this up as I go, as you guys can probably tell. And to ultimately put us on a path to a future that reflects rich, amazing experiences and the kind of impact we want to have on the world. Do you hear the difference between those two things? And again, I just made that up, so that detail, and then you want the software to be able to deliver on that promise.
Tony: You're right. Around that specific point of engagement. Because one of the issues, regardless of what tool you're using with a lot of communities is the context in which people are coming together. And then how are people guided to—
Gina: Yes. And this.
Tony: ... organize, converse around that shared topic.
Gina: Exactly. And this is one of the things— and why for us Community Design is your big purpose your year in the life. So where are your members a year from now? What are they able to do a year from now that they're not able to do today? Because the best communities have growth, they have movement, they have energy creation because they're living and breathing and changing as opposed to something that I think a lot of times, especially amongst community professionals, they talk about belonging.
Well, belonging actually feels quite static or identity feels quite static. I'm a big believer with Community Design, you're designing a journey, you're designing progress into a community. And then actually the way you deliver on that year in the life is pretty simple. You've got monthly themes, a weekly calendar, because that builds consistency, monthly themes, again, reinforces that growth, that movement, and then daily actions or daily polls and questions which are how your members are actually building those relationships with each other.
So when you think about the opportunity, you can do what I just described in each one of those pieces of Community Design with 210 cans in a piece of string, they're not, people are going to do this but platforms can make it harder or easier, and we hope that Mighty Networks makes it easier.
The one other thing that I will add, and this is when people think about it in this regard, it really helps conceptualize creating a community, which is in 2020 plus, most people have been moving so fast and they're excited about a new community, so that myth that it's like, "Oh, well, people are too busy for something new, they don't want another login."
They absolutely want another login. They don't necessarily want 17 new logins where you are with your one idea, sending them to one platform for courses, another platform for community, another platform for payments, another platform for event.
But they will if you can create again, a network effect, something that is really valuable, that's immersive, they're absolutely willing and excited to sign up for that. But when they do the part... Why we're so explicit about monthly themes, a weekly calendar, and daily actions is because people show up and they're like, "Well, what's the culture here?"
Is it like if I DM people, am I going to be viewed as a spammer? If the host of the community or the organizer asks a question of like, "Hey guys, what do you think?" Is like am I supposed to answer in four paragraphs or a thumbs up? I don't know. Am I supposed to add memes? Am I not supposed to add memes?
And people aren't too busy to join a new community, but they want you to tell them what the culture and the norms are of that community. And that is why we really packaged up Community Design, because it gives any host of a community, we call folks on my networks hosts, that are running a community. It gives hosts the ability to define this is what we do here together.
And again, I think the whole notion that you start with rules, the community guidelines and they're typically so negative, it's like, "Don't spam, don't do this, don't be a jerk." It's like what if we start it? And this is why we build communities design plans and with what are we doing here together? What's the awesomeness that you're going to get from this community?
And instead of focusing in on all the things that are the guidelines of what you can't do and also we've seen this work really well. What if the guidelines are, here's the best. When I ask a question, don't write for a pair asked because you don't have time for that, but what else? I'm not going to share a bunch of links that expect you to go read four hours worth of articles and then come back here and comment.
I'm going to ask a nice poll or I'm going to like, we're going to go live together or whatever those things might be. But they're all designed to build that culture. By the way, I realize that I'm just totally, you guys have found a topic I care about and I love this because I think I might have taken one breath in sharing all of that. So I'll stop for that.
Tony: If this episode is just all you talking without stopping for a breath, I think honestly, it's going to be a win. We don't, we can just... But I do no, but we'll give you a chance to take a breath and have a sip of water too. I think there's so much that's important in what you're saying in terms of the onboarding process and how people make their relationship to a community.
And it depends a lot on what kind of community you're building. If you're building a community of just like sharing dog memes or something. Maybe I'll go out of my way to login to a different website for that. But maybe that makes sense just as a Facebook group, or a hashtag, or something, something that's passive.
But if people are doing something important, nobody ever joins a community because they want everything to stay the same. People join for a reason and if they're going to join a community where there's some kind of meaningful purpose behind it, then if you give them an expectation that, "Hey, come here."
And by going out of your way to come here, you're going to enter into a space where there's better life that you're seeking in whatever way it is, will become more possible, and here's what we expect of you. When you catch people in the right context, the right mindset, they will absolutely jump through a lot of hoops to do that.
Gina: Oh, well, we have the data to back this up. So first of all, when we think about and talk about that big purpose, that motivation for a community. So it's a very simple sentence, it's who you bring together like we bring together and then who you're bringing together. Two what you're going to do together and we've got lots of examples of how to go deeper than learn, share, and grow so that we can.
What are the results and transformation that a member wants to have in their lives, their life, and have not been able to get on their own. So we talk about bringing communities together to master something interesting or important to them. To be able to deliver to members results and transformation they're not able to get on their own.
It was just really striking to me, one day I was scrolling through Instagram and the number of serums, and gadgets, and powders, and clothes that are all promising results and transformation, and I had this moment, I was like, "Actually, all of that is BS."
The thing that you want, if you want to actually get results and transformation in your life is join a community, join a... And by the way, that's not read some comments or it's not pay for a course, it's the combination of content, and community, and action, and doing things, and taking on new challenges that ultimately get any of us the results and transformation that we want in our lives.
But what a community does that I think is super cool, is look, we know that completion rates on online courses are not high, which is an understatement. What a community actually gives you beyond videos and PDFs is all of the stories and experiences and not just stories and experiences of the past but of the present.
So simple example of, if you are trying to do couch to 5K and you wake up and it's cold out and you were like, "Oh my God, I'm totally going to go running at 6:30 this morning." And it's dark and it's like, "Okay, well maybe I'll wait till it gets light or maybe," and you look at your phone and you see a bunch of notifications where people are like, "I totally didn't want to get up this morning it was super cold and I was tired, but I got up and I did it." And let's say, you're in California and that just happened across all the other time zones, what are you going to do? What are you going to do?
Jillian: Absolutely go run.
Gina: You're probably going to get up and do it. You're like, "Okay, fine." So I think about what really changes people's lives is the okay but fine, I'll go do it. I'll build that new practice. So just the data. So we see people pay for the promise of results and transformation.
We also see that people pay attention to what they pay for. What happens if you pay attention to what you pay for? You're probably more likely to do the things. What happens when you do the things? You change habits, you change practices, you build new identity that comes out of those new practices and habits, or you create an identity where it's like, of course you wouldn't not get up and run even when it's cold, or you don't want to, or you're just not feeling right.
Which again, I'm not suggesting that you should go running if you're not feeling right. But if you know you're going to feel better — you do it long enough, you're more likely to stick with it. Well, guess what happens then? You've achieved results and transformation in your life.
What typically happens when people achieve results and transformation in their lives? They typically talk about it. So that means great testimonials it also means, "Hey, like you should check out this community that I've joined." And then especially if you've charged for it, as opposed to it being free, more people are getting better results. You also then have the resources to make your community better, like build more programs, build more workshops, and also potentially even advertise and get more people in.
So now you've created this flywheel where charging leads to better results, better results leads to more people, more people leads to more resources, and you've created something that is really meaningful and special.
And we're seeing this on steroids right now with so many of the high quality crypto clubs where it's like, "Oh, I have to buy membership into this by building an asset." So we're seeing all of this stuff happen. So we actually went and looked at the numbers. The engagement on a Mighty Network that charges is higher than a free Mighty Network.
Tony: Mm-hmm. Absolutely.
Jillian: That makes perfect sense, yeah.
Gina: And what it also means, if you are like, "Wait a second," if I have courses and I'm going to do my content, I'm going to church where my, what we have found is that if you have a course and a community together in one place, you are going to see more people engage, which also means that they're going to stick with it longer, and they're going to get better results.
So we see this in not just conversion rates but we also see this in retention rates. And again, somebody listening to this is like, "Oh, but I already do that, I have my course on one platform but I have a community platform that I'm using somewhere else."
We see the power of bringing those two things together in retention rates that are significantly higher than industry averages, conversion rates that are significantly higher than industry averages. And just the power of pulling courses and communities together will get you much higher engagement than you can get when all of those things exist in different places.
Jillian: I really appreciate the way Mighty Networks is set up for that like it's easy, it makes it easy for both ends, for both the creator, and the potential member, because it's just all there in a really beautiful way. It's all there. I'd be so remiss if I didn't take the opportunity to ask you, because you clearly know what you're talking about, you've got data, and studies, and a thriving company.
So if you're thinking about the little guy that's maybe a solopreneur or somebody, a creator that's trying to get their stuff off the ground and they're not seeing the beautiful engagement and things, do you have some tips just for the average community builder to help improve their community?
Gina: Yeah. So I have two answers to that or two observations. So number one, even for any community builder in this moment, there's this sense of all the prerequisites to creating a successful community.
So it's like, "Oh, well, I first have to go build an audience or... I heard somebody say this to me the other day where they were like, "Oh, well first I'm going to go build a marketplace, and then after I have a marketplace, I'm going to have a community or first, I need to go get..." And I've seen even some people talk about this as expert where they're like, "First you have to go get like 100,000 people to follow you on Twitter or Instagram."
And I'm sitting here. I'm like, "Yish!" I'm not going to do that. And here's again, let me come back to the data, we see successful, sustainable, and paid communities on Mighty Networks at roughly 30 people.
Gina: Some are actually less than that.
Gina: So here's the thing I know to be true. The only prerequisite you need is to start with your first 10 people. And if you can bring those people together and also by the way, the average price point for the most successful communities, or memberships, or courses on a monthly fee, $25 to $50 per month.
So this is not like the cup of coffee from Starbucks or roughly $500 for a single payment. So you can actually create a valuable program with 10 people. And a community is sustainable at roughly 30 people.
So all that other noise, I have to go build an audience, I have to go launch a course, I have to do all of these things before I can have a community it's just not true. So then the second piece is for the person that's going, they've gone for it, they're doing their thing, and the engagement is not what they want, here are the things that typically have happened when that's the case.
I always love this part because I feel like one of those plastic surgeons that show up after somebody else is sort of messed it up a little bit.
Jillian: Yeah. The botch surgeon.
Gina: But here's what I know to be true. So it's typically, you don't have a clear big purpose, it's too generic, it's too general. And that typically happens when people are like, "Oh, but my topic is relevant to all of humankind."
Well, that might be true but not all of humankind wants to meet and build relationships with each other. So you are much better off starting with a narrow profile so the value of your community isn't just, what are you going to learn, share, and grow together but again, as we all know, we're never using those terms again.
But rather looking at who are you bringing together and the narrower, the more effective. Additionally, if you tie the... We talked about as your ideal member, the narrower your ideal member the easier it is to make it very clear to them what you're going to do together and the benefits or rewards for doing that together.
When in doubt, go back to that and really understand is my big purpose too generic or my ideal members, have I been too afraid to niche down or too afraid to narrow focus to start? Because I don't want those to be the only people that I serve with my community. You won't, you just need to start somewhere narrower.
And then the third mistake that I see is in a lack of consistency and that's why we're huge believers in the weekly calendar. So this idea of like on Tuesdays at 9:00 AM, we go live, on Thursdays at 4:00 PM, we go live. On Tuesdays we have a new topic that will introduce, on Fridays, we do an interview, a live interview with X, Y, or Z kind of person.
We have a weekly challenge. So on Mondays, we introduce the weekly challenge by Friday, you've posted the results of your weekly challenge. So some kind of consistency, especially when you're getting off the ground and consistency in a weekly calendar is as important for you as a host, as it is for your members.
Everyone is building a new habit. So if you're just showing up and you're like, "Oh shoot, I haven't posted in a while and there's no activity." And you're all freaked out about it, you're much better off stopping at that moment and instead of like throwing up a link to an article and being like, "Hey guys, what do you think? I just read this interesting article. What do you think about it?"
And then nobody replies to it because you've created too much work for them, because they're not going to go read, it's one of 17 links that got shared with them in group chats this morning. And then they also don't know if by “what do you think” it's like, "Well, what do other people think?"
I don't know, who's going to be that first person who puts it out there, but you as a host put that out there because it was easy for you to do. And you were just trying to check the box off of, "Oh shoot, I haven't posted in a while." That doesn't work, what's so much better and so much more effective is to say, "Okay, I need to get clearer on my big purpose, I need to narrow down my ideal member, I need to have a really clear year in the life, what is a member going to be able to do? What is my ideal member going to be able to do a year from now that they can't do today? And have I created a path for my members and for me to build a weekly practice, a weekly habit that then it's just going to feel second nature, 30 to 45 days in."
Jillian: There's just so much great infor— I can't wait for this episode to air so I can send so many people, because it's just a lot of really juicy content too, down to the like, "Here's a good price point, here's a good start number." Because that's I think a lot of people get very overwhelmed because it is like, "Oh, I don't have enough power"
Gina: It feels like there's just too many decisions to make.
Jillian: Yeah. Well, and a lot of people-
Gina: And that was one of our goals of bringing all of these pieces together in one beautifully native platform is because only when you bring these different pieces together in one beautifully native platform, can you actually create a network effect that gets more valuable to every member with each new person who joins? Which also then generates data that says, "Okay, how do you create a highly engaged community mastering something interesting or important together?
And should I make it freemium? Should I charge at the front door? Should I charge at the front door and then have add on programs that I add within that? Will I get engagement? What's an ideal price? What's... People show up and they're like, "What's an average price point?"
Well, there is no average price point because it depends on what you're doing. How much content do I have? Turns out you don't actually have to have a lot of content if you have a clear big purpose, a year in the life, so clear progress being made, monthly themes, a weekly calendar with no more than two to four items in any given week and then daily actions, which you can schedule in advance. This is not hard you have to just be willing to make those big decisions and then all the little get so much easier.
Tony: So you had just, you mentioned one specific thing there that I think is important there, you said, what is it two to four things a week?
Tony: Why that and why not more?
Gina: Yeah. Totally get it. So first and foremost, because one, you don't have to and in everything that I want to put out in the world and we want to put out in the world with Community Design and the platform, especially again, because we're 5% of towards that world, of it all kind of being automated and it will get there.
But here's the thing I know to be true, Tony, it is more important to stay consistent over four weeks with two or three things that you're doing weekend and week out than what is the alternative and the alternative is I'm going to exhaust myself in doing everything in the first week and then by week two, I'm tired and life got in the way.
And so when I think about if those are my two options in terms of helping, you conceptualize or design a community, there's no question, do two things for four weeks, which is roughly the amount of time to build a new practice, make sure that you're learning, and listening, and adapting, and again, coming back to your big purpose in your year in life is more important than like throwing up four more articles that again, no one's going to respond to because it's too much work and they don't know, they don't want to look like a jerk or look lame to other people they don't know yet.
So then, or the alternative which is the only people that are participating are those that aren't paying attention to the social cues in your community, which is in some cases even worse. So then after four weeks or five weeks, you can reflect on how did it feel like, but you did something that was manageable and you can always add a few more things or maybe there's a person or two in your community that are raising their hand for like, "I want to do more things."
But the goal is not to blow yourself or your members out it's to create something that again, represents progress, it represents building new habits and practices, it represents being able to not just lo learn something but apply it and then learn from the experiences of everyone else applying it as well. That concept, that's why we love weekly challenges. And so you really don't have to do a lot more if you've set it up where it's about, what are the contributions being made by your members.
Jillian: Do you... And maybe this is built in the platform, I've definitely poked around a fair bit, but I'm curious, when you're teaching it sounds like in your Accelerator, which I'd love to hear about as well, but when you're teaching these community builders how to do all of this and like this the monthly themes, the weekly calendars, where are they plotting this all out? Are they doing it within the app or do you recommend a certain way of doing it?
Gina: Yeah. We have guides but you can do, you can deliver all of it in our Mighty Network. So you can use the topics features for your monthly themes. You can use the events and scheduling feature for your weekly calendar. So you can schedule post out in advance, you can obviously schedule events, we have Zoom integration, all the things you would know and love.
We have the ability to feature, one of the things we built was a feature section and also a welcome section because what new members need to know when they're joining is different than the new and exciting things that you want to deliver to your returning members. So those are two different places to post things, and then obviously for daily actions or daily polls and questions, we have polls and questions that you can schedule out in advance.
Jillian: Nice. Real quick and then we're going to get to our rapid fire, very difficult questions that are actually super fun, very not difficult at all actually. Just give us a quick down low on this Accelerator, who is that for? What do you get out of it? Asking for a friend.
Gina: Yeah. So what we do in the Accelerator. So over the past two and a half years, we taught this Community Design masterclass. So over five weeks, we went through all the things I just described.
So each of the five parts and of Community Design, we also have five agreements of Community Design, which I'll preview here, which are try new things, stay curious, reframe, reframe, reframe because one of the biggest challenges you all know and I know is perfection, especially when it feels like it's about your personal brand or you're putting yourself out there, you want everything to feel perfect, it doesn't work with the community, that's not the point.
And so reframing a way again, from fear that all of us face when creating a community, which is what if I create this thing and no one shows up? Again, coming back to the party analogy, what if I have a party and no one shows up?
That is a fear that is leading so many people, which is why it's as important for us with Community Design to make these agreements as opposed to just what the things are. And then listen and adapt, it's super important for as a designer of a community that you have a point of view and you're starting with a point of view, so it's not like, "Hey guys, what do you think?"
I don't know, why don't we talk about what you think? But instead you put something out there and you listen and adapt. And then lastly trusting the process because there is a method to the madness.
So what we learned in running this Community Design masterclass with individual cohorts, having over 5,000 people go through it, is that what folks wanted was to be able to go through those five parts, make those five agreements, but then stay with, be in one place so that there was [inaudible], not that you can't go back to the content, you could go back to the content in these cohorts.
But what we found is there's almost this evolution from the static evergreen record only plus a random Facebook group, which I think is sort of the V1 of online courses. Two now, it seems like there's like this V2 of cohorts, which are great, I love cohorts.
But we've actually moved on to what I believe is phase three, which is a community based course, which says, the course content is there and you want to leave and come back, leave and come back. But what's more important is that as new people come in, they can see what more experienced people are doing and more experienced people, if they want to get a refresh on your big purpose, they could do it with new people.
And so that's what we launched actually, we launched it last week in the Community Design Accelerator, so this is an always on community, it is like our own private community for folks that are going through not just the Community Design curriculum or masterclass but then also, applying it and refreshing it.
And then also the other piece that we heard a lot of feedback on was this is amazing, and I want to get really specific in terms of how I can apply it to my Mighty Network. And we had originally launched Community Design is like, well, we don't want to be selling or we're not trying to pump up Mighty Networks in here.
And what we actually found was people wanted us to pump up Mighty Networks in here. So the Accelerator is really about how do you apply Community Design to Mighty? And then how do we have coworking hours? And how do we do office hours? And how do we take what is... Again, these weekly challenges and really turn them into how our hosts are meeting and building relationships with each other, which was happening in the cohorted version.
But this community version I think is even already, we're seeing in one week more energy, more excitement, more people getting more out of the material. And then the other piece of it that I think matters is that again, we have the data. So sharing price points, sharing the fact of the matter is we thought that premium models were more effective, they're not.
It turns out there's a higher conversion rate and more activity when you actually just charge for the front door of a community with courses in it or charge for the front door of a community plus courses, and then add on additional payments for courses or community, specific memberships or specific programs within a paid community or a paid money network, all a big surprise to us. So there's all sorts of interesting things to do.
Jillian: I love data.
Gina: And that's what we do in the Accelerator.
Jillian: Awesome. Well, this has just been amazing. I wish we had like two more hours, but for all our sake, Tony is going to take you into our rapid fire.
Tony: All right, Gina. So I'm going to ask you a few questions, just throw me whatever answer pops into your head first, it's going to all over the place. First and foremost, we're going straight to your childhood, what did you want to be when you grew up?
Gina: I wanted to be a casino dealer, blackjack dealer, or a truck driver.
Gina: Because I was really into the movie, Smoking Together.
Jillian: I love it.
Tony: Absolutely amazing.
Gina: And I once went to Tahoe, and stood outside a casino, and I was like, "That looks like a cool job." Oh, and there was also an afterschool, there was an afterschool commercial regularly for like going to bartending school. And so that looked pretty sweet as well.
Jillian: I love it.
Tony: I remember those kinds of commercials. Yeah, exactly. I thought when you answered that amazing unexpected answer, I thought like, "Man, there must be like a really long story behind it." And like, "No, it's a short story, it's a good story, it's nice and short," appreciate that. Okay. Community, this is a topic that we can talk about all day in different ways, but how do you define community?
Gina: A community is a method for bringing people together to make and build relationships with each other in pursuit of mastering an interesting or important topic together.
Tony: Great. I love it. Yeah, exactly. I'm with you. Okay. We're going to talk bucket list, something on your bucket list that you have done.
Gina: Oh, that I have done?
Gina: So I don't have kind of a formal bucket list. I don't have a formal bucket list, that's harder for me to answer that.
Tony: You can recast this as something...
Gina: Yeah. I'm thinking, something that I've done that-
Tony: Something you would've put on your bucket list, if you made one.
Gina: Yeah. I would say that I took a trip one time where I went camping in France and rode my bike around, and that was [inaudible].
Jillian: That's awesome.
Tony: Love it. Love it. Love it. Something on your bucket list or that would be on your bucket list, if we were making it now that you have not yet done?
Gina: Reinvent how we think and execute communities online and in the real world. So not ambitious at all.
Tony: Godspeed to you. I'm with you, behind you. Let's talk about a book, book that you are just loving that you want to shout from the rooftops is wonderful. Could be non-fiction, fiction, anything you want?
Gina: Oh, my gosh. Here's why I'm struggling to answer that question. I'll answer it and I'll tell you why I think it's hard. I thought the book, Atomic Habits was excellent. And I think it is something that, especially community designers, community organizers really have a great impact, and it's a great read.
I will say the reason why it's harder for me to think like, "Oh my gosh, that book," is I read all the time. And as I've gotten older I've become more of a reader than I was as a kid. And so I just drill through books pretty regularly and so I don't think about books as like, "Oh, this one I recommend, or this one I don't, or I think about it more as this like ongoing tunnel of reading."
Tony: So you haven't had an experience recently where like, "Oh man, I just wish the whole world would read this book or something like that."
Gina: I think Atomic Habits is really good. I thought David Goggins book, Can't Hurt Me was also really good but that, I don't think everybody should read because I listened to that on the audio book and the way he describes his childhood is really horrific. So it's like don't read that. But Atomic Habits is fantastic.
Tony: Yeah. James Clear speaking at our Audience Driven summit so that was a convenient plug.
Tony: Okay. If you could live anywhere else in the world other than where you live, where would it be?
Gina: I would love to sp- this is actually also on my bucket list, I'd love to spend a year living and working in London.
Jillian: Me too.
Gina: I think that would be really fun.
Tony: Yeah. I'm down for that. And then finally-
Gina: Otherwise, I'm a California girl.
Tony: Oh, sorry.
Gina: I love Cali-
Tony: California. Yeah, I'm with you. Okay. So last one, you've kind of... One of your previous answers could totally apply to this, but take whatever spin you want on it, how do you want to be remembered?
Gina: Hopefully making a difference as we move from technology and software being a source of pain to a source of light, and to do it through changing how we think about and what's possible with software as it relates to joining, contributing, and growing communities.
Tony: Source of pain to a source of light. I mean, that is your mic drop moment. Thank you, Gina so much. Where do we find you on the internets? Where do you find you? Where do we find Mighty?
Gina: Yeah. So MightyNetworks.com. And I actually spend probably more time in our Mighty Community and our Community Design Accelerator, which you can find by searching Mighty Community. And then I do on Twitter but probably the place I spend the most time outside of Mighty is on Twitter. And my handle is Gina B because I was early.
Jillian: Tony, you love that?
Tony: Love it. Gina, thanks so much. It has been an absolute pleasure, really appreciate you taking the time to hang with us.
Gina: It's my pleasure. Thanks so much. Take care.
Jillian: Godspeed to you. Go help a billion people.
Gina: Will do it.
Jillian: All right. And that was our conversation with Gina Bianchini of Mighty Networks. Tony, what'd you think?
Tony: Yeah. Well, first of all, so great to just... I'm grateful that we had a chance to talk with her and that she came on the program. She is so articulate, you can tell that she has been in this game for a long time. She knows the notes to hit, she's probably one of the most quotable guests we've had so far.
And what I love is that she's a CEO of a software platform whose focus is really on the engagement and having it be a quality experience for people from a community perspective, not just a technology perspective. And the technology that they're developing is technology specifically to improve engagement. And I think that, that's something that it's refreshing to see.
Jillian: Yeah, I agree. And I also just, I mean, one, I just want to be besties immediately. But two, there's the hustle culture and all of these people always telling us, you got to work hard and grind and blah, blah, blah. And I feel like Gina comes from a totally different place and has the data to back it up as to why she is right.
And that just brings me so much joy for so many reasons, but it's less of the like, "Oh yeah, you have to have a six figure launch and blah, blah, blah." It's none of that and it's like, "Hey, you can have a really great community with 10 people in it." It's fine.
Tony: Keeping in mind that scale is so helpful because you don't necessarily want to do something really big right away. So I think it's a great thing to remember. And I love hearing that from Gina, whose platform is one of the most robust ones out there. It supports courses, online events, local events, and all of these things. And so you could have a pretty big complicated full featured group in her platform, but she still advocates for starting small, which I respect.
Jillian: I love It, I absolutely love it. And something we talked about that I thought was just such a great thing is focusing on progress, get started and progress. So it's that whole progress not perfection. It's like just get started and build on it and that is a great way to grow a really healthy community.
Something else that I think is so important and people get nervous and cast a broad net for their community because it's like well, the more people that I can attract in the better, but you're doing your community a disservice with that, it's actually better to niche down and be incredibly specific if you can be, if it warrants it, because those people that identify with that specific niche are going to connect on a level that is just magic, right?
And I love that, it goes very well with Pat's Ethos of The Riches Are in the Niches. And I mean, agree.
Tony: Absolutely, and recognizing that what you're doing is going on a journey together that you are not just joining a community because you want to hang out, you're joining a community because you want to make some kind of a change, you want to grow in some kind of a way.
People join a community for a reason. There's a reason that somebody joins when they do. And so if you lean into, well, what is this journey that people have come here to go on, then that gives you a lot of ways to play with the kinds of engagements you can design, because you know that there's an aspiration and a higher purpose behind why everybody's in the room.
And I think that'll help you to make more effective event programming. And we talked a little bit about having a ringer event and being able to just know that there's something that you're going to do, that people are going to really actually want to show up for. And if you can have even just one of those kinds of engagements that's really going to make a huge difference in terms of your engagement and retention.
Jillian: So let's talk about this because that's such a big concern for people launching a community is, I don't have time to be doing a ton of events and the reality is less is more and you are an event master.
Jillian: So what do you think as far as what's a pretty safe ringer event? What should... If someone has a community out there and they're like, "Oh, I want to do a ringer event." What advice would you give is just like not knowing the specifics of...
Tony: Yeah, I would-
Jillian: Not to put on the spot, but.
Tony: ... I'm sorry, appreciate that. I would say that it's always a safe bet to create some kind of opportunity for people to talk about the thing that brought them together, and where they're at with it, and where they're, I don't want to say struggling, but what kind of challenges that they're working on overcoming?
So the basic format would be, if you could put people in a room match make them, one-on-one Zoom, or breakout rooms, or I've been loving Gatheround as a platform, giving people a chance to get in a room together and talk one-on-one or in a small group, but one-on-one is cool too, about what is the thing that caused me to join this group? How does this relate to me personally? And what's my next step with it?
It could be, I'm a model train enthusiast and I joined because I'm working on developing my next model train set or whatever, but you can see how just giving people the right prompts for discussion will get them to open up in a way that is likely to create connection between people who you know have at least something in common. And so give them that vehicle to connect over what that thing they have in common is and you're going to generate better connections.
Jillian: Such a pro, that's a great idea. All right. Well, on that note, everyone go out and take Tony's advice and let us know what you do. What's your ringer event in your community or what did you try after listening to this episode? You can find us on Twitter @TeamSPI and we would love to hear you. And yeah, we'll see you next Tuesday.
Tony: This has been The Community Experience. For more information on this episode, including links and show notes, head over to Smartpassiveincome.com/listen.
Jillian: You can learn more about Mighty Networks at, MightyNetworks.com, and follow Gina on Twitter. Her handle is @GinaB.
Tony: Our Executive Producer is Matt Garland. Our series producers are David Grabowski, and Senior Producer Sarah Jane Hess, editing and sound designed by Duncan Brown, music by David Grabowski.
Jillian: See you next time.
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