Building Community with Paul Gowder: Mediavine On Air Episode 29

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Big thought of the day: You can circumvent social media algorithm woes by shifting your focus to BUILDING A COMMUNITY on these platforms. 

On this episode of Teal Talk S4 originally recorded back in September, Jenny is joined by Paul Gowder, founder of the website Powwows.com. By implementing his engagement strategies and forming genuine personal connections with his followers, Paul sparked the creation of a Pow Wow Nation, tens of thousands strong. 

In Mediavine On Air Episode 29, Paul will share ways to grow community through social media and then how to expand beyond the walled gardens. 

You don’t want to miss it!

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Transcript

[MUSIC PLAYING] JENNY GUY: Hey, guys. How is Tuesday treating you so far? Is it fall-like in your neck of the woods? In Oklahoma, it has gone back to the mid to upper 80s with some 90s sandwiched in there for fun, so the only place I can wear fall fashion comfortably is in air conditioning.

So a big welcome to you from my home, a.k.a. the meat locker. This is Teal Talk, and I am your host, Jenny Guy. It is so great to see you today.

Is anyone else also in absolute shock that it’s October later this week? Does that feel wrong? Like, how did that happen? Isn’t it still 2020? Paul, like, are you continuously–

PAUL GOWDER: The whole last two years, you can’t really tell where we are in time, yeah.

JENNY GUY: It’s wrong that I’m aging, but I can’t tell you what’s happened or any of it. It’s so bizarre. It’s so, so bizarre.

But the good thing, the silver lining– I don’t know if anyone else– I love fall. I think it is– it’s one of my favorite seasons. And on top of that, I don’t know that there are any content creators that don’t love Q4. It is such a wonderful, magical time for us for a number of reasons, and we’ve got a lot of really exciting programming planned for you guys coming up to help you make the most of this time when advertising spend is going to be at its peak for most of the niches that we work with in the lifestyle spectrum, just to make sure that all of that top content that is going to have eyes on it is performing at its max. So we will have all of those things happening and coming your way in the coming weeks.

And then this week, keep your eyes peeled for our earnings calendar, which is coming out to let everybody know how to maximize those days when spend is traditionally higher. So we’ll be sharing that shortly.

But for today, what we’re talking about is a different way of looking at social media. And we’re very excited to have Paul Gowder with us here. Rather than talking about trying to go viral or trying to beat the “A” word that we talk about so often, with Facebook particularly, the algorithm word, we’re going to come at this from a different direction and come at it from the building of a community. And I am so pleased to have Paul Gowder with us today.

He is the founder of Powwows.com. He graduated from the University of South Carolina in 1994 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in political science and again in 1996 with a master of public administration. Paul enjoys traveling with his wife and daughter, including over 30 trips as a family to Walt Disney World. That is something I can get behind, 10 out of 10. Have you been in the last, strange 18 months?

PAUL GOWDER: Several times, yes.

JENNY GUY: Yeah?

PAUL GOWDER: Yeah.

JENNY GUY: Hey, that’s awesome. And is Galaxy’s Edge as amazing as everyone says it is?

PAUL GOWDER: Rise of the Resistance is the best thing Walt Disney World or Disney Company has ever built. It’s unbelievable. But I mean, you can see, I’m a Star Wars person, so it’s–

JENNY GUY: Yes.

PAUL GOWDER: –incredible.

JENNY GUY: I have been admiring Paul’s background for a while now, and I’m dying to go to Galaxy’s Edge. So what we’re going to do, guys, is talk about forming a community. As always, if you have questions for Paul or for me, drop them in the comments and we will make sure those are asked. And then we will also have a handout at the end of today’s episode that we will share in the comments so that you don’t have to worry about trying to take notes or click around to try to find the things we’re talking about. We will have all of that wrapped up in a nice little Q4 bow that we will share at the end.

So first, guys, I’m going to ask a question to our audience quickly before we go all the way in. Have you started a group on Facebook or any other social platform? Tell us a little bit about that experience share that in the comments.

And while that happens, I’m going to start where we always start out when I have an expert guest on the show, which is my favorite part about this job, which is, tell us more about your journey as a content creator, how you started your website, which he told us right before we started was in 1996, 1996 he started Powwows.com, and when you started investing time into expanding that community and community building through establishing those groups on social media.

PAUL GOWDER: Yeah. Thanks. And excited to be here, so thank you for Mediavine for letting me come on and talk.

So yeah, in 1996 I started building Powwows.com, and it was a complete accident. It was not something– I was in grad school. It was not something meant to be a business. So I was building websites, just teaching myself how to do it, and I built two pages on things that I was into at the time.

Obviously, Star Wars toy collecting was one of them. And I was telling you before we went live, it’s still out there in its original form, if anybody wants to go find that. And then I built one about Native American powwows because I was traveling around the Southeast, I was dancing, I was singing, so I built some pages about that.

It wasn’t just a few weeks that people started emailing me and looking. It was before Google, so we hit the search engine really early, those early search engines, so people found us really easily. And immediately people were emailing wanting to not just engage with me, but really to engage with each other.

So it was within the first six months, we threw up a forum. Back then, it was a free little plug-in we found somewhere, and the community started really from the beginning. And so we have been community focused since 1996.

We’ve gone through several phases. We did the forum thing. We were heavily in vBulletin, if anybody remembers that. And then when social media happened, it was at first a difficult transition for us because we were so heavily invested in forums, had hundreds of thousands of members there, and that’s where all of our traffic was. So it took us a little bit to figure out how to switch to social media. But now that is kind of the hub of where our community is with our page in our groups.

But also, going back to what I was saying with community, we were a community from the start. So we really look at everything we do, whether it’s our newsletter, our lives, our powwow live webcast, everything we do, we try to incorporate community into it.

JENNY GUY: I love that that’s intrinsically a part of your brand. And so your real challenge was taking what you already had existing on those forums– and we’ve got other people giving forum love in our comments. We remember that you were trying to translate that into a social media landscape box. I love that.

So let’s explain to people, because we have– Kelly actually said, I have a Facebook business page but very rarely post on it because I feel like I never get any engagement. This is a common theme, and it’s something we hear over and over again from content creators, that Facebook is tough. It’s a tough platform and it changes all the time.

But what I would like to hear from Paul is how has investing this time– because we know, as content creators, we have limited time, we have limited resources, and there are about 500 million things to put your attention on, that everything is saying, here, here, here, here, here, this is the most important, this is the most important. So tell us how you’ve seen this pay off for you, investing the time in forming those groups on social.

PAUL GOWDER: Sure. Really, the community for us, with all the algorithm changes and all of the different social medias that come up and go, for us, having the groups and having the community, on all parts of our website, for us it is, when we want to do something new or when we want to launch– like, right now, we’re celebrating our 25th anniversary, so we’re doing a big contest. So when we want to do that, it’s our community that we look to first to kind of launch those things. And of course, then search engines will pick it up or other stuff will– links or whatever.

But whatever we do, we always start with our community. And so that’s a great– we just relaunched our podcast. So our community is the one who jumped on that first, and that’s where we’re getting our first downloads. And so having that community is kind of your starting place of any content you’re creating.

And it’s great. You automatically have a few, whether it’s a few or a few thousand, downloads or interactions. That’s where it starts. So you don’t have to worry about whether it’s algorithms or even Google SEO changes. As long as you have that community somewhere– and I highly recommend a newsletter with your community so you aren’t dependent on all those other people– yeah, it’s a great place that you can kind of start with.

JENNY GUY: Building those superfans– we’ve actually had several people come in, and they’re your people. They’re the people that want your newsletters, they want your content. They’re not finding you from a random Google Search. Or if they are, they’re finding you, loving you, and staying with you.

PAUL GOWDER: Right.

JENNY GUY: So as I just said, we know that there is a limited amount of time and resources for content creators to invest in the various things, from social to photography to video to SEO to writing to ads to site design, to all of the different things. So give us a step by step of how you broke in. And I think it will probably make sense to hear how you started on social media rather than forums.

PAUL GOWDER: So I’ll tell you about the transition. So when we were on the forums, at one point, we were having thousands of new posts a day. It was incredible the amount of content there.

When social media hit, the forums, over probably of three- to six-month period, the traffic just was gone. And I can remember getting emails from long-time forum members saying, man, this was great. It was awesome, but Powwows.com is dead, man. I’m sorry, we’re going to have to leave you, and getting dozens of emails like that. And whew, it was rough. Those were hard times.

So what we did, we made a concerted effort to switch over and focus on social media. And some of the things we had to do, first, we really had to identify– and I recommend everybody doing this, looking at who are you trying to target, who is your audience. And we have a few different ones with our website, but we really identified those people. And so everything we did then– we started with our Facebook page and our community, we tried to target those people.

And other people will come. But as long as you’re focused on your group, the people you’re trying to connect, all of your content kind of will focus around that. And you’ll attract those people that want to be a part of that community.

And somebody who posted they’re not getting much engagement on their page, it’s OK. Those early days, for us posting on Facebook, it may seem like you’re shouting into the void and nothing’s out there. But it’s OK. If you only have one or two people, it’s still a community.

And I’ll tell you something. This happened on the forums, and it’s one of the best tips I give people. When I first started the forums, my username– if people remember forums, you had usernames. You didn’t have your real name. And mine was Webmaster, because that was what I was. I was the webmaster of Powwows.com, and that was my username.

And somewhere along the line, one of my moderators said, Paul, everybody looks at you like this overlord guy out there. They don’t know who you are. And she’s like, you’ve got to change your username, and you’ve got to get in the forums and actually talk to people.

And so I made the change. I actually started using my real name and I engaged in the community. I went and posted. I talked in the forums. I shared personal information. I started conversations. And I do the same thing on social media or newsletter.

And this was– I made this mistake twice. In my newsletter, I did the same thing. I talk like a brand for a long time, and then I made the shift and made sure I was talking to people one on one, having that personal connection and sharing personal things, but talking to them like we are on the same page and we’re actually a part of the same community. That will go– even if you only have two people on your Facebook group or your Facebook page, engaging them and being a part of that or being a part of it with them, not just pushing toward them, has been a huge shift for me. And I’ve had to learn that lesson a few times, but it really does help.

JENNY GUY: It sounds like, yeah, absolutely. And the difference between– and I’m going to have you expand on this, if you don’t mind– talking like a brand versus talking like yourself, talking with people, communicating as opposed to talking at people.

PAUL GOWDER: Yeah. I’ll give you the example of the newsletter. For a long time, I thought graphics and– I say, I used to have my newsletters look like a Best Buy ad. They were amazing. They were pretty. They had all kinds of fancy flashing things and all this graphics.

And so now my newsletters maybe have a few images, but it’s mostly text. And I spend the first part of all my newsletters, whether it’s we’re sending out the new blog post of the week or updates to our powwow calendar or anything like, that the first part is always me talking to the community, saying– and I’ll say things like, hey, this week is here’s what’s happened with me. Like, this past weekend, I actually got to go to my first powwow in two years in person. I flew back last night.

And so I talked about that in the newsletter. I talked about that in the Facebook group. I went and told that story, and I’ll put that in the newsletter and be real personal. And people will identify that.

Same thing in the Facebook group. I worked really hard over the last few years building that Facebook group, and going in there and engaging people and just asking questions, like, when was the first time you went to a powwow? It’s a really basic question. Anybody, whether you’re a food blogger or whatever, when’s the first time you did this. And that’s a really basic question and you’ll always get a response to something like that. But you’ve got to be in there and you’ve got to be part of the community.

JENNY GUY: And that’s kind of scary, to go from having that level of divide to going in and being more open and more yourself without that layer of protection. So you also said, determine who it is that you want to talk to. Can you– and that sounds like such an obvious thing. But I think– I know it’s hard for me, everyone, to not feel like you want to talk to everyone, but I don’t want to cut anyone off. So can you talk through your process of determining who your people are and how you really drill down on that?

PAUL GOWDER: Right. And that was one of the hard transitions for us, going from the forum-based and things we were doing on our website to social media. For us, that shift meant that, really, we had a different audience when we switched to social media. So in the early days of Powwows.com, most of the people visiting our website were people who actually participated in powwows. They were the dancers, the singers, the head staffs, the people who ran powwows. That’s who our audience was. 80%, 90% of our audience was that.

When we moved to social media, obviously we had a bigger world out there. And it became really apparent that we were attracting more people. So when we would post– we used to post all the results of powwows. Those kind of posts started getting no traction at all because people, they didn’t know who these people were. Who placed first or second at a powwow didn’t really mean anything to them, whereas opposed to if we posted pictures of what happened at the powwow and told the story of, hey, here’s the jingle dress, and here’s what this dance is about, all of a sudden that blew up.

So that’s when we started realizing that, hey, we have a different group here. And some of the things we did, I started looking at what kind of questions we’re coming in. Whether it’s social media or email, what are people asking, and started writing those down, kind of, here are my top 10 questions. And from that, and comments, whatever, you can start determining, OK, these people are– for us, it was, OK, so I’m seeing that some of these people are not really Native American, they’re just people interested in the culture and wanting to figure out a way to engage and explore and connect with the culture. So if that’s a new part of our audience, OK, let’s figure out what kind of content we need to build for them.

At the same time, we still have our native people, and so we need to build content for them. So that became, for us, it was all about what kind of questions were coming in, the content that people were– looking at our Google Analytics that this page was getting.

We’re like, OK, well, why is that page getting more than this, and really digging in and making that, OK, my audience is– and we wrote these things out. My audience is people that are non-native and they were looking to identify with Native American culture, even if they’re not a part of a tribe, even if they’re not living on a reservation. And so that was kind of– we wrote out those avatar kind of statements.

JENNY GUY: I love that. And I know that it’s a marketing term, avatar, but it’s so important because it’s so easy to fall into that trap of, I can be everything to everybody and try to talk to everybody. And when you’re talking to everybody, you’re talking to nobody. You have to be figuring out who it is that you’re talking to, and that’s so helpful, great advice.

I also loved what you said a few moments ago, and it relates directly to what Kelly was just saying, which is that she has the business page, but she doesn’t really post because she doesn’t get the engagement. And as you said, it’s so difficult initially when you’re doing that because you feel like you’re shouting into the void, but that even if there are a few people responding, you do have a community. Are there other recommendations that if you’re not getting traction, if you’re not growing, how do you recommend finding people?

PAUL GOWDER: Yeah. So when we started our Facebook group– and we had it for several years now, but we went out– if you were subscribed to our newsletter, if you had ever sent me an email, if you had ever posted a comment on any of my content, we were sending invites. Maybe you weren’t subscribed to the newsletter, but you had sent me a question. Yeah, at some point, I was going to email you and say, hey, by the way, we have a Facebook group now. You may want to go check this out.

And I’m also really intentional about it. So when people do email me even now, and they’ll write maybe a question that I’m not comfortable asking or I’m not an expert in part of the culture, my response is always, hey, we have a community. Maybe somebody there can help you. Go check it out.

And I try to be really intentional about mentioning the group and, hey, that we do have this place our community can connect, so maybe you do want to go check that out. And so everybody who contacts me may get that kind of messaging to go check that out.

We’ve also found that contests and giveaways are super great for getting people– even if you only have five people in your community, if all five of them start sharing it, you have some kind of contest or giveaway or trivia question or whatever, those have been really great for us.

JENNY GUY: Do you ever incentivize joining the group beyond just the great thing that you’re providing? And do you– one, part 1 of that question. Part 2, is there ever a circumstance– do you guide the person into the group? Do you have a some sort of a document or a welcome? Or how do you how let it all go down?

PAUL GOWDER: Yeah, so a couple of things we do there. So right now, we’re running a contest for a 25th anniversary. And in that, we do– it’s one of those contests. We’re using ViralSweep, if anybody has ever used that. And so you can complete task to earn extra entries, and one of the tasks is, of course, joining the Facebook group.

And then inside the Facebook group, we’re actually– we’ve posted special bonus codes. So if you go in the group and you can find one of these bonus codes, then you get extra entries. So we do that to kind of incentivize people to come over.

Inside the group, we do have some welcoming documents. We did use– what’s Facebook calling them, units now, where we built kind of– I think we have a six- or seven-step document and kind of sets the tone of what our community is, what to expect in our community, and to make sure that you understand in a bigger aspect of here’s what all of the resources the Powwows.com offers, because we have the issue of sometimes people will join the group and not necessarily know that we have resources back on our website. And as Mediavine people, we’re always trying to drive people back to the website.

But also, in my email sequences, when anybody signs up to the newsletter, part of our welcoming sequence, there is a whole email out there that says, hey, the community of Powwows.com is all over. We have a large community, but, hey, if you want a place to connect with other people in the community, here’s a group, and come join our group. Yeah.

JENNY GUY: So it’s really just kind of a standard byline to almost all of your communications that you’re putting out. And then you are incentivizing by– can you tell me more about how you are hiding codes in the Facebook group? I think that’s fascinating.

PAUL GOWDER: It’s really cool. I love ViralSweep because they let you generate a list of codes. And so I put them in my podcast. And so it’s a four-digit code, and if you get the code and you go to the page, you get an extra, I think, it’s 25 entries into the contest. So I’ll put them in the group and say, hey, here’s the bonus code for this week. Now you can go back to the entry page over on Powwows.com and get this entry.

So we put them in our live streams, we put them in our podcast, we put them in newsletters. And we even hide them on the website. It has been great for driving people to the Facebook group, but also driving a ton of traffic to the page.

JENNY GUY: That’s– I mean, we can’t argue with either of those things. Those are both wonderful responses.

OK, this is a question for the audience. I wanted to ask– I would assume that at least you’re in at least one Facebook group. Everybody watching or listening right now has to be in at least one. What made you join that group? What was the thing that made you pull the trigger, click Yes, and go join it? I want to hear how you were incentivized personally to join a Facebook group.

And then for Paul, I wanted to ask, Facebook is obviously the most commonly used platform for groups. But talk to us about community building on other platforms, and how do you expand.

PAUL GOWDER: Sure. And going back to what you were saying about limited time, one of the things we’ve also done is we’ve not used some platforms intentionally, Twitter being one of them. We really don’t spend a lot of time on Twitter just because we tried it and that’s not where our community was. It’s not where our people are engaging, so we don’t do it.

Clubhouse was another one. We just didn’t– that’s not where our people were, so we didn’t go there. And I think that’s really important is you don’t have to be everywhere at once and you really focus. But when we do expand to another platform– so right now, we’re playing with TikTok and having fun over there.

JENNY GUY: Oh, yeah. We had an episode this summer about TikTok.

PAUL GOWDER: And really, there, we’re just repurposing content that we have elsewhere. But again, it goes back to whatever platform you’re using. For me, it’s really just having that overall mindset that everybody is a part of the community. And we do it on our website, we do it, like I said, in our newsletters, is every post we do, we’re always trying to talk to the people or with folks, not trying to shout down at them or preach to them or whatever. So even if it’s on Instagram, our stories, we’re trying to make them direct or personal, same thing on any of the platforms. We’re just trying to make sure that we are keeping that community aspect in there all the time.

And the content we post on them is a little bit different, depending on which platform we’re using. But it’s always about, hey, you’re part of this community, whether it’s asking them a question or telling them a story. Yeah, we try to keep that in mind all the time.

JENNY GUY: Keeping the community at the forefront and the needs of that community as opposed to– and I love that even while you’re working to drive traffic back to your website, you’re keeping at the forefront of your messaging that there are resources for you, that we’re providing a service to you. We’re providing what you hopefully came here for.

I’m reading all this feedback on why people were joining groups. I’m hearing, to engage with the like-minded people on the topic, learning from others. Kelly says, honestly, the Mediavine Publisher Group is the main reason I keep my Facebook page active. I mean, well, we can’t hate on that.

Miranda said, she’s looking for groups that answer questions I have about a given topic. Interest-based groups, people giving feedback, things like that, lots of different reasons for joining groups.

And I wanted to ask– oh, Paul, go ahead. I’m sorry.

PAUL GOWDER: One of the big things that– so I was in the Facebook Community Accelerator last year, and one of the things that came out of that is making the transition to making my group public– we weren’t completely public before, and Facebook has the new public group setting. Highly recommend turning that on, as long as it’s not a topic where you’re trying to keep the audience somewhat protected.

But for us, it has been huge. So for those posts, like I talked about, when’s the first time you went to a powwow. So we may get several people posting on that. And when you have a public group, we have tons of people now coming into the group because they saw a friend post a comment. And the Facebook algorithm is liking those public groups right now, so that’s a good tool to kind of get some more growth.

JENNY GUY: What makes you decide between public and private in terms of your group? And how did you make that distinction? And tell us more about Facebook Accelerator

PAUL GOWDER: Yeah, sure. So I have three groups, really, for Powwows.com. And one is– well, two are public, and one is semi-private where you have to– we don’t really share. You can’t see the post unless you’re part of the group. That one is about if you’re interested in tracing family history. So we have a group where people can come in and kind of share their stories, so we didn’t want that open to the public because people are sharing some more personal things.

But our main group, Powwow Nation, that, of course, is just open. Anybody can come in. And then we also have a buy and sell group that is open, too.

So the Community Accelerator, it was a six-month program that Facebook put on. There were 14 of us in North America that were selected, and it was six months’ intensive work at looking at who our community is and helping us at re-identifying those avatars and kind of who our messaging was, and then building out plans to how we grow, was that we went back and made sure that our group was a part all of our messaging. My Facebook coach, that was one of the things she kept saying is, you have to incorporate the group more.

Before the Accelerator, of course, we used the group and it was part of our community, but we weren’t– like I was talking about, as part of our newsletter, as part of our welcoming, all that, that wasn’t there. So the Facebook Accelerator really helped me build out those kind of things.

And it was successful. During the Accelerator, we grew from 30,000 members to 60,000 members in a six-month period.

JENNY GUY: Wow.

PAUL GOWDER: Yeah.

JENNY GUY: That’s– and where are you now? Because it was not 60,000 when I looked the last time. It was, like, 200 something, 300?

PAUL GOWDER: On our Facebook group, I think we’re at 75,000. Our Facebook page is 750,000, something like that.

JENNY GUY: That’s pretty good, pretty amazing. So you were talking about ways to get your group active and engaged. And I would love your tips on the best– you said asking a question is a great way to get people involved. Another recommendation you gave was rather than telling people about something, showing them with pictures. How do you get a really engaged group going?

PAUL GOWDER: So it’s tough, especially at first. So it’s really about inviting some people in, getting those first conversations started. And even back in the forums, there were times when I didn’t have many people out there. So it was me and a couple of friends– I don’t want to say we were seeding conversations, but I was intentionally like, hey, even my wife, I’m like, hey, I’m going to post this. I need you to go and post a reply.

Get your core group in there and start conversations. As long as you can get two or three people commenting, somebody else is going to see it and come in. And post– Facebook doesn’t like links, so try not to post links, of course. But pictures were great in the beginning and still are.

If anybody wants to go and check out our group, now a lot of it is just people sharing their pictures of powwows or different parts of native culture. And so that’s really been the best way is getting in there and posting the way that Facebook wants you to post in a group, which is organic content, nothing really shared into the group, it’s posted straight to the group, whether it’s a conversation starter or a picture or a video. Yeah, it’s posting it directly in there has been really good.

So several years ago, I took a class or course, and I still have them on my desk. It had a deck of cards, of Facebook cards.

JENNY GUY: Oh, interesting.

PAUL GOWDER: Yes. Grow Your Audience, it’s Rachel Miller. Thank you, Rachel, for that. That was a great course.

But I keep these on my desk. And you can go out there and just find these. There’s other stuff like this all over the place. But literally, I’ll pull a card out of these decks once or twice a week and just post it in the group to get conversations started.

JENNY GUY: That’s– love those cards. It’s not Cards Against Humanity, it’s cards for humanity, form the group.

PAUL GOWDER: Yeah.

JENNY GUY: So I wanted to ask– you said, and this seems crazy to have to say, but we do because it’s counterintuitive. But what we want to do with social media is we want to share our links to our website, drive the people back to our website, get them onto our website, and be able to monetize in that way. But that’s not what Facebook wants. Facebook wants us to keep them on the platform.

So how do you balance doing what Facebook wants– and you said you also weren’t seeing a lot of success sharing a post from your public page. So it’s creating a new post in the group each time. And so how do you balance sharing your links? Because like you said, that’s where we want people to go.

PAUL GOWDER: Yes. And that’s something we talked a lot about during the Community Accelerator is, like, for publishers like me– and not everybody in the Accelerator was in the same situation. But my revenue is from advertising, so I have to drive people back to the website. And so I had this conversation with Facebook several times. And if you’re out there listening, I still want you to think about this.

What if Facebook monetized our content and we didn’t have to depend on sending people back? What if what if the end result was just engagement on Facebook for monetization? Then what could we do?

It is a hard balance, so I don’t I don’t look at my group as a way to drive traffic to the page. I look at the group as just part of our community. And if we do happen to post something in there, whether– so this weekend I went out to it was a Morongo powwow in California, and we streamed the entire event. During non-COVID times, we do about 15 or so powwows a year where we stream the entire event.

So yes, we posted that in the group, and so that helped drive traffic back to the website. But for the most part, the group is just a community and it’s there to build that community feeling. And of course, it’s going to be a side result that you’re going to get traffic from that, but that’s not our focus with the group because it’s not what Facebook wants you to do, so they’re not going to reward you for posting a ton of links in there.

And we do post occasionally, here’s a new blog post or those kind of things. But for the most part, it’s just, here’s our community, and let’s engage in the group itself.

JENNY GUY: Excellent way to think about that. So then how do you convert those group members to newsletter subscribers?

PAUL GOWDER: So here’s a little thing I found out recently that I started doing. I use a product called Group Leads, and I ask everybody who joins the Facebook group now– with the new public groups, not everybody sees your Facebook questions or whatever. But if you request access to our group, I do ask for your email address, and it’s one of the questions. If you want to join our group and you want to be a part of our newsletter, leave me your email address. And I use a product called Group Leads that scrapes all of those emails right into the newsletter. Highly recommend that if you have a group.

If you’re just starting and you’re only getting a few, it’s easy enough to cut and paste. But we were to the point or the volume we had to have a little tool to do that. And it’s amazing, just asking people for their email address.

And one of the pinned posts in our group is usually something to the effect of, hey, you want to know more about this? Well, here’s our newsletter, or here’s a sequence you may want to go and join. Like I said, we have something, if you’re new to powwows, so we have one, it’s www.powwows.com/powwow101. And so made a little simple URL, and I can mention it in the group, I can mention it in live streams. And it’s a pinned post. Hey, if you’re new to this you want to kind of get more about it, here’s an email sequence. We’ll send you some information and backgrounds about powwows.

So those are kind of things we do. We don’t do a whole lot of, hey, just come join our join our list. I try to target it. Same thing, we have an email sequence about ancestry, and we’ll kind of advertise it that way as, hey, if you need some more help with this, we’ve got an email list that’ll kind of help you and get you started. And that’s been good for us.

JENNY GUY: I love that you’re able to get those email addresses without driving people off the platform. Keep Facebook happy and grow your list. Fantastic, that’s amazing.

How often do you send emails? I know we’re not talking about emails. That’s another 7,500 episodes that we could do. But I’d love to hear about how many emails you’re sending.

PAUL GOWDER: So broadcast emails that go out to the whole list, we’re probably sending three to four a week. Now, if you’re in one of our sequences, you may be getting more. So the Powwow 101, it’s one a day for about eight days. So then, of course, you’ll get a couple of broadcasts in there, too. But broadcast, it’s about three to four week, unless– like, this weekend we had something special going on with our live stream, so we sent out a few more to kind of promote that.

JENNY GUY: So how does community building differ from other forms? Because when you said three to four emails a week, you’re creating a lot of content. You’re engaging on the blog, you’re engaging in the group, you’re writing emails, you’re doing all of these different. How is your tone of voice different when you’re in your community?

PAUL GOWDER: Well, that’s one of the things. For me, it’s a mindset of my tone and voice are always the same. It is always– I go back to that moderator telling me, stop talking about it like you are the webmaster of the page because I’m PaulG. And so my username on the forum was PaulG.

And even this weekend, we were going back to the room one night and the people putting on the powwow gave us a ride because we had all the equipment. And one of the guys jumped on, and I hadn’t seen him in years. And he jumped on and looked at me, and he goes, PaulG, what’s up? And so I’m still known for that, because that’s how I engaged people on the forums. And still today, people still know me as PaulG, not Paul Gowder.

So it’s just having that mindset of whatever platform you’re using– email, Instagram, Facebook groups, whatever– it’s always community first. It’s always addressing them like I’m one of them and I’m part of the community. I’m not out here and you’re just part of my brand or whatever. It’s– yeah, I’m really trying to be just like them.

JENNY GUY: So we talked about that you’re grabbing those email addresses from the very beginning, which is a great step. And what was the name of the platform you’re using to help with that?

PAUL GOWDER: Group Leads.

JENNY GUY: Group Leads, OK. Write that one down.

PAUL GOWDER: It’s a Chrome plugin. Yeah.

JENNY GUY: Fantastic. Chrome plugin, love that. So we’ve talked about that’s one way of looping them in. What are other ways of– because the more we want, the goal of this is to embed these people, embed our new community members in as many different methods and platforms as we can. So what other methods do you use? I heard you mention a live?

PAUL GOWDER: Yes. So I do a weekly live on Facebook and YouTube. That’s Thursday nights. And so I’m always in the live stream. I’m always talking about, if you want to continue to see our content and not be dependent on somebody else showing it to you, you have to come over and subscribe. So that newsletter subscription is probably our call to action most. Joining the group is our second. So the first thing we want you to do is join our newsletter, then second join our group.

So yeah, wherever I am, that’s the messaging I’m pushing. And so, like I said, I made a little easy URL. That’s something I highly recommend. Make a quick, easy URL that you can use in your lives. You can make a lower third for it, those kind of things. And same thing in the podcast, we mention those kind of things.

JENNY GUY: And so going live you highly recommend. I mean, obviously, I like going live. We’ve had some success with it. And Facebook still loves it. They still love video, they still love you going live on their platform. It’s a way to beat through that algorithm. And then with you driving them back to your community and driving them back to your email list, super, super, super smart.

And then I don’t think there are any of us who don’t have strong opinions about the Facebook algorithm and the different changes that happen. Do you ever have concern about those changes impacting that community? How do you recommend we work with Facebook– and you’ve worked directly with Facebook– rather than feeling like we’re constantly trying to beat them?

PAUL GOWDER: It is a struggle every day. And even during the Accelerator, all of us that were in that reach and getting Facebook to show our content is something that everybody struggled with. Several times, I joked with my Facebook advisor, I was like, can’t you just go flip the switch for me? Isn’t there just one little switch over there and you can just turn it back on the reach that I had 10 years ago?

But for us, we think about that. We do look at our stats, but we just try to be consistent in posting with– so we’re really video heavy on a lot of our content because we’re going to powwows and we’re shooting video.

And Facebook lets you repurpose and cross post those videos, so we do that. We don’t just post the video one time. We’ll cross post it in different ways, and sometimes it’ll be, hey, here’s something that just happened. Or we’ll maybe put a conversation starter with the video and it’s like, hey, this video is about this. What do you think about it?

So you we’ll try to use our content multiple times just to try to get Facebook– sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t, but just being consistent and trying different things all the time. For us, live streaming is one of those things that still works for us.

And even talking about– I’ll give you an example of algorithm changes. So I’ve been going live every Thursday night for over a year now, and just two months ago, all of a sudden, my traffic on the lives died for about three episodes, where I went from getting–

JENNY GUY: Whoa.

PAUL GOWDER: Yeah, I know. I was getting somewhere in the neighborhood of maybe 8,000 to 10,000 views on a live to there was one I got 1,000. And it’s just like, oh, what happened? And so I had to look at it and figure out what it was. And it was actually I was using a plug-in to share the live, another kind of tool that helps you share it out in different places. I turned that off and Facebook liked it again.

So it’s constantly looking at your content. If you have something that’s been working and it’s stop working, then you might want to go and dig a little deeper and figure out what’s changed with the algorithm. Something may have changed, something may have triggered. Or there’s a list of words out there that Facebook doesn’t like sometimes, so we try not to– if we find something started seeing a decline in our messaging, we’ll try to change it up. Yeah.

JENNY GUY: Where is the list, Paul? We want to list. First of all, I want your cards. Secondly, I want the list.

PAUL GOWDER: Same person. Rachel Miller had published a list of do not use words. I think she has that on her blog. I’ll try to find that list and send it to you. But yeah.

JENNY GUY: OK. We can add that to our handout. That’s super helpful, and then there’s an actual list of specific words that Facebook chokes your reach for. That’s good to know.

I love– one of the big tenets here is knowledge is power, and sometimes it can, like you said, so often feel like, isn’t there just the magic switch? And can’t you just go back behind the curtain and flip the switch and make it work again? But it’s good to know that there are some things that you can grab onto, like the words, like you used a plug-in that Facebook for some reason was not rewarding. It’s just hard to feel like it’s all arbitrary and you’re just kind of floating around, throwing things at the wall and hoping something sticks.

PAUL GOWDER: Right, right. And sometimes in our group right now, we’re seeing a lot of Facebook automatic deletions on posts because we had a racial topic. So you have to figure those kind of things out. Facebook algorithms change all the time, and they’re trying to make it better. It doesn’t always work for you, but it’s– yeah, we’re having to dig into those. We have people getting banned for saying things that aren’t an issue, but because it does have some racial information in it, then Facebook thinks it’s a problem.

So you just have to roll with it and go back to it. Again, try to build your community on multiple platforms. Use your email and don’t depend on somebody else’s land.

JENNY GUY: It’s very, very tough to not– because the feel of dropping to a tenth of what you had before, it’s a gut punch. It’s crazy.

So I wanted to ask– you said that you were talking– we’re going to get as much insider information from you as we can because we know that you had a direct line to Facebook. But you said that you asked your coach if they could just step behind the curtain.

What was your coach’s response when you asked– because I’m taking it based off of what you’ve said that you were being an amazing advocate for content creators, when you had your coach one on one. What was their response to all the show our content, help content creators? What did they say their mission was? What are they going for?

PAUL GOWDER: So because of my insistence on helping content creators monetize better, I have gotten the chance to talk to some Facebook folks in some other meetings. And it is something that Facebook is looking at.

They are trying to figure out new ways. There are some things coming out that I’m working with them on, I can’t talk about. But they are working– they know that that is an issue, and they are trying to help content creators. They’re not going as fast as I want them to, and they’re starting in some areas that maybe I would have changed.

But they know that, and they know that other platforms like TikTok and YouTube are paying creators directly for some of that for content in different ways that Facebook is not. So I think it’s something– we’ll see more about it coming out soon.

JENNY GUY: That’s exciting. And I just want to say thank you for advocating for content creators, on behalf of all of us.

I wanted to ask a tangential topic. We’re almost out of time, but I wanted to see, have you, particularly with Facebook taking over Instagram, have you seen any links between the two of them? Has that change made a difference for you in your ability to reach your community or grow your community on Instagram?

PAUL GOWDER: Yes. Some of the tools that are helping right now are just the fact that Facebook will start sharing and make suggestions. So our reach is growing on Instagram because if you like our page already, then Instagram’s suggesting it.

Right now, for me, reels are hot. Facebook is trying to compete with TikTok, so reels are doing really well for us. So we’re using that a lot and not IGTV as much. We’re trying to post more reels.

So yeah, you just have to go– you have to figure out where Facebook is focused and try to spend some time there. They’re also working– they’re doing a lot with audio rooms right now in Facebook groups. I’d recommend trying to use that platform and see if you can develop some content around that, too.

JENNY GUY: Say what? What’s an audio room? Tell us more about it.

PAUL GOWDER: So it’s– we were invited to– we were one of the first people to have that in our group. It’s the Clubhouse of Facebook. So groups will now have the ability to have private audio rooms. It’s audio-only content.

So we hosted one about the missing and murdered Indigenous women crisis in America and Canada. And we had a panel discussion. That was kind of our kick-off with the group, or the audio rooms. So that’s something you’re going to see coming out to groups more here in the next few months. So if your group gets that, I highly recommend using that because that is a place where Facebook is spending some time right now.

JENNY GUY: Yeah, it’s the same thing with Instagram. We talked about reels earlier this summer with Jane Ko. And anytime we have anyone come on and talk about Instagram, if Instagram is rolling out a new feature, do the feature because that’s where they’re going to give the traffic. So definitely, what is your call to action on Instagram? Where are you sending people?

PAUL GOWDER: That’s a good question. So in our regular posts, we’re not really sending anybody– we’re not trying to do a call to action in our post. In our stories, that’s where we use them more as a traffic builder, not all the time.

But our call to actions there are we do try to repurpose, whether it’s our podcast episode or live, we’ll take clips of that and either put it in a reel or a story, and then drive you back to the blog post. Or a lot of times, we’re posting and saying, hey, again, here’s an email sequence you may like and it may help you, so go to that. And with our contest right now, we’re doing a lot of posts, stories, reels, all of the above, trying to drive people to the contest.

JENNY GUY: And you have put a lot of time into your email sequences, it sounds like, so that you have really beautiful, intentional, curated journeys for all of these different needs that people– how long does it take you to get everything set up? And if you don’t mind, I’m not trying to start an ESP holy war, but which email service provider do you use?

PAUL GOWDER: I use ConvertKit. And it was a project I did a few years ago where we went back and rewrote all of our sequences, and I just redid did one just a few months ago. It’s something we continue to look at.

And here’s a sequence– here’s one of my favorite tips for emails. If you are a food blogger or whatever, if you have a ton of old content, we did this a few years ago, and this was the one we just redid recently. We have a throwback Thursday email sequence, and it’s literally all it is, is, hey, here’s a post that you may have missed, and here it is. And that drives a ton of traffic.

It is so much fun on Friday morning to log in to my Mediavine dashboard and see what that throwback Thursday did. And there always be a new post that popped up and just drives a ton of traffic every Friday.

JENNY GUY: Do you try to connect them to a theme? Or is it just literally– do you also revamp the post, or do you just post it as it is? Like, this is an old post, here it is.

PAUL GOWDER: Yes. And we redid it–

JENNY GUY: That’s awesome.

PAUL GOWDER: Yeah, we redid it because we hadn’t done it in probably two years. So we just took the top 25 posts currently, and we put that into the throwback Thursday.

JENNY GUY: That’s fantastic. I love that. OK, so many great suggestions. And we are almost out of time. It’s been really, really illuminating, Paul, and great to learn about your attitude and to even just have you here and have you advocating for content creators. It’s all really good stuff, so we’re glad you’re here.

But before we go, I’m going to ask you a final question, and then I’m going to make a couple of announcements and then come back to get the answer. You know we love an action item here on Teal Talk. So could you give us two or three for our audience who are ready to follow in your footsteps and really start going all in on building their community?

And while Paul is thinking on that one, guys, we’re going to share that handout just in a moment, which has all the links for you so you don’t have to worry about trying to track everything down. But I wanted to talk to you about our next episode of Teal Talk. It is Tuesday, October 12th. I’m going to have Mediavine CEO Eric Hochberger on, and we are going to talk about searching through Google Search Console, dusting off that account, going in, and figuring out how you can use that free resource to create new content and grow your traffic.

So don’t miss that. We have some great practical examples, and we’ll have a presentation that will walk you through Google Search Console. So don’t miss that.

And then for our second episode in October, we are planning some spooktacular earnings– how about some scary earnings? This is what we are going for our second episode in October. So be thinking about costume ideas and how we can scare up some great earnings for that second show in October.

Paul, please give us those action items. You’ve dropped so many incredible tips on us throughout the course of this hour that it’s been a little overwhelming. But I’ll ask you for two or three more because I’m greedy.

PAUL GOWDER: OK, sure. So think about– we talk about email sequences, so think about what you would put in your first email sequence. What are those first things you would tell somebody about your business? What are the most five most important things? Think about that and think about writing it as an email sequence.

Then take those and make them conversation starters in your group. So for Powwows.com, one of our main things is our event calendar, where people go and try to find powwows. So I would write up a conversation starter in my Facebook group of, hey, when’s the last time you went to a powwow? What was your favorite powwow? And if you’re looking for more, here’s our event calendar. Here’s one way to find one near you.

Those kind of things– come up with those five things that you want to tell somebody who’s new to your community or new to your business, and then put that in an email sequence and in your Facebook group.

JENNY GUY: Fantastic, love that. And the other thing I was going to say, last question was, how often do you think you need to post in your groups to really move the needle?

PAUL GOWDER: And I think a lot of that does depend on how big your community is. If you’re just starting out, once or twice a week is probably enough. You don’t want to have 10 posts sitting there with no comments, and that kind of looks dead.

So when you’re first starting out, once or twice a week, and just try to focus on getting that post of the week a lot of comments or engagement on, and then you can start building from there. So for us, I’m only posting maybe once a day in the group because we’re at the point now where a lot of times I can just stand out of the way and let the group interact with themselves. But yeah, sometimes we’re posting more than that, but just one once a day for us.

JENNY GUY: Great standard, once a day. And I’m getting those conversations cards, those starters. That’s terrific. Paul, if we want to find you, if we want to see examples of how you’re engaging in your group, where do we go?

PAUL GOWDER: So you can come first to my website, PaulGowder.com, where you can learn more about how to build communities. But of course, we’d love to have you over on Powwows.com. That’s our blog and our main website. And then on Facebook, come join our group over at Powwow Nation.

JENNY GUY: And we will share all of that. And Paul, this has been terrific. We are coming up on National Native American Heritage Month in November. It’s a perfect time. We will be having more details on that, which Paul is going to be collaborating with us on some, too, on all our Mediavine channels.

If you haven’t already liked, subscribed, followed, please do all those things so you don’t miss anything from us or from Paul. And there is the resources that we mentioned are already being dropped into the comments.

Guys, it has been terrific. Have a wonderful start to your Q4, and get ready because more wonderful things are coming, including those scary earnings in later October. Thank you for being here, everyone. Have a great day.

PAUL GOWDER: Thanks, y’all.

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