Getting Off Social Media As A Business Owner with Hillary Rea
March 22, 2023
Imagine this: you wake up in the morning, grab your phone, and can’t seem to find any of your social media apps. They’re gone. Poof! Social media, as you know it, no longer exists.
Do you know what to do without social media? Better yet, do you know how to run a business without it?
We’ve spent the past 15 episodes talking all about how to show up on social media…but what if you don’t want to be on social media anymore? How do you move forward if your efforts on Twitter, TikTok, LinkedIn, Instagram, or Facebook, aren’t working anymore? What if your social usage is becoming a stressor or a hassle?
To close this series about social media on the Talk Copy to Me podcast, I’ve invited Hillary Rea, founder of Tell Me a Story, to join me and talk about getting off social media when you’re a business owner. Hillary originally used social media as a way to market her business, but eventually decided to get off of all the platforms she was using and not market on social media for her business.
In this episode, you’ll learn about why Hillary made her decision, how she adjusted and adapted her business to continue marketing without social media, and the many ways you market yours if you’re thinking about getting off social media yourself.
Here is what Hillary and Erin want you to know about getting off social media
The reason that encouraged Hillary to get off social media for her business (and later for good!)
The process of getting off social media for your business
What’s better: going cold turkey or slowly quitting social media?
The role storytelling plays in marketing off of social media
Successful ways to market your business after getting off social media
How to measure marketing success when you don’t have easy to access social media metrics available to you
Quotes about getting off social media from Hillary and Erin
“We talked about virality, and things like that. I don’t want 1000 people contacting me every month. Oh my gosh, I think I would just die of an anxiety attack?. That is not enticing to me.” – Erin Ollila
“…But to me, it was more meaningful, and it also became an adventure. And that adventure energy for me in marketing is really important.” – Hillary Rea
“I believe in things that I want to share with the world. I believe in my story. I believe in other people’s stories…I have something to contribute to the conversation.” – Hillary Rea
“And now that the world has opened back up a bit, and instead of sliding into DMS, I slide into real life.” – Hillary Rea
Instead of a true homework assignment, Hillary and Erin shares a list of ways you can market your business without using social media. (Let’s be honest, Erin went a bit wild with the verbal ideating here.)
Hillary does get an opportunity to jump in and offers this suggestion: “I just encourage people to think like, Where do I see it’s not even how can I contribute the conversation? Like where do I see myself telling my story sharing my story?”
She explains that she is currently seeking out live experiences so she can combine her love of traveling with her interest in being in the same room as people who inspire her. Take some time to think about how you can contribute to the conversation, and I’ll bet you see that social media isn’t as “required” as we all may think it is.
Listen in at about 42 minutes to hear the full list of non-social media marketing options you could try out for your own business.
In answering the connection question, Hillary reported that she’d love to interview comedian Mike Birbiglia, who is also the host of the Working It Out podcast.
Hillary Rea is the founder of Tell Me A Story, a communication consulting and coaching business that trains ambitious leaders who want to take up more space, communicate with impact, and become more confident as they become more visible. Through her company’s signature Crafting Your Narrative: Solo Retreat, as well as ongoing Coaching partnerships, Hillary helps her clients to find their voice and then empowers them to use it — by sharing their unique stories with honesty and passion.
She is an award-winning storyteller (NYC Moth StorySLAM winner and 2019 Rad Award for Storyteller of the year), and has been telling her own stories on stage for 13 years – first as a monologist, then as the host of the long-running Tell Me A Story Live Show, and now as a keynote speaker. In addition to running her own business, Hillary is an audio documentarian. She produced and hosted three seasons of Rashomon (pronounced Ra-SHO-MAHN) – a long form narrative storytelling podcast where one family tells every side of the same story.
Learn more about Hillary and her work via her website or subscribe to the Speak Up newsletter she writes. You can also attend Hillary’s free event, The Speak Up Session.
Learn more about your host, Erin Ollila
Erin Ollila believes in the power of words and how a message can inform – and even transform – its intended audience. She graduated from Fairfield University with an M.F.A. in Creative Writing, and went on to co-found Spry, an award-winning online literary journal.
When Erin’s not helping her clients understand their website data or improve their website copy, you can catch her hosting the Talk Copy to Me podcast and guesting on shows such as Profit is a Choice, The Driven Woman Entrepreneur, Go Pitch Yourself, and Counsel Cast.
Stay in touch with Erin Ollila, SEO website copywriter:
Learn more about Erin’s VIP Day options if you’d like to learn more about how you can hire her to help you with your marketing
Here’s the transcript for episode 065 about getting off social media with guest expert Hillary Rea
NOTE: This podcast was transcribed by an AI tool. Please forgive any typos or errors. SPEAKERS
Hillary Rea, Erin Ollila
Erin Ollila 00:04
Hey friends, welcome to the Top coffee Timmy podcast. Here we empower small business owners to step into the spotlight with their marketing and messaging. I’m your host, Erin Ollila. Let’s get started and talk coffee. Hello, friend today, I am so excited to introduce you to Hillary Ray, I think she is bringing a really cool perspective to the idea of whether or not you need to be on social. But here we are at the end of our tour of the main social platforms. And you might be asking yourself, what do I do if I really don’t want to do this? Like what if I tried a few things that I learned over the way Aaron and I just thought to myself, This doesn’t feel good. Like I’m still approaching social from the idea of I don’t want to be here. And I don’t really like the presence that I have. And that is exactly what Hillary and I are going to be talking with you about today. But before we jump in, though, I want to tell you something fun about Hillary that you might not know, in high school, she actually published five issues of her music and pop culture fanzine. And that was called bizarre ink. I loved the idea that you were jumping into storytelling, like early in the high school days, and you like had still kind of followed that path as you’ve grown. So you know, claps Do you snaps Do you on that? Welcome to the show. Do you miss the journal days of the pop culture magazine?
Hillary Rea 01:42
I miss it sometimes. But actually, I’m coming to you from my office. And I have all five covers framed hanging on my walls. Oh, that’s so fun. And it’s funny in terms of what you just said about social media too. And I’m 40 Turning 41. And this was pre social media and I arranged interviews I distributed 1000 copies. Wow. Sold. I promoted it. I had writer’s How did I do all of that pre social media? I don’t even know. Yeah, think about it. But it would take a while to kind of trace all of the steps I have to take.
Erin Ollila 02:16
Sure. But I think it was also so natural, probably at the time for you, right? Because like I’m thinking of this as the lens. Like I also came from the pre social media like young teen days. And I feel like we like when I did theater, we had to like do programs, right? So we sold advertisement for the programs. We literally when like restaurant to restaurant, or like, it wasn’t unnatural, it didn’t feel weird. And I didn’t put those two together kind of how it works with our conversation. Because I think one thing like is that people think they can’t write like, there is a fear because it’s been so ingrained in us as business owners that we need to rely on this, especially for people who have used true advertising on social media, like Facebook ads. But it doesn’t have to be like that. So maybe before we kind of get into the tips and tricks and you know, ideas that we have for our listeners, we can talk about your transformation, because I’m sure you use social media post your five magazine days. So what was your what was social media like when you were using it for your business? And why did you decide to leave social media?
Sure. So at right leading up to when I left social media, the platforms that I were that I was on, it was LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, maybe Tik Tok was there but I was it wasn’t in my radar at all. And on each of those will not LinkedIn, but on well, on each of those platforms. I had multiple accounts, because I had a personal brands account. Well, I had personal social accounts, like you know, on Facebook and Instagram. I had pages I guess on Twitter, I don’t even know what they’re,
Erin Ollila 03:58
you know, I mean, they have them on Facebook as well, as well as LinkedIn. You have like a business page. Yeah.
And so because so I came into my business many years ago via performing so I’d already had a social media platform as a storyteller in performance. So I had that. Then I had tell me a story, my business. And then I also at the time was producing a narrative storytelling podcast called Rashomon, that was separate enough for my business that I saw it as its own brand and creative project. So I had all of that I even had this like, Burner account on Instagram that I use just to follow, I think it’s called I mean, the kids call it like fin stun rinse. But it was really just to follow, like YouTubers I liked or celebrities and I just didn’t want it in my other feed. So I had a lot of accounts. And as far as with telling me a story and my business, I used it to at the time, I was a hyper local to Philadelphia business that was serving individuals and groups and had a live storytelling event that had been running at that time for eight or nine years in Philadelphia that was at least six times a year, but sometimes more when we did collaborations with other organizations. And so I focused a lot of my social media marketing on getting people to that live show, which at the time wasn’t actually really a part of the if you would say the word funnel into working with me, like sometimes it would go that way. But there was no strategy. And then that was that it was just I did the show it that then you didn’t even hold that many people. But I wanted it full every single time. And I wanted to support all of the storytellers. So I was using in that way. And I was using it in a thought leadership way, in terms of sharing what I believe to be true about the type of storytelling work that I did. And I did definitely, at one point, get some support from like a communications agency that I wanted help with branding and an outside perspective. But in that choice of doing that, I really lost my own founder voice and my own perspective, and it was more like you need like, what you are what you’ve been talking about, you need to do it this way. You need to have this many posts, and they need to be these types that you can alternate. And I would say that I became a watered down founder and I also my brand messaging at least or social media, I don’t know, positioning, just presence. Just it wasn’t aligned truly, even though I you know, everything evolves. And I evolve as a business and as a founder, but I did feel disconnected. So in your
Erin Ollila 06:38
field, specifically as a storyteller, and someone helping people identify their stories. That’s tricky, right? It’s kind of like, you’re supposed to show up as your most authentic self, aka, business self, while encouraging other people to kind of like gain their voice. Yeah, you feel like you’re losing your voice.
Yeah. And I think that there was this push and pull tension, like with my podcast, Rajaraman. It was a creative project, but it also was my storytelling and my style. And that I had visions for of having like, 1000s, and that 10s of 1000s of listeners and like getting it like to be a part of a like gimlet or a big, or This American Life, you know, I had really big visions for that show from an audience and outreach perspective. And I felt like that, oh, well, I have to use social media for that. Like, that’s the only way. But then I translated that into my business, where I serve a very small amount of clients at a time because it’s a high touch service. Now it’s fully one on one at the time, it was small groups. And I, I didn’t need to actually reach that many people. But I didn’t think I knew that I think I just thought I had to be big and expansive in terms of reach for everything. And then it put a lot of pressure on myself as well.
Erin Ollila 07:58
Yeah, it’s I think that’s maybe one of my bigger bones to pick is like, like, the advice online that it’s like, if you do it this way, this type of success will come? Well, I’ll tell you from myself, like we talked about, like virality, and things like that. I don’t want 1000 people contacting me every month, oh my gosh, I think I would just die of an anxiety attack, right? Like it that is not enticing to me. But the idea of like that many people and we need to go via we need to reach x number of people a month, we need to grow our accounts by this percentage. It doesn’t work for all businesses. Some, of course, need to reach more of the masses because that’s how their business is set up. But just because you’re you’re using like online tools to run a business does not mean that that advice works for you. But that message is everywhere. So alright, so you were using social you were using social quite a bit with all of the accounts. What happened to make you kind of decide that like this isn’t this was more frustrating than helpful besides feeling that watered down messaging.
Yeah, so a blessing in disguise, the pandemic happens. And I had a fully in person business and for my 2020 I had designed my service offerings as six group workshops. That was all I was offering for that whole year. And I had a live storytelling show. So I was forced to shut down and forced to reimagine everything, which I can look back on and be like, Oh, haha, like, How delightful actually, it did also, like a lot of wonderful beautiful things resulted from it, but at the time, it was a really painful experience. And I definitely at the beginning, like early 2020 clung on to social media as like, well this is I got to keep this alive, because this is all that I have. And then like with business stuff, too, like even talking about the live storytelling event. I think I moved it virtual into two virtual one ans I still wasn’t sure what I was going to do service wise, right away. But I started to just feel it from like a mental health and personal perspective, like a lot of anxiety around using it both like seeing real like my friends and my social circles, and then also other business owners or just even what to share or what to say. And so I just made a mental health decision to step back in July of 2020. I was like, I’m not going to engage with these platforms I might have posted that I wasn’t going to engage. But I didn’t I was really disciplined actually, in that I think the only account I continue to check was my fun celebrity, influencer one just as like, you know, to turn my brain off at the end of the day. And then by the end of the year, I had fully rebuilt my business to be completely virtual, completely one on one, I thought, Oh, why am I limiting myself to Philadelphia, even though that’s very literally just things I just never thought about. And so I had all of a sudden had clients everywhere, I had a way to deliver my services that made sense, both for me and the people I serve. I let go of the live storytelling show because I it didn’t really fit with my business model. And I had done nine years of it. And I was like, That was a great, that was a great nine years. Yeah, so all of these things. And so then by the end of the year, I was like, Well, how am I getting clients? What do I like to do in terms of my own storytelling? Where can my voice be heard? Like, what’s fun for me? And what? Yeah, what’s fun and what’s effective, and social media did not play, it didn’t even come into the picture. And so I did like a fun end of 2020, December 31, mass deleting of everything except to Oh, and I didn’t even think about it. I was like, well, that’s like the business you want. Let me just like hold on to the business one. And so I kept it and deleted everything else. And so it’s, it’s been a long time. And then flash forward. I did delete LinkedIn ceremoniously on December 31, of 2022. So I’m now fully platform free.
Erin Ollila 12:05
Do you feel like did you use LinkedIn between the dropping of the other platforms until you removed LinkedIn and 2022,
I didn’t have any sort of strategy behind it or plan behind it. And I did even have a site blocker on my computer so that I only checked it Mondays and Tuesdays both just to be like this, like for my own scheduling. But also, if I do want to post then I post on Monday and Tuesday, if I do want to reach out to people, I do that, I would share my newsletter, like links to my newsletter archive, and then links to share my SpeakUp sessions, which at the time, were a monthly free virtual event that invited people to, and I would just use it as like a reminder, but not necessarily as like an audience builder or a lead generator. It was just like, I felt like I had to do that. And then over time, I was like, Well, I’m just when I check LinkedIn, it’s because I’m procrastinating on writing my newsletter or doing something that actually is moving my work forward, and actually does bring me joy when I do it. And so when I did, again, like some, like looking at data and figuring out like, does this play a role? And do I want to do it? No, it doesn’t play a role, and I don’t want to do it.
Erin Ollila 13:17
Yeah. Yeah. And I love how you describe that like, specifically with a timeline because I feel like when people think of the idea that they have to leave social if they think of it as the like, you know, addiction you have to like go cold turkey, right? And I there’s a lot of mental space, right mental headspace things that go into it, like just thinking of my own social use, when if I think Okay, today are in March 13, when we’re recording this, like Aaron is no longer going to use social media. Well, then I think of like my friends from my MFA program that like I really just talked to on Facebook, or I think of my literary journal, and it’s very present in the literary community on Twitter. And then I think about like, all of these little facets are like my family like looking at like my nieces and nephews coming up on social media and kind of like keeping my eye on him, but like admiring them as their own people. Right. So it’s like that. That was a lot of thoughts at once, just with me thinking well, what would it be like if I stopped today, but you don’t have to stop everything at once. Right? Like You I loved especially that you said you kept the celebrity one just for like the like, take a deep breath gonna look at some content, like you would pre social media days in like Cosmopolitan magazine, or you would even just on the internet, like, you know, like looking at, like articles that were published on websites, because it’s not like social media is what feeds us content. It’s just that’s where we go to for content. So I like that you talk about like, I still use it personally, like I just didn’t do this professionally. And I still hung on to onto this platform because I thought that I had to and in my right in that being the two years between dropping platforms to LinkedIn. Right. So that’s like, it takes some time. You know? And I’m sure you could go cold turkey if that’s the best method for you. But you don’t have to.
Yeah. And I think part of the I mean, it was definitely not you. I wasn’t like who don? wasn’t easy, especially with what you said of like, what about my friends? What about my family? What about events, things like that, which I have? I’m going to come back to something about that in a moment. But in regards to like the, what am I going to miss or like, who’s going to forget about me which and it wasn’t like in everyone’s thinking about me another course. Yeah, like, I would see, especially in isolation of the pandemic likes. That’s why I saw my friends that way. Because I did, it wasn’t making plans to see them in ways I had done it before. But people like I learned that I stayed in touch with the people that actually mean the most to me. And that because other I had to make more effort to reach out to people, other people also had to make more effort to reach out to me and get creative in that regard. Like I remember I went to I got takeout food from a restaurant that is owned by someone that I knew in high school, and I hadn’t seen in a long time. And I wanted to get in touch with her to say that I loved the food from her restaurant. And because I’m not on Instagram, and at least in Philadelphia, a lot of the food places that’s like where they market and where they make announcements. There was no information. So then I had to reach out to another friend to say, Hey, do you have her email address? Because I really just want to reach out. And that person was like, No, I don’t, but how are you talking. And then like, I just did some fun like Googling and then ended up finding her email and then emailed her. And then she emailed back, and just things like that, where I did have to take a few extra steps. But to me, it was more meaningful, and also became an adventure. And that adventure energy for me in marketing is really important.
Erin Ollila 16:52
Well, and it goes to also show like how much more of a compliment it is to your high school friend, right? Like you took multi steps to give her a testimonial, like whether or not it was public or just like, like a personal testimonial, because sometimes that’s all we need, right is like to hear from other people, you know that we are doing a good job. Because in business, we so often hear what we’re not doing a good job, or we like we see what we’re not doing a good job at. So to think that someone is going to go through multiple different steps to just get in contact with you to tell you how much they like it is something I think could mean a lot to that person.
Yeah, thank you for sharing that perspective, because I never thought about it that way. But it really was. And I do remember what I was going to say before is that I made the choice to leave social media, when I basically I had just start restarted my business from scratch. And so that was almost a privilege to that the world was my oyster in terms of how at what I could do with marketing, because I already saw what how easy something could fall apart or like I might as well have to try because I just had to try all these other things, and what’s sticking and what’s again, like, good for me and like making me happy and invested in myself and invested in my business too.
Erin Ollila 18:10
Yeah, I think I’d love to stay here if you don’t mind for a second because I think this is the big like, unspoken thing that people think and that doesn’t get talked about, right? So I’ve heard episodes of other people saying like, Yes, I won’t, I’m not on social or No, I don’t use it. And, and I don’t mean this for you to jump into here, just my perspective of what I’ve heard, they don’t talk about the privileges that they may have had to not have to be on social, or whether or not it was privileged the intense amount of work that they had to do to kind of rebuild. So I’d love to know. And I think this can actually go right into a great conversation of how we can use different methods in our own businesses. But what steps did you take to to restart and to reach out to people maybe or to rebuild without using social?
Yeah, one thing that remained unwavering with my business because it was still called telling me a story, the branding was still the same, I was still serving, I’m still serving pretty much the same people it was serving before just in a different way. But the one thing that remained unwavering was, I really believe in what I’ve built in terms of the framework and how I approach and teach storytelling and also the how it differentiates from what’s out there, which is like very masculine and corporate. And that is just not my approach and ever was even when I was telling my own stories on stage for entertainment. And so I believed in myself and my work and my like what I had my assets I guess or like my Yeah, everything that I had, that no matter the form it took, I knew that it meant something not just to me, but to the people I had already worked with, and also like what was possible and going back to that zine, which I’m so happy I shared this as my fun fact because I don’t think I put much thought into it when I sent you. I aimed, I love aiming big and not, again, not from this, like, I deserve to aim big or like I’m great. Like I just, like believe in things that I want to share with the world believe in my story, believe in other people’s stories. And no, I have something to contribute to the conversation. And so like, I would reach out to bands that were like, their night. I mean, they were playing shows to 1000s of people, they weren’t at stadiums, but like, I would reach out I was 16 years old. And then all of a sudden, I had a backstage pass. And I was interviewing them and they were treating me like an adult. Like, that’s crazy that I did that. Yeah, have that’s just a part of who I am. And so I, I took that approach, even when I still was holding on to those plat social media platforms towards the end of 2020. I was like, Well, who do I want to? Like what conversations do I want to contribute to how do I want to share my story or share what I believe in? And that’s now the main thing that I think about when I’m looking to expand my visibility, like I have my marketing things that work and like how I share my story and what I believe is possible outside of social media, for marketing, but then I’m always still like, oh, like, I really have something to contribute to that person’s conversation. They feel like 100 steps away from me. But what can I do to get a few steps closer in a fun, aligned, intentional, integrity filled way?
Erin Ollila 21:26
Knew that like for you, you knew like, this is my business, I have to figure out a way to like to present it differently. It’s not going to work in person right now. But I want to do this, and I’m going to make that happen.
Yeah, out of necessity. And then but what do I want? Like, I know, it works. I know, it’s viable, like it has been viable, but like, so now what do I want? And I think I never prioritized that in the past. Because a lot of business building is like what the other person wants, or like what your end user wants, but I but when, when it feels good to me, it’s gonna feel good to other people.
Erin Ollila 22:05
Yeah. Which is like, I feel like, that’s the key driver. And it seems so Whoo. But it’s not right. But when it comes to even if you listen to the social social episodes, and you’re hearing us now and you’re like, Yeah, girls, I’m gonna stay on social media. Cool. Just do it in a way that feels good for you. Because when you find a marketing method that you like, and you show up well, in just like Hillary said, like, your audience is also going to know that you enjoy that that you are present, and you’re sharing your story in the right way. Yeah, I think I just got a sidetrack there a little I’m sorry for that.
Didn’t I love it? Yeah. And I was also just like to say maybe it goes without saying like, I’m not anti social media for anybody. I it’s exactly what you said of what works for you. Like, my partner is a contractor. He renovates bathrooms and kitchens, and he needs to put pictures of the bathrooms and kitchens on Instagram.
Erin Ollila 23:05
And he please come up to Massachusetts,
he has a very long list, because of his work. And yes, it’s usually also word of mouth and referrals. But then people go there because they’re like, I want to see what it looks like, before I even reached out. And we
Erin Ollila 23:19
stay here very quickly, because I think this is an excellent point. And it also goes to show and how you don’t have to be everywhere and and do everything. Like any I wouldn’t say inconsistent, but you don’t have to be online every single day, like showing your work, if someone goes to check out, let’s say a Facebook account, and that’s what someone happens to have. And they see that like once or twice a month, there’s like images of things being done in different forms, like just started finish. They know your business is is is working right that you have clients that they can reach out and contact you. Because many times your peers don’t have that, like the other people in your industry. So if you are in industries where you feel like I know people are looking to check out my work in especially visual industries, photographers, interior designers, I think they might hear an episode like this and be like, Well, I don’t even have the hope to not be on social. There are so many ways to just lightly show up without the pressure of like performing without the pressure of like having to commit to a like a campaign on social. And then obviously there are different types of businesses that don’t need to like kind of prove their work, and they can take a whole different perspective. But actually, I really love that you brought your partner up because you know that in that industry specifically, there’s many times that I think we look for all different types of home building or landscaping type of companies, and we just want to see that they’re actually active, or that there’s an easier way for us to get in touch with them if they don’t have something like a website.
Yeah, and it’s just like Oh, is this a real person? Are they trustworthy? It’s like no trust, really. I mean, it’s the same thing. And I think that word proof is really an important one. Because I think one thing that really did make me nervous or almost second, not really, I knew I was going to delete everything, but like, be like, Oh, no, I was like, How will I prove to people that I am legit, that I’m real, that I’m an expert. But when I went and trace back, like, Oh, where are my clients coming from? And also, I am. So Google bubble. I have so much content, I’ve partnered with so many people in sort of building my own trust up and like, oh, no, like, I’ve done a lot. And it’s really easy to find, I don’t need an Instagram post to prove any total self and my own business.
Erin Ollila 25:48
And I agree, and I think that’s, I mean, a quote unquote, easy option. If you don’t feel like you have really, the foundation laid, I mean, work on your own website, like work on your website, get on other people’s podcast, you know, you don’t have to create a massive amount of content as long as you are, like, visible in ways that are not social. Right. Okay, so let’s kind of jump back into the story quickly, you got off social you pivoted, you knew that you needed to your business was going to stay about the same. But then what did you do?
So I already had a newsletter that many years ago actually started as a non tell me a story newsletter. It was like a Hillary re storytelling newsletter, but it was called to speak up. And at some point that I can’t remember when probably around the same time, I hired an communications agency to help me with social media strategy and messaging and things, I integrated it, then a newsletter was still called the Speak up, but it became my email newsletter marketing for my company. And I would fluctuate between like an every other week drop to an every week drop. Now it’s at every other week. But that to me was like, it’s still like, I have to write my newsletter for tomorrow, today, but I don’t dread it, I really love it. And I have a bank of ideas that I have saved for when there isn’t anything that’s really time sensitive. But I also have a business where things aren’t really time sensitive, my programs are all on a rolling basis, my events are quarterly. So I don’t really need to have this urgency or very scheduled call to action or things. So I can really focus on what story I want to tell and how it relates to, I have like eight or nine what I call like curated topics of things that position me and my company and my expertise, but also things that I like 5,000% believe in, I would like yell from any rooftop of like, this is what I believe in and like not that you have to listen to me, but I like must share with you what I believe in. And so I always cross check and make sure that the story I feel really called to tell fits into one of those curated topics. And typically it does, or sometimes I’ll just have to wait a bit. So I have that I have this event called the SpeakUp session that up until 2023 was a monthly virtual free for anyone to come event. And it was like it would alternate between a workshop where we’d focus on one aspect of professional communication and relate it to storytelling, and visibility. And then I would feature a client sharing a story. And sometimes my was never a requirement. But a lot of my clients like to use it as they were wrapping up the two month program that we do together to really like light the fire of like, this is my story. And I’m going to share it with people. And this is a safe space where I can start that and make that happen. And that’s now a quarterly half day, more formal event structured event. But that to me is also from my live show background. I was like a natural extension of what I was already doing. But so much more aligned with my business and more strategic from a marketing perspective. Like I do get clients from people that show up to that event.
Erin Ollila 28:56
Yeah, and it works for you in two ways. One is lead generation and have like new audiences coming to us because that’s like span from your clients. But to it’s that proof we talked about, right. So like, while so many of the stories, maybe your clients, you are working with them, that’s what this is your role here is to help people come up with their story, their approach to showcasing themselves in their business. So when when you have the spotlight on them, it’s doing those two things, lead generation and proof. And that’s everything you really needed to do.
Yeah, and it’s funny, I got feedback from people that then became clients like a couple things, one person saying, Well, I was scared to hit that schedule a discovery call button because I didn’t know like I listened to you on a podcast and like, I knew I wanted to do this work, but I was scared and just showing up to that SpeakUp session. She’s like, Oh, Hillary’s not scary at all. Like I do want to talk to that person and this is the right thing. So it was that and then I’ve had other feedback of people saying, Oh, I was worried I wasn’t gonna be good enough. Do your program, which is a whole other thing. There’s no being good enough to do a storytelling program. But seeing other people that if they weren’t like these very polished over performed stories, which is not my approach at all, but they could see themselves doing the thing that my clients were doing. So those that those were pieces of feedback that I wasn’t even thinking about or expecting, but now I know how important that is for my inbound marketing. And then I have, like, external marketing strategies that I do as well that I’m happy to share
Erin Ollila 30:34
that tell us everything. Yeah, the more the merrier. Yeah,
I love doing what you and I are doing right now, I love having conversations, both about the inner workings of my work, but also just in sharing stories about who I am. And really, when I work with a lot of my clients, I’m helping them prepare for things like this to or for their own podcasts as well. So I love doing that. And this year, too, I just have these like, big goals in terms of like, who I have conversations with. And some of the things the podcasts on my list are not related to business running a business at all, or even related necessarily to what my clients do. But I know my clients listen.
Erin Ollila 31:17
Yeah. And that’s very key, right? It’s like, I think so often when it comes to marketing, ourselves or our businesses, especially when you’re not working with a strategist, we think of like, like we you said earlier, what is my ideal client want? Right? What did they need? But it’s not also like, where are they showing up? Like, you could be on Instagram all day long talking about like, what your clients needs. But if your clients are not on Instagram, like if they’re like tech, Twitter, people, they aren’t hearing your message, right? They’re not like, listening to what you’re trying to say. And this
is a question I asked myself, I think I’ve already said it in this conversation. But I also am encouraged other people to think this to where can I see or hear myself contributing to the conversation that’s already happening. And if I believe that I might, as well try and reach out, it’s not like this, like ego boosting goal or vanity metric type thing. It’s like, no, I really, I love this, I know that my people are here to and I have something of value that that’s all that matters. That’s like, if nothing happened from this, I at least got to share my story or share what it is that I believe in with these people that I really do believe I can collaborate with and that way and I think about that, too, with my other external marketing focus, which is collaborating on workshops, where I go into like, other communities or organizations and partner with them and do what, like a very specific exercise that I start all of my clients with as like a formal workshop. And sometimes those I have, like a pronged method of like, When I pursue these partnerships, like is this a paid partnership? Is this like a revenue share? Is this strictly marketing? Because I know like what the return will be, or could be. And so sometimes, these are also paid speaking events that serve as marketing, and then sometimes they’re free, because I’ve strategically and intentionally made that decision. Right now, my rule for myself as like one pro bono borrowed audience, for lack of a better term per quarter. And that’s where it my boundary is at the moment, and I can adjust that though if I need to. And then I it’s just another thing of like, yeah, am I being taken advantage? Or is this just not their business model? And do they not have the resource? And or do they not have the resources?
Erin Ollila 33:39
Absolutely. And one thing like I used to do, which is so funny, I don’t do it as much anymore. But I used to always do free website critiques. Like, I’ll just do a video recording of your site and give you some top of mine thoughts. Like it’s just very friendly, funny and easy for me. I would say that while they didn’t necessarily have an immediate turnover into clients, of the majority that I’ve done, at least in the past couple of years, every single one has turned into a paying client. Because, again, they were I did them because they were quick for me. They were easy. They weren’t extensive, but they still provide value, right? So if I felt like I had a hole in my schedule, and I just kind of wanted to work more on like visibility or like newer networks, I would offer them and like I said, they did do well, business wise, but I also know sustainably it’s just not something I can do all of the time. Yeah. So while we speak about getting off social I think that’s maybe another key point. It’s like attempt different marketing tools and know that it’s okay if some of them are like short term, like ideas or long term but seasonal, right? Like not everything has to be approached on an everyday manner which I think we’ve trained our brains social wise, like we must be consistent. You can be consistent in consistently.
Yeah, and I will say even Um, without social media, I still get that inner like urgency of, oh my gosh, should I be doing something right? So I need to be, quote unquote, marketing, but like, No, I have a system and my system and what works for my business is a it’s a longer game. And it’s a slower pace. And I have to continue to cultivate trust, that it’s still working. And then sometimes like, Oh, is there something I can do more and really like my daily action steps or is like, who am I reaching out to? Another thing I like to do is send like handwritten notes, things like that. Or I have a client that actually has a whole business. I think she’s even on social media still, but our whole business is about building a flourishing offline life. And she has been mailing she has an E newsletter, like an email newsletter, but then she has a hand calligraphy read version of it that I think it’s hand calligraphy once and then beautifully printed, so that it looks like personally hand calligraphy. And I just got it in the mail the other day, and I was like, this is the coolest thing ever. And I have it saved, and I’m gonna like spend time reading it. And what a smart thing for her to do. And for her storytelling, because, yes, she’s using like, social media platforms, and email marketing, but it’s all about going offline. So she has to do offline things. And right now it’s putting things through the mail that are beautifully designed, and also like, really beautiful stories as well.
Erin Ollila 36:31
I’m so glad you mentioned that, because that’s one of the notes I take for myself is like, Okay, you have a client comes in, that comes in to meet you maybe by referral, maybe by an event. And they’re excited to work with you to work on their story. But I think the question kind of has to come up for them. Where do I use this story? So how do you advise them when it comes to social or not social when it comes to their own personal stories?
Yeah, by the time that question comes up, I have, they have this core story ready to go that they know can be told them in a multitude of ways and through a multitude of communication channels. And they see what’s possible in terms of other stories, they want to tell and have spent some time I do this exercise called Story ingredients, like what are the things that you want to use in your own storytelling that maybe other people don’t have to use. So they’ve really found their voice and are excited to use it. So then it is it’s a little bit of like data gathering in terms of what their business is. So I also should say 50% of my clients run their own business, the other 50% are leaders in larger businesses and organizations that then also want to like branch out in terms of their own thought leadership, or just like just expanding their visibility as a leader and talking about that. But they are, they still all have communication channels and ways to market themselves or their businesses. So they’ve already felt how powerful it is to make these choices in terms of what story to tell and how they want to tell it. So then it kind of becomes like a well, yeah, let me just choose what I’m most interested in using, and what’s working for me and for my business, as well. And so it is it’s a lot of like, okay, I can make these choices. Let me experiment. And I would say most of my clients stay on social media, I think they learn limit what channels they’re using, or limit how often they’re posting. And then they’re way more intentional about what it is they’re sharing, and what stories they’re telling and why they’re telling them. And so that becomes like theirs. I do help them with that strategy. But we don’t sit down and call it like this is where we play on your marketing strategy is just a natural extension of the work that we do. And it’s built into the way that I work with clients, and it just becomes fun. And
Erin Ollila 38:50
gray. Right? I love that. So I would love for us to do two things. One, I would love to kind of hear your thoughts on how you personally handle the like, potential and whether some air quotes around this because I hate this phrase, but feast or famine because like you acknowledge, you know, sometimes I realized I might need to make adjustments. The first question when you are sitting at home, maybe you don’t have your next client coming in or solidified yet? Do you just take a deep breath? And like continue on with what you’ve been doing? Or do you find that you try to pivot and try new things consistently?
That’s a good question. Well, I have a coach that really helps me to settle into myself and take those deep, deep breaths and continue to trust and also look at what’s working and I have enough data and patterns in like how my business works and when my busy seasons are and when they’re not to kind of set up my business for that. That’s sort of the area I’m kind of working in now. But I also know that if I’m not pro actively introducing myself to new groups, like new communities or like, some weeks I’ll get into emanated by sending out the like, cold inquiry to my dream podcast to be interviewed. But it’s sort of like, okay, trust myself, get rid of any sort of lingering impostor syndrome, and also just make those tasks in my business. But tasks that yeah, they might feel scary. But I know they’re ultimately fun to do, even if I never hear back. It’s like, oh, I still put myself out out there. And that way, and something could come with it. But if I do that consistently, then I don’t have to worry about the feast or famine, because I know that at least, like a few things will come back to me. And I’m taking action every day. And I’m taking action in the channels that I want to marketing through.
Erin Ollila 40:43
Well, and as a complete outsider, it’s so like, it’s I like that you say that? Because it’s it’s realistic, right? Like, even though you’re well set up, like you said, you’re getting the data, you are able to now analyze trends in your own business. That doesn’t mean suddenly, like you’re like, successful, right like that. You don’t have a day where you’re like, Ooh, is this the right thing? Right? So I think everyone experiences that. But when I can hear you, and I’m watching you, as we’re talking, I’m like, You know what, all you need to do is tap into that 16 year old who didn’t think twice about reaching out to these big bands in your area, right? Because that’s you, right? Like, yeah, things might like be, it might be scary to reach out to the biggest podcast that you admire so much, because they seem distant. But they’re not. Because all you have to do is that same steps that 16 year old is just be like, hello, let’s get to know each other. Right? Like without asking, it will never happen. So I think we do have to kind of just like, tap into our younger selves who weren’t so nervous to do things and take the risk, right?
Yeah. And now that the world has opened back up a bit, and instead of sliding into DMS, I slide into real life, like I take last minute trips to an event that I know I just want to be in that room. And I’m not there to like pitch or sell. But I know that those are the people that I want to be around or like an event I want to experience back to handwritten notes. Like there is someone who I deeply admire in terms of their storytelling. But also, I do want to be a guest on their podcast. And I think I even did send them an email. But I went to a show that they were doing in New York and hands it a handwritten note to the house manager to give and they gave it to them. Like things like that, where that was fun for me again, like I’m not sitting there like waiting for a response back or like being bombed. I haven’t heard anything. But I that was totally out of my comfort zone, but also felt thrilling in that 16 year old. Like, I’m going to interview this band from California that I have their CDs and like sing along at home. And now I’m like, have to ask them questions. That’s so cool. But kind of keeping it together at the same time.
Erin Ollila 42:49
Yes, exactly. So at the end of all my episodes, I usually ask three questions. One is a connection question like who would you like to meet another as a homework question? And then I totally just guessed at the third. So I’m going to kind of take things easy for you. And combine two of those, we can do the homework and the random one together happy to help jump in here to just throw a bunch of random ideas of like, you said, so many, but like, maybe if you’ve gotten to this point, and you’re like, Okay, what do I do? Wait, wha, I’ll get you started. So you’re not like Aaron, how dare you do this to me? Alright, so even if you don’t run a local business at all, maybe it’s like joining your local chamber of commerce and going to some of their events. Maybe you go to like companies you traditionally worked with like maybe as an employee in the past and you say, Hey, can I come and do a workshop to your people, and there’s already trust there like you are the previous employee that they know. So it’s like a smaller ask. And you can practice so if you’re not comfortable speaking you’re not comfortable really doing the workshops. It’s a lot easier of a place to kind of try things out. We could go real old school and put an ad in on like the newspaper. Or like, you know, you go to diners like breakfast diners, they still have the placemat, right with all the ads on them. Option number whatever is like sponsor a baseball team in your community. So those are my random things like can Yeah, let’s just kind of share some
more. Well, the first one, and it’s something I’m actively doing, and I just encourage people to think like, Where do I see it’s not even how can I contribute the conversation? Like where do I see myself telling my story sharing my story? For me right now. It’s live. I haven’t done anything live in person. And that’s my whole background. I also have a theater background and then went like, you know, told stories on stage everywhere. And was doing a lot of conferences, pre pandemic, and that’s where I feel called to show up again, but I also want to use it as traveling like unexperienced travel. Yeah. I weirdly love Las Vegas. It’s this baffling place. I know it’s kind of horrible, but I also love it. And so I have a running list of conferences that are a Like, like, My people are there, I know I could contribute to the conversation. And they’re in Las Vegas. And so I am now like tracking that list of like, When can I reach out? When are these conferences taking place? So I really like think of fun geographical location that you could go to, to express yourself in the way you need to express yourself in terms of your marketing or in terms of showing up. That’s what I would say like, it’s fun for me. And I feel like it would potentially be fun for other people. And it could go in so many different directions. Yeah, that would be a place to start, I think and just treating things like an experiment, like you said, of trying things and just knowing, like, not just that, oh, like, I didn’t get enough likes or business from this, but like, energetically like how did it make you feel and if it’s not working, then give yourself a timeline to try and evaluate and also move through discomfort, I think it’s like, some things can feel uncomfortable, but that that doesn’t necessarily mean bad or awful. It’s just like, Oh, I am like stretching myself as a business owner and as a marketer. And I’m also making myself a bit more visible or vulnerable or communicating in a new way. And sometimes that’s like, it can feel. Yeah, until you just like keep doing it and then see, as part of the experiment, like how it’s paying off figuratively or like, literally,
Erin Ollila 46:22
no, I love how you said that too. And I know we do have to eventually end this conversation. But what I love is the idea of like, we need to also not measure our results in the same way as we do on social because you said like, well, it’s not how many likes I get and our brains are literally wired dopamine wise to like appreciate those likes to seek things that are like immediate responses out. So I think the key also to consider is if you do go off social you kind of have to rewire and reprogram your own expectations for like, how to measure success because there’s it’s different, you don’t get those immediately. Okay, so truly final question for you. If you could meet anyone in the world right now business or not business wise, who would it be and why?
Hmm. I storytelling hero in terms of the way he tells stories and how he tells stories and his vision for what’s possible storytelling is Mike Birbiglia who is a comedian, but he does these one hour, one man shows that he works on for years and years and years. His most famous one is Sleepwalk With Me, which became a movie and there’s a book and it was this American life and all of that. He also has this brilliant podcast called working it out, where he talks about the process, and he’s still talk refers to himself as a stand up comedian, but it really is more long form storytelling, but he talks about just creativity and the development of, of creative work in a cool way. So like I will say if the if this goes, the full thing goes on episode, he is the person I delivered the handwritten Oh, yeah, New York. So it’s like I’m also taking steps but I’m not like pushing it or forcing it or like thinking it’s gonna happen any second.
Erin Ollila 48:05
Yeah. Which is it’s actually a good story to tell in the sense of like, you know, like the efforts you take, don’t give up on them. Like some things take a little while to build upon, but you keep building upon them, and you have a lot more chance that they actually happen. Yeah. All right. If I didn’t let you go now. I’ll be talking to you tomorrow morning. Still on this video calls. So thank you, Hillary so much, everyone. I will put the links to reach out to Hillary and get to know her website because you’re not going to find her on social media. But thank you so much for coming here and talking with my audience. You’ve been wonderful. I really appreciate it. Thank you. Thank you so much for listening to this episode of Top copy to me. If you enjoyed spending your time with me today. I would be so honored if you could subscribe to the show and leave a review. Want to continue the conversation. Head on over to Instagram and follow me at Erin Ollila. Until next time friends
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