What Single Grain’s Marketing Focus Looks Like in 2019

Marketing is constantly evolving and, while Single Grain sticks to its core of content marketing, we’ve had to evolve with the advent of new platforms, new features, new media, new content types, etc.

And this year is no different. I’m going to open the kimono and show you what the Single Grain marketing team has been doing in 2019 to double down on successful channels and prioritize new initiatives that are working.

Whether you are interested in maximizing web traffic via search engines, guest blogging or social media to improve click-through rates — or all of the above — we’ve done it all. In Q1 of this year we’ve been making some shifts which I'm going to share with you.

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Our Core Focus: Creating Opportunities for Interaction

Interaction can make or break a marketing effort.

If people aren't reaching out to interact with you, no matter how good your content is, you're leaving opportunities on the table. These days, content is literally everywhere, on every channel, 24/7, and people are in full content overload. So you need to do something to stand out and grab their attention.

I’m not the only publisher of marketing content, so in order to have a relationship with potential customers we have to put out really remarkable content and build rapport with our audience. There are so many options out there that people want the authenticity and personalized experience of an actual interaction — even if it’s over a YouTube Live:

Growth Everywhere YouTube channel

As one example, we used to auto-publish Marketing School episodes on LinkedIn every single day. We were getting about 500 views. But since I had about 10,000 people on my LinkedIn at the time, that was pretty bad.

I then realized that when I made five-minute videos and asked relevant, compelling questions, people started organically liking and commenting on my posts.

I’d say, “Hey, how are you guys optimizing? Here are a few things that I do.” And it really worked. People started leaving comments and sharing the video. They, in turn, would tag people and we’d get about 5,000 views when we were previously getting just 500.

You can do the same thing by mentioning popular and trending topics or working them into your everyday content. No matter what type of content you're producing, that interaction is just as important (if not more) than those views.

That’s why we’re doing Q&A sessions on YouTube, Facebook, and Instagram Lives — it’s not just about me publishing, it’s about me interacting directly with the audience. We’re changing up our content processes to allow us to be more interactive and omni-channel.

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Building Brand Awareness With YouTube and Live Streaming

I believe the most authentic kind of interaction (other than in-person, of course) is watching someone live, unrehearsed and totally off-the-cuff — which is why live videos have taken off on all social channels.

Much like podcasting, it’s a slow build to getting comfortable with the live format and building a community. Although we have a fair number of YouTube subscribers, my first Lives attracted only the most dedicated of my fans because I was being pretty low-key about promoting them. We had technical issues when we Live streamed to Instagram, Facebook and YouTube at once. I hadn’t really built out a good place to film Lives. And I was trying to do five Lives a week, but with a busy schedule, I wasn’t able to be consistent.

The dedicated fans who were the first to start watching my Lives stayed with me, and when I opened it up to a Q&A format, the real magic started to happen. Because as much as we put helpful content out to the world, there’s something special about interacting with your audience, making jokes, seeing the same people every week, and answering specific questions and concerns about their businesses.

In a world of content overload, I think the most effective thing to do is be totally authentic, unedited and raw, and not only showcase your knowledge, but also how much you care about your audience. Click To Tweet

The best part is seeing them start to interact with each other and start answering each others’ questions!

We also got someone to moderate our live chats. While I answer questions on air, our community manager responds to every comment on the Live.

Now, we’re simultaneously streaming to Facebook and Instagram. The nice thing about Facebook is that you can run ads to your Lives. It only costs about $50 per Live and that can help get you some momentum.

Combine your other marketing channels with your Lives (if possible). People love those behind-the-scenes looks. For instance, I’ve started Live streaming my Marketing School podcast sessions with Neil Patel:

Anyone who is on at the time gets a sneak peak at our content, plus we reuse the content as a YouTube video, and our editor divides it up into the 5-minute Marketing School episodes. We’re showing our real selves, and repurposing our content. Win-win!

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Using the Content Sprout Method

We decided that we needed to double down on site traffic, make better use of all the content we have (and it’s a LOT), and go omni-channel. So we came up with the Content Sprout Method.

With the Content Sprout Method, you:

  • Create a piece of Seed content: a longer Live, an epic YouTube video, a really remarkable podcast episode or an in-depth blog post.
  • From there, you create the Sprouts. For instance, a longer Live might become the subject for a YouTube video or series, a podcast, or we’ll take the transcript and reshape it into a long-form blog post. Or a YouTube video ‘seed’ may become a blog post and a Live topic.
  • Then we Pollinate — taking it to the social channels. A blog post about the ‘Best SEO Tools of 2019’ might turn into an Instagram story. You take the best part of a YouTube video and create a Facebook, LinkedIn or Instagram snippet so that people get your content on those channels.

Single Grain live video Facebook

This method has not only allowed us to create more content, but it’s also built on our core tenet of 2019: building opportunities for interaction. When we’re on multiple channels, we’re reiterating our message to different audiences and in different ways to the people who follow us. We’re everywhere, we’re consistent, and we know our stuff and the more our audience sees us (the “Rule of Seven“), the more they get to know us.

Note: Once you create the original piece of content, you can outsource the secondary content. If you're looking for great places to outsource to, check out:

We've used these sites to grow our team and have had a lot of success with them. If you're looking for work, these are also great sites to join. When looking for designers, make sure your instructions are very clear.

You can also check out the blogs or online portfolios of people you admire or whose work you like. Often, these people are available or for hire. If not, they might be able to refer you to someone who is.

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Building a Community with Facebook Groups

Right now, if you're looking for a way to start building community, the way to go is Facebook groups. Facebook wants people to stay on their platform and after the algorithm shift that devalued brand posts, your best bet to be on people’s radar is with a Facebook group.

We have a Facebook group currently that’s just not engaging as much as we’d like. One of our big hires this quarter was a Social Media and Community Manager, who’s in charge of upping engagement on all our social channels, including this group.

If you're just starting a group, make sure you stay with it and stay active and engaged for the first three months or so. After the first couple of months, it should be able to self-perpetuate.

Groups aren’t about promotion; they’re a place where people go to ask each other marketing questions and give each other feedback. Like the interaction I’m trying to build with my Lives, a Facebook group (or Slack group — these are becoming way more popular) is about building interaction among marketers.

It may seem counterintuitive: Why am I making the effort to get other people to interact? But remember, the people joining are your fans and they appreciate that you’re the leader getting them together. It’s sort of like the online version of the marketing dinners I throw.

To drive engagement, we ask new members to introduce themselves and tell us why they’re here. When someone asks a question, we tag group members who may have the answer — or ask the Single Grain team if they can help out. As I said, the group isn’t about promotion, but we give people ‘Wednesday Wins’ where they can show off something they’ve recently done.

If you want to get things moving and build extra traffic to your Facebook group, you need to take advantage of Facebook Live:

Facebook Live

Live should be an important part of your marketing strategy, especially this year. If it goes well, you get traffic and people who will want to join your group.

If I were starting a group from scratch today, that's what I would do. Lives and video are easier to get attention with than blog posts or any kind of text post. There are millions of posts published every single day. That's hard to compete with when you're just starting out, no matter who you are.

Consider siphoning people toward your email list or getting them to sign up to a webinar or something. With Facebook, you can set up a bot in messenger to collect contact details like emails. You can use it as part of your strategy to send people to thank you pages and re-target them to different channels.

One thing: You want to make sure that you're not relying on the same channel too much, especially if it's primarily off of your own platform.

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Podcasting Consistently

We've done over 900 episodes of Marketing School and haven't missed a single day of posting. That's nearly three solid years of posting a new podcast every day. Now we have over a million monthly listeners, but it started with zero. Building up from that took years, but we did it.

Why do people rate, review and subscribe? Because we’re consistent, we show up in your feed every day, and Neil and I banter like we do off-air. It took years, like I said, but I built a relationship with the audience, many of whom have followed me to other channels.

There is no perfect podcast topic or length. With my Growth Everywhere podcast, people stay for 30-45 minutes. Retention is around 80-90%. That's extremely high.

With Marketing School, the episodes are 7-20 minutes long and the retention is 95-100%. Both have their own merits, and even though Growth Everywhere is 2-3x longer, the retention drop isn't very much.

I would just say to use quality recording equipment, and show up when people expect you to. And if you’re just starting out, know that every relationship takes time.

Speak to What People Actually Care About

When you’re being consistent and publishing a lot, you need to continue coming up with topics that are interesting for your audience. Topics that provoke a reaction, share value with the world, break down your subject so that others can understand it.

We’re doubling down on only creating content that people really care about, so our Editorial meetings are driven by the keyword research tools Ahrefs and BuzzSumo which serves up the most-shared content in your niche. This can spark ideas and allow you to keep an eye on what your competitors are doing.

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An awesome feature is their evergreen score, which shows you what content is going to remain successful.

Ubersuggest is a free tool that’s pretty awesome, and don't forget to take a look at your Google Search Console from time to time, too.

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How Many Marketing Channels Should I Focus on at Once?

The boring, predictable answer to this question is that you want to focus on what's working. Maybe not to the exclusion of all else, but you do want a clear focus.

What if You Don't Know What's Working?

Then you need to start somewhere and focus on that one channel until you see movement. When you're just starting out, this will seem like a slow crawl. It may seem like you're not going anywhere, even when you start getting a few hundred subscribers.

When I took over Single Grain, our site was getting 4,000 visits a month. We focused solely on the blog: Creating long-form, quality content. Not Facebook or Google ads, just content.

When it came to the Growth Everywhere podcast, I just focused on building the podcast for an entire year. I didn't promote it on Facebook or other channels; I didn’t run paid ads to it. I knew I needed to hone that one channel and get better at podcasting. Eventually, the audience began to build and I started promoting it on social media and our blog.

It's the same with our YouTube channel: We're getting some volume, but we're not at 100,000 subscribers yet. The really popular YouTubers I've talked to all started from zero and slowly built their audiences. But they also tell me that once you have in the tens of thousands of subscribers, the subscriber count grows a lot faster.

Along with YouTube algorithms, your success comes when you really hone your craft, publish consistently, and become someone people look to for the best content. Your audience gets to know you, and suddenly you’ve built more than just an audience you’ve built a community.

What if You Focus on One Thing and It Stops Working?

Then you focus on another. It's still going to be more effective than trying to focus on everything in the beginning and ending up falling short — not publishing consistently, giving up, putting out so-so content — on every single channel.

Once your first channel begins to show signs of success, build a second channel or avenue. Diversify and delegate the process you have with your old channel to your team. Then you can focus on what comes next. Building a team is one of the best ways to leverage your time when you need to.

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Make Something Happen

It all comes down to: focus on having something remarkable to offer. Once you have that, create opportunities for people to engage with you. Pay attention to what they say and interact with them. Live is especially good for this type of thing and that's why it's going to be so important going forward.

When you first start out doing anything, reaching out can be difficult. You need to be able to get something started by yourself. You might not be great at it at first. No one is. Even now, I'm always thinking, “How do I improve?” That mindset, and taking action, will help you build traction. All you need is a little bit at a time.

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