Eight years ago, Jared Polin filmed a video of himself talking about his camera gear. It was awkward. He was visibly uncomfortable in front of the camera. But he kept going.
He created another video. And another, and another.
In 2010, he launched his website Fro Knows Photo to show off his photography expertise and land some freelance jobs. His following back then was non-existent, but he kept creating.
Slowly, people began to notice. They asked questions about his techniques and Jared answered them the best way he knew how: with videos.
Today, Jared has nearly 500K YouTube subscribers and more than 200K email subscribers.
His success didn’t happen overnight. He cultivated his following over time with incredible content and a smart marketing strategy.
In this three-part series, I’ll show you all of the tactics Jared uses and how you can apply them to your own marketing strategy.
In this post, I’ll cover everything you need to know to create high-quality content, from getting started to driving traffic back to your content using email marketing.
In part two, I’ll explain how Jared created a winning paid content strategy by finding his ideal audience, promoting his product the right way and creating the best sales page on the planet.
Finally, in part three, I’ll show you how to expand your reach like Jared does using contests. We’ll also discuss how to turn YouTube subscribers into loyal customers.
Sound good? Keep reading and you’ll learn how to create and deliver the best darn content possible.
Getting started with content creation
Have a big idea? Great! Broadcast it to the world. Tell everyone who’s willing to listen.
When Jared started Fro Knows Photo, he had no business plan. (He still doesn’t.) He didn’t wait until he could create the perfect video; he just started executing.
“I don’t have a business plan,” he said. “I have ideas of what I want to do and I go with it. I think the problem people run into today is they worry too much. It’s important to plan, but start executing. Start doing. Then iterate along the way.”
The sooner you get started, the sooner you can collect feedback. The sooner you collect feedback, the sooner you can pivot (if you need to).
The majority of Jared’s videos today are aimed at helping people take better photos. But education wasn’t his goal in the beginning.
“The idea was to put out content with the photos I was taking so I could get more jobs because businesses would see my work and try to hire me,” he said. “That didn’t happen. What happened was people started asking questions about photography. I pivoted right off the rim. People would ask a question, I would put a video out about it. It started to grow from there.”
If you’re having trouble discovering the direction you want to take with your content, find out where your ideal audience hangs out online – think forums, the comments sections of popular blogs and Facebook and LinkedIn groups. Get involved in those communities and pay attention the questions people ask.
Is there a particular topic that people are dying to know more about – a topic that other blogs and businesses in your space haven’t adequately answered? Start there.
Jared’s following grew because of his constant interaction with his audience from the very beginning. When in doubt, get feedback.
Takeaway: There’s no “perfect” time to start to creating content. Begin by answering the biggest questions in your space and give yourself permission to improve over time.
Create content that stands out above the noise
If you‘re just getting started with creating content, look at what other people in your space are doing. What can you do better?
Jared knew he wanted to create videos where he reviewed camera gear. The problem with most review videos? They’re painfully boring and unhelpful for most viewers.
“You can’t fake getting good photos,” he said. “If all you have are test pictures of lamps and grass, you’re not helping people. But if you show you can get fantastic results with the most entry level camera, you’re telling people, ‘You can do this yourself.’”
Jared’s videos resonate with people because they’re authentic. He doesn’t try to create perfect content, he creates honest content. (Case in point: here’s a video of Jared crashing a razor scooter.)
“I don’t need to hide anything,” he said. “It’s about being open. There’s no reason why I shouldn’t give behind-the-scenes looks, share business information and share information about sponsors and advertisers. Why would I want to hide it?”
Whether you’re creating videos, ebooks or blog posts, your audience can tell when you’re faking it. And if there is no real takeaway that they can apply to their own lives, you’re simply wasting their time.
Takeaway: Is your content providing a real solution? Are you allowing your personality to show? Would your read it/view it yourself? If you can answer yes to these questions about your own content, you can stand out above the noise.
Drive traffic to your content
Have a piece of content that you’re proud of? Awesome. Now let’s drive some traffic to it.
Jared knew that he could create great content all day, but if people couldn’t find it, it wouldn’t do anyone any good. He was no SEO expert, but he knew that the smart use of tags on the videos he uploaded on YouTube could get him better visibility.
“I knew if I could tag things smartly – ‘Nikon D3300’ for example – people are gonna look,” he said.”But if I tag that same video as, ‘The first ever Nikon review, this thing is awesome,’ it’s not gonna match that many keywords. I didn’t know much about SEO, but all I did was common sense.”
No matter what type of content you’re putting out into the world, including keywords that reflect the way people search for those topics is key. Try Google Keyword Planner to discover your best keywords.
Another way to gain traffic is to publish content consistently, like Jared does.
“I was putting out quality, consistent content and that’s what kept people coming back for more,” he said. “You can’t put out one piece of content a week and expect people to latch onto you. They’re gonna forget about you. It would be very slow if you just put out one piece of content at a time.
I mentioned earlier that Jared created new videos based on questions people asked him. That’s one of the main ways he was able to grow his following.
“When people had a comment, and it was a good one, I could make a video off of it,” he said. “Or people could submit photos I could critique, and that’s a piece of content I could put out into the world.”
Delivering consistent content gives people a reason to keep coming back. And when you create content based on your audience’s comments and questions, it shows them you’re paying attention. That’s the start of a beautiful relationship.
Takeaway: Put more content out into the world and be sure to include the appropriate keywords. Try creating an editorial calendar to stay organized. Here’s how you can create an editorial calendar to help you keep track of your content.
Use email to deliver your content
Jared has relied on email – more than any other marketing strategy – to expand his reach, build relationships and get more eyes on his content.
“Part of getting the message out was through email,” he said. “Facebook is Facebook. Expanding your reach is getting hard to do unless you’re paying for it. If you want to reach your people, one of the best ways to do that is through email.”
His email strategy? Jared includes an ask for email sign ups at the beginning of his most popular videos (we’ll get into that more in part three). Once someone is signed up, he sends them lots of valuable content up front for free. He’s such a believer in this tactic that for the first two years of Fro Knows Photo’s existence, he didn’t ask anyone to buy anything from him.
“The internet marketers said, ‘You have 5,000 people on your email list! You need to sell something right now!’” he said. “I wasn’t ready to sell. That was the mentality, five, six years ago: sell, sell, sell, sell, sell. I was like, ‘I’m gonna give, give, give, give, give.’ It took two years until I had a guide I wanted to sell.”
Jared still offers lots of free content up front. On his sign up form, he offers a free photography guide for capturing motion in low light situations – a topic that resonates with amateur photographers.
The guide is incredibly detailed. Jared includes example photos along with explanations of the settings he used to get each shot. He explains the different camera settings and the best environments to use those settings, from outdoor sports events to indoor weddings.
Jared’s guide provides the perfect starting point for anyone who just bought their first camera, so it’s no surprise that it’s helped build his email list to more than 200K subscribers.
Takeaway: Before you can even think about asking your subscribers to buy something from you, be sure to provide them with plenty of no-strings-attached content up front. Create an incentive to give people a reason to sign up for your list. Strapped for time? Here are five incentive ideas that aren’t eBooks.
Keep your subscribers engaged over time with email automation
After Jared’s new subscribers get his free guide, he sends them a series of automated emails that span over the course of a few weeks. Here’s what his welcome email looks like:
Jared tells people exactly what they can expect to see in their inbox from him. He even invites them to unsubscribe from his list if they don’t find his tips useful.
After that, he sends a separate email that contains the free guide and a bonus video with tips for getting press passes to concerts. More free, unexpected content. Pretty cool, huh?
Jared then sends his subscribers his automated email series that delivers a new photography tip every day. Each email is short and each tip is something people can start using right away. Here’s one of those emails:
Jared is careful not to ask his subscribers to buy from him right away. When I signed up to his email list, I didn’t receive an email promoting his paid guide until more than a week later. By that point, I’d already received eight emails packed with free photography tips.
“The autoresponder series is built out over a few weeks,” he said. “I send solid content time and time again. Occasionally, there’s an ask in there, but then there’s more solid content. They also get the emails I create every week or every other week. Whenever I’m creating value, I use it. I don’t want to overpush.”
Takeaway: Email automation can help you build relationships with your subscribers over time. When you do promote a product, do it carefully. (We’ll dig into more best practices for creating and promoting a paid product in part two.)
Ready to create killer content?
Creating valuable, helpful content is the first step toward growing your business. There’s no way around it! Jared puts everything he’s got into the videos he creates for his followers – and it shows.
Follow the tips listed here and create something you’re proud of. Next month, be on the lookout for part two of Jared’s story where we’ll discuss how to create paid content that’s actually worth it and how to promote your paid content without annoying the heck out of your subscribers.
Have content created already, but not sure how to promote it via email? Try our free course.