STORY + AUDIENCE with Jill Golick & Annelise Larson

Episode 106: Discoverability

May 19, 2020 Jill Golick & Annelise Larson Season 1 Episode 6
STORY + AUDIENCE with Jill Golick & Annelise Larson
Episode 106: Discoverability
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STORY + AUDIENCE with Jill Golick & Annelise Larson
Episode 106: Discoverability
May 19, 2020 Season 1 Episode 6
Jill Golick & Annelise Larson

In this sixth episode, screenwriter Jill Golick and digital strategist Annelise Larson explore how to use the STORY+AUDIENCE approach to help you and your work get found more easily online. This is about more than appealing to the algorithms of the search engines (by using search engine optimization) and includes thinking strategically about social sharing and the first few minutes of your television show, web series or film. Annelise encourages Jill and the listeners to revisit the homework from episode 103 and gather more data on what language to use and what to share where.

Mentioned in this episode:

And check out Annelise's blog post with some basic & advanced search engine optimization (SEO) tips

Find more about Jill at http://jillgolick.com/
And more about Annelise at https://veria.ca/

Or reach us both at STORYplusAUDIENCE@gmail.com
 
Please rate, share, like, follow & subscribe and send us your thoughts & questions about STORY+AUDIENCE to be addressed in our final episode of the season!

Show Notes Transcript

In this sixth episode, screenwriter Jill Golick and digital strategist Annelise Larson explore how to use the STORY+AUDIENCE approach to help you and your work get found more easily online. This is about more than appealing to the algorithms of the search engines (by using search engine optimization) and includes thinking strategically about social sharing and the first few minutes of your television show, web series or film. Annelise encourages Jill and the listeners to revisit the homework from episode 103 and gather more data on what language to use and what to share where.

Mentioned in this episode:

And check out Annelise's blog post with some basic & advanced search engine optimization (SEO) tips

Find more about Jill at http://jillgolick.com/
And more about Annelise at https://veria.ca/

Or reach us both at STORYplusAUDIENCE@gmail.com
 
Please rate, share, like, follow & subscribe and send us your thoughts & questions about STORY+AUDIENCE to be addressed in our final episode of the season!

Jill Golick :

Welcome to STORY+AUDIENCE, a podcast about creating stories that connect deeply with audiences.

Annelise Larson :

And using that connection to build a long term career as a storyteller.

Jill Golick :

I'm Jill Golick. I'm a screenwriter and digital creator.

Annelise Larson :

I'm Annelise Larson. I work in digital marketing and strategy for media. In today's episode, we're talking about how to use our story plus audience approach to help get your work found.

Jill Golick :

So Annelise, what have you found lately? And how did you find it?

Annelise Larson :

Well, I think it's important for us to acknowledge that our previous episodes were mostly recorded in the "before" times. This is the first one we're really recording at a time when everyone is home, when we actually have more potential to have people's attention than ever before. Everyone is asking for lists of recommendations, people are sharing theirs and asking you for your recommendations. They're coming from my different social media feeds. I'm seeing them in, you know, some of the specialized groups, communities that I belong to. So I'm definitely seeing a lot of stuff that I'm finding through those kinds of recommendations. What about you?

Jill Golick :

I really value that I get an email regularly from Hot Docs, telling me what documentary films I can watch. The New York Times every day has three things that you can do, including something to watch. But I still go to my social feeds and to my friends, first and foremost, to see what recommendations they are making. Early on in the pandemic, a show launched on Netflix called Unorthodox, which had the Jewish community emailing me and promoting this this show to me. It's quite unusual. Because it has a lot of the dialogue is in Yiddish, which is a dying language. So that community really got behind it. If anybody's looking at my feeds, they'll see that I'm heavily pushing the new series on Netflix by Mindy Kaling called Never Have I Ever, because I really feel like in this time of uncertainty, it's really nice to be able to offer somebody else entertainment and experiences that will not just relieve the boredom, but uplift us.

Annelise Larson :

One of the things we've talked a lot about is finding audiences that resonate at a deep emotional level with our work. We've talked about specificity, we've talked about authenticity, we've talked about all those kinds of things. And the reason we want them to have that connection is for exactly what you're saying that there's huge value for me to offer to my community by sharing something that I've come across that I really love, and so we're trying to tap into those deep emotions and trigger that social sharing behavior that is critical for reaching beyond those initial super fans or true fans that we've talked about before.

Jill Golick :

Both those shows that I mentioned both Unorthodox and Never Have I Ever are both really great examples of that. They go really deep, they touch big emotions, they move into dangerous, into personal territory. So they're they're great examples for writers to look at how they tackle the big issues.

Annelise Larson :

The social sharing pieces huge. I also have my father living with me right now. And so I'm actively looking for things that would be of interest to both of us. The act of active searching, which happens anywhere that there's some kind of search functionality, is another way that we try to discover and find new things. It's important for us to talk about this concept of discoverability. How do we find things as people in an audience? And how do we, as creators help ourselves and our work get found. The idea of discoverability especially has been a very hot topic in the arts and culture sector, not just media for quite a while now for the last few years. But it's often framed in the idea of these search engines or algorithms. You may have heard the phrase search engine optimization, optimized for these moments of active looking. But as we've pointed out, a lot of the way that we're discovering new things is through the recommendations of other humans that we trust. A lot of the conversation that's been happening around discoverability really misses the boat in one of the most important elements which are the "discoverers," the actual audience and people that you're using these these algorithmic search tools to connect with.

Jill Golick :

You know that my eyes roll into the back of my head as soon as anyone says discoverability and you talk about search engine optimization, SEO. You know, I worry about discoverability in the context that you and I have been talking about so far. And all these discussions about STORY+AUDIENCE. It puts the work on the audience, whereas I think it's my job as the storyteller and our job as an industry to do the work. Can't we find them instead of making them find us?

Annelise Larson :

In our third episode, we did a deep dive into language, no matter whether we're speaking it into an AI powered assistant like Siri or typing it into Google, we use words to try to find things. The language of our audience is a really important starting place when we're looking at trying to optimize for discoverability. We're already starting to create shortcuts for our audience, because we're putting ourselves in their shoes by using the kinds of language that they're using. I would also say like SEO is so different now than it used to be. It used to be about making sure you know that you have exact phrase appear three times in 300 words of text, and then it had to be here, here, here and here. And then you loaded up your keyword description tag, and you you know, we called keyword stuffing into all kinds of places. It's really much, much more sophisticated than that now. And in fact, the search engines themselves, the best ones are, for better or for worse, really starting to use more artificial intelligence to really create this empathic, personalized search results based on all the things they know about us, which may freak us out a little bit. So all that social sharing is actually even part of the context that it looks to. Being social sharing friendly is also part of SEO now. There's only lot that we can learn even about how search engines are working, when we actually start to think about discoverability from the point of view of our audience and the process that they're going to go through to find and discover our work.

Jill Golick :

Hm. I'm always trying to not let Google know anything about me, but of course, they know everything. And I see the point now, in terms of it helping me. I just wish they weren't exploiting it so much.

Annelise Larson :

Yes, well, unfortunately, all of that yummy data can also be used for evil. We know and we've seen that happen. But the reality is, is that you also as a writer, as a storyteller, have access to data that can help you with the language that you're putting around your show. We've talked about loglines, the synopsis, press releases, all of those kinds of bits and pieces and the ways that we can extend the story even further beyond the core media project. Each of those are opportunities to create an onramp for discoverability by our audience through algorithms or through other people.

Jill Golick :

I noticed in writing press releases recently that sometimes they have hashtags listed. So is it enough to use these hashtags and the language that we've found in that way? Or should it be integrated into the body of the text that we're writing? And is video SEO?

Annelise Larson :

No matter what SEO still is grounded in words, so you can't have a presence online that is purely visual that is purely video, purely pretty pictures, which I often have to wrestle a lot with filmmakers because they're filmmakers because they love pretty pictures. The text still provides context for those bits and pieces. So if you're putting content up on YouTube, the language that you choose to put in the title, the description and the tags for your videos can help with discoverability, so that the search engine can understand that this is a good result for a particular query. So I think the more we can understand again, how our audience is searching the better. And that language really does always provide that context. I like to call it the language ecosystem in which your story and storyworld lives. It makes your writing more powerful in terms of discovery by writing with some kind of keyword awareness. You understand, and you can weave it through everything that you're doing online, including a press release.

Jill Golick :

Whenever you're developing a show or promoting a show. You have a file full of different length blurbs, one paragraph, your one page, a half page, 500 words. And it seems to me that you should also have a sheet of words you found doing those exercises we talked about in episode 3. Have that list of words, maybe I am seeing a nice place to hang that list of words in my office. And then just remember to pull them into your writing.

Annelise Larson :

I would say it's not just individual words. Like we talked about this right, when you were doing your research project, you would have to keep on adding more words to get better search results. So it's something we call the "long tail" phrases.

Jill Golick :

So words and phrases that will be will be useful. Okay, so that's really good, because I can, I started making that list. But now I know when I'm going to pull it back and use it.

Annelise Larson :

Yeah. And I think because search engines like Google are so interested in the discoverers they always want to provide a good user experience. So pages have to load fast. You don't want to have a bunch of typos in it. Like Google is very, very sensitive to all those kinds of things. So I think that's another really good thing to keep in mind that as you're filling your website with this language: a) make sure your spell checking and b) try to look at what you're creating through the eyes of your audience and understanding that it's so much more than about your homepage. You've probably created a number of different pages on your site that could turn up in a search engine, and might be the first moment of discovery for a potential audience member. So you always need to look at it with that set of eyes.

Jill Golick :

I know that on the Ruby Sky PI website, the page that gets the most hits is a brownie recipe. I mean, I have to go back and look at it in this context now.

Annelise Larson :

And I think too, like if you go to all the effort of say, doing strategic casting, like create one page for each key actors that you've cast because as people learn about them, and they start searching for them, then you have an opportunity to be discovered through your relationship to that particular actor.

Jill Golick :

Huh! That's a really interesting tip. You know, and I'm sure it extends beyond actors and humans in your your crew to other elements that can draw...for example, if you're referencing books that you want to give a different page to each book or other other things, the draw in different kinds of communities.

Annelise Larson :

I worked on a web series called SPIRAL that the core of the story was about this group of characters that shared a past life. So I created a whole section of the website, I wrote little articles about ley lines and soul clusters and soulmates and all those kinds of things. And over time, those pages actually became one of the biggest draws of new audience to the series, because they were well optimized. They were good user experience, and they were turning up in people's search results, and people would find it & go "Oh, and what's this?" And they would follow the breadcrumbs back to the actual core content.

Jill Golick :

That's such a good example of exactly what we've been talking about all this time. You've provided content to a community that's interested in that particular topic. They found that content. And then they said, "Oh look, and there's a web series about this content too. I think I'll watch that."

Annelise Larson :

Really it also gives you unique and original content of your own to share. So it helps your story and you as a storyteller, establish some kind of authority. It gives you something fresh to also share out through the social channels that you have. So it can be leveraged in many, many different kinds of ways.

Jill Golick :

So that's a different take on the discoverability. You're still working with search engines and search but it's not all based on algorithm.

Annelise Larson :

For those who are interested, I will just give a quick nod to some more advanced stuff, which is probably going to become the new norm. So to mark up say a page about a certain actor on your website with code, rich snippets from schema.org and leveraging things like Google My Business Trying to get your show into something called wiki data, which is different than Wikipedia. wiki data is sort of this open source database. But anyone can add stuff to, it's very simplified data. And there's a really interesting project happening in Canada now across arts and culture where they're trying to create a Canadian arts and culture database called ArtsData.ca. For people in media who are wanting to learn, these are some advanced techniques that you can actually do to meet the search engines where they have evolved to today.

Jill Golick :

This intrigues me, but of course, I'm a geek. But you know, I do also think that some of this is also good writing. For example, you know, if you've got spelling mistakes in your pitch document or your script, a lot of readers are going to use that as an excuse to not read it. They'll just say, "Okay, this is not professional" and put that aside. Okay, I just want to say a little bit about when somebody honors you with their attention having discovered you, I think there's still those first few moments when they become engaged with the material that they've discovered. And I think you have to deliver in those first few moments. So I've been I've been a very big proponent lately of making sure the first five minutes of your episode, that you use those to the best of your ability. If you look at the way a lot of feature films start, where you've got the context of watching it is generally that you're in a movie theater and you paid your money to see it, you might have a very long, slow opening, that's just beautiful. And I don't think that's how you can behave in a context where your audience can quickly move on to something else. You have to deliver very quickly. And I always try and tell writers now to really deliver story and character or what I call the promise of the show, in those first five minutes. There should be a way to establish not only what the story is going to be about, but also who that character is, and maybe what hurdles they'll have to overcome. So I think those first few minutes when you grab the attention through discoverability, you're still playing the discoverability game. You're saying, "yes, this is what you were looking for."

Annelise Larson :

Discovery is all about first impressions. And that's exactly what you're talking about. You know, going through your Netflix carousel and discovering something within the context of that algorithm. You know, you might dive in and have a little, just a little taste and see what it's like. And you're absolutely right, that first impression is everything.

Jill Golick :

Because you have so much choice in that moment, in your Netflix carousel, or on your YouTube homepage, or any of the other streaming services. There's so many choices and if it doesn't grab you, a lot of people just move on very quickly. And then again, going back to the whole discoverability and knowing who your audience is and what keywords and who you hope your superfans will be, you want to deliver the thing that they're looking for in that moment. So like if you think you're going to find audience members in a Harry Potter fan base, then you should deliver something that will meet their needs, whether it's some magic or some other element from that show. If you're calling dog lovers, get that dog on the screen, you know, and so on.

Annelise Larson :

It is like the most important thing. They've shown that we have like no attention span anymore.

Jill Golick :

If you grab them in the first opening minutes, they'll give you 10 or 15 or 20 to establish things.

Annelise Larson :

So I'm wondering, we're on episode six. I know that you're actively working on a story right now. Have you found that any of this delving into audience has affected your potential script?

Jill Golick :

You know, I have a very exciting opening from my script but now that we've been talking about this, I'm not sure I deliver at least for certain segment of the audience. You know, my first audience for this will be producers and broadcasters. So maybe it will work for them now, but should I make the sale and go into production then I think I will likely make some changes in that opening just to pull in some other segments. But deeper into the show, I think all our conversations have really influenced what I've done because I have a character who was soo was just kind of bad. I actually think that people like him don't see themselves in the media. And I decided to treat him with a lot more love and a lot more understanding of where he's coming from so that the people who belong to his community will actually see themselves in the show and see a version of themselves that they can embrace.

Annelise Larson :

I think that's great. I mean, we've talked about how powerful moments of recognition like that can be. So I'm pleased to hear it's inspiring some creativity. Do we want to talk a little bit about the homework for this week?

Jill Golick :

Yes. What are we doing?

Annelise Larson :

When we're talking about discoverability, and we're sort of looking at it through two lenses. One is the algorithm but one is very much that audience led social sharing. There's a lot that we can learn, I think about both of those things and build upon some of the homework that I've asked you to do before. Going back to the homework from our third episode, where we started to explore and learn about some of the language of our audience through that nice long list of tools I gave to you. Looking at those phrases, the topics, the ideas, trying to find, are there some ways that that language could be inspire some creativity that you could tease outside of the primary media property to extend that story into the online footprint of the creator in some way.

Jill Golick :

So if we've got a show where we think our audience will be partly dog lovers say, and we've got our keywords where we found language around talking about dogs, maybe it's dog training or food or whatever nutrition or the human dog bond or a certain breed, whatever it is, so we're going to search out relevant content in that area and and share that?

Annelise Larson :

Well, part of it is sharing. I think you can definitely use that language to find other content to share. Sort of pay attention and do some do some experiments in your own feeds and in the communities that you're a part of to try and see where you're getting connections to other people. Whether it could be noting the hashtags that you're coming across, seeing if there are moments that you can create connection, discovery in that moment of first connection between you, your work and a potential audience.

Jill Golick :

It makes me think that you may also find gaps. I've probably mentioned once or twice, I am kind of obsessed with a certain kind of yoga, Iyengar yoga. And here we are, we're in the pandemic, nobody can go to yoga class anymore and so many yoga classes have moved online. And what I've discovered is that many of the best teachers in the world are teaching online but there's no place to find all of them and figure out who's doing what what day. So you know, like that might be something useful to provide to a community is the kind of information that you're having trouble getting.

Annelise Larson :

Absolutely that's the power of curation right and becoming an authority in a space so that you become a trusted resource. So if Jill says that this class is worthwhile, I will check it out because she has checked them out and I can trust that you're going to point me in the right direction. That imbues you with a lot of power and authenticity and authority, which is something that can pay off algorithmically. And personally in terms of recommendations.

Jill Golick :

Well, those are great things to do right now while we're still under lockdown, because people are forging new and closer relationships online right now. And so in between writing your show, you can also begin to be building your audience in this way.

Annelise Larson :

Yeah, they don't know that they are in your audience yet. But the more successful, the deeper the relationship that is forged between you and potential superfans down the road and and hopefully ones that you enjoy spending time with.

Jill Golick :

Yeah, so it's good. Good to see if you want them to be your community. Yeah,

Annelise Larson :

So basically you're going to revisit that language homework, dig even deeper into it, try to use that language to get some inspiration to find other content that you can share as well as perhaps other content that you could create that could support your story and really paying attention to what your audience are responding to.

Jill Golick :

That's super interesting. And I'm going to try that because I wonder if people are still talking about like, how how this area that I'm writing about will will play now. So I'm going to go dig up some stuff this afternoon. Thank you for that for that assignment.

Annelise Larson :

Excellent. Well, I think then that's all for this episode. Please subscribe, rate, share. Remember that social sharing is caring in our world. We count on you guys to share our stuff too.

Jill Golick :

If you want to reach Annelise or know more about her, check out veria.ca

Annelise Larson :

And you can check Jill out at JillGolick.com.

Jill Golick :

You can reach us both at story plus audience@gmail.com. And please fill up our inbox with your questions, your comments, the results of doing your homework, please send it in. I'm Jill Golick.

Annelise Larson :

And I'm Annelise Larson. Thanks for listening. Now go listen to your audience. Transcribed by https://otter.ai