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    • Please join me in welcoming David Markovich, cofounder of mental health community 18percent.org and founder of Online Geniuses for a Cake panel! This panel is open for questions.

      About David: David is a community builder and marketer with a background as a direct consultant for some of the largest brands, including Google, Johnson and Johnson, and Comedy Central. He's the founder of digital marketing community Online Geniuses which has over 19,000 members from across the globe. He's also the cofounder of 18percent, a free and global online peer-to-peer support group centered around mental health.

      Welcome David!

    • So I was in the digital marketing industry as a regular marketer, and the industry was changing super-fast. I wanted to see what other people were doing, with new tools, strategies, analytics platforms, so I created a small Skype group with 6-7 people that I knew in the industry, and we’d just chat throughout the day, asking if people had seen X or Y or Z. And slowly more people brought their friends, their friends brought friends, other people posted about the Skype group, and it got up to 300 people in a Skype group, and for Skype, in one channel, you can’t mute it, it pops up on your screen. Some days we counted 1,000 messages being sent! So you’d have people saying I love the community, but I have to leave, because this is impossible! And I felt like I had to leave also, but I had to stay - we were at a turning point. 20-30 really chatty people having really interesting conversations, very different than any other community out there because it wasn’t crawl-able by Google - whatever we talked about stayed in there. 

      And it was all friends of friends, everyone had 3 connections within the community, so we were sharing really in-depth stuff. Things we’d discovered, and it wasn’t on Facebook or Reddit or Twitter. So I named this group “Online Geniuses” as a joke. And then that’s it. My email was filing up with people asking about getting in the Skype group, so I had to figure out what to do! Either I make it a community - it wasn’t making me any benefit, so I could turn it off and add the 10 people I vibe with the most into a WhatsApp group, or we could go back to having casual conversations, or I could find another platform, move everyone over, and let it continuously grow, and maybe one day it will get to 1,000 people in a few years. 

      So I started looking, I found Slack. And actually, interestingly enough, I thought I’d check it out, registering the domain onlinegeniuses.slack.com - so someone took it, and I figured out it was someone in my existing group! So I messaged this guy on Skype, and he said “Yea, I thought this might be a good platform” so he transferred it over to me. Everyone asked “What’s Slack?” when I said we were transferring over, and I said “To be honest, I think it’s like Skype, but we can handle notifications and make different channels and mute them, it’s all good.” You din’t have the option to turn off Skype, because if you logout, you can’t do anything else on the platform. So I moved it over and announced it, and right away the Skype chat died, and only 10 people moved to Slack, and it came true, but there was no engagement on either. 

      So I started messaging people, asking if they wanted to join Slack, and they said there were too many platforms, so I threw up a quick website called “Online Geniuses: Apply to Get In” - no more referral. And then with time, people started hearing about slack, they heard about this marketing community on Slack, we integrated different things, we added a newsletter, we started doing webinars and AMAs and roundtables, and formed into a really nice community. 

    • So I think the main thing is people are already using it. And that’s why we were successful on Skype also: marketers were using Skype already. So they didn’t have to download an app, it didn’t feel strange to them. A lot of marketers are working at an agency or a brand - they can’t be on Facebook or Reddit all day, but having Slack open is natural for them. Online Geniuses is a great place to do that, so people are working on side businesses, all these different things, while they’re at their day job. Marketing is really big, so there’s definitely different channels people use. Someone focusing on email might just hangout in the “email marketing” channel. If someone focuses on SEO, they’ll be in that channel, and so on and so forth.

    • I’m seeing micro-influencers, I find them a very fascinating topic. I’m not into the whole hype of AI or blockchain or growth or ways to hack, because those disappear. So you end up mastering them - a lot of people are doing growth hacking on LinkedIn right now, they’ll learn it for 6 months, and then LinkedIn makes an update, and now that’s done, and you have to learn the next growth hack. People are on a continuous hamster wheel instead of seeing the right route to go and just mastering that. 

      Something sustainable is micro-influencers. They are getting so micro. And it converts SO high. So my friend hosted an event for Budweiser for dog influencers - it’s not just dog influencers, but those in New York, and then certain types of dog influencers and sub-categories I don’t even know. In technology, someone coming to you and saying “Hey, do you know a technology influencer?” You could probably say a few. But then you say a “marketing influencer” or an “SEO influencer,” you just got even more micro. And “do you know an SEO expert focusing on content that lives in New York” - you’ve just gotten even more micro, and you need to reach that demographic. And if you think of that person, it’s a perfect match. They can promote it, but you can have a conversation with them, unlike Google Ads. You can say “How are people using it, where are they using it” - you’ve gotten all that information as a consultation in addition to getting the exact demographic you’re trying to target, and it’s extremely affordable, as opposed to trying to find those people using ads. 

    • I wish more people realized there’s human beings behind a community, I’m sure you can relate to this. People think it’s a piece of technology, but the core is human-run. And when you humanize the community, you make it stronger. There’s people feeding this machine, to make it work. I think if people humanize how much work goes into managing community, especially one of this size and one of marketers, which is the toughest market to run a community for, because they’re trying to get in front of as many eyeballs as possible, they want to show everyone what they’re doing - I think that’s something I’d want to share. 

    • Yea, so Zach had a friend who had bi-polar and schizoaffective disorder, and he ended up losing his life to that. Zach and I had been good friends for a while, and he went to raise $40,000 in memory of his friend, and he raised those funds for an organization that supports those going through those experiences. And he was sitting on my couch, and he said “It made me feel good I could raise $40K to help an organization in just 2 weeks.” It was amazing, he did that, without taking any credit for it. And at this point, Online Geniuses is at 10,000 people. And I said “What if we copy Online Geniuses, exactly what we did, and do it for mental health?” I thought it was a 5% chance it will work, but we weren’t doing anything for the weekend, so I said “Let’s buy a domain, put up a landing page, and post in some groups on Facebook, ask if anyone would want to join.” 

      And we did that. He said “What’s the name?” And I was reading an article about mental health, doing some research, and it said 18% of people have some kind of mental health issue at any given time. So I said “18percent.org is available, let’s just do it.”

      So we put up 18percent.org. And we posted, we got our first user. And it was just me, Zach, and this user. He really wanted to vent, so we kept on posting it, hosting it, and slowly, people started trickling in. I think we got to 150 people. And somebody at Washington Post got ahold of this and coincidentally she talks about how she has bipolar, and she’s a Pulitzer Prize winner, her name is Amy Nutt. So she wrote a whole article about us.

      And from there, other organizations started reaching out, and we started getting flooded with members. It happened so fast. We were sitting in a bar next to a group of people, and one of the people in the group worked at NowThis, and she said “Would you want us to do a story about you?” And we said “Yeah, sure!” So before we knew it, we did a video, we got 120,000 hits, and from there, a lot of other organizations wanted to send people our way. 80% of our traffic is direct.

      We get a lot of psychologists, psychiatrists, parents, teachers, recommending people to us. And now we’re at 5,300 people without a penny spent on marketing. We had a volunteer come to develop our website, we had our own custom chatbots built to be triggered to give extra help and resources if you say certain terms, we’ve hosted a dinner - it’s only 1.5 years old, but we’re trooping along. 

    • It’s been super-engaged. I think people just love talking in there. And it might not make sense to me and you, but to someone who’s in Tennessee, the closest person who’s not their family is 5 miles away, this is their core system. This is their friends. People start playing Xbox together, meeting up. There’s regulars who come in when they’re down, they get support, and then when they’re feeling good, they give support to others. We had parents who come in with their children being diagnosed with bipolar asking others how they would want to be treated. Over 50,000 messages get sent a month in the community with 5,000 people. 

    • Yeah, and it’s funny, because we run MentalHealthUnite.com - Zach and I founded this also, it’s made up of around 80 organizations in the mental health space. A lot of times people want to create an exact copy of what we’re doing, and we don’t mind. If you wanted to create an exact copy of Online Geniuses, I wouldn’t help you, but not with 18Percent. I love seeing other platforms join, because I know the demand, the demand is higher than we could ever help with. I wish that people had the option of 15 different 18percent type organizations, because it really works! People find a lot of comfort going into it. 

    • We have a volunteer team of moderators which can be there to make sure people follow code of conduct and offer support when other members aren’t available to offer support. You can reach out to a moderator, they have checks by their names inside 18percent, because we could always use more help. And you can always contact us on our website.

    • I think using technology to become more self-aware. Mood tracking is a good example.. Track your moods and figure out your triggers, comforts and stabilizers.