In This Episode:
- How social media marketing expert Andréa Jones balances two different marketing strategies for her agency and for her membership community
- Why she prioritizes feelings when it comes to positioning and messaging
- How she incorporates social media marketing into the larger context of a sales campaign
- Why promotional content isn’t all that useful for building an audience or finding customers—and what’s working instead
Some of the most successful business owners I know spend absolutely no time on marketing.
They have social media accounts but they’re for posting images about vacations or family or hobbies.
They have blogs but they largely sit dormant.
They have email lists but never send any email.
They don’t have massive advertising budgets or a marketing team that takes care of it for them. Their businesses are simply designed to work—to thrive—without the playing the games we’ve come to associate with marketing in the 2020s.
The topic we’re covering this month is always a crowd-pleaser.
We’re talking about building an audience.
Except that… we aren’t really going to be talking about building an audience at all.
Truth be told, I chose this topic about halfway through 2020 knowing that people love to hear about all the ways people work on attracting followers and building their email lists.
But the more I thought about what I wanted to cover this month, the more I realized this month needed to be about shedding light on some of the most pernicious shoulds & supposed-tos that exist in the small business world online.
So we are going to talk about building your audience, but we’re going to juxtapose that with the reality of how marketing—or more specifically, finding customers & clients—work in businesses that are booming.
And that’s exactly where I’d like to start.
There’s a difference between building an audience and finding customers or clients.
At one point in the recent history of the social web, these 2 actions might have been one and the same. But today, the conversation about building an audience has become detached from finding customers or clients.
Building an audience typically looks like working the algorithms by figuring out when to post to maximize likes, what types of media receive the most engagement, and which hashtags to use to broaden your reach.
Building an audience has mostly been removed from the context of finding customers.
Sure, the conversation might start with identifying your ideal customer… but it quickly devolves into chatter about Reels, and Stories, and stickers, and the best ways to promote your business.
The prevailing narrative assumes that every purchase is the result of a long and drawn-out journey from haphazardly discovering something you post, to hitting the “follow” button, to signing up for your email list, to attending a webinar, to finally considering buying from you.
Here’s the thing: I can’t say that I’ve ever bought an information product or contracted a service that way.
I don’t want to speak for you here—but my guess is that the majority of your purchases don’t follow that pattern, either. Instead, you buy because a friend recommended something or because you heard about something on a podcast or because you were searching for a solution and found what you were looking for.
These buying cycles last for a few hours not for a few months or even a few weeks!
So if that’s how you and I are really buying, why do we market as if our customers have completely different behavior patterns?
This is the distinction between building an audience and finding customers. Finding customers most often looks like networking or referrals or search results. It’s often pretty fast, low-overhead, and plenty to run a really successful business.
Building an audience, on the other hand, is most often pretty slow, time intensive, and not enough to support a sustainable business for a couple of years.
So why build an audience at all?
Well, to be clear: there’s a very, very good chance that you just don’t need to and that you can unfollow all of the accounts that are encouraging you to develop healthy social media habits while also enjoining you to spend more time creating media that no one is engaging with.
But the reasons you might want to build an audience? There are a few:
- Building an audience can build brand credibility for consumer brands looking to scale.
- Building an audience can support long-time goals like writing a book or breaking into other forms of traditional media.
- Building an audience can help you reach more people with your ideas in accessible ways.
But as a general rule? “Building an audience” is NOT a necessary step on your journey as a business owner.
Social media celebrity is not a requisite for success—no matter how many attractive business influencers give you the impression that it is.
But you don’t have to take my word for it.
This week, I’m talking with Andréa Jones, the founder of OnlineDrea, a social media marketing agency, and the creator of Savvy Social School, a training community all about social media marketing.
After all I just shared about building an audience, this might seem like a strange segue. Why talk to a social media marketing expert when it seems like you might not have to do this whole social media thing the way you have been?
Well, it’s because Andréa understands that finding customers is different from building an audience. She understands it because she helps people do both while also being acutely aware that the growth of her agency isn’t driven by building an audience.
This conversation gets into the relationship between building an audience and finding clients—both as they relate to Andréa’s business and as they relate to her clients’ and members’ businesses.
I love this conversation because there’s a bunch about what Andréa actually does with social media in her own business, there’s a bunch of insightful observation about what’s happening out there in the marketing world, and there are some really actionable ideas you can use, too.
Sit back—let’s find out what works for Andréa Jones!
Tara McMullin: Some of the most successful business owners I know spend absolutely no time on marketing. They have social media accounts, but they're for posting images about vacations or family, or hobbies. They have blogs, but they largely sit dormant. They have email lists, but they never send any email. And they don't have massive advertising budgets or a marketing team that takes care of it for them. Their businesses are simply designed to work, to thrive without playing the games we've come to associate with marketing in the 2020s.
I'm Tara McMullin, and this is What Works, the show that explores how small business owners are building stronger businesses without the shoulds and supposed tos. The topic we're covering this month is always a crowd-pleaser. We're talking about building an audience, except that we aren't really going to be talking about building an audience at all. Truth be told, I chose this topic about halfway through 2020 knowing that people love to hear about all the ways other people work on attracting followers and building their email lists.
But the more I thought about what I wanted to cover this month, the more I realized this month needed to be about shedding light on some of the most pernicious shoulds and supposed tos that exist in the small business world online. So we are going to talk about building your audience, but we're going to juxtapose that against the reality of how marketing or more specifically, finding customers and clients work in businesses that are booming.
And that's exactly where I'd like to start. There's a difference between building an audience and finding customers or clients. At one point in the recent history of the social web, these two actions might've been one in the same, but today the conversation about building an audience has become detached from finding customers or clients. Building an audience typically looks like working the algorithms by figuring out when to post to maximize likes, what types of media receive the most engagement and which hashtags to use to broaden your reach.
Building an audience has mostly been removed from the context of finding customers. Sure, the conversation might start with identifying your ideal customer, but it quickly devolves into chatter about reels and stories and stickers and the best ways to promote your business. The prevailing narrative assumes that every purchase is the result of a long and drawn out journey from haphazardly discovering something you post to hitting the follow button, to signing up for your email list, to attending a webinar, to finally consider buying from you.
Now here's the thing. I can't say that I've ever bought an information product or contracted a service that way. I don't want to speak for you here, but my guess is that the majority of your purchases follow that pattern either. Instead, you buy because a friend recommended something or because you heard about something on a podcast or because you were searching for a solution and found what you were looking for.
These buying cycles last for a few hours, not for a few months or even a few weeks. So if that's how you and I are really buying, why do we market as if our customers have completely different behavior patterns? This is the distinction between building an audience and finding customers. Finding customers most often looks like networking or referrals or search results. It's often pretty fast, low overhead, and plenty to run a really successful business.
Building an audience on the other hand is most often pretty slow, time-intensive and not enough to support a sustainable business for at least a couple of years. So why build an audience at all? To be clear, there's a very, very good chance that you just don't need to, and that you can unfollow all of the accounts that are encouraging you to develop healthy social media habits while also enjoining you to spend more time creating media that no one is engaging with.
But the reasons you might want to build an audience, well, there are a few. One, building an audience can build brand credibility for consumer brands looking to scale. Two, building an audience can support long-time goals like writing a book or breaking into other forms of traditional media. And three, building an audience can help you reach more people with your ideas in accessible ways.
But as a general rule, building an audience is not a necessary step on your journey as a business owner. Social media celebrity is not a requisite for success no matter how many attractive business influencers give you the impression that it is. But you don't have to take my word for it. This week I'm talking with Andréa Jones, the founder of OnlineDrea, a social media marketing agency and the creator of Savvy Social School, a training community all about social media marketing.
Now, after all I just shared about building an audience, this might seem like a strange segue. Why talk to a social media marketing expert when it seems like you might not have to do this whole social media thing the way you have been? Well, it's because Andréa understands that finding customers is different from building an audience. She understands it because she helps people do both while also being acutely aware that the growth of her agency isn't driven by building an audience.
This conversation gets into the relationship between building an audience and finding clients as they both relate to Andréa's business and as they relate to her clients' and members' businesses. Now, I love this conversation because there's a bunch about what Andréa actually does with social media in her business. There's a bunch of insightful observation about what's happening out there in the marketing world and there are some really actionable ideas you can use too. So sit back and let's find out what works for Andréa Jones. Andréa Jones, welcome back to What Works. Thank you so much for joining me today.
Andréa Jones: Thank you so much for having me. I love this podcast, so I'm honored to be on it.
Tara McMullin: Well, we love you, and we love your approach to social media and audience building and really making the right choices when it comes to those things for your particular business, which is what the show is all about. And so I want to start with some of the choices that you've made for your business when it comes to social media.
And the last time that you were on the show, you talked about how the social media strategy that you use to bring in new business is kind of different from what you end up executing for your clients because you're typically operating very different business models. So I was curious if we could just sort of start off with having you maybe describe a little bit of that in case people haven't heard that interview but also letting us know if that strategy has evolved at all or what's changed since we spoke last.
Andréa Jones: Yes. So since I work with people who need support in the social media arena, they typically aren't on social media or aren't active on social media. So for me as a business to use social media to find and connect with them, if they're not there, I won't find and connect with them. So my strategy revolves all around strategic partnerships, building referral partnerships.
Some of my best partnerships come from brand strategists, web designers, podcast editors, or agencies, graphic designers, other people who have the same kinds of clients that I have and they serve the same types of businesses that I serve and then we can potentially share and refer each other business. So it is still relationship building, but it's a little bit kind of like off of the beaten path in the sense I'm not going directly after that ideal person.
So a lot of it shows up in the same way. I still show up and share my expertise but I spend most of my time in the DMs connecting with people, leaving comments, participating in communities, and that's really where I see the most bang for my buck when it comes to the time that I spend on social media.
Tara McMullin: Got it. So helpful. And I want to talk about the partnerships piece for a little bit before we circle back to social media. This is something that is so important. It's been important to me in my audience building journey, it's been to so many other people that I know who have large audiences, and it's something I forget to talk about. It's something I think a lot of people forget to talk about, because it's easy to talk about social media.
Social media is in your face. It's always changing. There's always something new to say or new to try, but partnerships is a lot of behind the scenes work and it's just like you forget how big a break it can be for you. So how do you go about... what does a partnership relationship look like to you and how does that actually bring you in new clients?
Andréa Jones: Yes. So this is a bit challenging to describe because when I start describing it, it does sound a little formulaic. It's kind of like that person who says, I don't know, "I'm going to go on 20 dates," and then one of them's bound a turnout. It's kind of like that strategy sometimes. But really, it's just a lot of talking to people. So to identify the right partners, typically I'm looking for similarities.
And in a pre pandemic world, it was oftentimes looking for people who would go to the events that I would go to, or just were at the events that I would go to. So sometimes it would start with an in-person connection at something like She Podcast, for instance. There's a lot of podcasters there, I love working with podcasts or so I maybe do some research on some of the speakers, some of the attendees and then when I get there, try to interact with them and then keep in touch with them using social media.
So it does feel a little bit formulaic. But because I'm very introverted, it soothes my soul to be able to have that formula. If I didn't have a plan going into larger events, I would be a complete wallflower, I would not say anything. I would not meet anyone and it would almost be a little bit of a wasted opportunity. So I really start with some similarities.
Now during the pandemic, that has been a little bit harder for me. So that's really where a lot of my shifts have happened in this strategy. And oftentimes it's looking at people who other guests on this podcast, for instance, maybe the guests before my episode and the guests after my episode. It's looking at, I've been speaking in a lot of virtual events as well, so it's looking at who are the other speakers and who are the organizers.
I've actually found event organizers to be great partners because they know a lot of people and their whole business kind of rests on knowing a lot of people. And so those are really great connections for me. So it starts kind of researching and digging into who the right partnerships are. And then the actual conversation of like, "Hey, let's work together," does feel like asking someone out on a date a little bit.
I feel little clammy. I'm like, "I hope they say yes." But what has worked for me is using voice messages on Instagram and LinkedIn. So those are my two primary platforms. And so with a voice message, I make sure to say their name, I make sure to say something specific so they know that this isn't just a mass produced copy and paste situation, at least I hope that's what they're thinking. I want it to be personalized.
And typically before I send the voice message, I do some interactions first. So maybe a couple of weeks of liking and commenting on their posts, making sure that they know who I am before I go, "Hey, I feel like we could work together. Let's have a coffee chat and casually get to know one other." And so that's kind of the approach I take for that. And then after the coffee chat point, it's still maintaining that relationship on social media, but the formula kind of dissolves from there.
There's no frequency to how often I keep up with people. I've had people ask me, "Do you keep a spreadsheet and keep track?" I do not, maybe I should. But I just kind of let things progress organically. And if I see their posts pop up or their stories pop up, I'll try to engage and just try to stay top of mind.
Tara McMullin: I love that. What are some of the opportunities that you're thinking about when you're thinking about those kinds of partnerships? Like in terms of you've mentioned podcasts but are you thinking webinars? Tell me more about how you actually get in front of their people?
Andréa Jones: Yes. So I wish I had a formula for this, but I just kind of see what their needs are. So if it's on the service-based side typically... so I'll use the podcast editor example as well typically they tell me about who their ideal clients are and I work with a lot of clients who have podcasts. So for me, I may see a match there. And then I talk about what my ideal clients are sort of where I see a match as well. That's on the service-based side and that's typically where I tend to spend a lot of this strategy.
As far as webinars and podcast guesting and getting in front of their audiences, I actually don't ask for that. Typically, so one of my favorite questions to ask is what events they like to go to and what community spaces they hang out in because I do want to be in the room, so to speak, but maybe this is my introverted shyness, but I don't directly ask for like, "Can I be on your podcast?" Or, "Can I speak at your summit or in front of your group?"
I kind of let them come to that conclusion if that's the direction they want to go. And some people would just click. Like I remember... so my podcast editor I did this strategy on, we got on a call and I was like, "You're awesome, I want you to do my podcast." I was doing it myself previously. And we clicked and he edited my podcast for two years and we send clients back and forth. And that's the best shining example of that strategy. More often than not, it's just kind of like, "Well, now we know each other and maybe something will come of it." Most of the times nothing happens.
Tara McMullin: Yeah, totally. So this for me brings up a concept that I thought I was going to talk about with you later in the interview, but I think let's just get it out of the way now, which is the difference between marketing and building an audience. Because our theme for this month is building an audience. And I think that that's what people think they need to be doing but really what they need to be doing is marketing.
And I think what you're describing is marketing as opposed to building an audience, but you're also really good at building audiences for your business and different kinds of businesses. And so I guess I don't have a very good question here yet, but I'd love to hear how you think differently about marketing versus building an audience and what the role of each is, or do you even agree that there's a difference between those two things or that they mean something different.
Andréa Jones: They're so married to me. I don't think you can separate audience building and marketing entirely. It really depends on your business. Like one of the clients I did consulting for who ultimately did not work with me, we had a pre consulting call, life coach in her area, really well known in the area, completely booked out and she felt like she needed to build an audience on social media.
And I asked her why I kept asking the why questions and digging deeper and ultimately she's content. She was a few years away from retirement. She wanted the... she liked the idea of audience building because of that shiny object syndrome. But at the end of the day, she was happy with the way her business was currently. And so ultimately I think, I haven't asked her, but I think she's still doing the same thing.
She did not hire us, she did not go in the direction of social media. And so I do think that some of this depends on your business. But a lot of people who are considering social media or using social media are using marketing and audience building in tandem. And so when I think about it, it all comes down to relationships.
I'm huge on relationships and building trust with people and individuals. And I think sometimes when we use the phrase building an audience, for me, that kind of sounds like you're just trying to mass market and reach as many people as possible no matter what. And for me that does not work, for a lot of my clients, it's not really the end goal, is to have everyone know who they are. They really want a very specific group of people to know who they are and to trust them enough to give them money for things and services.
So they really do go in tandem. So marketing to me kind of rests more on the communication of your work. So marketing to me is really tied into messaging and presentation. So how does this look? How does it sound? Can people have a conversation about it? And then the audience building side to me is those people who understand that and are following you. They're like, "Yes, I understand what you're saying. I like your presentation. I want to stick around to see what happens next."
And so I think they go very much in tandem. And so when I think about this for my business, typically my audience is built up of people who are in the same space. So typically online business owners or marketers, people who serve the same clients I do typically is my audience. And then I make sure that my marketing speaks to them. But I also do have a sub section as well for my programs of businesses who are a little bit newer maybe, a little bit in the beginning journeys of their business building and they're looking for support to do this for themselves. And so I do speak to those people as well as the other professionals who are in my network.
Tara McMullin: Let's talk a little bit more about that piece because this is very interesting to me as someone... I have two separate businesses, one that does not require an audience whatsoever at this point and one that requires a large audience to be sustainable. You have sort of those two aspects within one business. Talk to me about how you think about balancing the needs of the agency versus the needs of your membership community and what that looks like in terms of how you actually show up on social media.
Andréa Jones: Oh, this is an ever evolving process, the balance of the two. So I still speak a lot to my partners and my potential partners in those strategic partnerships because the beginning stages of thought for those two groups are the same. So they're thinking, "I want to get better at social media, or I want to start showing up here and I need support." So typically they may not be on social media or they may not be as active.
I always joke that my favorite students are the ones who are like, "How do I even find Instagram stories?" I'm like, "Yes, I can help you do this. We can work on this." And so those are my people who maybe feel a little bit embarrassed about navigating the tech but also want the strategic side and will also want to be able to manage it in a way that works for them and not just kind of do all of the things.
Because there is a sliding scale between business owner and content creator. And we talked about this on the episode that you did for my podcast in that business owners are not necessarily content creators. And so I like to try to make that distinction in the way that I teach. A lot of them are way closer on the business owner side than the content creator side.
They have maybe one or two hours a week to spend on this, not any more than that. And so typically they're not very active on social media. So both strategies can start from the same place. The messaging is a little bit different. Like I said, the example of Instagram stories, if you can't find it, I'm here for you, I got you. So I do a lot of leveraged audience opportunities for that, speaking on podcasts, being in summits, that sort of thing.
And then this year I've actually been playing around a lot with paid advertising which has been great for discovery. The challenge being again, being in the social media space, they're probably inundated with ads trying to teach them how to be better at social media so it's been a test in positioning in that aspect. And also discovery related opportunities like videos on YouTube.
So we've been producing a lot of how to tutorials on YouTube, really what people are searching for, just tapping into that. Like how do I post an Instagram reel and giving them that information but also making sure to have our difference kind of embedded in that and giving them a next step so that they can see how we can teach them how to do this and how it's different from some of the other people in the space who really teach content creators how to be on social media and not necessarily business owners who have a million other things going on.
Tara McMullin: You'll hear more from Andréa in just a minute. But first, a word from our What Works partners. What Works is brought to you by the Standout Podcast Club. Are you a podcaster or aspiring podcaster who wants to create a standout show that helps to grow your business? We would love to support you inside the Standout Podcast Club. The Standout Podcast Club is your hub for the training, coaching and networking you need to produce a podcast that grows your small business.
Inside, you'll find a complete blueprint for producing a podcast that gets noticed, attracts an audience and helps you to grow your business. Standout Podcast Club is more than an online course. It's a dynamic community powered coaching hub that helps us help you on every aspect of how you produce your show. If you run into a question, ask. If you're looking for feedback on an idea, tell the club. If you want to talk trends, strategy or planning for the future, start the conversation.
We want to help you use your voice and grow your business and so do the other podcasters inside Standout Podcast Club. We also offer a round table discussion and Q&A call each month so that you can meet up with other podcasters, get your questions answered in real time and learn new of the moment ideas for your show. Find out more about Standout Podcast Club by going to standoutpodcast.club, that's standoutpodcast.club.
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Yes, okay, let's talk more about the positioning piece. I love where you started to take us with that, but I would love to get inside your head and have you explain that to the audience of like, how do I figure out what my difference is as a brand, why that's valuable to my potential client, customer, follower? Walk us through how you have been experimenting with getting that messaging and positioning just right.
Andréa Jones: It's all about feelings for me. And I think this is really where the shift happened in my business because I... so the Savvy Social School is like what I would call my pet project. I love it. But we struggled for a really long time to grow it. It's been three years and we just are at the 200 member a month mark, but all of that happened in the last year. We went from 50 members to 200 in just a year.
And a lot of that is really asking our members and even people who listen to the podcast, "How do you feel about social media?" And it's like this feeling that people don't want to talk about and we're kind of highlighting it and going, "We empathize with you. We understand you. This is not shameful. In fact, a lot of people feel this way. Come with us. We can help you with this."
And so the feeling of logging into Instagram and staring at that blank cursor and going, "I have so many other things today. I really try to spend 10 minutes to post something and I just spent 10 minutes scrolling. And it's a waste of time." It's like that feeling. Or the feeling of you look at a competitor's brand and you're like, "It's so polished. It looks so good. Why would someone want to come to my brand when this competitor looks so great on social media?"
Those feelings that we can tap into, we've combined that with implementation and helping people actually do the work. So oftentimes we find our students almost over strategize and they look farther down the road than where they are now and they're looking kind of like at step 10 and then they're trying to just leap frog to step 10. They will get there, and they think there's a strategy that works for step 10, but the step one strategy is different.
Your problems are different and your outcomes are going to be different as well. And so it's really helping people... we really just try to help business owners understand that, be able to work with where they are so that they can get to that next level and can get to that place. And then the last thing we really tapped into is a lot of people don't actually like social media. And that again is the feelings piece. And so we speak a lot to that as well.
You don't have to like it. I personally do not like bookkeeping. If I don't have to look at my QuickBooks, I am completely happy. I just don't like it. But guess what? As a business owner, I do it. And I learned to like pieces of it and really the habit of it, it's kind of like brushing your teeth, you don't think about it after a while. And so we kind of take that approach with social media as well and building habits that can support where you are in your business now.
And then guess what? Just like bookkeeping, you can outsource social media one day and then you don't have to do it. And so I think that really having that message and position and kind of making wiggle room for ourself in the market there has really helped because there are a lot of people who teach... I just was looking at a TikTok course because I'm studying it myself, one of the strategies was to post three to five times a day on TikTok.
I was like, "Who has time for this?" I personally don't even and it's my job. So it's really finding that space and that if you are a content creator and you're making YouTube videos, posting three to five times a day on TikTok probably sounds like an achievable thing. But for a small business owner who's running an online business who already has a million zillion other things, that is terrifying, you'll never even open the app. And so it's really finding the space where it's like, okay, where's the beginning of this? How do we get started and how do we maintain this to the point where it's actually making a difference in the things that we're doing for our business.
Tara McMullin: This is something I've been working on with What Works as well just in terms of messaging and what is it going to take to actually reach the right person who is getting bombarded with all sorts of messages. And one of the things that we've kind of landed on is the reeducation that people need because of what they've learned from sources that aren't actually speaking to them, that aren't actually thinking about what their needs are, what their feelings are.
And so that's one of the big things I'm thinking through right now, is what are all the different ways that I can bust assumptions, bump up against conventional wisdom or disrupt conventional wisdom and re-educate people? I'm curious if that's part of your content strategy as well, that assumption busting disruption piece.
Andréa Jones: It is to some extent, and we're trying to lean into this more this year specifically. So we recently... our kind of main, you can call it a lead magnet, freebie, whatever, is a free course, and that free course really breaks down the assumptions and walks people through our framework and our approach. It's really just like a sample size option of what the school is fully about.
So we revamped that to really speak to that idea of let's start over again a little bit, and here's where you may be, here's what you may be feeling, know that that's okay, and here's how you can actually use this as a tool to grow your business in a realistic way and not in a way that's promising a million followers tomorrow. We've been experimenting with content like this as well.
What I'm finding is there's a fine line between busting assumptions and coming across as like a little bit, I don't know if angry is the right word, but a little bit like... I can't think of the right word, but there's a fuzzy line between just saying, "Hey, this is what you may be thinking. Here's an alternative way," versus, "Whatever you've been thinking before is absolutely wrong."
And I think that's the line that we're telling because some of the social media content we've been producing definitely feels a little bit like that. So we haven't quite nailed it yet, but I do find that there is this re-education needed for a lot of online business owners that gives them a space to be able to use social media as a tool without having to do it the way that all of the experts say to do it.
Tara McMullin: Yeah. I love that. There are so many different places that I would love to take this conversation. I'm trying to figure out where I want to go next. Let's go back to the two different business models, again, the agency versus the membership offering. I am curious how you would approach social media differently if you were only focused on one or the other.
Andréa Jones: Oh yes. I've been thinking about this because I'm thinking about my five-year goal with the business. And the agency is very time intensive. And so part of me plays around with the concept of what if it was just the membership. And I think my time would then be spent more on creating that educational type content. So I really don't do as much as I could in that area because the agency is kind of like my primary business and the educational side is a secondary.
It's nice, it's great, it's consistent. So I think if it were just the educational side, I would do a lot more of that style of content that really speaks to going against what everyone thinks and going against what our assumptions are and that sort of thing. And I actually think I would spend a lot less time in general in the business because it doesn't really require that much time.
If I just had the agency side, which I did for the first five years of my business, I really was not that active on social media. It wasn't necessary. Honestly, I had a very healthy, thriving business without needing to be that active on social media, which is where a lot of my concepts of social media come from. In my opinion, social media should be a reflection of what's happening internally in your business.
And so for me, at the time, I only really needed like eight to 10 clients. I mean, how many posts on social media do I need to really do that? Clients stay for about six to eight months. So there wasn't a lot of a big push needed be present on social media, just enough to kind of show people what working with me was like and show my expertise, but really didn't need a big push.
And so I think a lot of service-based business owners especially find comfort in that. You don't need to post every day, or you don't need to be on Instagram reels or create a whole podcast and YouTube strategy. You may not need all of that if you only need this many clients and you're comfortable where you are. And so I do think those strategies are... they're different. With the agency side, I spend my time managing the clients, with the membership side, a lot of the time spent is in getting in front of new audiences and talking to more people because the size of your impact really does matter with that model being a lower price ticket item.
Tara McMullin: Awesome. Oh, I can't let... the comment social media should be a reflection of what's happening inside your business past without having you explain that more. That was like, "Whew, that's really good." And also I want to hear more because I don't entirely know what you mean by that. So tell us more.
Andréa Jones: I've been playing around with this idea for the past year, because there's something about a lot of these... there's a lot of cancel culture happening on social media right now. There's a lot of people being called out. There's a lot of people making statements about things where you go, "Do they really believe this? Or they're just saying something because they want to say something?" And so this is where that statement comes from for me, is that whatever your value systems are in your business, social media should reflect that.
And so when I approach social media, if I have a service-based business and I don't really need that many clients and I'm just trying to show my expertise and my personality and what it's like working with me, that's really just a reflection of what's happening in my business at the time. And so that's my kind of thought process on social media and then it goes a step further with if you're going to make a statement, like if something's happening in the news, I want that to come from what's already happening internally in my business.
And that's kind of where I've been directing my clients as well. If it's not something that was a conversation with a team or you talked about it internally first, there's no reason to say, "Let's have a statement on social media." It just is showcasing something that's inauthentic in my opinion. And so I'm again playing around with this concept, but I think it's really impactful for me and so I hope it's really impactful for a lot of other people.
My hope is that for me, I feel a sense of relief. If all I'm doing on social media is reflecting what's happening already, I don't need to create something new. It's a conversation that already happened. It's a talking point that already happened. It's a question I've already answered. It's a podcast I've already produced. So it really, for me, relieves a lot of that decision making process of what do I post today? It's like, "Well, what am I talking about today in my business?" And so it's just kind of reflecting that on social media.
Tara McMullin: Yes, that's a much better way of saying what I tried to say on your podcast. That's all I do, is I just talk about on social media whatever else I'm talking about with clients, with the network, with the podcast, it doesn't matter, the newsletter then I just put it on social media too, which... Oh, go ahead.
Andréa Jones: No, I was just saying yes, that's exactly it.
Tara McMullin: So that's a perfect segue into another thing that I really want to get your take on, which is the difference between building an audience and promoting your content or promoting your business. Because I think this is something that people are so confused about. My opinion, my take is that we have come to associate doing social media with promoting your content or promoting your business as opposed to doing anything else that would build an audience. Let's just start there. What's your take on that kind of the difference between those things and where people might be confused?
Andréa Jones: I think the confusion comes from what advertising is anyway. So when we think about advertising, we think about kind of the push of sharing the offers that you have. Social media is different in the sense that it is social based. And I think that's where a lot of us stumble a little bit, is because it's a totally different beast to kind of figure out.
So the difference between promoting yourself and building an audience to me is the difference between shouting about what you have to offer and inviting people into a conversation about it. And that's really the beauty and the power of social media, is that you're no longer limited by your town or your local area, you really can have conversations with anybody. So your earning potential can be maximized, your connection potential can be maximized.
And I think it's a really beautiful thing. But as a business, we were looking at the dollars and cents. And so we go, "I got to talk about this this amount of times, and hopefully people will buy it." And so that kind of line between shouting about it and really inviting conversation is really the question that I'd want to explore as I'm looking at talking about what I do on social media.
Tara McMullin: I'm wondering if we can sort of flesh this out with an example. Can you walk us through how you would approach maybe the month or two leading up to a big sales campaign or a product launch and what the sort of not promotional period looks like and what the promotional period looks like and sort of what's happening where in that whole marketing strategy of which social media is a part?
Andréa Jones: Yes. So to me, there's two pieces to each of those strategies. There's the actual content creation piece and then there's the audience building activities piece. And so pre-launch, or prior to a big campaign, for the content piece, I like to look at the questions people have before they need what my offer is. So what are they thinking about? What are they considering?
So I'll use an example. One of my clients right now is going through this. So she's an executive career coach and she helps people who feel like they've "made it" in their career, but they're still unhappy. So some of their questions aren't necessarily do I need an executive career coach? They haven't thought about that yet perhaps. Some of their questions are I'm working way too much and I'm feeling under appreciated, how do I change this? Or I feel like I'm making more money than I ever have in my life and I'm still unhappy. Why is that? Or maybe I need a different job.
A lot of people in that position go, "I feel like if I just switched my job, that would magically change everything." And really what happens is they get in the same situation in a different job. So it's those questions that we start talking about on social media to really help them understand that those questions are normal, again, empathizing with them, helping them understand why they have those questions.
And then the second piece to that is the actual launch we're talking about, what are the steps they can take to address those thought patterns. So the education is around that process. And typically our clients have a framework so we're working within that framework. So thinking about those steps, thinking about those questions, giving them options, and then presenting the service as one of the options that you can potentially take.
Now, the audience building side as well needs to, especially in that prelaunch section, we spend a lot of time building up people who can listen to this content and participate in it. And we see oftentimes where launches don't go well is the audience building happens when you're trying to actually launch the thing which is really hard to do in tandem with promoting a lot because if someone doesn't understand why they need an executive coach, they come to your page and you're telling them all about your coaching services and they go, "Well, I don't need this because I've already "made it".
So it really needs to start in that pre-launch phase. And that's kind of what we do is if we're doing an ad strategy, we start the ads in that phase. If we're creating the foundational content pieces, we're really making sure that they're out there, they're established, they're optimized in that phase. And then we're doing a lot of networking as well, connecting with these high-level folks.
And for this client, we're using LinkedIn because there are certain job titles that work really well for this. And we're just connecting with them, opening conversations. We're not promoting anything and that's key, this is just a conversation. But we're just starting conversations. And what we're seeing is people feel seen and that I feel seen.
The type of content is so powerful because if someone... I'll use another example of that I feel seen type of content that works really well. One of my clients is a postpartum OB-GYN who helps people and women who are going through that. And one of her posts that did the best was about wearing postpartum underwear for way longer than you should. And there's so many people who are like, "I thought I was the only one."
And so it's like, "I feel seen." And so now you're listening to her conversation about hormones and balance because you feel like she understands you. And so it's that kind of, "I feel seen," type of content that's so important in that pre-launch phase so that people feel connected, they're sharing it with their friends, you're building the community and then from there you can talk about the education and present your offer.
Tara McMullin: If you don't mind, I'd love to stick with this for just a little bit more because I think you're probably blowing some minds right now, and I'm so excited to put this conversation out into the world so that I don't have to say it anymore. But one of the things that I really struggle with in this switch from audience building to promotion is how I'm going to balance what goes on social media and kind of what goes out in that public place where I've been audience building versus what's maybe only going on the podcast and in ads and in email marketing. And I would just love to hear what's your approach to how you balance how much promotion does end up on social media.
Andréa Jones: Yes. So this is actually something that I've noticed shift in the past 12 months and I think it's because a lot of people are spending more time on their devices. I don't have any data to back this up other than anecdotal stories, but I'm hearing a lot of people say that they're spending way more time on social media because normal habits have been shaken upside down.
And so what I'm seeing as well is that promotional type of content in the social media space is not doing quite as well as it used to. Either people are getting burned out on it, or it's just becoming like the TV ads that we fast forward through. And so playing around with the idea of having a next step and not the last step on social media. So for me, for instance, that's my free course.
Instead of talking directly about my products, the Savvy Social School, I invite people, "If you want to learn more about my philosophy on social media, check out the free course." And I think that really is a softer ask. We're seeing higher conversions with the next step versus the last step directly on social and email still remains one of the best places to convert just across the board for almost any business model, is people are just converting through email marketing.
There are some exceptions, e-commerce businesses, for instance, if you sell e-commerce products specifically, something that people can... it's almost like that end cap at stores where you just grab it and you're like the gum or the chocolate, you just grab it and go. If it's in that kind of price range, those things are doing so well just directly through social. So there are some variances.
But as far as what content goes in email versus social, I'm a huge fan of just as many people who can see this, like let's put it everywhere. So my process is I write the emails first and typically my email is newsletter style. So there's like an introduction thought or concept that I talk about, and then there's updates like here's the podcast, here's some YouTube videos, here's a summit I'm speaking in, that sort of thing.
And so that introduction piece about the concept ends up on social media as a post. And then other posts like I talk about my next step a lot, I talk about the podcast, I talk about places I've been featured, all of those things go on social as well. And then I also create that I feel seen type of content on social media. So the type of content where people go, "Oh, I thought I was the only one who thought about this and I'm not." And then I throw in a lot of Instagram stories of my dog because he is amazing.
Tara McMullin: Yes, he is. I can see him, right now. You know dogs, they are the joy of life. And one day-
Andréa Jones: Truly.
Tara McMullin: I will have one and that will be a good day. Unfortunately we do need to start wrapping things up also because I think we have given people a lot to think about and you have blown their minds and I don't want the mess to get too much in there. I want to let them kind of marinate on what they've got. As you are looking toward sort of the next wave, the next phase of social media, what are some of the things that you're thinking about in terms of your decision-making process about where you're showing up, what you're doing and how you're continuing to evolve your strategy?
Andréa Jones: Yes. Social media keeps changing so much that it feels like I'm getting a PhD in social media every single year because there's so much to learn and so much to do. But the next phase that I predict is really quality content, which may take longer to produce. So I encourage my clients to think about producing less content, but it's that kind of content that people want to share.
And I honestly think that is the next step in social media. When I think about something like Clubhouse, for instance, why did it get so much buzz around it? It's because people kept sharing. I had this amazing conversation, you've got to get in here. And if we could have that sort of energy around our business, how can we convince people to go, "I just watched this Instagram reel and I need to share it with everyone I know." Or, "I just read this really thoughtful carousel post, how do I share this with a client?"
And so it's that type of content that I think is going to be pivotal for kind of this next phase of social media. How that will show up, I have no idea. I really hope that Instagram stops producing new things because it's like six apps in one at this point. But I think that as business owners, this is a really unique opportunity for us to evolve with the different platforms and focus instead of saying, "I've got to post every single day, focus on things like, "How do I actually connect with people?" It's a really big question, but I am hoping that in the next 12 months, that's the direction that I want to go in in social media and I hope that's what everyone else wants as well.
Tara McMullin: That's what I want because that's what I'm trying to do too. So that sounds great. I'm personally very chuffed that that's your position on what the next phase of social media is. That makes me feel very good. Andréa, what are you excited about right now?
Andréa Jones: Oh, this is on a personal note, not social media related. I'm really excited for summer. I just got some rollerblades and I'm excited to learn how to fall or roller skate, sorry, the quads. I'm excited to do something outside. It has been 12 years, or 12 years, 12 months that feel like 12 years of being locked in and it's my next pandemic hobby. So I'm excited for that.
Tara McMullin: I am super excited for that too. Were you a rollerblader in the late '90s, no?
Andréa Jones: I mean, when I was a kid we used to go to the rinks and skate around a couple of times a year, but that's as far as it went, so it should be fun.
Tara McMullin: Yeah. I think you're enough younger than me that maybe you missed rollerblading 1.0, but man, was I into it. And I keep threatening to buy a pair of skates too. And Sean actually really wants me to. My fear is more just that if you get me on skates, I'm just never coming home again. So we'll see, we'll see. Maybe we can rollerblade together from a far.
Andréa Jones: Yes, virtual rollerblading. Make it a thing.
Tara McMullin: That is so 2021.
Andréa Jones: Yes, very much so.
Tara McMullin: Andréa, thank you so much for busting some assumptions, disrupting what we think about social media and really giving us an inside look at how you think about social media. I know that's going to be incredibly valuable to our listeners and give people just a really different way of approaching social media and hopefully then creating some real results for their businesses as well. Thank you so much.
Andréa Jones: Thanks for having me on the show. This is always fun.
Tara McMullin: I love that Andréa left us with the prediction that the next "trend" in social media is quality content. It is so easy to get tempted to fill some sort of unspoken quota of posts. Maybe you think you should be posting daily or five times a week or even three times a day, but it's just entirely unnecessary in my experience. In fact, it might even be counterproductive. Creating quality content is exactly the challenge I gave myself at the beginning of this year.
I am thrilled to report that it's been producing the best results I've experienced on social media in a while in terms of building an audience and finding new customers. It's also been creatively satisfying in an entirely new way. But like Andréa said, it takes time. Creating quality content that builds an audience and finds new customers is an investment, but it is so worth it.
Now next week, I'm talking with brand strategist, Felicia Sullivan about how she's built a thriving business through referrals and built an audience on Medium. What Works is produced by Yellow House Media. Our production coordinator is Lou Blazer. Our production assistant is Emily Kilduff and this episode was edited by Marty Seefeldt. Find over 300 more episodes of What Works at explorewhatworks.com.
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