When Susan Kabani started Ugenie, it wasn’t meant to be an alternative to Facebook groups. The business began, as many brilliant ones do, as a solution for a personal need.
Susan and her husband belong to a religious community, and they wanted a way to connect with parents for ride shares or picking up kids and drycleaning, but there was no online platform where this sensitive information would be safe. Ugenie was designed to be a local community task sharing platform where parents could share information about their children’s whereabouts without fear.
Susan quickly discovered that they were creating a private, easy to use community away from social media. Ugenie retains all the functionality of Facebook groups, without being at the mercy of Facebook.
One of the motivations for Ugenie was an underlying concern that the next generation isn’t becoming as involved in real life communities. Ugenie isn’t anti-Facebook or anti-technology; Susan and her team intend to facilitate connections in real life, with the appropriate use of technology to support it. Her clients are typically organizations with members who connect online, coaches, and entrepreneurs with a paid membership site.
The success of a ocial media platform is typically measured in terms of time spent by users. The “stickier” the platform, the more success you have when your revenue is driven by advertising revenue.
Ugenie is attempting to redefine how we measure success by focusing its metrics on how often members come back. Successful communities happen when members engage and talk with each other.
Unlike its competitors, Ugenie offers more than just an intuitive alternative to Facebook groups. Susan prides herself on consulting with her clients to create a strategy for engagement and a sales funnel for their businesses.
The Elements of a Thriving Community
A thriving community can’t be artificially created, and attempting to do so requires constant content creation in an endless hunt for engagement. This becomes particularly difficult when you’re trying to get a member to visit a community away from Facebook.
So what’s necessary for an engaged community, especially when using alternatives to Facebook groups?
#1 – Build it around a movement.
Your success in building a community will be limited if the group is all about you and your business. As soon as you stop creating content, the community dies.
Instead, invite people to join a community around a movement that’s creating change, one that just happens to be your group.
If you have a holistic nutrition coaching business, for example, don’t create a group about “holistic nutrition.” Rather, lead a movement dedicated to creating a world where every family has access to the information and ingredients for healthy, nutrious diets. Or create a moment against GMO’s and processed foods.
There’s a deeper, passionate level of engagement around a cause that you just don’t have around a topic alone.
#2 – Invite your most invested people to participate.
Along with those individuals who are passionately aligned with your cause, your clients and members who have invested financially are the most likely to engage and contribute to your community.
They’re probably motivated by the cause and for personal reasons as well.
#3 – Reward your members for participating and enable them to become community leaders.
When you see members of your community contributing by offering tips and suggestions, encouragement, or sharing their success stories, reward them with recognition and praise. Invite your most engaged members to become moderators and content creators themselves.
Create special hashtags and content days that reinforce participation and behavior in alignment with the values of your movement. This way your members are creating content for you, and the community takes on a life of its own.
#4 – Structure your community to naturally benefit your business.
One of the most certain ways to ensure your continued engagement in the community is if it actually creates new clients and members. Create your community with that in mind.
What invitation can you make to engage with you more deeply?
It might be a challenge event, a course, or a coaching experience. Build that invitation into your community so that it’s extended regularly.
“Would your community exist without you? If you can step away and it thrives, you have a community.”Susan Kabani, CEO of Ugenie
Finding Clients With Or Without Facebook
One of the biggest challenges in facilitating a community off social media is that you still need a way to get people there.
Most of Susan’s clients at Ugenie still use free communities on Facebook to connect with people, and then they invite them to their Ugenie community.
If you choose not to use social media for marketing, you’ll need to explore other alternatives, such as the ones these entrepreneurs are using.
“We found our early adopters through networking and organic referrals. We spent very little money on marketing,” Susan says. She continues to encourage word of mouth referrals by hosting masterminds for her Ugenie customers, helping them leverage the technology and providing education to make them more successful.
Susan warns against too much dependency on Facebook. Between the algorithm changes, data scandals and the issue of not owning your own content, you can’t be sure when you might get banned or have your group shut down. “We’re becoming a safety net for some,” Susan says. “And others are anti-Facebook.” In any case, it seems wise to prepare for future changes.
What occurs to me is that we can’t make people join a community just because we desire it, and you’ll exhaust yourself trying to bribe people onto your site with constant content.
When you create a community where people share a common passion, and facilitate the connection, information and resources they need to make an impact, your group will grow naturally into a movement that changes the world. Your members then become advocates and recruiters.
“The secret of leadership is simple: Do what you believe in. Paint a picture of the future. Go there. People will follow.”Seth Godin, Tribes: We Need You to Lead Us
What community of people would you be so thrilled spending time with, and what movement is so inspiring, that you show up with passion every single day?
What movement are your people excited to take part in?
Lead that movement. Then you can host your community on Ugenie or other alternatives to Facebook groups, and your soul tribe will follow you there.
Yours in creative play,
P.S. You’re invited to subscribe to my email list here for future updates on my No Social Media Unmarketing Experiment.