Community is the first threat to Google and Facebook in 15 years
17 minute talk that I did for a digital trends and marketing conference.
I designed this talk for a digital marketing + internet culture conference and wanted my talk to be accessible and rather simple with a very clear message: Facebook is not a good tool for community building, please consider using something else.
Now let’s pause for a minute. I showed up in an inner yard of people telling each other how to better buy and sell ads on Facebook and did a presentation that they all are outdated.🦖🦖🦖
Obviously this message was quite revolutionary and disappointing for the crowd. The moderator asked what advice I could give to businesses willing to rethink their community and social strategy.
My reply: hire a zoomer. Young people sense cringe and naturally feel what is cool on the internet.
Then the moderator concludes the Q&A in a very sad voice: now both Olle and I have to think about how to stay relevant and young. 🦖
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There’s a presentation narrative below, if you prefer reading rather than watching.
Community is the first threat to Google and Facebook in 15 years - these are the words of Alexis Ohanian, the Reddit co-founder.
And I strongly resonate with these words. I will tell why by sharing two stories from my community consultancy experience.
Let's start by checking the age of the audience to make sense of the talk.
So who was alive in the year 2000? Remember how everyone figured they needed a website?
OK, an easier one, who was alive in 2009-2010, remember how everyone figured out they needed a Facebook page?
So today in 2021 you need a community, your business needs a community for the same reason your business needed a Facebook page 10-11 years ago and a website 20 years ago. Just the natural iteration of what happens.
That is it.
The main idea of my talk is done: your business needs a community in 2021 for the same reason it needed a Facebook page in 2009.
And if your business misses on this opportunity today, it will be very hard to get traction.
Now let me back my statement with two stories of how businesses wanted to pivot to the community-focused model - a successful one and a not successful one.
We need some context before I share the stories - what is the difference between the audience and a community?
The audience is your Facebook page - you, your brand do talk to your audience, your followers.
That is it - you talk, they listen and sometimes throw shit at you and each other in the comments. That's the format.
A community is where you, your brand, your employees may have the leading voice, may bring up and enforce the rules and probably the culture. And people can talk to you and each other.
Audience - you talking. Community - people talking.
So your Instagram, your Facebook page, your LinkedIn, your newsletter - that's not a community, that's an audience.
Now the case studies. Both are from my consultancy experience.
And if you want to learn more about what I do - just go to communities.show and subscribe - you'll see myself and my team talking to some of the industry leaders about the community, we reflect on what is going on. Just like this talk, but 2 times a week. Subscribed?
Story number 1.
A set of co-working spaces. Nice pre-pandemic business model - paid memberships, sponsored events, usual things. But what should they do when corona happened?
They can close down and wait for life to go back to normal or they can leverage the pandemic and switch to online.
Folks, what is your thinking? Wait or pivot to online?
Wait. We're talking co-working - that's buildings with chairs, tables and meeting rooms that are empty. What online are we talking about?
Let’s focus on the job to be done for a co-working. Many teams hire a co-working space for networking and meetings. Let's make an online co-working, let's make an online community so valuable that people want to pay for it. Let’s make it good for networking, let's help startups and companies talk, network, do business. Community as a product, that solves the biggest pain for remote teams - networking and business development.
If you have an online community, you have an audience for podcasts, online events, training classes - that's also what you can monetize. And then scale beyond your small network of rooms with chairs and tables.
The key to this move was to use not Facebook but proper community tools. I suggested Discord and am very happy about it.
I don't know how to build the same or similar structure with Facebook or LinkedIn or even Slack. I would strongly discourage doing it. It would be just too expensive and would not make sense.
Story number 2:
A classy accelerator. Lectures, events, startups - all in real life. Pandemic hit, so they moved online. Someone sold them the full Microsoft suite, probably at a large discount at a multi-year contract. Very nice Mr Salesman. But this doesn’t work.
The startups in this accelerator don't have a way to talk and meet each other. So the accelerator uses Facebook Groups for that. As you know, on Facebook one cannot control what they see, since the feed is generated based on their interests, so startups could not see what the accelerator communicated. The accelerator then tried to employ WhatsApp chats and then switched to duplicate everything into in mail.
It ended up a fragmented mess - multiple communication channels, exhausted and demotivated staff, startups who after two months in the program could not figure out what is going on where and who is who and where to talk to peers just because of the multiple channels and because of how Facebook decides who sees what.
But even if the message on Facebook gets through to people's feed, it is sandwiched between a cat meme, some corona disinformation and the latest report on how a bloody dictator hijacked an airplane. Guess what gets the attention? Nope, not your message.
I can rant more about this case. But I am biased because they didn't buy my consultancy, so I am focusing my rage on how Facebook is a terrible tool for anything community.
Overall, I see Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Twitch and all other social networks as the top of the marketing funnel with the community in the middle of the funnel and the core product of your business at the bottom.
Google and Facebook are just tools to acquire users into your community.
They are still needed, but the core of your business is where your community is.
Not the Facebook audience, but a community - where your users and potential leads can interact with each other but also your brand and your products.
That is it. That is the threat. You host your community. You don't hire it from Facebook. This is how you win, your users win and Facebook loses your ad budgets.
Here you also see a tweet of one of my role models, Lolita Taub of the Community Fund, who explains how community-driven companies are of bigger value.
By having a community you save money on everything, you get happier users and they don’t abandon your product that easy. Also, your competitors can replicate your product, but cannot steal your community.
Catch up with me on Twitter or subscribe to The Communities Show podcast, if you want to learn more about how a community is a big deal to your business.
These are regular Google slides, nothing fancy. Lera, our artist did some makeup and style. The background is #00ff00 so I can use chroma key on them and present them in a fancy way, as you can see on the video at the top - it is real-time, not post-processing, no editing.
If you’re curious, I can make a tutorial on how you can do it too.
/This text has been written by Olle, rigorously checked by Grammarly and scrolled through by Lera