Transcribe your podcast

Welcome to the get together. Our show about ordinary people building extraordinary communities. I'm your host, Bailey Richardson, I'm a partner at People and Company and a co-author of Get Together How to Build a Community With Your People.


And I Mechwarrior also get together, a correspondent and the VP of Content and Community, for matter, and T are a new media and community platform built on fixing the manufactured divide in the US will be launching early next year.


Each episode we interview everyday people who have built extraordinary communities about just how they did it. How did they get the first people to show up? How did they grow to hundreds, even thousands more members? Today we're talking to Anna McAfee on May 20.


Second twenty seventeen, Anna put up a simple everyday post on LinkedIn to see if anyone living in her hometown of Coffs Coast, Australia. But she just returned to, after years of living abroad, wanted to get together. The goal was to get to know the people behind the profiles. And Anna included the hashtag LinkedIn local. 15 people would make it out to that first Coffs Coast event. But the online response was what would change Anna's life? Three other people, all strangers, Alexandra Galvis in London, Manu Goswami in New York and Eric Ekland in Brussels raised their hand to also host a LinkedIn local in their city.


The idea became for people four cities in four different countries. As Anna says, no one could have predicted what was to happen. Post request started pouring in from around the world. A founding team was soon running after hours, trading six nights a week to help new cities ramp up for two years and on her cocreator, led, mentored and manage the LinkedIn local global community.


At its height, LinkedIn logo had more than a thousand hosts and had rallied over three hundred thousand human beings in six hundred and fifty cities and ninety two countries all throughout, and fostered this community without formal support from LinkedIn, walking a tightrope between an unexpected organic community that was blossoming and the priorities of the platform. These people used to find each other in twenty nineteen and stepped away. And we're going to dig into that on the podcast today. And she's recently co-authored a book about her experience, How a Hashtag Changed the World.


Nia, I wanted to talk to you to co-host this episode with me because we both sat on the other side of the table from communities like LinkedIn Local back when we worked at Instagram and YouTube. I'm wondering what stood out to you from our conversation today with Anna?


Well, it really brought me back to the early days at YouTube when organic communities would spring up around the brand and we wondered how to handle it. I'm thinking of the first time that I heard about Bitcoin YouTube's big creator conference. I remember that as a team, we initially kept it at arm's length. Part of it was wanting to see how this would turn out because they had really big ambitions for the event. And the other part was this belief that the YouTube community is a self-made meritocracy that didn't need us as the kingmakers to thrive.


So in those early days, the brand felt like it had to take a back seat to what was happening on the actual platform. And you can even see that in the design of YouTube, how generic it is and how it is developed. So let the creator do the talking and to really shine. I feel like what happened with LinkedIn and LinkedIn, local follow, perhaps the same path where initially the brand kept it at arm's length and then gradually saw the value and wanted to get more involved.


What advice would you give to anyone navigating this kind of situation now?


I think these kinds of real world events and splinter communities, whether generated by the brand or by the community itself, are so integral to strengthening bonds and helping people feel more invested in the community that they are literally helping to build at this point.


I think this kind of organic traction is something that any community manager would see as a sign of a community's help, assuming that the entity really upholds the same values. So if you notice this happening in your community, I would say embrace it. When I look at how Bergmann has navigated this, their community grew out of a single event in the desert and they could have kept this exclusive. But instead, they encouraged people to take the principles, take the cultural guideposts and add some of their regional flair.


You've got FRAGO Astral in Argentina, melting man in North Dakota, Kiwi Byrne in New Zealand. It's so cute to you. Would love it too, because each event has different versions of the man or the FFG, different rituals around burning the effigy.


So by empowering the community, burning in really a singular remote event, turn into like a global community, I would also say be really clear about what is and isn't OK with regard to the usage of your logo, your name and your brand assets that Flipboard. We provided assets and guidelines that people could use to promote the nonofficial event, like a Twitter chat or even our designer might offer feedback. It might also be really important that community not use your name and make it really clear that it's an unofficial that's on you and your team to make really clear with the community organizers.


Finally, I would say send swag or figure out other ways to show these people some love. They're doing the good work for you, think about how to say thank you or find out what motivates them and give them more of that. I love that. All right, Anna, should we do it? Anna? Welcome to the podcast. We're so excited to have you here. And I want to kick off right away with my favorite question. What do you think it is about you, your upbringing, your personality, your life stage that made you interested in community building?


For me, it's always been about a sense of belonging. I'm actually an only child. So I think right from the get go, I was always seeking out other people and peers. And I was in a situation where when you don't have siblings, you are forced to do that. And that was a really great thing for me because it taught me a lot of communication skills. And so throughout my life, I've sort of looked for places that I can belong, as so many other people do.


And in the case of the community that we're having a discussion about leads in local my where I was at that point in time, I had two young kids, very young. I think they were one and three at the time. And I wasn't feeling of great sense of belonging within that whole mom community. And I was seeking some adult conversations. And I went to the place that I knew that I could. That's something that I knew and it always kind of relied on, which was like in and so the community built from there.


But it was really driven by that search for a sense of belonging, which for my whole life I think I've sought and will continue to seek.


I don't have children, but I know that you went to Burning Man with like a newborn, didn't you just went like straight out there after having a kid?




I actually went there when I was seven months pregnant. And then soon as I recovered. Yeah, I took my kids there when they were four and six and yeah, like and I was also looking for a sense of belonging and sense of community there. And actually, surprisingly, I found it there was a whole kids and family camp area that I've connected with.


So we're going to hard pivot this podcast conversation and talk about the parenting community and Burning Man. And one thing that you shared with me when we first met was that you had lived all over the world and that you'd been a recruiter. And so LinkedIn was a place where you had a lot of fluidity and comfort and maybe had a lot of relationships. And it was a place you went to to intentionally seek community with people you hadn't known. And I am curious, can you tell me a little bit about that first post that you put up with the hashtag LinkedIn local?


And what was going through your mind and happening in your life that motivated you to get a group of people together in your town?


I had been connecting with a lot of people through location searches on LinkedIn, finding really interesting people that I'd never met at events before, didn't seem to go to normal events. And so I found this great group of people, but also had been discussing with people how inactive LinkedIn was in my city, which is Coffs Harbour. And this is a small city with seventy thousand people. Someone said this was in an online discussion. Well, if we've got such small numbers, why don't we all just made up?


And I thought, great, what a brilliant idea, let's do it. And so a week after that, I put up a post and said, hey, I'm going to organize a local I linked and local made up date time who would like to come. And I just encourage people to tag the connections who might be interested. And it was meant to be a purely local post. And at the end, right before I hit the little post bottom, I thought, oh, maybe I'll put a hashtag on this, because hashtags were never a thing on LinkedIn.


And so I thought hashtag encourages participation. So I put the hashtag on and the post went out and locally I got a great response. But quite crucially, in terms of the actual grassroots global movement that we were a few people around the world that saw that. And that became Eric Ekland in Brussels, Alexandra Galvis in London. And shortly after not that post, but a subsequent one, Swished Goswami in New York. We became the kind of creating team of this global movement because we all just started in four cities, in four countries across the world, just from simply this one post.


How did you think about structuring that first meetup and what were your goals for it? It was extremely simple. It was to get to know the people behind the profiles. And I think I'd put that in the messaging as well on the actual event. Right. It was a free event. It was a catch up for coffee. It was simply just to make faces behind those online profiles and that there wasn't really a lot of structure. I knew it would be small because of the size of Citi, but I was ready to facilitate some sort of conversations if it needed to happen.


And it did. People just turned up and was. So it's amazing when you put people together in a room and I think a lot of people feel that you need oh, well, we need icebreakers and we need all these different things and. They are great, but sometimes there's an energy in the room that just doesn't need a facilitator because it just just being there for the right purpose can create the conversations and create that energy that that people need to to connect with one another.


Do you think people are so starved for real world connection these days that that's part of it? Absolutely. I you know, there are and I've heard this time and time again from and local hosts, there are thousands, not tens of thousands of networking events happening in cities all the time. And particularly from a business networking perspective, it's very it's very false. It's very here's my business card. Handy business cards around the room, walk away and expect a sale.


And it just it particularly in that business world. And this is where I think the appetite for leagues and local just became so, so great was that wasn't what it was about. People just wanted that authentic connection.


I read in one of your writings that you used like this is something that only a recruiter would know how to do or someone who really knows LinkedIn would know how to do that. You use the Sales Navigator account, which is sort of like a premium LinkedIn account to do a postcode search and see the level of activity in your local area. So you are saying that in this post, just to give the numbers out in the city you live in, seventy thousand people there are about twenty three thousand people or who had accounts and about two hundred and eighty were quote unquote active.


And you were able to see those people behind the profiles in a more specific way than I think the average person would know how to do. It was just it's what I knew. I had been involved in the early 2000s. I had been involved in recruitment. I was living in Scotland at the time. And within the industry, I was training a lot of recruiters. And with LinkedIn came along, we suddenly went from a CV or resume I daughter that was sent to us to suddenly live data on LinkedIn.


Suddenly you could see people moving jobs. You could see who had just started in your position or somebody who had finished up a job. And that was a huge disruption in that industry back in around 90 sorry, 2007. And so. So, yeah. So I have known how to use LinkedIn from that period and have used it for myself as well as change team of recruiters on how to use that. So Sales Navigator was part of that. So it's just to know the active numbers and know who to connect with.


But the mindset behind that is really around locals, and particularly at the moment, I think in the world that not so much three years ago when this was set up. But local is so central to who we are right now. And it's where you're going to find that face to face connection if you're craving it. It's often from a business perspective where you're going to find new customers, particularly. A lot of businesses are largely dependent on local support.


And I think we forget that in global terms. So local was really central to me and where I was at the time. But I think for a lot of hosts that came along, it was a way to lead locally and for me as well, it was about becoming that leader at a local level and either putting your city on the map or showing that or educating local people on LinkedIn or something else. It was a way to have not only, I guess, that leadership, but an identity around forming a network of people.


And the social capital of it comes with being a leader in that local environment. And there's a pride in that having, I guess, a sense of pride in where you live and the city as well.


We've gotten to talk to a bunch of different chapter communities. You start to see how many how much value comes into the chapter leads life because they get to be sort of like at the centre of a wheel with many spokes. Something that you said to me really stood out when we were talking. It was just about how LinkedIn is perhaps the most people centered platform. Would you mind sharing, sharing kind of how you see the platform compared to the other ones out there?


The algorithm on LinkedIn and even though it's evolving, is really driven by the content, by people, not so much by companies. LinkedIn are trying to change that a little bit, but it's very much driven by those. So if you if you put the same post on company page as opposed to your own profile, you're going to get a lot more from your own profile. And company pages obviously will grow over time, but on those followings will grow higher than, say, an individual's network.


But the algorithm still prioritizes people looking at, say, Facebook. The revenue model comes largely from business advertising. LinkedIn revenue model comes from up to only about 20 percent of it is based on ad revenue. The algorithm is not. Rezvan to constantly, with the whole platform, not driven for ads linked in, make their money from selling those premium subscriptions which are attached to people as well as recruiters. It's very much been about people. The essence behind that is people do business with people, people and getting to know people.


It's about people finding other people and being able to enter into deeper relationships with them.


You can go through your news feed and you can find some great people to make the same way you would make in a physical room. You can walk up to someone, say hi. Start a conversation. And that's really what LinkedIn is about. But it does still, because of its traditional roots and recruitment and because it's, again, still a large part of their revenue, those recruiting models are driven by by that side.


I want to go back to your LinkedIn local by one year in after you post this hashtag.


LinkedIn local had showed up in two hundred and fifty cities in thirty six countries and four hundred and fifty hosts and co-hosts that helped you extend this post, this idea all around the world, which is just a really rapid speed of growth for any chapter or organization or anything run locally.


How did you empower those first other people to do it? Did they need any resources or training from you? What did you have to do to go from this? Hey, I'm just going to do this in my local area to I'm now going to empower other people to do this.


So the first people I met, which were Eric and Russell, Eric Ekland in Brussels, Alexandra Galvis in London, and Swished Goswami in New York, they absolutely did not need any of my help at all. We had a call and we just exchanged a few ideas. What are you going to do at your event? This is what I'm going to do. And we exchange those ideas and we each did one. So it was kind of almost a friendship for me.


None of us actually knew each other prior to this.


Yeah, that kind of blows my mind that your post got that far and wide to people all around the world. You didn't know. That means it was a pretty resonant post.


I think I call them co creators because they absolutely were. I was the one that put up the first post, but LinkedIn local would be nothing without them. And there's a really interesting I don't know if you've ever seen. We probably have the directive as TED talk.


Oh, yeah. I saw your reference that I know no one can beat him in terms of putting how to start a movement into like a 30 second like description. I'm like someday maybe I'll be that good at communicating what this work is.


Now, that's the best. Yeah, absolutely. There talks about the fact that the leadership is actually the first few followers. No, not the crazy person who did something strange. And that was absolutely right in my opinion, because what happened with LinkedIn local and why one of the reasons I think it spread so much was those first few of us obviously started and but we were very open to say, hey, if you want to start one in your city, reach out, because we had gone out with the mindset.


Well, let's help each other. Let's exchange a few ideas. And very quickly, within a few months, we had, like you, literally inboxes were just full of requests. Like is the one in Montreal, is the one in Toronto, is there one in Belfast? And we were getting requests from kind of all over the world. It was a very simple idea. It was something that just in the name itself, linked in local. I mean, the name on it clearly resonated.


The local part resonated. It was something that they could do and it was something that we offered help to do. So and that was really loosely done in that we just had some phone calls. We'd say, hey, you know, we're have to say this is in the early days or hey, just one. Let's jump on a one to one call. I can tell you what I've done in my city. You can. So you can kind of learn from that.


And so that was, I guess, how we formed. We sit at the very early outset. We did set some core values amongst the four of us that we really felt were important.


Tell me about those. What were those values?


That's very prescient. Diversity was the very, very first one. What we didn't want was people setting up exclusive events. I mean, that's what the whole the whole problem with, I think business networking can be is it can be quite exclusive, either in paid models or invite only. So we didn't want that. We wanted it to be very collaborative, not competitive. So in that very there's a lot of illington users out there. So it's trying to create this exclusivity where you're not you're not willing to collaborate with other people perhaps in your city.


We really wanted that collaboration spirit behind it. Authenticity was a core value, and that was really about not making these events, about throwing business cards in your face. It was about just coming and being the human being that you are the person behind the profile and not and keeping it pitch free. And we're also one of our other values was respect for one another. And that was again. About keeping it pitch free. We would respect not to create these highly sales pitch environments.


And lastly, the one thing we did ask of hosts because we were and we were very conscious at the outset that Lincoln's name was on this and we were very mindful not to infringe on any intellectual property. And so we did say that the events had to be not for profit. So no one was to make a profit from Lincoln Local. And that largely that happened from us helping. So we never there was never a fee to be a house that was never a charge to have a conversation, which is the entire thing voluntary and also the events themselves either.


We asked that people would keep them free because at the very outset we wanted to work with LinkedIn on this. We could see how much it was transforming people's relationship with the platform and in order to, I guess, try and and not tread on any toes. There were a few things we did, but one of them was to make the events not for profit. And so if people were charging because some cities wanted to charge on the basis that they knew free events wouldn't work, we said we'll partner with a local charity.


I just don't like the proceeds to that charity, which worked amazingly well in some cities. The phenomenal stories that have come out of some cities and the charities that they've supported, but also that the not for profit as well. It created an environment where the hosts wanted to come in just to charge 50 dollars a ticket and make money. We got rid of those by making it not for profit because it just they weren't attracted to it anymore. So it really made that not for profit really, I guess, underpin the authenticity behind the events because it wasn't solely there to make money.


It was there to create an environment and a community of people rather than just a one way sell. I loved hearing about your values. And I was wondering how when you when some of your principles are around diversity, collaboration, authenticity, how do you balance those principles with the desire to really keep a tight, high quality community? And how do you balance those principles with growth? I think the values actually help the growth. We would not short of hosts.


In fact, we I mean, Willington local, you said the numbers that a year at two years, I know it was at ninety six countries and six hundred and fifty cities.


I think that is crazy. That is such a vast scale. We had no resources so we put together a process to own board hopes to use the phrase move fast and break things. We did a lot of that. We had our host on boarding calls. We have a 30 day time limit zone. We had about six phone calls a week with about ten spots on each. And I was getting messages from people like I can't get I can't get a call, I can't get on a call for the next 30 days.


And there's nothing beyond 30 days. We were getting people we're getting off at 2:00 a.m. to get on these calls for an appetite that is incredible, a phenomenal appetite.


So growth wasn't an issue for us. The values helped us find the right people and curate that experience. And that was why it was such a well curated community, at least in my opinion. It was because of the values, the values attracted the right people that we needed with resources.


It could have been three times the size. One thing that we talk about in our book is that you have to be able to put the signal out somehow that this community exists.


What fueled the awareness of LinkedIn?


Local photos were really big, big one. Some of the phrasing that we use, which was quite strategic. The first one was getting to know the people behind the LinkedIn profiles, people really identified with that. Secondly, and I give credit to Eric Ekland for this with his hashtag Connecting Humans, which I think many cities still use on the marketing today certainly was the type of post we did which were of groups having fun. One thing that I guess the planets kind of aligned for us was the first post went out in June.


Twenty, seventeen, only three months after we started native video got released on LinkedIn, which is kind of strange to think that LinkedIn, you couldn't actually share a native video on LinkedIn until three years ago.


But yeah, it was like doing that back in two thousand eight to the rough, you know, videos.


Alex did one in London, Eric did one in Brussels, but many other cities around the world just had a videographer just quickly for together, some pretty amazing sort of one to two minute videos. And they just brought these events to life. There was this fantastic one that Eric talked about personal. First, don't ask people what they do for a living. And he was so well put together and people just were crying out, I need this in my city.


I'm so desperate for some of things, sort of business networking. Help me, please. The release of video really did have something to do with how. Well, the movement grows as well, the way it was managed, we were very open to reach out to us if you want help, we wanted to keep the host community together in that we wanted all the hosts in Florida to know each other. We would connect them all after we had calls with them.


We connect them with all the cities around them so they could support each other. So we had that real community mindset and community being what was kind of core to the whole and local community was the host community. And that's what we were driving.


That is a community organizer, community professional instinct. But I don't think that was really in your background. So how did you have that instinct to do that? I actually think it probably is in my background somewhere in that I've always been someone who will have a competition and pick up threads in that conversation and say, hey, there's somebody I think that you should talk to because I've had a similar conversation with them. I think you'd have a lot in common with.


Yeah, I've always been that connector you could see in Florida was a great example. Fort Lauderdale, connected to Miami, that connected to Orlando, that connected to West Palm Beach. And you would just put those those people together in a thread and you would instantly see them. Great. Well, actually, I can come to your event next month and I'm going to drive down to that. You could instantly see that people were just feeding off each other.


A good example was swished would do a post and he'd say, if you want to start one city, reach out to myself or Eric or Alex or something. And we'd see in the threads of these the comments and people like, hey, you know, I'd love for this to happen in Montreal. And if I had just spoken to a Montreal host, I would just jump in and say, hey, there actually is a Montreal one starting next month, connect with Gordon Chan.


And or people would say, would you help me start one in Vancouver? And we would say, yeah, I've already spoken to someone in Vancouver, let me connect you with them. And we would just literally just put this house together and just create those connections. So it's something that I have, I think. And now a note from our sponsor, our own small but mighty biz people and company building a community is powerful, harnessing sincere passion towards a common goal.


What could be more potent, but it can be challenging, too. We've been there.


Each of us forging our own approaches for how to build with a passionate global community.


Early in our careers, we started people and company because we know that although communities feel magical, they don't come together by magic. Outside of this podcast, Kevin Kai and I coach organizations on how to make smarter bets with their community building investments.


If you lead an organization and have a hunch that there's a group of people you can be doing more with and you're seeking out a trail guide to give your team the best chance at sparking that community to reach out to us at people on company, you can find us at people and dot company.


Now back to the show. Always just done one of the things we really want to talk with you about, and especially just given me and my experiences in our past jobs as the community manager at YouTube and me helping with the early Comunidad Instagram, it's just this tension that can show up sometimes between HQ, a big company that's getting bigger and bigger or already big, and the organic communities that show up to pour their time into activating humanity of the platform.


Me and I both have had experiences with this, with Videocon and for me with Instagram meet ups and Meetup hosts, but I'd love to hear.


What was your experience interacting with LinkedIn? When did you first get on their radar?


At the outset, we were very mindful of what LinkedIn would think about what we were doing. We knew then I was on it. We'd been through the user agreement. We've looked at various aspects that we we knew that we couldn't do, one of which was not using the the official logo. Secondly, was not registering domain names with LinkedIn in the URL. So we followed as many rules as we could find. We were keen to work with LinkedIn HQ, so we started in the very early days to try and reach out to have a conversation with the team at LinkedIn as to what we were doing, get some feedback from them.


How could we kind of help each other? In a way? I'm not sure it was really under anybody's remit, or at least we couldn't find the team. What were your expectations going into that meeting?


What did you think might happen? Or did you think LinkedIn would support you sort of unequivocally or were you of no expectations?


We had expectations that they would like what we were doing. This was changing the platform and the way people use the platform. It was creating an enormous amount of very rich and authentic content. 11 months in, someone from LinkedIn team actually reached out to us and said, we jump on a call. And the feedback that we had on that call was really positive. They loved the events. They love the content coming out of the events in particular. And they looked at the first conversation was really about how they could support the content and how they could support us.


It was in a very non-financial way and that was fine. And we didn't expect them to say, here's a bunch of money going through this mails you one of the big checks. We looked at little things like creating a little video filter for LinkedIn localhost so that they could actually do a video with the little sticker on it that said to local, and that was actually developed and rolled out to about six people and then stopped. And so we were 11 months in, 12 months in.


At this point, our first conversations were really positive. And I think at that time Forbes had wanted to do an article about links in local, and that was actually how they found out about it, at least this particular state, because Forbes that approached them and said, we want to do an article about the local. And they said, right, OK, let's go and find out. I don't think Forbes ever published that. So it was really positive.


But about two months after that, the language changed within the conversation and it largely became about brand protection. One thing we were really struggling with in the host community was people using the logo. We had said to people, do not use the official logo. A lot of offices are getting contacted to say, is this an official LinkedIn event? We were very clear in all of our mentoring processes that people shouldn't use the logo and also needed to really stay on their event descriptions that this is not an official LinkedIn event.


It's a user driven community to get to know the people behind the LinkedIn profiles. What LinkedIn we're really just driven by was protecting the legal aspect of the brand, making sure that, yeah, we weren't infringing on anything over the course of ten months. We had a couple of calls with them. We gave them a bunch of ideas on how they could support us in non-financial ways. It's hard to say what did I expect from them, because we didn't expect this global movement.


We didn't say let's go and build a global movement to ninety six countries. At the outset it just literally happened and we ran with it and we loved it, but it was becoming too big and too hard to control. Yeah, I mean I was thinking a lot about Bitcoin and how when Bitcoin first popped up when I was at YouTube but took us off guard a bit and arguably something we should have thought of ourselves, but it felt like a lot more authentic coming from the community.


So we were really hands off at first as an observer. And then I remember the next year we got more involved in terms of participation. And I went recently on YouTube like a full on partner, their logos everywhere. So I'm just wondering if if you think perhaps LinkedIn was a little bit short sighted not to see the value of this community in all of this work that you had done for them from your pure passion? I do think it was short sighted to not support us.


After ten months of conversations, they issued some terms around organising local events which fantastically enabled people to use the logo. It enables people to use the name and. Open to to Wallington users, which it largely was, except that we just asked people if they wanted to be part of our host community to stick to the values. What was missing, though, from the terms which I think we just didn't understand, was the curation and the values behind what we've done.


Still to this day, because LinkedIn local still exists, there's still no point of contact at LinkedIn for local. If you've got a question about it, you have to contact LinkedIn, help at one point, LinkedIn help with sending people to me, which I find funny. So I think it was quite short sighted. I think a lot could have been done and it would have been an awful I know a lot of people say Rowbottom would be a great example of this.


She's probably the most of the highest profile to those that know Shy. But I had a conversation with Shay and she said I thought LinkedIn was this recruiting platform. Why on earth would I post videos on LinkedIn? And she got dragged to an event in Milwaukee, said she didn't want to go. She suddenly turned up at this event. And there was this amazing group of people that we're going to support her. She just had this fantastic time at this event.


From that day on, she started creating content on LinkedIn and has run a million followers. Now, it was LinkedIn local that flip that switch for her. I've heard that time and time again. So we knew the value. LinkedIn does have an issue when it is seen as just a recruiting platform. People log into their account, they update their experience, they find the job that they're looking for, and then they log off and don't come back for another three years until they're looking for the next job.


So they do have an issue with user engagement. We saw LinkedIn local as the way to fix that because it was a way to tie the experience back to the brand. And I mean a massive Proofpoint for the power of the professional lens locally to connect people. There are all these small business guilds and stuff like all throughout human history.


And and that hunger is there and there. They're sleeping on it. Look, at the end of the day, events weren't part Ellington's platform. It wasn't part of the trajectory. I don't blame them for the response in any way. I do think it was a bit short sighted. But at the end of the day, and I've heard you talk about this BILI in previous episodes of the podcast, it has to be the right time for the brand.


I think you have a great balanced perspective on it. And there's so much I don't know about both sides. I think I'm feeling like some of my own response to the story kind of flare up, in part because I, I went through this experience of starting a small company with a community supporting it at those early stages of building momentum and growing that looked like LinkedIn local.


We had people organizing events that brought the Instagram brand to life all around the world, people getting together with strangers and taking photos. And it was so inspiring.


We felt like it was really like the truest expression of our brand and our mission of what we were trying to do as we ended up at Facebook and Instagram group. Bigger and bigger, all of these realities started to show up some of the brand stuff. People might think this is run by Instagram and some trust and safety stuff. And all of these legal implications started to show up.


It was just so hard to see businesses and brands protecting their assets and protecting themselves and in doing so, squashing some fire for them out in the world. How that expresses a lack of appreciation for all the hard work people put in to organize around these platforms or through these platforms. Like you're saying, you're doing six calls a week and it makes me want that to be recognized and supported. So like you said, like, these platforms are so human and our experiences of them, but they are businesses, too.


There's complexity to those movements that might pop up within them and how that overlaps with the company's priorities and goals.


They were purely motivated by legal aspects and the legal just took over. I think any decision making, this house, that building like big, big events in big cities, building Arlington's brand, Baltimore would be a great example of that. In two years, they raised thirty thousand dollars for living classrooms through the we said not for profit. So, yeah, like phenomenal. LinkedIn should recognize an effort like that. There's an arm of LinkedIn, LinkedIn forgood.


I really saw LinkedIn local somehow being incorporated into that.


Yeah, it seems like the biggest gift ever to them. So, so centered they had trademarked to the name LinkedIn local when they reached out to us 11 months in.


So we knew absolutely that they were in the driver's seat and something was going to happen. I'm sad that it took them 10 months after speaking to us to finally come up with some terms, LinkedIn local that really exists today.


And use can start one in this city. You can make money from it if you want. You can compete with other people if you want. We just couldn't continue with our mentoring. I had to step away leading it because in everything we built had gone in the book is a metaphor. I use LinkedIn local to me was a river. The formation of a river comes from a few different sources of water and it comes together and it shapes landscapes. As we got this momentum in the news and the vitality, the river tilted and was flowing fast and it was connecting communities upstream and downstream, flowing through news feeds and hearts.


Then with the release of the terms, it was pretty much the river had hit the ocean. That water just flowed. So it still flows, but it got mixed in with everything else. It was this sort of beautiful body of fresh water with the values. It came out into the water and and that's where it is now. There's a lot of people really sticking to those values, a lot of people doing some really wonderful work. And there's a lot of new kids coming in, lots of cities.


I put together a free course because when I stepped away, I had so many people come to me and say, I just want your help. I want your help. I want to talk to you about it. And I just couldn't say that anymore. More put together this. I think it's an hour and 20 minute free course. Ironically, since the pandemic, the downloads of that have gone up in this craving for offline connections. Lots of cities have moved online and there's a lot going on.


But the onus is really on an individual to start one. Now, there's no if you're looking for help, you've got no one to go to except maybe an existing host to say, yeah, there's no like ten hosts or like flags to go to like you.


You were in the beginning. I think some companies have community building in their DNA. They're started with it. And it feels like LinkedIn just does not have it in their DNA.


And you like serving them on a platter and they still don't know what to do with it. One of the things that you talk about is maybe one of the big things that turned these rivers into an ocean is this transformation of taking away the creation of the community. It sounds to me like that was the heartbeat of the community, was the hosts and the way that they actually carried values into their own local communities and led around those values. So I wanted to make sure I I learned from you a little bit about how you approach curating and selecting hosts or vetting hosts.


What was that process like for the people? How many? Four hundred and fifty people. More. Who became two years?


We were about over a thousand, yeah. How did you go through selecting those people and what did you learn from that?


We were very strategic in our communication in the outset in terms of the values, in terms of what we stood for throughout eight months. We put up a website which we actually just fit everybody to. The website kind of legitimized what we were doing, even though it was literally a WordPress website built in a weekend. People that would see it in the news feed and people would usually send them to the website. And that's why anybody who came to me, I said, go to the website, go and book a call.


That was kind of our first first. I always want to say, Barria, in that if you were there for the wrong reasons, you weren't going to like what you read on the website. Secondly, that was to become a host button. And behind that there was a form and we were very deliberate and strategic in the questions in this forum to really attract the right people and get the wrong people to abandon that form. How did you do that?


Well, a background in recruitment might have helped this. So, yeah, I spent ten years designing recruitment processes. The phone was really, again, to let people know about values, to really encourage them to go to other events in the city rather than setting one up themselves. I had a lot of tips and tricks in terms of finding other, because it's even still to this day, it's still quite hard to find a an event in your city.


You actually have to do a hashtag search, which is kind of bizarre LinkedIn functionality. We had the type form and then from there we had Xabier and we like to manage it can. This size, we literally just plugged in top form and HubSpot and cowardly and zoove and then slack, a lot of it, we either paid for ourselves or just we did the bare minimum like HubSpot was, well, it's free, let's use it. We had different mentors in different regions by the end.


So different people were taking different calls. That was at a local levels that help local networks. There were a lot of hosts that wanted to be the only one in this city. And this was really finding the balance between listening to the hosts and also being mindful that we probably couldn't really refuse people to host legally if they wanted to. So being very value driven help that curation. There were people that set up events without even talking to us, and we would contact them and say, hey, you know, not in a bad way, but it's like, hey, we have this whole host community, let's have a chat.


And then I can kind of add you to adjust the host community and we can help support your event. But it was never your doing the wrong thing. It was never a policing system. But I think the values as well, it's largely and it had to be based on our resources, self police people who set up events and were either pitching at events or just collecting email addresses to on sell to those people didn't ever really host more than two events because people just didn't come back.


And that just comes back to, again, this crazy craving for human connection. And people wanted to go and just be a human being. And I think again, and this is what I used to say to hosts all the time, I think a lot of business networking is designed for salespeople and it's all about let's do pitch competitions. Even in the startup world, it's all about pitching this. This is my business card kind of thing. The interesting thing about LinkedIn local and what we said to host that you need to understand is LinkedIn is full of people who aren't salespeople.


They are Hijau managers, they are admin assistants. They are job seekers. They are business owners. Some of them don't even have a business card. You need to design an event that's for the whole LinkedIn community, not just the people who are there to sell something. I think we forget that a lot in in those very business environments that all we really want to do, old people really wanted links local was to continue the online conversation offline.


What have you really taken away from this wild experience about what community means or how to build one? What's something that stands out?


It's made me realize how much I'm driven by people's stories. What drove me was the people who came to this movement. I had one call. I remember within about twenty four hours of each other, I had someone who had literally had parents had just both passed away. She's been caring for them and she was getting back on her feet. And this was the way she was going to do it in her city was to get out. And then the following morning I had someone whose cousin had been killed in quite a high profile incident who and this was her way three months later, this to coming out of it.


So people were really drawn to this idea for really very, very deep reasons. In the book is there's about 60 stories of impact. People would message me and I will change my life because of either who they met or what they learnt or what it introduced them to, something that they could. Then it gave them a springboard to something else. I'm really driven by stories since obviously stepping away last year, I've written the book as hard as it was enjoyed the writing process.


So I'm doing a lot more writing now and a lot more study on what community is and isn't. And not just community, but connection and storytelling as well. So, I mean, I loved it. I absolutely loved every I wouldn't change it for a minute except maybe have it in slightly differently or even not end it all. But it was the beginning of my community journey. And just to think there is power in what one person can do and ideas can just spread very, very quickly when have the right ideas and when they executed well.


It's an interesting study of leadership. So it's interesting what happens to community when you remove leadership. Yeah, where where is it at now?


It's hard to say with the pandemic because this is offline connection, but I'd say up until March this year. So that's a year after the terms came out. I'd say linked in local. And it's very hard to know this. And I'm not even sure LinkedIn would know this because it's all based on hashtag searches. I would say it had almost halved in size. So if there was six hundred and fifty cities, I'd say that would probably maybe three.


Three hundred and fifty. Wow. Lots of people stepped away because they just didn't necessarily see the point anymore when there was no leadership. So there was no values. Lots of cities still started in that time. But I think that was more the onus on on an individual to really step up and do that on their own. There's still lots of cities looking to start, but there's no central community anymore. It's just individual pockets of local communities that exist.


Miami have a great group. Baltimore still have a fantastic group. But I guess with the pandemic, many have moved online. Many are on a pause. A lot will come back, I guess, the case of seeing what happens in the world in the next six to 12 months. I'll come back to what you're saying about belonging. There's something very powerful about these chapter networks to know that what you're doing in your city isn't alone and to know that you're a part of a bigger movement or a bigger effort or a bigger impact, because there's people like you in cities all the way around the world who are doing the same thing.


That's one of the challenges without any kind of rope around the community or specificity around the community is if everybody's in it, then no one's in it. And you don't know what you're a part of.


I've used the analogy of a big table at the toll events and we had a really big table. But when everybody's in, it just becomes hard to hard to keep that any any form of values. It becomes very watered down.


The world has changed with the Internet 40 years ago, community meant the people local to you. And we've had sort of this huge door opened in terms of people that we might be able to connect with. I think the world would be a better place if more people intentionally built community or intentionally showed up at communities. And I think that's how LinkedIn local started. Right. You took a step to do that and other people took a step to do it and it just dominated from there.


I see so much power in that transition from being passive or just helping a community may show up in your life to feeling like you can make one happen and you can realize one.


And that's the story I walk away from this with is is how much power there was in you doing that. And it seems like that was very powerful from so many people who became hostas taking control of that and adding to the world intentionally.


I remember in a survey people said that they wanted to feel a part of something bigger. They didn't want to be a stand alone host. They wanted to be connected to they wanted to be able to see people doing this on the other side of the world and support them. And they got a buzz from that. So it is I think I agree with you, community really needs to be intentional. Amazing.


Thank you so much.


If you want to connect with Anna, you can connect with her on where else on LinkedIn.


Her user name is Anna McAfee A and then a C a s e. And thanks to our team, thank you, Rosanna Cabonne for engineering and editing Greg David for his design work and Katie O'Connell for marketing.


This episode. You can find out more about the work I do with my partners, Kevin INCI as people and company helping organizations get clear on who their most important people are and how to build a community with those people by heading to our website people and dot company.


And if you want to start your own community or supercharge one, you're already a part of our handbook is here for you. Visit, get together book dot com to grab a copy. It's full of stories and learnings from conversations with community leaders like this one with Anna.


Oh, and last thing, I'm gonna keep it short this time. If you feel so inclined, please review us or click subscribe. It helps more people find us in the podcast store. Thank you for listening. We'll catch you all next time.