How to Build a Mighty Strong Community Online with Gina Bianchini

Building a community online is a craft. Its many moving parts should fold and flow together to create a structure that supports, uplifts and serves each one of its members.

Gina Bianchini, an expert on network effects, chats with Sarah Shewey, Happily CEO and Founder, about what makes a community thrive online, the changing nature of communities in the digital space and how to reframe your approach to building a community for your business.

I define community very narrowly… which is; are you creating the conditions by which people can meet and build relationships with other people? Think about it as member to member connections.

Gina Bianchini, CEO and Founder, Mighty Networks

Gina Bianchini is a pioneering woman in the tech space

She is CEO and Founder of Mighty Networks, a flexible web platform that ‘brands with purpose’ can use to embrace and nurture their community via online courses, events, memberships and subscription content all in one spot. Their mission is to guide in a new era of digital businesses that are built on the power of community.

The precursor to Mighty Networks was the pioneering social networking website, NING, which Gina co-foundered with Marc Andreessen in 2004. NING is a platform which allows an online presence and community to be built from the ground up.

For all the juicy expert knowledge listen to Gina on Happily Live with Sarah Shewey, CEO and Founder of Happily, and read on for a quick summary.

Some inspiring takeaways from the chat

Be the ultimate dinner party host

Think about building a community like hosting a dinner party. Not all your guests know each other, but you know all of them. You know what they have in common and what makes each one of them amazing human beings. So as the ultimate host you would carefully craft an environment in which organic conversations can be fostered, in which your guests feel comfortable and especially in which connections can grow independently of you - so the party can continue even while you step away into the kitchen to check on dinner.

What is our ultimate goal? It is to create a community or a network of people that gets more valuable to every member with each new person that joins and contributes and we are gonna use many different tools in our toolbox to make that network as valuable to as many people as possible.

Gina Bianchini, CEO and Founder, Mighty Networks

Social media is for gaining followers, not for building interconnected communities

Platforms such as Instagram and Facebook are, as Gina describes, ‘moving in the opposite direction’ to building communities. They are certainly powerful digital marketing tools and important for brand awareness. However, they are mostly one sided conversations without much significant relationship building happening. If your business goal is to build a thriving community, social media platforms are wonderful tools in your box, but they are not the best ones for this job.

So if you think about DMs and the fact that you have Stories and DMs, that’s actually, ‘I talk out at you, you talk back at me’, but nobody's meeting or building relationships with each other. The comments sections, people continue to try to build communities in comments sections but the reality is, it’s really hard.

Gina Bianchini, CEO and Founder, Mighty Networks

A simply recipe for a mighty powerful community

All successful communities, as Gina explains, have cultivated the same sort of environment and culture. Here are some common threads:

  • People feel part of something bigger than themselves
  • There is an overarching common goal or objective
  • Everyone is learning something new together
  • It is a safe space and a support network

Communities are built online before they can also be successful in the real world

A community with intention blossoms in the digital space, and in-person events are just another way for members to connect with each other. By saying ‘online community’ we are focusing on ways in which a community stays connected and interacts in the digital space, inbetween or in spite of real life events. When you focus primarily on the online interactions of the community you are cultivating lasting connections by establishing strong patterns of communications for long after an in-person conference or event has passed.

When you’re thinking about a conference you are better off thinking about how you get people before they come. Before they come. The energy around joining something online that is digital, is before the event, not after.

Gina Bianchini, CEO and Founder, Mighty Networks

Did something spark your interest?

Here are links to resources and other stuff mentioned in this Happily Live: