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Building a buzzing (+ kind) community

Humanising the new worlds of work 🤖 | #63

This week: Community polyamory. Ness Labs’ success – how to build, grow and nurture your network; creating deeper connections; the evolution of digital behaviour; how the use of the internet is causing us to lose empathy; Freelance Business Month: the future of work as open talent.

Happy October! I’ve signed up for Sungod’s Strava challenge – runs or rides every Sunday in October to get as much daylight as possible before the clocks change on 31 October 😱

Excellent performance sunnies and a growing online community – a brand to watch.

Speaking of communities, I’ve been exploring as many as I can lately, and the one I keep coming back to is Ness Labs. It’s inspiring to see how Anne-Laure has built a buzzing, kind community and worth a look at why it works. Read her AMA with Product Hunt here.

Growing a newsletter and a website to 35K subscribers and 100K visitors per month in 2 years. AMA👇

Ness LabsEvidence-based content around productivity, creativity, mental health and knowledge management. 2K community members.

AL now has two full-time employees and hires freelance writers via Upwork. Her main source of revenue is sponsored interviews and paid memberships. She does a bit of 1:1 coaching but says that’s negligible. 

It’s interesting to see how she’s done it in a crowded space of personal development and productivity. Some thoughts on why it works…

Building a kind community 

  • A personal journey: Anne-Laure loves learning in public and shares her successes and failures openly. She’s active in the community with regular Q&As. I’m curious to follow her progress and happy to support a creator. Personal onboarding is a nice touch, and sharing content on a closed platform gives a sense of psychological safety. It’s interesting to see most people have their cameras on during workshops, which creates intimacy.
  • Great value for money: it’s ridiculously cheap compared to other online communities. I paid $35 to access a growing library of content and community. AL says the biggest surprise was people writing to her telling her to increase the price and gifting memberships. 
  • Values of kindness and pay it forward: People are engaged, generous and want to be seen, and it’s down to the topics she’s exploring – personal development, mental health and creativity. It’s not overly self-promotional – there have been a few posts lately from coaches, so she’s created a coaching directory/channel where they can promote their services at no extra charge.
  • Content-first approach: I like the Circle platform – it’s simple, easy to use, minimal friction. The focus is on high-quality content that’s easy to find. It’s organised by channel so you can follow your interests, contribute topics and connect with members.

    *Creator Spark* is a new space where members can host a talk or moderate a panel in a safe, supportive space (people said they felt shy about sharing their stuff). It’s a shame we’ve been conditioned to see sharing our work as boasting and bragging – it causes so many hangups. You have to get your work out there on different platforms: 50% writing, 50% marketing.

    Emotional and informational content works!
  • Online and offline meetups around the world. I’ve signed up for the London event on 18 October, so meeting some of the community in person will be interesting.
  • The zeitgeist – Ness Labs has grown organically during lockdown – we all need connection. It’s also tapping into the current mood – the great resignation, a power shift to the creator, working smarter, not harder, and mental health and burnout at work.

People have set up sub-groups on and off-platform – a sign of a healthy community. I’ve joined the Newsletter Mastermind – an active Twitter group and weekly Zoom.

My only criticism is there’s too much good content in the newsletter! I don’t have time to read all the articles in one go, so I bookmark stuff to come back to (my Pocket is sagging) This can be demotivating – sometimes less is more. I’m mindful of that with this newsletter and being respectful of people’s time.

What communities do you find useful – and how do you make the most of them? 

I carry a notebook around with me for ideas, quotes and things I’m curious about so I can build up a bank of content. I need to get ahead rather than writing last minute. Taking publishing breaks in August and at Xmas gives me time to catch up.

I love online communities but I need my local tribes too. I’m on a mission to turn Hastings into a tech hub. I left London 14 years ago – part of the second wave of regeneration and we have the third wave with the pandemic. It’s good to see new faces, startups and energy – I love all that. Hearing a few moans about how “it’s all gone too far” and property prices…


🔗🖐5 Things 

☁️ Rosie Sherry on how communities are cool again and everybody wants to own a (profitable) one. The tools exist to make it happen but it gets complicated, messy and fragmented pretty easily. I’m using WordPress and Substack and have held back on the community aspect for this reason. I don’t want to complicate things with more platforms. The best and most impactful communities are custom-built like Nomadlist – something we need to talk about more.

🌱 Building, Growing & Nurturing a Kind Community: Q&A with Anne-Laure from Ness Labs. Whether you run a community or are thinking of starting one, here are some solid community-building tips and strategies based on her experiences. Friendliness, the personal touch and psychological safety are important and interactive events that bring people together.

🕵🏻‍♀️ Tribes, Flocks, and Single Servings – the evolution of digital behaviour by Rahaf Harfoush. Nice work creating a visual framework to help her capture the spaces she’s tracking. The interesting bit is the overlap and changes that occur. Rahaf is my go-to for digital culture analysis – Hustle & Float is excellent.

🤔 How the internet is causing us to lose empathy by Eli Baum – written in 2014 but still super relevant – why are we not talking about this more in MSM? Empathy is valuable and the fact it’s declining is alarming – we need people skills, useful products and deeper connections. We can’t slow down tech but we can get the story out to promote change and be mindful of it in ourselves – do the EQ test.

👩‍💻 Freelance Business Month – the largest global event for freelancers. Talks on the future of freelancing, starting and growing your business, freelancing in Europe, the future of work as open talent and more. Learn new skills, speak, and connect with the community – founded by the amazing Elina Jutelyte who is totally on it and open to collaboration. Programme and registration here – there are a few free tickets left.

I’ll be there!

Nicci


I’m a digital writer studying UX and content design – a badass life path 🙂

My mission:

• Making delightful digital products that improve people’s lives.

• Bringing more humanity and creativity to business and technology.

• Solving your problems using better communications – data-driven writing and design thinking skills.

The Shift is my lab where I explore digital culture, creativity, mindful productivity and independent work. I have a ‘pay what you can’ model – you can buy me a coffee or make a regular contribution to support what I do via my Ko-fi page.

Want to talk? Find me online at Polywork, Twitter @niccitalbot or email nicci@niccitalbot.io.

Help me build a forest! To offset the carbon emissions of my online work, I plant 12 trees every month via Ecologi 🌱 🌳

By Nicci Talbot

Writer-journalist and founder, Firebird Studio
Future of Work adventurer🕵🏻‍♀️

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