024: Innovative Facebook Group Strategies for your Podcast with Jennifer Ebeling

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024: Innovative Facebook Group Strategies for your Podcast with Jennifer Ebeling

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[podcast_motor_player url=”https://episodes.seriouslysimplepodcasting.com/PodcastMotorShow/024_-Innovative-Facebook-Group-Strategies-for-your-Podcast-with-Jennifer-Ebeling.mp3″ title=”024: Innovative Facebook Group Strategies for your Podcast with Jennifer Ebeling”]

My guest today is Jennifer Ebeling, creator of the Still Growing Gardening Podcast and 6ftmama Blog. Jennifer has grown her brand from the ground up, and has built a vibrant Facebook group community around her podcast show.

Her approach to podcasting provides value to a unique niche, and the conversation with her listeners continues in her Facebook group. Join us as she shares her journey in podcasting and advice in engaging listeners and creating a community around a podcast.

Topics Discussed in this Episode:

  • Jennifer’s approach to podcasting and format of her show
  • Using Facebook groups to gain and engage listeners
  • Specific strategies to connect with community members
  • Tips for content creation related to a niche
  • Building relationships with podcast guests
  • Getting feedback and growth from listener advisory boards


6ftmama Blog

Still Growing Gardening Podcast

Still Growing Podcast Facebook Group

Craig: Hello and welcome to The PodcastMotor Show. I’m your host, Craig Hewitt. Here, each week we’re going to bring on the best and brightest minds from podcasting for them to share exactly what’s working with their shows right now. We’re going to show you how to grow your listenership, build your online brand and engage with your community more effectively.

Let’s jump into the show. This week on the show we have Jennifer Ebeling from the 6ftmama podcast. Jennifer, how are you doing?

Jennifer: I’m good. My website is called 6ftmama but the show is called the Still Growing Gardening Podcast.

Craig: Got you. Thank you for the clarification. I’m sorry about that.

Jennifer: That’s okay.

Craig: This is a super interesting story. As listeners to the show know that we love to bring on people who are doing podcasting and using podcasting for their business and their brand in a really interesting and unique way. And hopefully have folks on the show here who can share how they’re using podcasting to grow and develop their communities and their brands. Jennifer, I think you’re doing that in a really interesting way. Could you share with folks a little bit what the 6ftmama is and what your podcast is all about?

Jennifer: Sure. I’m Jennifer Ebeling. I broadcast out of lovely Maple Grove, Minnesota. I do a gardening podcast. The show title is called the Still Growing Gardening Podcast. It’s kind of a play on my brand which is 6ftmama because I am six feet tall. I’ve got tall kids. They play basketball. When I was starting out podcasting, I‘d already been blogging for awhile. I always love to say to people that it took me about 10 years to start blogging. It took me about six days to start podcasting because the minute I discovered podcasting, I immediately knew that it was something I wanted to do. It just hit me like a lightning bolt. I knew exactly what I wanted to do. I knew I wanted to do a gardening show. Still growing is a play on the fact that I’m six feet tall and I always like to tell the kids, “Hey, I’m still growing. I’m still growing and learning. There’s no end to that.” It’s a play on the illusion to height.

The Still Growing Gardening Podcast is dedicated to helping you and your garden grow. That’s the tagline for the show. I know today we’re going to be talking about Facebook groups, but in terms of creating a vibrant Facebook group to me, one of the ways and the guiding way that you should be growing your Facebook group as a podcaster is to link everything you do with regards to that effort to the purpose for your show. For me, anything I do with my Facebook group for my listener community, I still reference back to that mantra for my show. I’m helping the gardener’s and their gardens grow. That’s what the show is about. My show is a longer format show. It’s usually about a two hour podcast.

Craig: You’re brave.

Jennifer: Yeah. It’s composed of a mix of gardening news, so there’s a garden news roundup and there’s really nothing like that available for gardeners right now. There’s really no one that’s curating hot, new gardening information and then reading it to people which is part of what I do at the top of every show.

Having a longer format, whether it’s myself doing a solo episode or a longer interview. I always like to tell folks that I’m looking to achieve a different level of satisfaction for the listener that can only come from a good, long conversation. That’s what I mainly provide.

Craig: I have to ask about the long form solo podcast. I find the solo show as the most daunting thing that we, as podcasters, do. I remember starting my personal podcast two and a half years ago now. I wanted to do an episode zero like a lot of people do. “Hey, this is Craig. This is my show and we’re going to be talking about this and this and this.” Of course, it’s my first ever episode. It’s really hard in general. But then, I think doing anything by yourself is really hard because you don’t have the energy and the dynamic of balancing something back and forth like you and I are doing right now. People say, “Oh, I want to start a podcast. I’m going to do it by myself. I’m going do 30 minute episodes.” I say, “You are crazy.” That is really hard. Do you find it really difficult or the dynamic between the two formats?

Jennifer: I actually like them both. My background is as a speaker so for me, public speaking was what I was doing all through highschool and into college and then, later on in my previous careers. The speaking part comes a little more naturally to me. I would tell people, “If you want to get a sense for what you can do with a longer format solo show, go listen to Amy Porterfield’s podcast. She may only have three points to share with her listeners on any given episode but she will do a wonderful job of roadmapping what she’s going to cover and then, she covers it in depth. She’ll talk about, “Well, here’s my perspective on it. Here’s the tactics that you need to do to make this happen. And then, here’s how it fits into the overall strategy.”

For myself, whenever I do a solo show, I usually do a very similar thing. I will give myself a road map. I’m going to talk about like my latest episode was Five Ways to Amp Up Your Gardening Skills. If you think about each of those five ways as a chapter in a book, that’s how I approach my solo shows. I don’t just jump on the mic and start rambling on. I have a specific point that I want to get across. And then, I do everything I can to provide resources and value around those points. There’s probably a lot little sub points that happen for each one of those main topic areas that I’m covering. That’s the best piece of advice that I can give to someone who’s interested in doing a solo show.

If you can think about it in terms of having a multi layered approach to each one of those points, you might find that it’s a little bit easier. For instance, one of my points I was talking about, here’s some apps that can help you achieve this, or here’s some books that can help you as you’re trying to accomplish step number one, what have you. If you’re thinking about bringing in resources, sharing a personal story about how this particular step has impacted you, or advice you might share. That really helps fill up that space. Again, I think that, for me, it’s that very thorough conversation or that very thorough examination of what I’m advocating on the show that really helps address the length issue.

Craig: On the backend of things, do you find you spend more time in post production editing than in a conversation or an interview show?

Jennifer: I do spend a fair amount of time in coast but I’ve mitigated that a little bit because I’ve hired out. I have a company that helps me now with my post production. That’s been very helpful but quite honestly, I’m a little bit of a perfectionist and so, I usually take a first pass at all of my content before I send it on to my editor. Just to make sure that, especially the beginning of the interview is very crisp and that the ending sounds very warm and has that wrap up feeling to it. It doesn’t feel abrupt.

Craig: Cool. As you mentioned before, one of the things I really wanted to touch on and spend some time discussing is how you used your Facebook group and other Facebook groups, I think, to engage your audience and build your community and provide a place for them to interact? Because I think we talk so much with our customers who are starting a podcast and educational material is just about like how the podcast is an avenue to start a discussion a lot of times. Unfortunately, it’s like a one way street. It’s you talking and them listening but then you have to provide the place and the mean and the avenue for you to talk with the rest of your community and for them to talk with each other. Finding Facebook groups is the best way to do it but I think you’re taking it to the next level in a lot of ways. Would you mind sharing with folks a little bit about what you’re doing and then, we got to peel the onion back from there?

Jennifer: Absolutely. For me, I thought about this before talking to you today. I thought how can I structure what I’m doing and put it into buckets that people will understand in the more organized fashion. I can talk about this all day. I say, for me, there are four buckets for how I use and how I think about Facebook groups. The first is connection. The second is curation. The third is collaboration. The last one is growth. I think in particular with regard to the growth category, that’s probably where I’m doing something that are a little unique to me. Honestly, some of these things, I’ve stumbled and some of these things, I’ve been refining over the past couple of months.

In terms of using Facebook groups. First step is broad brush right off the top. Encourage podcaster who are looking to incorporate a Facebook group into what they’re already doing is to remember that they want to think about their Facebook group as something that should be an extension of their existing systems and processes. When you think about how you produce your show, if you can think about each step in that process as a touch point for an opportunity to collaborate or to share with your Facebook group, that’s a great place to start.

For instance, if I’m interviewing someone for my show this morning, I probably would have taken a picture of their book and maybe the books sitting by my mixer. Maybe a few notes that I have scribbled about the guest or the show. I’ll take a picture of that and I will put it in my group and I’ll say, “Hey guys, I’m so excited. I’m in an interview. Craig Hewitt today, can’t wait. Let me know if you have any feedback or suggestion.” At that moment in time, it’s live and it’s real. People who are currently in my Facebook group go, “Oh my gosh, I love Craig. Let me share with you some things that I would ask Craig.”

My point is that I’m doing it anyway. I’m already interviewing you. I’m just using that as a way to connect with my Facebook group. It gives the group a preview, a little bit of the behind the scenes, what’s going on in the group. For me, with my group, as we start talking here, what you’ll notice is that I don’t do any of the gimmicky things that you see in so many groups like, “Hey guys, what are you making for supper tonight?” there is none of that. There’s nothing like, “Show me the ninth picture on your camera roll.” I’m not going to do that. I want to engage with my audience in a way that’s integrated into what I’m already doing and is very meaningful. If it’s not meaningful, I usually don’t do it. I don’t do very much fluff with my group.

The first area was connection. Let me walk through with you some of the ways that I connect with my group. First off, I love to say and I say it at the beginning of my show that if they belong to the Facebook group, it’s a chance for them to continue the conversation in between episodes. They have access to me obviously, when they’re listening to a show. If they want even more access, if they want to continue that conversation about that episode or get into other areas, that’s a reason to get in into a Facebook group.

The other thing that I did with my Facebook group, this was always the vision for me, was that that Facebook group would become this very unique market place where guests of the show and listeners of the show could interact with each other. I always invite guests that are on my show to be part of the Facebook group. I do that in a couple of ways. First, anytime I send a guest correspondence, it’s right there. It’s like, “Hey, if you haven’t joined the group, please join the group. We’d love to see you in the group.

The other thing I do and I’ve had some friends in podcasting go, “Are you nuts? Why are you doing this?” but I’ve never had any issue with it. That is that when I invited guests into my Facebook group, I tell them point blank, “As a thank you for being so generous with your time and information, if you ever need to promote anything, you are welcome to do it in the group. You can share your upcoming book.”

I just had a guy out of England who has this app for tracking pest in the garden. And I said, “Hey Ben, go ahead. Share it in the group. Thank you for all you’ve done to help my people out with their pest issues.” That to me, is that quid pro quo. Don’t forget that when guests come on my show, they’re talking to me for usually over an hour. To me, it’s the least I can do to say thank you to them. It’s never been an issue. I think people are so appreciative. What they’re sharing is real, bonafide, quality content. That’s the kind of guests that I’m looking to bring onto my show.

The last thing is in terms of listener reward. So many podcasters right now, if they want to give have an offer, a giveaway for their listeners, they’ll often say, “Hey, comment on the show notes. We’ll pick a listener from those comments.” That, to me, is so frustrating. First of all, as a podcaster, if you have to run around and find on social media where people are sharing your episode, and then pluck somebody out of the ether, that happen to do that. That, to me, is a one time, one off, transaction. Usually, kind of meaningless and nothing more gets said about that.

For me, if I want to offer a giveaway, if a guest that’s been on my show or sponsored my show wants to offer giveaway, the only place I will go to pick a winner is going to be my Facebook group because those people have already invested in the show. They said, “Not only am I a listener of the show, I want to have regular contact with you.” They’ve joined the Facebook group. When it’s time for me to offer giveaway, that’s the only place I go.

I’ve actually had listeners when the group was first starting out. It was a much smaller group because you start with zero right?

Craig: Right.

Jennifer: I’ve had a few listeners that have won twice. Just a month ago, I had a woman who is in the Facebook group and all of a sudden I was checking on the group and here I see she’s invited 12 friends to come join the group. And then, I saw her message. She said, “This is the group I was telling you about. It’s fantastic. I’ve already won a book. Come and see what’s in this group.” I read that post and I’m like, “Oh my gosh, this is exactly what I’m talking about.” She was the winner of the book. It’s completely random. I don’t have a system. It’s literally just very random how I pick winners but they have to be in that group. To her, not only was that fun and exciting but she felt like the content that I was sharing in the group was a true value ad. That sums up connection.

The only other thing I’ll say about it is that when I start the show, I always have a segment very early on into my show where I welcome new members into my group. I’ll literally list those members. Sometimes, you don’t even see where they’re from. If I do see where they’re from or if I see that they are doing something pertaining to my niche whether it’s something in gardening or they’re part of a nursery, I’ll be like, “Hey, Craig. Welcome from Hewitt’s nursery.” Or something like that. I’ll give you a little shoutout on the show. I think people like that. I call them up by name. Hearing your name is supposed to be the sweetest sound ever so I do make point of welcoming them by name. Sometimes, that list gets a little bit long but right now, that’s working for me. I don’t have hundreds of people every week asking to join. I have about 15 to 20 folks that are joining and I get through that as best as I can and make sure that I welcome people by name into the group.

The other thing that I do is announce the winners of the giveaways at that point as well. I’m reinforcing that if they join the group number 1, there are people joining, it’s active, it’s vibrant. And then, I lift the giveaway winners. What I just started doing last week is as my Facebook members are sharing new and interesting things, I’m incorporating those suggestions into the podcast. Again, one is feeding the other. I’m not doing one of things here that add more work to my plate. I’m truly trying to integrate what’s happening in that group. That covers connection. Do you have any questions?

Craig: No, I have a million questions, yes. No, just a couple real quick, I guess. The first one is just in terms of scope of the size of your group, how many active members are we talking right now?

Jennifer: Right now, I think there’s probably 230, 240 members in the group. I’m not looking right now but just off the top, I think that’s where it was last time I looked. I want to say the group started probably beginning to middle of august so we’re what? Five months. Really, prior to that, I had not been podcasting very regularly. I’d actually taken a break because I got four kids and I needed to help them with school and just focus on the family for awhile. I always consider about that August time frame to be my re entry into podcasting. I’ve been building that audience back up again. That’s how it started.

Craig: Got you.

Jennifer: I’m pleased with that growth. The listenership is growing and these Facebook strategies are helping as well.

Craig: How often are you doing some sort of giveaway or promotional deal through the group?

Jennifer: Mostly, it’s every week. There are few weeks where I take time off but if I interview a guest, for instance, that has a product, like a book or some type of maybe, a garden implement or tool of some kind, they will usually say, “Yeah, it’s right in my guest interview checklist.” When I interview a guest, they get a packet upfront. It’s got a checklist. One of the items on the checklist is would you like to give something away for a listener giveaway? I interviewed Robin Parer, she’s the author of Hardy Geraniums. She gave away five copies of her book. Joel Karsten was just done. He is the author of Straw Bale Gardening. He gave away six copies of his book. It just really depends what the guests are willing to giveaway.

When I started getting into merchandise for the show, the first time I started putting that together, then I personally gave away a few things that are show merchandise for listeners. It’s not every single week but it’s usually something that’s offered up by a guest of the show. It’s a goodwill gesture.

Craig: I love it. I’m taking copious notes here. I’ve got you on mute like half the time because I’m typing notes frantically in the computer. Are group podcasters is pretty vibrant. I think we share a lot of things but as the organizer, myself and other folks of PodcastMotor, we are looking for better ways to provide value and engage the group. I think this is a great way. We have several things we, PodcastMotor, could give away. Folks who come on the show certainly could help in that way too. That’s connection point number one of your Facebook group strategy. You want to walk us through some of the other points?

Jennifer: Sure. The second step is curation. That’s the other main reason for me to be active in that Facebook group and to leverage my Facebook group. Again, just to remind people, don’t forget when you are curating what the purpose of your show is. You don’t want to be curating things that are not align with that purpose of your show. For me, again, the purpose of my show is to help gardener’s and their gardens grow.

My show is a little bit unique. I’m not claiming to be a veggie expert. I’m not claiming to be a soil expert. My goal is really to help educate the gardeners so that they become better gardeners and in turn, their gardens flourish. For me, everything I look for in terms of content for that Facebook group had better add some type of value to make that gardener a better gardener. Teach them something, show them something. Have them experience or learn something that makes them a better gardener. That’s the lens through which I see anything I curate for the show.

One of the things that’s super helpful to me for curation is Flipboard. I’m going to share with you a couple of ways that I use Flipboard in a unique way to curate content for my show. The first is that when you go to Flipboard, you can identify your subject area. If it pertains to gardening, you can pretty much bet that I have that on my Flipboard. That is one of the go to areas I’ll go to, to find content.

The other thing I’ll do is anyone who has been a guest on my show, I will find their Facebook page, I will find their blog, I’ll find whatever they’ve got online and I will have that added to the feed for my Flipboard. When it comes time to do the gardener’s roundup for my show, I’m not only curating content from the gardening space but I’m continuing to build that rapport with guest that I’ve been on the show and extend and share what new content they’re offering. That, to me is really important because a lot of times, especially if you’re an interview format show, it can be a one and done scenario. “Hey, Craig I just had you on the show. Thank you so much buddy.” And then, I never talk to you again. I don’t want that to happen with my guests. I want it to be a more meaningful experience for them.

By having them come on the show, by talking about them in future episodes, by constantly saying. “Oh my gosh, I talked to Craig about this. He said the same thing.” Or “Craig said something different. Let’s talk about that.” I refer back to you all the time and then when it comes time for me to share information with the group, I’m going to say something like, “Oh my gosh, you guys, past guest Craig from episode 524, this is what he just shared. Isn’t this amazing?” It’s continuing to strengthen that relationship that I already worked so hard to establish. Why would I just let that go? That’s silly.

The other thing when it comes to content create curation is I challenge myself, I see my job when it comes to content curation as being a cool finder. My job is to find the coolest, most awesome, new, hottest whatever it is that pertains to gardening. I’m a little bit of a trend spotter. I’m a little bit of a thought provoker. I might come up with an article that I immediately know, “Oh my gosh, this is amazing. There’s a guy in Canada that has, in his basement, the biggest collection of plants in the Arctic and nobody knows about it.” That’s super interesting. Things like that and then those post really just catch my attention and in turn I turn around and share them with the group. That’s part of how I do curation.

I always say the bonus for me in doing all of this content curation, because this takes me a couple of hours every single week, I’m not only doing for the Facebook group, but I’m doing it for my show. Because all of those things that get curated end up becoming content for the gardener’s round up which is the first segment of my show. The bonus for me, what I always tell people is that this is my continuing end. How do I continue and learn in my subject matter, in my subject area? It’s by curating content, the latest, the greatest, the hottest, the newest, the coolest.

I’ll give you an example of how I knew that this was working for me. About two months ago, I had a dear friend that posted in a gardening bloggers forum. “Hey, you guys what are some of the latest gardening trends?” People were sharing some things but it was old news. It’s like we’ve been talking about this stuff in gardening forever. I was able to come in and say, “Hey, have you thought about this? Have you thought about this?” Oh my gosh, I’ve just seen like five articles from the last month pertaining to this, the urban farming, what have you. That would have never happened have I not been regularly curating content. Not only for my Facebook group but then also weaving that into the beginning of my show. That covers what I wanted to talk about with curation.

The only other thing that I’ll share with you that really helped me organize curation and I think, this is taking curation and taking it to the next level. This is my hot new tip on curation, is that when you are curating, do it for awhile. Do it for maybe four to six weeks and then, I want you to step back from your content curation. Then, I want you to see if you can’t identify categories and if you can assign categories to your curation.

Let me give you an example of the categories I now use. It’s become the categories for my garden news roundup and then it becomes very easy for me to speak about it on my podcast. I’m going to give you an example. The first category is guest update. I find out something that a past guest is doing. That’s going in the guest update. Second one is sustainability because that’s gardening. Third one is continuing ad. This would be more like classroom instruction that I might stumble upon and then I share that with the group.

How to DIY? That’s so hot right now. That’s a category. There’s one thing I called This is Plant Spotlight. If it’s about a particular plant, it’s all about that plant, that’s going to go into plant spotlight category. Then, there’s one I just called In the News. This might be something Lester Holt would talk about at the end of the CBS News or NBC News or something, Nightly news. It’s a general catch all. It’s like okay, in the news.

The seventh category, this is a category, I think, should really tickle the ears of all the podcasters listening. That is the dream guest category. I created this category because occasionally I run across content. I’m sure we all do. You read an article, you hear something, you see something and you’re like, “Oh my gosh, I want to interview that person. When that happens, that post all of a sudden becomes part of the dream guest category. I say it right in the show. I’ll say, “Guys, this week in the dream guest category, it’s Craig Hewitt. Let me tell you all about Craig.” And then, as a follow up, what I’ll do is I’m going to send you an email, Craig. I’m going to be like, “Hey, Craig guess what? At the top of my podcast, in the gardener’s roundup, you made my dream guest category. How about you come on the show and I’ll do an interview with you?”

Craig: The note early on.

Jennifer: Yup. That is working. And then I call them something so fantastic. Like dream guest. Oh my gosh, you call me a dream guest? I’m for sure talking to you. That sounds amazing. That warms up the guest a little bit. If you’re struggling to get guests on your show, that might be a great tactic for you.

The last three areas that I assign to categories for my curation is science, shopping and then I end with inspiration. I’ll see something, a video, a post, and it’s just very inspiring about gardening. Makes you want to garden. Well then,  that’s how I always end the garden news roundup. When I’m going through all of those posts that I’ve curated for the week, I’ve assigned an Evernote notebook for that show. As I find those things throughout the week, then they go into that notebook. As I’m doing it, I take it, “Oh, this is sustainability.” “Oh, this will go in dream guest.” “Oh, this will go in inspiration.” It helps me organize all that stuff I’m curating throughout the week. Often times I might have three sustainabilities or two sciences. Sometimes I’ll talk about both. Sometimes, I’ll only talk about one.

Another great reason to go to that Facebook group is when I’m telling you about all of this great stuff I’ve curated on the podcast, I tell my audience, you don’t have to take notes. Just go join the Facebook group. It’s all right there. That’s where you’ll find all this content completely for free. It’s another reason to drive them into the Facebook group.

Craig: I love that. Just getting back to some of the nuts and bolts of how you curate, you mentioned you use Evernote to take the websites and the images and things like that and organize them like that, anything else that you would suggest in terms of finding unique places to curate content or organize it and get it ready for presentation. If you will, I know there’s some apps out there that help you with email newsletters but I don’t know if any of that help you create a document of curated articles or anything like that.

Jennifer: That’s a great question. There’s one thing I’m going to talk about a little bit later on here. I don’t want to spoil that. I’ll hold onto that.

Craig: Okay.

Jennifer: There’s a great source that I’ll tell you about in a minute. The other great source that I love is Pinterest. The gardening is very visual. You can tell immediately when you go to Pinterest the things that are hot and new. That’s a great source for gardening.

The other thing that I do is, as I’m putting things into Meet Edgar, as I’m putting things into Evernote, I’m also at that very same moment using my Meet Edgar. I’ve got an Evernote Chrome extension and I’ve got a Meet Edgar Chrome extension. Again, it’s this whole seamless process. I’ll click on Evernote, send that article over to the appropriate show notebook and tag it so I know immediately, oh this is sustainability, this is science, whatever category I’ve assigned. At that very moment in time, I’m posting it in Meet Edgar to saving myself a step because it’s got to go in the Facebook group anyway. I can’t just bomb my Facebook group with everything I’ve been curating for the last two hours. That’s just way too much. Instead, I’ll meter it out. I can do that very easily with Meet Edgar. As long as I’m on the website anyway, why wouldn’t I just do both steps at once.

Craig: Got you. So you’re posting to the group through Edgar. Got it.

Jennifer: Only for curated content. The rest of it is all happening live.

Craig: Sure. That’s great. I’m an Evernote junkie myself so that makes a ton of sense.

Jennifer: The third area is collaboration. How do we use that Facebook group for collaboration purposes. This is where having your guest in your group becomes super important because when I have a listener ask me something that pertains to an episode and I’m not the expert on that, I’ll say, “Bob, can you help me out here?” What would you say to this guest? In fact, I, not only have the guest of the show respond. Sometimes, they actually go a step further and create an entire blog post around the question that this particular listener had. To me, that’s completely invaluable that that kind of interaction is happening in the group, that kind of collaboration.

The other unique thing that I started about a month ago is I created a listener advisory board. It’s from my group.  Of course my group is the only place I’m going to go for anything I want to so with listeners of the show. I have this idea that this year, 2017, I want to become more listener directed. I can just throw out general stuff to the Facebook group and see what comes back but I want it to develop more close, outside the group interactions with people that are active in the group. I just share with the group, “Hey, I’m going to create a listener advisory board. It’s going to be a four month position. I need an hour of your time every single week. I’m going to pick your brain on different things that I’m doing with the show. I want you to help me with a lot of these things. Making the decisions or making sure that I’m being listener directed.”

I had my first meeting with my listener advisory board last week and I have been completely blown away by their input. I cannot tell podcasters enough. Especially if you’re feeling like you’re on an island and you don’t know where you’re going. Man, I tell you what, this listener advisory board, it’s exceeded my expectations.

I’m going to give you an example. I have rotator cuff surgery coming up on the 20th of March. I’m not looking forward to it. Unfortunately, I don’t have a ton of guests in my pipeline right now. I mentioned it to the listener advisory board. I’m like, “Hey, guys, guess what, I can either recycle some old episodes or I can just take a break altogether or maybe some of you guys can help me come up with guest in a hurry.” I’ll be darned if that isn’t what happened. In fact, every single person on the listener advisory board started sending me messages. They’re like, “Hey, here are three guys. Here’s their name and numbers. Here’s all about them. You should contact them. They’re expecting your call.” How fantastic is that? They not only gave me great guests, they’ve completely greased the skids for me.

I’ve got a guy that I’m taking to on Monday that’s in charge of the greenhouse that’s attached to the hospital in Detroit. This hospital decided to have a greenhouse. They only feed their patients fresh produce from this green house. It’s an amazing interview.

I just had a woman last night send me a note go, “I live in Mississippi. There is a house in Mississippi that’s dedicated to the [00:36:15]. They have a gardener there and they’re only planting plants from any of the books that [00:36:22] wrote.” I’m like, “Oh my gosh, that’s a fantastic lead.” I’d have to look for a while to find something like that.

When you’re planning your shows, if you go where your heart leads you, sometimes, you don’t end up with a ton of shows that are back loaded, ready to go. I knew this surgery was coming. I just was blown away. I couldn’t believe not only did they have suggestions but they went the extra mile I didn’t even ask them to. They’re sending me context. They’re greasing the skids for me. It was awesome.

The other thing was I just worked with a woman to help me with branding. We, together, had come up with a survey. She’d taken a path at it. I gave her feedback then she edited it. I was going to edit it and I thought, “You know what, I’m going to offer it up to the listener advisory board and see what they think.” Well, guess what, next thing you know, I am getting oodles of fantastic information from them about this listener survey that I’m going to be releasing in the next week or so. Again, it was giving a place to vet that survey with listeners of the show that have my back. They want the show to succeed. They’re very interested in helping. They’re eager to help. They’re going to give me an hour of their time every week, completely for free, just because they want to help. It’s fantastic. Again, I got feedback from them. I was completely blown away. It made that survey even better.

Next week, when that rolls out, the first group of people that are going to take that survey are going to be my listener advisory board, they will be the first people to have crack at it. They are my beta group, if you will. And then, it will go to the Facebook group. If listeners want to take that survey, they got to go to the Facebook group. It’s not just going to be on my website. You got to go to the Facebook group.

Craig: That sounds like an amazing group to start with. This is the first set of members of the listener advisory board right?

Jennifer: Yup. I set it up. I started thinking about it. I’m like, “Okay, I can either do this for the year. I think that’s asking too much. Or I could break it into quarters.” And then I thought, “Eh, just for my own continuity, I’d rather only have three rotations a year.” I thought a four month assignment, a four month rule. And then, as a thank you to them, they get recognized at the end of every show. Those listener advisory board members are listed by name. I even said to them, I’m like, “Hey, if you work for a nursery, you have your own business, I will give that a shoutout. I’d say, “Craig Hewitt PodcastMotor, thank you so much for being on my listener advisory board I call the lab.” I ask them for that directly.

Anybody who’s in that listener advisory board, I gave them my personal phone number. I gave them my personal email. I’m like, “I want to hear from you. If you hear something, see something, you think I need to know about it, you let me know.” I just made all of them admins of my Facebook group. I’m like, “Hey, if somebody asks to join the group and you think they’re a real person, not a spammer or a robot, go ahead and admit them. If you make a mistake and you let somebody in the group that’s no good, guess what, we’ll block them right away.” I said, “You guys can help me with that.”

Again, I’m thinking with that surgery in mind, it’s just nice to have a couple of extra eyes and ears. I’m completely blown away. I can’t tell you enough. It’s just awesome. They’re show ambassadors. I have six other people now that when I say to them, “Hey, guys could you just share this podcast episode with your friends, with your gardening friends, or if you’re in another Facebook group, just share it there.” And they’re all like, “Absolutely. We’d love to do that for you.” I gave them the link. I have it all ready to go. I say, “Here’s what you can say. Just copy paste.” And they’re off to the races. I’ve got six people that are guaranteed to do that for me every single week. I love it.

Craig: How was your relationship with those lab members changed since you started a few months ago?

Jennifer: Last week was our very first meeting. The first month was just, “Hey, can I get some people on?” As I was getting the people say, “Yes, I will do it.” Then it was all about how can we do it to make it easy for you? The first couple of weeks after I got set who were going to be my six on that group, it was, “Now, how are we going to do it? What’s the logistics?” Because it’s impossible to find a common meeting time for six people. What I decided to do is I went to Zoom, I use Zoom anyway for masterminds that I’m in during the week. I created a Zoom meeting just for my listener advisory board and if people can join live, that’s great. We do a Zoom meeting. If they cannot join live then, I will just have the meeting all by myself and I’ll be like, “Hey, guys here’s the agenda. Here’s what I’d love your input on.” I specifically say to them, “This is what I need your help with. This is what I want to hear back from you.”

They usually five apps during that meeting and then they will share their response. Since I gave them my personal phone number and email, what happened is, the people that were there live, they gave me their feedback and then they even followed up with emails and then the people that were not able to listen, I put the audio in a Dropbox, share that link in the group because I created a Facebook group just for the lab, just for the listener advisory board and then they jump on and then they’re reaching out to me via email. I didn’t really say, “You can go ahead and send me your feedback that way.” I suggested, “Go ahead and do it on the group.” But they’re reaching out to me via email and I love it. It’s great.

Craig: That is such a high level of engagement. I can’t say enough. I think that in general, a Facebook group is a huge step up from an email list where you’re sending emails to people telling them about things, or you’re promoting your products, or engaging in whatever way. But, having not just a Facebook group but a core group of advisory board members or whatever you want to call them to guide and lead and measure your brand is amazing. It sounds like the engagement that you’re getting from them and the feedback and the value they’re providing for free is wonderful. It’s not surprising your brand is very strong. It’s not surprising that you have people showing up at the bit to be a part of that. That’s definitely something to be proud of.

Jennifer: I was totally blown away. I see it as a complete gift. I had no idea what to expect. It was just an idea that I came to because  I honestly was getting freaked out about this surgery coming up. I wanted to make sure that I wasn’t going to let people down and I thought, “Well, here is something that I can do to get a little of help, a little bit assistance.” Podcasting is a kind of a lonely thing if you don’t reach out, if you don’t have these communities. I tell you what, I’m blown away. Think about this, gardening tends to skew older, tends to skew female and it tends to skew older. One would may be on the outside, look at this group it and go, “You’re going to have some older female gardeners giving you advice on a podcast, a new media medium, are you kidding me?”

Guess what, I even had one of the women write me back and go, “You know what, I’ve only been on Facebook three years but here are six paragraphs worth of feedback for you.” She took the time to sit and literally just write me volumes about what she thought about the surveys. “Here are some guests you should look at. Here’s what you should do regarding how you’re going to package the shows while you’re gone.” She even ends up by going, “Hey, you enjoy time with your kids when you can because that’s important.” She’s personally reaching out to me. It’s just crazy. It’s just the craziest thing. It’s great. Let’s say you’re a podcaster out there and you hear the term avatar and you’re like, “Avatars is avatar, I have no idea. I don’t even know where to start with that.” This is a great alternative. Set the avatar site, start a listener advisory board, all of a sudden you’re going to have an avatar like you wouldn’t believe. Thanks to our listener advisory board.

Craig: I think some sense of who your audience is, is really important whether it’s an avatar or a group that conglomerates that avatar via multiple people. I think what you’re doing is super important to stay true to your audience.

Jennifer: The last thing that I wanted to talk about with regard to Facebook groups is growth. The role that ancillary Facebook groups play in growth because for the past couple of months I’ve been playing around with this and I can’t tell you it is growing my show like gang busters and I’m really tickled with this. I’m starting to refer to it as the Poor Man’s Method of Facebook Advertising, but I’m also telling people that it’s a great way to stay on top of your niche. Whatever it is, whatever you’re doing, this is an excellent way to stay truly close to the pulse of your niche. If you think about the holm that’s out there, whatever you’re doing and there where you are, if you can have there’d be no light between you and whatever is going on, you’re show is going to be relevant.

I’m going to give you the example of how I started doing this. It happened very organically. I’m going to give you an example. There was a woman I had on my show, couple of months ago, who was speaking about native plants. I have been motivated to get her on the show because I have been in a conference and I listened to her speak about native plants. She just grabbed my heart, ripped it out of my chest and I was like, “I have got to have this woman come on and I wanted to do this exact presentation on my show.” That happened and then it took a while for that show to air because at that time, when I started back up in the fall, I ended up having 20 shows in my back catalogue just ready to get released. I was flow dripping this out every Friday.

Her show came out and I thought, “How can I get people who are passionate about native plants to listen to this show?” Because there’s gardening as a genre and then there’s all this little niches to I wanted to specifically target the folks who are passionate about native plants. I went to Facebook and I started looking for groups that pertain to native plants. Guess what I found out? There is a Quebec native plant group, there’s an Oregon native plant group, there’s a Colorado native plant group, there’s a Florida native plant group, I could go on and on.

What did I start doing? I started joining all those groups. I knew this interview was coming up. I knew that I was going to have to market it and so I started joining all those groups. When the show came out, I shared that show with the groups, I’m like, “Hey guys, I know you love native plants, here’s a podcast episode I thought you’d like.” Next thing you know, I’m literally watching them. Craig, I am watching them go from, I’m looking on Libsyn, I can that they’re opening it, hopefully they are listening too, I have no idea if they’re listening to it or not but they’re clicking on it. Guess what, they just went and liked my business page from my show. Now are they going to try to join the group? Sure, now, they just requested to join. All those just see what’s happening.

They opened the Libsyn file, they listened to the show, they do exactly what I tell them to do in the show which is go to Facebook, look up Still Growing Podcast group, they searched that term and they see my business page first because page is usually come out the four groups and then they realized, “Oh my gosh, I just liked the page. I’m looking for the group.” And then, they go to the group then they request to join. Next thing you know they’re on the group and I have found a listener for the show.

The story can stop there and you might say, “That’s great. Actually, this is what she’s doing. She is joining gardening groups that are relevant to that niche. I had Joel Karsten on, he’s the pioneer of Straw Bale Gardening. Next thing you know I’m joining every possible straw bale gardening group that I can find on Facebook. I’m promoting the show through those groups. It could end there but it doesn’t because here’s what happens, when you join lots of groups on Facebook, you’re feed starts to change. Your feed becomes a reflection of all of those groups. It’s kind of an amalgam. Your feed is, “Oh, this person just posted in that group and this person just posted in that group.” If it is in your niche, then everything that gets posted in those groups is something you care about. Pretty soon, I’m in plant groups of all kinds and all these tiny little niches, these very tiny, little, micro niches.

All of a sudden, I am very aware of what are the most painful things that people are putting out there, what are they struggling with, what do they need help with. Now, when they post, “Hey, I wish I could plant more native plants, I don’t even know where to begin.” I can jump in, in the comment section. Now I can say, “Hey guess what, I just interviewed this fantastic native plant expert. Get this and listen. This might help you.” To make that even more impactful, everyone who has liked or commented on that post, sees that I shared that, now they are getting exposed to it and then they can use that as a reference. That’s been super helpful.

The other thing that starts happening  is when you are in Facebook, you can go up to the search bar and you can type in things that pertain to your show and if somebody in a group that you belong to has posted about it, it’s going to show up.

Let me give you an example. My latest show was a show that was all about Five Ways to Amp Up Your Gardening Skills. Gardeners have amnesia, they’re really good at gardening all the terminology, everything is totally fresh in mind in October, by February they can’t even remember the names of the plants in their own garden because that’s just how it works. You hunker down and you don’t use that terminology everyday specially the Latin or whatever it is. You just forget. You forget how did this work.

I came up with this episode, it was a solo show, Five Ways to Amp Up Your Gardening Skills. I did a little bit out of the box. I didn’t want to do what a lot of people do which is like, “Hey, go sharpen your garden tools.” I’m like, “No, no, no, no, we’re not doing that, we’re doing something else.” I want to inspire people to get psyched up, pumped up. How can they get to be better gardeners. I’m going to give them five ways that they can do it.

I thought about that show and I thought, “Who wants the show?” I imagined that I was a listener that would want to listen to that and I imagined if I was on Facebook, what would I write? In the search bar on Facebook, I wrote the words, I’d like to be a better gardener, I’d like to have better gardening skills, I wish I could learn to garden, things like that. When I typed that in, because I’m in so many gardening groups, if somebody shared that in the gardening group, I’d see the post because the way the Facebook searches, it’s not only pulling out groups, it’s pulling out individual posts from all of those groups that I belong to and I belong to 100 groups. Now I typed in the words, “Gee, I wish I knew about gardening podcast.” Well, if a post comes up, if somebody said, “Hey guys, what gardening podcast should I listen to?” You bet your bottom downer I’m going in there in the comment section. I’m saying, “Hey, check out my show. Hope you like it. Here it is.”

Craig: That’s only for groups that you are a part of that the results show off?

Jennifer: Yeah, or if it’s public, I suppose that somebody would have a completely public, unfeathered restrictions on their account that might show up. What I’m finding is these are people that are posting in groups I belong to. They already classified themselves as gardeners and they’re just sharing like, “Okay, here, I want to know about this.” Now, instead of going into the group and posting like I’m making an appeal. “Come listen to my show. Here’s this great show about growing vegetables.” Okay, some people might want that but imagine this, imagine that there’s somebody in that group which just said, “Gee, I wish I know how to grow vegetables.” Guess what, when I do a search for that, because I’m in that group that post pops up and now, instead of me just sharing a post, giving a status update, I’m responding to a need. I see a need that is directly related to a show that I did. It’s truly helpful.

There’s nothing spammy about this. This is the real deal. You’re telling me you don’t know how to grow asparagus. I’m telling you I just interviewed an asparagus expert. Take a listen. That has been amazing and not only that, not only when I share that can I see that they’re listening, but I get a reply back. They’ll be like, “Oh my gosh, thank you. This is great.” It’s just not what you can get accomplished with joining other Facebook groups in your niche and positing in there, being active in there.

Again, it’s not a one  and done, you’re building those relationships and then by doing that you are very aware of the polls of what’s going out in your community and your niche. And then, I’ll take it one step further. To me, I’m very passionate about maintaining that relationship with my guests and when I am searching for Facebook groups in their particular subject matter and that little sub-genre, whatever it is, if I see that there is no one in that space, there is no one really fantastic in that space, I’ll go back to my guest. I’ll be like, “Hey, guess what, I just looked on Facebook for anybody that would be interested in this fantastic book that you wrote about and guess what, there is not a single Facebook group that’s dedicated to your topic area. You should start that group.”

I had a woman wrote back going are you kidding? She goes, “I don’t know if I want to do that. I don’t know if I want to start one more Facebook group.” But I’m like, “If you don’t, someone will. Why not have it be you?” The next thing you know, she’s starting this Facebook group and people are joining it like gang busters and she is writing me back going, “Oh my gosh. This would’ve never crossed my mind.” And then, she goes, “If you ever want to post something in my group, you go right ahead.”

It’s a great way. You don’t have to continue that symbiotic relationship with the guests that are on your show. You’re doing that work anyway. You’re looking for that information anyway. If you can go back to your guest and say, “Hey, you should be in the social media space.” They’re thankful, they’re grateful.

Craig: I have so many questions from this. I love the multiple layers that you’re taking the Facebook group approach with. I do have a couple of questions. One is, when you are joining so many new groups, I think it’s gotta be tough to provide value up front with joining so many groups. How have you managed being new to a group and integrating and providing value to a group early on before you start promoting things?

Jennifer: Participate. Listen and participate. It’s the easiest thing. It’s just like if you’re a new neighbor moved in. You’re not going to go right over and say, “Hey, I need to borrow your iPad charger.” Or whatever. First time, I’ll bring you some cookies. I’m going to listen to you. I’m going to make you aware of community events, something like that. I’m going to validate what you’re saying or I’m going to offer a resource to you.

What I say is, know what your production schedule is, anticipate who is going to be on your show. Don’t join every group but join some groups. Join some groups that pertain to that subject and then get in there and listen and hear what they’re saying because those questions, those posts can become questions for your guest and then they’re vary on target because that’s what people in most communities are wanting to know right now.

You might have your own questions but if you can anticipate and know, hey this for a fact is what people are asking about in this particular niche, that makes a huge huge difference. Just being responsive. Sometimes, I’m in a group and then they ask a question that’s completely outside the group but it happens to be maybe this is an old show that I covered or maybe this was an anecdote. Something that I talked to a guest about and it wasn’t even in the show, it’s just something separate. I’ll say, “Hey, I talked to Jillian. This is what she said. Check out her website.” Again, it’s another great way to show love to your guest, to show love and appreciation to your guest is by connecting people with their resources.

I just do it very organically, that’s what I tell people. If you care about your area that your podcasting in, which I think most people do otherwise you’re going to lose interest and stop podcasting, but if you’re passionate about it, it’s not a big deal to me to join a native plant group. Of course I care about that. I would have never interviewed that woman if I didn’t care about it. I do care about the things that are getting posted there. I like hearing those things. I like seeing those things and I even have a text expander that’s ready to go. The minute I see something in those group that’s amazing. I’ll say, “Oh my gosh, I love what you just shared. Can I share it with my podcast listener community?”

Again, it’s a great way. I’m curating content there. I’m curating content out of those other Facebook groups and a lot of times they’re like, “Oh my gosh! Absolutely. Go ahead and share it.” And then they’ll say, “What’s your group?” Then I’ll say, “My Facebook group.” Again, it’s not only they’re asking but everybody who’s commented on that post can see it. I didn’t go in there and say, “Hey guys, I got this Facebook group. I think you should all come and be part of it.” I didn’t do it that way. I waited. I said, “Hey, truly, honestly, I want to share this post, this fantastic picture of this ancient tree with my group. It’s awesome, it’s amazing.” It just happens organically. There’s strategy behind it. There’s absolutely strategy behind it, but it has to be genuine or people aren’t going to like it.

Craig: How do you stay organized with 100 groups? I’m a part of a dozen groups maybe across entrepreneurship and podcasting and my hobbies but I have a hard enough time staying organized with a dozen groups. How do you stay organized with 100 groups?

Jennifer: Don’t forget that Facebook makes it very easy because all of those groups, if there’s something getting posted, that’s going to go into your feed. Also, I would tell people don’t go out and join 100 groups tomorrow, you’re going to get blocked on Facebook. It has to happen slowly over time. You have to build that.

Here’s the other thing, if I’m in a group and it’s kind of a dead group or I don’t like what’s going on in that group, I leave that group. It has to be very real. Your experience in that group, if it’s working for you, if it’s life giving to you and you’re seeing value in that group then absolutely stand. It’s like constantly combing and refining my group profile. I’m not just staying in those groups willy nilly whatever works. My show’s a clean show. If there’s something crude or something I don’t like in those groups, I’m out of there. I don’t need to see something that’s not going to help me, that’s not going to be good for my group.

The other thing that Facebook will do is as you’re posting in a group, it organizes your groups. It’s creating a group hierarchy. If I post in a group, that bubble for that group moves to the very top of the list and the groups that I have not posted in go to the very, very bottom. I’m doing things like command arrow down. I want to go to the groups and see what have I not posted in?

The geranium lady that I had on the show, that is such a niche. It’s so, so, so small. When I was researching that show, I really needed to listen to those groups and then I shared that episode in there and I’ve got a few, maybe 20 geranium related groups and now I’m probably down to about 5 because I’ve riddled it down to the 5 best groups in that. I don’t need to have the big broad brush because I’m getting better at picking the very best groups.

Give it a try. See what’s in there. You can tell over time the groups that are super, super active. The other thing I tell people is don’t always go for the groups that have the huge, huge numbers. Just because there are 40,000n people in a group, it doesn’t mean you’re going to get great interaction from those groups. Sometimes, it’s the small little group that’s got 30 folks in it but they’re really super passionate about. They’re going to read anything that gets shared in that group because it’s such a little group. A listener is a listener. I don’t care what group they come out of.

I see podcasting like this massive dating game. I’m just trying to find people that like what I’m doing. Is my show a match for you? If you think about the world is having all these potential listeners, there’s only a subsection of folks that are going to click with you well. It’s a big match making game. They just gotta find me. I just got to get my show out there in front of those people. Facebook groups is a great way to do it because they’ve already self identified us. I’m a gardener and I like this. Here’s my gardening show. There are not that many gardening shows. There is probably 20 to 30, 40 maybe. Gardening shows out there are not that many.

Craig: This is so wonderful, Jennifer. I can’t thank you enough for sharing all of the resources and thought behind why and how you’re doing all of these, particularly with growing your audience and helping people through Facebook. We hear a lot about email marketing that connect with listeners and stuff and I think Facebook offers such a unique platform to continue the two way dialogue after or in between podcast episodes. It sure sound like you’ve nailed it and are doing it very effectively and doing it in a way that’s really helpful to your listeners and your community. It’s awesome.

Jennifer: I think it’s a win-win-win. It’s a win for me because I’m finding my listeners. And it’s a win for the listeners or it’s a win for the people when I share that content because it’s helping them. It’s a win for the guest because they are looking to build their audience too. People are grateful. Somebody comes on the podcast and shares information, they are immediately thankful. It’s like, “Oh my gosh, you just helped me.” It’s free. It’s amazing.

Craig: For the folks who want to reach out to you or learn more about you and your show and 6ftmama. Can you share where they can connect with you?

Jennifer: You can always find my show on pretty much any podcast player that’s out there. It’s called The Still Growing Gardening Podcast and you can find it on my website. That’s the home for the show and it’s 6ftmama.com. If you want to get a hold of me, you can find me there. And then of course, if you want to join the Facebook group and become a better gardener, just look for The Still Growing Gardening Podcast group on Facebook and that group is going to pop right up.

Craig: Awesome. Jennifer Ebeling, thank you so much for you time and really valuable information, I’d say. I really appreciate it.

Jennifer You’re welcome, Craig. I hope it helps.

Craig: Thanks for tuning in to another episode of the Podcast Motor Show. If you’re enjoying the show, head on over to iTunes and leave us a review. I’d love to hear what you think and as always, head on over to podcastmotor.com for more great resources on how you can become a better podcaster. We’ll see you next time.