Back in November last year, we ran a crowd funding campaign to bring back Inside The Mind for a second season.
Even though we didn’t reach our overall campaign goals, we learned two very important things:
1. Unexpected success
Our campaign converted at 5.6%. Our goal initially was to raise $100,000 and even though we didn’t reach that, what we did learn was that the people who were watching were very happy to support the show.
When we looked at the sponsors list, we saw many names that we recognized, but there were also quite a few we didn’t. This let us know that we had broken beyond our initial reach with the show, and people who we’ve never interacted with on a one-to-one basis believed in what we were trying to do.
2. Expanding our reach
When we looked at the conversion rate for that campaign, compared to the overall traffic numbers, it started to look a lot like a basic algebra equation.
The “X” that we had to solve the equation for in this case represented broader reach.
The primary way to expand reach, I believe, is through content.
One of the things that I’ve seen work very well for others in expanding their own reach is to conduct killer interviews, so I decided to give this a try.
My concept, The Mindfire Chats, is a way to conduct multiple interviews at the same time. Here’s an example.
Our panelists come from a variety of backgrounds, yet discuss a subject that shares a core principle with online marketing. This is very intentional as I want to dig into deeper truths about online marketing principles but without the industry bias, jargon, mechanics, or politics.
My brand mission is to bring the concepts of online marketing into the mainstream. Inside The Mind does this by fusing internet-generation humor with top level online marketing advice.
And The Mindfire Chats follow on well from this—it takes that ethos a step further by taking a deeper thinking approach on core principles.
Getting inspiration for the idea
One of the things I realized about half-way through filming the first season of Inside The Mind”was that at the core of all of this, I am an artist.
Yes, I’m an online marketing strategist, but I’m also an animator, composer, on-air personality, writer, video editor, comedian, PR person, and so on.
Because Inside The Mind itself was an experiment (and one I was terrified to try at first), and it went well, I think that gave me a freedom that many bloggers in the online marketing space don’t feel.
I don’t believe my core audience follows me necessarily because of “what I know” and what I share. Rather, they watch because they want to see what I do next to push the bounds of what content is and what it means to be in this space.
That being said, I make a point to interact with most anyone who’s on my email list, so I’ve learned a great deal about who they are, and what they want.
Part of what made me think this content approach would work was that it follows a similar blueprint to what’s proven to work, but it’s different enough to make it unique to me and my brand.
Setting content goals
I have a few goals for The Mindfire Chats. Firstly, I want this content to dig into the core concepts of online marketing from as many different angles as possible.
On our second chat, we had Brian Clark of Copyblogger discuss storytelling with Emmy Award-winning documentarian, Doug Pray, and John Jacobsen, a very well known script doctor who hosts his own show with over 30 million viewers.
Really, no matter what any of these guys say on the subject, it’s not going to be wrong. How could it be, if they’ve achieved what so very few others have?
What makes it interesting though, is when their field experiences start to differ, and tell a different story. It’s even more fascinating when the panelists start asking each other questions about each other’s experiences and you can tell they’re learning from each other.
It shows our audience that even when you’ve “made it,” you’re never done learning. To be able to facilitate the kinds of connections that could potentially push the space forward in a more positive direction is very fulfilling.
Of course, from a purely selfish standpoint, my goal is to cause a ruckus, build a viewership, and get more people turned on to my brand.
We’re also using the chats as an entry point for sponsorship relations for both The Mindfire Chats and Inside The Mind.
I can’t take all the credit for getting this content idea off the ground. My producer Nate Wright of Small Biz Triage is the other half of this, and he’s really the one responsible for the organization of it all.
Because I’ve been active in the online marketing space for the past few years, I’ve built a pretty solid professional network. So basically, setting up the chats was really just a matter of sending out some emails.
In truth, though, getting to the position where that was possible has meant guest blogging like a professional over the years and making a good enough impression with people to the point that they at least know my name (which is important for standing out in the inbox).
When Nate approached me about getting this concept off the ground, we basically compared our rolodexes and started mashing up the panelists.
After sending out the first couple emails saying, “Hey, you interested?” Nate works out the schedule, and gets our panelists all savvy with the Google+ Hangouts. Meanwhile, I’m researching the panelists and coming up with the questions.
That way, when it’s show time, I’m not being pulled in a million different directions, and everyone gets to look as professional as possible.
The technology that we use to produce this content is pretty simple:
- broadband connection
- Google+ hangouts on air (with the Hangout toolbox plugin)
- Gimp 2.0 for the lower thirds.
Right now I’m using the onboard webcam and the built-in microphone on my Mac for the chats—you can get by with what you have.
I imagine as our sponsorship revenue grows, we’ll invest in better versions of everything, so we can have a consistently high level of broadcast quality, but for the time being, it’s not necessary.
Everything I’m using right now is either built into my computer, or is free, open source software. At most, I might consider using my external webcam, but even that costs less than $100.
It doesn’t have to be expensive to create compelling content.
Getting the word out
When you come up with a new content idea like this, you want to get the word out to as many people as possible.
Right now, in these early stages, my promotion strategy is pretty low-key. I email the list, update the Facebook pages, Twitter, and Google+, and I send a few emails to a few key influencers I know who may be interested.
I tried doing a blitz to some of the bigger online news outlets like Mashable, TNW, RWW, and so on, but I didn’t hear anything back. So instead of trying to do that a million times over, I’d much rather keep a low profile and let this grow more organically.
That said, since I’ve shifted my focus more towards The Mindfire Chats and Inside The Mind, as I work on the guest posting portion of my outreach strategy, I’m asking host blogs permission to embed the relevant content within my posts—but even that is permission-based.
I do what I do because I love making things click for the people who interact with my stuff, not necessarily because I’m looking for manufactured fame. While the goal for the chats is to extend my brand’s reach, I would much rather that be a natural by-product of the content we’re creating than by an aggressive “hey, look at me” strategy.
Sharing the love
When bloggers develop new content ideas, they’re often tempted to keep the content on their blogs, and not to let others use it. But as I said, I’m asking other blogs I guest post on to let me embed a selected chat in the post on their blog.
I think the question of whether you share your content—as in my case, allowing it to be embedded on other sites—has a lot to do with the type of content that’s being published.
I talk about this in the content development episode of Inside The Mind where there are basically four types of content:
- viral: content meant to be spread and shared
- discussion: content that drives comments
- lead: content that gets people to subscribe or fill out a lead generation form
- sales: like lead content, but drives people to a purchase over everything else.
That said, both Inside The Mind and The Mindfire Chats are meant to be shared and start discussions. At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter to me where that discussion is going on, as long as it’s happening.
As we saw a moment ago, I have some very specific goals for the video content, and part of that is for it to be shared, so making it easy to decouple The Mindfire Chats from my blog was very intentional.
My thought on the video content is that it’s very difficult to fake being me. My face, my energy—everything about what I do in the videos really … well, it would be really hard for someone else to try and pass that off as their own. On that same note if I point to a URL in the video, it’s much harder to replace that text on the screen, or change the annotations that link to the other videos on my Youtube channel.
So I really don’t mind if someone tries to embed the chats elsewhere—ultimately Youtube gives me more credit for simply having the content embedded.
Of course, if someone were to rip off my lead content, I would be furious. However, by design, my lead content is put in the “less sexy” parts of my website, and takes a little work to get to. I trust that people who want to work with me privately are able to navigate a website if they’re really interested in taking our relationship to the next level.
As a writer online, I believe it’s nearly impossible to avoid someone else stealing, remixing and taking credit for your work. It’s sad, but it’s also a losing battle to try and fight.
On the other hand, as I’ve started to mature as a writer, I’m learning how to allow a real vulnerability into my work and give it it’s own unique voice.
My goal now with the writing that falls into the “viral” and “discussion” categories is to be so good that people want to rip it off.
Quite honestly, when I saw my work get scraped for the first time, I felt a sense of accomplishment that what I was saying was powerful enough that someone else tried to take credit for it.
Now I just make sure I have a strong interlinking strategy so that in case that does happen, I get those links from external websites.
The progress so far
So far, we are meeting our goals with The Mindfire Chats.
We’ve already engaged a potential sponsor, and by the time this post is published, we’ll probably be well on our way with them.
Our second episode is already scheduled to be embedded on some pretty high-profile blogs, and we’ve gotten extremely positive feedback from the people who’ve attended the live sessions.
It’s still all fairly new right now, but it looks like we’re headed in a positive direction that will let us take everything to the next level.
For now, I’m just keeping my fingers crossed, focusing on the next panelists, and asking questions that unearth truly valuable insight.
That’s the secret to creating truly great content—in any format.