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Welcome to episode 35 of the Food Blogger Pro podcast! Today, Bjork is talking about Facebook with Stephanie Keeping from Spaceships and Laser Beams (i.e. the coolest blog name ever).
Last week, Bjork talked with professional food styling and photography duo Rich & Sara from Pheasant and Hare about taking the leap to follow their dream careers. To go back and listen to that episode, click here.
I know... that title seems really outrageous and like a big, fat lie. But Stephanie actually did that in 2015. At the beginning of the year, she had a Facebook following of ~50,000 people, and by December she was up to 500k - a 10x increase.
This exponential gain in followers didn't just happen. Instead, Stephanie made the conscious decision to focus on Facebook and use it to leverage her blog. Her dedication to this one goal has massively grown her blog traffic, her income, and her ability to do what she loves full time.
Listen to the Food Blogger Pro Podcast below or check it out on iTunes:
Be sure to review us on iTunes!
If you'd like to jump to the comments section, click here.
Bjork Ostrom: Welcome to episode number 35 of the "Food Blogger Pro Podcast." Hey there, friends. This is Bjork Ostrom. You're listening to the "Food Blogger Pro Podcast," and today we have an interview with Stephanie Keeping from, one of the best names ever, Spaceships and Laser Beams. Stephanie's going to share not only where that name comes, but also how she grew her Facebook page in 2015 from 40,000ish, 50,000ish to 500,000 plus in one year. What that meant for her business, what that meant for her blog, and how exactly she did that. It's an incredible interview with an incredible person, Stephanie Keeping from Spaceships and Laser Beams. Stephanie, welcome to the "Food Blogger Pro Podcast." We are so excited to have you here.
Stephanie Keeping: I'm actually very excited to be here, and a little nervous.
Bjork Ostrom: No, yeah, even just kind of doing the little pre-chat here before we press record got me excited to be sharing this podcast with people, so before we jump into kind of the nitty gritty details that we're going to share, focusing on Facebook, I want to focus on your brand, or your blog as a whole, and I love this name, Spaceships and Laser Beams, but I'm so curious and I'm sure that the listeners are, as well. What's the story behind Spaceships and Laser Beams. Where did that come from?
Stephanie Keeping: Yeah. The actual name is something that we used to say to my son when he was 6 months old, so he's an only child and kind of light of my life, and I've changed everything since I became a mom, but we used to say, "Spaceships and laser beams," and we'd go, "Pew, pew, pew, pew."
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, like a laser beam, right?
Stephanie Keeping: Exactly. Then, he, at 6 months old, would fall over laughing with tears running down his face, and you feel like a rock star when you can make a 6 month old laugh til they cry, so when I was going to start my blog, it was right in the middle of this new motherhood stage, so it was immediate. I didn't even have to think about it, that we were going to call it Spaceships and Laser Beams.
Bjork Ostrom: That's awesome.
Stephanie Keeping: That's where it came from, yeah. No SEO whatsoever.
Bjork Ostrom: Right, right, exactly. Yeah, it'll be a story of success without having to have an exact match domain name or something like that. I'm sure you get those people where they're maybe searching for spaceship related stuff, and they're like, "Wait a minute. This maybe isn't what I thought it was," but curious to know the back story with it, in terms of the content side of it. You said it's not SEO, in the sense that you're not talking about spaceships and laser beams. What is the focus of the site?
Stephanie Keeping: Well, it started, I actually didn't even start wanting to blog. I started out, I was on mat leave and I was a workaholic, and bored out of my mind, because having a baby wasn't enough, apparently. I decided to start an Etsy shop, and at the time, the corporate buzz was if you had a corporate website, you should have a blog on it, so I thought, "I'll start a blog and maybe I can sell more things on Etsy," and it was a printable shop with boys birthday party supplies, so people would order, they'd get a PDF.
I started the blog and we featured boys birthday parties, as well as games and recipes and things that would support that, and as my passion grew, I expanded it to be a few more things that I love, and then maybe 3 years later I decided to install Google Analytics, and realized I had a pretty decent audience on my blog, and I'd heard that people were making money with blogging, so I decided to do some research, and that kind of brought me down this path, and where my Etsy shop is a mere fraction of what the blog is. It's funny where life takes you.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, isn't it? After installing Google Analytics, it's like, "Oh, there's people that are coming here. I wonder if we could do something with this."
Stephanie Keeping: Exactly. It's like, "I've heard people make money."
Bjork Ostrom: "This maybe something that could happen," and it did, and that's what we're going to be talking about today, and I think will be really helpful for people to hear about. At some point, you decided, "This is something that I want to do. I want to kind of go, quote unquote, 'All in' on this." You knew that you wanted to do something along side raising your son that would be something where you could learn and exciting, and spend some time building, so you decide to build this brand, Spaceships and Laser Beams. You have the site, and then you also have all of these different things that you have to choose from when it comes to social media, right? That's the conundrum with any type of blog or brand, especially when it's an individual, especially when it's not like you have 18 hours in a day, right?
Like, you have other things that are taking your time, so you have the site, and then you have all of these different social media channels. Did you experiment with each one? Did you find one that you're like, "Hey, this feels like a really good fit for me," or did you do research and say, "I think this is going to be the best use of my time?" What did that look like?
Stephanie Keeping: Yeah. I was basically on Pinterest and Facebook.
Bjork Ostrom: What year was this?
Stephanie Keeping: I installed Google Analytics in ... I'm embarrassed to say that.
Bjork Ostrom: No, it's good, because that's the world we live in. We can't do everything. That's what it is.
Stephanie Keeping: Exactly. I was working full time, too. There's a lot of stuff going on, and the blog was really a hobby. Or, the Etsy shop was a hobby. That was 2013 when I installed Google Analytics.
Bjork Ostrom: Okay, great. At that point, you were starting to realize it and then you were analyzing these different social media channels, as well. How do you get an idea of where you want to do, what you want to focus on when it comes to social media?
Stephanie Keeping: Facebook and Pinterest were my two main ones, because they drove traffic, and with my time so limited, Twitter wasn't driving traffic, Instagram, it's difficult to get traffic over, so I needed to focus the minimal time I had on things that would actually make me money, basically. Those were the two biggest traffic drivers for me, beyond Google, so we'll take Google out of the equation because we're just talking social media. I really was chugging along with Facebook, and then Pinterest explodes. I started to focus a lot on Pinterest, and as Facebook was making changes, my page was dying, like everybody else's, I think at the time, was dying.
This was probably through 2014. It got to the point where I think I had 47,000 fans, and I was maybe getting 200 new fans a week. If a post got 100 reach, I was excited. Just was nothing happening, and I remember saying to my assistant, "Maybe we should just close it down, and post every time we have a new post, and just make it look nice so brands can see it, and move on from Facebook." That's basically where I was at in the middle of 2014.
Bjork Ostrom: You get to this point and you're like, "Maybe we should leave Facebook behind and do something where we're not going to be struggling through it as much." What was the point where you were like, "Let's give this a try. I'm going to really dive in." How did you come to that conclusion after being at this point where you were kind of like, "Maybe we should just not do this at all?"
Stephanie Keeping: Well, it's, I don't know. It's a combination of stubbornness and competitiveness. I had heard about some bloggers who were having amazing results on Facebook, which I wasn't having, and then one of those bloggers actually put out some videos about how she uses Facebook, and so I watched them and then I dabbled, and I gave up and then at the end of 2014, the beginning of 2015, I knew I wanted to become a full time blogger, because I had been in marketing and everyday, you're going to work and putting your heart and soul into someone else's business, when I knew deep down, I could make my own business something if I could have the time and space and energy, and I had heard about some other bloggers who were just driving instant traffic to their blog through Facebook, and I thought, "You know what? I'm going for it. I'm going all in. I'm going to do it. If they can do it," this is the competitiveness in me. I was, "If they can do it, there's no reason why I can't."
Bjork Ostrom: Absolutely.
Stephanie Keeping: I started probably February of 2015, really going all in on Facebook.
Bjork Ostrom: One of the things I'm curious to know, when you decide to go all in, what does that look like in terms of gathering information about what's successful, or is it more of experimenting on your own and then seeing what's successful and then doubling down on that? How do you learn about something that's so quickly changing, which we're going to talk about in a little bit, and then how do you know if what you're doing is working other than this kind of like random, "This many shares versus that many shares on that post?" How do you learn and then how do you track?
Stephanie Keeping: I think learning, I went through everything I could find on Facebook, and I would say a lot of it's wrong. There's a lot of people out there who write about Facebook but they're not in the trenches using it, and that's the difficult part, right? Or, they're spending ... Sure, your post can get seen if you're spending boatloads of money on advertising, that's a no brainer, but I had more time than money, and my time was very limited, and so the blogger that I was talking about, her name's Holly Homer and she runs Kids Activities Blog. She was just growing by leaps and bounds, like basically about a million fans in a year, and she had put about 5 or 6 hours of video together over the course of the year, talking about her page and what she was doing, and I watched every single one of those videos in sequence, twice. It was about 10 hours of video.
Bjork Ostrom: For sure.
Stephanie Keeping: Just basically so her philosophy, I knew it, and then one of the things you have to do is then take what's working for someone else, but customize it for your own audience. She's in the kids activities space, and I'm kind of in a party, entertaining, food space. It was really basically taking those fundamentals and then looking at it and wondering how I would make it work for my audience, and I think the biggest thing there is to use your Facebook Insights. There's no other social media platform that has that robust analytics like Facebook and it is exceptional, and I think there's so many gems in there that can help you build your page and figure it out, figure out what your audience likes and wants, and what's working, and then just keep building from there.
Bjork Ostrom: To talk about Insights real quick, what are the, for you, the three places that you look? Like, if you could only have three insights on Facebook, what would they be and how would you use those?
Stephanie Keeping: Number one is the pages to watch. That's when you go below your own insights. You can add in pages that you can watch, and I watch about 50, I think.
Bjork Ostrom: Okay, and what do you do when you're watching those?
Stephanie Keeping: What I'm doing is I'm looking for what's popular on Facebook, what's working for other blogs that are similar to mine. The other thing I do is, if I find ... On my Facebook page, and we can get to my content management strategy on there, but one of the things I do is share posts from other bloggers. If I find someone who really clicks with my audience, I'll watch their page to see new recipes, things that are coming up or posts that are doing really well for them, so I can then share them on my page.
Bjork Ostrom: Got it. Yeah, that makes sense. Pages to watch, what were the two other?
Stephanie Keeping: By far number one.
Bjork Ostrom: Okay, number one. Great.
Stephanie Keeping: Then, my big thing is I care most because I'm growing my audience, so I care most about two things. I care that number of shares, so I don't care about number of likes or comments, I care about number of shares, so I go through all the posts and I look for the, so if something got 1000 shares versus 50 shares, because 1000 shares will bring in a lot more new fans. Sharing is kind of how your fans advertise you to your friends, and bring on new people, versus a comment which is nice for engagement, but it doesn't bring anyone new to your site or your Facebook page.
Bjork Ostrom: With number of shares, do you notice any type of trend or I'm guessing after being in this for so long that you can kind of get a sixth sense for what will get a lot of shares, and what won't. Or, does it constantly surprise you?
Stephanie Keeping: Yes, and yes. Have a good sense of what won't work. For instance, healthy recipes don't work on my site. No matter how much people say I'm giving them diabetes by sharing desserts, or that they want healthy recipes, they just don't work on my page.
Bjork Ostrom: Do you think that ... This was actually a question that I was curious about, kind of as a tangent, like a little rabbit trail here. Do you think that's true in general? Or, is it just for your audience? Part of the reason is, I think that things I would assume, and maybe I'm off on this, but that are bright or engaging or a little bit easier to understand, maybe not as complicated as a super healthy recipe would be more engaging, potentially? Or, do you feel like it depends on the audience?
Stephanie Keeping: No. I think overall, people on Facebook are looking for ... On Pinterest, you pin a couscous salad that you might make in three months when your mom comes over and you want to impress her with your skills, right? On Facebook, people get on in the morning and they're wondering what they're going to make for supper, and they have this many items in their pantry so if you show them something that's a possibility, so like crock pot recipes do really well. Three ingredient recipes do really well. Those aren't desserts, and they do really well on my page, and I think they do really well on a lot of pages, and that's the reason why. It's just a different audience on Facebook, and certainly, that's also why recipes, who doesn't love sharing amazing recipes for desserts?
There's definitely a content curation component to what I share and what works on Facebook. I think the other thing, though, is if your brand is a super healthy kids, you can't share desserts, and you don't want to attract that audience, so you have to build an entirely different audience, whereas my audience started in a boys birthday party space, so I've already got people who don't care about food coloring, who are looking for cupcake recipes, or a way to make cute pizza. It's already got a base of people who might not necessarily looking to find out how much fat is in avocado.
Bjork Ostrom: Okay. That totally makes sense. You're looking at going to Insights, we're talking about the top ones. Pages to watch, most important. Idea with that being that you kind of follow along, you can track what's working, you can research, you can see where things are trending, and then you look at number of shares, so how popular is a post in terms, not just liking or commenting, because sharing is going to have that post show up on somebody else's feed, more likely than or more often than if somebody liked it or commented on it or something like that. A share is probably the most valuable thing so you really look to that. Then, number three, what would be the third thing with Insights that you'd say, "Hey this is really important?"
Stephanie Keeping: I look at reach. I would say is number three.
Bjork Ostrom: Got it.
Stephanie Keeping: You have to dig in a little deeper to see what's going on with reach, but I always look at reach as the overall health of a post. If something has 1000 shares but it only had a 50,000 reach, versus something that got 1000 clickthroughs and a 200,000 reach, you can look in and figure out why is this post healthier than this ... The post, not the content, but the post itself. Why is this post healthier than this post that only had a 50,000 reach?
Bjork Ostrom: Right, so can you explain reach for those that aren't familiar? There's comments, which I think people understand, there's a like which we understand, sharing which means that you take it, you don't necessarily leave a comment underneath, but maybe you add on to it and then share it on your wall, so it says, "Bjork Ostrom shared Spaceships and Laser Beams 'How To Make a Cupcake.'" Terrible example, but we'll use it. Then, there's reach. What is reach all about, and how does Facebook calculate that? What does it mean?
Stephanie Keeping: Oh, God. I wish I knew how Facebook calculated it.
Bjork Ostrom: Give us the formula, variable by variable.
Stephanie Keeping: Yeah, no kidding. I would be retired and not talking to you if I knew that.
Bjork Ostrom: You'd be having tea with Mark Zuckerberg now.
Stephanie Keeping: I think it's, how I say it is it's basically the number of people that Facebook chooses to share your post to.
Bjork Ostrom: Okay, got it. That's based on some type of algorithm and we don't know what that is, and if we did, we'd be really lucky, kind of like you said, where we'd know exactly what to post and when to post it, which is kind of the whole thing with this game of figuring out, whether it's Google, or Facebook, or Pinterest. How do you figure out what content works, right? Which is what we're going to talk about so I'm excited to dig into it. Take us through 2015. It sounds like this last year was a pretty pivotal year for you and for your page. What did it look like taking it from the moment where you're like, "I'm going to do this," and then bring us up to today?
Stephanie Keeping: I'd say in February/March of 2015, I had 47,000 fans which I had built since 2010. 5 years, 47,000 fans. My average post probably saw 200 people seeing them, so that was my reach, and I maybe saw 200, if it was a good week, new fans a week. Then, at the end of 2015, I had I think over a million fans at that point. Not a million fans. I wish. Over a ...
Bjork Ostrom: "And then I lost 300,000."
Stephanie Keeping: Exactly.
Bjork Ostrom: That would be the story.
Stephanie Keeping: My million is by June. I had over 500,000 fans and my reach was 30 to 50 million a week and that's 30 to 50 million people were seeing my posts a week, and then I was getting about 35,000 new fans a week, sometimes 8000 a day.
Bjork Ostrom: That's insane. In such a short amount of time. That's crazy.
Stephanie Keeping: Yeah. It's really helpful.
Bjork Ostrom: The million you said, was projecting out?
Stephanie Keeping: Yeah.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, okay great, which we're going to talk about a little bit.
Stephanie Keeping: Get excited and then, yeah.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, for sure. It's such a nice, even, round number, though. It's so fun to say, the million mark.
Stephanie Keeping: It's just a milestone, right?
Bjork Ostrom: Right, exactly. Let's go back. What was it? What did you start doing? What worked in that period of time in 2015 where it's literally 10x. Like, you multiplied by 10 from where you were, and it was all within a year. That's awesome. First of all, congratulations on it, and then second, how did you do it?
Stephanie Keeping: Well, I think the first thing is I changed my mindset. We all are guilty of this, I think in the blogging space, of "Facebook hates me. Facebook's no good. Facebook's not showing anyone posts. There's no way you can win." I had to change that mindset, because people were doing it, and if they could do it, I could do it. That's the mindset I got in. The other thing is I had to think about Facebook as an entirely separate social media platform, so I think one of the big mistakes bloggers make is they have taken everything they've done to adapt their content on Pinterest, and are trying to replicate that on Facebook.
When Pinterest came about, we all changed our pictures to be vertical, we all created super long pins or put text over pins, and did all of the things that were necessary to get a Facebook audience to like our posts, but then what we were doing is sharing that Pinterest formatting, and recipe for success on Pinterest on Facebook, and expecting it to work. That was the other thing, is I thought, "No, I need to gear content, and how I market that content for Facebook, not to try to stick something into that square peg in a round hole type thing."
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, for sure.
Stephanie Keeping: I think the other thing is really thinking about Facebook's philosophy, so I think they've basically put it out there that they want Facebook to be a place where when a user logs on, they're having fun and they're entertained and they love going to their Facebook page. If you're not doing that, you can pay and put whatever you want out in the news feed, or if you want to be rewarded by getting your stuff out there organically, you have to align yourself with Facebook's goals. You have to make sure that whatever you're posting is entertaining or making their audience happy, so that you're helping Facebook do its job. It's really a mindset change.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, that's huge. One of the things that I think is so smart that you said is to think about the social media platform as a silo, not like what's working on Pinterest, or Twitter, or whatever, and I like to think of it as restaurants. They each have their own social norms, and so there's a place here in Minneapolis called "Al's Breakfast," and it's this breakfast bar and it's like there's 12 seats, and it's cramped and it's in a college town, dinky town, so people come in and guys come in after drinking for a night. It's a totally different vibe than you would go to another place and you'd want to dress up, maybe wear a tie, and if you were to show up looking like you were going to Al's Breakfast, but instead, you were going to a really nice restaurant, it would feel out of place and it wouldn't really work.
I think what you're saying is kind of that same idea with social media, where you really have to present yourself in a way that fits the social norms of that social media platform, whatever that is. What does that look like really specifically? When you're crafting a new post, what are the things that you're sure to include, and does that change depending on the type of post that it is? For instance, if you're sharing original content versus sharing somebody else's content, versus sharing a video. Do you have a formula that you follow?
Stephanie Keeping: Yeah. I think it's trial and error, as well, but one of the things I've done is, I share a lot of boys birthday parties on my blog, but they don't necessarily do well on Facebook. I really limit. I'm not necessarily, when I post a new post, putting them all on Facebook. Some are important because they're helping me rank in Google, or some are important because I know it's going to just go gangbusters on Pinterest because it looks so beautiful and then for Facebook, it's a lot of generic things because it's so immediate on Facebook that you need to get instant engagement. On Pinterest, someone might pin it and go back to it in three months when they're ready to have a dinosaur party, but on Facebook, if they don't take immediate action, your post is going to die. For parties, unless it's something like Avengers or Minecraft, I don't post it on Facebook.
Bjork Ostrom: Out of curiosity, that's because Avengers and Minecraft are just like ...
Stephanie Keeping: So popular for the masses, right?
Bjork Ostrom: Right, and rightfully so.
Stephanie Keeping: Versus some ... Yeah. Exactly. Versus some cute generic thing. You have to figure out in your own content, realize that not everything works everywhere.
Bjork Ostrom: One of the things you said was you won't post it to Facebook. Is that because you know that if something doesn't perform well, that's going to hurt your overall page? Most people would just say, "Hey, I have it, I might as well throw it up there just to get it up."
Stephanie Keeping: Yeah. It does nothing to help you, if you put a post up and it dies. You could have used that spot to, if I put a post, let's say dinosaur. I'm picking a dinosaur. If I put a generic dinosaur party, they're not around, they can't get mad.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, they can't get that back at all, at least not that I know of.
Stephanie Keeping: If I put a dinosaur party up on Facebook and it dies, and it gets 50 clickthroughs and no likes, and no reach, was it worth it when I could have put anything else up there? Even if it was someone else's content, and it got 2000 shares and brought me in a 1000 new fans. It's a wasted space.
Bjork Ostrom: When you say "space" it makes me think that you view the different things that you have going on with Facebook as slots throughout the day. Is that right?
Stephanie Keeping: Yes.
Bjork Ostrom: You would say, "I have X number of spaces a day." How many spaces do you designate to Facebook a day?
Stephanie Keeping: I do a lot.
Bjork Ostrom: Which I saw, because when I was pulling up your page it said, "88,000 posts," which is incredible.
Stephanie Keeping: It is crazy.
Bjork Ostrom: What does that look like each day?
Stephanie Keeping: Basically, I start ... I experiment. I basically start at 8:30 in the morning, and from 8:30 in the morning to about 3:30 in the afternoon, I post every hour, and then from 3:30 in the afternoon until 10 o'clock at night, I post every half hour.
Bjork Ostrom: Okay. Why is that?
Stephanie Keeping: Because that's what I've found that works. Frequency is important. Once you start to become a trusted source for Facebook, so Facebook's like, "Spaceships and Laser Beams, they deliver for us," right? There's a lot of, I guess there's a lot of give in the news feed because if you look, if I have 600,000 fans, and a post was shown to 100,000, there's still 400,000 who haven't ... That's not right. That math was totally off. There's still 500,000.
Bjork Ostrom: We can be flexible.
Stephanie Keeping: Exactly. It's only math. There's still a huge portion of your audience that hasn't heard from you, and so it's not like they're going to be flooding with too much content, and if they are, and they don't like it, I mean, they'll unlike your page and move on, and you want that. You don't want dead weight hanging around.
Bjork Ostrom: I'm guessing that you are not literally going in every hour or half hour and creating that content. Those are things that you schedule out?
Stephanie Keeping: Yes. We use the Facebook Scheduling Tool, right in Facebook.
Bjork Ostrom: Okay and not a third party scheduler?
Stephanie Keeping: No.
Bjork Ostrom: Is that intentional or just for ease of use?
Stephanie Keeping: No, it's intentional. I think everybody's found, for the most part, that the best reach comes from, like Facebook loves itself and so the best reach comes from using their own scheduler.
Bjork Ostrom: Okay great, and one of the things I'm so curios about is that's a lot of content. That's 30+ shares or pieces of content a day. Is that, going back to the Insights, the pages to watch? Is that where you're finding that, or do you have other pages that you go to and is that part of the success of this, is that you start to hook into these other pages that you share their content, they share your content, and it's mutually beneficial? Where do you get the content?
Stephanie Keeping: Exactly. If we back back, when I started in February or March, I had nothing to offer anyone, so I just started trying to find the best of the best content, figuring out what worked. I would go to pages and ask my friends if I could post certain recipes or games or DIY's, and I was involved in PubExchange at the time. Do you know PubExchange?
Bjork Ostrom: I don't, no.
Stephanie Keeping: Basically, it's a widget that you put on your site, and you can also use Facebook as a way to share posts and then ...
Bjork Ostrom: Oh, sure. Okay.
Stephanie Keeping: Pinch of Yum had it, and I had it, and you owed me traffic, I'd show up in your widget until the traffic was equal again.
Bjork Ostrom: Oh, interesting.
Stephanie Keeping: I was a member of that. It's like Taboola, too, I think is another one. I was a member of PubExchange, so what I started to do was look through all the other PubExchange members and see whose content I could share and whose was successful. I found a number of different ways, just looking and seeing what types of content were successful, and the one thing I did is I told everyone I knew that they could post their posts on my wall of my Facebook page. It's open. You could go there now and post Pinch of Yum recipes.
Bjork Ostrom: What was the thinking behind doing that?
Stephanie Keeping: There's two. Number one is I thought, a few of us that work on Facebook think is what it does is it's a trust cue for Facebook that because people are posting on your wall, you're seen as you're worth it.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. Kind of an authority where people are coming to you and interacting with you.
Stephanie Keeping: Exactly. It's another way of overall engagement, so I knew if I could get other bloggers to post their content on my wall, it would definitely help me. Then, the other thing is then I can use the wall and find content that way. The bigger I've gotten, and the more people know that they can post on my wall and the more traffic I'm able to drive to people, the more people post on my wall, so it gets a lot easier to find content.
Bjork Ostrom: Interesting. How does that look for a fan or a follower of Spaceships and Laser Beams? They only see that if they go to your actual page on Facebook?
Stephanie Keeping: Yeah, exactly. They'd have to go in and then click "Posts to page" I think it is. It's not like it's in my main stream or anything, yeah.
Bjork Ostrom: Got it. How do you find the cream of the crop with that? Is that a gut thing?
Stephanie Keeping: Yeah, at this point it's a gut thing, and a lot of people have noticed the style that I share, so they are formatting their posts so that it looks really attractive to me, and it's a no brainer for me to share.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, so it's easier to share. Can you talk a little bit about that, your style, what is that, and how do you structure things?
Stephanie Keeping: It changes. I'm always testing. I think that's one of the big things is I'm not afraid to get egg on my face, and I'm not afraid to test. Especially then, the bigger you get, the harder it gets, because there's more people watching you, but nobody was watching me at that point, so I could really test, and I still, because I don't have that fear, I still test a lot and push and see what works and what doesn't. A basic post for me is a square collage, so if we're talking about a basic recipe post that I love, is a square collage with a final image and then the steps in a small squares on the side.
Bjork Ostrom: You're literally making that collage offline and then uploading it into Facebook?
Stephanie Keeping: Yeah. I throw it into PicMonkey and try to make it as quick as possible.
Bjork Ostrom: Got it.
Stephanie Keeping: That's what I do for my own posts, and anyone I know that will give me permission, and then a lot of bloggers now, because they know that's what I like, they're just doing them themselves when they put it on my wall.
Bjork Ostrom: Got it. Two things there that are interesting to me. You said bloggers that give you permission. Do you have relationships with bloggers and ask them, "Hey, can I use content from your site?" I'm assuming they'd be like, "Yeah, sure. Go ahead." Then, you can take some of that, create a little collage, and then put it on your page. Is that how that works with other content?
Stephanie Keeping: Yeah, exactly.
Bjork Ostrom: Got it.
Stephanie Keeping: Like, I can't coach anyone not to get permission. Even if real world, sometimes things happen, but go get permission if you're going to use someones photos, I would say. Then, you can get into relationships where bloggers know you're sending them tonnes of traffic and they're like carte blanche. "Do whatever you need, just send me the traffic."
Bjork Ostrom: Got it. The advantage with you, with creating that on your own is that it's original content, or just maybe you need content so you go ahead and create it, versus re-using or re-sharing another post that's out there. What's the difference between those two?
Stephanie Keeping: Yeah. I don't share a lot of posts from other people. The reason is that when you share, it's usually ... You might get a lot of reach if you're sharing a really popular or viral post, so it might do really well reach wise, but all of the likes and comments and engagement and new fans, usually go back to the original poster, just by the way of the clickthroughs. If you create original posts then you're going to get the, I guess, the credit for it, especially if it's not your own content, because you're not getting the clickthroughs and the ad revenue, right? You need to get something out of it. That something is, there's two things. If I see a Pinch of Yum recipe and it goes viral.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, or Pinch of Rum, which is a site that I ...
Stephanie Keeping: Did I say rum?
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah.
Stephanie Keeping: Okay. I actually like that better. If I share a Pinch of Yum recipe and it goes viral, and you got a million page views from it. People often say, "Well, that does nothing for me, because Pinch of Yum is the one who got the million page views," but what it does is it will probably bring 25,000+ new fans to my Facebook page and it gives me a lot of Google ... Ah, Google. A lot of Facebook juice.
Bjork Ostrom: Got it.
Stephanie Keeping: It does do something for your own page, versus if I share a recipe that's gone viral on Pinch of Yum. Most of that will just go, you'll get the clickthroughs and you'll get the juice and the new fans.
Bjork Ostrom: Okay, that makes sense, for sure. I want to pull back a little bit from the nitty gritty details, and go back and think back to that 2015, so you talked about starting in that 40,000ish range, and then ending in the 500,000+ range. What does that mean for your business? Like, how does that translate into number one, traffic to your site, and then income? Is it straight ad income? Are you able to tie into affiliate stuff? How did that impact you 2015, in terms of your business, working on Facebook?
Stephanie Keeping: Yeah. This is, I guess, why I'm so passionate about Facebook, because it's really changed, I mean, a lot of things. One, so I was working and then now I'm a full time blogger, and that happened about mid year.
Bjork Ostrom: Mid year 2015?
Stephanie Keeping: Yeah.
Bjork Ostrom: Which is awesome, congratulations.
Stephanie Keeping: It is. Thank you. It's super exciting. When I was at 47,000 fans, let's say I had between, fluctuated between 300,000 and 600,000 page views a month.
Bjork Ostrom: Okay and that was coming from where primarily?
Stephanie Keeping: Pinterest and Google and direct. Then, flash forward to December, and I had about 1.85 million page views a month.
Bjork Ostrom: That's a huge change in a year.
Stephanie Keeping: It's a huge change, and what it did is it increased my income, I'd say, about 150,000+ a year which was nice, right? It gives a lot of flexibility. It allowed me to leave work, and then the reason that your income can increase is because you can command a higher price for sponsored posts. Of course, increased revenue from ad traffic, as well. There's a couple of different routes there, and it really was a game changer for me.
Bjork Ostrom: Got it. What that does is not only are you able to come to a brand and say, "Hey, we're going to write a post about you, but also, we have this. Just so you know we're legit, we have 600,000 followers on Facebook. We'll do some posts on there that will direct traffic to it," so therefore increasing the value of a brand in able to say, "We charge XYZ for sponsored content," but then also, ad revenue, right? So you're able to send more traffic via Facebook and therefore, just naturally as you get more traffic, you're able to earn more ad revenue. One of the things I'm curios about is what does that look like? If you have let's say 500,000 just use a round number, how much, if you're doing it right, if you're following some of the recommendations that you make, how much traffic, realistically, can you send to a blog or a website using Facebook?
Stephanie Keeping: It depends. If you have 500,000 fans you mean?
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah.
Stephanie Keeping: Okay, yeah. If you have 500,000 fans, but they're not engaged, they're not sending any traffic. When you look at a Facebook page, you need to look at their "talking about" number, or look at the reach and their engagement and "pages to watch." You can send, like if a post went viral, it's easy for me to send a million page views to someone. A regular post would be probably 6 or 7000 a post, probably, as an average.
Bjork Ostrom: Okay. That would be, in a day, obviously it's not all directed at your site ...
Stephanie Keeping: No.
Bjork Ostrom: But at the end of the day, you have huge potential in that you have, let's say, 30 posts, and you could do 5000 people to each post. That's a lot of traffic that you're directing, that you can do in any given day. Like you said, I think it's important to point out, most people approach Facebook and say, "Hey, this is something that's dead. It's not worth working on. You should ignore it." People are leaving their Facebook pages, but you just demonstrated that in 2015, the year where everybody was talking about "Don't spend time on Facebook, and don't invest time creating content for it," you had a huge shift in your business, and therefore your life, and the ripple effect that that has which I think is so incredible, but can you talk a little bit about why do people say, "Hey, you should ignore Facebook," or, "Don't spend time on Facebook." Where does that come from and what are the fears that those people are expressing when they say that?
Stephanie Keeping: Yeah. You know, I think it comes from the fact that, I think it comes from the Facebook Insights itself. I think it's so transparent that it's almost to a detriment, because you know, Pinterest has some analytics, but they're not as robust as Facebook. It's there, on every single post you can see the reach right below it. I think it gets people down, where you don't know what you don't know over on Pinterest.
Bjork Ostrom: Right, for instance, what's on Twitter when you see ... Yeah.
Stephanie Keeping: Exactly. Or Google, where you're just not seeing your reach on every post, and so I think it starts to weigh on people to see those low numbers, and I think that's where it stems from. Then, a lot of people will try things half heartedly and not see results and they'll give up, but it all comes back to, I think, the Insights themselves. I see them as powerful and exciting, and a way to really delve into each Facebook post and figure out what went wrong, so I can fix it. A lot of people find it very discouraging.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, for sure. That makes a lot of sense, and I can envision that where you are posting for a certain time, and then something changes in they talk about the Facebook algorithm, which is essentially the thing that decides where to show content, and then something changes and then it's like what was working no longer works, and then you're discouraged and it's like, "Oh, I did all this work and it got to this point, and now what?" We were chatting a little bit before the call and you said, "Recently, Facebook just did another, or it appears they did another Facebook algorithm content change," and it's impacted how the previous strategy that you were using, it's impacted that a little bit. What is your take on that going forward, and how do you adjust and pivot to continue the growth that you've had and the engagement, and continue building on this success?
Stephanie Keeping: It was about, I think a week and a half or two weeks ago, at the time we're recording this. They made a change. I think they were pretty open on what they were doing with some testing, and one of the things that I had read is that it will, for the user experience, it will mean that you won't see as many ... Yeah, it was about a week or two ago that Facebook made an update that they've been pretty public about, where they had talked about in the new speed, they were going to change things so that people would see more of what they loved, and I think one of the things I had read is that you won't necessarily see so many viral posts, and what it's done is it's basically cut my reach from an average of 30 to 50 million a week to, I'm down to 14 million now, so significant. The reason for that is no posts have gone viral in about two weeks since they made the change.
Bjork Ostrom: Why do you think they did that? What was their purpose in doing that?
Stephanie Keeping: It always goes back to their philosophy of making their users experience the most fantastic experience it can be. I think they, whatever changes they are making, they believe is going to improve the quality of Facebook for the people using it.
Bjork Ostrom: Got it, and it's interesting. One of the things that I heard as murmurings from friends, and also people that are in the business, but it was a lot of people just talking about it, like, "Oh, my gosh." These TipHero videos, or Tasty videos, that's all that's on my Facebook news feed. There's a moment in time, it's easy for me to say now, because this is the change you're talking about, but there's a moment where I thought, "I wonder if that is universal, number one, if other people are feeling that," and then if that's a change that happens, because Facebook is saying, 'Well, maybe people don't want to see these as much,' so they pull back on the virality of some of those things and it sounds like what you're saying is that's kind of what it ties back to, is Facebook saying, "We feel like it's going to be a better experience if there's less of the viral content." Is that right?
Stephanie Keeping: Yes, and more of what you love, and I think ...
Bjork Ostrom: Which is ... Sorry. This is just so interesting to me, because it's user experience and all this stuff is so interesting. It's interesting because usually something is viral because so many people like it, right?
Stephanie Keeping: I know.
Bjork Ostrom: That's the irony of it, because people are sharing it and engaging with it.
Stephanie Keeping: Yeah. There's another irony. I read in some places, people said, "You know, it'll help eliminate clickbait," and that hasn't been the case. Clickbait is still getting pretty decent reach. It's one of those things where you just have to now play around with it and figure out what is going to work, and maybe the era of, "I can have 5 or 6 viral posts at once," maybe that's passed, right? Now I have to figure out, is it going to be content that gets seen to 500,000 people and then but multiple 500,000 people posts? It's just knowing that. It's that whole I'm on rented land, and they've made a change, and I just have to deal with it and figure it out and move on.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, for sure.
Stephanie Keeping: I'm in the middle of that now.
Bjork Ostrom: Absolutely. One of the things that you said was, because we were chatting before the call here, was talking about this idea of rented land, and one of the things that I appreciate about your take is saying, "Hey, I get this. This is a reality. Things are going to change. They always will," and not trying to deny that, but saying, "I'm going to accept that and then learn and adjust as I go." I think that's smart to acknowledge that, but also not to totally throw it aside and say, "Hey, this isn't something that I'm going to spend time," because obviously it's something that's worked for you. Let's say that somebody is in that, let's say they're in that under 10,000 range for Facebook followers or fans, things like that. They're listening to this podcast and they're saying, "God, this makes a lot of sense.
I think it's something maybe I don't want to spend only the time that I have building Facebook, but let's say a certain amount of time each and every day, building up my Facebook following." I know it's a little bit hard to say because things are changing, and who knows, when the podcasts released, and maybe someone will listen to this two months down the line and it'll be totally different, but what's your generic high level advice for somebody that wants to start investing some time into Facebook, and how much time do you think that actually takes to really dive in and do it well?
Stephanie Keeping: I think first, in terms of what should they do, I think they need to get in a curation mindset, so to be a curator. They're going to curate their content so that it works for Facebook. They're not going to try to make what works on Pinterest work on Facebook. That's number one. I think they're also going to look at their Facebook posts and curate that based on their Facebook audience.
Bjork Ostrom: Can you explain what you mean by that?
Stephanie Keeping: Yeah. I think not necessarily posting every new post you do on Facebook if you know it's probably not going to work. Finding bloggers and partners who you know have complimentary content to yours that will do well, and really becoming a HubSpot of that type of content. I post 30 times a day, but I get people all the time writing "Thank you. I love your page," and you think I would get a lot of comments like, "Stop posting so much," right? I've never gotten one in a year. You just have to think about when you put up a post, is it going to help you? Is it going to help your audience, and is it going to help Facebook? Is it going to help Facebook be that place of fun and activity that it wants to be, and then is it going to help you by either bringing in new fans, or page views? Is it going to help your audience? This is a no brainer, because you want to be posting content that your Facebook audience loves.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, that's great, and I think one of the key takeaways for me is I think about this is not even what will help your audience, because I feel like, "Okay, I get that. What will help me, I get that."
Stephanie Keeping: Exactly.
Bjork Ostrom: But what will help Facebook? I feel like that's such an important thing for people to remember that maybe they don't normally think about. Usually we go in and we're like, "What's going to help me the most? How can I get the most out of this?" The irony, and maybe this is a life analogy, but if you first think about helping somebody else, then chances are the things that you are doing will be beneficial to you. Maybe not, like long run, you always have to be changing and adjusting, but I think it's a great philosophy to think about across the board. I think that's really good advice. Stephanie, I feel like there's so much awesome content in here, and I know that people are going to be really excited about, not only the details of the things that you shared, but also your story.
I think it's so inspiring to hear about somebody who said, "This is what I want to do." You sat down, you took the time to learn, you implemented it, you tested, you changed, you adjusted, and you grew a really cool brand and a really cool blog, so congratulations on that. I think it's really cool, both your story from a high level, and then also the content that you shared. Thanks so much for coming in and sharing that. It was so inspiring.
Stephanie Keeping: Thank you.
Bjork Ostrom: Curios, where can people find you, follow along with what you're doing? Obviously Facebook, but where are the other places that people can connect with you, Stephanie?
Stephanie Keeping: Well, my blog is SpaceshipsandLaserBeams.com and you can always find me there or on Facebook @SpaceshipsandLaserBeams.
Bjork Ostrom: Okay, great. Awesome. I will end with this. If you had one piece of advice for somebody that wants to go into this, not Facebook related, just in general, that wants to go on this journey. What would that one piece of advice be that you'd give them?
Stephanie Keeping: Oh, one piece of advice? Go on the journey of blogging?
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. Blogging, building your own thing.
Stephanie Keeping: Right. You know, there's the cliché of make sure it's something that you're passionate about, and it's always true, because there are a lot of days in blogging, especially the beginning, where you are making 70 cents for 5 or 6 hours of work. When those dark days are there, if you don't love either the content of your blog or you don't love the process, or the marketing or something, if there's no love there, you're going to quit at some point, because there's a lot easier ways to make money than blogging, I tell people. You really have to love it deep down.
Bjork Ostrom: That's great, and a great note to end on. Stephanie, thanks so much for coming on the podcast. I really appreciate you sharing your story.
Stephanie Keeping: Oh, no problem. Thanks.
Bjork Ostrom: Have a great day. That's a wrap for episode number 35. Thanks again to ... That's a wrap for episode number 35. Thanks again, Stephanie, for coming on and sharing your wisdom around Facebook. Really awesome. I hope that you, wherever you are, listening in your car, or at the gym, or doing dishes, that you got a lot of value out of this podcast. Appreciate you listening in. Just as a reminder for those that aren't familiar with who we are and what we do, we kind of have two different businesses or brands that we run. Pinch of Yum is a food blog and my wife, Lindsay, is the pretty much everything behind that.
I will occasionally come on once a month on that blog and do an update about the business of blogging, the things that we're talking about here, and say, "Here's what's working for us. Here's what's not," but we realized, you know what? There's not only a need for other people to learn this at a deeper level, but also lots of other people that are really smart about a certain niche, so we created Food Blogger Pro as a site for people in the food space to come and learn how to build a successful food blog. We opened that up for enrollment throughout the year, so we do a closed period which we're in right now, and then every once in a while we open that up and take on new members. If you're interested in joining that waiting list, you can go to FoodBloggerPro.com. There'll be a big old orange button there and that can get you on the waiting list. Then, we also do these podcasts and occasional blog posts, and you obviously know how to find these.
If you haven't, you can subscribe in iTunes or Stitcher, any podcast aggregator or podcast app that you want to. You can follow along. We do them once a week, and we do interviews with incredible people like Stephanie, and occasionally do a solo interview. It wouldn't be an interview, but it would be me talking about something or perhaps Lindsay or Lindsay and I chatting about what's going on with our businesses. Appreciate you following along. It really means a lot, and like I often say, I hope that you find a lot of value and I hope you find it worth your time. We will be back here next week, same time, same place. Until then, make it a great week. Thanks, guys.
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