My friend. The world of online business is not so very different from being a spy. So today, my friend Angela Brown and I have some spy lessons for you that we’ll tie into Angela’s areas of expertise, social media and online content, as well as mine, blogging and online content.
The inspiration for this post comes from my extensive experience in spycraft—watching shows and movies such as Alias, Mission Impossible, James Bond, The Blacklist, etc. And what have I learned in all my years of experience?
Spy Lesson #1: Establish a solid headquarters.
Spy Lesson #2: Create and maintain some secure outposts.
Spy Lesson #3: Always have more than one safe house.
And as you can clearly see, this is just like having an online business.
You need an online headquarters for your content.
A place where you can do your coolest, most meaningful stuff.
Then you need some secure outposts.
These are your non-headquarters locations to do cool stuff from.
And then you need some safe houses.
A safe house = surprise coolness that no one but you knows about until you need it.
Today I want to help you figure out where you should set up your headquarters (because it’s not always necessarily a blog), and in an upcoming post, I want to help you discover which outposts might be a good fit, and what the heck you should be keeping at your safe houses.
Intense right? Well you can thank my program Publish Your Thing (PYT) for all this intensity. I’ve been in content creation mode for a while now, and I just had to share this spy analogy and create some worksheets to help. Let’s do it.
Spy/Business Lesson #1: Establish a solid headquarters.
In spycraft, headquarters is the place everyone goes to figure out what’s going on, to get new assignments, to converse with coworkers, and to center themselves. In online business, your headquarters is the place your audience can figure out what’s going on, get new content + products, and possibly even converse with or meet others.
From your headquarters comes your best work, your true brand identity, and paths to your products (whether physical, digital, or service-based).
So which platforms make for great headquarters?
From what I’ve seen and done, I’d suggest that the following are epic platforms to consider:
- A blog
- Your email list
- YouTube (or other video services)
- A podcast
- Periscope (or other live streaming services)
- Online workshops (webinars, bootcamps, live trainings, etc.)
Since I haven’t podcasted extensively enough (though I’ve loved the experience of the episodes I’ve done), I can’t authentically develop a checklist to help you decide if it’s right for you. But the other platforms listed above definitely feel more like home to me, and I want to explore them further with you.
To me, the important thing is not to let someone tell you exactly which platforms you need to be on without fully researching it yourself.
Oh, and another important thing to acknowledge is that your headquarters may eventually change.
For the first 1.5 years of this brand, the byRegina.com blog was the indisputable headquarters. Then, a shift happened. I didn’t do it on purpose, and honestly didn’t even notice it until it had fully occurred and existed for a few months.
My email list became my headquarters. I develop so much never-before-seen content, so many worksheets, so many #TooReal stories for my emails. It’s honestly the content that I pour the most time into other than my courses. And. P.S. You can sign up for my Ninja Notes at the top of my website.
Even though I don’t plan to fight the fact that my email list has become my headquarters, I do plan to re-energize my blog, because the fact that it was HQ for so long is the only reason I have my email list.
But, enough of story time. It’s time to analyze which of the many headquarters options you want to use in general, and in using them consistently, you’ll be able to figure out what the best HQ for your brand is.
Is blogging right for you?
You can download the worksheet above or check out the checklist items below. Blogging may be right for you if:
- You want to express your views online and limiting it to “traditional” social media alone is not enough.
- You want to collaborate with other creators who are like-minded and also those who have a different perspective and target audience.
- You enjoy researching and writing about topics, concepts, products, or people.
- You like the idea and the challenge of having to promote your own materials.
- You want to learn how to build your own website. That actually gets traffic.
- You want a platform to launch your own podcast, or Internet show, or super cool product.
- Strategy and planning can be (or already are) your thing–you love organizing written materials.
- Part-time or full-time >> you love the idea of making money from your thoughts.
- You want to see a measurable impact of what you create online.
- Creating free resources is something that you want to do for your intended audience. To you, serving is a necessity in life; not just taking.
- You want your skills, opinions, or experience to be a helpful resource to someone.
- You have an intense passion about a certain topic that you can see yourself creating multiple types of content for over and over again.
- You are not afraid of expressing your experiences online—what works and what doesn’t work.
- You are willing to go through trial and error when it comes to your content–you realize that not every blog post will be perfect and not everything you say will “work” for everyone.
- You desire a creative space to build an audience and web presence.
Oh, and P.S. If blogging is right for you, I’ve relaunched my most popular course, Zero to Blog, as a revamped and action-packed course called Epic Blog Brew. Registration is only open for a short amount of time, and this class will be intense.
Is an email list right for you?
The answer is probably “yes.” But, let this list guide you:
- You want an outlet to reach your audience that is extra measurable.
- You want to create and grow a list of subscribers that you can send targeted content to (based on the interests they express).
- Unsubscribers don’t bother you. They help you narrow down your ideal audience even further.
- You want a place to test out new content, products, and ideas.
- You want to write personal and meaningful notes for people that get delivered straight to their inbox.
- You want to have different types of content on your audience’s mind and emails seem effective to you because of where they land.
- You feel emails are a place where you can promote collaborations, videos, social media content, products, and blog posts all in the same moment and that’s what you want + need for your audience.
- You want to have an exclusive outlet of content just for people who sign up for your email list.
- You want to be in a channel where your content is easily searchable.
- You like how email can have whatever purpose you want it to for your audience; it can be actionable, inspiring, or memorable.
Is Instagram right for you?
The answer might be “yes” if:
- Your business is all about producing beautiful images.
- You know you can attract a large audience to your business based on design and imagery.
- Your business has mostly physical products that will do well on an image-based platform.
- You love product styling and can thrive on it.
- Your target audience is on Instagram more than other platforms.
- You want to share your passion for photography or some form of visuals on a platform that focuses on it.
- The value of your work can be seen more in pictures than words. You can create excitement for your brand or cause with images.
- Your ideal sponsors will notice you on Instagram.
- Your industry—the people that you follow and want to collaborate with are gathered on Instagram.
And, seriously. There was a point in life that I would have laughed off the notion that Instagram could be an effective brand headquarters . . . but then, brands like Fit Men Cook put in serious time and effort making 15-second recipe videos, taking epic photos, doing amazing giveaways, writing out full captions in both English and Spanish . . . and grew it into a major book, and this crazy epic Kickstarter project that’s raised over $100K so far.
Is YouTube right for you?
The answer is probably yes if one or more of the following fit you:
- Pre-recorded videos make sense as a way to gather your audience due to the type of content you like to share.
- You want to create and build a subscription base through a video service where ad revenue is possible.
- You want to create video tutorials that can reach a wide audience.
- The type of content you share is easily shown through video. Thus, your main content is both show + tell.
- You want a place where you can pre-answer questions for your audience.
- Your business incorporates a lot of instructional content/tutorials.
- You want to create video ads/campaigns.
- You want to post collaborative video content.
- Product demonstrations are your thing and make sense for what you’re trying to show.
- You want to do product reviews—and the type you want to do are better as videos.
- You want your video content to be “collectible” and easily accessible on one platform.
- You enjoy entertaining and/or educating people on video because it’s easier for you to show your personality or get your point across.
Is Periscope right for you?
Judge by the following points:
- You believe live streaming is the new way to market to your audience.
- You want your audience to feel like they are in person with you.
- You want a platform that you can jump on at anytime and have an audience come to you.
- You like the idea of informally creating content that you can learn from and repackage.
- Live product demonstrations and/or creating your work live is fun for you.
- You want to be able to give your audience a break from traditional blogs.
- Your primary audience loves live video.
- You work better in the moment.
- You want to have live Q+As or office hours with your audience.
Are online workshops right for you?
Check out my recent post on the benefits of online workshops and the types of workshops you can host for a good overview on whether or not workshops will be a good fit for you and your brand.
And back to blogging right quick.
If you’re seriously interested in blogging, I want to tell you a quick story. About someone who currently makes a full-time income (mainly through the strength of her blog) with less than 1,000 followers in each of the social platforms she is on. She did it after perfecting her skills and spending a year focused on creating free content on her blog, collaborating, and promoting her blog.
Britt is a designer. A talented one. She is also my best friend and the creative force behind the look of The Independent (a print publication we founded with another friend).
Brittany has never had problems getting design clients, but when she looked at her 2014 in review, she realized she wasn’t getting the right clients. The clients that would let her do the work she loved and charge the prices she needed to. So last year, in 2015, she decided to be serious about blogging.
She used to joke (in a real-life WordPress class that we taught together) that one day she would finally give in to my pushiness about her blogging. I knew in my heart it was an epic fit for her. I talked with her about strategy, promoting on Pinterest, using Instagram and Twitter, plus collaborating and putting herself out there with tons of epic free content.
So what happened? you ask.
I’ll tell you.
Pretty much, everything worked.
She started creating beautiful pins and getting more and more traffic from Pinterest. She created a free workbook as a goodie for signing up for her email list and started to see multiple signups per day. She saw her pageviews go up by 400%. And even with limited hours to spend each week on her business (she’s a mother and was working at another job for some of this time), she saw her income more than triple. In a year. In a year of focusing on free content through her blog.
I asked her to share with us her own words on how blogging has changed the game for her.
- given me a voice that other entrepreneurs and people I respect will listen to
- quadrupled my social media following which leads to more looks
- encouraged my writing to create products outside of blog posts–which has led to money and more followers
- doubled my email list signups using a lead magnet
- attracted the type of clients that can actually pay for my services vs. a friend of the family who wants a hookup
- motivated me to continue to work hard on my business (because I started getting feedback from people that I actually helped with my blog posts and the products that it inspired)”
And as my course (formerly known as Zero to Blog and Blog to Profit, but now rolled into one epic package) called Epic Blog Brew just opened up again for limited enrollments, I wanted to post Brittany’s story (to encourage you) and the checklist at the beginning of this post to help you determine if #NextLevelBlogging and #BloggingWithPurpose are initiatives you want to take on this year.
Please let me know your goals (and if/how I can help with them) in the comments below.
Photo: Rasmus Rasmussen