I've been familiar with Rik Roberts‘ work for several years. I worked closely with his wife, Lisa, one of the savviest comedy talent buyers in the business. I knew Rik was a talented comedian, successful keynote speaker, and teacher. But I didn't realize he's such an experienced social media marketer.
He recently invited me to talk about social media tips on his podcast:
You can listen above, or read the abridged version below.
Comics make the transition from being employed to striking out on their own. What was your safety net like before you quit your job as a concert promoter?
I saved six months of expenses, cutting things as low as I possibly could. Then, I quit without another job lined up.
About a month later, I got a part-time gig with Eventbrite that helped supplement my emergency fund. It was a flexible, work from home job that gave me a little bit of extra income to help pay the bills.
You also filled in the financial gaps by working at Titans games?
When I moved to Nashville, I was working for free at a publishing company. In order to pay the bills, I lived off scholarships and worked at Tennessee Titans stadium. I also worked at Bricktop's. I was doing a little bit of everything and I think that’s kind of the key to surviving as a creative person.
The side hustles are what help you get through. They can carry you along until you can eventually pay your bills with what you’re making from your creative gig.
I know back when I made that transition, I delivered pizzas like a lot of people do for Gumby Pizza up in Columbus, Ohio and I found this guy who had an apartment complex. He said, “Any day you’re not doing anything, just walk over here and I’ll put you to work,” so it was five bucks an hour.
That’s one of the coolest things about Nashville. There’s such a wide assortment of creative people and you see all the ways they make money to support themselves. It’s really inspiring.
The gig economy, they call it now. Basically, go out and carve your own path with technology. I’m selling fake Pokémon appearances so people can get on the Pokemon app and go find me.
I love that.
Let’s talk about your blog for a second because I don't think enough comedians blog or have a weekly update of any kind on their website. Do you use a content calendar to plan out your blog posts? How do you hold yourself accountable to that?
I wish that I was planning far in advance, but many times I get the inspiration and I write a blog post. I’ve been trying to post every week. The key is just being consistent. Make sure it’s quality but also that you’re consistently sharing content so that your blog doesn’t go dormant.
I know from the School of Laughs website, and my own website, if you’re posting consistently, you’re going to stay relevant.
But there’s also keywords that make a difference, too. So when you’re writing about finances, are there terms that you’re always trying to fit into the article? Any clues for that?
I have SEO experience, but I am not a full-time SEO. More than stuffing keywords in blog posts, I’m trying to solve a problem for someone.
For example: How To Save For Retirement Without a 401(k)
That’s a question readers have asked me.
Don't get me wrong, I do think SEO is incredibly important. Especially on-page SEO, making sure that your site is technically sound, so you’re not getting in your own way when it comes to Google.
But it's important to think about the reader and their overall experience. You want them to be engaged and you don’t want it to be too contrived.
Let’s talk about social media strategy.
One of the biggest issues that people can have with social media is trying to be active on every single channel. That’s a way of burning out. You’re better off picking two or three channels, especially if you're still getting comfortable, and thinking about where your audience is.
An easy way artists can do this is by looking at others in your niche. See what channels they’re investing their time in.
I've noticed you have comments on your blog and they’re enabled. What's your strategy for managing them?
Disqus is a popular tool option. It’s almost like its own social network—you can actually see other blogs they’ve commented on—and it makes it really easy to filter out the spam.
There’s been this trend of turning off the comment section, which I’m not in favor of. I think it’s really important. Sometimes you get really awesome conversations happening in the comments and really great ideas for future content, too.
Are you active on LinkedIn?
I use it every single day. LinkedIn doesn’t have a sophisticated algorithm. You can hack it really easily. One person likes your post and then it shows up in their feed.
I use LinkedIn more like Twitter. My connections are followers. I use Buffer to schedule at least one post a day. You need to experiment and see what works best for you. I get referrals to my blog from LinkedIn.
It's important for freelance gigs and relationship building. But it's also a great way to promote my content.
Do you know how many people are seeing your posts?
That’s a good question. I don’t know what percent it is, but it's higher than Facebook's organic reach. As a DIY solopreneur, you can actually do quite well by just sharing regular content and constantly adding new connections.
I add friends from high school, friends from college, people I’ve known throughout my career. I’m continually adding people all the time and using it to promote my newest content.
It’s underused by artists because they look at it like a corporate thing, but that's who writes checks. The people you know from college may now be leaders at different companies and organizations. You never know who is looking to hire a band or comedian.
If someone isn't active on Linkedin, what should their first steps be?
Fill out your profile all the way. You can actually showcase videos or articles you've written. And it's good to have a robust LinkedIn profile.
From there, you can start sharing some content. But make sure you're happy with your profile. It’s your online resume. People are going to click through.
Another hack: The more companies you have listed, the easier it is to find you in the LinkedIn search bar. I include everything, even jobs that are less relevant because I know I'll show up when someone searches.
Some comic said, “LinkedIn is like a gym, a lot of people are members but they never go there.” A lot of people check it every couple of months. But mostly, it sits there idle.
That’s hilarious! By the way, you can turn off the default setting of sharing every single profile update with your followers. It's so obvious when someone is looking for a new job.
Another thing I like about LinkedIn is once you have a considerable amount of followers or connections, you can export that email list pretty easily. I think I have 2,500 connections on LinkedIn, and occasionally, I’ll export that list and run a Facebook Ad for those people.
Yeah, that’s really smart.
Does your LinkedIn profile show up higher in Google search results?
It depends on the authority of where else you’re listed. For me, if you search my name in Google, you will find KateDore.com. You will also find a Wall Street Journal article.
It's really important to regularly search your name. One of the easiest ways you can influence what’s on that first page is just by taking your social media profiles—LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook. Those websites have higher authority than most others. If you don’t have a lot of big media mentions, that’s an easy way to manipulate what’s showing up for you.
Can you talk about the importance of alt tags?
That’s an important on-page SEO topic. Basically, Google doesn’t know what an image is unless you’ve named it in the alt tag. It’s also important for visually impaired people.
What you need to do with the alt tag is describe what the image is. That’s considered a best practice. The title tag is where you can put your name or the name of the blog post, or the name of your brand.
What are some tips or strategies we haven’t talked about?
One of the most important things is just creating regular content. For a comic, creating videos for your YouTube channel, but also experimenting with Facebook Live.
I’m hearing of people just abandoning Periscope completely and only using Facebook Live. You can do it from your Facebook Page. It’s something that even a few months ago was only available to celebrities. Now you can take your smartphone, a selfie stick, and start streaming. It's a great way of hacking Facebook's organic reach.
People always say, “Facebook's organic reach is dead.” But I actually don’t think that’s true. You just have to know what’s important to them at that time.
Facebook Live is still pretty new. Getting in front of it is really smart, especially for a comic. I think it’s good just to experiment with some different things and see what people respond to. Then do more of that thing.
Especially since video automatically plays without sound. There are definitely a lot of things to experiment with there.
There are so many free resources. It’s just a matter of time—where you want to invest it and how much you have.
Investing in high-quality video content is a worthwhile spend of money, especially for a comic. Videos autoplay on both Twitter and Facebook.
If you are going to use video on Facebook, upload it directly to the Facebook app itself. Don’t try to share your YouTube video links. Google owns YouTube and it competes with Facebook. So Facebook is only going to show this little tiny thumbnail and limit the video's reach. It’s amazing how much of a difference it makes.
Another hack I’ve had good luck with is sharing directly from Instagram to my Facebook page. That’s something that you can set up from within your Instagram settings. Just experiment with it. I think you’ll be surprised to see that you’ll get a boost there.
What are some things you can do to build an email list?
Collecting email addresses is one of my primary goals because it's something you own. Social media is incredibly important, but it's rented land. Algorithms change, and eventually, you have to invest more money.
If you’re just getting started, you can experiment with a free tool like SumoMe.
You can try different types of lead magnets. You don’t necessarily have to spend a ton of time creating something new. Don’t be afraid to give away content. Valuable things.
I couldn’t believe the difference it made by adding a pop-up. People hate them but they convert.
Does SumoMe integrate with MailChimp, Constant Contact, and other email service providers?
I was using MailChimp before, but I recently switched to ConvertKit. MailChimp you can use for free up to about 2,000 subscribers, which is pretty good. This gives you room to grow. Email marketing is constantly changing and evolving. The best way to learn is just by experimenting and seeing what works for you.
Once you have those email addresses, you can create custom Facebook Ads. Facebook can create a similar Ad group. Once you have that ball rolling, you see the importance of social media at the starting level. It’s massive.
People who subscribe to your email list are more likely to make a purchase. They’ve already opted in so they’re hot leads. Even if you don’t have something that you’re selling, I would encourage anyone with a website to start collecting email addresses right away, as quickly as you can. I regret not starting it immediately.
A lot of people get tied up with vanity metrics that aren’t necessarily what’s most important. I’m tracking referral traffic from specific channels, bounce rates, time on page, and conversions (email subscribers). All of this can be found in Google Analytics.
If you’re not familiar with Google Analytics, the best thing you can do is make sure it’s installed on your website. Once you start experimenting and you have a few months of data, you can spend more time on what's working and less on what isn't.
What trends have you noticed that you’re really excited about? What's paying off?
I hear a lot of bloggers discount Twitter, except for interacting with the media. About 15% of my social media traffic is from Twitter, though. I've noticed these referrals have a lower bounce rate and spend more time on the page.
It’s a long game, but building relationships over time and sharing other people’s content is important. There’s enough to go around.
That’s a great point. Don’t be greedy with your talent on social media and curating content. It's important to share stuff your followers like.
I use Buffer to schedule my tweets every day. Plus, I'm auto-sharing other blogger's posts via their RSS feed.
The weekend is a high engagement period because no one else is sharing anything. Everyone’s sleeping in, and that’s amazing. That’s a missed opportunity right there.
Every week, I’ll spend a couple of hours on the weekend getting everything all set up and then I’ll spend 20-30 minutes a day engaging with people.
You want to be interacting with people. That’s part of building relationships and trust with your audience. It’s amazing how much more you can with using a tool like Buffer. Probably every third or fourth tweet will be something of mine. Everything else is other people’s stuff. If it’s someone I’m trying to build a relationship with, I’ll make sure that I @ mention them.
I only share things I think are valuable to my followers. It’s not just trying to get the attention of some big influencer. Sometimes writing some creative copy around someone's article and mentioning them will get a retweet.
If I get a new follower who is someone I want to build a relationship with, I’ll @ reply them and say, “Hey, thanks for the follow!” But I never do automatic @ replies.
And definitely no automatic DMs! Automatic DMs on Twitter are the worst for somebody who is running social media for any company because it clutters up your DM inbox and makes it hard to keep track of actual conversations.
I try to explain why I've shared something. Like commenting on a comic's technique when I've shared their video. It helps make a personal connection.
True, because you have expertise. We all think we don’t have expertise, but there’s a reason people are following us. They’re interested in what we have to say and when we’re sharing something, they’re interested in why we’re sharing it. Why should I click this link? Here’s why.
Any scheduling tips for Facebook?
I schedule in advance directly through the Facebook app. I usually share about three posts a day.
What about your other channels?
LinkedIn – once a day, Twitter – six to eight tweets a day, Pinterest – 40 pins a day.
How do you pre-schedule that many pins?
I use a tool called Tailwind to schedule my pins. It helps, but there are certainly ways that I could probably be more efficient in the process.
Sure, but you learn as you go.
We’re all trying to save ourselves time. Social media can be a massive time suck. That's time where you could be recording something, writing a blog post, or working on your newsletter. Creating things.
Tell me a little about Twitter lists.
Everybody wants to have a million followers and then be following like three people. I don’t care. I want to drive traffic to my website. If I’ve got over 5,000 followers and then I’m following 4,000 people, that’s fine. I follow anyone back who seems to be interested in what I'm doing, because I see that as building a relationship with that follower.
This makes it tough with my Twitter feed. So I create, and they can either be public or private, lists of different people. For example, you can create a list of ten influencers that you want to build relationships with. Make it private and know they can see the name of the list. I usually will just put something like “personal finance superstars.” Something cheesy thing like that.
I’ll go to that list maybe once every few days or so and try to interact. I’ll use some of my daily live engagement time to interact with those people.
Do they see how many other people are on that list?
If it’s private, they can’t see. If it’s public, they can see who else is on the list.
What if I want to tweet to just one list?
No, anyone who is following you will be able to see it.
Twitter has played around with their algorithm a little bit. Tweets at the top of your feed aren't always chronological.
They’re working on something over there.
They’re trying to make money. They’re trying to become a profitable company. As much as I love it, it has consistently struggled to grow its user base.
Why do you think Twitter's had difficulties?
It’s confusing and it’s inaccessible for a lot of people. Things like trying to come up with something witty in 140 characters. Not all of us are that clever in such a short amount of words. That makes it challenging. The nuances of what’s okay in terms of @ replying people or how you interact with them. It’s not quite as intuitive as Facebook is. And so for that reason I think, yeah, some people maybe tried it and gave up. They’re always trying different things to grow.
Do you think ads have turned some people off?
I don’t think it’s the ads. I think it’s just using the tool. People find it kind of overwhelming. Like you said, it's frustrating when no one is following you. It’s like you're yelling in the middle of the forest, and no one is listening.
How should an independent artist invest a few hundred dollars a month?
Let's assume your website is exactly where it needs to be and your email collection software is rolling.
Consider hiring an assistant (virtual or in person) to help you with creating content.
Facebook ads are also worth investing in. I promote all of my blog posts, and I usually spend about $10.00 a week. I've also used it to successfully sell tickets to events.
Where can you find a virtual assistant?
Website like Upwork or Elance are options. Also, CloudPeeps is a place to find social media marketers. Try asking your network.
Pay varies widely based on someone's skills. But you need to consider how much an hour of your time is worth.
Should I spend four hours scheduling social media or writing a blog post? I have freelance writing clients. If I’m not writing articles, I’m not getting paid.
The same thing goes for artists. Should you spend your time writing jokes, booking gigs, or scheduling social media? It may be tough to stomach the initial investment but it’s worthwhile.
Take your annual income and divide it into 40 hours a week. You can easily calculate your hourly rate. If you're working regularly, your hourly rate may be $50 or $100. Hiring an assistant may be worth it.
There’s a certain point in any business that you have to make those decisions. You cannot do everything yourself.
And you can’t do them all well, that’s for sure.
It’s an important skill to recognize what you’re good at and what you’re not. Outsource the stuff you’re not good at because it's wasting too much energy.
Can you explain Snapchat to me? Should I be using it as a 47-year-old person who mainly performs for people 10 to 15 years on either side of me?
It’s not a channel I have spent a ton of time investing in. However, it is really important for branding. It's a younger audience, as you've mentioned. The 12 to 24-year-olds are who are most active with it.
Remember when Facebook was just college kids and then suddenly everybody was on it? The same thing is happening on Snapchat.
It’s a long game thing. I think it’s worth it, with any social media channel, to download the app, and play around with it. Maybe it's not something I am going to invest all my free time in, but I think it’s worthwhile for sure.
What can it do that the other ones can’t?
I’ve heard it described like this: It’s the closest to a one on one face-to-face interaction than any other social media channel. You’re walking down the street, you see someone, converse with them, and then that moment is over. That’s kind of what Snapchat is. Because of that, it’s just grown into this massive form of communication.
There are more people that use it than LinkedIn, Twitter, or Pinterest.
I can’t tell you whether it’s right for you or not. There are a lot of factors that weigh into that decision, including your time and everything else that you already have on your plate. If you have some free time over the weekend, and you want to play around with it, and see how it works? Yeah, definitely.
So basically those conversations disappear after is it 24 hours?
It depends, you can set it. In the beginning, it was only ten seconds. But it’s increased. Snapchat explains on their website.
So I’m going to download some quicksand. If I can get enough people in that quicksand, it was worth it and if I don’t, it’s not. But it’s about building stories over time, right?
I think it’s worth experimenting with, mainly just because of the sheer growth. Again, I’ll admit, it’s not something that came super intuitive to me either. I’m in my 30s so I’m not the primary demographic. But I see a lot of people in my niche using it. Is your audience there? Maybe they’re not. But some of them probably are.
Maybe. I think most of mine are at Sam’s Club getting free samples all day. They’re in their golden years, a lot of them.
Yeah, but that's what is so interesting about social media. When I was in college and first got on Facebook, I never would have predicted my parents would be friending me on there.
I do know before Facebook I would go to sleep a lot faster because I wouldn’t like – the fear of missing out.
I’m in a ton of Facebook groups. Facebook has really invested in building their groups. I’ve gotten clients, learned a ton of stuff about blogging and digital marketing. There are groups dedicated to anything you could think of. I don’t know exactly what exists for the comedy world. But it's a great way of networking.