Wednesday, November 23, 2016

How to Grow Fans and Save Your Sanity by Changing the Season

How to Grow Fans and Save Your Sanity by Changing the Season | ProBloggerIn September, I had one of the best conference experiences of my life.The atmosphere was friendly, supportive, motivated. The talks were top quality, innovative, engaging. The delivery was trendy, slick, seamless. The event, of course, was ProBlogger Event.

Now, despite the motivation, the enthusiasm, the drive, I still heard the same thing, over and over again, from attendees.

“I need to do more. More writing, more video, more podcasting. But I just can’t fit it in…”

As that big hairy guy (or was it the one who drew him…?) tends to say: it’s a tale as old as time. And time is the issue, we never seem to have enough of it.

Perhaps that’s why a particular part of my own talk generated such a buzz: it was around an approach to doing more with less.

More content with fewer ideas.

More mediums with less effort.

More visibility in less time.

It’s a subject I talk about in Podcasting all the time, but it works just as well in blogging. It’s Seasons.

We’re Not Talking ‘Winter is Coming…’ Here Are We?

Nope, not the seasons of the earth, but the seasons of your show.

You’ll be familiar with the approach on TV. A season is a collection of ‘episodes’ that tells a story, or follows a theme. Hopefully, it covers a full arc from start to finish, although some shows are frustratingly bad at this (Hello Lost!). It can be any size, from a 10 episode “Game of Thrones” to a 24 episode season of… well, 24 (Jack Bauer is my hero…).

In our own backyard, this generally translates to coverage of a particular topic within your niche, or themeing a set of episodes so that they’re related.

Seasons have long been a part of Podcasting, and the concept of a blog series is not new. However, the vast majority of content creators aren’t using the format. Perhaps it’s because it’s still not familiar. Let’s fix that – what is a season in the world of online content?

What Does a Season of Content Look Like?

Here are some examples from my own content:

  • Mountain Bikes Apart Season 2: Customising Your Bike
  • Podcraft Season 5: How to Monetise Your Show
  • UK Business Startup Season 1: The Beginner’s Guide to Starting a Business

Think of it as a course on one particular subject within your topic.

Often you’ll start with a question, eg. How do I monetise my Podcast? You’ll then break the answer down into component parts:

  1. Sponsorship and Advertising
  2. Selling a Product
  3. Selling a Service
  4. Affiliate Marketing
  5. Etc….

With just a little sketching out, you end up with a season of content, based on just one question.

I’ll bet you already have a dozen commonly asked questions running through your mind right now. Think it through: how would you break down the answer? How would you cover each element, in-depth?

Once you start thinking, you’ll realise that it comes easily because you’re explaining this stuff every day.

How to Grow Fans and Save Your Sanity by Changing the Season

What’s So Good About Seasons?

Ok, here’s where it gets interesting. There are a couple of obvious benefits and a good number of under-the-radar bonuses. Let’s go through them.

1. Squeeze Every Ounce of Juice out of Each Content Idea

Once upon a time, I would have taken the ‘How to Monetise a Podcast’ question and recorded an episode on it. Perhaps I would write a blog post too, or at least some shownotes. And that’s about it. Not much to show for a good content idea.

In our new ‘Seasonal’ world, I think more granular. Much more like a teacher:

  • How does this break down?
  • What are the elements of this answer?
  • What are the (sorry about this…) Learning Outcomes here?

Each ‘episode’ should cover just one ‘thing’, one aspect of the answer. That’s how you teach and that’s how you get people to take action. By giving them ONE thing, in-depth, and asking them to take action on it.

In breaking down your content idea, you get much more juice from that content orange. You can also create much more effective learning for your audience.

2. Take the Planning & Anxiety Out of Your Weekly Grind

This is a pure benefit: seasons make the content planning process a breeze. It saves oodles of time because you plan out your full season in just one session.

Thanks to the ‘breaking down’ process above, the planning session is quick and easy. Take your question, break it down, break it down again and, without much effort, you have perhaps 5, 10 or 15 episodes.

Take another 30 minutes to add some bullet points to each episode. Flesh them out to give them some structure. When you’re in the groove, doing 10 to 20 episodes of planning is a fast and fun task.

The end goal is to arrive on Monday morning, and say, “Right, let’s craft some content.” This replaces the cold-sweat inducing idea creation and planning session. Instead, you simply pick up your notes, glance at the next episode, and start writing/talking/presenting. Your plan is there, you simply have to create.

3. Oh, You Don’t Have to Think of New Ideas Every Week?

Yep, worth highlighting this! When I ask creators what they’re struggling with, one of the top three answers is always: “Coming up with new ideas, week in, week out.”

With a seasons approach, as soon as your fingers hit the keyboard, that plan is there, guiding you through the post.  Furthermore, you need fewer ideas over the course of a year, because you’re breaking them down into so many more. Seasons become an idea generation machine.

4. Automatically Generated (& Massive!) Evergreen Resources

This is a big one.  Every week, you’re building part of a big, new evergreen resource that’s tailored directly toward your audience.

Look back at the subjects I covered above in the example. Since that season completed, I now have a guide for my Mountain Biking audience that takes them through every aspect of customising their bikes. I have a guide for podcasters (amongst many others) that delves deep into monetisation. I also have a guide for aspiring freelancers to start their own business, thanks to that first season of UKBS.

For each of the seasons, I’ve recorded audio and written text. These have now been turned into eBooks, audiobooks, online courses and more. Some are sold on Amazon, some are used as lead magnets and some are given to my audience as simple gifts.

These are all huge assets and authority builders which have been  built up through normal weekly content creation activities. You’ll not achieve this, half so easily, if you’re writing about something new every week.

5. Recurring Content

This is  an obvious one, but it often slips under the radar.

Seasons based content increases engagement, visitors and fan building. A lot.

Think about it. Your content is linked. It’s contiguous. Because of this there’s a solid and compelling reason to come back for the next episode. Every time a reader returns, it builds engagement and trust, taking that reader along the path to becoming a true fan of your work.

6. Better Teaching, Better Learning, More Action, More Fans

There’s another reason that seasons based content tends to create more fans in the long run: it creates more success.

Your aim is to delve into a subject, break it down and guide the reader through it’s individual elements. That activity, step by step, is an extremely effective and logical way to teach.

That is possible in a single blog post, sure, but it’s the regular, habit-building effect of learning each week that really levels up the effect. Your readers can achieve quick wins and make good progress with every post, and this amplifies the audience-building power of seasons.  

7. It Makes Your Life Better

Finally, there are a few great benefits that relate to you directly

First, you can take a break!  Have you ever felt like you’re on a content treadmill, running as fast as you can to keep up, but the damn thing never switches off? With seasons, you have a good reason to take a break. Finish the season, let your audience know what’s going on, and then rest for a week or two.

You’ll come back refreshed, happy, more motivated and dying to dive back in. Happiness and motivation can only lead to better content!

Second, that break can be useful in another way: evolution. Take the opportunity that a natural break gives you to get in touch with your audience. Make an event of your time off, with a season-end audience engagement festival or perhaps a competition. Ask your audience what they liked and what they didn’t like about the last season. Ask them what format suits them, what questions they would like answered and what they want next. Knowing this, design the next season based on the feedback. Imagine the boost in engagement you could see when your audience becomes involved in creating the next season!

Finally, batching. This is a trendy topic, I know, but it’s a good one because batching can save a lot of time. Once you’ve planned out an entire season’s worth of content in advance, there’s no reason you can’t create 4 episodes simultaneously . I do this with Podcraft. I record 4 episodes on the bounce, taking between 1 and 2 hours to complete. Once it’s done, I have a month’s worth of content created. Easy!

Make it Your Own

Seasons can work for anyone. They can improve your content, make it work harder for your audience, and bring a variety  of benefits to you as the creator. Give it a try and start Season 1 today with your next content idea.

Remember, the point of seasons is that you change things up, and do it regularly. If it doesn’t work for you, then season 2 can go back to your old style, and nothing is lost. But, trust me, once you get used to the ease of planning and the results it brings, you’ll never look back. Bring on the season of change!

Colin Gray and his team of media evangelists help Podcasters and Vloggers grow their own legion of fanatical fans over at FanFission is a community that helps anyone create great audio and video, whether for entertainment, education or profit. You can also find a huge range of free advice about podcasting at

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