The below post is a summary of an interview I did with @Nik_Parks, Co-Founder of Launching Creative, on my podcast, Building in Public. In the interview we talk content marketing, podcasting, networking on social media, self-publishing, and I even ask him a few customer development questions. Highlights below. To listen to the complete interview, check out the podcast here.
Networking, Attracting an Audience, and Providing Value Through Content
Mike: What was your goal when you started the blog and podcast — did it have to be a business or just a fun project?
Nik: Yeah, I guess a little bit of both, cause I think I’m very entrepreneurial in that way, just the way I think, it’s just always, you know obviously I want to have fun with it but at the same time it’s like “how could I make money from doing this, how can I turn this into some kind of asset” you know. So that was the plan, we also kind of agreed to go into it at least for the first year to not even try to monetize it, just focus on building the following or audience and just kind of connecting to people. We just realized that the podcasting world, it’s getting bigger and bigger, more people are doing it but I realized that it’s a pretty small world and all these people were friends like they all knew each other like, Pat Flynn, Johnny Dumas, they all know each other personally so that was another reason like “oh man, that would be so cool to kind of to get know these guys or actually building relationships with them”.
Podcasting as a New Frontier and Scaling Content Marketing
Nik: I wish I could remember the numbers, I used to have them memorized, but long story short there are significantly more blogs out there then there are podcasts and so it’s kind of a new, I mean it’s not that new cause it’s been around for like 10 years but it’s a newer way of just reaching out to an audience. There are people who consume podcasts who don’t consume blogs or people who consume videos, who don’t consume podcast or blogs and that was one of the things learned just from listening to all these other people was like you can re-purpose your content and find new avenues to put it out there it’s a really good thing. So blog posts can actually come from the podcast interview like if someone says something that would stand out, you can explore that and write about it and we’re also really eyeing youtube videos at this point. That’s our other big goal for year two so we want to take our blog post and podcasts and kind of repurpose it into videos.
Mike: Absolutely, yeah. I love the idea of re-purposing content to all these different mediums. The podcasting market, I definitely agree with you that I think it’s like super exciting, I think it’s definitely underused like you’re saying, a lot of people have blogs and not many have podcast yet and I think that the podcast seems like a super engaging channel. For one, it’s on mobile phone and people use their phone when they’re away from their computer and the fact that they’re very engaged with their mobile phone, like when commuting, or I listen to podcast like before I go to bed. It’s not when I’m on my laptop focusing on emails and working you know all these sorts of things.
Nik: Yeah that’s kind of how it started for me because I was working here in New York City and you know I live in Astoria and I was working here at Wall Street so in rush hour that’s an hour, one way. So it’s a two hour commute every day, and then when you’re going in rush hour on the subway like there are no seats or anything, so even reading a book is difficult cause you’re like holding onto the rail with one hand and the other holding this book, it’s an awkward hand and when you turn the pages, it’s awkward, you can’t.
It was like “oh this is a podcast, it’s like a radio”. You know my dad always listens to the talk radio when I was a kid then I would ride on the truck with him and it goes like that, you know you can put it on your phone and listen to it on demand and I just got hooked you know because one podcaster would lead to another or let’s say they interview another podcaster, then I would check out their show and they did interview with another podcaster and I check out their show, so it’s kind of like this, I guess like an explosion of content, which was really cool.
Nik: I’ve learned a lot podcasting. It’s funny because I just learned a lot just with my personal life as well, I learned that I was not as good of a communicator as I thought, I would get frustrated with my wife because she wouldn’t understand what I was trying to say like I explain something and I don’t know how to be any more clear of what I’m trying to say and I kind of realize no it’s not her, it’s me. I’m not communicating very well.
Mike: Blogging helped me with my written communication certainly but also with my verbal communication. Actually one of my main reasons for podcasting was to improve my verbal communication skills.
Podcast Marketing Strategies
Mike: In terms of podcasting, what are your main strategies for accomplishing your goals? What do you think will drive your success as a podcaster?
Nik: The idea behind watching creative kind of like I was saying before is just helping creative professions. Our tag line that we have is “helping creatives discover how to become business savvy create professionals” and so that’s really our market because we want to help people learn how to price themselves or find clients, or market themselves or leverage social media and all these things. I really admire Pat Flynn and John Lee Dumas. Pat Flynn is such a generous guy and he just gives away so much for free and he will just kind of mention “oh this is a product and I do have an affiliate partnership with them and if you’re going to use my affiliate link, instead of their link, I’ll just get a commission, it’s no extra cost to you.” And I would find myself actually going out of my way to buy through him. I watched Pat’s videos or read his stuff and he’s giving away so much for free and I feel like I know him, I just kind of give it back a little and I realized that a lot of people do that for Pat and John. And those guys are just killing it too. I mean Pat, if you look at his income report, he makes like 75 or 80 or $90,000 a month, and Johnny Dumas is making like $100,000 a month, or maybe more that which you know not a lot of entrepreneurs achieve something like that but it’s just, it’s unreal and it’s very inspiring to see how much they’ve achieved just by being very generous and informative and helpful. So that’s kind of one goal — just really brand ourselves as people who really want to help.
Expertise and Experience Required?
Nik: We could stand back and wait towards the experts quote and quote, then we could have dwelled in 15 years of experience in advertising in New York City or whatever. But we could also just share along the way because that’s pretty cool too and you see a lot in blogs and podcasts, people who are just kind of sharing as they experiment, this is what worked, this is how we failed, so we don’t want to do this, that’s a fun teaching style as well. So that’s the kind of what we’re going to do as well because we don’t claim to know everything by any means, but yeah we just kind of brand ourselves in that way and be helpful. I would love to just be that guy who experiments with the new tools which I’ve not used before. Gary Vaynerchuck – he started recording how he is always experimenting with the new app, he’s experimenting with Snapchat before everyone was really doing it, he was on Medium before everyone was blogging on Medium.
Mike: You’re trying to build your brand and be someone that’s helpful and provides value to your audience, and build your brand as you go through a journey and provide transparency through the journey, building your business.
Finding Your Niche and Developing Content People Love
Mike: So in the first category of being helpful, how do you develop your content — how do you figure out what to talk about in your podcast or blog about or put in your book or whatever else?
Nik: Yeah, at first it was just kind of things that I struggled with, or things that David struggled with. A big one for me when I was just out of college, I moved to New York City a month after I graduated college, I’m from Arkansas originally and I didn’t know anyone and it was hard to find a job, and it’s still pretty hard to find a job, but more and more companies, especially if it’s a creative field, are starting to outsource to freelancers. So a lot of creative have kind of been forced even if they never intended to be. And so I would kind of reach out to other graphic designers and say “this guy needs an e-newsletter and it’s a tight deadline, I have no idea how much to charge, what should I say” and I’d get just kind of these really fluffy fill soft answers, like “I’m not going to give a number, say whatever feels right, just don’t sell yourself short,” but I wanted kind of a bottom line, this is what I’m worth, here’s kind of the strategy so that’s how we started and we started doing research like what are some strategies to find your hourly rate and keep it competitive and have all the numbers behind it cause when the client ask “why is it that much?”, you can just put everything out there and say “this is why I cost this much”
Mike: Yes, you’re kind of solving the problems that you have or you’re sort of writing the podcast that you wish you had when you’re getting started, it sounds like right?
Nik: Yeah, that’s exactly right, just kind of the answers that I was looking for and couldn’t find. I mean I was searching on Google and I didn’t really find any blogs or anything. I’ve been able to find a lot of blogs that help with the creativity, but I couldn’t find anything that really focused on business aspect. Then if I found a business blog it wasn’t catered towards creative at all. And now we’re at the point where we’re asking our audience what they need help with and they actually respond.
Mike: Yeah, it makes a lot of sense, it’s like treating piece of content like a product or business — how to meet people’s needs and not just be more noise.
Mike: You’ve mentioned your goals earlier like building a brand. what have you done, what do you use to make sure you’re developing that awesome content that you talked about before and make sure that you are building your brand? What do you use — either strategies or are there products or services that you use?
Nik: I’m actually a pretty big analytics geek, I really enjoy it and so I really enjoy seeing what people come in to Launching Creative and Twitter is a huge element, I love Twitter. The people who follow me on Twitter — I want to know what they’re into, what topics do they care about. Actually marketing, entrepreneurship and leadership, those are the big topics as far as people who follow me on Twitter. So I kind of look at the leaders in that — and Mike Stelsner is a big marketer, big social media marketer. Chris is a big leader and he’s a leader who builds leaders. And with entrepreneurship, obviously entrepreneur on fire is a big podcast with entrepreneurs, so I kind of look at other people and just see what they’re doing, I love to see what the big guys do and study them and see their methods and just emulate that.
Mike: Yeah, two interesting strategies there, you say you’ll look at what your followers on Twitter are interested in, and that way you can see what they like and who they’re following, then you can bring those people on the show and you can deliver value, is that what you’re saying?
Nik: Yeah, and with Twitter I’m always making sure to follow people who have relevant interest and it’s funny because we try to niche down but it might be a little of a broad niche, so it’s for creative professionals which can be broad because that can be writers or video editors or designer or photographers, so it’s kind of a broad niche, I guess. So I’ll just go in to focus on one aspect of that, so maybe it’s like writers, I need to really reach out to writers and so I kind of look at or just google search big copywriting blogs or big blogs for aspiring authors or something like that and just check out who they’re following on Twitter and just kind of engaged with people whose bios say something relevant. I can look through their lists and just kind of look for some keywords, like okay he’s an author and just kind of send out a quick tweet and I try to keep conversational.
Ted Ruben who’s a big marketer, who’s actually on our show, whenever he’s reaching out to people, he uses their name every single time and he just looks at where they’re located maybe they’re in San Francisco and maybe something just happened in San Francisco or maybe they just got, or their weather is always gorgeous but you know something just like conversational like “oh yeah I heard you had a gorgeous week of weather over in San Francisco”, such idea things like that
Mike: So you look at what the big names are doing, but did you say that you take your followers see what they’re following? You figure out what your followers are interested in?
Nik: Yeah, I’ll do that as well. You know it’s usually just what they do for a living, so if they’re a web developer chances are they’ll follow a lot of web developers on Twitter and I guess we’re kind of lucky because in a lot of ways these people are pretty tech savvy. Web designers always use the computer all day so, it kind of make sense to be on social media. He’s going to show his work, share it on social media and on his portfolio site, so a lot of ways I think we’re kind of lucky to have a niche that’s really out there.
Prospecting and Networking on Twitter
Nik: Prior to the conference, I really did my homework. I found all their blogs, followed them on Twitter, LinkedIn, Google Plus, Twitter list, organized my circle on Google Plus. These guys were all social media savvy but I was reaching out to the ones who were very present in podcasting because I thought they would be more likely to say “yes.” Once I got them to say yes then I would kind of reach out to the other people and say “oh did you want to go on the show? Because we have so and so and so and so and so” thinking if they see these names they would say “oh they’re Launching Creative” that would be worth my time then cause they have some other people who provide a lot of value. A large portion of it came from that conference and I was able to build some really cool friendships as well.
Mike: That’s a really good networking strategy there, doing your homework.
Building Relationships on Social Media with Analytics
Mike: That’s super interesting, do you use like you said any tools on that or do you just go on the Twitter profile and browse their followers or their Linkedin page? is this manual or are there any like tools you use for that?
Nik: A lot of it is manual. The joke I use is, something can be done in three steps, I find a way to do it in five steps, which is not good, not a good habit. I have been using Twitter analytics recently which is incredible and something I think they rolled out fairly recently. That is really cool because you can see how many people saw your tweet, how many people engaged with it and they kind of divide that number in the end to get the engagement rate and you can see who is following you kind of like I’ve mentioned before, what interest they hold. analytics.Twitter.com, it’s incredible.
Mike: And so it make sense from there you say “oh a lot of people are interested in web development let me get the web development expert on the show.” It’s interesting, really interesting.
Nik: Yeah, it’s kind of a win-win-win because for us it brings legitimacy to our brand because we’re getting an expert in that field to be on our show. The guest is winning because they’re getting more exposure, so maybe people listen to them once you create the podcast or the blog, who are unfamiliar with them, so they’re getting potential new followers, new fans and new customers and then the listeners are winning because their getting value, that’s what we strive for.
Mike: What else do you do, you said you’re really down with analytics — anything else you use for social media analytics?
Nik: We use Google Analytics, which is a lot of fun because you can see people who link to your blog who might not tweet at you or mention you at google plus or anything like that. So that’s kind of fun just to kind of reach back out and say “thanks for the link or thanks for looking to my blog” and kind of building relationship from there.
Facebook vs Twitter for Marketing
Nik: I know Facebook has good analytics but I am actually not really using Facebook which is something I can talk about it if you want, it’s interesting because first of all I think our audience is just really isn’t there
Mike: Yeah, I’m not a big Facebook marketer either.
Nik: Yeah I just don’t like Facebook. The thing is people are there, but a lot of our audience is millenials like myself really just aren’t on Facebook anymore.
Mike: Yeah, that’s a crazy trend. Definitely I think something to keep an eye on and even for me personally, I joined Twitter probably 2010 around there, joined Facebook certainly a lot longer like 2005. But my interest in Facebook had just gone down slowly since the beginning, and my interest in Twitter has just gone up. I swear I like Twitter more and more, the longer I’m on it and it just gets better and better.
Nik: Yeah, I totally agree with you.
Nik: I think that was the first time I said about Twitter when I tried it out, I was like “why would anyone” it’s like Facebook status with nothing else, like what’s the point in Twitter?
Mike: Totally I was the same way, I was like “I don’t want to write or talk about cats and stuff” and you know that’s not just the case at all and from a marketing sense, I guess it was always been another marketing channel, but now I’ve gotten more serious about it and there are so many powerful things you can do to market on Twitter, the kind of engagement you can get, targeting it can do, it’s pretty wild.
Nik: It’s really cool. It has made all the difference in the world for Launcing Creative. Something that is also really cool, that I think there’s a lot of potential, but I’m just not very good at it, is Instagram. And I think it’s because I just can’t take photos, I’m just not gifted in that area but there are people who are doing it, and they’re just like “killin’ it” on Instagram.
Mike: It’s almost like podcasting – Instagram is an under-used marketing channel. It’s also a mobile channel.
so going back to analytics do you feel any gap in the analytics right now? is there any data that you want that you know how to get or any data that’s hard to get or anything like that?
Nik: That’s a really good question. Not really, I think it might be kind of the opposite – I’m always amazed of what I am able to find through the data.
Customer Development Questions: Podcasting Pain Points
Mike: What would you say has been the biggest challenge with podcasting? or maybe two or three challenges that have surfaced in getting started and growing your podcast?
Nik: Yeah that’s a good question. Well the first challenge was just doing it because it really, really terrified me, I was really scared I’d never really interviewed anyone before and we kind of reach out to some of the bigger people we knew and I was pleasantly surprised but very shocked that people were saying yes to being on our show. But I really didn’t know how to interview or how to direct a conversation or anything. And when you’re talking to someone who really has done it as an entrepreneur and they’ve just attained so much success, it can be intimidating but I just learned that so many of them are so generous and that’s why they are where they are today. But yeah just kind of starting from square one, it was a big struggle.
Another one can be working with someone’s schedule can be challenging at times, especially when you’re reaching out to people like on the west coast or in UK or something like that — scheduling interviews, doing the time change. We’ve had quite a few guests from Australia as well, and that has been a challenge.
Mike: Was it ever hard to figure out who to interview or was it more the reaching out process?
Nik: Yeah, I guess that hasn’t been too hard. This is actually a really cool story. So I had a full time job and I actually got fired from my job and partly because they found out about Launching Creative — I was building it on the side. It was a pretty brutal experience and. During this time, actually the day I got fired, was the day we recorded John Lee Dumas — episode 1 of our podcast. So that was an interesting day to say the least but shortly after this happened, I was unemployed. Thankfully I had some savings and my wife and I had emergency funds so we’re okay for a while, for a few months. So anyway I had some time on my hands and I was going to start reaching out to people, I was trying to figure out well don’t want to pursue this full time because it takes longer than planned to start a business, always, it always takes longer. Where should I start, I guess I would be applying for jobs, freelancing obviously in case I didn’t get one of those because it’s kind of difficult to find a job, that takes time too. So if I kind of back up a little bit shortly before getting fired, David saw this thing on Twitter through a social media examiner, and they had a contest saying basically “we’re having our biggest conference in the social media marketing world and we’re giving away free ticket”. It’s a raffle basically.
So all you have to do is just tweet this line and it was something like “I would love a chance to win a free ticket.” And if you tweet it, you’re entered into the raffle and you could tweet up to twice a day for a like a month or something like that. So I tweeted it, I think once, and forgot about it. I tweeted it saying “oh yeah wouldn’t that be cool” like obviously it wasn’t going to happen.
So if I go back to after being fired I got a tweet from them and then they were saying “congratulations to Nik Parks, he’s the winner of the social media marketing world contest, and you won a free ticket” and I was flattered like I thought “this is a hoax or something” so when I looked up the person who tweeted that to me, I realized “oh my gosh” every podcaster I’ve been targeting follows this guy, this is the real deal. So I had to go to San Diego, it was amazing, really a huge portion of our guests come from that conference.
Mike: Has anything else has been challenging, even technology wise — like anything technical?
Nik: You know we’ve had a few glitches, but most parts have been really good. With podcasting you interview through skype and there’s just this $30 plugin called Skype recorder or something like that and that’s how we record the other end of the audio, obviously we have a mic, so that my end will sound good. What’s cool about when you’re interviewing podcasters is that a lot of them will have a professional mic as well. Other than that, I meant there’s just been a few times where the internet was out or maybe there was a storm, there was a lot of lag and every once in a while there might be construction or something like that. I think we’ve had one interview where we could hear construction workers hammering outside.
Mike: Can you think of anything that would make your experience as a podcaster better? Is there some unment need you have, something that’ll help you resolve a problem, or help you do your job that doesn’t exist yet? Or that you aren’t aware of?
Nik: That’s a good question too. This one might be a little bit more silly but I really want one of those cool boom stand podcast mics, I see the other guys do it and they’re like a radio star, I don’t have that.
One of the things that I am learning and then I want to get better at is actually just giving a call action through audio, you know so there’s some really cool things you can do with that, one of the things that we’ve done you can use that as “click to tweet” have you used click to tweet switch?
Nik: You can actually build one of those and then you can create your own URL and so in the podcast you can just announce it like “hey if you want people to learn about the and you like what you heard” it’s just kind of like you could use your site launchingcreative.com/sharethelove or whatever and when they type that in it’ll just be that tweet.
Mike: Yeah I heard of that also as a webinar marketing strategy – like “hey if you’re here let me know by going to this link” and then people will tweet and will get more followers. What do you use for your link creation, do you use Pretty Link to create your short urls?
Nik: You know I actually do it manually through Blue Host, it’s our hosting company and I think maybe that kind of go back to doing it in five steps instead of three. Having a background in web design, Maybe I’m just comfortable doing it that way. So I kind of do it that way and do redirects. I also like Bit.ly links. It’s getting harder and harder to find cool bit links, cause you know everything is like taken out, it’s kind of a domain name. And you can’t tell people like “oh you know q capital T 3” an no ones going to remember this huge well it’s not huge it’s short but this brand new characters but if it’s a link at bit link that’s great if you’re just clicking on it.
Mike: Do you feel like there’s anything else that takes more steps than it should?
Nik: You know one that I’m getting into that I just started recently doing is visual tweets and Canvass is really cool because they have really great templates and they give you the proportions because Twitter changed recently to where you don’t have to click to see the image, it’s just there
Nik: Yeah, so you still have to click to see it and really thing is it sounds silly saying like “oh one click how long is that going to take” but as soon as you click I mean it really adds time and Canva has this templates, even if you don’t want to work with the templates you can get the proportion towards the perfect size and the whole thing is in there in Twitter timeline and the user doesn’t have to click on it to see the whole image and Donna was saying, “basically a tweet that has a visual like is 94% more likely to get retweeted” which makes sense because when we’re just kind of like going through your newsfeed it’s just like “ah information overload” Oh, it’s a pretty picture and then you click on it. So I’ve been doing that and it has made a huge difference I’ve seen our impressions go up but at the same time, you can’t really schedule something like that, so you know everyone does it cause there are people getting scheduling tweets but if this is just like sharing blog posts or podcast episodes you can just schedule those out in like Hootsuite or something but if it’s an image it’s not going to be native in Twitter and it’s very possible that there’s a tool that I just don’t know about because what I see happening is that it’ll be posted on this third party server in Hootsuite or Buffer or something and then someone has to click on the link to see the image which kind of defeats the whole purpose
Mike: Yeah I wonder if Buffer or Hootsuite will be able to solve that problem.
Nik: Yeah because I know Facebook change where you can actually schedule posts natively, so you could just click the image and it’s up on their server and schedule it like for the next Tuesday at noon but Twitter has not done that, and I don’t know why.
How to Write a Book
Mike: So we talked about it like content developed area, transitioning content to different mediums how are you writing the book now, how’s the writing process going?
Nik: Yeah so it’s kind of like that cheesy joke, it’s like it’s all up here you know and I’m like pointing at my head. David and I just kind of have this skeleton that we’ve kind of created and we have just plans of things on Evernote, so we’ve kind of have a very, very rough draft as far as what the book will be and so I think at this point it’s kind of taking topic or what would be a chapter and really I guess just cracking down and writing it. Because we don’t just like to say “oh we just put our blog posts together which you could read free and now we’re going to sell it to you.” We really like to dive deeper and I think that the way the we speak changes. A blog is very informal and a book is just more formal, I still want it to be my brand so I like my writing to be me but I just wanted it to be like a level deeper because even when I’m reading, you know when I’m reading a blog I just skimp but when I read a book it’s like I actually just like really consume it.
Mike: It’s an activity, yeah.
Self-Publishing vs Publishing
Mike: Interesting, are you going to self-publish or publish?
Nik: Yeah, we’re still trying to figure that out, we love to be published just because to be a traditional published author that’s just a big goal for me plus a big goal for David as well but it also really depends what your goals are, if your goal is to make profit, self-publishing kind of make sense in this day and age especially when you’re a content creator and you already have an audience because you can just kind of make it yourself and sell to but I think my goals are more along the lines of being a speaker, someone who gets talks, someone who, I don’t want to say
“thought leader” but you know just someone who kind of knows stuffs about this niche and I think being a traditional published author is a better route for those goals but I don’t even know where to begin as far as that, so we have lots of homework to do.
Mike: So the book will be kind of a marketing channel for everything else?
NIk: Yeah it would.
Finding Time to Write
Mike: Are you finding it tough to sit down and write or are you kind of figuring it out?
Nik: It’s very difficult because what’s tricky is as a blogger or podcaster it’s like how much time do I devote to creating content and how much do I devote to marketing content, and I’ve heard people say that 20% should go to creating your content, and 80% goes to marketing it which sounds crazy but it also makes sense because earlier we were saying it’s a bit about signal vs noise — there’s just noise everywhere, writing good content really isn’t enough anymore cause people won’t find it, you really have to market it. It’s definitely tempting, it’s hard to sit there and unplug and think, so I’m going to create this very long form piece of content and it’s kind of like you get that instant gratification if you just go on Twitter or Google Plus instead.
Listen to this interview and more on The Building in Public Podcast .