002: Turn a Social Media Following into a Membership Business
🗓 April 08, 2019
Ward and Tyler chat about using social media to build an audience, the randomness of pricing, and overthinking instead of taking action.
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Ward: [00:00:29] Alright, I'm here with Tyler McCall. I Tyler how you doing?
Tyler: [00:00:33] I'm good. How are you?
Ward: [00:00:34] Good. Thanks for coming on the podcast.
Tyler: [00:00:36] Yeah. Thanks for having me.
Ward: [00:00:37] Yeah, so let's start with you giving us a quick summary of your business and what it provides so people can get some context.
Tyler: [00:00:44] Yeah, so I run an online membership Community. Well, it's not just me anymore. We have a little team of people who run this now, but we were in an online community called the follower to Fan society and inside that Community. We help entrepreneurs use Instagram and a more genuine and intentional way so they can Market themselves and Market their businesses online.
Ward: [00:01:06] And what is your professional background before you started all this?
Tyler: [00:01:10] Yeah, so I actually got my start in the nonprofit world right out of college. I went to work for the YMCA and that's kind of it's what I wanted to do. Actually, I thought I was going to work for the YMCA forever and retire at 55 and just go about my life and that's what I started doing. I also spent some time in the political world doing community organizing and running my own nonprofit. That and then also doing some political organizing as well. But that's what I did for a little over six years and toward the tail end of that time. I started doing the side hustle thing and picking up work on the side just running businesses Instagram. And helping them with their marketing I was doing marketing at the YMCA as well and did that for a little bit and then eventually I was able to leave my full-time non-profit job and start an agency with a friend. So did that for about a year? I did the agency model of business running an Instagram marketing agency and then started to transition into more coaching and Consulting about Instagram marketing strategy and. Eventually launched the follower to Fan Society at the end of 2017 and then in 2018. I was able to fully transition my whole business model over to this model and don't really do any one-on-one work anymore or manage accounts or any of that stuff anymore.
Ward: [00:02:35] So just to go back for a sec to the YMCA days. So. Obviously sounds like you're pretty busy with besides just work. But so at the YMCA if I heard that right you were doing marketing there?
Tyler: [00:02:46] As I was doing about a million different jobs, which is very which is very typical for the nonprofit world. Yeah, so I started working at the front desk actually as a front desk attendant selling memberships to the YMCA, which is very funny. Now that this whole membership Journey experience in my life is kind of come full circle because here I am selling memberships again to something else. Started at the front desk worked my way up from there to a district member engagement director. And that was a really cool role. I got to work on our strategy for attracting and retaining members of the YMCA identifying ways to better connect with them build relationships to create a better customer service experience for our members. So I did that for a while and then eventually transitioned over to the marketing and Communications team. And in that role I started doing a lot more of the advertising email marketing a lot of traditional advertising with booking, you know paid ads in newspapers and TV and radio and doing that type of stuff as well. So all different stuff operations marketing membership sales all over the place.
Ward: [00:03:53] Cool. So you had a little not a little but you definitely some significant experience in the marketing world before you kind of jumped into to the follower to Fan Society.
Tyler: [00:04:02] I did. Yeah, I was really fortunate to have have a lot of time not just in the YMCA but also started I started and ran my own nonprofit for a little over a year and also doing community and political organizing really relying heavily on social media at the time. It was Twitter. It was the big the big platform we use so I kind of I had about I don't know a solid 10 years worth of experience of marketing and figuring out social media and building relationships with people. online before I really dopant followed a fan society.
Ward: [00:04:35] And to kind of build up those initial marketing skills and social media skills did you take courses did you read books? Like what was kind of strategies there?
Tyler: [00:04:45] Yeah, there were a few different things. I didn't really take any courses. I actually I didn't major in marketing in college. I didn't study it at all. I actually got a degree in Psychology. I took a few marketing classes here and there but you know at the time and I still think kind of traditional education about marketing and advertising hasn't really caught up to what we do on social media now, so there wasn't as much in the form of It's kind of traditional education. The thing that I really relied on was podcasts and I love that. That's what this is right and podcast for such a valuable part of mean learning the skills that I needed the techniques the tools the tactics for really getting into this online business side of things. I knew a lot about marketing from kind of the traditional side and the YMCA, but when it came to learning about funnels and ads and opt-ins and email marketing and sales sequences and all these things that all came from podcasts, you know podcasts like online marketing Made Easy with Amy Porterfield or the art of paid traffic with Rick mole ready. Those were a couple of my favorites where I really. Learned a lot of the skills that I needed and then the next thing I did was just started practicing. You know, I just started doing it. I think a lot of times. As entrepreneurs it's really easy for us to get stuck in a kind of student mode and not really take action and I was really quick to take action and started trying things and listen a bunch of stuff did not work at the beginning. But but overtime just trying and practicing just like anything, you know, I was able to Kind of Perfect my message perfect. My marketing perfect who I was speaking to perfect the visual identity of my brilliant all of those things. That's still evolving today and still growing today. But yeah podcast and then just doing the dang thing those are the two things that I did.
Ward: [00:06:34] So let's go a little bit more ahead in the timeline. So when you actually started the follower to Fan Society, what was the thinking behind that like, why did you even think that was something that needed to exist in the world?
Tyler: [00:06:45] Yeah, there were a few reasons. So the first reason was because I had a failed course launch behind me. So that was part of it and I say fail. I mean I launched a course at the beginning of 2017. I think I had like 12 people enroll. I didn't get the numbers I wanted and then my life kind of fell apart and went into shambles that spring and summer actually ended up refunding a lot of the students because I couldn't deliver the content because so many things were happening in my life and I didn't want that to happen again. I wanted to create a course or a membership or something, but I wanted to create something that felt a little bit more sustainable for me and a membership site felt like a better option for me and the kind of life. I wanted to live and how I wanted to structure my business. A few other things I was thinking about in terms of teaching Instagram online was that a lot of the products that were out there that I saw were. We're courses that were kind of that like, you know, like a $300 Instagram course and a lot of times that content inside the course was teaching people pretty basic things like how to take a pretty picture or how to use a hashtag and the course is just kind of ended up saying to be successful on Instagram post pretty pictures and use a lot of hashtags and that's kind of where the conversation ended. Right and but I knew there was so much more to Instagram than that. You know, when I started following a fan Society at that point I had to run over 20 Instagram accounts over the past year. I had grown people's followings from nothing to thousands of followers. I'd run accounts for local businesses and National Brands, and I'd also consulted and coached over a hundred business owners on their own Instagram strategy, and I knew there was a lot more to it than that. I knew that people needed a system to put in place, but they also needed resources to implement that system and then most importantly they needed support as they were doing all this work and that's what really appealed to me about going about this as a membership model and creating something that would. First of all, give me recurring consistent predictable revenue and my business and then give me a recurring consistent predictable paycheck because I had not really had that since I left the YMCA and I was really looking forward to that and starting this next phase of my business, but then also picking a really great way to educate and support people through learning about how to use Instagram. So that's why I went the route of creating a membership community.
Ward: [00:09:15] So let's jump into the the audience building because that's that's a big step that a lot of people either struggle with or don't even realize that that's kind of Step One all this is if you want to start a business, especially a membership business the step one is not is not to create the course and start telling people to buy it step one is actually to get an audience if I would have known you'd agree with that. So. Yeah, if you can just kind of give us some heads up and insights into how you built that initial audience and the details behind that.
Tyler: [00:09:46] Yeah, definitely. So I think you're so right. You're right on the money there that you know, a lot of people think that first step is create the thing and then sell it to people and that's what I actually did. I I did that. I went down that path at the beginning of 2017. I created the thing I created a course that I just I knew everyone needed everyone needed this course. And then when I went out there and tried to sell it. Well the results weren't what I had hoped for. So I really learned in 2017 the value of creating something for my audience and with my audience. So when we launched follower defeat in society, that's what we did week. We launched it with a skeleton of what it would eventually become today and was just a little bit of content in there and we told our members. Hey, we're going to be creating this content with you because we want to make sure it's actually meeting your needs. Is doing what you needed to do for you. So to build the audience for that. There were a few things that I did. First of all you'll be very surprised to learn that I relied heavily on Instagram. It's what I do. It's what I know. It's where I hang out so I spend a lot of time. Really nurturing relationships on Instagram and that's one of the big kind of an Instagram lesson in all of this that I can share with people is that the value of Instagram for your business is not a necessarily the number of followers or the likes or comments you're getting. In the conversations that you're having with people, so I was able to consistently create content and using Instagram stories in particular and using Instagram stories as a way to kind of open the door for conversations for my followers and getting people into my direct messages talking to them about their needs what they were looking for what they needed help with and then just working with them to kind of create solutions for them. Something else that I did that as was really helpful and I encourage folks to do is if you're currently working with people one-on-one and that's what I was you know up until we launch the follower to Fan Society in October of 2017. Most of my my income came from one-on-one coaching and there were a few things I did in that process that really helped follower to Fan Society be the success that it is. The first thing that we did was I got really clear about my process like what was the process I was taking my one-on-one clients through and it started documenting that entire process. And when I quickly realized is that that process was repeatable. So I could create content and deliver that content through a recording and not have to deliver that deliver that content one-on-one. The next thing that I did that help with the success of launching follower to Fan Society is building a waitlist for two things. The first thing is building a wait list of potential one-on-one clients. Fully booked myself out by summer of 2017 and I couldn't take on any more one-on-one clients. So when I would get inquiries, I would say hey I can't work with you right now, but there may be an opportunity to work with me in the future and a different way. Is that something you're interested in? If so, let me put your name on a waitlist. So I was able to start building a waitlist that way through potential one-on-one clients and then also building a waitlist publicly for when this thing launched so I started. King about the follower to Fan Society. I think it was in August of 2017. So a couple of months before we launched and I positioned it as a question for my audience. It wasn't a thing. I'm watching this thing and you need it. It was hey, I'm thinking of creating this thing that could help you get this result. Is that something you're interested in? Is that something you would sign up for? Is that something that could help you? Is that something you're looking for just to kind of survey my audience and see if that was something. Into and for everyone that said yes, I would say. Okay great. Can I put you down on the waitlist or can I describe your email address so I can send you information when the doors open for this thing and really positioning it all as a question was really really beneficial for me. And then the last thing that I did is I built a Facebook group in addition to my Instagram account. So I had my followers on Instagram and when I worked on doing with funneling them over to a Facebook group where I could continue nurturing the relationship with them that was a little bit more intimate than on the Instagram account and I would do things like going live on there. I in 2017 I did which was crazy. I did 21 days of Facebook lives, which was very ambitious, but super effective for building my audience and creating a ton of live content on Facebook and then really leaning into using Facebook live. For a couple of reasons first of all to share that content on Facebook to educate or Inspire my audience on that platform and then also to build custom audiences on Facebook so I could use that down the road when it came to using Facebook and Instagram ads. So all those things combined really helped me build my audience, but it was really about getting email addresses getting people on a waitlist. Also being very proactive about getting people into a community with me. So on Instagram and to a Facebook group wherever or I could connect with them keep having conversations with them and then just positioning it all as an opportunity for them and asking them if that's something they actually wanted and you know, if I would have done that for a few weeks and people are like no I don't care about that or I'm not interested in that I wouldn't have launched follower to Fan Society. But because I kept hearing from people. Yes, I would love that or I'm so interested in that. I was able to launch it and you know when we launched in October of 2017, I think we had around I want to say around 300 or 400 people on the waitlist and that was from Instagram for my Facebook group from old from people I had on my mailing list before I think I may have had like, you know a thousand people on my mailing list from the past year or so. And then we open the doors and we had I think close to 90 people join in our first lunch and I was so happy with that and so excited about that and then well we can talk about that later. But then we just kind of rinsed and repeated our launch for the next year or so to grow our community. Wanted to what it is today.
Ward: [00:16:02] When you're building the audience and getting those initial email addresses. It sounds like the origin was you were either directly messaging or posting on your Instagram to. How did you actually find people that cared about this concert in the first place it what's the origin of saying okay this person would be someone who might who might even care about this. How did you find this?
Tyler: [00:16:25] Yeah, definitely. So there were a few things I was doing. First of all, I had spent a lot of time just sitting back and watching what was happening online and my particular Market at the time. So when I launched the follower to Fan Society a lot of folks that I was attracting were creative entrepreneurs a lot of makers artists and wedding professionals. We're kind of our initial our initial base of members and I spent a lot of 2007. In just kind of sitting back and watching what was happening in that space and doing a lot of that through other people's free Facebook groups. So going into these large Facebook communities and just looking at the questions people are asking starting to make lists and notes of those questions. So just starting a Google doc. This is a great a great piece of advice for anyone who wants to launch something like this to start a Google doc and anytime you see people talking about the topic that you want to teach or want to help people with just start dumping all of that language all that copy into a document. So what I was able to do is accumulate all of the questions that people were typically asking all the pain points. They typically had and even the way that they were speaking about Instagram so I could then turn that language around and use that in my marketing and promotions and then the next thing that I did is I started creating content free content that addressed those questions that answer those questions that addressed those pain points and I would do that in the form of a Facebook live or a free resource like a download or opt-in that I would create or just an Instagram post or Instagram story. It doesn't even have to be something elaborate like a PDF you can literally just create an Instagram story and talk about the topic. So I really led with the content and let the content be the thing that would attract people in because the idea was once someone found that content found it valuable they share it with someone else. And then the second thing that I did is I was just super intentional on Instagram about engaging with other people. So. We actually teach this inside the follower to see in society Shameless Shameless plug there but one of the strategies that you can use on Instagram is engaging outside of your account to find potential students or clients or even just two potential followers on Instagram and what that would look like. First of all is having complete clarity about who you want to attract. So, you know, I did that work I looked at who was who was kind of active in this space who was asking these questions, which of these people I was like, yes, I would love to. Work with them. They would be a great fit for our community in which people I was like, oh, no, I do not want them in our community. They will not get results that I want them to I need to make sure that our marketing does not speak to those people and then I was able to create that content and then go out and find those people and things like hashtags and things like other people's accounts of people. That maybe teaching that were maybe teaching Instagram. I would go to their post and look for the people who are engaging with their content and then follow those people back to their account and engage with them also looking at content that shared at locations on Instagram. So if I know, you know, my ideal member is typically going to this major marketing conference or this major wedding Professional Event looking at content that shared during that event or at that event venue and engaging with that content on Instagram. There's a lot of different ways you can do this, but it was really about being super proactive, you know, a lot of times. I see people kind of creating content and sitting back and waiting for people to come to them and that's not the way you build an audience. It's just not effective. You have to either build an audience with your time by going out and engaging organically. Consistently and building relationships or with your money by using something like Facebook and Instagram ads. Those are really the only two ways to do it. So for me that was it for my time. I went out I engaged and I started connecting with people and when they came back to my profile when they came back to my Facebook group and they came to my Facebook page, whatever it may be they were always met with high quality content that answer their questions and help with the pain points that I had from all the research. I've been doing for months and months before.
Ward: [00:20:44] That makes sense. And I really like the the tippy gave about creating a Google doc of actual words and phrases that customers or prospects are using and the problems. They're having that that's something I've heard before and definitely useful the useful tip people to keep in mind be let's transition to another topic here regarding your business model and your pricing if you just give a quick summary of how the pricing works and what the business model.
Tyler: [00:21:10] Yeah, definitely. So what we're doing right now may not be what we do forever. We're actually going to play around with pricing a little bit this year in 2019. But currently we offer three tiers of membership for our community all of our members get access to all of the same content and we break our Our member content down into three kind of bucket. So the first bucket is our training system, which we call the framework. So we have a it's videos audio. PDFs workbook slide decks those types of things. That's the first bucket of content. That's that's Evergreen. That's up that's in our members area for them to access from the day. They join the next bucket of content are our resources. So this is all about supporting our members as they're implementing the framework. So these are things like monthly calls monthly Q&A calls this happen live for our members. We also put out a monthly content guide for them. We do a monthly master class, which is pre-recorded. We do weekly Instagram audits those types of things. So those are more living breathing pieces of content that my team and I are creating on a weekly or monthly or quarterly basis for our members. Then the last piece is the community. So it's the content the resources and the community and we manage our community through a Facebook group for our members where we support them. We answer their questions give them feedback and all of that. And then as I said, our members can access to all the content regardless of their level of membership So currently we sell monthly memberships which are month monthly recurring membership payments and those Arkansas members can cancel those at any time. There's no contract with that. We also saw an annual membership. Sorry monthly membership is currently 74 dollars a month. We saw an annual membership for seven hundred and forty dollars and that when people join at that level to get 2 months for free at the annual level and then we also sell on lifetime membership, which is 997 dollars and the lifetime level we first of all, they never pay again obviously and then we also send them a gift in the mail which is really important to us to have that high touch experience. And then we also give our lifetime members of free ticket to our live event. We do a live in person. It's a two-day event. Our first one is actually happening this year in 2019. So our lifetime members get a free ticket to that members at other levels have to purchase a ticket to attend that event. So those are the 3 different levels of membership and kind of the offers that we have for our.
Ward: [00:23:38] Okay. So for the the lifetime ones intriguing because obviously math wise if someone stays for does the annual for example, if they if they were to do two years, that's obviously much more money than one lifetime. Is it more the thinking behind that was that more of. Well, a lot of people aren't going to stay for more than a year in general. Is that kind of the like the lifetime value? You might call that you found that to be below 997 and that's why you're offering this or what's the thinking behind it?
Ward: [00:24:07] Yeah, the lifetime the lifetime option for a couple of reasons. The first reason was definitely to boost our lifetime value of Our member are so to get that little bit higher because you know as with most membership sites people don't stay a member forever and ever amen, you know, they're there you know three four six nine months whatever and then they leave for whatever reason so that was part of it to get people to stay longer. And then the other part of it was to really get people to commit to the community and have them commit to being a part of this community for the lifetime of this product. However long that may be to have them here in a part of that community. And then the last thing is, you know, when we launched the follower to Fan Society, I wanted some quick cash. I wanted like that cash injection when we started the community and we seen that the lifetime membership option actually proves to be pretty popular about 8% our our members I think are on Lifetime memberships right now and we see that to be a pretty popular option. It also is a great upsell for us. So if someone is a monthly member and they've been a monthly member for a little while we then offer them the opportunity to join at the lifetime level and we actually will discount that down based on how long they've been a monthly member. So we'll give them up to two months of their monthly membership what they paid toward the cost of a lifetime membership and we have some members who take us up on that offer as well. Who they've been there for a while and they're like, you know what? Yeah. I want to be here. I want to stick around and then the last thing is that 997 price point for us is pretty competitive and pretty standard, you know in the online course creator space. So 997 is kind of the standard Baseline price for a lot of online products. So it's really familiar to people who are purchasing online learning products. So we wanted to play around with that price as well. And it's worked well for us so far.
Ward: [00:25:58] So for the let's go to the 74 dollar a month plan where 24 come from is it always been 74 have you played with that at all?
Tyler: [00:26:06] Yeah, we've played with that number a lot. So we when we launched it was forty seven dollars a month and then we went up to 59 a month and then 64 a month and then we're currently 74 a month. Yeah, the price honestly that I just kind of pulled it out of the air. I said hey, I think I wanted to be 47 a month and I was actually having dinner with a friend and she was like, oh 47. That's a great number and 4 plus 7 equals 11. That's an even better number and she said I think it should either be 47 or 74 and I thought okay, we'll start at 47 and we'll end up at 74. So that's what that's what we did. So, yeah, that's how their prices now it's there's really it's so funny. I feel like there's really not a science to pricing things. You kind of just. Make up the number and then you kind of get to decide if you want to charge more or less or raise the price or lower the price like you're the boss you get to decide that.
Ward: [00:26:55] Did you go on a push back on once you went to 74?
Tyler: [00:26:59] So one thing we did do is anyone that had joined. At a previous rate they had they were grandfathered into those rates. So that's one thing that we have done. So like our founding members who joined in October of 2017. They're still paying sit forty seven dollars a month and they'll pay forty seven dollars a month forever. And that's the benefit of joining early, you know, they joined when there was like, One little video of me saying hi welcome there's nothing here yet. Let me create some content for you. So they get that that price for life there really hasn't been any pushback, you know once folks get in the community. They see the value as there and more often than not we hear from our members that there's far more value than seventy four dollars a month is actually what they're paying. There's a lot more value than what they pay each and every month so know we were confident with that price. It's worked. Well, it's help increase our lifetime value of Our member. Um, and yeah, it's worked out well.
Ward: [00:27:53] So I guess my question would be that if you are not getting a lot of pushback. Why not keep going higher, right?
Tyler: [00:27:59] That's a great question. Yeah. I don't either that comes down to you know, I can sound like a mindset thing I need to work on is why can't I charge more for this? Yeah. So what we're going to do this year. We're going to play around with pricing a little bit and just see. Kind of see what the threshold is for our members or potential members with price. We're also going to play around with some pricing or Price options in particular. I know one thing that does come up when you're pricing something like this a lot of times is giving people too many options and kind of that analysis paralysis sets in and they don't know which one to choose. So we're going to play around with some different options this year only offering like annual options only offering a lifetime option those types of things. It's smaller and launches and see what that does for us and see if we can change our pricing model at all and we'll just play it by ear. I'll let you know how it goes.
Ward: [00:28:57] Cool. That makes sense. And when you were at the forty seven dollar price point where you getting a lot of where you're getting any feedback from people like oh this is way, this is a great deal. This is really cheap.
Tyler: [00:29:09] That's a good question. I don't I honestly don't know. I don't know if I was really paying that much attention to the feedback I was getting you know, there's always we always get feedback, you know, when people don't with they go through our entire enrollment process and you know, we do that through an automated webinar and email sequence is they go through all that and they don't join, you know, there's always people who say well the price I can't afford it and then we have people who canceled they always say, well it was the price I couldn't keep paying that but I don't necessarily pay as much attention to those things because a lot of times I feel like. And the sales process when people are saying it's the price that really comes down to a marketing message on my end and not I need to lower the price. I just need to do a better job of demonstrating the value or helping them understand how it is worth that money. And then when people cancel because of price, you know, I think well, that's just an opportunity for us to better connect with our members and showcase the value. They're getting for that money. So it's never been a big concern for me and I've never really paid too much attention to what people are saying in terms of price. It's always kind of come down to what I think the product is worth and and also the results that we're getting our students and the fact that we have students who make back their investment within like a week of joining, you know, or make back their investment times 10 within their first couple of months of being in the community. So it doesn't really matter the price because they're seeing the return on that investment and that's what I really focus on and then how can we keep attracting more people who are like those people who are learning implementing and getting the results because those are really the people that matter I don't care about Joe schmoe who joins and then cancels and says, well, it's too much you shouldn't charge that much. I Care about the people who are there who have stayed there and her like yeah, this is worth it and I made my money back and those are the people I want to talk to.
Ward: [00:31:06] I think that's a good place to end at Tyler. Thanks for taking some time to talk with me.
Tyler: [00:31:10] Yeah. Thanks so much for having me.