Guild is a messaging app that is the brainchild of Ashley Friedlein and Matt O’Riordan, two entrepreneurs renowned for establishing one of the UK’s leading B2B websites, Econsultancy, in 1999. The native messaging app is aimed at any professional group or community where its members want to stay in touch and develop valuable professional relationships, and it is already being used by a number of publishers. WNIP caught up with Ashley Friedman, CEO & Founder, to find out more…
Can you give us further background on Guild?
Guild is based in London and whilst the company was founded in 2016, the app itself was launched in November 2018. We’re a private company backed by 41 angel investors.
What business problem is your company addressing?
We know that the world has gone mobile, and messaging is the fastest growing medium. But how can publishers tap into this messaging phenomenon to reach their readers, members and subscribers?
Existing tech platforms are not designed as native messaging apps, and using something like WhatsApp is against privacy legislation and publishers also lose control of the data and relationships.
As publishers move towards paid models like subscription and membership, they need to stay close to their paying customers, engage them and get through to them, otherwise renewal rates quickly decline. Messaging cuts through in a way that email now fails to. Platforms like LinkedIn are far too noisy to provide value to publishers.
What is your core product addressing this problem?
Guild allows publishers to run groups, networks and communities in an environment that they control and is branded by them.
It is specifically designed for professionals and businesses who want the simplicity and ease-of-use of a consumer messaging app, but with the privacy, legal compliance, control, sophistication and service required for a business.
Guild has no ads, no noise and nothing is public. We have a free Personal version and paid Business and Enterprise versions. In short, Guild is a safe space for professionals to connect, communicate and collaborate.
Can you give some examples of publishers successfully using your solution?
Guild is used by publishers and media businesses who want to provide extra value to their members and subscribers. It is a way for publishers to stay close to their most valued customers and engage them.
For example, B2B Marketing uses Guild to bring together over 100 members of their B2B Marketing Leaders programme. In their Guild group, the members can ask questions of their peers in a trusted environment that is curated and quality controlled by B2B Marketing. It also allows B2B Marketing to remind members of upcoming events, awards, key content, etc.
Econsultancy, part of Centaur Media plc, runs a number of groups on Guild including for subsets of paying subscribers and also a “Digital Advisory Board” of almost 50 CMOs and Chief Digital Officers who are customers of Econsultancy, industry thought leaders and influencers.
Burlington Media uses Guild to run various special interest groups across its Legal Support Network brand. In this way, it can provide their most valued readers with access to each other to get honest and open peer support with additional value contributed by editorial staff.
Individuals can use Guild for free. The Business version is free up to 15 members, £950 per year up to 150 members, and beyond that a price is agreed with a guide of £7/member/year.
What are other people doing in the space and why?
Guild’s real competitor is the professional use of WhatsApp: over 40% of UK workers use WhatsApp for professional purposes. Publishers are almost entirely shut out of this and cannot use WhatsApp as a platform to engage their audiences as it is not legal, or practical, to do so.
Currently publishers are stuck trying to make web-platform based communities work but engagement is falling away as users move to mobile and messaging. Very few publishers now use LinkedIn as a platform for engaging their readers as LinkedIn has removed tools and features to make this viable.
There are internal messaging tools, like Slack and Microsoft Teams, but these are designed for teams working on projects not for the communities of readers, subscribers, delegates, trainee cohorts, etc, that publishers have.
How do you view the future?
There is universal agreement that the future will be more mobile and more private. It will also continue to be the case that the personal and professional will become more blurred e.g. consumer devices and apps are being used in the workplace.
Guild is uniquely placed because it allows both personal professional use and yet businesses, including publishers, can also use Guild safe in the knowledge that it meets the regulatory requirements demanded of them – this is not the case with consumer messaging apps.
Publishers need to engage through the medium of messaging and they have a chance to use their brands, relationships and content, to create peer groups, networks and communities that deliver real value both to the members and the host publishers.
Anything else we should know?
We recently launched research which found that only one fifth of LinkedIn users’ connections were valuable, showing that perceptions of the professional networking platform have changed dramatically.
The use of LinkedIn has greatly changed since it launched nearly seventeen years ago. In the early years there was a sense of membership and belonging and the quality was higher. Due to a natural tendency to accept new contacts to grow our networks, many users now find themselves with an experience that is too noisy. Senior people, in particular, get a lot of sales approaches and few would now choose to run high-value groups or networks on LinkedIn.
Photo by Clay Banks on Unsplash