Using Whatsapp to help build community, customers and a content goldmine

Anthony Rose, CEO at Seedlegals
Transcript Interviewer: -done quicker than normal, because we didn’t play the video like normal. I should ask Anthony just for some context on SeedLegals, just to introduce it, just to make sure I covered all the bases. Anthony Rose: All right. Thank you so much. Now, by the way, I don’t fancy myself as a […]


Interviewer: -done quicker than normal, because we didn’t play the video like normal. I should ask Anthony just for some context on SeedLegals, just to introduce it, just to make sure I covered all the bases.

Anthony Rose: All right. Thank you so much. Now, by the way, I don’t fancy myself as a marketing person at all. I’m like a tech product guy. It’s a huge privilege and a bit out of my comfort zone to be here, and I’m totally delighted that my passion for customers has turned into something that got me invited here. A bit about me, I’m looking at where everyone is. I’m originally from Cape Town. Then I was living in Australia for 20 years. Then one day I got a call from the BBC to head up iPlayer. This was before iPlayer launched. I thought, the BBC, where are my stock options? I was persuaded to join, move to London in 2007 and headed up iPlayer from pre-launch to help make it a success.

After I left the BBC, I built a startup, sold it. Built a startup, sold it. Invested in a few. Got tired of paying lawyers. Met my cofounder, a serial angel investor, and created SeedLegals so that nobody else has to go to a lawyer when doing their funding rounds. We’re 160 people now. I’ve got a marketing team, sales, customer support, and so on. About one in three of all early stage funding rounds in the UK is on our platform. What’s interesting is, for me, I’m now in the legal tech business, but my background is video and before that, audio with Kazaa. It’s a complete change.

One thing I’ve learned over the years, actually with iPlayer is being passionate for your customers. If I can just talk about an anecdote, which isn’t quite marketing, but it’s about user testing back in my iPlayer days, and it might set the tone for why the chat groups and things like that is. When I joined the BBC, the iPlayer, they’d been working on it for a while, and it wasn’t really working very well. I told the tech team this big list of problems that I’d found, and they went, “No, dude. It’s just you. This one’s exceptional, and no one will find that.” They were sort of saying no to everyone. I thought I need to show them what a real person would find using the product.

I found the group that do user testing, and I said, “I need some user testing.” They went, “Great. That’ll cost £20,000 and take six weeks.” It’s like, I’m not paying £20,000, and I don’t have six weeks to wait. I devised the Anthony chocolate test, which meant I went to the local supermarket. I bought some big lint boxes, and then went and found some non-techy people. I went to level five where the legal team are and said to one of the legal people, “I will give you this fine box of chocolates if you come and test my product.” The person came down, and the test was a disaster. Everything went wrong, and the developers were like, “What’s going on?”

Then at the end I said, “Okay, team, we’re going to pick the top three things that I just screwed up here, and in the next 48 hours, we’re going to fix it. We’re going to keep doing this until we’ve got a product.” Actually it took a bit longer than two days, but not that much longer. We did this about four times until the next chocolate box person said, “Yes, I like EastEnders, and there it is on the homepage. Oh, wow, it plays.” I learned somewhat on the job and obviously beforehand as well, that the person heading things up needs to spend quality time with customers.

I think, a key message from the way that I, and we work at Seed Legals and one of the things to impart here is the CEO, in an early stage startup, the CEO is often talking to customers, because they had the idea and so on. Later on, it’s easy to get divorced from that. They just go and, shuffle spreadsheets around, but I’m obsessed with spreading knowledge and getting feedback from customers. I don’t know if there’s any other company where customers keep writing to the CEO directly with feedback, largely good, sometimes not good. I always look to act on it.

To me, it’s that sort of obsession, which by the way, might be completely wrong for a CEO. I’m not claiming this is a good thing, but if you’re in a large company, it might be interesting. I’d love in the chat, your thoughts about, does your CEO, if you’re not the CEO here, get hugely involved directly with customers or do they assume someone else will do it? How do you leverage that community? That’s the backstory on me. Then we can talk about PLG versus CLG when you’re ready.

Interviewer: That’s insane. What a beautiful story. Thank you for sharing that. It’s funny when you speak through that, because again, as a customer, I remember I was sat at a train station one day. I think I asked a question in the WhatsApp group, and you replied. There was something really interesting about that from the other side of this experience which was there was a little ping of like, “Hey, I know that that guy’s the CEO, and he’s paying attention to me.” There was almost like that little thing which also reinforced the value of the platform to me, which was which was really interesting.

There’s a couple of comments in the chat here saying the CEO doesn’t get involved at all. Maybe this is a first within the first nine minutes, a prompt for folks to go let’s see that, because you are a walking proof of it working.

Anthony: I’m not sure the comment no way CEO gets involved is a comment to go, “No way, you should get involved. Dude, you’re doing the CEO thing wrong.” Or, “There’s no way our CEO, we need to have a talk with him or her about that.” I’m sure we’ll continue along this thread, and it’ll be an interesting discussion. Okay.

Interviewer: Absolutely. I love that. We’ve got Alex encouragingly saying we’re a small team of seven, so our CEO does have one-to-one conversations. It’s interesting with that transition point as well for sure. That’s really, really interesting. The context for today’s conversation was around the WhatsApp group, and you’ve spoken to it a little bit. At some point along your journey with SeedLegals, you must have decided, Okay, we want to create an area where we can interact with folks,” and eventually you came to the idea of WhatsApp. Could you speak to that? Because that’s interesting in itself.

Anthony: It’s a great point. What we’ve realized is when we started we built a legal tech platform, so instead of going to a law firm you come to us. When we started, we have no idea whether we would be like the AWS of law firms where we’d have lots of developers, and we’d never talk to a human, or people would want a law firm but with a fancy website, which I desperately didn’t want to do. It turns out we’ve nested out somewhere in the middle, where our platform builds all the documents. If you know what you want, the platform does it, but you still need to, many times, you want to speak to a human. You want to ask them advice, and this will be interesting. Will AI replace that or not?

My team then would then talk to customers, and you’d hit the web chat and so on. We thought, could we go further? Could we? If we wanted to scale this, my goal is to offer unlimited help and support, but that means your support team keeps growing exponentially. How can you scale that? AI is now a late-breaking possible edition. They’ve not let our AI bot loose on people, because it just gets it wrong too much. My mantra is the third time somebody asks you something, write an article, and then you can start suggesting the article, so you can offer unlimited help but do it in a more and more efficient way.

One thought, of course, was to create a community group, where people could help each other. I’m going to go in the next few minutes through the type of community groups, because it was super interesting and what works and what didn’t. The first question is do you start your own group or do you join other people’s groups? We started by joining other groups. There are Slack groups. There are WhatsApp groups, and there are specialty apps like Guild and so on.

What we found is that- I’m a member of quite a few founder groups. The WhatsApp has by far the world’s worst interface. It is rubbish. You can’t have threaded conversations. It beeps in the middle of the night. You can’t differentiate between including your mother calling you in the middle of the night and so on. The threaded conversations don’t work. They get lost in the thread. It’s terrible, but that is where all the action is.

Then there are slack groups, and there are various types of slack groups. Some have got more buzz than others, and we’ll get back to that in a minute, but it’s a bit more effort to have Slack open or get notified and then go through the different groups, and then their specialty apps. One of the joys of SeedLegals is a good fraction of all startups are on our platform. We love giving business back to us our customers, and one of the customers is Guild. They make an app that is the communities for businesses, and it’s got all the features that Slack and WhatsApp don’t have. The problem is people have to go and get the app.

We created a group, but then I found the problem was, and this is really core to the problem I have and I’m really intrigued as to whether those on the call have the problem as well, which is my team kept going, “Anthony, we need to create a community group. We will moderate it, and we’ll hop in and do things.” We created a Slack group and a Guild group and a WhatsApp group, and then my team just bailed. They went, “We’ve got too many other things to do,” and with rare exception they leave it to me. It’s like I’m left with the baby.

What we found is the place where the action really happens the most is in our WhatsApp group, but there’s another startup group called Anonymous Founders, which is hugely popular, and that’s probably the most popular group of all, and that’s a Slack group. What’s interesting is that one is anonymous. Everyone’s got a handle, and you can ask questions anonymously. Which then comes to, I think, one of the key things that makes a community group work or not, which is what is its purpose? Who controls it if it’s got a controller? Who moderates it?

I think the challenge is when we created a startup group, SeedLegals Founders group, people have an expectation that they need to say things that are nice to us. They can’t say anything that disses us. They can’t ask about our competitors. They can’t suggest a competitor. It’s like inviting people around to dinner. You’re controlling it, which means the questions in it are all about things that they’re expecting we or other people to help with around our platform, which is great, but is obviously a much smaller set of things.

Then you go to the Anonymous Founders, or you go to groups that we don’t run, and there people will ask anything, and sometimes they might talk about a competitor, or somebody might ask, “What should I use for my options scheme,” and somebody might mention us and a competitor. Those have much more chat, and actually, sometimes people aren’t saying things that are the best about you or recommending someone else, but it’s a fantastic learning tool, because in our group, it’s more like a broadcast where we, and often me, answer people’s questions. In the other group, I’m actually getting my marketing intel from that, and that’s invaluable.

I’m now looking to launch SeedLegals in the US, but I don’t know what the US proposition is, so I’m now joining a bunch of US groups. It’s much cheaper than flying to New York, and I can then find out what people are talking about. There’s one more thing, which is, what’s really interesting, there’s a group, a company called Startup Network Europe, and they’ve got different WhatsApp groups for UK, London, Ireland, and France, and some others. I’m a member of those three. What’s really fascinating is how the interactions are different between them.

The Startup Network London is 300 or 400 people, and they ask great questions, but they’re all really narrowly focused on fundraising. Should I use HubSpot versus Pipedrive? Or what’s the CPM or CPA you would pay? Or should you advertise on Twitter? They’re targeted, and there’s a decent amount of traffic on it. I hop in and answer things when it’s useful, and I stay silent on others. Then there is Startup Network France, and there, people introduce themselves, and then nobody says anything ever again. It’s really weird. The French are like, either they have no questions, or they’re embarrassed to ask questions, but it’s like silence.

Then there’s Startup Network Ireland, which is like you’ve wandered into the pub. It’s insane. About a quarter of all the messages are removed by the admin, because they’re contravening editorial policy. It’s anything from Gaza deleted through to fundraising, through Paddy, I’ll meet you at the pub later. It’s a bit like just a meeting place. My take, for anyone listening is, should you run a group, or should you join someone else’s group? What do you want from the group? For the group that we run, it’s creating a community, which we think is important.

In fact, we renamed our subscription plan from subscribe to join as a member, which means that you are not just getting access to a platform, you’re getting access to a community. Then we want to do a lot more community events. We do lunches for some of our members and an award ceremony, and so on. The group is one of those, but there, I think people are expecting you to moderate the group, make sure it’s on point, remove anyone who’s out of line. Whereas when you join someone else’s group, you’re a guest, and you have to be not self-promotional.

You might drop in a few hints about your company when it’s a solution to a problem, but you’re always there to give help. I think those who realize it, and provide unbiased advice. Sometimes there’s a link to an article on your site, and I think that’s the gentle upsell. That was the whole thing from me on groups. I hope it answers the questions.

Interviewer: Abso- bloody- lutely. Thank you very much. Sorry, you took an in-breath there, so I’m going to let you carry on if you have another point.

Anthony: No. I just saw a question about LinkedIn. It’s quite interesting. There are Facebook groups and LinkedIn groups. The question is why some are quite buzzy and some not. I think a lot comes down to the feeling of the purpose of the group. Does it feel like it’s led by somebody and you’re on guard or you can’t ask very much? Also it’s about how much the moderator polices things.

My last startup was essentially called 6Tribes, which was a social network and people created tribes. I was worried that, like Twitter, it would be filled with, vile stuff. It turned out, for the most part, people were delightful and really nice to each other. The real problem wasn’t flame wars. It was people just posting meh content. What I realized is the groups or the tribes that were the most successful were the ones where the moderator just- it wasn’t getting rid only of the flame war people, which was infrequent, but it’s getting rid of just the meh content.

Looking at, for example, at this Startup Network Ireland, it’s anyone who’s off topic gets deleted. You might look at your feed and go, the last eight things were just deleted. The moderator is trying to get it on point, whereas in Facebook groups, the ones you just stop, getting- or LinkedIn ones where the moderator is just letting random people post their Indian SEO company, and then you just leave. It’s zinging is super critical, and I don’t know the formula.

I was watching a program on iPlayer on Studio 54, which is brilliant, and somehow the club in New York, which went insanely popular, somehow they got just the right formula of influencers, buzz, great decor to make a takeoff until they were arrested for tax evasion. Others just didn’t take off. Maybe that’s exactly the point here is how to get it to take off and the community to help themselves, and you learn from it and contribute.

Interviewer: 100%. I want to ask you off the back of all of that, how much did you walk into all of this with an intention of creating the culture, which you have subsequently ended up with, versus how much the culture has evolved? Because it feels like that’s what you’re speaking about, to a certain extent, is a cultural sort of thing.

Anthony: You’re absolutely right. For me, I’m not a marketer by background. I’m a coder, hardware designer. I’ve stumbled into the space, and it turns out that I’ve got quite a passion for helping our customers. I’ve realized, in a sense, that one way to scale the business is if you can reach an audience through a group, then you can answer something for 100 people instead of answering 100 individual people once each. I think there’s a community benefit, but I just love that. I love the interaction. I love helping, and it shows whether I should do it or not.

I think if I look at my competitors, whether it be law firms or other legal tech companies, they’re all these somewhat faceless organizations and you phone them and you book a meeting. I like to think, what are my competitors doing? I’m going to do completely the opposite. There’s no way they’re running WhatsApp groups. There’s no way that they’re giving advice on things. Then you can start using data, and you can start answering with an article. There’s a lot to be had. For me, I think there is definitely a passion.

If you get it right, if you’re a marketer and you have people and you’re engaged in a group and you get great feedback, it’s quite a buzz every day. It’s also quite addictive. You wake up and there’s new messages, and you’ve got to do the messages. Now, one thing I want to talk about is community-led growth versus product-led growth. I don’t know who in the audience knows the terms PLG and CLG. I’m quite late to the party on that. PLG, product-led growth, is you build it and they will come. Community-led growth is you work the community, and you hang out where your users are and you get the network effect as they talk to each other.

If I look at how our company has grown in particularly the UK and France and compare and contrast, our growth in the UK has been a lot faster than in France, where we have a small team. It’s growing very nicely, but it’s nowhere near the UK. I think the difference is in France, we’ve relied on product-led growth. The team builds something, and then you have some webinars, and you do some marketing and so on. You hope people will come.

In the UK, last year, at the end of the year, I looked through my Outlook, and I did 140 events, which were a combination of webinars, podcasts, physical events in the evening, and so on. Being part of that community, I think, made all the difference. If you can leverage community and tie that with your product and have your team be seen to be going out of their way, I think that’s the win-win.

Now, of course, is the space we’re in really unique? If you’re doing jam or surfboards or insurance, can you match the equivalent? You may have a bit of work to do, but I think that is the case. By the way, one thing, and I know we’re digressing from the questions, but what’s interesting, this might be useful for anyone looking at this, which is in the area that products we offer, we do funding rounds and funding rounds for startups. There are a certain number of them in London, in the UK, and they tend to go to similar events. You can turn that into a community.

We also do R&D tax claims. Every company that spends money can claim money back from the government. There, like every company in the UK, like half of them can qualify, and there’s no community. Targeting that as a community just isn’t going to work. There, I need to do BBC ads against all my competitors or find some way to use AI to come up with better messaging. Whereas if you can identify a community and then serve or super serve that community, that’s the trick. How can you find that community? Does your business naturally have a community? That I don’t know the answer, what- the percent that do?

Interviewer: I just adore it. Hearing you speak, Anthony, it’s wonderful because A, first off, clear passion. Like a clear passion for A, helping people, customers. I’ve lived it. I’ve experienced it. I’ve seen it. I’ve seen you do it outside of this context. Then also B, energy, dedicated to doing these things, to turning up at the events, to turning up at the podcast, to being involved in those things. I think that’s really important, because I don’t think that’s a given. I don’t think that’s a given for a CEO or a leader or whatever to show up with these things. The thing I wanted to point out as a combination of this to the folks listening is like, I also think of you as a really savvy business person.

For you to be endorsing this as something which has helped your business grow in a very significant way, I think that’s a really strong endorsement. I just wanted to highlight, because I think so often these things, we get hung up as marketers about attribution, about digital attribution in particular, but actually what you’re doing is turning up to an event and you’re going, “Hi, this is us,” and et cetera, et cetera, in the same way as you are in the WhatsApp group. That feels really important and just like a really strong point for folks to sort of think about prioritizing this, because I think that’s really important.

Anthony: Thank you. I think our goal is also building thought leadership. In the field of law, there are lots of law firms. It’s a huge market. They’ve been there like since Queen Elizabeth the first, not the second. Now a young startup like six or seven years old, capturing a third of some market share of some segments of it. You start with the, who are you guys? We’re lawyers. We’ve been here since Queen Victoria or whatever. Now how are you going to change that? I think you change that by just serving customers at a lower cost, but then you don’t want to be seen as just a lower cost base solution, the Tesco of it. Now you start using data because you’re doing volume.

Then you’ve got data. Now you can turn that into thought leadership pieces. Then you can think about how you do things differently to the incumbents. You leverage that. The law firm will tell you 12 things you could do, and I’ll tell you one thing you should do based on data. Then you run the communities, because you know your competitors aren’t running the communities. I like to think what my competitors are doing and then do completely the opposite.

Interviewer: I love that. My cofounder posted about you today, and he said, “I love an outlier.” Which I think applies. Part of the promise of today’s session was speaking about how we use community subsequently as a content tool. You’ve already alluded to it, because you mentioned if someone asks something three times, then that’s when you produce a piece of content off the back of it. Could you speak a little bit more to that? Because I think that’s a really interesting mechanism of using a private community to turn it into something that feeds the rest of our marketing activity, which that was really interesting. That was one of those light bulb moments for me when you and I spoke before. I’d love to hear more about that.

Anthony: If you think about your sales team, they would be doing the same thing again and again with each customer going through the same thing, and they might be answering the same questions. One of the things I like to do is the software eats the world. Again, thinking, what are my competitors doing? They’re manual businesses. Can I use software to do things more efficiently so I can provide a great customer experience but be more efficient each time? That’s where I think, firstly, content comes in. Maybe it’s the software developer in me. I hate doing anything more than once.

My mantra with the team is the third time somebody asks you to do some- asks you a question, write an article, and now we’ve got the dawn of AI. AI can start pausing these articles. Today it’s not good enough to let loose on customers, because it just gets it wrong, and people like to talk to a human, but that will change, and it can start suggesting it. Once you’ve got content, then how can you leverage that? Well, you’ve got thought leadership pieces. You can publish that as posts on LinkedIn. Then when people ask questions in startup groups, instead of writing a lengthy reply, you can have an article.

One of the things I really love is I put insane amounts of time into writing articles. I must have written like hundreds of them. What I very much enjoy is when people do ask a question, I can actually answer with an article. It turns out a good fraction of things people ask, I’ve written an article. If I haven’t written an article, I’ll often go off and write a short article so that’s the answer to it. To me, there’s a thinking of the software eats the world way of thinking. You can look to use tech to do everything more efficiently, and that can include communities.

One thing noting is that I tweeted the other day, which is we all know about #nofilter for Insta. I think we’re entering the #noAI, because we all recognize an AI resume or LinkedIn outreach. It’s like if you send an AI-generated resume, I’m not sure it’s an instant delete, but it’s probably not going to go very far. I think we are all recognizing that, and that’s what you want is the genuine. That means your team really need to have the unique tone of voice and be genuine. One of the things we might cover if you want is how you get your whole team to have a unified tone of voice, and is that the CEOs or one of the founders or does it come organically from the team?

Interviewer: No, that’s bang on. I guess one of the points that I just wanted to loop together, those bits of the conversation because presumably, you can also do the same for these– When you are part of other people’s groups, you can recognize the same trends and still write the same articles and do it the same way. For anyone watching in who’s like, “Oh, I don’t own a WhatsApp group, or I don’t have a Slack channel,” or whatever, the same theory applies. If you’re part of these communities, you can really recognize the problems rather than spending your time.

Anthony: By the way, you should give it a go. Don’t feel worried about creating a community and then sun-setting it afterwards. We’ve created some that just didn’t take off that much. You don’t have to kill it. You still get notified if somebody posts something that people just vote and with their feet or fingers and go elsewhere. If you are wondering should I start a community, try to find some people in the company who will, at least they tell you they will, go and spend time in it. Maybe make a rota so somebody every day goes and checks posts. You don’t want people posting things to you and then no one replying.

The barrier to creating a WhatsApp group and other is fairly low. WhatsApp used to be limited to 256, now it’s 1000 or something. Some people make communities with sub-communities. That looks a bit complicated, but I think it’s far better to have tried than not to have tried.

Interviewer: Absolutely. Bang on. These things are so low cost, low friction to set up that it’s really important that if you want to give it a go, you feel like you can. There’s 13 open questions from the community I can see right now. Folks, if you’re watching in and you would like to give a thumbs up to some of the questions that we should prioritize, please do give a thumbs up in the Q&A to the ones you want answered, because we’ll make sure that we get to those. I can see that the first question is actually from my good friend James. It comes a little bit back down to the cultural point that we were speaking about earlier.

James is asking how you position the WhatsApp group in SeedLegals so it doesn’t sound like you’re going to get sold to. I guess framing that for folks in other organizations, they’re always fearful that it may appear that way. How did you get past that, you’re going to be sold–

Anthony: This is for customers perceiving that it was a sales channel for them.

Interviewer: Absolutely.

Anthony: It’s something you have to be eternally vigilant on, both in your own group and when you’re a guest in others. If you’re too sally, then people will just leave or they’ll ban you and/ or your content. What’s interesting is some of the questions people are going to be asking are things that are relevant to your business, but some things are just irrelevant. We are a legal tech platform. We are helping you with your funding round, but people will be asking all the things that startup founders want to know from others. A lot of it’s marketing, What CRM? Or anyone got a discount code with AWS or HubSpot? Those are really popular things.

The number one thing is don’t be salesy, otherwise, you can have a dead group unless the group is specific, but you don’t have any groups that you’ve joined for companies that want to sell things. I think maybe that’s the problem. The company justifies internally a budget for whatever, for creating a group, and then gets super salesy on it. I know some of my team members will post events, and it always is a slightly cringe thing for me. It’s like, “I’m not sure I would’ve said that. That’s a bit salesy. Let’s not do that again.” Or, “Let’s make it informative.”

The key contract in a sense you have with the group members is that you’re there to provide the nightclub experience so that everyone has a good time. If you start dominating it too much, then everyone’s going to leave. You have to be quite careful. That means, often when you do have the answer to a problem, try to create it in a way. An example, in the Anonymous Founders’ group, somebody asked a question about– it just happened we’ve got a product. They said, “Should I go to SeedLegals or somebody else for one of these contracts, or should I roll my own?” I think rolling your own, I mean, it’s a product I sell.

My answer was, “There are many types of contracts. Some of them knock yourself out, roll your own. This one, you definitely don’t want to do it for these reasons.” Then I ended with, “By the way, if you wanted one of these, knock yourself out and roll your own.” It was really giving advice. Then at the end, I made sure that it didn’t come across as me self-serving, selling something by going, “This is unique, otherwise, go for it.”

Interviewer: It feels important. I think it’s just really refreshing to hear it from you, because these are all the things that we hear as good pieces of advice, so often. Don’t feel like you have to sell, et cetera, et cetera. Ultimately, when the rubber hits the road sometimes, and it goes through an approval process of, “Hey, we’re going to start a WhatsApp group,” or, “Hey, we’re going to start a community,” and 10 different people get involved. Eventually what happens is you do end up in that situation where it feels something very inorganic, and you end up with exactly the opposite of what you’ve spoken about today.

I think this is why I wanted to get you on today, because it feels like you’re taking the advice, or at least intuitively doing the things that feel right. The result is something that’s really, really vibrant, which is fabulous.

Anthony: I think each post you should think is this really providing unbiased value for the audience? If not, rethink it. Incredibly valuable these groups are to just get intel from what people are asking. Often the things that people are asking is a key for the products you might want to build. That’s free product discovery, something you’d have spent a lot on focus groups, you’re just hearing it.

People keep asking for one of these things, and you could build that, but you may get feedback on pricing, “Hey, what’s the price?” “Well, how much are you paying for it? Great. I didn’t know my competitor was discounting that.” Being part of those is really important, but then it means you can’t dominate the conversation.

Interviewer: Absolutely. It’s marketing 101, really, which is– It’s good to see it in action. I wanted to pick up on a question from Kaylee, because we’ll loop back around to the top question from Simon in a moment. It was on topic, which was how do you tackle deleting or not sharing a “Meh content” if you want everyone to feel valued? Because presumably you may have had those moments within even the WhatsApp group where, you go, “Oh, come on, we can do better,” or whatever. Again, it comes down to that cultural thing, I think. How do you delete stuff or not share it or whatever so that you don’t lose that momentum in the group? Because you put it out in the world, and then you see what happens.

Anthony: It’s a really critical question. I don’t claim to know the answer, but I think there are– Obviously, your nuclear options are to delete a post or to ban someone entirely from the group. That doesn’t feel nice to do. Options before that is you could just DM the person directly and say, “Hey, can we not do this?” You could also post publicly, hey, can we keep it clean? No LinkedIn profiles, please. It’s only about questions, not about promotion. You should constantly reinforce the values of the group. Then when there’s somebody I would say out of line, not egregiously out of line, you have a gentle post that says, “Hey, a reminder that, the group is for this,” and then people get it.

If you do it right, others will hop in ahead of you to do that. Actually over the weekend in our group, I DMed one of the members and said, “Actually what you’re doing is seriously cool. If you just wrote a four-line post with no emoji, no spammy things, not 12 lines, you’d actually get people wanting it.” For me, the idea was trying to educate them. At some point, if they keep doing it, they will get removed. Today’s post was actually a really nice, short post asking a question. Maybe they got it, and then everyone else gets it.

I think it’s just like your leadership team in your company. If the CEO and the senior leadership team, their behaviors on Slack, in the office, are the cultures that pervade the rest of the company. I think if it’s your group, then, the posts that you make, people will pick up from that. If you’re spammy or, talk about the football or whatever, then it will just go all over the show. If you keep it focused, then I hope that people will get it. Then occasionally you’ll have an outlier about SEO from India, then that one should be gotten rid of.

Interviewer: The word that you used as part of that answer was kindness. You lead with kindness and then folks respond in turn. It’s almost always been my experience. We speak to thousands of people every week, and I can count on one hand the amount of times where we’ve had a bad interaction, and they have been outliers. Just as a point of encouragement for folks watching, feel comfortable that the worst case scenario fairly rarely happens. I’m not saying it doesn’t, but if you put in the right moderation, you treat people with kindness, then it is an encouragement rather than something to be feared, I think.

Anthony: By the way, that is the key fear for starting a community. That’s what kept us from not doing it for quite a few years, actually, which is, are you going to put the time into moderation? What if people start bad-mouthing your company? What if they start talking about random political stuff? It could go out of control, but actually you realize quite quickly, it will vary. If you’re doing a political one, it’s probably not good. If you’re doing one that is B2B SaaS business or something, your customers or the members of the community, you’ll, be surprised how nice people are and how much they want to help each other. They may have started connecting, off community or DMing each other.

It’s wonderful to see those little seeds sprouting and turning into something more. If you could create that, then that’s brilliant. The best feeling is when people start recommending your service and answering questions you would have answered. I now wake up in the morning and people have already answered questions that others have asked of me and other community members are like, “Dude, that’s really good.” I have to be a bit careful if they give the wrong answer, but still, yes.

Interviewer: It’s bang on. To pick up on that point, a wonderful business justification for engaging in these things, because as you mentioned it earlier as well, as a support cost thing, you can reduce the amount of time you spend on support drastically, both through the listening you’ve spoken about, but also through customers answering other people’s questions, which is really lovely. I want to pick up on the question from Laura, which comes from the opposite side of what we’ve just been speaking about, which is your tactics for encouraging people to engage if the conversation is looking a bit thin. Have you ever experienced that, where it’s just gone dead and you’ve gone, all goodness, and how you dealt with that?

Anthony: Great point, actually. Yes, some groups like, in fact, this French one, I’ve tried posting a few things to wake up the patients on their deathbed to do something. I think there’s no action. The question is, are people in the group for the wrong reasons? You’ve gotten people to join a group by posting to all of your customers or posting on LinkedIn. People have joined expecting something. It turned out that what they’re expecting isn’t delivered or is not deliverable at all. Therefore, like you’ve invited people to a party, and they’ve arrived and gone, “Dude, why am I here? Is it for the drinks, the artwork? Is there a marriage happening here?” They’re just not sure why they’re there.

I think in this French startup group, the person who started it had a great list of people. Invited them, but never really got to explain why they were there. People aren’t sure, should they ask questions? Should they share war stories? Should they help others? It’s an indication that it’s a problem looking for a solution or a solution looking for a problem, I should say. Those are the ones I think are not working. Then once you see that, either you work out what people might really be wanting to talk about, or you just realize you should not spend time on it. People probably stay members of it. One day somebody will ask a question. It’ll light up in their WhatsApp or Slack, but until then, it is what it is.

Interviewer: Nice. I really appreciate that answer. I think it rings true to our experience of things. We’ve previously run a Facebook group, and we’ve also started WhatsApp groups. The exercise that we went through before we started both of these things was writing down the values that we expected and the behaviors and just making it super clear. I’m not the world’s most assertive person. It will surprise and shock you. One of the things that did right from the off was give folks that clarity of this is how I behave in this place. To your point about the stuff that you just spoke about, this is what I should be doing.

It’s funny because in the Q&A right now, there’s a question we recently launched in WhatsApp groups, and they’re asking how it’s going. It’s making me think, speaking to you, that we should be far more clear about those sort of things, because it’s just so important, to set those expectations right from the off. I’m learning a lot here as well. Thank you very much. I really appreciate that.

Anthony: By the way, if you create a Slack group, then you’ve got one of the challenges of how many channels do you create? WhatsApp essentially only has one channel. Which means the channel is busy, and if you don’t go to it for two days, it’s like you’ve completely lost in the noise. With Slack, you can have one for CRM systems, fundraising, ask me anything, whatever. The more channels you have, the more, dispersed the conversation is, but you know where to go. The fact you’ve got channels is indicating what the group is about and where people should post things.

If you make too many, then people don’t join all of them. Then what happens is the events channel’s got 200 people and the general channel’s got 100 people, so everyone posts in the general channel. You do have some structural issues. You might make everyone join every channel by default. These are the joys of the community management.

Interviewer: Bang on. Absolutely. I want to pick up on that community management piece again, and then sort of loop into the thing about fear. Because I think this would be a reason why folks say, for example, I used to work at the e-commerce marketing agency. One of the things that we could have done is bring together our various customers and say, “Look, we’re just going to have a bit of an e-com chat here, and it’s an opportunity for you to meet one another.” We become the central point for that conversation. Now, the e-com agency I worked for was great, so this is not specific about them.

One of the things that I’m sure we would have feared had I been in that situation would have been the customers piling on. Had something gone wrong, say, for example, on Black Friday and everyone was stressing, they’re putting it in the WhatsApp group, et cetera, et cetera. I just wanted to loop back around to that point about fear and your thought process on whether you worried whether customers would start having bad conversations about SeedLegals with one another when you invited them into this environment, and if you did, how you dealt with that internally.

Anthony: It’s a great question, and that’s one of the fear for doing these groups. It might be self-reinforcing good or self-reinforcing bad. You might start with thinking the overall karma of your company, if people generally love what you do, maybe it’s a good thing. If people are generally whinging and your Trustpilot scores are not very good, maybe the group is a less good thing to do. Sometimes you will get somebody who’s got a payment dispute and then wants to vent or whatever.

I guess the thought is, if you give people a place to vent, then they will vent, but the challenge is, if you don’t give people a place to vent, they’re going to vent on Twitter, and on Trustpilot, or whatever it is, and so people always have a venue to vent. You might think about, rather than, “I’m going to let people whinge to each other,” you may turn out that it’s better they whinge here, where it might turn out your other customers go, “Actually, no. Dude, you’re wrong. This was great.” I found, occasionally, when people have something that they didn’t like, others will pile in and go, “No, actually it works great, or we didn’t have the same feeling.”

They might be going off on DMs separately, but I think, if it feels like the company that’s creating the channel and contributing to it, their intention is genuine and they’re genuinely trying to be helpful, then I think people will respond accordingly. If it sounds and feels like a sales channel or something, then you will get that kind of behavior. By the way, one interesting dilemma is, my marketing or sales team are sometimes saying you should create these groups only for paying customers, or only for top-tier paying customers. I feel that we should do it for anyone who wants to join, because it’s lead gen.

One of them is, the approach is like it’s a VIP members club, and the other approach is actually it’s customer lead gen and customer service, and you should make it as widely open as possible. I don’t know the answer. I do like the concept of the VIP one, and this becomes a reason for being in the top tier plan or our most valued customer or you get invited. On the flip side, all the effort that you’re putting into moderating, creating content, doing posts and so on, you’re reaching a smaller audience, and you could have done otherwise.

I don’t know the answer, but it’s definitely one to think about, and certainly your sales team is probably going to be pushing you to create communities for top-tier customers as an upsale mechanism, but on the flip side, you’re losing customer acquisition by doing that.

Interviewer: Absolutely. To the point of the content discussion that we had earlier, then you may be losing the conversation about acquisition as well, so you may be losing out on the FAQs that people are asking about your service. It is an interesting thing. I guess there’s an argument for both as well. You could have the VIP and the more general chat. I don’t know whether folks would do both, but it’s a curious thing. I want to pick up on the question from Simon, which was also mirrored in chat.

It may just be a couple of sentences about this one, or it may be much longer, but Simon’s asking about how you go about finding your various WhatsApp groups, because you listed us like 10 just off the bat. Is it just by being involved in the community that you find these things out, or how are you going about finding these things? For other folks, part of your advice earlier on was about joining some other groups and stuff like that. How did you start your journey of doing that?

Anthony: It’s a good point because if you use Guild, there’s a directory of apps and you can join and so on, unless something in WhatsApp. There’s no mass directory. You have to hear it from somebody, which is a bit weird, and then some of them you have to ask the admin to let you in, and some of you have an invite link. Maybe all of this adds a bit to the mystique, “Hey, I’m in this group, and I’ve no idea how to let other people in, and I’m inside and I use this.” I don’t know. It is the case that the more you network, the more you find these groups, and people invite you to others.

Now, the question is maybe that’s something that you do. You post a link to all of your customers, so that they can join your group. I don’t know the answer, but it is a bit of a black art, and I know there are all these groups that I could join. I don’t know if I should or how to. I totally don’t know the answer to that. Maybe there is a startup opportunity for something that lists all WhatsApp groups and puts them in a directory. That would be quite interesting.

Interviewer: I feel like it’s the type of thing that now you’ve said those words out loud, it’s probably going to exist in 10 days, and the domain is going to– [laughs] I kind of get those vibes. I feel like you also doing the right thing, Simon, by turning up to events. I’m not trying to blow our own horn here, but, like TMN, because you start to meet other people, and you find out about these things. That’s exactly how I found like an ad tech group that I’m part of and so on and so forth. That’s really useful. Hopefully, that helps Simon.

Let’s take the last question, I think, from Paul. Paul is asking about group size, and for groups in online communities, do you think bigger is always better? Or has there, in your experience, been the Goldilocks sweet spot where the number of members is not too big or too small? I don’t know whether we can get a number from you. I doubt that, but what’s been your experience in terms of joining some of the bigger ones versus some of the smaller groups?

Anthony: That’s a really great question. My starting assumption is bigger is better, because more people equals more posts. What I’ve found is that I think in most groups, and Twitter is a perfect example, a small percent of people do the vast majority of the posts. Either they’re asking questions, or they’re answering other people’s questions. Or they’re just the most interesting ones. Or maybe they’ve got too much time on their end. I don’t know the reasons. You may find that you’ve got the rule of 10, which is you’ve got 100 viewers. You’ve got 10 curators, who might follow, like, retweet, et cetera, and you’ve got one creator.

If that’s your rule and maybe that is the general rule, then how do you focus on more creators? The curators are fine. They’ll reshare and so on, but they’re not contributing content, and it’s those that you want. If you can’t change the rules- and by the way, I don’t know if- and claim it’s like an actual mathematical thing, but it seems not far off the [unintelligible 01:13:31] could Anonymous Founders, which has got 2000 members, they’re probably 50. There are most of the content comes from, and I’m definitely one of those 50. Others are either not there at all or consuming. Then one day they have a question, or they are now confident enough.

I think more is better, but to create the safe space so that people who are only reading are still getting value, and people aren’t afraid to contribute. For example, I follow lots of VC’s in the US, and you don’t want to wade into their discussion, because they’re all like billionaires and so on. Now who are you to come in? You’re afraid to enter that particular party, so you just stay silent. You want to create this environment where everyone’s either got great questions or an expert on something in their area. We’re going to contribute. Maybe that’s the key to that happening.

One, because once you tease out people with some interesting things and others pop into answer, it becomes a self-fulfilling, wonderful environment as opposed to a few people shouting from the parapets and everyone else like maybe there or maybe not.

Interviewer: [laughs] It’s bang on. As you were speaking, it reminded me of a small tactical point, which is if you’re seeing these folks in your group who are the key contributors to, A, acknowledge these folks, whether it’s a DM and just say, “Thank you so much.” You’re doing so much. You’re modeling the right behaviors. You’re meaningful to this group. I think the power of acknowledgment is something that’s really, really, something.

Anthony: One thing I try to do is each time I answer a question, you may have seen me do it here as well, somebody will ask the question that’s just relevant to them. I’ll almost always answer it and even say, “By the way, the answer to this for everyone else reading this, is this is how it works, and now this is the answer for you.” Each answer is not only answering a person’s question, it’s something to create valuable insight for everyone else in the group.

Interviewer: That’s that. That’s a real inclusivity point, which I really, really like. There was the second part of it was, just to elevate folks so you could even give folks like a semi-official title or incentivize them, whether it’s a chocolate for the top poster or whatever, particularly in those beginning stages. It’s really interesting.

Anthony: By the way, I can see great comments from Vanessa about WhatsApp functionality, Hive index, and yes, please do check out and create a group on Guild, which is a fantastic platform for business communities and so on with all the features that WhatsApp doesn’t have.

Interviewer: Bang on. Anthony, that was really informative. I think for anyone who is looking to, A- just to wrap up, A, to start a community in a private place, I think we’ve touched on some really great touch points and really great advice for doing that, but then also B, looked at the opportunity around content, around content creation, et cetera. I think that is really interesting, and C, the listening, the enthusiasm, the getting involved. I think it’s a really, really great role model for folks who are looking to build a business of real significance. Thank you for spending the time as you have today. Really enjoyed it. You can see some lovely comments coming through for you there, Anthony. Thank you for taking the time.

Anthony: Thank you so much. I’ve dropped my LinkedIn profile. I don’t know if that’s allowed or not, but if anyone wants to connect, I’m delighted to. If anyone wants to join any startup communities, I’ve got some magic links that I can point you to. Thank you so much for having me, and this was a lot of fun and learning for me as well.

Interviewer: I really appreciate it. Thank you to you. Thank you to everyone for taking the time. We’re taking a week break next week, and we’ll be back in two weeks. Thank you all very much, and we will see you then. Take care, everyone.

Anthony: Thank you. Bye. Bye.

[01:17:57] [END OF AUDIO]