Building communities outside of social networks - Alex Dwek (Nas Company)

Alex Dwek, COO at Nas Company, shares his insights into the current state of social media, why brands and creators should build their own communities, and do so outside of social networks. We loved hearing about Alex’s experiences with community-led growth and learning about new terminology and mindsets for community builders. We're really excited for you to hear all about it!

Alex is the COO of Nas Company, a community platform with one mission: bringing people together. He is the brains behind their ecosystem, which includes an impressive community, education opportunities, and products for creators. Before joining Nas, he was a Regional General Manager at Grab, and led Uber’s Community Operations teams in some of the largest APAC markets.

On the podcast, we talk about the fact that social media isn’t about being social anymore and why brands and creators should build their own communities and do so outside of social networks. We loved hearing about Alex’s experiences with community-led growth, and how he seamlessly navigates between in-person events and the digital space. He also mentioned a new terminology and mindset for community builders that we’re really excited for you to hear about!

⭐️ Highlights, inspiration, and key learnings:

  • Bringing people together is an antidote to the division in the world. 
  • Social media is no longer social. But people still want social interactions.
  • Brands and creators need to build relationships outside of social networks.
  • Be specific about your community goals, and map out short vs. long-term goals.
  • It’s funny how 6-month sales cycles are considered okay, and no one expects them to get results in just a few weeks. We need to start talking about “community cycles” based on data.
  • Community-led growth is underrated. You don’t need a huge budget, you just need to find like-minded people to form that initial foundation.
  • Brands shouldn’t underestimate the power of curation. There’s a LOT of information online and people can’t filter through it. Curate your content and events.
  • There are millions of solopreneurs, small business owners, and content creators out there who can build really powerful communities if they have the right technology and support to do that.

I loved doing this interview and I’m really excited for you to join us in this value-packed conversation!

👋 Connect with Alex: 

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Ivana Istochka (00:04.339)

Hi Alex, welcome to the show. It's so good to have you here.

Alex Dwek (00:08.742)

Thank you for having me, it's so great to be here.

Ivana Istochka (00:11.023)

Yeah, it's a pleasure to chat with you. Look, to start us off, I'd love to talk about bringing people together. It's the mission of your company. It's something that you proudly share on your LinkedIn cover. It's something that you talk about online. Why? Why is it important to bring people together?

Alex Dwek (00:26.286)

So that's a great question. And we actually thought a lot about our mission statement before we actually finalized it. And I think the reason why we exist as a company is because even with the amazing development of the internet, there's still a lot of division in the world, right? There are still people who live next to each other, who don't talk to each other, different cultures, different religions, different nationalities that don't find common ground.

And what we fundamentally believe is that content and community building have this unique ability to bring people together. And why is that important? Well, actually what we found is that when you get to know people as people and not think about them as labels, a lot of these conflicts and misconceptions get pulled away. So our mission is to bring people together because we believe that if we can achieve that through technology and content, the world will be a better place.

Ivana Istochka (01:29.891)

I love that. Look, you mentioned the Internet, right? And you mentioned this division and it's interesting because we spent the last decade answering the question of what would happen if you put everyone on the planet into a room and let them talk to one another. But actually lately that resulted in digital fatique, digital division, digital divide, and influencers, creators, marketers, and business owners, everyone, people can agree that social media as we once knew it is dead. There is a change going on the internet.

Alex Dwek (01:41.131)


Ivana Istochka (01:59.419)

Can you talk a little bit about that notion, please?

Alex Dwek (02:03.082)

It's funny that I'm going to say this because we started as social media creators. That's the reason why our brand exists. But I will agree with you and say that social media, as we knew it, the whole idea of social media being social is dead today. And why is it dead? Well, we think the reason it's dead is because social media has changed. You know, social media five, six years ago was about long-form content, so 10 to 15-minute videos, an opportunity to really build a relationship through that length, the opportunity to comment, the opportunity to engage, and the opportunity to follow people and groups, like Facebook groups and others. But then something happened, and that something is called TikTok. And TikTok came along and said, actually, what people want is not 10 to 15-minute videos. it's one minute or less, right? People's attention spans are shorter. They want really very hard-hitting, fast-paced, engaging content. And not only that but with the rise of algorithms when TikTok got a fantastic job with their product, they have been able to use algorithms to serve you content. So now you don't need to search for people. You don't need to click follow.

Based on your behavior, content gets served for you on the home page or the for you page. So because of that, what's happened is that social media has become a lot less social and a lot more like traditional media, like TV, I would say. The typical behavior as a user of social media is to open one of the apps and to watch and to scroll. Just flick between one video and another video. That's exactly how people used to flick through cable TV. And so this creates a big problem. 

On the one hand, it's fantastic for the consumer that content can now find me. But the whole reason why social media exploded when it was first created was that humans did crave that social interaction. One of the things that I think has been so powerful when social media was created was that imagine you have an interest in a specific niche and you live in a town or a village.

There may be no one in your village who is interested in what you love. Let's say you're a gamer, but then you get onto the internet and then social media allows you to meet a thousand other people who are just as passionate about, let's say that gaming as you are. And it just makes you realize that you're not alone. 

And so with that change of social media being dead, yes, that brings benefits. I don't need a few TV networks to control the content that I produce. It democratizes content. But there is still a gaping hole, which is that humans still want that social interaction.

Ivana Istochka (05:03.287)

Absolutely. And what do you think is the future? Like, how do you think this will impact platforms, how it will impact creators, how it is impacting businesses? There are a lot of talks about this nowadays online, right? Especially with everything that's been happening lately with like Meta and, or let's say X and all of the other platforms. 

Alex Dwek (05:20.702)

Absolutely. I mean, you can see how quickly things can change, right? A change of ownership in the case of X or a change in algorithm. And so I would like to give two examples of how it impacts the creator, and then we can talk about the business as well. For the creator, the simplest example that I can give is… imagine you're a TikToker in America right now and you spend the last one year growing your TikTok and let's say you have 100,000 followers or 500,000 followers and with one stroke, it’s possible that the US government could ban TikTok And if they do that all of your hard work has gone. Why has it gone? Well, because of the way that social media platforms are designed, the platform owns the audience, not the creator. So you as a business owner small business owner are very reliant on something that you cannot control. And that is quite scary, especially if it's that you're thinking about your livelihood or building a long-term business on top of that. The question that every creator is asking is, “how do I de-risk that situation?” So it could be something extreme, like a platform gets banned. Or a more realistic scenario is that algorithms change, and you have all these followers, but you cannot reach them anymore.That actually happened with Facebook about a year ago for many creators. So the creator's objective is, “I need to own my audience”. And that's why they need to look at alternatives of how to do that. For the brand, when you're thinking about ultimately, my goal is conversions, right? I want to make revenue because that's how businesses work. So if you have less control, if you have less ways to reach people reliably, then relationships with your audience will just be a lot weaker.

So the concept of community for brands five years ago was, let's have a social media manager, let's create videos or let's create ads and that's it. But today, if you do that, what's likely is that the traffic that you'll bring in will not have a deeper relationship or affinity or an opportunity to build a relationship with your brand. So in both cases, both creators and brands need to think about “how do I go deeper with my audience?”And so for us, we believe if you want to go deeper, you need to take your audience from social media and put them somewhere else

And I think, in the past, let's say in the US or some parts of Europe, what's been really effective is the concept of newsletters. You know, five, six years ago, the idea of having your own newsletter or being able to replace social media with a newsletter was not as common as it is today. Now it's a very common thing to do for brands and individuals with platforms like Substack and similar happening. So I think that's one way. But another way is to build, I would say, a community. And that can mean many different things. We can jump into it. But it means essentially that a business needs to interact regularly with their customer, needs to find many different touch points without just saying, “I want you to buy immediately”... just a discount campaign or a Black Friday campaign. What are you doing outside of that to really cultivate that trust in relationships? And for the creator, creators more and more want to monetize directly from their audience so they don't just rely on ads revenue from a platform. And that also comes through relationships, just like brands. So they're thinking about, how do I build a regular relationship. And that's happening more and more on chat platforms. So that's like WhatsApp, Telegram, and Discord being the most common.

Ivana Istochka (09:16.404)

Absolutely. I love what you shared and I'm very aligned with you when it comes to the notion of, you know, creators and businesses need to start building platforms where they own the relationship with their customers, where they're building a loyal community and yeah, building more than just an audience that can go away in a second.

Okay, let's talk a little bit about community, right? So you mentioned that the key importance, both for creators and businesses, is to create their own community. Everyone is talking about community nowadays. Communities are everywhere, but it's not yet clear for businesses and creators what is the return of investment for them, right? Of building this community. I would love to talk a little bit about that. What do you think is the return of investment for the creators and for the businesses? And how do you think we can support let's say creators and businesses to fully understand the value of building their own community and not being afraid?

Alex Dwek (10:09.922)

This is a great question. And I think it's one that's debated quite often, but I have a personal take on this. So when I compare social media to a private community or private space, I like to use this analogy, which is that social media can allow you to reach a million people who would view what you have to say for maybe 10 seconds. But a private community could allow you to access 10,000 CEOs and spend an hour with them every month. Which one is more valuable? Well, it probably depends on what you're trying to achieve. But the point is that when it comes to building your own private space, a collection of individuals or a collection of people who share a common interest, as I like to think of community today, it's all about, can I grab their attention? Can I reach them? And so if you want to think about ROI, one of the things that I like to talk to with CEOs is to say, okay, you have a database of, let's say a million emails. How many people open what you send them? How many people click on what you send them? And if you actually calculate, I did a calculation with 100,000, I think 100,000 list, you figure out that actually only 40 people will end up engaging in what you have to say. So what that means is really the influence that you have with that group of people is not as high as the number looks. 

So when I think of ROI, I think about what happens if you create a series of activities, engagements, and others, which means that a bigger group of people start opening what you sent, start listening to what you have to say. Your collective influence will increase dramatically and those people will be closer to your product and eventually will buy it. So if I'm thinking about KPIs or metrics, I would look at open rates. If I can find a different way, so if I'm building a community inside my product, if I find that 50% of my user base engages with that engagement tool or opens a WhatsApp message or attends an event, that is far more effective than maybe some of the other activities that a company may be doing.

So I think about brands, if brands start thinking more about that concept of influence and reach, then I think community building becomes an important piece of that puzzle. And I think that we should be more honest. I think brands should be more honest about how much actual reach they have. So that's where I see it as an important ROI metric. 

Another one that I think is very important is time spent on your product. With some of the features that you guys are building, I think that's really exciting to see how engagement tools can make that difference. For us, you know, with, we think a lot about the concept of what happens if you bring a hundred thousand software engineers, for example, into a WhatsApp community. What can you do with that? Well, I think the ROI for that is very high for brands, by the way. Imagine working with a creator who gets a hundred thousand software engineers in a WhatsApp community. What if you want to test a product? You've got access to engineers. What if you want to hire someone? You've got access to engineers. What if you want to sell a tool? You have a great tool for software engineers, right? You can access that. So then the ROI becomes extremely high, right? So you can look at it from a customer point of view. You can look at it from a potential customer point of view. And I think depending on which one you go for, there are very specific and actionable metrics that you can track. 

Now, I think for the community-building world, what we need to do is to try and be as specific as we can about what we want to track from this specific objective or goal or community we do. And it won't always be the same. If it's an existing customer base, whether it's an ecosystem, we're building products within, or whether it's potential customers, thinking about community-led growth, they'll be different. 

One thing I think that community builders are sometimes worried about is that community building takes time. It takes time to grow that engagement. I'm sure you've experienced this as well. Maybe they're fearful to pin down those metrics, not because they don't know which metrics are the ones to track, but just that it may take up time and it may be hard to build that internal confidence as you build the community. And so I think in that case, my advice would be to really map out what are the short-term wins versus the long-term wins.

And I think that it can also be done in a way where the value of the community increases over time because on day one, you have very little content. For example, if you release content every month, after six months, you have six pieces of content. It's more valuable. So I think it's just about defining that the metrics may change over time. This is what good looks like on day one. And then this is how the community will grow. But what do you think?

Ivana Istochka (18:39.784)

I 100% agree with you. First, I think that community building is a long-term investment. And I think a lot of companies and creators and people in general are a little bit scared because it's very difficult to see the tangible value immediately. And of course we humans are built in that way. If something takes a very long time for you to realize or to understand, it's very difficult to understand the value immediately. But yeah, tons of brands out there and tons of creators are building thriving communities.

And it is proven nowadays that this brings them tons of valuable benefits. And we see that, first of all, brands are building very tight relationships with their users. And these relationships are invaluable because that means, not only that people will use your product more often, but they will tell their friends about it. They will tell their friends that there is this product that they love and they will bring you more loyal and passionate advocates. And also there are tons of other benefits like, you know, new monetization opportunities and increased revenues, engagement, retention, and a lot more. 

But something that really interests me, and it's also something that you mentioned, is this value creation. Because I think community building is a fantastic way to build value at scale. First of all, it allows your users to help you create value for you. It also creates value for your users because of course they join this group of people that they feel a sense of belonging, they share their passions, they share their interests. They can get tons of benefits from just being connected to all these amazing people. And of course there are tons of benefits for creators as well, right? Because they can make a living out of their passion and something they love. 

Alex Dwek (20:19.538)

It's crazy. I don't think people realize how today more than ever it's now possible to make an entire living, to build actually a sizable business from building a community. You can actually make, you know, I see community builders making a hundred thousand dollars, $200,000, $300,000 a year from their own individual community as a creator. That's really good money. You know, if you think about that, it was not possible maybe six, seven years ago with just Facebook groups. You know, I think a lot of Facebook group moderators were volunteers and they did very valuable work, but they weren't maybe compensated fairly, I think, for their work because there wasn't a structure in which to monetize. But I think another point that's interesting is that when you talk about ROI, when you think about sales, most companies, if they're B2B, B2C, mostly B2B would do some sort of direct sales.

Every company talks about something called the sales cycle. When you deal with enterprises, the sales cycle typically is longer than small businesses. And it's funny how leaders accept that if it's an enterprise product, the sales cycle could take six months. So they understand that it's a six-month process and they don't say, “Oh, why did you not get something in one week or two weeks or three weeks?” So I think that in the industry of community building, we should start talking about community cycles. With a bit more data, we can say that a community cycle is six months based on X, Y, and Z. 

And what is the equivalent of a close? Maybe a close is that the community stabilizes at a certain size, at the engagement levels reach a certain percentage. And if we can normalize that concept backed by data and information, I think that leaders would be more educated and understanding, those who are not building communities directly, that this is just like a sales cycle and approach. That's up to us though to try and define that, and I think platforms like us can play a role in that because we see so many communities, we have the data, so I do think there's a role for platforms like us to be able to come together and try and educate the market on that, and I'm really excited to see as how the industry grows, how people can collaborate on that solution.

Ivana Istochka (22:39.984)

Me too, me too. This is something I'm very excited about. To give people a bit of background, can you talk a little bit about Nest Company and what you guys are doing before I ask you some more questions related to this?

Alex Dwek (22:49.47)

Yeah, yeah, absolutely, of course. So, Nas Company, we were established about three, four years ago. We started as a social media channel. So, the channel's called Nas Daily. It started on Facebook in 2016, and the concept was very simple. It was, create one minute videos every day about interesting people and places around the world. And it took about 270 videos of trial and error from the founder of Nas, his name is Nuseir Yassin, and eventually the first video went viral. What we found after that was… After a thousand days of making videos consistently, we built a group of people, a group of people who follow the channel, and it was about 15 million at the time. And today we managed to scale there and we have 65 million followers who consume our content online.

And the thing about Nas Daily was that it was always about community. Because what we would do is whenever we turned up in a city to make videos or a country around the world, it was all about travel. We would arrange a meetup offline. So we would post on Facebook and say, “Hey, we're in Mexico city. We're having a meetup in the park. If you're around in Mexico city, come and meet up.” And we’d typically get somewhere between 50 or a hundred people who would show up. Our word would spread. And then we would ask questions from that audience about what do we not like? There were two questions we typically asked. One was, what are some of the stereotypes about your country that the media portray that you really don't like? And the second question was, what are some of the most interesting and fascinating things that happen but no one ever talks about? And those responses became the ideas for the videos. So whenever we did that, we created WhatsApp groups. And what we found was that three years later, after going to 80, 100 countries, those WhatsApp groups were still active. 

So from that journey and experience, we set up our company and we started thinking about how we could build community-based products. So we started with community-based education. We started a company called Nas Academy. And the idea was that we wanted to create an online cohort-based education, learn with others, but we always supported it with WhatsApp groups.

And we found the engagement was much higher. The completion of these courses were much higher because people got to learn, not just learn the content from a teacher, but learn with others. And then about a year ago, a year and a half ago, we realized that with these changes in social media, more and more people wanted to bring their audience into a private space and use WhatsApp and Telegram and Discord to do that. But the problem is for those of you who are listening, you may have a WhatsApp group with your friends or your family and others.

You probably know that there's a lot of things that are not quite there with these platforms. So it can be very noisy, lots of messages, information can get lost. It's really hard to host content and events in a chat group just because they're not designed in that way. It's very difficult to monetize. So we created a product. It's called And the idea of it is, plug it in your WhatsApp group and build a community around it. So we provide the software to do that. So imagine a situation where you have a WhatsApp chat group, but now you have a landing page. You can collect data. You have analytics about who's the most engaged, who's the least engaged. You even get your chats summarized. You have a place for your content and the events. So it allows an individual to become like a community business. 

So that's sort of what we focus on. And, you know, our view is that there are millions of solopreneurs, small business owners, and content creators out there who can build really powerful local communities if they have the right technology and support to do that. So that's a little bit about what we're doing. Yeah, it's really an amazing challenge actually because it can help so many people. It's almost like it's B2B2C. Our customer is the content creator or the community builder, but they're serving millions of people themselves, just like businesses, I guess, small businesses.

Ivana Istochka (26:43.168)


Alex Dwek (27:05.674)

The challenge with them is that honestly, how do you find a WhatsApp group? You know, there can be WhatsApp groups everywhere. They could be your local sports club. They can be your church. They can be your content creator. So I think one of the fun parts of what I do is think of strategies and ways to find these communities and give them the right education and tools to be successful.

Ivana Istochka (27:27.476)

Fantastic. I love that. Actually, I'm a follower of your channel since 2016. At the time I was living in Bangkok and I remember there was a meetup in Bangkok and I was supposed to join and for some reason something happened and I didn't join. But yeah, I love your channel and it's fantastic. And it's fantastic how you started doing something out of passion. You realize that there is a problem and you're working hard to solve that problem for many others and scale value creation for them.

Alex Dwek (27:54.174)

Yeah. In our case, the founder was a software engineer, turned to content creator. And so the journey that we've gone on as a business has been creator to business. The other journey that I'm seeing is businesses partnering with creators. I think it's very interesting for community building a business can have a community, but they can also work with a creator who has a community to supercharge their own. So that can be achieved through different ways. 

So I'll give you one example. There was this really interesting dynamic coffee company in India. They're like a very fast-growing coffee chain. And they said, we want to build communities of baristas. So they said, look, we can do it ourselves, but actually they went online and they found there was this guy who had a Discord server of like 3000 baristas in India across the major cities.

Ivana Istochka (28:51.656)


Alex Dwek (28:52.862)

So they were like, you know what, instead of spending a year or so building this, let us partner up. So they almost did like an acquisition. They said, come in and work for us, become our head of community, but bring your community with you and we will power it. So it wasn't that it became the coffee company's community, it became the same community name powered by the company. And that gave the company access to the data, the analytics, the ability to promote their events, the ability to use them as an amplifier, create content with them.

I think this business model is very interesting. So I imagine a future world where, for example, all the customers that you work with, Ivana, will build their own communities in their products. But they will also, instead of just doing influencer marketing, they will work with the people that I work with and they'll say, let's team up and let's supercharge what we're doing. It may become a new marketing channel, it may be an engaging channel, maybe I'll link up my customers in some way. And I think that's a really exciting ecosystem and exciting future that I think every CMO, every community, head of community should be thinking about and trying to experiment with.

Ivana Istochka (30:05.608)

No, no, I absolutely agree. And what's very interesting is that if you see five years ago, let's say, a lot of people were talking about partnering with influencers and that was a little bit different because you have an agreement with someone, you pay them a fee and then they advertise your product on their social profiles. 

But here we're talking about actual relationships and businesses that bring value to both like, hey, you have a community, I have a community, how can we partner up? How can we build our communities together? And I think that's a super powerful notion and super beneficial for businesses. And it will allow many more creators, as we said, to make a living out of their passions and to just keep growing. So super interesting. I agree.

Alex Dwek (30:45.246)

Absolutely. The challenge with influencer marketing today is influencers often now promote multiple products. Therefore, imagine I'm a brand that I go and work with you and you're an influencer, in reality, the influencer only has a little bit of time to really get to know your product and do it justice. So they can be super creative in their content, but there's a one-off, it's almost like a one-off transactional relationship.

Partnering with a community long-term, it means that they really get to know your product. They really go deep in the relationship. And therefore I think they could be much more authentic when it comes to being an advocate for your brand. So yeah, super excited to see how the direction of that takes in the future.

Ivana Istochka (31:30.708)

Absolutely. I want to go back to the previous answer that you had about the sales cycle. So both of us are in the business of building communities and educating people about how to build their own communities. And of course, we both not just talk the talk, but walk the walk. So both of our companies are community-led in different ways. So I would love to talk a little bit about this. Like I follow you on LinkedIn for a while. I see you travel all the time.

Ivana Istochka (31:55.188)

And I know that you have a family, so your life must be very busy. I see you flying around the US and India and Europe and everywhere, right? And meeting all these community builders and creating events for them. Can you please talk a little bit about the notion of, you know, what is community-led business for you guys at Nas Company? What are you doing to build your own community and to advance this?

Alex Dwek (32:14.494)

Yeah. So I think it's really important that any company who wants to be in this community space has to, you know, walk the talk. You know, it has to actually do what they advocate for others to do. And so we found that it's really important to build a really extensive, deep community of our customers or potential customers. So what we have found is that we are, our superpower is actually both content and events. So what I do, even as a COO, I don't outsource this. Wherever I need to go in the world for building the brand or, you know, something to do with work, I always host a meetup. So my goal is to find interesting community builders who are potential customers in that city. And we were discussing this before, but what's really interesting is you do not need to spend ad money to do things like community-led growth. You don't need to have a massive team or huge budgets. You just need to be able to go in and find like-minded people who can form that initial base. 

So for us, what we do is, we actually just find people on LinkedIn. So I think it's really important that any business leader actually does build their own content and build their own channel, whether it's LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram, whatever works for them. But I've used that content to find that first pioneer customer base, and I arrange meetups. And it's amazing from those meetups how you start building these networks that lead to inbounds, that lead to collaborations, that lead to really big partnerships. It doesn't sound scalable in that sense, right? It's not like, oh yeah, how do you reach a thousand people in that one event? But it often gets you in front of the right people. 

And what's been amazing is… imagine if you start messaging someone and say, hey, I want to talk to you about my product. We know what the data looks like, right? The response rate is not very high. But what I've noticed when it comes to specific industry segments, is that going back to the loneliness point, people are lonely. People want to network and meet like-minded people. So if I roll up in Dubai or Mumbai or Los Angeles and say, hey, I'm Alex, this is what I do. And I'm bringing together a group of other people who also do what we do. And I would love to invite you and we're going to share some education. We're going to share some content. You're going to be able to network. And it's like, there's no agenda. You don't need to buy out. It's not about buying our product. It's just to bring them closer together. I found the response rate was extremely high. I think we were talking about like… I normally get a response rate of like… more than one in two. So 50%. And so that's part of our DNA. We do this everywhere we go.

And I think that it's not exclusive to community. I think it's exclusive to any industry. And it is community-led growth in the sense that it's a one-off event, but what we do is, anyone who attends that event goes into a WhatsApp group. Those WhatsApp groups continue to be a network of people who collaborate with each other, support each other. If someone passes through again, people meet up. So now, having done that in the last couple of years, I now have networks of communities in WhatsApp in pretty much every city I've been to, and I tap on those networks all the time to either do something that I need, but often also just to help them. So people say, “hey, do you know a good content creator who can help edit my video?” I'll shoot in. “Yes, I do.” Or, “Hey, what's, you know, what's the best platform to do X.” So it becomes this place where you can give value, but going back to the point of who opens it, your influence, your reach, these people are regularly engaging with me and my team. And this allows us opportunities to collaborate in the future.

Ivana Istochka (36:11.844)

Love this. This is very good practical advice by the way, because a lot of people think that, oh, to build your own community, you need to have a team of professionals. And it takes a lot of time and you need to be in a specific industry. But it's actually industry agnostic and can be done by anyone and it's fantastic that, you know, you can just do it on LinkedIn or any platform and just send messages. 

Alex Dwek (36:23.872)

Yeah, you can do it on any platform. Absolutely, you can do it on any platform. And the other point is that when people turn up in a market, because one of my specialties before NAS was launching new markets, right? When people think of go-to-market, they often think “I need to hire some local fancy PR agency” and they organize these big expensive events. I think when you break down the raw ingredients of community growth, it is not about the fancy venue. It is not about hiring all these fancy people. It is just that concept of providing value and bringing the right people together. So I believe a lot in curation. Don't just put on an event to get 200 people. It's much better to get 50 of the right people in a room who can get value from each other. Don't just put people together and have a drinks party. You need to be able to offer value. You need to be able to provide some programming or education or something that someone can take away and say, “this was beneficial.” So I think being creative around this means that brands can do more because they're not constrained by saying “I have X number of dollars and this is all I can do.” I've run these events with really influential people and we've just spent a few hundred dollars, that's it. End to end. So it's very possible, just need to be creative.

And I think, it's not just us, right? I think this is happening more and more. I think we're just trying to explain it and articulate it in a practical way so that others can also experiment and try it out.

Ivana Istochka (37:57.8)

Absolutely. Love that. Look, in the spirit of providing value to others… You meet a lot of community builders at all of these events, in all of your groups and throughout your network, right? What do you think is an underrated advice you'd like to give to companies or creators that are starting to build their own community?

Alex Dwek (38:12.459)

So I see a lot of brands who get it wrong all the time. And I think the reason why is because they have not thought carefully enough about why the community should exist. And I think the very big distinction is… We talked about community-led growth, which is to say, these are people who are not my customers, but I'm using community to find them, engage them and get them further down the funnel to my community of customers, right? I think that it's very important to very clearly distinguish what you’re going for and why. 

I actually think community of customers is a much more cross-functional approach than community-led growth. And what I mean by that is, because you typically may have customer support who's interacting with them. You may also have account managers or customer success who are interacting with them. You have product who's interacting with them, because they're in your ecosystem. So if that's the case, then it's not just about running a series of engagement activities, it's really thinking about how that intersection all works together. Otherwise, what happens is, these people get hit by every single department in different ways, and it's really hard to get that community successfully and sustainably working. Whereas community-led growth is quite underrated and underutilized. That's a bit of a greenfield area, which is to say, yes, your marketing teams will have different activities and channels, but actually it can slot really nicely into the marketing funnel. You have a lot of top-of-funnel activities, right? Which may be, you know, you may do ads, you may do sales, but your community can really nicely sit alongside. It's not competing.

It can also be further down the funnel, which is, I've got leads from these other activities. Let's now bring them somewhere. So I think that what's often misunderstood or underrated is… Let's focus more time on community-led growth and let's figure out how it can complement the marketing funnel. And I think that if people can experiment with that more, then I think it becomes really exciting. And actually, the ROI may even be very clear on the impact that it has in your funnel. So I would love to see brands do more of that. And when you do that, it does open up more opportunities for collaborations because they're not in your customer base. So you don't have to worry too much about the internal politics, I guess. 

On the customer point, I think that there's one takeaway from content creation that I think is super valuable for brands and community builders. Which is: People fall in love with people, they don't fall in love with sort of faceless things. So if you are doing something that is wholly about your brand, let's say it's for your customers, you need to try and attach a human to it in some form. It doesn't need to be some big influencer, it can be a member of your team. It can be a star customer. Having those faces really builds a deeper connection. We've seen all the evidence of this. And it also allows them to build a relationship beyond just the brand. So if I have an individual in my customer community who can be the community manager or can be some form of advocate, they can represent my company values. Approachable, inspirational, helpful, technical. So you can still encompass the company values, but putting a human to it. 

We see in Instagram accounts, by the way, individuals get way more traction than brands. And if you look at the brands who've been successful, let's say like the Duolingoes, the Ryanairs and others. they've been able to actually bring their brand. So Duolingo has the owl, right? The owl becomes the human that you build that relationship with rather than just Duolingo as a concept. So I think if we can inject a bit of human touch into the community side, I think brands will see a lot more success.

Ivana Istochka (42:53.8)

Absolutely. And Alex, what's a tool that you would recommend, let's say, to community builders or a tool that your community builders have been testing out that has been really helpful for them?

Alex Dwek (43:03.438)

So apart from obviously our own, one that I've used recently that I've really enjoyed is a tool called Stream Alive. I don't know if you've used it before, but it's how to create more engaging live events. So imagine you're running a Zoom with your community. What it does is, it integrates with Zoom and you can share your screen and imagine you wanna know where everyone is from in the community.

It basically generates a world map. And when you type in the chat where you're from, each dot appears on the world map. So imagine I write, I'm from Singapore. A dot will appear in Singapore. Someone writes, I'm from France. A dot will appear in France. And then as more and more people come, these bubbles grow and grow. So then you start seeing the global, you visualize the global element of the community. It also has features like, it creates automatic work clouds from Zoom chat.

So one thing I'd ask from my community builders… I'd be like, what kind of community are you building? And people would write like developer, beauty, fashion, whatever, whatever sports, and it would all come up. So this is a really cool tool because it's sort of… A lot of people are visual learners or they're visually engaged. And so this is a really nice way to warm up your audience and get them into what you're doing. So we are very, as a company and as a community builder, we very much believe in like very highly engaging, fast-paced events, a bit like kind of content, we do this in real life. 

And the other thing that we do and we love is offline, which I think that some brands have done really successfully. But one of the brands I'm really inspired by is Lululemon and how they foster the concept of offline events in their stores and around their stores and they even have an offline once a year big festival. I think that brands can still, even if they're a pure online brand, we're a pure online brand, right? Nas Daily is a pure online brand. You can still bring that experience offline and it's a great way to forge deeper connections.

Ivana Istochka (45:11.964)

Absolutely. I'm going to try out that tool for sure this week and we are a global team. So I'm curious to see how that works. And last time we talked, you also told me a little bit about Ruby AI, if I'm not mistaken, that you guys built. 

Alex Dwek (45:26.354)

Yeah. So it's been one of the features that we launched that has received really good response and it goes back to the pain point that if you are in a WhatsApp group today, you might have experienced this sort of information overload. You go to sleep and you wake up and that group has like 50, 60, 70 messages. Or you go into a meeting and you come out and you're like, what's happened in that group, like I’m lost. 

And so we created a generative AI tool that summarizes WhatsApp chats and turns a lengthy conversation into a one-paragraph summary that you receive every day. You receive it in your email inbox and you can look it up on our tool. And what I think why people love it and why it's being received very well is one, it's useful to summarize what's going on, especially if you're time poor. But the other thing is that imagine when someone recommends, orremember when you get a very good recommendation. Like a restaurant or you get a recommendation for a tool. And then you're like, how do I find that? And it's really difficult to find that information and curate it. So what people have been doing is taking the summary of Ruby AI and then putting it in a blog post or attaching it into their community or others so they can create a collection of resources from WhatsApp chats without having to go one by one and then trying to scroll through all these messages and figuring it out. 

So I think that the takeaway of that product for all community builders is do not underestimate the power of curation. As we live in a world where the internet provides so much, you'd be surprised how many people struggle to filter through that vast information. So I think Ruby AI is just one of those solutions that provides curation and one that I'd say that people, even if you're in a WhatsApp group, just with like your neighborhood or you can actually just plug in and try it, it's free to use.

So I think that the future of community building tools should also be about curation. I think tools like Notion have done a fantastic job to help with that. And I think there's space for many, many more curation tools to help community builders take their knowledge and share it in a digestible way with their members.

Ivana Istochka (47:41.416)

That's great insights. Look Alex, I really enjoyed talking to you and I have so many more questions, but in the spirit of time, I will ask you the last question and I hope that we get a chance to talk more in other events and situations. My last question for you would be, what is a community that changed your life?

Alex Dwek (48:01.302)

Wow, that's a really good question. I've been really fortunate to have a couple of communities that I've joined that I really think have impacted me. The one that I can think of that's most clear is actually when I was a university student. I think a lot of people turn up to college or maybe their first job or new city, and they're really trying to think about who do they want to be. And one of the concepts that we really believe in as a company and I believe in personally, is that you are the average of the five people that you surround yourself with. And so when I first came to a university, I got lucky that I met a community that was all about social activism. So it was all about a group of people who came together, who wanted to take steps and do actions that help others and do positive things. It was like, you know, social action community.

And it completely changed the whole course of what I did because what it made me realize that there are a lot of other people out there who have a strong bias to action to do better things in the world. And the second thing is that you realize that when you put people together who have that sort of urgency to do things, it happens, it can just happen. So sometimes you just sit there and you have a great idea and you're like, but it's just gonna take a lot of work and effort. But then if you have another person who's like, yeah, let's just do it, you end up just moving and taking action. And so I think that community of people led me to saying I want a career and a life where I can not only just work for profit, but it's something that has some sort of impact on society as well. And that's why I work at Nas, because we try and combine that. 

And so I think for others, do not underestimate how finding like-minded people in a community group can really change the whole outcome of a trajectory of your life. So yeah, I would say find your local communities, find interest groups, join them. Don't be afraid to put yourself out there because often the best things happen when you do end up interacting and meeting others who share your goals.

Ivana Istochka (50:19.328)

Fantastic. I think this is a great end to this conversation. So thank you so much, Alex, for joining us today. And I hope to get to chat to you super soon.

Alex Dwek (50:27.702)

Thank you so much. I really enjoyed that. I think we covered a lot of topics. There's a lot more to discuss. I think this is a great podcast. I think there's gonna be so many things that people can learn. So for others watching, please do check out the other episodes. And look forward to collaborating more together and lots of exciting things that we need to do in the space, right? To help community builders.

Ivana Istochka (50:49.824)

Absolutely. Thank you so much, Alex. 

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