Well 2020 was unlike any year I’ve lived through, and I’m sure it’s the same for you. When I decided to come up with a theme for Season 9, which started in July, we were a couple of months into the global pandemic. I wanted focus on topics that could help you (and me) grow at a time where we were traveling less, seeing less foot traffic, and had to change in some way to make ends meet. I settled on coming up with good content, and using that content to evolve memberships, and build communities. If you didn’t catch every episode, here are the highlights.
Joe: Hey everybody. Real quick before we get started, I want to tell you about my newsletter. Now if you’ve been listening for any amount of time, you’ll know that I’ve been promoting this pretty hard at the beginning of each show, and I really feel like I found my stride. It seems like everybody who’s subscribed is enjoying the content. My Black Friday deals newsletter did really well. Zero unsubscribes. So if you want a weekly newsletter that is free, that gives you the takeaways from the latest How I Built It episode, as well as top stories, other content insights, and tool recommendations, there’s a lot of value packed in the Build Something Weekly newsletter. It’s free, and you can unsubscribe at any time, so there’s no risk. Just go to howibuilt.it/subscribe, that’s howibuilt.it/subscribe to sign up for this very free, very weekly newsletter.
All right. Now let’s bring in the music.
Intro: Hey, everybody, and welcome to another episode of How I Built It, Episode 198 of How I Built It. I’m doing the traditional season recap today. So let me tell you a little bit about this season and what has gone on this season. I want to first start off by saying that 2020 was unlike any year I’ve lived through, and I’m sure that’s the same for you. When I decided to come up with a theme for Season 9, which started in July, so I started planning it a couple of months before that, we were already a couple of months into the global pandemic.
So I wanted to focus on topics that could help you and me grow at a time where we were traveling less. If you have a brick and mortar business, you were seeing less foot traffic. And we as small business owners had to make changes in some way to make ends meet. So I settled on the topic of coming up with good content because I feel like no matter what’s going on, good content is something that we could always rely on to bring in leads. It’s something that we could do from anywhere. And then using that content to evolve memberships or build communities. So if you didn’t catch every episode, that’s fine. That’s why I’m here with this recap. Here are the highlights.
So as usual, I generally find three big topics to talk about within a season if you’ve listened to these recaps before. Of course, the first is creating good content. Now, a lot of this stuff was actually on the back end of the season. I front-loaded it with some of the things we’ll talk about later. But throughout the whole season, we talked a whole lot about creating content. So instead of rehashing what we talked about in those episodes, I want to take you through some of the types of content that we looked at. Naturally, I hit podcasting a lot. Podcasting is something that I have focused on for most of this year. Last year at CaboPress I was basically told that I should double down on podcasting because I’ve established myself as an expert in that field. And so I decided to have several episodes on podcasting.
My favorite is my discussion with Lisa Laporte. She is one of the CEOs of TWiT.tv, which is a huge podcasting network. We talked about all sorts of things, but mostly the past, present, and future of podcasting. So definitely check that out.
I also talked to Harry Morton. He is a Podcast producer, who happens to have started a daily podcast during the pandemic about working from home. So the things that he talked about in that episode, I found super helpful for trying to come up with good content…brain brainstorming, good content, and things like that.
I also have a couple of podcast episodes in this season. One is about making money podcasting. So definitely check that out if you are a podcaster. And all of that content can be found more extensively in my Podcast Liftoff course.
But podcasting is not the only type of content you can create. I also had the honor of talking to David Sparks or MacSparky about his field guides. He seems to put out dozens of hours of content a year in the form of his field guides. I’ve taken his shortcuts Field Guide and his OmniFocus Field Guide, which are fantastic and in-depth. He just does such a great job that I’m grateful that he sat down to talk to me about his process and how he got started there, and how he comes up with content.
I also got to pull the curtain back on my LinkedIn Learning courses with my producer Tracey Larvenz. He came on and talked with me. We really talked about the process of creating a LinkedIn Learning course and how we figure out what content to talk about, our process for outlining and then recording, and things like that. So I’m very grateful that Tracey got to come on and tell us a little bit about that. If you’re interested in a LinkedIn Learning course, then definitely check out that episode with Tracey Larvenz. If you want to know how they’re made, or if you’re interested in making one yourself, they’re always looking for good content creators. So those are online courses.
Podcasting, online courses, those are the things that I know best. But I got to talk to Emily Hunkler over at GoWP about webinars when the pandemic started. She and her team decided that webinars were going to be the way that they would add value for their customers as well as help their network. I’ve done a couple for them. And they are just so so great. I’m very grateful for Emily and the whole GoWP team because they take care of the people who help them and they really care about their audience. So if you are interested in webinars going forward, the advice that Emily offers is really good.
I did webinars in the beginning of the pandemic. One of the reasons I wanted to talk to her was to see how I can improve my own process. I’ve moved more towards live streams. I think the main difference between webinars and live streams is that webinars are a little bit more polished. Generally, you’ll have a slide deck or an outline of things you want to talk about and you are communicating some piece of information to the audience. And usually there’s going to be some upsell at the end of it. Maybe not an upsell but a special offer. For me again, it was my Podcast Liftoff course. I was teaching people about podcasting. If they wanted to learn more, I offered a special deal.
But with live streams, it’s a little less structured. And it’s something that I’ve been trying to do weekly along with a weekly YouTube video. So maybe you can tell one of the reasons that I wanted to focus on creating content for this season was this year has been a huge content here for me. I’ve blogged weekly, I’ve put out a YouTube video weekly, I’ve put out this podcast weekly, and I’ve got the live stream now. So keeping all of that organized has been something of a process. But I wanted to get insight from other content creators. So Emily’s webinars was really great.
The last type of content I want to highlight here is something that became huge in 2020. And that’s virtual events. I’ve talked to my friend Brian Richards in previous seasons, so this year I brought in another friend of mine, Dave Shrein over at Campaign Donut. I participated in one of his online events, one of his virtual events. He was doing virtual events before they were cool, because I did the one with him in 2019 before the pandemic. He talks about his process and why and all the behind the scenes stuff. We got to talk turkey a little bit about the tools he’s using and the process he created. And I thought that was really insightful.
So this season we covered podcasting courses, webinars, virtual events. We also got into some other kind of road less traveled stuff. The most recent guests for this season, Wintina Hughes talked about writing about what you know, and how she was able to write for the New York Times and other sources because she was really passionate about something. And that kind of helped her gain visibility. That was a really honest and legit conversation. I really liked it. Plus, we got to talk about Secaucus junction and the New Jersey Transit, which is always fun to talk about with people who know.
The one that stands out the most for me, because it’s something that I never even thought about was my conversation with Jase Rodley about building resource sites. Again, I won’t rehash that entire conversation, but essentially, you can build a super niche site, really focused content, long tail keywords, and then you can monetize that content because it’s coming up in search results, because it’s super SEOd. And it’s really niche. So you can run ads on there. Or he talked about rank and rent, so you rank the site and then you essentially rent it to the highest bidder who specializes in that particular field.
In the example, he talked about maybe I build a really good cigar resource site and I get it ranked for, number one, for how to smoke a cigar, and then I rent it to a cigar shop, right. Now they’re the sponsor of the site, they get the traffic that’s coming from there, and I’m getting paid, essentially, for owning that web real estate. So I really like that.
And speaking of SEO, the last person I want to mention, the last episode I want to mention here has to do more with SEO. Now we talked about engaging with your audience, but she really…Tylor Walden. I didn’t even say her name yet. Taylor Waldon knows a lot about SEO. So we talked about how to come up with good content, what to talk about, what to write about. I really liked that because it’s something that a lot of people struggle with. I’ve been getting a lot of ideas lately, but some weeks I’m just like, “What am I going to write about?” And Taylor offers some really good advice for that.
As far as creating content goes, there are lots of avenues to create content as we learned this season. And then there are lots of ways to think about what content you should create. There’s an all-encompassing goal for your content, right? You want to build an audience in some way because you have a product or service or community that you want to offer. And community was the second of three parts of the season that I really focused on. I do want to talk about that in a minute, but first, here’s a word from our first sponsor.
Sponsor: This episode is brought to you by ConvertKit, and I am so excited to have them as a sponsor. Now, look, you’ve heard me talk about ConvertKit for multiple years at this point. They’ve helped transform my business. I could say that they’re an email list manager or a newsletter manager, but they are more than that. ConvertKit gives you everything you need to build your audience. ConvertKit’s free plan helps entrepreneurs like you turn your side hustle into a full time career by growing your audience, promoting your business, and building a meaningful relationship with your audience in a fraction of the time it used to take.
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And now, back to the show.
Joe: Okay. So we talked all about the types of content we can create. So what do we do with that content? Well, I focused a lot on building memberships and a community. There were several episodes that I think really stand out here. First of all, my episode with Stephen Hackett of Relay FM is a wealth of information. He’s got a lot of experience, not only in podcasting and building and evolving businesses, but Relay FM this year really pivoted and focused on their memberships. And they’ve been pretty open about that. But they didn’t want to only rely on sponsorship money. And I can understand why sponsorship is a grind. If the budgets dry up, then you’re out of luck. But if you build a community of members who buy into what you’re doing and find value in what you’re doing, then that’s a bit more stable, or at least it’s another stream of income.
One sponsor might go away and take a bunch of money, but it’s unlikely that every single member you have will leave all on the same day. So that episode is a wealth of information. But the big takeaways were start small, and these things take time, make sure that you’re balancing what you can reasonably deliver with what you’re promising your members, don’t over deliver and things like that. So I really liked this episode. I would strongly recommend that one.
Another guy who I spoke to, another friend of mine really is Brian Krogsgard. He runs three different membership sites, three different properties, where he’s building audiences. I don’t know how he does it. But he says your best marketing tool is your free content because that is the content that gets people in the door. That’s the content that people will find a lot of value in.
And this was echoed by Bud Kraus as well. His free content is what helped him build his email list. He said, “Hey, this is free. If you want to view it, just give me your email address.” And a lot of people did. So your free content is what gets people in the door. I think that is really great advice. Brian also mentioned to be willing to share what you’ve learned. You might not be an expert in a subject, but you probably have learned a thing or two. That’s something that I’ve really taken to heart lately. I’ve been trying to share a lot more about what I’m doing learning in the open and things like that.
Finally, Joe Simpson came on the show. He built a community from scratch. He built a WordPress Meetup group from scratch. And as somebody who’s tried to do that, I’m not going to say I failed, but it definitely didn’t grow to as big as I hoped it would. I was really keen on this. Joe said, “Be genuine and give back. Don’t just take, take, take but give and don’t expect anything in return. And get involved in other people’s communities too.” Joe tells a story about how he wanted to start a meetup group and he was just basically going to other meetup groups in I’m going to say Southern California. Sorry, Joe, if I’m messing that up. I’m pretty sure it’s Southern California, though. So he was going to a lot of different meetups around there, and networking with people, making connections. And then when he launched his, he reached out to all those people and they fully supported him. So that is I think another really great piece of advice.
As I record this, we’re still in the middle of a pandemic. Things are pretty bad as I record this here in the United States. So I don’t know that we’re going to have in-person events anytime soon. But the advice that Joe gives is good for virtual events too, and maybe it’ll be even easier for you to set up a virtual event. So definitely keep that in mind as you go off and you build your community. Now before we get into the last tenet of this season, I do want to tell you about our second sponsor.
Sponsor: Our second sponsor for this episode is Hostinger. Hosting is a dime a dozen these days, with lots of places claiming to be optimized for platforms like WordPress while also being affordable, but they don’t deliver on that promise. Hostinger does. I recently started using Hostinger for a personal project and I was blown away by how easy the setup was, how affordable their packages are. Usually just a few dollars a month. They offer the best price to quality ratio I’ve seen. And I’ve used tons of hosting companies.
Their dashboard is well designed and easy to use and they offer a free domain and SSL certification. Plus, they’re optimized for WordPress. Music to my ears. When I set up my site, I was happy to see that they put some real thought into the WordPress setup process. Buying a domain was easy, then you pick the template, and they set up the site for you in mere minutes. Plus, they use Astra for all of their site templates with an assist for Elementor. So I know the site will be fast.
They have caching and you can very affordably add on Cloudflare for a CDN. Between that and daily backups and being able to manage WordPress plugins without having to log into the WordPress dashboard, I was sold. If you’re looking for affordable hosting for that side project or your main business that’s fast, secure, and optimized for WordPress, Hostinger is it.
Head over to Hostinger.com/joecasabona to see what plans they offer. I recommend the business shared plan but they also have a managed WordPress business plan. For whatever you want, you can use the code “Joecasabona” for an additional discount. Again, that’s Hostinger.com/joecasabona, and the code “Joecasabona”, all one word, at checkout. Thanks to Hostinger for sponsoring this episode.
And now back to the show.
Joe: The last tenet of this season was around sharing in social media. And there are three episodes that stand out to me. They were all in the beginning of the season. I figure that lots of people have a problem creating social media or shareable content, so I wanted to get that out of the way.
The first was Andrea Zoellner. She does great work on Instagram. Her advice was consistency is key, don’t buy followers. And she’s in the fashion world, but hires a photographer. Get a back sock of photos and then schedule them out. If you convert your account to a business account, which has no cost associated with it, I actually struggled to see what the difference is between the two, I’m sure there’s probably some plan in place or Instagram treats them differently.
But if you make your Instagram account a business account, then you can use Zapier, or Buffer, or other tools to automatically post. That will help you stay consistent if you want to grow a following on Instagram. She also talks about the hashtag strategy. Use a lot basically is what she said because those hashtags are what drives search. Now, we had this conversation before Instagram rolled out Reels. So we didn’t touch on that. But Reels is probably another thing that you might want to consider if you’re going to be doing Instagram. But we didn’t talk about that because it didn’t exist yet.
I also got to talk to an old friend of mine, Joe Galbo. We’ve been friends since Grammar School. He runs social media for a government agency. So I was really excited to talk about him. Specifically, he runs the Consumer Product Safety Commission social media accounts. I reached out to him because I thought that they were super-duper funny. And he built a following based on that. His advice is to think of your audience, entertain and educate and be open to criticism. So if you’re wondering about the inner workings of a small government agency and their social media and PR policy, Joe shares some good insight. He has a disclaimer in that episode. But just a full disclaimer that he was talking in his own capacity and not the official capacity of the CPSC. So I’ll mention that here as well.
Then finally it talks to Cara North. Now, this was an interesting conversation because Cara is not a LinkedIn…you know, that’s not her bread and butter. Like we talked about LinkedIn but that’s not her bread and butter. She’s a learning consultant. An instructional design consultant. And I reached out to her because I thought she was killing it on LinkedIn. She was always trending for a while, which I thought was super cool. So she offered some really good advice about how to reach more people on LinkedIn, which can be good, right?
I was a little soured on LinkedIn because it’s mostly just people who were like, “Hey, you’re a professional, hire me.” But if you connect with the right people and you keep an open mind, then you can grow your network in a meaningful way. And as far as your posts, Cara says to have clear questions for people to engage. So it helps if you use three hashtags. This is the opposite of Instagram, which is to use every hashtag. Three hashtags, tag somebody that helps visibility and ask a question for people to answer in the comments. That helps with engagement as well.
That’s really it for this season. We talked about many ways to create content, how to use that content to build a community and memberships and things like that, build your audience, and then we talked about ways that you could share it on social media and how to really engage in social media. All in all, I thought this was a really great season. I’m extremely grateful for everybody who took the time to come on the show and talk to me. I learned a lot. I’m grateful, of course, to our sponsors. I’m looking forward to next year.
I have one more episode for this year next week. That’s going to be my 2021 yearly theme. But we’ll leave that for next week. If you want to learn more about this season, everything we talked about, you can find the show notes over at howibuilt.it/198. Thanks so much to our sponsors. They were ConvertKit and Hostinger. Definitely check them out. If you are enjoying yourself, be sure to sign up for the mailing list, like I mentioned in the beginning, over at howibuilt.it/198. There’s a link there too. There’s a forum that you can sign up for Build Something Weekly over there. Thanks so much for listening. And until next time, get out there and build something.