How to Grow: Wisdom From 6 Years of Podcasting
The topics I’ll cover include how to grow anything, how to succeed via omission, how to achieve thought leadership, and my view on competition.
I’ll also share the original story of this podcast and much more.
More About This Show
The Social Media Marketing podcast is designed to help busy marketers, business owners, and creators discover what works with social media marketing.
In this episode, I share stories from the podcast that illustrate how to grow your business.
I explain how finding help and understanding your audience can help your business succeed.
You’ll also find tips for becoming a good thought leader and collaborating with others in your industry.
Share your feedback, read the show notes, and get the links mentioned in this episode below.
Here are some of the things you’ll discover in this show:
How to Grow
How The Social Media Marketing Podcast Started
In the summer of 2012, I knew we were launching Social Media Marketing World in 2013. While many people knew about Social Media Examiner, they didn’t necessarily know who I was. I was looking for a creative way to get in front of my audience.
At the same time, I noticed that many of my peers were moving toward podcasting. I reached out to Cliff Ravenscraft and hired him to teach me everything I needed to know about podcasting.
A couple of months later, on August 10, 2012 I went live with our first episode. In those early days, I used to the show to introduce people to myself and the guests who would speak at Social Media Marketing World. The existing Social Media Examiner audience contributed to the initial success of the show, and that year 1100 people attended the conference. And I had discovered a true passion.
In 6 years, we have broadcast 314 weekly episodes. The show has just shy of 15 million downloads and continues to be ranked in the top 100 podcasts in Apple’s Business category. While the show has, for the most part, remained unchanged, we did update a few things in 2018. We have a new voice and new music for the intro and outro, and we updated the cover art
Listen to the show to hear Mike reminisce about some of his early show topics.
How to Grow by Getting Help
I’m good at what I do because I’ve perfected it over the years. However, my perfectionism is also perhaps my biggest weakness. The process for producing this podcast is a great example of how my perfectionism can get in my way.
When I started this podcast, I did everything. I recruited and scheduled each guest, and recorded and edited the podcast audio. Then my team turned it into a blog post and scheduled it. With this process, I spent 3 to 4 hours working on each episode. However, as Social Media Examiner continued to grow, I started to feel the squeeze of my other responsibilities and wondered if I could hand off parts of the podcast process.
Today, my assistant completes a detailed analysis of all of the people that I’m considering for the show. Her analysis includes examples of their speaking and audio, thought leadership, and focus. She also gives me her gut reaction. If her gut reaction says a prospective guest isn’t a good fit, I don’t even read the rest of the email. I say that I agree and we move along.
In 2018, I finally gave up editing the podcast. Although I enjoy editing in Adobe Audition, I found someone better than me, and the cost is worth it. Now, I spend 90 minutes producing the podcast. First, I do a 30-minute pre-call where I get to know the guest so we sound as if we’ve been buds forever during the interview. We also use this time to discuss the topics so there are no surprises during the hour-long interview.
I didn’t know what the impact of saving a few hours per week would be. But it’s been huge for me. I’m more available to my staff when they need help solving problems inside the company. The extra margin of time also reduces my stress. When I stopped trying to do the whole process myself, I had room to grow.
You’d be shocked by how letting others help can improve your business. This story from the podcast is one example of what I’ve experienced over the years. So what can you train someone else to do? Rory Vaden, author of Procrastinate on Purpose, suggests that to train someone else, you spend up to 20 times the amount of time it takes you to do the task. So if a task takes you an hour, be willing to invest 20 hours in training.
After that person is fully trained, you begin to see a return on that investment. If you save an hour per week, you save 52 hours per year. Further into the future, you’ll save hundreds of hours downstream that you can use to grow your business or yourself.
If you’re a perfectionist like me, you also need to ask whether you can be okay with someone short of perfection. Maybe you have a skill you’ve refined over a decade or many decades that you know is extremely hard for someone else to replicate. However, maybe you shouldn’t be doing that work so you can do other things you need or are called to do.
Listen to the show to hear my thoughts about ways you might spend extra time and grow.
How to Succeed by Narrowing Your Audience
By narrowing your audience, I mean intentionally omitting or not nurturing a sub-segment of your audience. Some people call this niching down. To succeed, you need to ask yourself whom you really want to reach. Sometimes, you don’t know the answer to this question at the beginning, but it becomes clear over time. By refining your definition of your audience, you can focus on and grow within your core audience.
For instance, when I started this podcast, the audience included marketers, bloggers, and podcasters. It was all over the place because I wasn’t sure whom I wanted to reach. I thought bloggers and podcasters were just as important to my audience as marketers. However, I realized that marketers were most interested in the products Social Media Examiner sells (namely Social Media Marketing World).
Although some bloggers and podcasters are also interested in Social Media Marketing World, most of them can’t afford to attend the conference because so many of them are hobbyists. Although I’ll always identify as a podcaster and blogger, I learned that the real audience I needed to focus on was marketers.
In fact, I narrowed the audience to the marketer who works for a smaller business (not major corporations). Although the topics discussed on this podcast are equally relevant to someone working for a billion-dollar company, I don’t discuss anything specific to big brands. I focus on the things smaller marketers tend to deal with.
I narrowed down the podcast audience by analyzing everything that Social Media Examiner created, including our podcast episodes, blog posts, and social content. Through this analysis, I saw that content purely focused on marketing always outperformed. Even at Social Media Marketing World, more people attended the sessions on marketing than sessions on blogging or podcasting.
Based on this analysis, we omitted content focused on blogging or podcasting from our production schedule. These omissions helped us continue nurturing the audience we wanted to grow.
Surveying our audience also helped me understand whom I wanted to reach. The survey asks lots of questions, and it’s not hard to do. We’ve conducted our annual industry survey for 10 years, and the data helps us understand who our audience is, which in turn helps us produce our content.
Although you don’t need to do all of the things we do, the overall idea of narrowing your audience can be helpful if you’re producing content that seems all over the place. Whatever platforms you use, it can be tempting to focus on content that has broad appeal and doesn’t have a well-defined niche. If that’s an issue you for you, your broad audience might explain some of the struggles you’re having.
When you serve your most important audience above all else, without compromise, great things happen. I’m sure you’ve heard this before, but it’s so true: narrowing your niche improves your business. It actually helps you grow, even though it doesn’t seem like it should. It works because in a narrower marketplace, it’s easier to compete and become a leader.
After you develop your niche audience, you need to maintain your focus on that audience. As your business grows, friends and strangers will want you to feature their new book or product on your platform, whether that’s your podcast or some other channel. When the thing they’re promoting isn’t a fit, you need be ready to say no.
To say no but still be encouraging, I congratulate my friend on their new product. For a really good friend, I might say, “Well, let’s figure out a way to make this work.” As an example, when Michael Hyatt was a guest on my podcast, he specifically talked about the marketing strategy he used to launch his book. Other times, you need to say, “The content we produce is about this, and I don’t believe that’s a good fit for my audience.”
Being a gatekeeper for your audience is important because if you allow something into your content stream that doesn’t interest your audience, they’ll tune out and maybe even unsubscribe or stop listening. Making a friend feel good isn’t worth the risk of hurting your business.
Strangers will pitch you even harder at events or via email. They’ll try to twist your arm or persuade you that you’re not focusing on the right things. However, you know your audience better than anyone else in the world. Only rarely do strangers really know your audience and offer useful advice. For the most part, these people have an ulterior motive: to get in front of your audience.
When you go off topic, you risk not only alienating your core audience, but also attracting people who aren’t important to your business. For that reason, avoid covering a topic so that your content will rank or because you have something useful to share.
To illustrate, I did a podcast episode and blog post about how to get your Facebook page back when Facebook removes it, based on an experience Social Media Examiner had. To this day, almost once a week, strangers from all over the world ask me to help them get their page back. However, that’s not the business I’m in.
Listen to the show to hear more about my regrets about producing an off-topic podcast episode.
I define an expert as someone who’s decided to focus on something specific, such as bot marketing, Facebook ads, or Instagram TV. They become known for something because they consistently produce content that demonstrates they know what they’re talking about. That content could be blog posts, podcasts, videos, courses, or something similar.
In my opinion, a good expert also needs to be a good communicator. If an expert can’t verbally communicate effectively, I won’t have them speak on my stages or on my podcast. Or if an expert just wants to be known for their writing, they need to write well. A good expert is also a good teacher, which means they understand how to organize their knowledge so they can articulate it with great focus and without stumbling a lot.
To project that expert polish, you have to maintain the activities that helped you become an expert in the first place. However, experts come and go. In any industry, you’ll see people become experts and then fade away. I believe people fade away for three reasons.
First, their motives for developing their thought leadership were misguided. For instance, sometimes people want fame, but it’s not as fulfilling as you think. Fame doesn’t pay the bills or make you feel any better.
The second reason experts fade is because they can’t build a business around their expertise. A lot of people produce content about a topic as a side hustle, but they can’t figure out how to develop a business model from that content. As a result, they can’t continue producing that content for financial reasons. Their job is competing with their side hustle, or they have to return to work because their content isn’t making money.
Third and most commonly, experts can also fade because they stop doing the things that helped them become known. Say you or someone you know received a lot of exposure and became known as one of the top experts in a field. After all that hard work, it can be tempting to think, “I finally made it! Now I can rest,” or “Now, I can just take on a bunch of clients and never worry again.”
That might be true for 6 months to a year. However, if you stop regularly producing content, people forget about you and stop recommending you. Eventually, when you need more customers, no one is paying attention because you stopped consistently producing content, which is what made you a top expert.
Also, in a constantly changing industry like social media marketing, you need to keep up with those changes. Otherwise, you might talk about things that aren’t as relevant as they used to be. People will realize you’re behind the times and don’t know what you’re talking about anymore. You’ll lose your edge.
As the speakers at Social Media Marketing World change, I notice when people make it big and then fade away. The conference hosts many experts from several niches, and the speakers change all the time. For the next wave of experts in this industry, these changes represent an enormous opportunity. As some of today’s top pros lose their edge, new people can pick up where they left off and take up that mantle.
In other words, it’s important to understand that no one person has a lock on any niche. In fact, when someone becomes incredibly successful, you can use that as an opportunity to become better than they are about covering the latest and greatest as the industry evolves. If that expert becomes distracted by all of the opportunities coming their way, they won’t be keeping up.
If you want to be a recognized thought leader in any industry, I suggest you allocate time to creating content, now and forever. Create a plan to spend a certain number of hours per week creating content and never let anything encroach on that time.
This content is how people discover you. As people read, listen to, or watch your great content, they start sharing it publicly or privately. They also start recommending you to others who are looking for experts in your field. Over time, you’ll be successful until you experience one of the three problems I mentioned earlier: your motives are off, you can’t build a business, or you make it big and stop sharing your knowledge.
Put a different way, to become a thought leader, you need to recognize that constantly learning is important. You’ll never “make it” and then be able to stop learning. If you’re always willing to work for thought leadership, you can be successful as a thought leader and hold onto that top spot.
Listen to the show to hear my thoughts about the work ethic an aspiring expert needs to have.
How to Collaborate With Your Competition
As you make your way in the business world, don’t get too caught up in the fact that a lot of other people are doing the same thing. As a matter of fact, you might even want to collaborate with some of those people because plenty of opportunity is available for everyone. I operate from an abundance mentality: our niche has more than enough room for lots of experts.
Although I’m very competitive, I’ve always felt that collaboration is more powerful than going solo. For example, collaboration is popular in podcasting and on YouTube. In my case, I’ve become friends with most of the people that I consider my competition. I listen to almost every podcast that competes with this podcast and think many of the hosts of these podcasts are excellent.
In fact, I promote my competition by having them on my podcast. I tell my audience that I listen to their podcasts and that my audience ought to listen to them too, knowing full well that some of them are better than me. Also, many of my competitors have spoken in some capacity at my events.
Because I collaborate with my competitors, I can also network with them. That’s the advantage. To illustrate, if I want to invite someone I hear on another podcast to be a guest on my podcast, I can contact the podcast host, who gladly makes an introduction. With that referral, I can host that person on my podcast. Also, I return the favor for other podcast hosts. This collaboration is powerful.
To build a collaborative network like this for yourself, think about who your competitors are in the content field and what you can do to help them. And don’t say to yourself, “How can I help them so they can help me?” Focus on how you can actually help them without asking for anything in return.
The goal is to become known as a generous person who wants to help everyone. Then, you become known for leading in the industry and connecting people, even if you do it all behind the scenes. In fact, when you work with your competition, you might stop thinking of them as competition. Instead, you might think of them as partners, which is probably a better framework because we’re all trying to accomplish the same objective.
What makes you stand out is you. Nobody accomplishes the shared objective like you. Nobody does it like me. Every business is a little different, and it’s a big world. People can come to my conference and go to someone else’s. People can buy my product and your product, too.
Listen to the show for more of my thoughts on competition versus collaboration.
Discovery of the Week
Video Resizer for IGTV & More is an iOS app that helps you size videos for Instagram TV (also called IGTV).
Whether your original video is landscape or square, Video Resizer can turn it into a video with a 9:16 ratio for IGTV. So if you shot a square video for Instagram already, you can also show it in an IGTV story. Occasionally, you might want to repurpose an existing video shot in a different ratio or fix a video that you accidentally shot in the wrong size.
To make one video size fit into another, the app has a unique approach to the old letterbox effect (which was applied to widescreen video reformatted for non-widescreen television). However, instead of adding black bars above and below the video, the app adds a blurred gradient background that uses colors from the video. With this effect, you can create a 9:16 video without cropping it.
Video Resizer is a free app available for iOS only.
Listen to the show to learn more about Video Resizer for IGTV & More and let us know how the app works for you.
Key takeaways mentioned in this episode:
- Learn more about editing in Adobe Audition.
- Read Procrastinate on Purpose by Rory Vaden.
- Listen to the episode in which Michael Hyatt shared his book marketing strategy.
- Resize videos with the Video Resizer for IGTV & More iOS app.
- Watch our weekly Social Media Marketing Talk Show on Fridays at 10 AM Pacific on Crowdcast or tune in on Facebook Live.
- Download the 2018 Social Media Marketing Industry Report.
- Learn more about Social Media Marketing World 2019.
What do you think? What are your thoughts on how to grow? Please share your comments below.