In this fourth episode, screenwriter Jill Golick and digital strategist Annelise Larson discuss how writers and other creatives need to grow their own audiences. Jill explores how she can use the tools in her writer's toolbox to create an online version of herself, a persona, to only share as much of her life as she strategically needs to and Annelise challenges her to use what she's learned so far in some very practical and applied ways.
Mentioned in this episode:
New YouTuber Creator Liason
The Bloggess on Twitter
Toronto Digital Creators Facebook Group
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: 0:03
Welcome to STORY+AUDIENCE, a podcast about creating stories that connect deeply with audiences
Annelise Larson: 0:15
and using that connection to build a long term career as a storyteller.
Jill Golick: 0:20
I'm Jill Golick. I'm a screenwriter and digital creator.
Annelise Larson: 0:24
And I'm Annelise Larson. I work in digital marketing and strategy for media. In today's episode, we're going to talk about how to build a career with the STORY+AUDIENCE approach.
Jill Golick: 0:38
I wanted to tell you about something that happened this week. I have been talking to my daughter a lot about her YouTube addiction and she was telling me that a lot of her favorite YouTubers are having trouble with the YouTube platform itself. Apparently, there are a lot of issues around demonetisation, notification of new videos not going out, problems with the recommendation engine, a general lack of transparency and communications on the part of the platform. And there are a couple of things I find interesting about this. I think in my experience in my career, it's not been a good idea to talk about my partner's flaws. It's kind of surprising to me to hear that YouTubers are sharing the details of their experience with YouTube with their audience. But on the other hand, I find it also incredible that the audience is really deeply on the side of the YouTubers and are saying things like "If they leave, YouTube we'll go to another platform with them. We better start supporting them on some of these crowd funding sites because you know their money from YouTube isn't coming to them clearly."
Annelise Larson: 1:48
It's interesting because it's been a struggle for the last few years, and we've talked a bit about the model in television where it was all about providing a context for ads. And now we're seeing the same thing in YouTube. All of this demonetisation and everything has really been fueled primarily by advertisers being unhappy with where their ads are running. So in some ways it's echoing that sort of older model again, where the emphasis is on pleasing advertisers more than on their creative partners. But they seem to be striking some kind of balance. They hired some guy who was a YouTuber in his past who's now going to be the liaison between the platform and them. A few years ago, when anyone was launching their micropatronage campaigns, people really took it like, "Oh, you're selling out." But I think because there's been so much transparency because a connection between these content creators and their audience is so deep that they witnessed the struggles and they realize that "Oh, yeah, it actually takes money. And there is value in this act of creation." It is really interesting.
Jill Golick: 2:53
I think it's amazing how open the YouTubers are with their audience just sharing so much with the audience about not just the kind of creative content they make, but about their business model and how they make a living and so on. And because they are so open and because they aren't so perfect that the audience loves them more for it.
Annelise Larson: 3:15
You know, we also talked about that authenticity it. Some people are vlogging their lives. There's a lot of perhaps over sharing in terms of what they are doing, but it's allowed them to really be emotionally connected to their audience, which allows them to leverage all kinds of direct revenue models. Whether it's these micro patrons that are basically subscribing to the content creators themselves, the selling merchandise, to doing live events, all of that stuff is actually directly leveraging the power of their connection in a very financially beneficial way for the content creator.
Jill Golick: 3:48
And we used to say, you know the internet wants to be free. And, you know, nobody wants to pay for content. We thought that these ideas were true, but I think over the last few years what we've seen as audience members is that the content is a lot better if we pay for it. I appreciate the way the YouTubers are raising the audience to expect to pay and to understand the business model really well.
Annelise Larson: 4:14
It's exciting to me that there has been this shift and that when they do have disposable income, where is it that they want a place it? It is on these people that they love. They feel that they have this personal connection with them and that they're willing to pony up whatever income they do have to invest in creative work.
Jill Golick: 4:32
So I guess that kind of leads us back into what we're doing here, which is how do we continue to build those relationships with audiences? I think our focus today is really a on building a relationship that will sustain a career.
Annelise Larson: 4:47
Yeah, and I think you know, to understand that, yes, there is this direct-to-your-audience potential for revenue, but also, if you can demonstrate that you do have this engaged following, there's value in that, that it becomes part of the package that they know that you have this beloved group of fans that are following you and following your work becomes really valuable for the writers, for the storytelling team to be able to demonstrate that.
Jill Golick: 5:14
That's why we want stars in our shows. It's not necessarily because of their acting ability, although that's a wonderful thing to bring to a project. But it's because they bring a following with them. In this modern world a writer or a creator can also have a following that they bring with them that gives them that kind of star power.
Annelise Larson: 5:33
So I know that you have sort of had an ebb and flow with your relationship with these online platforms. Do you want to talk a little bit about that? Where you're sort of at growing an audience around what you do online?
Jill Golick: 5:44
Well, you know, I I was very early adopter. I joined Facebook just months after it became available to people who were not in universities. I had accounts on every social media platform that ever went out of business.
Annelise Larson: 5:59
So where is your MySpace account?
Jill Golick: 6:02
I have a MySpace, I have many MySpace accounts in fact. It's not just me. It's also I had characters on MySpace. But I've kind of lost my purpose on social media. I'm not quite sure, why I'm there anymore. I was particularly busy in the early days of the web series movement when I was promoting my own web series. We did a lot of creative stuff, but now for the last few years, I really I'm not really sure what my goal is.
Annelise Larson: 6:32
So what would tempt you back? What would, what would make it worth your while?
Jill Golick: 6:36
You know, when we were doing the first season of Ruby Skye P.I, my web series, Karen Walton, the great Karen Walton, a screenwriter here in Toronto, was the executive producer. And every week she would send me my social media profile for the week. She kind of wrote me a character sketch at the beginning of the process, and every week she gave me discussion topics and themes and it was just so brilliant because I knew what my purpose was.
Annelise Larson: 7:04
Right. The first thing you need to do is to have a bigger picture view of your work and an understanding that the audience that you develop and grow is going to help more things happen for you. Sounds like what Karen did for you was basically provide some kind of narrative and content strategy. You know, as you sort of approach this and you know, don't all want to be YouTubers who vlog every nuanced detail of their lives, their pets' lives, their family's lives. Not all of us necessarily want to be that exposed. You know, you don't have to share everything. I think that's really important to understand.
Jill Golick: 7:42
I think it would be great idea to make yourself a character sketch that's almost a limited version of who you really are. That says who I'm gonna be on Twitter or Facebook or Instagram. Should we be thinking about limiting the number of platforms?
Annelise Larson: 8:02
Oh, absolutely, like, I would rather people did one or two platforms really, really well, then do a whole bunch very poorly because it becomes that you're stretching yourself too thin. And for me, not surprisingly, it always boils down to what are the platforms your potential audiences are using? It maybe slightly out of your comfort zone, but it will make the connection between you and those people who you want to connect with your work much easier. Once you sort of have adopted and established yourself on a platform, it becomes much more difficult to move out of it. We need to think and understand that is true for our audiences as well. So really understanding what platforms they are using and trying to find a place for yourself on that that may help actually shape this persona or character that you are going to be online because there'll be best practices of those platforms.
Jill Golick: 9:02
But if I'm thinking about what you're saying, like on Facebook, where I'm connected to so many people in my family and so on and it isn't a limited point of view of me. So I'd rather not use that space for building a fan base. And then again, you know, I kind of find Instagram also a little bit intimate for the way I've been using it. It's it. It's a more intimate space and very limited on who I follow. And as a writer, I guess Twitter is words. So it seems to me that that might be the best place for me to kind of rebuild my my interactivity as pertains to interacting with an audience. Does that make sense?
Annelise Larson: 9:42
Yeah, Twitter has a lot of challenges because they, like YouTube, have been trying to find that balance between, you know, where's the revenue model for them. But it also has been a place that has had problematic conversations.
Jill Golick: 9:56
Interestingly, you know, kind of a lot of what I'm writing about right now has to do with that kind of step. My work has really been focused around technology and interaction on the Internet and things like that. So maybe being in the heart of that controversy is the right place to be.
Annelise Larson: 10:15
You have to sort of figure out, well, what is the character of you on that platform? And what is the story you're telling? Much like Karen provided that content strategy for you, you know, to have those parameters around it that are going to resonate with the stories you want to tell, with the audiences that you want to attract and engage with. All becomes very strategic and hopefully allows you to make choices and decisions that are going to help you get things made. Get your stories out into the world.
Jill Golick: 10:46
So I think this is kind of when we open up the writers toolbox and find that there's some really interesting tools here to use in developing your online character. Because, of course, the first thing you want to do is write a character sketch. There are so many elements to creating a character. In this case, when we're talking about making a character out of ourselves, we've already got a name. When I look at what people right in their character sketches, I find that there tend to be three elements to it. So there's back story. There's the arc through the story, like what's gonna happen to this character during this particular story? And then there are often what I call the words of character so "joyful, bubbly, reticent," the words that describe what this person is like. And I think in this context we might want to look at our own backstory and say, "What are the elements of my past that I'm going to bring out as I build my audience? We certainly want to choose some words of character that will describe how we're interacting. You would connect those things back to the audience were trying to reach. Is that correct?
Annelise Larson: 11:56
Yeah, oh absolutely.
Jill Golick: 11:57
Rather than having your arc through this story of your life with audiences, maybe instead think about some of the themes that are in your work and how they might relate to an audience and include those as kind of topics you'll be talking about over the next little while, does that make sense?
Annelise Larson: 0:00
Yeah, so if we take your three elements so the first one is the back story, your background, your personal, your professional, your creative background obviously give you credibility because of what you've done to date. And it gives people a sense of where you in so that they understand where you're going. In terms of that character arc, if we think about it in terms of those throughlines of themes and topics that appeal to you, like right now you're dealing with stuff about technology. That's what's been exciting to you. They could help inform that content strategy that Karen helped you come up with for that very specific project, but now you're going to apply it to yourself and really thinking about what is the space that I want to occupy. How do I want to be seen and perceived? And, you know, as a writer, you obviously appreciate the power of language. So whether those would you call them words of description? Words of character?
Jill Golick: 12:14
Words of character. Yeah, a lot of adjectives and adverbs.
Annelise Larson: 13:13
Some of those you need to note, just write down What is my voice online? So those kind of words are gonna inform that. But also they may be explicit to the language that you use to describe yourself, because that's something that we need to do online when we've established a profile. Right? So your Twitter bio . You have 160 characters. I think that that is a great place to really think strategically about what language am I gonna include in those 160 characters? That are gonna help me define my space.
Jill Golick: 13:44
I think we have to always remember that the best characters, when we're telling a story, the best characters are the ones who have flaws. In fact, humans connect best to characters that are flawed. I even think like we were talking last week about Claire Savitz from Bon Appetit Test Kitchen, whose audience loves her. And part of what they love is that she's not a perfect chef. Everything doesn't come out great the first time. We watch her suffer through figuring it out. Remember that you don't have to be perfect, but in fact it's even better if you have some flaws.
Annelise Larson: 14:22
Oh absolutely. I mean, that's being human, right? We are flawed creatures, and if it's too polished and perfect, it becomes much harder for people to identify. And sure, you can craft this persona this character at this moment in time by, you know, thinking all these thoughts and figuring out these creative challenges, but also understand for yourself that you can evolve and change. The great thing about this space is it's iterative, and the stories that you want to tell are gonna change.
Jill Golick: 14:50
Going back to what we know about drama and character, is it's much better if your character changes and grows and develops. Those stories are much better than the ones where everybody stays exactly where they were and doesn't have any problems and is already perfect. So we're talking about using the elements of good drama to craft your online persona. There's one other element that you know I think about when I'm in those first stages of character creation, and that is what does my character want? What's driving them? What are they going after in the world? I was just trying to figure out how that plays in this context. So I've been kind of looking at people's online activity. And I think there are some people who are driven to confess, like the Blogess that Twitter account. She's always telling you about her bad motherhood and so on. There were other people who were who are really trying to connect with other people and understand them, people who are seeking justice and equity. And I think those kinds of needs are better than people who are just trying to promote their product or make themselves seem more important.
Annelise Larson: 16:09
It's also about adding value, like, how are you adding value? Why am I gonna follow you? Are you there to inform me, are you there to entertain me? Are you there to distract me? You know, like there's many ways that we can add value, even like amplifying others, lifting them up, you know, amplifying them through our own channels. That's another way to add value
Jill Golick: 16:28
We're kind of starting off by, we're looking for our audience. We're finding them where they gather and we're not just gonna burst into the scene and say, "Oh, I'm making a show that you're gonna love!" But instead we're going to join that community. And first sort of listening to what people were talking about, beginning to amplify other people's voices, sharing value in the sense that we're bringing in links or content from other places that we think this audience will enjoy. And then we begin to introduce our own?
Annelise Larson: 16:59
The rule is give before you ask. And I would say it's actually give and give and give and give. And when you think you can't give any more, give some more and then ask!
Jill Golick: 17:09
Well, isn't it better to be a member a part of a community? And then people will say, Oh, this is coming out of my community.
Annelise Larson: 17:19
Yeah, because again, it will go back to that credibility, that authenticity, that you belong, you're one of their own. We all, hopefully, hopefully we all want a lift up one of our own and see them be successful.
Jill Golick: 17:32
Right. Well, I mean, I'm Jewish, you know, one of the first things you know, when you're a Jew is you walk around saying, "Is that person Jewish? Are they Jewish? Is that person Jewish?" You go to movies or you read books or whatever, because they're Jewish. And there are all these things the Jews share with each other. And I'm sure there a lot of tight little communities like that when there's a lot of internal sharing and you want to do you feel like participating in it because it's your community. That's the thing is we're after here, right?
Annelise Larson: 18:04
Yeah, absolutely. And so that it will be also enjoyable for you. Hopefully, people aren't gonna do this just because Jill and Annelise told them to. Hopefully you get value back, just not a drain. But it also could be energizing because there will be this give and take.
Jill Golick: 18:20
So we start off we create our characters. We begin to enter communities first by listening then by giving. And eventually, while we're still doing that, tell them about the work we're doing. And then...
Annelise Larson: 18:33
And hopefully they'll even ask because the want to, who is this person and they'll want to learn more about you. And they'll say, "Well what are you doing?" You know that you won't even have to go there and sort of be promotional, but that you can have the benefit of being such a valued member that they will want to learn more about you.
Jill Golick: 18:48
Great. The links are in your bio! And then we begin to reap the benefits of having the audience. We can say we've got 250,000 followers or we can run a successful fundraising campaign or we launch a show and our fanbases are the first people who are enjoying it and then sharing it.
Annelise Larson: 19:10
Yeah,and I think you don't even need 250,000 followers or fans. People are getting more savvy that it is about quality more than quantity, so you could have 5000 or 2000 people who were following you. But there were exchanges going back and forth all the time. That's huge. Instagram has this false sense of engagement because it's so easy to flip through that feed in your phone and double tap, double tap, double tap so I don't let just look for things that are getting liked a lot. I want to see that they've gone to your post and then they have to, you know they've actually type something into respond or to make a comment. So that is a much higher value piece of engagement than those hearts that you get.
Jill Golick: 19:53
Is that true on all the platforms?
Annelise Larson: 19:56
Instagram is particularly problematic because of that, because it's just so easy. It's become a somewhat superficial platform, I think, because it doesn't require that deeper engagement.
Jill Golick: 20:07
Like it's almost the zeitgeist of Instagram that you just like everything. Whereas if it's on Facebook or Twitter and there's content there, there's a lot of links there. You take a little bit more time.
Annelise Larson: 20:20
Yeah, and I think it's also a lot about two way conversation. Facebook has a huge culture of groups where like minded people who love certain things have found each other, and they froth about them in those groups. Twitter. It's the live Twitter chats and stuff are probably my favorite part of Twitter, because you're able to get in these really lively conversations and reach and engage people out of those that even follow you because you have this shared interest.
Jill Golick: 20:47
It's that Wednesday #webserieschat, what came out of that was that I met a bunch of Toronto based creators in that chat many years ago. And during the Wednesday chat, we actually created the Facebook group that is now, I think it's called the Toronto Digital Creators Group or something like that. But it's, it's got 6000 people in it, and it's very active.
Annelise Larson: 21:15
Well, and there's, I mean, we're talking to a lot of writers. There's #scriptchat on Twitter every Sunday evening. I love those kinds of conversations and be able to be a part of them.
Jill Golick: 21:23
Well, that's very interesting. I'm gonna go check out #scriptchat this week in that case, in my new persona.
Annelise Larson: 21:33
So let's talk about that. Let's give people some more homework. Our past two sets of homework have been a lot about audience, but this one is all about you. The writer. I would love for you to give them the first stab homework here.
Jill Golick: 21:46
Homework this week is to write yourself a character sketch of who you are or who you will be online as you're communicating with your audience. So that character sketch should include some of the following elements: Start with your flaw, what are the themes you're going to talk about or your future. What parts of your back story are you going to share and say are relevant to your audience? You don't have to share them right away or anything. But just know, What do you keeping in the closet you're not going to talk about in this context and one of the things you do want to share that will add to your authenticity in dealing with audiences. And then let's throw in some words of character. Are you unsure? Are you super happy? What is the personality that you want to exude that will help you connect with the audiences that you want to have for the work you create?
Annelise Larson: 22:41
So what would a character sketch look like? Like, how long is it?
Jill Golick: 22:43
So really character sketch in general depends on the space you're allotting to it. You can do a character sketch for a pitch document in a paragraph. In a script, it might just be two words in parenthesis after the first mention of the character in the script. In a bible or some other documents, you go quite longer. So I'd say if you devote a page to this, that would be some great background thinking. And if you're one of those people who subscribes to the Artist's Way and writes your three pages or your seven minutes every morning, this might be a really great topic to work on when you're first get your pen moving in the morning. Just some kind of stream of consciousness writing about how you want to present yourself to audiences. And then you can even take a second stab at making it a little bit more of a formal document that you could have next to you on your desk when you're on Twitter or on Facebook.
Annelise Larson: 23:43
Okay, so here's how I would like to take that wonderful creative exercise and make it incredibly practical. Jill, I'm going to give this to you. So for you, because we've sort of surfaced that Twitter seems to make the most sense in terms of this professional performance. I want you to think about that space. I love that you said that. So we have our page creative stream of consciousness. Maybe a few drafts of that. Then you're gonna go to Twitter, and you're gonna look at those 160 characters for your bio and really figure out what you can pull from that character sketch and put in those 160 characters, and if you want to take it another step forward, because what we're really talking about is what is your brand as a writer? What is your brand is a storyteller? The best framework I have found for sort of a personal/professional branding exercise is LinkedIn. It's actually where I have some of my best professional conversations myself these days. But what I love is because it walks you through and there's all these sections that you have to fill in. You have to find language to fill in these sections, and what's great is it is an iterative space. Like I will often say to people, "Ok, so you're going to the Frontieres market. So think about how you want to position yourself, figure out what language it is." Because people are always gonna look you up on LinkedIn before they meet you. It's just what we do. Use that character sketch as a jumping off point to do something very applied, whether it's Twitter, whether it's Instagram, whether it's Pinterest. Really think about the limited space, in this case, this 160 characters or whatever it is and put that character sketch to work in that context. And then, if you really want to go to town, go to your LinkedIn page.
Jill Golick: 25:26
My LinkedIn could really use an updating. I must admit. I'm just checking my Twitter bio now because I haven't looked at it in quite a while and I noticed that it's only hashtags. Shall I read them to you?
Annelise Larson: 25:40
Jill Golick: 25:41
Because we're going to see if their change . So it's #screenwriting, #transmedia (a word nobody uses anymore) #webseries #Iyangar yoga (because I'm not any yoga, just Iyanger yoga for me) #cdnTV #women. So I think that kind of covers my a lot of my areas of interest. But maybe there's a way to update it. When I take the time to work on a public facing bio that it will take a lot of work and agonizing, me writing and polishing, especially 160 characters. The great Carol Kirshner, whose the writing coach and she runs the WGA showrunner program. She talks about a personal log line. That's a good way to think of those 160 characters too. So it really is a branding exercise. Who am I? What are my strengths? And how do I want to be perceived by an audience?
Annelise Larson: 26:44
Defining the space you want occupy. It's a good exercise.
Jill Golick: 26:48
Okay, off to do my homework now. Can we sign off?
Annelise Larson: 26:51
Yeah, I think so. I think she almost had a seizure when I told her she had to do this, so...
Jill Golick: 26:57
Annelise can see the apprehension on my face. But I'm going to try. I'll work on my bio and we'll be able to check Twitter to see...
Annelise Larson: 27:06
I believe in you, Jill.
Jill Golick: 27:09
If you're a listener and you've checked out my Twitter bio, please let me know what you think. Reach us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Annelise Larson: 27:21
Oh, and also, please follow subscribe, rate, and share this podcast wherever you listen to and find it.
Jill Golick: 27:28
And you can find out more about Annelise at her website, veria.ca.
Annelise Larson: 27:39
And you can check Jill out at JillGolick.com
Jill Golick: 27:48
Another site that will need some upgrading after I have figured out my online persona.. All right, I'm Jill Golick. Thanks for listening.
Annelise Larson: 27:58
And I am Annelise Larson. Now go listen to your audience.