Community Builders Workshop : How to Grow Your Business With Content.
Edu Giansante - Co-Founder of E-Dublin, Head of Community, Book Author, Entrepreneur, Visual Storyteller, Community Builder
I've been building communities and working with communities for possibly 15 years, and arguably, my most successful community was not one that I planned on building, wasn't one that I put a strategy behind, uh, we can talk more about that, but I've come from several different companies where I had communities: Zynga, Dropbox, Wix, VMware, and so on, so yeah, I'm excited to be here and talk more about communities.
1. How To Get In Front Of Your Target Audience (And Steal Their Attention)? And what Outcomes Should My Content Achieve?
I think it's such a broad term that we use nowadays, especially when you say "content." It can be anything from a blog post up to an Instagram or a Stick Box video; it can be anything that gives some information or some piece of information, excites someone, entertains someone, or informs someone.
It can be anything, and I have probably the best way to share it with you. Imagine we have this triangle, and the base of it, which is like the largest side of it, is where you have like the lowest level of, let's say, authority, but also the lowest level of effort that you have to put into putting that content together. Assume you're creating this webinar here and inviting me, and he's posted it on LinkedIn, and then someone watching us here today goes in and creates a piece of content, which is they'll repost that this webinar saying this was a great webinar, so this type of content is not content right because they're creating it at the lowest, most shallow level, which is okay, it's not bad, but that's what 99 percent of people will do.
If you bring this to the second level, maybe you can get someone here who is watching, like Victoria, who is here. She's watching it, and she's like, "Hey, I have my idea," and she'll kind of like additional information to that which you add in, so that should bring more value to the existing content that has been created here, so that value has a different level of expectation, a different level of expertise, and a higher level of effort that she needs to put in to make that happen, right?
It's not that everyone will do that maybe five percent of people will do that great but then there are the people like what you're doing today what we're doing here which are the ones who will stop and set up a time to organize a webinar invite people to bring someone to speak and naturally generate a content from scratch which is what you do that has such a level of complexity compared to just commenting on someone's if they think it's much more complex to make sure that whatever you're creating here has credibility has validation it's making sense so it's becoming that one percent right.
so first, I wanted to make sure that we get this kind of like perspective part because when we talk about the content it's very simple to create easy content that Tick Tock has enabled us for that's essentially like copying someone reacting to someone remixing someone's content that's easy and that's why it has grown so fast that Community has gone really fast because they're essentially giving you tools to replicate fairly easily with low effort something that at the end of the day, it's shallow, so it's something that's not necessarily gonna make someone change their mind. But you're just going to make someone maybe laugh or just stick up or apply through things, so that's the first point on that, and then when we talk about this one person, which is what we're doing here, that's the point where we're like, "How do I get people in the picture?" So now that I have Purdue using this, I want to produce this one percent of the content here.
I believe there are two parts: there is no secret software, and this is exactly how you feel people's attention will come, you know, timing, names, and whatever else is behind whatever it is we'll call attention; a combination of all of this will get people's attention, but I believe above all, you just know you're going to win. You're going to score a goal if you keep shooting; if you don't try and shoot, you're not going to score a goal. So you need to shoot, and I think that's how you get attention. You keep doing it, and then you get someone's attention, and when you get that one stand-up attention, you just broke in there.
2. How Can you Make a Content More Visual? Society is shifting towards a more visual form of storytelling. More than half of people are visual learners, what do you have to say about that?
Back to the kids' story, a big story is really what connects people. Uh, when I started in Dublin, what I mentioned, I didn't know I was building a community was expected because I was essentially moving abroad, and there was absolutely no information about Ireland in Brazil or Portuguese. I'm talking about 2007, which is a long time ago for a lot of people.
so that back then they were absolutely nothing like there were no blogs Instagram didn't even exist, and YouTube was just getting started; there was no like blog or anything like that, so I thought maybe there was a way for me to start talking about what I'm experiencing here, and that was the huge difference between going to the government website and reading the documentation and all the boring stuff versus what they do, which is the experience of being there.
just like my other Brazilian followers at the time were trying to figure things out as you know figure what's going on here what can I do am I allowed to do this can I touch this it kind of brought that Curiosity because people are following your journey that's why Big Brother worked to do all that's why novels and movies have this storyline you can you understand what's going to happen you're like what if it was me there and they want to position themselves there right, so that's obviously when you expect to expand and you're like okay this is induced version of this story but what would that be if Uncle was there what would he be feeling there you know what would be his experience like and this is extremely strong I think this is like the probably the most strong way of approaching any type of content this is why Bob Iger is back to Disney because they want to bring back storytelling and this is definitely like the strongest thing you can do ever.
3. Understanding your buyer personas is crucial to determining the kind of content you need to develop for the ideal customer. Who Are My Buyer Personas?
That's a great question and I'll try and bring it back now to a little bit of the business side of things, and yeah, perhaps that's the great example of when a joint Dropbox I join has 400 plus million users and there's an expectation and enjoyment of somebody with that amount of users; they're like, "Hey, so the community is going to be huge," and you're like, "Well, I'm not really sure." Because, just like you know, Dropbox is a commodity, just like Google Plus, it doesn't mean that we're going to join the community or guys who wear glasses, because this is just a commodity, we're not really thinking too much about it.
Dropbox runs in the background, which means you don't care about it much unless it stops working, just like you don't care about your Internet working unless it stops working, so you don't join the community of people who have internet because there's no point and you know it's big enough that it's not a community, it's just a thing, which is exactly what I did when I joined the challenge. So how are you going to create a community? What do the people in that community care about? Because they don't really care about anything unless it's broken, so unless it's broken, I was like, "Well, maybe this is the community for people who can figure things out, or maybe it's a community for people who are seeing this broken and who care enough to come to us, and I mean, we can have someone to help them with that," so it became a support community. In the sense that people who would approach us would be people who had to learn something or who had something that was not working as expected, I guess it's important.
We had to start with an assumption and then validate it, and how do you validate an assumption? You dig and talk to people. For us, it was let me go and talk to people who raised customer support tickets in the last three months and ask them what they were looking for, what information they had, what their intention was, and what the problem they were trying to solve. And the fun fact is that 70 percent of these types of questions weren't ones that we had asked.I was thinking, maybe if we create this place for them to find this information and they do need to reach out for support, maybe they will come back, maybe they will grow and engage, and maybe they will find what they're looking for. I don't know if you look at this today, it sounds really simple because everyone is trying to apply the same approach that's 2014 right, so it's looking at sometimes the simple things, so like, okay, maybe these are the questions that they have.
This is a common question in your community, so you have this webinar, which is the long-form answer to that; maybe you have a blog post, which is SEO driven and you can insert that if someone Googles it; maybe you have a tick-tock video of 30 seconds of that, which is just like a part for them to dive deeper; or maybe you have any Instagram reveals, which is another way that's short enough but also gets another audience that's not technical.
In the LinkedIn version, you tag people, and then you get the more business side of this question, and you can try the answer in many different formats, and you're like, "Hold on, this format that's more business-driven is getting me more leads, or just another format that's a little bit shallower, but it's getting even more visibility, and the visibility is getting people interested in knowing more about people." "Do they want to find out what we do another day?"
4. How do I measure success with marketing campaigns? And how to measure content performance through traffic metrics?
I think this is a really good question because a lot of the time when we talk about communities, people tend to go to the more romantic side of the community, like, "Hey, people need to feel they belong, and it's great and it's beautiful, but they need to be a metric, otherwise it's not going to really play out and it's not going to be something that you're going to sustain." There are a couple of things, and I think the joy of having my own business is that. I had to figure things out without any kind of analytics background or a data scientist helping me or anything like that, and then when you compare it to the big companies I worked with where they had a team of data analysts, it's kind of like you can see that having access to a tonne of data is kind of pointless if you don't know what to do with it. Just like if you don't have any data and you have a gut instinct, you can play with your gut, try things out, and maybe measure one or two entry points there. So I'll share an example from Dublin and then talk about the size of the big companies.
When I started a campaign for an airline, I was like, "I did this to get this entire line; I need to get them as a counsellor for our community because I think they're going to be great." Everyone who needs to move abroad needs to fly on an airplane. Why not? An airline would be a perfect match for us, so let's go get them, and obviously, we know data, as the data I had was similar to Google Analytics. I was like, "Hey, I have this amount of people who have acted on my website and so on," and they're like, "Yeah, but that's not really conversion or anything that we can really measure and say that this is going to work or not," and I was like, "So give me a shot back; let me try something out," and what I did was I created this Google form, like a Google survey, where I asked people which company did you use to apply, and that was a simple question I asked, and I was able to get, I don't know at the time, 300 or 400 answers. I was like, "Okay, out of 400 people, this percentage of people fly your airline," which is quite low because if you look at the other four, they're pretty bad because the connection slides are longer, they don't speak Portuguese, they have this and these other issues, and yet the immigration is harsher for us and yet they have a larger market share.
Why? People know them through word of mouth. If you go to Brazil and I ask about your company, I'm pretty sure no one's going to know that you're good Maybe if we run the campaign or start to promote you, at some point, we're going to be able to start to convert people, and they'll be like, "Okay, okay, so my first point was my data." There was market share.
I figured this out in the most illogical way possible because I wasn't sure if this was usually significant at the time, but then I was like, "Okay, this can work, so we run another survey in a broader spectrum; we looked at different sources; we got more people in; we got the percentages; and then we start promoting them, and I was like, "I'm going to promote you for free."All I want you to do is give me one flight ticket so I can record a video of me flying and using the airline.
I did that, so I created a video like, "Hey guys, this is how you apply from Brazil to Ireland through this airline," and then I went through all of the journeys, showing them what the food was like and what the gate was, and I acted like I knew how easy it was because sometimes people just need the basics; they're like, "What does it look like in their plane or what does it look like in the international area of departures?" because I don't know, I haven't flown internationally yet." And the third is common in Brazil, so you got to all the details, and that helped them so much because it was showing them the basic things that I knew I would have as a question; it wasn't like a guide on how to apply it, more like this is your experience playing; this is the way you go on; if you turn left here, there's a toilet; if you go straight here, this is where the blade is waiting for you to show your passport; all you have to do is show your passport and your boarding pass; that's it; and simple things like that.
"Now that I know the business and how this company works, I'm not going to take a risk and choose another airline because it's too risky not knowing what the date is like or what the experience is like," they said, and we increased their market share. Because what I did is, after one year, I ran a certain survey, and they were like, "Oh my God, the markets are growing; let's do another campaign like this." We did it again, and then we started to grow, and five years later they started to pay it, but then not only gave up flight tickets but paid us to be present in our carpet throughout the year because they knew it didn't drive in market share. So, again, when we look back at a successful marketing campaign, the only metric I had was market share, which is probably the most known statistically, but it made the point, and that's what you need: to be able to make a point and validate that point you're making. They did it, and they started to sponsor us for years to come, and that, to me, is an example of how having too much access to too much data isn't always necessary. Yes, and then you look at companies like mine, and they're like, "Okay, all of this is great, but then how can you attribute that this was like, well, we can't because the user has stuck with these other 400 entry points so we can say that this is attributed to the community or whatever, and like see, he overcomplicates sometimes."
5. What's The Best Channel For Creating Content if Your Target Market is Blogging, Podcasting, or Creating Course Creator Videos and Audiobooks?
II think first of all Yes, not only is podcasting taking over the world, but so is audio streaming, where people watch videos of podcasts in really long formats like two to three hours or even four hours at times, almost like a video version of the podcast. I believe there is a need for that; there are people who want to consume it, but I don't believe the wave currently being produced teaches us anything new; it's more about people being curious to hear someone they like to talk to for a long time. It's like, you know, Joe Rogan is not teaching, like, "How do you know to create this module on or how to create these queries on Stickle?" and then he talks with a data scientist or whatever; it's not about that; it's not teaching people anything; it's just like, "Let me chat with this dude here."
On a debut stand with the guitar players or Megan Death, I'm not sure what to do other than ask them about his experience years ago when he started at Metallica and why he's pissed off and whatever it's like; it's a chat about the person's life, so personally, it's beautiful that this is happening and growing, but it's not serving needs that we have, you know, outside of the entertainment side of things. It's just bringing curiosity and contact to your point and asking what's the right thing to do or the right way to do it. It is the right way to try things out. I'm not saying this is the only way you should do it, but you should consider whether you're going to help me in some way, if you're not going to help me, or if it's just diffraction. So maybe you could create long-form thoughts where you invite, I don't know, random people and talk about life and maybe talk about kids and barbecue, but then you're like, "Is this going to help my business grow?"
You have to be more intentional when you create content, right? Like, what's the intent of what I'm doing here, and for whom am I doing this? so that's the first thing uh then the second point to that, and I think blogging is not that, but today the problem is that SEO is the reason why people are blocked, so it's the CPL top results, which means that if you want to search, I don't know what's the best community out there, but the answer is going to come from maybe a ghostwriter from HubSpot who has like huge SEO and there's not someone who knows about communities or anything like that they just happen to know about SEO and this is really bad for us it hurts a lot which brings opportunities for the curation of content so that's why sub stock and other platforms are growing a lot because people want to get created content that's why the medium is still successful that's why quora are still successful. People want to get curation from the company; they don't want to just continue with what Google's first result is because that's just SEO and that's not necessarily the best result; it's just the best SEO, so I think there are ways in which you can approach that. I still don't think we've cracked the code on curating content that's easy for me to digest to the point where it's broad enough to serve as an example for any managers out there.
A lot of them are creating this newsletter, including the curation of content. I'm like, "Yeah, that's cool," and they're like, "Oh, and the best platform for community," and they're like, "Okay, I created this content where I interviewed a lot of people and I created this solution for platforms," and then I'm like, "Okay, great, let's see," and then the first interview is with a guy who's like a startup himself, and he has no money. He's like, "Yeah, this is the community I use." I use Facebook. "It's great for me." like, "Okay, cool," and then the second interview is like, "This is the guy who owns the community team at Salesforce, and they have two million dollars to spend per year." So they use this best platform, and they're like, "This is how this is the best platform;" You're like, "Great! "This is not giving me anything; it's just out of curiosity." "Oh, out of curiosity, that's how much they pay for a lot of things; this guy's the platform they use; it's not giving me any solutions; they're not creating those for me." They're like, "Okay, this is the platform that people who have, you know, smaller teams but are, you know, trying to build internationally use."
They have to figure out multiple languages and so on. This is what they do, this is how they approach it, this is the distance, and this is how they process this information. This is what they struggle with, then the other thing, because at the end of the day, everyone is looking at what everyone else is doing to figure out what's best about something. I remember exactly this when I was interviewing someone at Asana, and they were like, "Oh, we actually wanted to see what platforms they use because we were thinking that back when it was Dropbox, we were trying to change it." And then two days later, literally two days later, someone from my team says, "Hey, I'm not from Benchmark, and I've done this great platform." "It should maybe switch to Benchmark and use something similar." I was like, they called us a few days ago and asked us what we use because they want to change theirs, so no one knows and no one has the answer. Yes, this is probably both the beauty and the curse of it; no one has figured out how to curate confidence through pure aggregation; it's not curation yet, so I think we need to get better at this, and this could be a great opportunity for markets out there.
6. Is Organic Reach Dead? Is It Still Worth Creating Organic Content Or Is It Better To Have Paid Content?
That's a really good point, and remember something that someone said just recently that I loved: "Are there any organic search results still happening?" And the reason why, with what we did type on that, obviously it will have the page content that goes on top, and then you have the organic results at the bottom, but they're not organic because you're paying an SEO if you work on that, so it's not that you're paying Google, but you're paying someone to make that content go on top. So it's not organic in that sense, right? But, to separate that, because I believe there is a whole debate on organics in that sense, I think there are a few things here. If I were to answer this question to a human five years ago, I'd say that organic is a great way to do things, and I think the best way is to collaborate with people who have, you know, some sort of audience that will connect to yours, and if you invite someone who is like, "I don't know an influencer within a specific niche that adds value to your community," then you can add value back. "This is a great way to do it, and this is how you know people can grow."
But then I asked myself this question, and now I see that changing because people have realized that collaboration doesn't pay bills, it doesn't pay the rent, uh, sometimes what happens is we do this like campaign with Wix, where you know a couple of times you pay someone who is an influencer in the design industry, for example, and they're like, "Hey, you want to create this and we'll invite you to speak and show off?" Then, the guy didn't share a single thing. The guy didn't talk about anything else. And then I was like, "Oh, why not?" She was like, "Well, because you just paid for me to speak, not for me to be in the chair. If you want me to share this is equity, or if you want me to do a follow-up, or if you want me to use this recording, there's an extra fee because I'm just giving you the fee."
I mean, I'm seeing people in the industry where, like, if you're in a negotiated business with this person, you either have to give them part of the business so they're excited and they will promote you, or you want to give them like a high feed that covers all of this other aspect, which is not just being there but really promoting it in their social media or wearing t-shirts or whatever it is, so you need to really go back to the old style, even though you're talking to someone who has an influence or just on the Internet or just becoming like an internet celebrity so I think there's that uh and then the other opportunity you have is when we're talking about like the initial questions they made it. You're constantly creating good content, not constantly creating bad content. Now you know that you're in pretty good company because it's getting more eyeballs and getting more people excited. People are engaging with it and are really excited to discuss, debate, or add value to it. You have to do it because if it's not good, people will just consume it and leave; if it's okay, it may not grow; it may become stale; so having that may give you some hope that at some point someone will like it and share it somewhere; that will get some attention; but this is much harder, right? This is harder because you have to expect and hope for someone to do that.
So I think the secret, or, uh, hybrid solution, is a mix of folks. You keep working on your organic activities, but you have to find your implementers, people who are unwanted on Facebook and don't think about, like, who is in my industry here or who can add value to my business here that I can pay to them, and within that payment, I can actually have that person be a part of something, or I can invite the person to be a partner. Like a business partner, this person would say, "Here's like 0.5 percent of my business in exchange for helping us grow because, at the end of the day, this is going to be good for you too." So it's changing a lot. I've seen this change a lot. There are a lot of companies in Brazil doing things like working with influencers who are like, "I don't get paid for media anymore; it's equity in exchange for media." So you give me equity in that company, and I will promote you because we both have an interest in them, and I was like, "Well, that's that."
7. It's important to ensure your strategy and your content are uniquely yours compared to your close competitors in order to separate yourself in the eyes of your Audience. What do you have to say about that?
I think that's a good way to bring us to the end and close that yeah, I'd maybe challenge people watching this to come up with a strategy that's uniquely yours.When you first start out, you should be completely free of competition. I think it's a bit naive to think that you're going to be, you know, the next big genius out there. Maybe you aren't amazed, but you need to be one percent of the world, and I think it's harder to do that than to just have a unique value proposition that's different, so a unique strategy. What's the strategy? It has strategies to grow the business. You make money and sell more. Everyone's trying to do the same thing. I mean, everyone wants to make more.
I mean, maybe a few don't want to make more money, but the majority that I know want to grow their business when I have a community that's more engaged, so at the end of the day, it's like, "What's this right? They started building more engagement. The strategy is that when I grow this, we want to make it successful, we want to create more content, and we want to make this content more valuable, which is all well and good, but what will set you apart is your space and the user base that sees you in a way that they don't see elsewhere. So, despite being technically inferior to most Android phones, why are Apple phones still popular? Because they're Apple, there's a community around them, and there's a status associated with them, which is why Louis Vuitton people are more expensive, more valuable, and bring more money. Prestige versus Primark. Of course, because if they're divided, there's a value in the brand, they're surviving having that feeling, and you know there's something there that I have that will set me apart, and that one thing is not necessarily something you're going to figure out in this strategy session. I'll be like you when you brainstorm internally with your team; it works really well with your community being there with your users, who didn't understand what you knew on hearing them talk and what they assumed was the most valuable value.
So I run an annual event for Ewing that has around a thousand people at the joints, and then what I do is I walk around and just listen to them; I don't talk, I just listen; I'm just there, like listening to what they're talking about, like "Oh, look at that," and they see something like commenting, and they're like "Oh, hold on, I haven't thought about that." They're like, "Oh, look at this, and then comment on something very specific." Oh my god, I never thought they'd see the value in this over time; it was just like anything else, and I'll be taking it for granted. So when you sit and listen, it just gives you so many insights, and I think this could be your strategy. Yeah, I think the best example would be the Figma stigma. They did this really well. They created a self-sufficient community. They would bring them to the office to eat pizza with them and talk about the product with them, but just sit them here like, "What are you guys doing?" "What are you trying to figure out?" You're the designer. I'm just the one building the product for you as a designer to have the best experience in the world, so tell me about the problems we have now. Is catch working for you, like how Adobe XD works for you because it gets the system to consume it, and then we're doing that self-load? But they built such a strong community with that that when they went out to the world, there was no competition, like when they took over Adobe. It doesn't matter how good my product is there; I don't have that community; I have to buy that, so I'd see if this is the best strategy.
Here, the community is the next mode. I believe the entire acquisition of Figma was based on the community, and Adobe's inability to replicate that around this—yeah, I believe thinking tangentially differently than a competitor is also important. And listening is a lost art, I guess, and even in terms of when you are loud and when you are there with multiple people, taking a step back and listening is very important for a community builder to understand what is happening.
Thank you for taking the time to meet with us. As a company, we are developing an all-in-one community platform for creators and brands to help them set up a community in a simple and easy way to have discussion events and polls in one place and integrate with your existing community platforms. now monetize them as well if you are a course creator, selling content online, or even selling goods and services, and we help you do that both for Web 2 and Web 3.
I enjoyed listening to your take and your experience, and I would love to have you again because I think, uh, this doesn't feel like enough, and thanks for trying to have the session with us. Yeah, yeah, thank you to everyone who's either here or who will be here in the future. Yeah, you have a great day ahead. Thank you so much. And yeah, thanks for the invitation again.