“Whether you’re a brand or entrepreneur, a community allows your members to get smarter faster and understand the world.” -Gina Bianchini
Have you ever noticed how people talk at each other online, rather than talking to each other? Social media discussions often feel more like arguments than conversations.
It’s not a community. It’s a calamity!
As a result, marketing departments and customer service teams are wary of boosting online engagement. Every interaction could devolve into a disaster, so if your financial brand has an awkward relationship with the digital world, you’re not alone.
Gina Bianchini, the founder and CEO of Mighty Networks, understands your situation and sees hope ahead.
Welcome to the Community
The rise of the internet reshaped what it means to be part of a community. Instead of affiliating only among people within your ZIP code or professional circle, you can connect with anyone in the entire digital world.
At least, that’s the theory.
In practice, it’s chaos.
Everyone is always speaking online. Everywhere. All at once.
Building an online community comes with enormous challenges. It’s difficult to serve your customers in a noisy, crowded, and sometimes vulgar digital marketplace. It’s hard to protect your reputation in a world where a single comment can tear your brand to shreds.
That’s why Gina Bianchini and her teammates are finding new ways to help financial brands thrive in the complex online environment. With premier software and a nimble service platform, Mighty Networks shows financial brands how to build authentic, warm online communities.
Building a Community With a Purpose
“In a rapidly changing, semi-chaotic world,” Gina says, “having a community is actually the single most effective way to navigate that change.” She calls it “network intelligence,” or building community strength through shared information.
Creating a healthy online community almost always takes a significant strategic transformation at a financial brand. Unless your company was founded within the past few years, it probably wasn’t built for today’s online marketplace.
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Gina says the transformation begins with having a purpose in mind. What’s your purpose? How are you going to help your customers build the lives they want? What is your overarching goal for serving your customer base? How will you put their needs first?
To develop your financial brand’s purpose, start by defining it. Here’s Gina’s definition:Your purpose is your clear, positive intention for your time, talents, energy, and focus.
When financial brands struggle to connect with people online, it’s often because they’re not working from a place of purpose. There’s a disconnect between the brand’s purpose for engagement and the customer’s purpose for engagement.
Look at it this way...
If all you’re trying to do is push mortgage refinancing, your customers might not see the purpose of connecting with you. They need to solve immediate problems in their lives, like missing a car payment or dealing with sudden medical bills.
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Your unexpected mortgage refi sales pitch sounds like another wacko ranting online. The disconnect drives people away from you.
“There's been a disconnect between the goals of the platforms and what people actually want in their lives,” Gina says. “It's a lot of high-fructose corn syrup of engagement.”
But remember, “audience” isn’t the same thing as “community.”
An audience passively watches your performance.
A community collaborates with you in a two-way feedback loop where they feel heard and valued.
The Four C Model
As you begin to address customers’ needs and develop a richer online community, you’ll likely notice that your customers have more requests than you ever expected.
Gina has seen it with her own company.
“At Mighty, we started as a community platform, and over the course of the last four years, we've continued to create with our hosts on our platform, and then members are those who join,” she says. “And almost immediately after launching, we had hosts show up and say, God, what I really need is for you to build in online courses. And then what we really need is for you to build in live streaming and events and polls and questions for engagement.”
From there, needs build on needs. Fast forward a few years, and your community has become more complex than you ever envisioned. Now you’re actively creating a culture, not just a community.
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“What people really want from community is the opportunity to build culture, design it consciously, scale it to hundreds of thousands, millions,” Gina says.
This is why she calls Mighty Networks a purveyor of “cultural software.”
When your community becomes a culture, you have an opportunity to go deeper into its content and provide richer, more rewarding experiences. People engage with you because they genuinely want to.
They crave your content.
Of course, as the content creator, you must scale up carefully. Don’t build up people’s expectations, then leave them hanging. This can destroy a fledgling relationship just as it’s starting to feel rewarding to both sides.
This corresponds to the Four C Model.
- Curriculum (sometimes called Courses)
- Commerce (sometimes called Coaching)
The four C model explains how transformation occurs in consumer behavior. It has a strong connection to financial education and literacy, which has been a major force at many financial brands in recent years.
Paradoxically, research shows financial literacy scores are still dropping in the United States despite financial brands’ best efforts.
Knowledge is not power. It's the application of that knowledge, but more importantly, it's the reapplication of that to create new behaviors and habits.
Misconceptions About Social Media
Since 2003, Gina has had a front-row seat to watch social media’s impact on financial brands. She’s seen the explosion of user-generated content, the rapid expansion of social networks like Instagram and TikTok, and brands struggling to stay on the “hamster wheel of content creation.”
Today, there’s a common misconception that people have become lazy online because all they want is to be entertained. Gina doesn’t believe this is true and says the research supports her.
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She’s found that people want online content to do much more than just entertain them. They want it to speed up their productivity, support diversity and inclusion, and provide rich experiences that aren’t just one-dimensional.
Plus, they want their financial brands to help them become more resilient. They hope you, as their financial partner, will prevent them from experiencing worst-case scenarios. They expect you to help them succeed.
That’s a lot more than just “be entertained.” Is your financial brand up to the task?
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Gina points out that another myth about social media is that it’s too rigorous to post content frequently enough to make an impact. For maximum engagement, most social media platforms recommend posting natively original content up to 5 times per day!
Can you post 5 times per day on each of the platforms - Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, TikTok, and all the rest? Probably not.
Instead, Gina recommends creating a community that lives independently of social media. Share a limited amount of information with your various social media channels. Mix it up. If someone follows you on various channels, they’ll see different content. Don’t base your community around a single social channel or even social media as a whole because it should have a life of its own.
Another myth is that you, as a financial brand, must be a bastion of perfection and retain an air of complete professionalism at all times on social media. “People are messy,” Gina says. “Is it going to be perfect? No. Because people are messy.”
What’s more important is being authentic and speaking like a human being. Your online community will sense whether you’re genuine or fake, so err on the side of sincerity even when it’s a bit messy.
Outshining the Outrage
You’ve probably noticed that the internet is a place of constant outrage. A celebrity is furious at another celebrity. Your uncle is all worked up about politics. Everyone seems to be caught up in the culture wars, battling it out over their strong beliefs and values.
As much as a brand can try to avoid online outrage, it’s sometimes unavoidable. An online commenter can bring conflict to your digital doorstep at any time.
However, Gina believes brands can rise above the clatter and build a vibrant community based on things like kindness, helpfulness, and community spirit. For example, her company’s network includes more than 225,000 people without being based on any social channel. It has its own digital community.
As a result, Mighty’s success isn’t based on Facebook likes or retweets. It focuses on building a sense of community and helping people accomplish things.
“You are starting with a blank slate,” Gina says, “which means that you can craft the culture that you're going to scale up.” Build your community by offering the 4 Cs discussed above: content courses, commerce, and community.
Gina’s 30-Minute Challenge
Gina is challenging you to try her 30-minute method of building a new practice and starting a transformation. Here’s what to do.
- Get your favorite drink, like coffee or a cocktail.
- Sit down with a blank piece of paper and a pen.
- Set a timer for no more than 30 minutes.
- Ask yourself, “How do I want to show up for people?”
- Write down your answers, reflect on them, and see what you’ve learned.
To connect with Gina Bianchini and Mighty Networks, visit their community at community.mightynetworks.com. For more about financial transformation, reach out to James Robert Lay at the Digital Growth Institute.
This article was originally published on April 26, 2023. All content © 2023 by Digital Growth Institute and may not be reproduced by any means without permission.