Episode #31: Branching Out vs. Staying in Your Lane (Content Creation Mini-Series, Part 3)

DRIVEN: A podcast for modern entrepreneurs. Branching Out vs. Staying in Your Lane (Content Creation Mini-Series, Part 3)

In today’s episode, we’re continuing our mini series on content creation. Today’s episode is all about Staying Inspired / Branching Out (versus “staying in your lane”) We’re talking about how to stay inspired and keep coming up with new ideas, and then we’ll finish the show with a weekly actionable tip.


Cassy Joy: Don’t feel like you have to create multiple channels in order to experience inspired and fresh growth when it comes to the content in your business in order to preserve or maximize followings. But yes, sure. If I wanted to grow more explosively in followers for Fed and Fit, I could keep it to food and fitness, and I could give Gus and Ben their own Instagram account. And both of those would grow much more rapidly in their own veins and in their own lanes. But I don’t think that you have to do it.

Welcome to Driven; a show about business, life, and wellness from two confident, curious women who are pulling back the curtain on what it’s like being an entrepreneur. Each week, join hosts Diane Sanfilippo and Cassy Joy Garcia talk about being your best, showing up for your dreams, and kicking self-doubt to the curb.

Diane is a business whisperer, best-selling author, and plant-hobbyist based in San Francisco. Cassy Joy is the founder of www.FedandFit.com, best-selling author, and casserole enthusiast. She calls San Antonio, Texas, home.

Cassy Joy: In today’s episode, we’re continuing our miniseries on content creation. Today’s episode is all about staying inspired and branching out versus staying in your lane. We’re going to talk about how to stay inspired, and keep coming up with new ideas. Then we’ll finish the show with a weekly actionable tip.

Topics:

  1. What’s on my plate [1:22]
  2. Shop Talk: Staying inspired [15:45]
  3. Honing your audience [27:33]
  4. Ask your audience [39:00]
  5. Finding your niche or branching off [47:42]
  6. Tip of The Week: Include polls on posts [58:15]

1.  What’s on my plate [1:22]

Diane Sanfilippo: What’s on My Plate. In this segment, we talk about what’s happening in our businesses, and in our lives for the week. Cassy, what’s up over in the great state of Texas?

Cassy Joy: {laughing} You want me to be honest? I’m living in this weird limbo between writing; just in the throes of book writing. Before we pressed record, I was like; Diane. Writing book is a lot of work. {laughs}

Diane Sanfilippo: And I was like; kind of smirking and laughing at her over video, because {laughs} I pointed to the bookshelf behind me where my books are and I was like; you mean these guys? I totally get it. I can both commiserate and empathize, and also kind of laugh at the pain that you’re in {laughs}.

Cassy Joy: Right. It’s funny, because you’ve been there.

Diane Sanfilippo: It’s chosen.

Cassy Joy: Yes. Exactly. We’ve been through this. Is this kind of like childbirth?

Diane Sanfilippo: You’ll have to tell me! {laughing}

Cassy Joy: {laughs} I mean, nothing quite compares to either one experience. But the sensation of, you have a baby, and you’re like; wow! That was really hard. And then all of a sudden, a couple of months go by and you forget. You forget how hard it was, so you’re like; let’s have another!

Diane Sanfilippo: You tell yourself you know better this time. It will be easier this time, they said. Do that again, they said.

Cassy Joy: {laughing}

Diane Sanfilippo: You just know so much more. That’s the myth. Is that knowing more and having done it makes it easier the second time. And I would say it does about 10% {laughs}

Cassy Joy: That’s fair.

Diane Sanfilippo: Maybe a little more. But it does not make it exponentially easier each time you do it.

Cassy Joy: No. At least you’re not dealing with the fear of the unknown; the process. I know what the process is. Which you could also argue makes it worse. Thinking about; about to give birth to this second child. I’m like; oh man. {laughs} I know what’s coming. {laughing} I know mostly the 14 days after the baby’s born what’s coming. But yeah. I don’t know; ignorance was bliss with my first one.

Anyway, so I’m in this weird stage between working my little tail off on this book, and someone has got to write it. {laughs} So I guess it’s got to be me! {laughing} Spending this time writing this book. And then I am supplementing my trips to all the different coffee houses across North San Antonio, because I have to get out of my house to do this thing. and while I’m in the car, I’ve been listening to this podcast called the Pop Cast. And it is just giving me so much trivial good life right now.

Diane Sanfilippo: What is it? is it about pop culture?

Cassy Joy: It is about pop culture.

Diane Sanfilippo: I love that.

Cassy Joy: It is so funny. These two humans; Jamie and Knox, are some of the most intelligent, well spoken, and hysterical people I have ever heard. To the point where I think if I were in a room with them, I would just be too intimidated to speak because I’m going to sound like a buffoon talking next to them. They’re just so dang funny. But the part that I listen to, they have a special show on Patreon; you have to be a subscriber. I’ve subscribed. I give them my $3 a month to listen to this show. They do Bachelor recaps, Diane, and it is just; {laughs} this is the only reason I’m watching the Bachelor right now.

Diane Sanfilippo: I love that.

Cassy Joy: Is so that I can hear their recap. Anyway. It’s great. If you need just some really fun; a good break, that’s worth looking into.

 And then the last piece of update is I think we’re entering into a new and very, don’t know what these waters contain, phase of parenting. Grayson now; a dot is a dot, two dots is a line, right? We’ve got a line going here, people, of Gray waking up around 2 a.m. Going to bed like such a sweet little angel baby girl that she is. {laughs} She goes to bed; it’s perfect. We’re like; night-night honeys. We all tuck ourselves in around 8:30. And we expect we won’t see each other again until she wakes up at 7. And I’m up at 4:30 writing this book that is never ending.

But at 2 a.m., she wakes up. Which has happened before a ton, we just put her back to sleep. But no. She’s up. Like, she is ready to party. {laughs} And last night between 2 a.m. and 5:30 in the morning, I wish I were kidding, she was having the time of her life. We brought her into bed with us. She was rolling around, giggling. She’s singing Apples and Bananas. And then when we wouldn’t say anything back, she’d start laughing again. She was happy as could be, but by about 5 a.m., Austin, my husband, was like ready to cancel Christmas.

Diane Sanfilippo: {laughing}

Cassy Joy: {laughing} He was so done. So, I think this is a phase I need to look into. I’ll research it. Don’t worry, y’all don’t have to send me anything on it. I’ll dig into it. But, the toddler middle of the night parties were there. So that’s what’s going on.

Diane Sanfilippo: I like hearing the challenges of parenthood because it reminds me how ill-equipped I would be for all of it.

Cassy Joy: {laughs}

Diane Sanfilippo: So thank you, and I see you. {laughs} Good job, mama!

Cassy Joy: Oh, thank you.

Diane Sanfilippo: My updates; so just kind of a personal update. But I always like to think of how; we like to share personal updates because we know that; you know, they’re relatable to entrepreneur life. Cassy shares her struggles; well, she never will frame it as a struggle. Let’s just start there. But you know, challenges with what’ going on with a kid waking up early. She’s not going to complain about it, but this is the stuff that we all need to hear. This is the reality of life as a mom, and an entrepreneur, and you’re juggling all this stuff. So, you know, you just kind of move on with it, right? You have to find a way to keep going forward.

Anyway, point being, talking about habits as an entrepreneur. I recently got my apple watch, which I was asking people did they love it, etc. So I’m into it. I’m kind of into the heart rate thing. really interested to watch the heart rate variability on it. I was curious about an Oura ring for a long time, but I think having something on my hands would be really annoying. And I’ve gotten really used to having a watch type thing on from wearing my Fitbit for a long time.

So, now, I’m able to see heart rate variability. Which, then in the morning it tells you how ready you are. Which, if you don’t know what that means, as far as I can understand, it’s kind of like; what are you ready to tackle? And for me, it’s a signal for the type of workout I can tackle. Well, I took it a little too much to heart this morning. Because I was like; ok, I’m going to try and do a little more in the gym. And I was a little bit ignoring the fact that my back is still recovering. I have a couple of disc issues in my back. And it’s just not ready to put weight on a bar and do things with a barbell. {laughs} It’s not ready for that. But emotionally, I was ready for it this morning. I was like; got my heart rate variability in check. My thing is in the green. It says go. And I took it a little too seriously.

So, anyway. I did try and do a little more than I should have this morning. But I’m going to scale it back again. I’ve just been doing body weight type of exercises for lower body workouts to keep a little bit of a stimulus happening there without the struggle. But what I wanted to mention is; a long with watching the heart rate variability, I recently downloaded Michael Pollan’s latest Audible; I think it’s just on Audible. I don’t know that it’s a printed document of any sort. It’s not a full-length book. But it’s called Caffeine.

Listen. Don’t listen to it if you don’t want to hear the downsides of caffeine. {laughs}

Cassy Joy: I don’t want to hear it.

Diane Sanfilippo: I don’t want to hear it either, yet I started listening to it. And this is the problem. I’m not going to give up my coffee. But here’s the thing. I listen to audiobooks or audio content while I’m falling asleep. And so I’m only getting like 10 minutes at a time. So I’m like, shoot. I don’t remember what he said; what was he talking about. I didn’t hear the whole thing.

Anyway. He did remind me of a fact that I am aware of. Of that, this will vary from person to person a little bit. We all metabolize caffeine a little bit differently. And if you don’t know, I had a health-related podcast for 7 years. 8 years. 400 episodes. So if she’s like; why is she talking about this stuff, check out the Balanced Bites podcast.

But the half-life of caffeine in your body is like 12 hours. So what that means is; 12 hours later, there’s still potentially about 25% of the caffeine that you drank in the morning. So let’s say I’m drinking my coffee at 7 a.m.; by 7 p.m. there’s still some of that caffeine in my system. Which means by 10 p.m., when I’m lying down, hopefully it’s gone. But what if I drank my coffee a little later. What if I didn’t finish it at 7. Which I was just about the keep sipping on; a little bit I had left here, and it’s like 11 a.m. And I looked at it, I took a sip, and I said; ugh, I shouldn’t keep sipping that. because that’s going still be there at 11 o’clock.

So, long story short, my habit change that I’m going to put into effect is just scaling back a little bit on how much coffee I’m pouring myself in the morning. I do drink cold brew, which is even more concentrated than just kind of regular drip coffee. But scaling that back a little bit, seeing if that helps. Just how I’m feeling every day. And from there, I’ll also make sure I don’t drink it past 9 a.m. so those are a couple of little minor tweaks I’m going to make.

Again, for those who don’t know, sleep is probably one of my biggest struggles. Getting a full length of sleep. Getting quality sleep. I need to be so much better about a lot of my habits. Screen time habits and all of that. Because I wake up at least once if not two or three times during the night, which is such a pain. And I go pee, and I go back to sleep just fine, for the most part. But still, that’s not really what should be happening.

Anyway. Just want to give you guys that little insight to something that I’m going to working on as just kind of a habit change thing, and hopefully my sleep will improve. And then one other little habit change thing I want to bring up that I’m starting to try and be more thoughtful about. I’ve had a Fitbit for a long time. Do you track steps, Cassy? I don’t know if you; I feel like you’ve had an Apple watch or a Fitbit over time. But do you track your steps?

Cassy Joy: I had a Fitbit for years and tracked very regularly. And since then; to your point about habits, I felt like; once I really learned what my day looks like in order to get 10,000 steps, I just started doing that.

Diane Sanfilippo: Yeah.

Cassy Joy: Current circumstances excluded. {laughs}

Diane Sanfilippo: Yeah. Well {laughs}.

Cassy Joy: Super pregnant writing a book.

Diane Sanfilippo: Yeah, that changes things. Ok, so non-exercise activity thermogenesis; the acronym is NEAT, is something I’m also working on. I think I downloaded, it’s called This is Not a Diet Book. Something along those lines. And I am really trying to stay focused on how many steps I’m getting in a day, how much I’m standing, how much I’m moving around my house. We can all get really stuck at our desk, and I really want to make sure I take my laptop and go stand and work on my laptop. Maybe to your point, Cassy, about leaving the house to do work. I do really well when I have a certain project that I’m working on and I take a walk to go do some work. I’m trying to think about that; especially on the days where I don’t go to the gym. Or on the days that I do go to the gym, walking to and from the gym. Which, I mean, I’m rolling my eyes at myself at how lazy I can be to drive to the gym when it’s like a 20-minute walk there and back. It’s flat, it’s easy. The weather is usually nice.

So, long story short, just want to inspire you guys a little bit. If you’re having trouble sleeping, maybe just scale back on your caffeine or cut off the time. And then if you’re feeling like you’re struggling to get your workouts in, or you just need a little more activity, focus on whatever you can do that’s not specifically exercise. Because we actually can burn a lot more energy throughout the day that we can even burn when we’re in the gym for an hour. And it’s not just; oh, everybody wants to burn calories. It’s not just that. A lot of us get to a point, as we get older, where we think; I used to be able to eat so much more. And it’s like; you used to move around a whole lot more. And most of it is just how much more sedentary we’ve become.

So that was kind of a tangent; a health-related tangent.

Cassy Joy: I like it.

Diane Sanfilippo: But that’s what’s on my brain right now. Especially; I’m checking my heart rate all the time with my new Apple watch. I’m into it.

Cassy Joy: Man. I am loving this season of life. There’s nothing like having a human, you know, riding along in your body with you {laughs}. There’s nothing like human life and being pregnant. I’m really appreciative of it. but also; I was texting with Juli Bauer Roth this morning. I’m really, really looking forward to getting back into; the body is my own again phase. And just jumping in there with you. I want to start the steps. Hopefully my giant purple veins on my right leg; I have pregnancy varicose veins. Will not be quite as sore after the baby is here. It’s going to be so fun.

Diane Sanfilippo: Well, we can do some kind of little challenge or something.

Cassy Joy: Let’s do it.

Diane Sanfilippo: I don’t know what closing my rings means, on my Apple watch, but I know it’s a thing. I still can’t remember what all the rings are. But I want to close them every day.

Cassy Joy: I love it. Oh my gosh I love it.

Diane Sanfilippo: It’s a cute little rainbow.

Cassy Joy: That’s real cute.

2.  Shop Talk: Staying inspired [15:45]

Diane Sanfilippo: Shop Talk. In this segment, we talk about topics that are on both our minds and yours. We’ll cover all sides of the issue, and hopefully land somewhere concise, actionable, and helpful. Today we’re talking shop about staying inspired and branching out versus staying in your lane. How to do that; how to stay inspired and keep coming up with new ideas. Cassy, why don’t you kick us off a little bit here.

Cassy Joy: Yeah. So to set some context here; I think most folks, when we start an online business of some sort. If you took my advice {laughing} when you got started, at least. I think most of us start writing about the things that we’re personally curious about. Right? That’s only natural. It’s not like we start an online business or a blog or something of that sort to write about what other people are wondering about. We write what we’re curious about.

And then you get to a point where you feel like you’re trucking along in this content building environment. And all of a sudden, you realize you have a lane that you didn’t maybe set out to stay within. But your content all sticks within a certain vibe or a certain lane. And that’s good. You’re building a brand and you’re building a voice and you’re building consistency, and your audience knows what to expect, and you’re establishing yourself as an expert. That is all great.

But you eventually run out of road. Or at least, I have been there, and I’m happy to share my personal experience. But I feel like I’ve been there before where I was like; where is this going to go next? I mean, I am also a nutrition consultant. I closed my healthy body and mindset podcast as well. Because I got to the point, after 200 episodes, where I was like; I’ve covered it! when it comes to nutrition, I have talked about it.

So you might, if you’re not already there, you might one day get to a point where you’re like; do I take a fork in the road? How I create content, is it going to vary in the future? Do I need to stay in this lane that I feel like I’ve created for myself? And then if you’re in that phase, and I’ve been there before, the lane for me was food. Right; nutrition and food was the lane I had. All of a sudden I felt shackled to it and paralyzed by a fear of branching out. Right? Diane is nodding her head. But I was wondering; I remember thinking, what are they going to think of me? What are they going to think if all of a sudden I want to start talking about fitness? I’ve said so much in my business and my career, I am not a coach. I am not any kind of a fitness expert. All I can do is share about my personal story. I’m essentially a baby deer in a gym. {laughs} I’m not a natural athlete.

So these imposter syndromes start creeping in. The “who am I to talk about this stuff?” And then, as my life progressed, there’s motherhood. There’s pregnancy. There’s wellness outside of what’s showing up on my plate that I’m getting concerned about, like skincare. Or the products I’m using to clean my home. But again, am I going to break it? Am I going to break this thing and this reputation that I have by diversifying my content too much?

So that’s just my personal story, and where I’m motivated to really have this conversation today. Because that’s a real struggle, I think, for a lot of folks. Anyway. Did you ever go through that?

Diane Sanfilippo: Yes and no. So, I haven’t struggled with imposter syndrome in those kinds of ways. I think to say I’ve never struggled with it would not make sense. I just can’t pinpoint it in the same way that I think a large majority of people feel it. because the way that I frame the fact that I might want to talk about how I choose cleaning products or other things. I feel pretty confident about telling people up front, I’m not an expert. And I don’t want to be anybody’s guru. And I think I’ve said that, even from the beginning of time teaching about nutrition. Even writing Practical Paleo. I was like; look, I wrote about picking high-quality dairy in a book called Practical Paleo. I’ve never wanted to just be in one lane. I almost didn’t call the book Practical Paleo, because I thought it was too narrow at the time. {laughs} Good thing I did call it that, at the height of paleo.

But, I think I’ve always wanted to make sure that people knew that I wasn’t trying to get up on a pedestal and say; I am the expert. People did view me, and maybe do still, as an expert on some of these different topics. But I think because I didn’t think of myself that way, so much, I was never really worried about talking about something different. I just knew what to expect. That if I did talk about things differently, it makes people uncomfortable. But my history as a person is, I always make people uncomfortable. Showing up in the room, the experience I’ve had. I remember it from a young age; my freshman year of college. People didn’t like me, but they didn’t even know me. I was like; what is it about me that makes you uncomfortable? I just got here! I didn’t even say anything yet.

Cassy Joy: What?!

Diane Sanfilippo: Yeah. I didn’t have a voice my first week of college because I was sick, or I had laryngitis. I remember I was playing with a volleyball against a wall, and somehow that just intimidated people. I’m like; I can’t actually talk, so I’m just in my room hanging out. Yeah. But that’s been my experience. Whenever I enter an industry, people always have this; peers and colleagues always have this response to me in a certain way. So I’ve just never thought of myself as a big deal, or I’ve never taken myself too seriously, to the point where I think, “This is me, and I’m putting a stake in the ground, so you’re going to listen to me about this thing.” So when I decide to talk about something else, I’m like; I don’t care if you listen or not. I’m going to talk. {laughs}

So I think it’s a personality thing, too. And I think I’ve just always known that people were going to do that. When I started talking about other things… so my brand name on Instagram for example, when I was first starting out and opened the account, was just @BalancedBites. So the reason that I switched my handle was for me to branch out and talk about other things. It was more that people didn’t know my name. Maybe it was a little bit of this ego thing in that way, where I’m like; please don’t call me Balanced Bites. I don’t know if people still call you Fed and Fit, but it’s like; when someone is calling you by a handle name, for me, that was just annoying.

Or people would call me someone else’s name. Like they would call me Sarah Fragoso, and I was like, {laughs} I’m not Sarah Fragoso. So I think I just wanted people to know my name. And move forward with content from that place. And I think; I never had a niche that was, for example, an account on Instagram that was @PracticalPaleo. We created one much later. But it didn’t start in that lane.

So, to that point, the lane that I started in was kind of broad. Yeah, it was mostly food/health related. I do feel like a lot of the folks who may have clicked follow on Instagram were podcast listeners, so they had a real taste of who I was and what I was all about from a broad perspective. We started the Balanced Bites podcast back in 2011. So that was; maybe it was 2010. I don’t know exactly. So people kind of knew me before they started following. And then I think as I was growing a following, I was always doing book tours, still teaching seminars to a degree. So I think that a lot of folks who came in, they knew what they were getting, if that makes sense. I don’t know.

So I definitely have had some experience where people are like; oh, is that paleo? Right? Like, that’s not paleo. Even to this day, people are like; oh, is that keto? Because I wrote a keto book that came out last year. But for me, it’s few and far between, and I just answer the question. I don’t take it personally, I don’t feel personally attacked when somebody is expecting one thing, because that’s something that I have talked about.

So the thing I was going to say about branching out; let’s just say we’ve got someone who typically talks about healthy hormones on their account, but they want to branch out into talking about skincare or home cleaning products. I do think it’s important and relevant to tie it back to your main base of content. Like; how does that relate to healthy hormones, if healthy hormones are a thing you talk about often.

And then, give people a way to understand why you want to share about this. So I know this has come up for you in the past, where it’s like; you might share about, I’m just going to say home products, or home cleaning products, or nail polish, or whatever it is. Sharing with people that; you know, I’ve got a thought process. Or I like to find the best thing for you guys. Or, I like to do the research and save you the time. It helps people to understand why we’re talking about something different, I think.

And I think for me, just as a person, I got to a place with sharing on social media where I needed people to understand that I’m a person, not just an account. And that there are going to be different things I want to talk about. So anyway, I’m going kind of on a tangent here.

Some people are not going to want to branch out. Some people are like; you know what? I don’t want to make this too personal. I don’t want to share about 50 different things. I want to keep it really narrow scope, and I don’t want to tell people about how I do my hair or what I’m wearing or any of that. And some people may feel like they have to do that, because it feels more innate and natural and authentic. Does that make sense?

Cassy Joy: Yeah. It does. {laughs} I was like; so, what Diane is saying is that she cannot identify with this struggle. But in defense of everybody out there who does identify with feeling a little paralyzed by wanting to branch out. I don’t think that it means we’re trying to be perfect or be a guru, I think it more so means; it’s just an analysis paralysis when it comes to, how do I business right? How do I build my business as efficiently and effectively as possible without confusing my readers, right? It’s not necessarily about not doing something well. At least for me. Or being how my brand is perceived. I think you get to a point where, I’m so grateful for the success I’ve had so far. If I’m looking back at my career at all the different milestones, I’m so grateful for the success.

And then when I think about; and I’ve gotten really good at this. It’s a muscle I’ve had to build over the years. But when I look at it, not treating that success as too precious. I look at it and I think; oh my gosh, could I break it? Could I break it by introducing something new, and then they’re going to be pitchforking at my door because all of a sudden I started recommending safer skincare products that I’m earning money off of.

Anyway; I just want to empathize with folks who are like; it’s not about needing to be perceived as doing it perfectly or being an expert in it. it’s just this kind of intimidating thing of doing something new in your business. Especially when you’re relatively new in that business.

3. Honing your audience [27:33]

Diane Sanfilippo: When I actually meant it more like, the way people perceive you when you are in a certain niche and you really share a lot of information about that one niche or that one expertise. So less about what the intent was for the person who is like; oh, I’m going to talk about healthy hormones. And more that the way “followers” or an audience might follow along, and they were like; well I thought you were the hormones person, and now you’re this person. And it’s like; who told you that I was that person and I didn’t have other facets to myself? In what world do I have to just be one dimensional?

So I think it’s more about the perception and the way that things land. But to that point, I do think some of those apprehensions or fears are justified. Because if you are posting about food and recipes for five years, and then suddenly you want to talk about something new, I get it. I’m totally not invalidating that nervousness that can come up. Because chances are, you will alienate some people. I think that the divide here is exactly what you just put your finger on, where you said the fear of breaking it. We just can’t be afraid to break the past. Because we have to do what feels good and right and authentic, in that we want to do.

So last week, we kind of talked about what is it that you will do, when you commit to creating content. And I’m also all about; what do you want to do? Because if you don’t want to keep talking only about food and recipes, then eventually you’ll have a huge disconnect between yourself and your audience. Because you won’t have passion in the content that you’re creating. So you have to want to do it.

So, recognizing that. You may have built up 1000 followers talking about healthy hormones, and then you decide to talk about something else, and you might lose 100 of them. You might lose more than that. And that’s ok. You have to remember that the people who are for you will be there, and not everyone is for you. And that has to be ok.

Cassy Joy: I want to comfort folks listening; if you have started this and you have seen that you’re losing followers. I reference that this is a muscle I’ve had to build over time, this not fear of breaking it. it’s almost something I look forward to, is when Fed and Fit feels a little too crystalized. Then I’m like; ooh, let’s get in there and crunch some things up. Let’s see what we can do, and shake things out, and stay fresh, and stay interesting. That’s something that now I’ve learned to look forward to.

But, y’all. If I look at my Instagram stats, it’s a huge blessing, right? Once you get to a point. Let’s say just Instagram specifically. When you get to a point where you stop seeing the smaller numbers go up or down everyday of followers. When you’re trying to cultivate a larger following; and I know a lot of folks here are hyper focused on that. We want more followers on social media. And you’re watching this 392 turn into 381 after you shared something. and you’re like; oh my gosh, I broke it. Right? There’s this feeling of; I did something wrong. I need to get back. I need to swerve back into my lane. They obviously didn’t want it.

I just want to comfort you; although my account is steadily growing, and I have now over 100,000 folks that are following over on Fed and Fit. You guys, I’m losing an average of 500 and 1000 followers a week. A week! An average. Really, an average of around 800 people say “unfollow” on a weekly basis! And if I took that to heart. And I know it’s hard when it’s staring you in the face. I know it’s hard when you post something; a selfie, a picture of your dog, a picture of your daughter. A safer skincare thing that you’re really passionate about, and you see that number drop by what is a very small percentage, but it drops a little bit. I know the fear and feeling like you broke it.

But this is good, to Diane’s point. Because you’re cultivating those 100 few really loyal people. You’re building something that is making you so much more unique in this space and in this world and you’re building a voice and a brand. Anyway. I want you to be proud of that. I want you to be proud of those moments when you’re fine tuning your audience.

Diane Sanfilippo: Hear, hear. I mean, I do find it so frustrating when that number; it’s the same for me. It’s a smaller number only because I have a smaller following, but it’s somewhere in the 300-700 range every single week. And it’s crazy, because it will grow by the same amount as it shrinks. {laughs} So the total number doesn’t change, but it appears there are some new folks following. It’s very strange.

And I’m with you. I expect to see people jump ship when I post something that can be a bit divisive. If I post anything about something marginally political or something I stand for or believe in. And guess what? I actually love when people unfollow me because of that stuff.

Cassy Joy: {laughs}

Diane Sanfilippo: Because I’m like; I did not actually invite you here. You invited yourself. So I’m glad to show you the door.

Cassy Joy: Bye Felicia.

Diane Sanfilippo: Totally. I’m really happy to do that, because they shouldn’t be here. This isn’t where they wanted to be. They followed because they saw a taco, and now I’m talking about something totally different. And that’s fine. Because I want the people here who are interested in all of it. I really love and value the contributions that the folks in my community make. And what’s been really fun; I’m just going to throw this out there. What’s been really fun, and I’m sure some of you will have this experience too. Now over the last year, plus, operating the customer service for my meals and spices and all of that, totally on my own shoulders. We’re obviously in the process of hiring someone now. But it’s been really fascinating to see that 99.9% of people who have any kind of problem, they’re really kind when they email. Because they know what I’m all about. They know that I’m not trying to mess up their stuff. They know that there’s a real person behind this business.

And they’re like; you know, somebody found something a little extra crunchy in her food and she was like; I don’t know what this is. I just wanted to just send it in. It turns out it was spaghetti squash skin that has been a little over cooked and somehow landed in the tray, instead of no spaghetti squash skin. But instead of just taking it to social media, or taking it to her review and being negative, it’s like you end up cultivating this really close community who cares about you, they’re invested in you, they’re invested in what you’re all about. And they’re not just seeing you as this business. They really see you as a much more well-rounded person who has thoughts and feelings and really cares about them, too.

Cassy Joy: I love that. That is definitely what’s on the other side of this rainbow, for all of us. When you; I don’t know if this is a fair analogy. But when you weed the garden, essentially, of the people who are just there for you to stay in whatever perceived lane they thought that you had. Y’all; I have gotten all kinds of messages of folks who say; stick to the food. I don’t care about your dogs. And I mean, that’s an easy one for me to like…

Diane Sanfilippo: And I’m like; I just want all dogs all the time!

Cassy Joy: {laughs} And then there’s also people who send me messages that are like; this is great. Could you please post more dogs? {laughs} You just, to Diane’s point, I have found that this really healthy, happy community of these wonderful, wonderful readers. It’s not a joke. We say that we have the best, most intelligent, kindest readers on earth. And I think, to your point, it’s because we show ourselves as whole people. And it’s not all polished. It’s not all camera perfect. It doesn’t all necessarily make sense in a content calendar. I’m just sharing little bits of pieces of my life in this editorial phase that we’re in on Fed and Fit, especially on Instagram.

But you’re right, I think that it does. It makes people more gracious. Because they do see that you’re a whole human. Versus if you are just a brand sharing very specific information or a very specific product. I don’t know that you’re going to get that. So the grass really is greener on the other side of this fence, even though you might lose some folks along the way. You’re going to love it so much more.

Diane Sanfilippo: Yeah. I think this is a really great sort of testimonial for people who are a little bit nervous about the branching out when it comes to doing something a little more raw or unscripted or unplanned, talking about documenting, etc. But this element of; ok, what you post to your feed might be more curated, a little bit more polished, more perfected. But, revealing who you are and talking about who you are in the stories.

So a really great example of this, at a very large scale, but it’s the first one that comes to mind, would be the Home Edit. So their feed; if you just want to see beautiful, polished, home organizing photos, that’s in their feed. Infrequently, there are personal photos of the women behind the brand, Clea and Joanna. And what’s funny, for a long time people didn’t know Clea, who is the one who usually speaks on stories, because she doesn’t say her own name. So people just thought she was the other Joanna. {laughs} They didn’t know her name. They were just like; the Joanna’s.

Anyway, the point it seems that they made a strong decision to make the stories very personal. You get to know the people behind the brand. But what’s on the feed is pretty much perfect. And that’s a very intentional divide. And I think that’s a smart way to approach things.

Cassy Joy: I like it.

Diane Sanfilippo: If you’re trying to figure that out, how do you divide things up; that’s kind of what stories is for. It’s for that 24-hour exploration. It’s for exploring things that you might not want to leave anchored somewhere for people to look at all the time. It’s for testing things out, asking questions, using polls, etc.

So if you’re trying to stay inspired, you don’t know what to post about, you feel like you just keep talking about the same topic over and over, engage with the people who are there to ask questions. Find out what they’re curious about. Put up a question box. Put up a poll. Ask them to respond to things in that way.

I think sometimes a poll is helpful because people don’t always know what to say, if you leave something really open ended. But if you give them options, or you give them the little quiz. Some way to engage without speaking words, or having to be creative in a moment where they might just be watching on their work break or something like that.

So I think that can be really helpful. When it comes to staying inspired, what is it for you that kind of keeps you inspired?

Cassy Joy: Feeling sharp? Well, I am {laughs} I mean, early. Gosh. Words.

Diane Sanfilippo: {laughs} I put you on the spot there.

4. Ask your audience [39:00]

Cassy Joy: {laughing} I’m thinking about the phases of my business. Early on, the things that kept me inspired were just what you said; I would ask my readers; what kind of curiosities do you have when it comes to healthy living? Sort of that very broad question, right? And I’ve even gotten more broad since then. because it doesn’t necessarily have to be in this health food vein. What questions do you have, period, about living our lives as human beings? And it’s really been interesting just to see what trends are showing up amongst our readers. And there are also common curiosities that I have.

Like, for example; I would have never thought that getting dinner on the table and finding a different way to meal prep would have been something that I would focus such a huge chunk of my career on. And that came up because I asked my readers, what are you struggling with right now? And they were like, getting dinner on the dang table! And I was like; you know what? Me too! Why is this hard? Why is this so hard! I write recipes for a living. Why is getting dinner on the dang table so hard?

So it just inspired this question. So I would ask the people around you. Even if it’s 100 people. If it’s 25 people. If it’s 25,000 people. Wherever you are in your business, ask them. What are you struggling with? And see if something lands and resonates where you can identify and where you can find common ground. And then deep dive.

So that’s really what we do. Then we; it sounds like a calculated process. It’s really not. What we do over and over again is we will ask the audience what are you curious about right now. What problems are you facing? We collect all that information. Of course, the ones that we are also facing and curious about are the ones that we write down and highlight and focus on. And then we deep dive on the topic.

So right now, for example, we’re looking at CBD. It’s something that I’m really curious about. I don’t know a whole lot about it. I want to learn a lot more. I want to find the best possible products out there on the market. I want to get the best possible information at my fingertips. I want to know everything. And it’s not like I woke up one day and said; hey, we’re going to build so many articles answering all of these questions about CBD. I didn’t sit down and think; this is a content pathway that I’m going to go ahead and pave. I just asked folks; what are you curious about? They said CBD. And I said; you know what, me too. We started researching it, and now I have more and more questions that I’m trying to find answers to.

So, I say interview your people. See what commonalities overlap between your curiosities and pain points and theirs, and then deep dive on those. I think by the end of this; who would have thought? But I think we’ve got probably a 6-article series coming on CBD. Because I’m so, so curious about it. and now I know there’s a real need in our readership for that information. So that gets us super inspired.

And like I said, it’s not something I woke up thinking; hey, I’m going to go ahead and source subject matter experts on CBD for people. I didn’t wake up thinking that. I got creative because I just tapped into what our readers were wanting to know.

Diane Sanfilippo: If you don’t seem to be getting the response that you want; maybe you don’t have enough folks who can answer a poll, or they’re not filling in the question box, or what have you, one other way to think about or find out if people are struggling with this certain thing is to share something that you have struggled with in the past. I mean, you could something you’re currently struggling with. But I like the idea of saying; I used to struggle with acne, and do you struggle with this? Show some pictures. Whatever the case may be.

Share your story in some way, and see if the folks who are following you have a similar struggle right now, or have had in the past. Because that way you can find out; is this information that they’re interested in hearing more about from me? Because if they’ve struggled with something, chances are they want to know. We all want to know how people overcome similar struggles, even if we’re not going to respond, and tell people; yes. I have.

So, if you’re not like a therapy account, or a therapist, you’re probably not going to ask people if they’ve struggled with a specific type of trauma. That might be a little too deep to ask people to respond to a poll. But, you can ask people; have you struggled with acne? Do you struggle to figure out what to eat for dinner every night? Or do you feel like you’re not sleeping well? Things like that that can then get to the root of something that might be another topic you might want to talk about. And see what people respond to. But yeah, I think sharing something that you’ve struggled with can open the door and open the door and open that topic up.

Cassy Joy: I love it. And then, I think the last thing I want to throw into this pot of branching out and staying inspired; I would just keep remembering that the people who are viewing your content, they’re whole people. They’re whole people, right? They have whole lives and whole days and whole experiences. So even if you’re nervous about breaking this thing, do remember that just like you are a whole person, you might be a nutritionist, and you’ve only shared about food. That doesn’t mean that you don’t also have curiosities about fitness stuff, or about how to have a healthier relationship with your friends. Or about how to budget; build a budget around sustainable clothing choices, right? It doesn’t mean that you’re only what your content is. And your readers are the same. So just remember that.

Even though they may not land with you, and they may not want to stick around for the evolution of your business, there are folks who will. There are folks who are like; yes. She’s got the vibe, and the message, and the approach that I really that kind of support in my life. So I say, keep working towards that. Remember that they’re whole people. Everybody needs to be reminded, or think about life holistically. It all comes together at some point. So just because you’ve been successful in one topic does not mean that the people watching and consuming your content doesn’t also need more.

Diane Sanfilippo: Such a great point. One thing that I think has happened in the past is; folks would ask how I did my hair. And it would be a little like; ok, I’m trying to talk about this really important thing, like cholesterol.

Cassy Joy: {laughing}

Diane Sanfilippo: And you’re asking about my hair.

Cassy Joy: Yes.

Diane Sanfilippo: You know? And if I wanted to become defensive about it, I could. Or I could realize they’re a whole person, and much like myself when I watch somebody who I like their lipstick, or whatever else. We can’t help but ask.

Cassy Joy: I know.

Diane Sanfilippo: You know? So don’t freak out if you’re trying to talk about something that you thought was really important, and someone asks you about the shirt that you’re wearing; take it as a compliment. You know? Thank you for noticing this shirt that I went out of my way to find, and I really enjoy it. And how cool that you enjoy it too. Like, we have more in common than you think.

So I think that’s such a great way to recognize that people are interested in more than just the topic. And don’t presume that it’s superficial or silly or irrelevant for them to ask you about other things that you’ve chosen to bring into your life. Because that means they trust your judgment, and that’s such a wonderful thing.

I think it is important to know that when you do branch out, after having a niche for your audience, especially if your handle includes a word like paleo or keto, etc., you will get pushback. You will get those people who are uncomfortable with change. A lot of people are really uncomfortable with people who evolve, and grow, and become something different. You’re not who you used to be. No, I’m not. And I’m really happy about that. {laughs} You know? To your point, they’re whole people, and we are too. And hopefully we’re growing and changing. And hopefully the folks that were with us 10 years ago; we’re not the same person we were 10 years ago. I gosh darn hope we’re not. {laughs}

Cassy Joy: Amen!

5. Finding your niche or branching off [47:42]

Diane Sanfilippo: That’s like; I really hope. Right? So you will lose some of those folks. But don’t let that deter you. And keep it in mind, too. I think there is something really wonderful about having a niche and getting really specific when you’re on social media. When I look at the accounts that grow extremely rapidly these days, for the most part, they are highly, highly niched accounts. They’re also kind of intersecting with what I think happens to be of the moment. Like the current zeitgeist. Or the current topic that’s on everybody’s mind, with self-healing, or the enneagram, or personal development.

These things are really stick and top of mind for us all right now. I think part of it is who we are as the largest percentage of folks who are using social media, we’re at this age where personal development is really timely for us. It’s just like an intersection of those things, kind of the way paleo was the intersection of this group of us who are health minded, who are joining CrossFit, doing paleo, and that kind of comes up at the time where we start to have disposable income to buy books and buy different food, etc.

So it’s just like this cross section of; who are the generations and what are they interested in. And I do think that if you’re trying to be a jack of all trades, while you’re trying to grow an audience, it’s very challenging. Like, @JaneSmith on Instagram, how can someone tell someone; hey, you should follow Jane Smith? You should follow; when you comment on someone’s post. And I think I’ve talked about this before, when we talked about social media. I’m not going to tap on Jane Smith, because I don’t think there’s something going to be there that I’m interested in. I will tap on Nailed it by Alyssa, because I like nail art. And I will tab on that and see what it is. Sparkle Nails; I will tap on that. Things like that.

So if you’re growing, and you have a handle that’s really relevant to the main thing that you post about, just be aware that when you branch out. Let’s say one of those nail art women decides; I’m just going to be posting about, I don’t know, wallpaper from now on. And I’m like; well, maybe I’m into it. maybe the art translates for me. Maybe it doesn’t. And then I might unfollow it. and that’s ok. Because you have to have the people who are along for the ride who want to be along for the ride. Everybody his choosing who they are following. We can’t take it personally, we have to just recognize that it is going to happen, and we have to be ok with it.

But along those lines, as well, if you have something different that’s very specific that you want to talk about, for me, Balanced Bites as a brand, that content lives on Balanced Bites. 21-Day Sugar Detox, now and then I post about it; not that often on my personal account. But @21-Day Sugar Detox is a feature account all about the 21-Day Sugar Detox. And that’s kind of how we break it down.

And yeah, there are plenty of folks who talk about nutrition and write books, and they keep all of that within their kind of personal realm. But for me it was really important to separate it out. So I think that’s something you can also consider, versus keeping it under one umbrella.

Cassy Joy: Mm-hmm. And if you’re not ready for that, I get it. because I’m not {laughs}.

Diane Sanfilippo: You are. You’re ready. It’s time. 

Cassy Joy: Oh, gosh. Diane. It just feels like more work. I’m going to do it, and…

Diane Sanfilippo: But that’s what your team is for.

Cassy Joy: Oh, they’re busy. {laughing} I’m just saying; don’t feel like you have to.

Diane Sanfilippo: I’m a pusher.

Cassy Joy: She is a pusher.

Diane Sanfilippo: I push people.

Cassy Joy: Don’t feel like you; and she’s pushing a different kind of stubborn, but very stubborn also. I don’t feel like you have to create multiple channels in order to experience inspired and fresh growth when it comes to the content in your business in order to preserve or maximize followings. But, yes, sure, if I wanted to grow more explosively in followers for Fed and Fit, I could keep it to food and fitness, and I could give Gus and Ben their own Instagram account. And both of those would grow much more rapidly in their own veins and in their own lanes. But, I don’t think you have to do it. I know you’re not saying you have to. I know you’re not.

Diane Sanfilippo: Yeah.

Cassy Joy: I’m talking to myself.

Diane Sanfilippo: Yeah. But for some people, separating it out is more comfortable because they’re like; well, here’s where I post this type of thing, and here’s where I post this type of thing. so people know what they’re going to get. And I think from a communication point of view, that can be really helpful. Because new followers are more likely to follow something when they know what they’re following for. That’s just a normal behavior pattern.

Cassy Joy: What about all of the lifestyle bloggers. So when we think about the people; like the women on our Beautycounter teams, and I’ve got a few dudes on there, so hat tip dudes. But for the people on our Beautycounter teams that are sharing in this kind of generalized health and wellness space. And it is; it’s like a very wide breadth of content that they’re trying to share, but they’re sharing about activities that are keeping their toddlers busy. They’re sharing about dinner that they’re making and they’re sharing about their skincare routines.

Diane Sanfilippo: Mm-hmm. But I think the reason that people might follow each one of those people is going to be very narrow. So someone is going to follow one specific person, perhaps because they had a specific struggle with their child, and they were late to that. They’re going to follow based on what makes that person different, not what makes the same.

Cassy Joy: That makes sense. I hear you. I’m trying to figure out how we can paint this picture for folks listening. So, if there is a distinguishing factor in a part of your story, don’t be afraid to bring it up over and over again.

Diane Sanfilippo: You have to. Because,

Cassy Joy: Who else will?

Diane Sanfilippo: Don’t take this the wrong way, but otherwise who cares?

Cassy Joy: Yeah.

Diane Sanfilippo: So reasons why people follow other people are pain points and struggles. Sometimes they just follow because someone has abs, and that feels aspirational. And I’m not trying to diminish that. Great; for a lot of people, that’s really hard work. And other people look up to that. But there are a lot of fitness accounts that people are like; I just want to follow it because I get to see this person exercising, and I see abs, and skin, and people respond to that kind of thing. but if that’s not what you have, then you know, unfortunately if you didn’t want to have to expose more personal elements of your life, then there’s the flipside.

There’s the body positivity of somebody who is not just super lean and showing abs, and people will follow for that. And yes, that same person, those two people are both going to post. Here’s what I clean my house with. Here’s what I use for skincare and makeup. Here’s something about my dogs. But, you’re going to follow the person that you relate to more, because of who they are and what it is that makes them really different. And I think it’s actually a lot more challenging to do that work, because you have to get more personal, I think. Do you know what I mean?

Cassy Joy: Mm-hmm.

Diane Sanfilippo: Or you have to show your personality in your stories, and be witty, or whatever it is that is true for you.

Cassy Joy: And you’re not going to know…

Diane Sanfilippo: I don’t follow a lot of lifestyle bloggers. So I don’t really know that world as well, I don’t think. I follow one fashion blogger, just because I like her personality. I follow Courtney Kerr. And she does mostly fashion and makeup. I like some of the clothes. I’m not really into the skincare and makeup that she chooses, just because it’s not necessarily safer, cleaner stuff. But I just like her personality. So I follow her. And it is what it is. But I don’t really follow a lot of lifestyle blog content.

Cassy Joy: Yeah. I hear you. I think there’s a lot of people who do, and I bet a lot of people listening, who that is their vibe. I’m going to keep noodling on it.

Diane Sanfilippo: Yeah, I think we could talk bout it on another episode. I think that’s a really tough nut to crack, basically.

Cassy Joy: It is. There’s got to be a way.

Diane Sanfilippo: I think you’ve got to put in a ton of work, and you’ve got to be real and authentic. And it has to be I sodium way that’s real and authentic to you. So my friend Lanie is a food blogger, pretty decidedly. But she shares a lot of lifestyle content in her stories more so than on her feed. So her feed mostly looks like food. She’s @LifeisButaDish. Her feed is mostly food, but the way that she shares authentically in her stories is not just food. So that’s kind of the flipside of that, maybe. I follow her because I know her as a person and I like her. But had I not met her and become friends with her, I don’t know that the content would be for me. But I think, you know, we just have to see what our audience is.

But yeah. I don’t know if that’s even helpful. But I think we could talk about different types of accounts that people are building. I would love to hear from people who are listening; what is your business. What type of following are you trying to build? How are you trying to connect with people? What are you struggles around branching out? What kind of content do you currently post? What are you afraid to post? What can we help encourage you on? What could we give you some ideas on? What might be parallel content that you could share with your audience that will kind of test the waters a little bit.

I think all of that is super interesting, and I think it would be really fun to do even some case studies, maybe. We get some listeners who submit, and they kind of share what they’re doing with their social media. This was not part of our notes. Maybe that would be fun to do, as well.

Cassy Joy: I love it. let’s do it. how do we want them to submit that information?

Diane Sanfilippo: So what episode are we on? 31?

Cassy Joy: Yes.

Diane Sanfilippo: Comment on the episode 31 graphic. Let us know what your account is. Obviously, when you comment, we will see it. but let us know a little bit about what you’re doing. What you currently post about. What you’re thinking about posting about. What you feel like maybe have posted about that people don’t respond as well to. Sorry, I’m clicking a pen over here. Genny is probably hearing that, our editor, and she’s probably like; Diane. Put down the pen.

Cassy Joy: {laughs}

Diane Sanfilippo: Yeah, I would love to see what people are doing.

6. Tip of The Week: Include polls on posts [58:15]

Cassy Joy: Tip of The Week! In this segment, we give you one tip that you can take action on this week to move your business or life forward.

Diane Sanfilippo: Alright, so this week we’re going to pull from something we mentioned in the episode. We want you guys to poll your Instagram audience. Now you can do this in a few ways. We would love for you to use app tool. So in your Instagram stories, create a few polls. I love the idea of doing a series where you do three or more questions. Maybe three to five questions where you say; hey guys. I’m going to ask you some questions. This is really going to help me to create content for you. Go ahead and answer in the next handful of slides. And maybe you start to ask a few questions.

We’ll just use the recipe idea. Maybe you ask; “Which do you want more of? Soups or casseroles.” “Which are you craving more right now, salads or grilled foods?” Things like that, so people can engage without having to write full sentences. I think that’s a really fun way to get people to engage. And you can also do this on your feed. Maybe you post a photo of two different meals on a countertop or something along those lines, and you ask people to vote. A or B? Which do you want more of? Which do you want the recipe for first? And just get people to engage with you by voting one way or the other how relevant.

Because we’re recording this episode the day after super Tuesday, where I just voted. But I think that’s a really great way to get people telling you what they want to see more of. And this could be a good time to introduce kind of a parallel topic, if you typically post about recipes. Maybe you’d throw a couple of poll slides in there. Where you say; would you rather learn more about safer products to clean your house with, or safer skincare. Just throw it in there. Maybe you’re going to talk about both eventually. But it’s great to give people a way to chime in with their opinion.

That’s it for Driven this week. If you liked this episode, be sure to subscribe in Apple podcast, on Stitcher, Spotify, or wherever you listen to podcasts. Follow us on Instagram @TheDrivenPodcast. Cassy is @FedandFit and I am @DianeSanfilippo.

Tune in next week when we will answer listener questions all about content creation. We’ll see you then.

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