Welcome to episode 56 of The Blogger Genius Podcast. Today I’m back with MiloTree Community Manager, Paula Rollo. We’re talking about blogging trends for 2019 and what you need to know to be successful this year.
If you’re an online entrepreneur, content creator, blogger, online marketer, or influencer and you were wondering where the opportunities are now, you don’t want to miss this episode.
Transcript: Blogging Trends for 2019 – What You Need to Know to Be Successful This Year
Welcome to The Blogger Genius Podcast, brought to you by MiloTree. Here’s your host, Jillian Leslie.
Jillian Leslie 0:10
Welcome back to the show. Couple things before we launch into the episode.
First, I want to say I am loving doing this podcast. In fact, I am going to be speaking about podcasting at Alt Summit. So if you’re going, definitely come find me. I’m going to be talking about how to start a podcast in a weekend. Yes, it is possible.
MiloTree for Shopify owners
Also, we just launched a new popup for Shopify. You install it on your blog and it says “Shop now” and it will lead people directly to your Shopify store. It will be populated automatically with your most recent products.
If you’ve tried it out, please reach out. I’d love to know what you think of it.
Also, I’m looking for some Shopify store owners to interview for the podcast. If you are one and you’re interested in coming on and talking about it, what it’s like building a store. please reach out to Jillian@milotree.com.
For today’s episode, I have my good friend Paula Rollo back on the show. She’s also the community manager of MiloTree.
MiloTree affiliate program
If you are a MiloTree affiliate, which by the way, I recommend you join our program, because we pay you $20 per conversion. And if you are an affiliate, then you will recognize Paula because every two weeks she sends out an email to you guys with tips and stuff.
But Paula is back on the show today. And we are talking about trends that we’re seeing in 2019. We both get this really interesting perspective and we thought it would be cool to come on and just go through where we think the opportunities are for bloggers, creative entrepreneurs, shop owners, that kind of thing.
I think you’re going to like this episode. And I love talking to Paula. So without further ado, here is Paula Rollo.
Paula, welcome back to the show. I am so excited to be talking about trends with you.
Paula Rollo 2:17
Thank you for having me back. I’m excited to talk about this.
Jillian Leslie 2:20
Yeah, we actually had a call. Maybe a week ago. And we were saying, how could we provide value for our listeners, what do we see going on in the landscape? And you said, “Let’s talk about this. Let’s have a conversation about this.”
Because I think we both have interesting things that we’re seeing. And we wanted, you know, we want to kind of delve in.
Paula Rollo 2:46
Absolutely. Like so much has changed. I think we’ve both been around over a decade, I think, in this industry now, which is crazy to think about.
Jillian Leslie 2:56
Yup, it is.
Paula Rollo 2:58
Over a decade doing anything is crazy to think about for me. But we’ve been here a long time and things have changed. It’s always been a quick moving industry. But I think that we’re in a new era right now, in the landscape of the online marketing industry. So I’m excited to dive into that with you.
Jillian Leslie 3:20
Yeah, and one thing we were talking about before I pressed ‘record’ was back in the day, back in I call it the Wild West, when we first started, and, you know, so you’d get this idea of, “Hey, I’m going to start a blog” and you start a blog maybe just to share stuff with your family.
Making money as a blogger ten years ago
And then you realize, wait a minute, I could like make money with this. I could put up some ads or brands are reaching out to me. And it all seemed to very… well, like you could be kind of naive about it and stumble into stuff. Would you agree?
Paula Rollo 3:51
Absolutely. Almost every blogger’s story from when we started, it was an accidental thing that happened. Like I didn’t intend to start a business, but I accidentally lucked into this. And I’ve not heard of an accidental up and coming blogger in quite some time.
Jillian Leslie 4:11
Paula Rollo 4:12
Nobody’s doing this by mistake. No one’s falling into this anymore. Both because it’s known as a way that you can make money now and also because it takes a lot more effort to get anywhere on the internet now than it did 15 years ago.
Jillian Leslie 4:29
Definitely. And again, I would say because there are more people and there’s more content, back in the day, it was kind of cute if you had a blog because not that many people did.
Today, you could set up a blog in four minutes and see. And again, because there is this idea that you could get rich by doing this. A lot of people have jumped in. And so it’s no longer this cute industry. You know, “Oh, that’s so sweet. You have a blog. I should read it.”
And the other thing that we were just talking about, and you said this and I think this is really interesting, is we are not bloggers anymore. We might have a blog, we might write in our blog, but we are now content creators, we are influencers.
Bloggers and content creators are marketers today
And what you said that I think is brilliant, is we are marketers.
Paula Rollo 5:15
Jillian Leslie 5:17
And that’s a weird thing when you said it. I went, “Oh my god, that is so true.”
And it was like, “Wow!” I mean, again, from where we all started, where there was this sense… it feels like when you say that, that maybe it doesn’t sound as pure. However, what it really says is we’re entrepreneurs.
Paula Rollo 5:41
Jillian Leslie 5:41
And that’s what we are. So if marketing feels weird, do think about it, because ultimately that is what we are. But to think of yourself as more than a blogger and that you are building a business intentionally.
Paula Rollo 5:53
Yes. Because I think there was a season in blogging where people started pushing back against like especially bloggers who write about parenting, started pushing back against the mommy blogger title.
I guess the word ‘blogger’ in general, just because people would use it as a way to delegitimize what we were doing, and understandably so. But also at that time, we were bloggers, that was what we were doing, that was 90% of our income came from there.
The business midlife crisis of blogging
But I think we have moved beyond blogging right now and we’re something else. It’s almost like our businesses right now, and everybody that I know from that time period, we’re in a midlife crisis.
“And where do we go from here? What are we now?” is the question that we need to answer in 2019 or we need to jump ship.
And I would much rather we answer it together and figure out where our industry is going as a whole. Because if we can understand where our industry’s going, we can see where we fit in to that.
And I think that you have a lot of insight into large-scale industry things because you’ve studied business, both from a professional education standpoint but also experientially you are an entrepreneur, you have multiple successful businesses.
And so I think that you have a lot to teach us about how to make it through this business midlife crisis and get from self-identifying as blogger to “now I need to be so much more than that, but how do I even choose the path in front of me?” We need to be flexible but what does that mean and how do I choose and what way to flex in?
So as a business owner listening to this podcast, what would you say to someone who’s trying to figure out what the next step is?
The riches is in the niches in blogging today
Jillian Leslie 7:47
Okay. So I would say it’s all about the niches. It used to be that you’d say, “You know what, I’m a lifestyle blogger.” And I talk about parenting, and I take photos of my kids, and we do crafts and food and travel. And that’s what I do.
And I would say to you today, good luck. Because what is it about you then that makes you special? Yes.
And today, I would say, well which of those is most important to you? Which one do you feel really speaks to you and then go toward that. But not just that. See if there is a way to niche even further.
So I was giving this example to you previously, like, let’s say you go, “Well, I’m a lifestyle blogger. Well, I really like food. And I’m a vegetarian.” And I go, okay. So I would recommend then you go toward that and you become a vegetarian food blogger.
But not just that. You figure out a way to make yourself stand out from all the other ones.
So maybe you’re vegan or maybe you create great meals for kids that are vegan. And that’s your niche, and you want to go toward that.
Advice: Think what problem can I solve for my audience?
But the second thing you want to be thinking about, is what problem can I solve for my audience for my avatar? So your avatar is that ideal customer.
And you want to go, “Okay, well, there are probably moms out there that are vegan that want to make meals that their kids will eat. That seems like a problem. I could potentially solve that.”
And then I go, “Okay, great, great, great.”
Now, the next thing you need to do is test it. Because let’s say, you go and start a blog and you get all of the stuff together and you start making content, and nobody shows up and nobody has that…
Now, I do think people would have that problem. But let’s say you’re trying to solve a problem and you realize nobody cares about that problem. And you’ve now invested six months, a year of your life building this business and nobody’s there.
And that’s where you want to pick a problem and you want to try and and test it down and dirty. You know, you want to throw up a blog and you want to create some images and pin them on Pinterest and see if there’s any traction.
Not that you’re going to necessarily be monetizing from day one. But you are then going to reach out to people who might have this problem. Maybe you can connect with them on Instagram and say, “Hey, could I pick your brain for a little bit? Can I talk to you about this? Can you tell me what your problems are about vegan recipes for kids?”
Or whatever it is. But you want to get as close to that avatar, that customer, that person who needs that problem solved as you can because you’ll have a ton of assumptions about what their issues are. And some of them will be right and some of them will be wrong,
Paula Rollo 10:55
Advice: Do things in your business that don’t scale
Jillian Leslie 10:57
And the closer you can get, you know, we talk about this a lot, which is you want to do things in your business that don’t scale because you want to learn.
So instead, you know, there’s that saying like, you know, if we build it, they will come. And in the world of blogging in the past, that was the truth, which is you could all of a sudden accidentally create a blog and people show up.
I remember interviewing Gabby Blair from Design Mom. And that was her story. She liked design. She was cool living in New York. She put together this blog because she was kind of that person, that tastemaker who would find cool things in New York and she wanted to share them with her friends.
And then all of a sudden, an audience showed up. And she was like, “Oh, my God, who are these people?”
And the truth is, that doesn’t happen naturally. And maybe, you know, it’s like lightning in a bottle. But the reality is, you’ve got to hustle now to get that audience.
Paula Rollo 11:53
Absolutely. And I have a question there. Like you’re saying avatar, and that’s a term that we throw around a lot, like having an avatar. And I feel like a lot of the time because I’ve done this in the past. I remember I first created my avatar, I was so proud of myself for having one, right?
But it was like, at one point, I think my avatar was moms with kids under the age of four. And that was the fullness of my avatar.
I think a lot of people listening right now probably have an avatar, but it’s very likely that it’s incomplete. And so how do you take an existing avatar and kind of going to your site and seeing like these are the types of people who come here.
But how do you then zoom it in to make the people who are already there feel more seen by you and or draw in more people who are going to be your exact person and not just a general all mothers with kids under the age of four.
How to figure out your business avatar
Jillian Leslie 12:56
Typically, our avatar is similar to ourselves. I recommend that because there’s an authenticity about that. You know a lot about yourself. Whereas let’s say you want to create a site about men in their 20s who are into bodybuilding.
Well, I know you, Paula, and I don’t think that that is your wheelhouse.
Paula Rollo 13:23
Not at all.
Jillian Leslie 13:24
Like maybe you go, “There’s an opportunity here.” You know, maybe there’s some opportunity, I’m going to go toward it.
And I would say no, no, no. Like, you know, that’s not exactly your wheelhouse. And so stick to what you know and start there. Start mining your own life for your avatar.
Or let’s say, you know, chances are your avatar, if it’s not you, it will be somebody that you are close to.
Paula Rollo 13:51
Jillian Leslie 13:53
And I would then pick that person’s brain and have that person introduce you to other people who are like that person. Because typically, we are tribal and we pick people who are similar to us. And you want to find those tribes and you want to talk to those people.
And you want to flesh out: Does my avatar live in a city? Does my avatar live in a suburb? Does my avatar live in the country? How much money does my avatar make? Where does my avatar shop? Does my avatar care about her hair? How old are my avatar’s kids? Is she divorced? How’s her relationship?
Paula Rollo 14:33
Jillian Leslie 14:33
You know, does she worry about her weight. Like, what are the things that keep you up at night? Because chances are, they’re keeping somebody else up at night.
And if it’s not you, who is it? And you approach them with the thought — it’s like a Buddhist thing of, you know, “I don’t know” mind.
And what that means is, I don’t know. I don’t know what their issues are. Because the more assumptions you have, the more you could be wrong.
Paula Rollo 15:01
Jillian Leslie 15:02
And it’s really about empathy. I think building businesses today is so much about empathy. It’s so much about non-judging, and it’s about problem solving.
Paula Rollo 15:15
Yes. And I think that also like asking questions about world view and even using the vegan example that you had earlier or the or the vegetarian meals.
Is this person vegetarian because they think it’s morally wrong to harm animals? Are they vegetarian because of a food allergy? Are they vegetarian because they think it’s healthier?
But you would frame everything on your site and everything that you write very differently for those three world views. And where before, we could just answer simply, people come to my site because of vegetarian meals.
Now we need to zoom in a little bit farther and say, how do they view the world within that?
Jillian Leslie 15:56
Yes, yes. And don’t be afraid to have a point of view. It’s interesting. Because for MiloTree, for example, most of our users are women. And we struggle with this, which is, do we position ourselves as like a female pop-up? Is there such a thing?
Of course, we would want to attract men because it’s a bigger market, it’s double the size. And yet, we keep coming back to we understand female entrepreneurs. We are not bros. We’re not part of that bro culture.
We are about support. We are about meeting our customers where they’re at. Are they super technical? Not at all. They are creative.
So how do we then create products that aren’t intimidating, that don’t give them tons of features, that solve their problem quickly so they can move on and do what they do best, which is relate to other people, which is solve problems, which is be empathetic.
But we’ve consciously made that decision and then you get scared, like, “Oh, my God.” But I’ve narrowed my market. And what we continue to recognize is — and I say this a lot, the internet is a big place.
So chances are there will be other people that you can help in that niche. And if there are no people, find that out, so that you can then figure out where your people are, where the people are that you can speak to and solve their problems.
Paula Rollo 17:33
That’s so good. So good. There’s this flexibility that we need now, that we used to be able to just write what we wanted when we wanted.
Jillian Leslie 17:45
Paula Rollo 17:46
And now we have to flex around our audience. Where before, like you said, If you build it, they’ll come, right? We could just put up what we wanted. And we can’t anymore.
But also, I think as creators, we’ve become a little smarter and for some of us, we see opportunity around every corner. How do you decide where to go?
In our last podcast, you were talking about these at-bats. But I think the hardest part about at-bats, if you guys haven’t listened to that podcast, totally go back and listen to it, where Jillian was talking about the way that her business has grown and progressed.
But how do you decide which of those to lean into so that you’re not just arbitrarily finding something new, especially for people who are relying on this for their income. We can’t necessarily try something that’s going to fail 1000 times in a row. We need the success. How do you pick?
Look at your past successes to see where to take your business
Jillian Leslie 18:40
Okay, so one thing that I do is I look at any past successes, any place where I see a little bit of traction.
So I coach these two women, they have a party supply store called Via Blossom. And what they did, which was really smart, was they took party supplies and they put them in a box.
So that now as a mom, and they throw, you know, it’s party supplies for girl birthday parties, beautiful party supplies. So they’re like, “Okay, let’s try this. Let’s do an experiment.”
And they took their best-selling products, which were tea party party supplies, they put them in a box, and they said, “We’re going to sell this as a set.”
Now is this is a brand new idea that’s never been done? Absolutely not. But they hadn’t done it.
And all of a sudden, they put them up on their Shopify store. I don’t even think they had done the inventory for it. I think it was really just a test of like, “Let’s just put this up and see if people buy it.”
And within the first day, they got two sales. And I said, “Wow.”
Paula Rollo 19:42
That’s a good first day.
Jillian Leslie 19:45
It’s a good first day. Like you didn’t do anything for this, like you weren’t buying ads for it and you just threw it together as a test. And it worked.
And then they’re like, “Hey, you know what, we can make other party-in-a-boxes.” And then they started creating.
What they learned from this was if they put together products in ways that moms would want to purchase them, they could sell them rather than just “Hey, it’s the same stuff you can buy all over the internet, but our value add is we’re going to help you. We’re going to help make it easier for you.
We’re going to tell you what you need. Here is the one place to buy it. Boom, you’ve got a party for 8 or you’ve got a party for 10, or whatever it is.”
And it was an experiment and it worked. And that then says, Okay, let’s move… what is it called, there’s a term for it. It’s like the possible adjacent.
You take what’s working, and you move a tiny bit to the left or a tiny bit to the right, and see if you can build off of your success. So that is one way I would be looking for opportunities.
And the other way I would do it is lowest hanging fruit. So let’s say you’ve got a pie-in-the-sky idea, but it’s going to cost you $1,000 and take eight weeks. I would say don’t do that.
But let’s say there’s a pie-in-the-sky idea. It’ll take you one day and it’s not going to cost you anything. I would say, go try it even if it’s crazy. Go do it.
And so those are the two things that I’m always looking for — the possible adjacent to what is already working. And to do those crazy experiments, as long as you’re not going to invest a ton of money and or a ton of time.
Paula Rollo 21:30
That’s so good. I love the possible adjacent. I think it may just be because my brain is so scattered and I like trying new and completely different because it interests me most.
Jillian Leslie 21:43
Right. Keeps you excited. “What if this works?” That kind of thing.
Paula Rollo 21:46
Exactly. And that’s perhaps for a lot of people who are still in this industry, like we’re very entrepreneurial. We like trying new things, we like building new things.
But in the middle of a business midlife crisis, which is what I calling 2018-2019, that may not be the best move. It may be the best move to try the low-hanging fruit, to try the most adjacent thing to your last success even though it’s boring.
Because you know that’s where your people are, you know that you already have people interested in that sale. It’s an easier sale than trying to create a whole new audience. Even if you know how to create a whole new audience that’s going to eat up your time that you don’t need to waste in this year.
How to build an “upsell” in your business
Jillian Leslie 22:30
Absolutely. And that’s one thing that I would say I think is a trend for 2019, well, is the idea of the upsell rather than “I’m going to go into a totally new market.” Uh-uh, no.
If I already have a customer and I can sell them one more thing. that is the biggest win because it costs a lot of money, even if it’s just in time to get a new customer.
That customer I already have right there putting their credit card number in, that is the customer I want to say, “You know what, I solved this problem for you. I can solve this problem for you.”
Paula Rollo 23:12
Absolutely. And that’s where you want to be scaling. Other ways, there are… you know, like we talked about like don’t worry about scaling in these areas but in areas where you’ve already made a sale, that’s the easiest scale in the world and that’s the one that you should be working on.
Jillian Leslie 23:28
Yes. And again, that’s kind of this idea of adjacent products. I know my avatar, I know what she’s dealing with or he’s dealing with. And I know if I can solve this problem and they trust me, then I know I can solve another problem. And that’s how you want to be thinking.
So one thing that we’ve talked about offline is this idea of traffic. Traffic is harder to come by today than it was back in the day. Back in the day, you know, there weren’t that many blogs and there weren’t that many websites.
And there weren’t that many smart people with lots of intention trying to figure out how to get you to put your credit card in. Or to get your attention to read your whole blog like your blog posts. Like that doesn’t exist anymore.
So it’s not like, I’m going to create a blog, I’m going to slap some ads up and I’m going to make a million dollars. Like, no way.
So remember, back in the day with Facebook, I would post something and everybody would read it. And it was so great and I got all this traffic.
And then Facebook started to turn and kind of squeeze the spigot or I don’t know what, you know, turn down your natural reach.
And now, you know, forget getting any reach really on Facebook. And you can get reach with SEO and with Pinterest today.
But even that, of course, because everybody is knowing this and discovering this, those platforms are those you’re fighting with all the sites and blogs in the world for SEO, you know, to get on that first page.
And now you’re fighting with, you know, you keep seeing how many new users are coming onto Pinterest. And it’s great for Pinterest. But it’s not good for me.
Paula Rollo 25:08
Right. The smart feed has thrown us off.
Jillian Leslie 25:12
The smart feed. Exactly. And there are ways to be smart about the smart feed, for example.
But that’s a lot of work. And so just getting traffic and thinking traffic is going to be the answer isn’t realistic anymore.
So one thing you and I have talked about where I think there’s tremendous opportunity is in affiliate marketing.
A big opportunity for bloggers and online entrepreneurs is affiliate marketing
Paula Rollo 25:35
Jillian Leslie 25:38
And I think that that is really… because again, if I’m solving somebody’s problem, maybe I’m the one who’s created the course and stuff. But that’s a lot of work for me to create the course.
But maybe if somebody else has created the course that I think would be a great solution, and I believe in this course, and maybe I can sell that and make some affiliate income.
Paula Rollo 26:03
Right. And like you were saying is it going to take you less than a day.
Jillian Leslie 26:12
Paula Rollo 26:13
That you can even test out an adjacent course to the one that you want to make, and see are my followers interested in something similar to this. I have a different vision for a different type of course but this is at least about vegan food.
And so I’m going to take a day and I’m going to make a funnel that sells this course as an affiliate, and I’m going to see what happens. And if it goes well and if I make a lot of affiliate sales, I can either lean in because this person had the best idea and I’m just going to be an affiliate forever.
Or I can say my product is adjacent to this and I’m going to go ahead and create my product and sell it as well.
Jillian Leslie 26:50
And I’m going to solve it in a slightly different way so there’s value.
Paula Rollo 26:54
Jillian Leslie 26:55
And that’s what I would say, which is if you have a new way of doing something, or your way is clearer or easier, or any of those things, I would say go build it. I recognize the amount of time and energy that will take and if there is somebody else who is solving it, exactly what you said, lean into it.
You know, there was one woman that I interviewed who creates meal plans. I think it was meal plans, or she creates some, I guess, recipes or something like that. And she will sell her competitor’s meal plans that are slightly different.
You know, again, the difference between, say, a vegan versus like somebody doing, I don’t know, keto or whatever. But she recognizes that her audience might have different needs, so she’s going to offer the solution and she’s totally fine selling somebody else’s product.
Paula Rollo 27:51
Jillian Leslie 27:52
And I loved that. And it was like the first time I really listened to that. And I love that it wasn’t, “Oh, no, that feels competitive, that feels somehow that person’s doing it better than me,” or, “I need to then create my own keto course or whatever. It’s like, “No, no, no, I can take advantage of that.”
Paula Rollo 28:12
Yes. Because I think sometimes we get this idea in our mind like, “Oh, I would make so much more money if I were the owner of the product.”
But you also have the overhead of I would have to pay the affiliates, I would have to have someone edit my videos or edit my photos. I would have to pay to host the course or the product somewhere. I would have to create a Shopify store.
All of these costs come in that for some people, it’s absolutely worth it. But for others, funneling, creating really smart sales funnels into other people’s products or even like Share a Sale products or other affiliate networks like that can actually make you as much, if not more, money, because you don’t have the overhead.
Jillian Leslie 28:57
Paula Rollo 28:57
And you don’t have to keep up with it.
Jillian Leslie 28:59
I was just going say exactly. Like, that is the one piece that I think is, you know, we all need to really internalize.
So I spend a tremendous amount of time writing this Instagram guide that I really love. And I’ll link to it in the show notes.
And I feel nervous. Because whenever Instagram comes out with something new, which happens all the time, I have to go back and update it.
And it’s like, I kind of wish somebody else would do that, you know, that there was somebody else who felt that nervousness, that kind of, “Oh, no, what’s Instagram going to do now? And how do I keep my content current?”
Paula Rollo 29:39
Yes, it’s so hard.
Jillian Leslie 29:40
So recognize that in a world that’s changing so quickly, you know, all of a sudden, somebody says, you know, “I know how to do Pinterest,” right?
Well, maybe for now you do. But who knows how Pinterest is going to change, like how long, you know. Like I reached out to you and said do you know of a good course about growing traffic?
And you’re like, “Well, some of these, you know, courses are outdated, or we created stuff, but I’m not sure it’s as current right now.”
And I definitely think people need to be mindful of what it takes to build a course. And not that I’m saying don’t do it.
Paula Rollo 30:19
But be prepared for that commitment.
Jillian Leslie 30:21
Be prepared. And again, that’s why if there are products that you can get behind, I say go be an affiliate marketer. And one thing that you have that you do I think want to cultivate especially in 2019 is your credibility.
That people can believe you, that you’re not just hawking this product because the affiliate commission is high.
Paula Rollo 30:49
Jillian Leslie 30:51
That you can stand by your word. Absolutely. So that, you know, it’s like your friends, you know, it’s the parents at your kid’s school, if they recommend something, they’ve got no vested interest, and somebody recommend something like, chances are, I’ll check it out.
So you want to be that kind of girlfriend or boyfriend or, you know, whatever, friend who can say, “Oh, you know, check this out.”
Paula Rollo 31:13
Jillian Leslie 31:15
It’s like, I wear these shoes called Allbirds, they’re a big deal in Silicon Valley. And I just remember, like, I thought to myself, gosh, they don’t recognize how powerful they are.
Because somebody would come up to me, one, who also was wearing Allbirds. And we’d have to have this moment of bonding over our shoes.
And I thought, “Oh, my God,” like the shoes I think are so comfortable. And they’re kind of ugly, but they’re cool in the ugliness.
It was almost like you’re in this club. People are like, “Don’t you love your Allbirds? I love my Allbirds. Do you wear them with socks?” I do wear them with socks but sometimes I don’t. You know, that.
But also, other people would come up to me and be like, “What do you think of your Allbirds?” And I’d be like, “I love my Allbirds!”
And I thought to myself, oh my God, I see the power of this brand because they’re delivering.
And you want to be that person where if somebody said you should check this out, other people will trust you and believe you and do it.
Paula Rollo 32:14
Because they fully feel the need. I think a lot of what’s happening on the internet a few years ago was you could partially fill a need and stand out because you were the first person to say something.
Or you paid for a Facebook ad that no one else did. Or your website was shinier than another website. And you could just kind of halfway fill each person’s need. And that was adequate.
And that’s no longer adequate.
Jillian Leslie 32:41
Paula Rollo 32:45
I remember we were talking about, my husband and I were talking about random — and this is going to sound so weird because it was. We were talking about this random church father from like 4000 years ago.
And I said something about liking something he said and I was like, “Oh, I should get that on a t-shirt.” And I laughed it off. And my husband was like, “I bet there’s t-shirts with him on it.”
And he googled it. And there was a T-shirt for sale was this church father that I didn’t even know existed three months ago. And that’s just ridiculous. There’s not a market for that but it still exists.
And so how much more so do we need to be careful and intentional and really make sure we’re solving an entire problem in its fullness. Or things that there are a big market for.
Don’t put your kids on your social media channels unless is serves a purpose
Jillian Leslie 33:27
Yes, it’s like I would say be mindful of when you put your kids on your social media or on your blog. Most people, like your parents, care about your kids. But to be honest with you, unless you are a parenting blog solving a specific need and your kids are a way to demonstrate that, don’t share your kids.
Because to other parents, it’s kind of boring. And it’s a little painful as the parent to be like, nobody cares about my kids but the truth is, they don’t. They care about their own kids.
Paula Rollo 34:06
I care about your kid only in how it helps me relate to my kid. That’s it.
Jillian Leslie 34:11
So if your kid has special needs, you know, and I have a special needs kid and I’m a blogger about special needs kids and I want to show you how messy my house is because of whatever issue I’m having with my kid, then I will definitely want to show that because you could look at that and go, “Oh, my God, my house looks the same.”
Paula Rollo 34:29
Jillian Leslie 34:31
But if I want to show you just here’s you know, “look at my family, yay!” nobody cares. And that’s such a weird… but they used to. Or we used to think they did.
Paula Rollo 34:42
We used to be honest with each other because it was like reality TV just came out and it was like an inside track to reality internet. But then we became liars and it just became not true.
And so now even when you’re telling the truth, people don’t believe that you’re telling the truth about your life. Or they’re hyper aware that this is today’s truth, but tomorrow’s truth may look different.
And so they’re not interested anymore and it’s gone back to I want you to speak to my reality, I no longer care about your reality.
Jillian Leslie 35:18
Yes, I want you to fix my reality. And you’re only as good as how helpful you are to be.
Paula Rollo 35:25
How MiloTree can fix your social media and email problem
Jillian Leslie 35:26
As Paula and I are talking about the need to solve problems, I wanted to explain that that was how David and I thought about building MiloTree.
We had a problem, which is we needed social media followers. So we built MiloTree for ourselves. And then when it worked so well, we thought, we bet we could solve other bloggers’ and entrepreneurs’ problems by rolling this out to them.
And the way that we thought about it from the beginning was to make this the easiest, most attractive, cost-effective solution out there that you could install on your site in two minutes.
And you could grow your social media followers, you could grow your email list, now you can grow your Shopify sales.
But that was really the mindset that we had. And the mindset we continue to have, as we try to learn from what you guys want and to make it useful.
I invite you to head to Miliotree.com, sign up for an account, you get your first 30 days free so you can check it out with no risk. And then it’s just $9 A month after that.
But again, take some of the load off, let MiloTree do some heavy lifting for you. And now back to the show.
Paula Rollo 36:43
I just want to lean into this concept of solving a problem, solving it in its wholeness. And, you know, I hear you saying like niching down and leaning into that. So how do you discover?
I think a lot of people are in this position where we have sites that are very broad. And maybe we’ve niched down our avatar and our minds a little bit now with some of the questions you presented.
But how do we pick a problem and make sure we solve it entirely and know that we can speak to every aspect of a problem to solve for someone in a product?
Jillian Leslie 37:22
Okay, so I like that. And one easy thing you can do, let’s say you’re this lifestyle blogger or you’re this parenting blogger, go look at your Instagram and see which posts do the best.
Paula Rollo 37:33
Jillian Leslie 37:34
You know, people are, “oh,” they love your crafts, or they love your parenting advice, or they love your wellness stuff, you know, that kind of thing.
And so you go, “Ooh, this is interesting, this is somehow connecting with my audience.”
Welcome your audience to talk to you so you can understand their problems
And then again, I would start building around that and seeing what the reaction is. And then I would be welcoming people to talk to you, even if you need to offer them a Starbucks gift card, you know. You want to get intimate with your visitors with your customers.
You want to really, again, know everything about them because that’s how you start to learn what their problems are. So for example, I offer coaching, right? And I set the price relatively reasonably. And I want people to reach out to me, and I love to help them
A lot of times, what happens is, somebody will reach out to me and I talk to them, and I talk to them once. And what I always say is this, which is, I don’t want to be a coach. But I want to hear the problems people are having in their businesses.
So if anybody out there wants to set up a call with me, please do. And then what I say at the end is, when you feel ready, like reach out to me and we’ll set up another call. I don’t want to do a weekly thing necessarily, because it’s not the direction I want to move my business.
But I want to hear what people are struggling because it informs the products we build, it informs the podcasts I want to make and create. It informs the newsletters I want to write because I want to speak to that.
So somebody reaches out to me and says, “I’m in a Facebook group. And it’s somebody who creates similar content to me, and I’m finding that she’s bad mouthing me, and that she’s kind of sabotaging me. And how do I deal with that?”
And I was like, “Wow, I hadn’t really thought through. What do I think about that?”
And by her reaching out to me, I was able to turn that into a newsletter of like, what would I do? You know, what would I say about this?
And I was able to write back to her in a really intentional way to say, “Well, here’s how I would think about it.
And my advice was, the internet’s a big place. And yes, this is happening in a Facebook group. And it feels like high school. And your job is to recognize that chances are, these people who are reading this don’t care anywhere near as much as you care about this, you know.
Think about when people are gossiping, and you’re like, “What?” You know, you hear it and “woo” in the moment, and then you don’t care anymore.
And what my final advice was, if in fact she’s doing something where she’s stealing, you know, she might be borrowing your ideas, and that gets tricky, but if she’s actually stealing stuff, I would reach out to her.
But I wouldn’t be reaching out to her based on how it’s going. And I would try to be as as non-reactive as possible.
But what I would do is, I would get close to my customers, I would really dial in what I’m trying to do. And I would get hyper aware of the problem I’m solving so that this person can kind of fall into the background. Because there’s room for both of you.
And this feels crappy. And I get that and you might just have to ride it through, but you will be stronger on the other side.
Paula Rollo 41:12
Such good advice.
Jillian Leslie 41:13
Now. In fact, I love that she reached out with this question because it made me really think about it, and then it helped me create content because I know she’s struggling with this, other people are struggling with this and I’ve struggled with this.
And one last thing I wanted to share is you have to recognize, you know, it’s kind of like how, like, oh, the Russians, you know, affected our election, right?
Again, that might not be the best example. But my point is, there are some really smart people in the world who can do incredible things.
And so you’re not necessarily competing against the Russians, but you’re competing against the best marketers or people who have figured out both how to, I would say, kind of white hat and black hat, let’s say Instagram.
Black hat means not doing stuff that is kosher. But like, there are people out there who, you know, people who are like, let’s say, buying followers and figuring out how to work the system to their benefit.
And therefore, now back in the day when we started, people weren’t as smart. They weren’t.
Today, they’re smarter.
Paula Rollo 42:32
Jillian Leslie 42:34
So you got to figure out what your special sauce is, how you can compete in this marketplace. Because there will be somebody who will always be better at Instagram than you.
So yes, you need to learn what are best practices, what are people doing to have success. And I don’t recommend doing anything black hat like buying followers and things. There will always be people who do that stuff.
But I do feel like if you’re in this for the long haul like play nice, like be honest, that kind of thing.
But even brands, you know, in the beginning, brands, you know, you’re this blogger, you’re putting content out, brands would be looking, like come reach out to you and say, “Hey, you know, will you work with me?” And you’d be like, “Whoa, this is so cool.”
Working with brands is harder because brands have gotten smarter
And today, working with brands is a much harder thing because brands have gotten smarter. And brands now don’t just believe your follower count. They’re looking to see what your engagement is.
And they’re looking to see that, you know, it used to be, well, I’ll share it here and they want it here. Uh-uh.
They just want, let’s say, Instagram, or they don’t even want a blog post. They know you’re good at this, they know you have an audience. They want what you’re good at.
And not only that, but recently, brands have come back to me with like we want your metrics in such a granular way because brands have gotten smarter.
Paula Rollo 43:58
Jillian Leslie 44:00
So again, because people know more, because things are possible today that weren’t possible back, I don’t know, five years ago, much more is going to be demanded of you. And just know that you’re competing in a much smarter, more sophisticated marketplace,
Paula Rollo 44:23
Which is scary but also good. If we keep up and we are smart and we are savvy, this will play to our advantage. Because that means that the people who have been doing this black hat stuff all this time, that’s not working anymore the way they’re supposed to.
Jillian Leslie 44:43
Right. Exactly. So in the beginning with Instagram, it was like brands would be, you know, reaching out to people who had 100,000 followers and they didn’t care, they weren’t sophisticated enough to know, Well, where did you get those followers?
And now, they are and now they’re asking for a lot of that information. So just be mindful of that — that you want to create authentic engagements on your social media channels.
And it might be slower growing than you might like. But if you just stick in there and continue to do the good work, you’ll be rewarded. But it’s with a lot of intention.
Paula Rollo 45:22
Yes. And it is a long game right now because we are in an in-between where some brands are savvy in the way that you’ve just described, but then you do have other brands who are saying they’re asking for ridiculous things.
They’re asking for all of these followers but not realizing that they’re going to inauthentic shares and things along those lines. And so, we do have to write out this middle ground where some brands are smart and some brands have not caught on yet.
And be cautious as influencers not to cheat the system because the system is going towards this smarter, savvier internet marketing direction than it was a few years ago.
Jillian Leslie 46:10
Right. Like, for example, CPMs like cost per thousands for advertising continue to drop because…
Initially David and I, my partner and I, my husband, we used to talk about it as the dumb money, which is the dumb money would be the big brands that would throw a lot of money at ads on blogs.
Then what happened was programmatic advertising where all of a sudden, you could either spend this premium amount of money to be placed on a blog or you could buy that ad space with programmatic ads. And you’re going to get the same space, but you’re going to pay one-tenth of the price.
And all of a sudden, brands got smarter and said, “Why are we having these huge ad budgets when we can do it all programmatically and get on good sites?” You know, it didn’t make sense.
And that’s what I would say, which is, over time, the dumb money leaves. Or the dumb money gets smart and becomes smart money.
And we’re in this inflection point where there is less and less; there’s still dumb money but there is less and less of it.
Paula Rollo 47:18
Don’t be fooled. Because it’s frustrating when you see in one day, three or four opportunities for the dumb money and you don’t measure up. And it’s very tempting to go just buy, you know, if I just bought 1000 more followers, I could be to that metric or, you know, something like that.
We really want to cut corners when we get nervous, but don’t do it. Because those things are dwindling, and they’re dwindling quickly. All across any industry.
Overview: Blogging Trends for 2019
Jillian Leslie 47:46
Absolutely. So if I were to think about this in a high level way, my recommendation — and I’d love to hear what your recommendations are — for 2019 are being intentional, thinking about your business in terms of solving a problem for your avatar, knowing who your avatar is, and continuing to experiment around what’s already working to find new opportunities.
And what would you say?
Paula Rollo 48:26
I mean, I think that’s spot on. I think that things are harder but things are better.
They’re harder because of that intentionality piece like you said. We used to be able to fly by the seat of our pants a little bit more. We used to be able to just slap up a blog post about a current event and get 100,000 views in a day and make a couple thousand dollars. And it was great.
That’s not happening now. Occasionally it is but you can’t build your blog strategy around it, around I have that one viral post and so now all the sponsors are going to come to me.
Because they’re asking good questions like how many comments did you get on your last sponsored post, not how many page views that you get this month. Or how many page views did you get on your last sponsored posts, not how many pages did you get this month.
Both questions are usually asked but they’re getting smarter about what they’re looking at.
And so this intentionality about the brands that we partner with, about the opportunities that we take, about where we’re leaning in, I think you’re completely right. We can’t just do anything anymore and be a business model.
Jillian Leslie 49:36
And there were these ways where you could game the system, like I can figure out how to create a viral post on Facebook. And if I do X, Y and Z, the chances… and I get my friends to share it and I do all of these crazy gymnastics, I can up my chances that this is going to go viral and it’s going to drive a ton of traffic to my site, and my ad income is going to go up and all of that stuff.
And I just don’t think those opportunities to game the system are as available to us.
Paula Rollo 50:09
And even the ones that are available are not worth the time because they aren’t ripple effecting the way that they used to.
And I think as we are getting ready to kind of like close down this one, I do want to ask you about this: you mentioned the secret sauce and finding your secret sauce. Because I almost feel like your secret sauce is identifying other people’s.
So as an entrepreneur looking at the industry in the next year, it feels a little bit uncertain. And it feels like I don’t know where to lean in. Like, I can understand you saying be intentional.
But at the same time, I could write a course on anything, I could narrow my audience in three different ways that I have in my mind. I’m knowledgeable about a lot of things.
And so how do I decide which one to go, and I’m passionate about all these things. I’m interested in all of these things. And I could write a great product in all of these things, be it a a book, be it a course, be it whatever.
How do I decide what’s going to be my secret sauce that I can lean into and and stay in that niche forever instead of just making a good product?
How do I decide what my secret sauce is as a blogger?
Jillian Leslie 51:33
Okay. I like that. I would recommend looking at other influencers in those areas.
And I would do this for two reasons. One, I would see if you like them, I would see how you respond to the communities that they’ve built. And if you feel like these are your people.
Paula Rollo 51:55
Jillian Leslie 51:56
And then the second thing I would do is see if you can find an opportunity in one of those.
Let’s say, okay, you’ve got three areas. And one of them, you go “No, no, I don’t like them. I don’t like the people in the Facebook group that kind of is in this niche. But these other two I really like.”
Then I would say, Okay, I would look at what people are talking about. And I would look at whether you have a different perspective that you could bring to the table.
Now, there might be people who have your exact same perspective, but maybe there’s a way. And again, there’s room for two people to have the same perspective because you’ll do it in different ways.
But I would say like, is there room for me to bring in my secret sauce, to bring in my life experience, my awareness, my advice; and do I think that I could add to this niche in a special way?
Paula Rollo 52:55
Jillian Leslie 52:57
And again, then I would test it because in today’s world, I would not be building out, you know, a website, and like, let’s say, you decide, you know, you’re new or you want to rebrand, or whatever, I wouldn’t be investing the amount of time that we used to invest 5 to 7 years ago.
Like, well, I’m just going to build a whole new site and hire a designer and do all of this stuff, you know, hire somebody. Like we even, I think I had mentioned this, for Catch My Party paid like $1,000 for somebody to design our Catch My Party logo.
And then what we did was… okay, and again, we like it, I hope you guys like it because it was very expensive.
Would we do that today? Absolutely not. So what we did was we made our second business MiloTree. And what I did was I hired somebody on Fiverr, and I said, “Okay, here are the colors that we’re going to use for MiloTree. Look at Catch My Party. Look at what this guy…”
He had a special name, the guy who designed it, he’s like a typographer. It’s not that, but it’s somebody who designs logos. Like that’s what they do.
And I said, “Okay, see what we did with Catch My Party. Can you design me a logo that looks like this in the same kind of typography that says MiloTree?” And I think I probably paid him $30.
Paula Rollo 54:19
Jillian Leslie 54:21
And there’s my logo. Now, is it the best logo? No. If I had all the money in the world, I probably would hire somebody to create a whole new logo for MiloTree.
But is it good enough? It’s probably good enough. So those are the things where back in the day, we were like, “Well, it’s going to cost us $1,000 to create a logo, let’s do that. You know, that seems somehow like a smart idea.”
And today, I would never do that. Never.
So that’s where you get to be scrappier and that’s where you’re going to put up a landing page, let’s say, and see iif you can collect any email addresses, you know, maybe you run some ads on Pinterest or Facebook and see if people are interested.
But that’s the difference is in the beginning, we built and built and built and kind of assume that we would build it and they would come.
And in today’s world, I would say you want to be more nimble and you want to hire somebody on Fiverr or Upwork or whatever, to do the down and dirty version of it, to see where you get traction.
Paula Rollo 55:22
Right. Because the internet is in flux and we can change it as we go and we can improve it as we go as long as we’re not breaking trust.
Be a little embarrassed putting new content out on the Internet
Jillian Leslie 55:30
Absolutely. And I love this quote. And I think I might have mentioned it previously, which is, if you ship a product, which really just means in the internet, you launch your blog or you launch your Shopify store, or whatever it is, if you are not a little bit embarrassed, you have shipped it or launched it too late.
Paula Rollo 55:50
Jillian Leslie 55:51
You know, and again, in this podcast, back in the beginning, my first episode, I had to edit it. And I went in and I tried to take out every “um” and every “uh” and every whatever. And then I said, this will kill me.
And so I put them up pretty much how they record and sometimes I’m embarrassed. But I’m willing to put it out there because I feel like the content needs to be out there.
And so, yeah, like, being an entrepreneur is a lot about being embarrassed, which is kind of a funny thing to think about. But get used to being a little… it’s a little cringy.
Paula Rollo 56:31
Jillian Leslie 56:34
So that I would say, you know, is that we’re all cringing at our own stuff. And we are all judging ourselves much more harshly than anybody else is.
So I try to remember that and kind of go press ‘publish,’ you know, and then try not to look back at it
Paula Rollo 56:56
That’s so good though. That’s so good. Because that is how you can find your secret sauce.
Jillian Leslie 57:04
So do you think that that is a viable answer to your question?
Paula Rollo 57:10
Yes, I think so. Because it’s multifaceted. And I think that simpler answers, we used to just have one answer to questions. “Oh, how do you want to get paid for your social media? Do you do you want to do this?” There’s one answer.
But now, we have to look at our businesses in more than one way. It combines the “are you passionate about it?” that needs to be there, but that’s not enough anymore. And it combines the “is there a good community there?” that needs to be there, but it’s not enough anymore.
And then “is there room there that needs to be there?” All three of those things have to be in place for that to be a new place for you to lean in. Because if one of those three things is missing, it’s not a viable long term strategy.
Jillian Leslie 58:00
Right. And also know that you can always change it.
Like that’s one of the great things about what we do is that it is this ever-changing world and that can be scary. But it also can be very freeing, because at the end of the day, I could hire somebody else on Fiverr to make me a new logo for a new business, you know.
And so because there is this flexibility, I’m not locked in. And I can always be looking for the opportunities.
And then one last thing I wanted to talk about is this idea of there are these conventional wisdoms of how things work, how to do Facebook, or how to do Pinterest, or how to do Instagram.
What works for one blogger on social media might not work for everyone
And my one piece of advice is definitely listen to what people are saying but don’t take those as the law, that that’s the way to do it. Because it might be for them.
But it doesn’t necessarily mean it is for you. And I always say experiment for yourself to make sure this works for you.
Paula Rollo 59:08
Yes, yes. Because we don’t understand the background legwork that someone’s doing to make that work for them. And you know your background legwork, and so using that knowledge that you have of your own business, is how you figure out what advice to take and implement from other people.
And which advice is not necessarily complete, because you don’t have the full picture of that person’s business.
Jillian Leslie 59:38
Absolutely, absolutely. So, again, try stuff, see what works for you. And when you hear people giving advice, this is the way to do this, always have a part in your brain that goes “maybe, maybe.”
And if it doesn’t work for you, it doesn’t mean you’re a failure. Yeah, it just means you have a different business.
Paula Rollo 59:59
Jillian Leslie 1:00:02
Cool. All right. Well, good. Well, I love this.
And Paula and I have talked about how we are going to do this. We’re going to pop in and talk about topics, we’re going to go deeper into a lot of these different topics throughout the year.
But we wanted to start off the year with really talking about how we see the landscape.
Paula Rollo 1:00:21
Jillian Leslie 1:00:23
So this is so fun. And I love talking to you.
Paula Rollo 1:00:26
I love talking to you too. I always get new ideas of what I want to try and a clearer vision of the direction that I need to be going in for my business when I talk to you. So I love this.
Jillian Leslie 1:00:40
I love that. And if anybody wants to schedule time with me, I would love to talk to you. So reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org and we can set up some time — and I do charge for it. But maybe, you know, we could brainstorm some ideas for your business.
So awesome. Well, thank you so much, Paula, for being on the show.
Paula Rollo 1:01:05
Thank you for having me.
Jillian Leslie 1:01:07
If you’re enjoying the show, please share it. Tell your friends. Tell your UPS guy, tell anybody. Just please share it. I would so greatly appreciate it. And I will see you again here next week.