Gina Bianchini is the Founder & CEO of Mighty Networks. The company's mission is to usher in a new era of digital businesses built on network effects. It serves small and medium businesses that offer digital memberships, online courses, community, and subscriptions – all offered in one place under their brand, instantly available on every platform. Before Mighty Networks, Gina and Netscape co-founder Marc Andreessen launched Ning, a pioneering global platform for creating niche social networks. Under her leadership, Ning grew to ~100 million people in 300,000 active social networks across subcultures, professional networks, entertainment, politics, and education. It was sold for $150M in 2010. Gina and Mighty Networks have been featured in Wall Street Journal, Fast Company, Wired, Vanity Fair, Bloomberg, and The New York Times. In the following interview, Gina shares how to build an online community that works towards your mission.
What did you learn from Ning that evolved into building Mighty Networks?
The first thing that popped into my mind was that people are awesome. Our creativity, energy, and passion, as well as our ability to be vulnerable, authentic, and weird, are what make us so. Mighty Networks is a platform our clients can leverage to create communities around those awesome passions that bond us.
The second is that people can achieve results and transformation in a community in a way that they can't do by themselves. People have a yearning to connect, and community is the best way to navigate uncertainty. Our platform has evolved from things I've done in the past because it can handle online courses and memberships and the subsequential transactions that allow our clients to create real, sustainable communities in one place.
What would you say are some of the common mistakes people make when they start to build a digital community?
I'm going to make a provocative statement. There are no Instagram communities. Community happens when people connect around a shared interest, passion, goal, location or identity. The magic of a community is that it is not an audience. Community is built around the connections between people who would benefit from knowing each other.
If someone were to say to me, Gina, I do have a community I have 30,000 followers on Instagram. My response would be, How many times have those people met each other or helped each other by sharing their stories and experiences and ideas on the way to mastering something important? Generally, the answer is almost always never. That is a very common mistake. Social media is an arena where the goal is to keep people's attention on you. It takes a mindset shift to switch from building an audience to facilitating connections through communities.
Social media is an arena where the goal is to keep people's attention on you. It takes a mindset shift to switch from building an audience to facilitating connections through communities.
Why do people utilize Facebook groups if it's challenging to monetize a community there?
The number one reason is when you create a community that is your own, with your own, in your own space, similar to what you would do with a website or Shopify store, you have the opportunity to build the communities' cultural norms and values. The issue is that when you have a group interaction so tightly integrated to their overall Facebook experience, you can't create your own culture because you're trying to fight Facebook's.
The second reason people choose Mighty Networks over a Facebook group is people want to keep their professional and personal lives separate. Facebook might be great for keeping up with family and friends. But, it's tough for the Facebook algorithm to figure out where and how you want to interact with a professional network or a group discussing more sensitive topics.
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