Our "How-To" Summer: Building Trust with Free Content

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Though summer seems a distant past by now, we’ve been reflecting on and reacting to decisions made in late 2016 that guided us right into a whole season of video creation and distribution. We call it our “How To Summer”.

If you’ve been following JFM blog posts, you know we dove into the wild world of video instruction this year, creating a series of social media classes for small business owners. In the first series we focused on Facebook, the granddaddy of all social media platforms, and a big, big deal if you’re a small business owner 'What to do next?' was an obvious question.

Online marketing guru Gary Vaynerchuk talks about the need for ‘every company to be a media company today’. With that mindset, we decided that using our newly developed video skills to create new content seemed like the most natural next step.

Throughout the spring, we got requests to answer a bunch of nagging questions about using Facebook. You know, those little gaps of knowledge that get in the way of posting, creating good content, placing ads, or otherwise accomplishing what you need to accomplish on the Facebook Business page. Class attendees shared over and over that some of those little glitches were super annoying, took WAY too much time, and were just not that easy to figure out.

Their questions became the basis for Facebook How-To’s - a series of quick 2-3 minute videos addressing the small but frustrating Facebook problems that plague Business Page owners every day. To develop our brand, and grow our audience, we decided to send out the How-To Videos for free. Free content IS the preferred currency of the internet, giving online viewers a chance to try before they buy. One of our favorite online teachers and authors, Melyssa Griffin says, ”Freebies will build your audience. While not suggesting you give away things of no value, almost ‘anything’ for free will get people excited and drive traffic to your site.”

From June through early September, we sent one "How-To Facebook" video per week to a dedicated email list, with the goal of establishing credibility and to become more known to an audience we had previously offered classes to. To our surprise, nearly 1000 people opened those emails each week, and an average of 90+ people clicked thru to each video.

Providing all this helpful content for free does a few things:

  • Build awareness - people don’t know you until they have a chance to see your content and begin to associate it with your brand
  • Develop trust - offering something of value at no cost creates a positive bond in the mind of the consumer
  • Develop credibility - become a known and reliable go-to resource for valuable content help in the future
  • Increase brand recognition - your branded presence makes you stand out from the crowd

Creating the 'How To' videos, along with offering online courses, more than doubled JFields Marketing website traffic in 2017 over 2016. By sharing this good information, we have begun to build a following in our niche. Your niche might be floral shops, financial planning, leadership development - whatever your expertise, find a way to begin sharing that knowledge and give it away.

Here are a few ways to begin building your reputation as a 'media company'.

Writing a blog has the lowest barrier to entry when it comes to online content creation. Even if you don’t have a website, you can set up a Wordpress.com, Tumblr, Blogger or any one of a dozen free blog platforms available to give you a place to share helpful content. Once you’ve got a blog, create a content calendar to guide your writing. A simple keyword search in your industry or field will tell you what search terms are most popular. Or you can use customer driven content like we did - answering questions from customers that came to us through natural channels of interactions.

With the rise of mobile marketing, video has become the content of choice by on-the-go consumers. According to research by Hubspot, 90% of customers report that video helps them make purchasing decisions. We used iPhones and Macbook, recording with QuickTime, and making edits with ScreenFlow 2 for the "How To" videos.

You might want to consider a podcast. While not for everyone, podcasts have the potential to help build a significant fan base, especially with niche topics. Like most online marketing today, barriers to entry are pretty low - a good quality microphone, your computer and audio editing software will do the trick. Apart from the physical tools, you’ll need a good topic and scripting to share information or interview another expert. Most podcast experts advise creating 10 episodes as a starting point, and be sure to publish widely on social media sites to gain recognition.

Finally, infographics can be another free tool to share great information in a visual format. If you don’t have a graphic designer to create the infographic, check out this article on free software available to help you put your best stats and industry information into this easy to consume form of content. We love Canva for free, but also have found success with Venngage, which has a premium version for unlimited use.

However you engage in content creation, be sure to share it with the world. Our experience with publishing "How-To" videos has us jazzed to keep going. We’ll share the journey with you as go, and hope you'll share yours with us as well. Good luck with getting your FREE content going.

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