2020 is nearly upon us! Much like everyone else, I’ve got some changes coming to the blog with the new year. Here’s a sneak peek of two major changes coming in less than a week!
I’ve been debating about my niche, which is generally accepted as one of the most important aspects of a blog. As I debated, I looked back over my previous posts. A Letter to the Church on Anxiety and Depression seemed to strike a cord. So many people reached out to me about this post and shared stories of how their lives had been affected by the church’s misunderstanding of mental illness. I wanted to explore a different interpretation of mental illness for the church, so starting in January, I’m going to look at stories in the Bible that could reflect instances of mental illnesses and see how the Bible treats those stories in context.
Books are also near and dear to my heart as an aspiring author, so on Fridays, we’ll be discussing the Christian Fiction genre. I wrote a little about my experience with the genre a few years ago in Why English Majors Can’t Read, and I think there is more to say about writing quality books that reflect Christian faith.
To finish up the self-help review series, we’re talking about Tyler J. McCall’s “Follower to Fan Society.” Instagram has been my favorite social media application for years, so I was very interested to hear Mr. McCall’s thoughts on expanding my social media engagement. Let’s dive into the last self-help review of 2019!
Mr. McCall definitely knows his way around engagement. He had one of my favorite personalities of all the coaches I researched, and he wasn’t afraid to use it to make his potential clients feel connected. Mr. McCall practiced what he preached about being open and having a real identity to engage with the online community.
The free action guides and roadmaps look great and are very visually appealing.
Mr. McCall had some great insights on how community works now on Instagram, especially around hashtags. He noted how Instagram users shared on their personal accounts and applied that information to the business realm.
The membership Mr. McCall sold from the free webinar had a lot of content beyond simply posting to Instagram. For example, the Follower to Fan Society held masterclasses with leading entrepreneurs on business tactics, strategies, and legalities. This extra content added a lot of value to what would otherwise be a very simple program.
Mr. McCall’s product is a yearly membership instead of a one-time purchase, which makes him much more expensive than most of the other coaches I researched. Because you are purchasing a subscription with his program, you lose access at the end of the year if you don’t renew your membership.
Membership to the Follower to Fan Society is only available to purchase at certain times of year. The Society is currently closed, so interested Instagramers have to go on a “waitlist,” which really just seems to be signing up for their promotional email list.
Mr. McCall had a great insight that Instagram users want to stay within the app, so they won’t leave their current stream of content to find your site through a link. While keeping people on Instagram’s site is a great idea, it’s hard to implement if you’re a small account. For instance, Instagram has a “swipe up” link in Stories to post content within the app, but Instagram requires you to have 10,000 followers before you can use the tool.
What I Tried
After listening to Mr. McCall’s webinar, I got braver about posting content on Instagram. I wasn’t as concerned with appearing perfectly polished and curated, so I let a little more of my real personality come through my posts.
Mr. McCall emphasized using Stories as the new way users were engaging with content creators on Instagram, so I started using the add-ons in Stories to encourage interaction. This was another aspect that didn’t work too well for very small accounts, but the tools would be very helpful for larger accounts. Regardless, the tools in Stories allow me to post more interactive content without having to take extra pictures or send people away from the app.
Mr. McCall was super funny, very pleasant, and really engaging! (I mean, he made up the term “full time Comparidashian.”) While his program definitely fell on the expensive side because of the subscription aspect, he did have great information about Instagram and offered extra business content to members that rounded out the program. Mr. McCall’s strength is in his personality, so check out his Instagram to see if you click with his terminology before you consider spending money on his program.
Between a lingering cold and a tummy bug, Christmas week in the Irby household has gotten off to a rocky start. Of course, Jesus came to Earth for our salvation regardless of our current health situation, so there is still plenty to be thankful for.
Since Christmas falls on a Wednesday this year, I thought I would switch up the posts this week and do my review early. That means today we’re looking at “The Bucketlist Bombshells,” two young woman who have started a consulting business for those interested in flexible, online work. I stumbled across their ads on Facebook, where the bright colors depicted scenes of travel and working on laptops in exotic cafes. The webinar promised ideas for starting a service-based online business that would allow the entrepreneur to travel the world.
The webinar promoted four jobs to apply your existing skills toward. They suggested focusing on web design, social media and content management, virtual assistance, and graphic design. Their webinar promoted courses on technology and design for the virtual world, and depending on your end goal, you could take the course or bundle that worked best for you. Throughout the webinar, the presentation included examples and images that suggested the owners Cassie and Shay did know something about design.
The course bundle covered both the background technology and client-facing design for a more well-rounded approach.
The promotional emails start with nice encouragement and include more information beyond selling the courses. Most emails include links to travel tips and interviews with their successful students.
In order to get all of the needed information to create a truly successful business, you would have to buy all three courses and possibly more for the legal and logistical information. However, a lot of the information seemed like it could be figured out with some research or from other people’s courses.
The webinar focused heavily on the beginning concept and the end result. It did not discuss the in between process and the ups and downs that accompany building a business. Even the course for sale seemed to follow this beginning and end pattern. The course included mock-up projects to help you build your portfolio, but it didn’t create any client relationships to appeal to when the course was over.
What I Tried
Building an online business definitely appeals to me. I enjoy the flexibility to work from home and avoid the congested, unpredictable traffic coming and going from the city. I had already started building a service-based business into my website before taking The Bucketlist Bombshells webinar, but I unfortunately didn’t gain any more ideas from watching the webinar. I was already convinced that knowing web-based technology and design skills would make me more marketable, but I didn’t learn anything from the webinar to affect my business trajectory.
The Bucketlist Bombshells have a very specific voice that appeals to a very specific group of millennial women. I listened to the webinar and kept thinking of pumpkin spice lattes and kale salads. The voice almost felt cliche, or at the least a caricature of their real personalities, but it did make their target market easily identifiable. I was not convinced that the Bucketlist Bombshells’ course would dramatically impact my online business, but if their personality appeals to you, they do at least offer an overview of skills necessary to sell a successful online service.
It took almost two years after graduating from college for me to realize why I was struggling so much to find a job in a city where new communications positions cropped up daily. The Friday was cold and gray, so the three of us meeting at the church that afternoon were all bundled up in over-sized sweaters. We piled in to the church office to get some work done while the cleaning lady bustled about changing trash bags and sweeping the floors.
One of the girls was a graphic designer. She was applying for jobs and debating between a part-time job in the printing industry or holding out for a full-time position. I told her about the time I applied for a writing position with a business consulting company. I went through the entire interview process and really liked the company, only for the gentleman from HR to call me and say the team really liked me, but they were looking for someone with graphic design experience, and they hadn’t figured that out when they wrote the job description. You might want to look at communications jobs, I suggested to my friend. A lot of these companies seem to want graphic designers more than writers.
“These companies are looking for unicorns,” she said. “They want a good graphic designer AND a good writer, and they don’t realize that most people aren’t both.”
I shifted in the plastic chair and nodded. I could feel the imaginary lightbulb going off over my head. The reason I struggled so much finding a job was that everyone wanted a unicorn, and no one in the English department knew that was what the companies were looking for. Had I known, I might have used my college electives on graphic design courses instead of business and photography. As it was, I had great editing and tutoring experience, and the jobs available in town either paid very little or required a minimum of five year’s experience. So, when I found this ad on “design hacking” by Click Funnel Design School that required no graphic design or coding experience, I was hooked. This trick could be my break!
I found the ad for the “design hacking” webinar about 10 minutes before it started. I jumped out of bed, ran downstairs, fired up my laptop, and grabbed a notebook. Thankfully, when the webinar started, it came through as a YouTube recording. This meant that when the cat started demanding his breakfast, I could stop the video without missing any information.
Ms. Jones had a really neat concept that seemed to actually work. The concepts seemed simple to implement once you learned how to use ClickFunnels and add in design elements.
Perhaps the best thing about Ms. Jones’ course is that building a solid portfolio and attracting clients is built into the course. I got the feeling that Ms. Jones really set her students up for success instead of passing on concepts and leaving it up to the student to figure out implementation.
While the webinar was very detailed and engaging, Ms. Jones really didn’t give an actionable info in the free “training.” It really was just an introduction to her course and an overview of how the course worked.
The information in the course is also specific to Click Funnels and funnel-building software. This focus on Click Funnels limited how the person building the site could use it for their business. The site would really be for sales only and probably wouldn’t have much continued content or community outside of an email list, which again became more sales and promotion.
On a semi-side note, I personally dislike that ClickFunnel website domains are 80 miles long and have “clickfunnel” in them. They just don’t look as professional to me as a simple, clean domain.
What I Tried
When I upgraded my site to a business page, I changed my theme to “Natural,” and I loved it. It felt so earthy and peaceful to me. Over time, though, I started getting comments on how hard the gray font was to read, and I couldn’t find a place to change that. So, I gave in to the inevitable push for modern minimalism. Following Ms. Jones’ suggestions, I looked at major company’s websites and tried to follow their modern style with my website design.
While I didn’t learn any actionable graphic design tips from Ms. Jones’ webinar, I did get more analytical about design. I used her “hacking” idea and started looking at the logos and interfaces of more successful businesses as a source of style inspiration.
Ms. Jones had a great personality and was really entertaining to listen to. I was so excited for this course and thought I had found a shortcut to graphic design, but it was so relegated to ClickFunnels that it really didn’t work for my needs. If you are an entrepreneur who doesn’t want to blog or offer a large variety of products, Click Funnels and Ms. Jones’ Click Funnel Design School could be a great resource for you. However, if you are looking to build community engagement and need two way interaction to grow your brand, this course is not for you. Instead, look at the designs of major, modern corporations and use that as your inspiration for building logos and websites with the resources available to you.
Somewhere between high school and college I got nearly addicted to Pinterest. I spent hours scrolling through pictures of puppies and elephants, reading about “healthy” recipes, and making a list of projects to knit or crochet at some point in my life. My brother actually requested I quit using Pinterest for food after my third or fourth tasteless attempt at following a Paleo, Keto, or “lightened up” version of a recipe (usually with significant ingredient alterations to accommodate the limited food storage in my college dorm.) Those adventures taught me the power of these two little spices named salt and pepper that I had always believed made food taste bad. Apparently, they were actually necessary for making food taste good.
When I saw the ads for Rachel Ngom’s upcoming webinar about gaining blogging traffic without having to pay for ads (irony noted,) I was intrigued. I had heard of people getting brand deals from Pinterest boards, but I never understood how on earth it happened. So, I signed up and waited to see how all those puppy pictures and beauty tutorials were going to make my blogging dreams come true.
Mrs. Ngom definitely convinced me of value of her program in that hour and ten minutes. She demonstrated a thorough knowledge of Pinterest marketing and online media. Based on the information she gave, I thought I could figure the “free advertising” out myself, but I knew it would take time to learn the Tailwind program and make connections. (More on that later.)
I genuinely enjoyed her presentation style. Mrs. Ngom was engaging, fast-paced, and genuinely respectful of time.
All of Mrs. Ngom’s ads, emails, and worksheets had consistent, pleasing branding. The bold salmon outlines clearly reflected her focus on female entrepreneurs. The branding remained consistent with her pins on Pinterest, so it was easy to remember where I had seen her work.
On the email marketing side, Mrs. Ngom sent out new material about once every 10 days. Her frequency is far less than most consultants, so I don’t mind staying on her email list to learn about new promotions and business techniques.
In covering so much information, Mrs. Ngom hit a lot of high points and left the implementation to be learned. It was a good strategy, as it feeds into her consulting business, but it does detract from the value of the free webinar itself.
While Mrs. Ngom’s fast pace was highly engaging, she went too fast to follow the notes on her worksheets. To make it more confusing, the worksheets didn’t exactly match the content she was sharing, so it was often hard to keep up. I might have had more success transcribing my own notes from the webinar than trying to find where the information she gave fit on her outline.
While I loved the branding of the worksheets, there was too much shading to print them out. The bold swathes of color would have eaten up all of the ink that I was already running out of.
What I Tried
First and foremost, I started pinning my blog posts on Pinterest. I created a business account and spent more time organizing the pins than I had on my personal account.
Per Mrs. Ngom’s suggestions, I added text boxes over my featured image so people could tell what the linked blog post was about. I created a consistent style that I could use for all of my pins.
The webinar taught me that Pinterest was a search engine, so Mrs. Ngom’s tips introduced me to basic SEO. That knowledge was perhaps the most valuable thing I learned, as I was always terrified of the term SEO and thought optimizing articles required a degree in computer science. Mrs. Ngom made it easy to search for what people want to know by leveraging a tool built into the site itself – the search bar.
Mrs. Ngom focused on building what you own rather than relying on outside programs like Facebook or Youtube. So, I added an email list to my site by using Mailchimp, which will allow me to engage more directly with my followers than I could by fighting the Facebook and Instagram algorithms.
In researching Pinterest marketing, I learned that Tailwind, Mrs. Ngom’s tool of choice, has a free trial which would allow you to join 5 “tribes” or communities that share each other’s pins. In reading other blogger’s Pinterest strategies, most pin-bloggers use Tailwind or group boards to be successful. However, I also learned that you can get around the Tailwind tribes by manually engaging with group boards to exchange content.
Mrs. Ngom’s Pin 2 Purpose class was the one course I would have purchased were I not resolute against purchasing. While I believed that I could figure the techniques out myself, I knew that having her tips and backing would certainly save time in building my blog. However, I have since found other people’s blog articles through Pinterest where people explained how they were successful using the same basic structure. The tips made the overarching techniques from Mrs. Ngom’s webinar more actionable without having to pay for Tailwind or the Pin 2 Purpose course, which made me glad that I saved my money. If you are a blogger interested in Pinterest marketing, I would research the free articles on Pinterest before deciding to pay for the Pin 2 Purpose course.
I cling pretty strongly to my introvert status. Even with my nearest and dearest friends, if I’m going to spend several days in constant social interaction, I allot a few more hours for sleep and allow myself a few extra minutes putting on makeup so that at the end of the day, I don’t wind up crying in the floor for no reason. (It has happened… many times.)
When I scrolled through Facebook the day I decided to research self-help ads, I froze at one titled “How Smart Introverts Are Succeeding in Network Marketing” by Tyson Zahner. What a thought! There was hope beyond the infernal it’s all in who you know concept that plagued me!
Or, so I thought. I hopped on my first webinar with a composition notebook and my colored pens. I laid everything out like it was my first day of college again. I logged in to the webinar, and the wait screen flashed “3 Simple Steps to Attract High Quality Leads in 30 Days.” Well, that wasn’t exactly about introverts, but it would all come together, right?
The first 40 minutes of the webinar had some really good information. After the initial round of testimonials and self-promotion, Mr. Zahner defined some common marketing terms and explained a three step sales strategy. The strategy felt pretty textbook, but he did do a great job of breaking down concepts and making definitions accessible.
Mr. Zahner had an interesting take on using Facebook messenger to drive engagement. As I saw it crop up on other coach’s websites, I started to understand this concept as “automation,” which could allow an entrepreneur to be more productive by reducing the amount of tasks he or she had.
Since this was my first webinar, Mr. Zahner introduced me to the purpose of all of these free webinars and ads. After consuming the coach’s content, you could sign up for continued training! By the way, the offer would only be good for the next two days or two weeks, so, “don’t ask yourself, ‘Can I afford it?’ Ask yourself, ‘How can I afford it?'” Some coaches do this sales pitch in a really natural way. If I hadn’t had a firm freebies only rule, there were a few coaches who almost convinced me to purchase their courses. Mr. Zahner was not one of those coaches.
I was feeling rather snarky as the one hour webinar turned into a two hour sales pitch. In fact, after so much selling and promotion, I forgot all the good information he gave in the beginning. Had I not taken notes, I would have left the webinar very angry with how I had spent two hours of my life. Reviewing my notes now, I can see the value he did provide in the first forty minutes.
One of my greatest frustrations with Mr. Zahner was that he promoted the concept of 80% marketing and 20% selling, but he didn’t abide by his advice. By the end of the webinar, I calculated that he accomplished at best 50/50 marketing and selling, and I was not adding in the time that he spent on promotion at the beginning of the webinar. He may have had good information on creating successful Facebook ads and automating your processes for productivity, but I left the webinar with the feeling that I had just tried to buy a used car from a dingy lot built in the ’80s and never remodeled.
Lastly, Mr. Zahner sent a vast amount of follow-up emails in the 3 days after the webinar. I received an email about every 6 hours until the offer expired, and when my watch was buzzing in the middle of teaching preschoolers at church, my patience left me. Thankfully, after the offer ended, I have not received any more emails from his company, so the buzzing on my watch while trying to herd 3 year olds comes from 15 other businesses and not his.
What I Tried
Mr. Zahner’s theories required a great deal of up front cost to pay for Facebook ads and the Facebook messenger bot automation, so I haven’t used any of his suggestions yet. If I post an ad on social media for future ventures, I most likely will follow his free Facebook ad lead generation template since the concepts seem to work consistently for other entrepreneurs.
As the first webinar I researched, I was pretty disappointed. I didn’t realize at the time that the common purpose for all these free webinars was to push the sale of a very expensive online course. Once I started watching other webinars and researching other email courses, I realized that there were several other coaches covering the same topics in much less pushy ways. If you are looking for someone to help you with your Facebook Ads, I would recommend trying the Marketing Academy for Small Businesses. Her information seemed to be more up-to-date for Facebook’s current policies, and she was much less pushy about selling her services.
When I started researching self-help webinars, Julie Solomon’s Pitch It Perfect course was one of the first few I came across. I didn’t figure I would be hustling for affiliate marketing deals yet with only 30 some-odd Instagram followers, but she was bright and fun and popping up everywhere, so I figured I would give the masterclass a shot.
The first two things I noticed before the webinar were that a.) Mrs. Solomon brilliantly had a robot responding to all of her Facebook messages so she had a perfect response score (which I later learned was a common and sometimes misused tactic,) and that b.) regardless of what she knew about Instagram followers and pitching, the girl knew how to make a pretty workbook. It turned out to be one of the longer workbooks of the bunch I printed, but the prompts were easy to follow and had plenty of space for taking notes. I grabbed my colored pens, tried to shoo the cat away from my half-drunk glass of sweet tea, and settled in for the webinar.
Mrs. Solomon has a really great personality. She has honed her voice and is confident in her public persona. Her honesty and excitement made it easy to stay engaged for the hour and twenty minutes that the webinar lasted.
Mrs. Solomon had great information and thoughts on successful pitching. The main premise had me smacking myself in the head and saying, “No, duh! Why didn’t I think of that before? I have a degree in English, for goodness sake! I could teach a class on audience!” All that to say, it was good of Mrs. Solomon to say it explicitly.
Throughout the webinar, Mrs. Solomon listed several actionable items that someone could complete and probably use for success without having to pay for her full course. She gave lots of examples and encouraged us to take pictures of the material she put on the screen.
Mrs. Solomon helped me realize the point of free webinars. Regardless of whether the free webinar had great content or was a waste of time, it was all a sales pitch for their continued training course. And, of course, the paid training courses were never cheap. Mrs. Solomon’s paid course hit about middle of the road at a one-time price of $497 for life-time access to the content and Facebook group.
Mrs. Solomon did follow up with lots of emails, especially initially, but they were pleasant, entertaining, and full of hilarious Gifs, so I wasn’t really mad. The emails are relegated to sales and don’t provide much follow-up value, at least from what I have seen in the past month, but they are sparse enough that they don’t bother me. It would be easy enough to unsubscribe through the hyperlink at the bottom, too, if you preferred.
What I tried
The biggest change I made after watching the Pitch It Perfect webinar was to update my biographies to be service-focused. When she said it, this hit me like a no-brainer. Of COURSE people will respond better to content directed to them instead of babbling on about myself! It actually gave me the most clarity on what to write in a biography that I’ve ever had. I always hated coming up with four sentences about myself. “Umm, I write, I love my family, and I love fluffy little dogs named Teddy Bear.” Focusing on my audience’s interests and needs made it so much easier to tailor my biography to the strengths I could offer. It hasn’t made any dramatic changes to my follower count, but I do feel more confident in the way I introduce myself virtually.
If I ever venture into the influencer business model, I will absolutely refer back to the notes I took at this webinar. She gave a great step-by-step guide for what to include in a press kit, and she encouraged us to take pictures of the email examples she put on the screen for us to refer back to later. Even if I don’t become a great internet influencer (ha!), her tips will easily be transferred to the publishing and writing realm for article pitches and agent queries.
If your business or creative dream involves “pitching” in any way, shape, or form, I would soak up all the free knowledge that Julie Solomon is willing to dish out. The Pitch It Perfect course really is geared towards influencers, so you may want to save your money on that one if your work doesn’t revolve around brands on your Instagram feed. (If it does, this could be a really great course for you.) She has several other courses at a variety of price points, so if she offers a course that really speaks to your need, she seems like a really knowledgable and interesting person to learn from.
The instant I made writing-focused social media accounts and posted the word “blog,” my Facebook and Instagram feeds have been inundated with personality quizzes, entrepreneurial advice, and get-rich-quick promises. It probably wouldn’t be so bad if I hadn’t clicked on this one seemingly harmless little ad to discover my creative archetype. The quiz was fairly simple, and since I had read through other people’s comments with their quiz results, I could figure out which archetype I was going to be within the first question. My instinct was correct.
Investigator. Hmm. Now, what on earth could I do with that?
I finished reading the email, reopened the Facebook app, and BAM! Suddenly every third post on my feed was a self-help ad. “Join my Masterclass!” “Free webinar!” “Five Things You Need to Know FREE in Your Inbox, No Catch!”
Surely there couldn’t be that many consultants on the internet, right?
I was very, very wrong.
So I decided to use this little “investigator” talent of mine to figure out which of these webinars, email courses, and checklists are actually worth your time and which ones should really go in the Internet dump heap.
Today, I declare myself your designated tester of boring self-help webinars. I’ve started testing five programs already today, and I can’t wait to share the results with you every week. Let me know if there are any freebies you want me to review, and connect with me on social media so we can discuss the pros and cons of each technique!
Thanks for reading, y’all! Have a happy Friday!
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