AMY PORTERFIELD: “We did a soft open. So this is especially important with paid groups because you have the extra step of verifying that the person requesting to join the group has officially registered and paid.
“Now, we have a system to do this, using a tool called Zapier. Now, if you've never used that tool before, it essentially allows you to connect multiple applications to establish more-streamlined workflows. Music to my system-loving years. So Zapier—Z-A-P-I-E-R.
“So for example, once someone’s signed up and paid for the boot camp, they got tagged in my customer-relationship management system as a boot-camp enrollee. The minute this happened, a “zap” automatically added the person's email address and name to a spreadsheet called the Master Boot-Camp List. From there, my team puts a checkmark next to the name once they let them into the group.”
INTRO: I’m Amy Porterfield, ex-corporate girl turned CEO of a multi-seven-figure business. But it wasn't all that long ago that I lacked the confidence, the budget, and the time to focus on growing my small-but-mighty business. Fast forward past many failed attempts and lessons learned, and you'll see the business I have today, one that changes lives and gives me more freedom than I ever thought possible, one that used to only exist as a daydream. I created the Online Marketing Made Easy podcast to give you simple, actionable, step-by-step strategies to help you do the same. If you're an ambitious entrepreneur, or one in the making, who's looking to create a business that makes an impact and a life you love, you're in the right place, friend. Let's get started.
AMY: Well, hey, there, friend. Welcome back to another episode of Online Marketing Made Easy.
So whether you're tuning in on a walk or driving your car or cozying up with a good cup of coffee, I am so grateful that we get to chat today. And I'm extra excited to share this episode with you because we're about to dive deeply into a strategy that I used this year that led to a massive increase in my pre-launch engagement numbers for Digital Course Academy.
Now, before we get into the details, let me give you a little background. So if you've been tuning in for a while, you know that I didn't hit my goals for my Digital Course Academy launch in 2021. Missing my goal gave me the kick in the pants that I needed to switch things up and test out a new pre-launch strategy in 2022. Remember, every time something doesn't work out, we can look at it as a failure or an opportunity. And in this case, I absolutely looked at it as an opportunity to try some new strategies. So I got brave, and I dove into the world of paid boot camps.
Now, I recently did an episode on some of the lessons I learned from my first two paid boot camps. So that's episode 532. So if you go to amyporterfield.com/532, you can get to it right away. Now, if you haven't listened to that one yet, I do suggest pressing Pause and go into it right this minute because I promise you it's going to blow your mind. I share so many good strategies in there that you can implement in your own business. But then, I want you to come back to continue this conversation because this episode is going to build off episode 532.
So the boot camp and the strategies discussed in this episode are from my own boot camp called Course Confident, which had a 66 percent engagement rate. It got as high as 75 percent, but the average was 66 percent. And I don't know about you, but I believe that's very high. We're talking Facebook group engagement, and we've all seen Facebook engagement decline over the years. So 66, I'll take it any day.
And today we're diving into the exact strategies and processes that I used to accomplish that. So get ready, because even if you don't have plans for a paid boot camp in your business anytime soon, there are some powerful strategies here you can adapt to any online community. So are you ready for this? Let's dive in and talk engagement strategies.
And as a reminder, this episode is an extension of last week's episode number 532. That one was called “Free vs. Paid Boot Camps: Lessons Learned That Might Help You Decide What's Best for You. The strategies I'm sharing in this episode were all ones we used in our recent paid boot camps. So if you want to better understand what our paid boot camps included and why community was such a necessary component, I'm going to recommend that you start with episode 532.
All right, let's jump to it.
So as you're creating your boot camp, it's important first to establish a clear goal and purpose for the community you're creating. The goal for my community experience was connection and helping my students get into action. So having a clear goal established right from the start helps you create a shared language in the group so your members feel like they're part of something bigger.
Now, we accomplished this in two ways. First, I gave my members a mantra to rally around that was tied to my goal. So the phrase I used for this was “DSD—do something different.” It served as a reminder to members to take action every day and take action that was not necessarily something that came natural to them. They might have to get out of their comfort zone, try something different, but they're taking action.
So often I hear from my community that they get stuck consuming so much content and never feel like they have time to implement what they're learning. So DSD, or do something different, was a phrase that helped people break that cycle. It was a call to step out of what they've been doing and show up in bigger ways, ready to work.
So listen to your community throughout the year; comb through social-media posts, your support inbox, student surveys, whatever it might be. See what people bring up over and over again as a struggle. Then, find or create a short and memorable phrase that people can rally around to get through that objection or struggle again and again.
You can also suggest to your members that they put the mantra on a sticky note somewhere that they'll see it for the duration of your boot camp. And if you do this, you'll start seeing photos of this mantra pop up in the group, which is a great way to keep engagement and motivation high. We did that, and it was something really fun to see. And always remember, the value you provide goes far beyond the information you teach. Did you hear that? The value you provide goes far beyond just the information you teach. Motivating your community and instilling a belief that they have what it takes is a huge part of helping them get a transformation that sticks.
The second strategy to help create a shared language for your community members is establishing official hashtags. So to choose my hashtags, I looked at the goal that I had set for my community. I used hashtags such as #cuetheconfetti so that we could all celebrate together. Or #thescoop, and #actiontaker to encourage my members to get to work and to share their results and to celebrate their progress along the way.
Hashtags are also useful for group admins on Facebook because you can set up moderator alerts around them. So moderator alerts are a set of keywords that you put into your group's settings that will flag posts if they contain that word. This way, admins can review posts and offer value and support quickly without spending their entire day scrolling through the group. Some of the hashtags I set up to establish these moderator alerts were #ask and #teamporterfield.
So to recap, you first need to establish a goal for the community component of your boot camp, and then from there, create a shared language through a mantra, and then create three to five hashtags that you can introduce to your group to help guide the conversation around your goal and your mantra.
Okay. So moving right along. Next, let's talk about engagement strategies and planning your community content. To know me is to know I'm a planner, so I'm going to encourage you to have all your copy and graphics created and scheduled before you even start to let members into the group. So are you ready to hear this super-fancy tool I use to create my group calendar and copy? Two words: Google Docs. I've provided the exact Google Doc that I use as a template so that you can download it. So you can snag this free resource by heading to the show notes of this episode. So if you go to amyporterfield.com/534, you can grab my Google Doc template that I use to organize all of this.
Now, one of the benefits of my Google Doc system is that it allows me to establish a ten-thousand-foot overview of my group on a calendar. That way, I could look at it before writing a single word of copy. So this helps ensure I'm posting content aligned with the boot-camp training topic each day. Plus, it gives me direction to create content quickly and efficiently. I like everything all in one place.
So the main categories developed to drive my content creation in Course Confident, the boot camp: they were Admin, Accountability, Lifestyle Connection, and Review. So those just happen to be my categories. Now, your categories will look way different from mine based on your group's goal and purpose. So I want you to take some time to establish your categories, then place them strategically on the community-calendar portion of the template that you downloaded from my show notes. Again, amyporterfield.com/534.
Now, I suggest each post contain one purpose and one call to action so your community members know exactly how to take action after reading it. So remember that. Every post in your boot-camp group should just be about one thing and one call to action. Like, tell them what to do. People want to be told what to do when they're learning from you.
So once you filled up that calendar, you're going to take a step back and review it, ensure there's a good flow with everything you want to do. There's good alignment; there's good variety. And also, just a note: how many posts you create, it all depends on how long your boot camp is. So if you've got a ten-day boot camp, you're, obviously, going to do more posts than if you had a five-day boot camp. So every day, you definitely want at least one post, if not multiple.
Okay, moving on. Once I have the calendar all filled up, the next step is for my team and I to work on the post copy. And that's going to be in—yep, you guessed it—another Google Doc. So the copy doc we use has five columns. So those columns are labeled: Category, Title, Post Copy, Date to Post, and Image. So again, Category, Title, Post Copy, Date to Post, and Image.
Now, if you want to make your own copy for this, head to the show notes to download the template I mentioned, which will have the copy template in it as well as the calendar. And this template is important because once you start plugging in all the information, it's really clear on the exact copy and the exact graphics we're going to create, when we're going to post them, what category they fall under. It's just really important to keep it all organized because it's going to go by so fast once the boot camp starts. And this whole process, using this template that I'm going to give you access to, it eliminates any unnecessary confusion.
Now, to get your creative juices flowing, I'll share a few examples of post titles and how they helped me create the post copy next. So first up, the Admin category. The goal of this category was to ensure people didn't miss a thing during the boot camp. So an example of a title for a category like Admin would be “What's Happening Today.” So that's the title. And then, we would create a post of what's happening today.
So these went out every morning, giving the main overview of what was going on that day. I like consistency. I like them to see a theme. So every day, they expected to see what's happening today. So that covered our Admin category.
Now, in the copy of those types of posts, I included any workbook links or external training links that they might need for that day. Now, since the Admin category can be kind of dry, I spruce these posts up with a little bit of fun mixed in. So we tried to get some engagement up from them as well.
So first, the call to action at the end of the post in this category was always something like, “If you're ready for this, drop your favorite dance gif in the comments, and let's get this party started.” So it was really cheesy, and I know it sounds kind of simple and cheesy, but people love to show off their gif game. So do you say giphy? gif? Whatever. Now, if you're not a fan of gifs or if that feels like off brand for you, even just giving people something specific to type in the comments helps to enhance that engagement.
Now, the second engagement strategy used on each of these “What's Happening Today” posts was how I position the training for that day. I would make it clear that there would be a replay for the training, but there would be one bonus strategy shared on the live that would not be included in the replay. So this helped incentivize people to make time and show up during the live. So did you get that? Every day of the boot camp, I would plan a training. And in the morning I'd say, “Okay, this training is happening today. There will be a replay, but there's a bonus strategy I only include if you're there live.” So that went over really well because sometimes people need just that little extra push.
Okay. So moving right along, the Accountability category. The goal of this category was to move people to take action. So an example of a post title in this category is “Show Your Work.” So that's the title, “Show Your Work.” And remember, we use these titles over and over again, so they got really used to seeing them. So these posts were scheduled to go out directly after each main training was delivered.
Now, in the copy of the post, we'd ask members to comment with an image of their completed workbook for that session. This category also served as a great place to let people show off their work once they shipped it out into the world. So we have a rule inside this group that you can't do link sharing, because we don't want people posting links to all their stuff everywhere in the group because it then gets to be way too much. But we make exceptions for these different posts.
So an example of the copy for a post like this might be, “Share a link to your pre-launch Instagram post in the comments,” or “Share your course-focused lead magnet in the comments.” So these posts are always wildly popular, and they keep people from sharing links in the main group. So we keep them contained, but we do, once in a while, let people share their links.
And then to sweeten the deal, if a group member posted their work, the call to action on this post made it clear that they also got a chance to be randomly selected to receive a “Course Creator Fuel” mug from me, and so we would do, like, different random prizes just for people participating. So prizes were a big part of the boot camp.
Now, if you don't have it in your budget to give paid prizes out, you can still put this strategy into action. Think of what you do have to offer. Maybe you could do a free one-on-one coaching call to one lucky winner or a scholarship into one of your digital courses or even an irresistible PDF bonus that you create. So, you get the idea, but you just can be creative here and incentivize people to engage.
Okay, we're going to keep talking about these categories, so I really bring them to life for you. So the Accountability post category also had titles such as “Declare Your Main Goal for the Week,” or “Celebrate Your Wednesday Wins.” So giving them an opportunity to be accountable. Now, I strongly suggest adding something like this to your community because it reminds your members how much progress and momentum that they're creating during the boot camp. And if you're using this strategy in a community or a boot camp that goes longer than one week, it might be helpful to have these posts go out on the same day each week so people can get excited about posting their wins.
Okay, so next step, the Lifestyle Connection category. This category aims to create fun conversation starters to help your community connect over shared interests and experiences. So examples of the titles for posts in this category are “Question of the Day,” or “Celebrate Community Members.”
Remember, this is the Lifestyle Connection category. So some of the copy might be something like asking my community member questions like, “What's your favorite business book?” Or “What's your morning routine?” or something like that. Or “Tag someone in the group who you see doing big things, and celebrate them in the comments.” So to come up with relevant questions for your community, I want you to spend some time seeing what your ICA likes to talk about on their Instagram accounts, or check out other Facebook groups your ICA frequents, and just see what sparks the most conversation, and use that as an inspiration for your copy.
And then, finally, the last category is the Review category. Now, the goal of this category is to ensure members have all the resources they need to catch up and take action no matter where they are in the boot camp. So an example for the title of a post in this category would be “Catch Up” or “Weekly Roundup.” And we would post this a few times a week if it's catch up or just maybe once a week at the end of the week.
Now, it's important to remember that life happens, and some members will fall behind, and this is your opportunity to offer them a little encouragement to keep going. In the copy of these posts, remind members they are exactly where they need to be and that they can continue moving forward no matter how small the step. So Review posts should include any replay links for their recent trainings, a few clear steps to get into action, and a call to action to jump in the comments and declare what they're currently working on. So the word review here means that let's go over what you've already learned and make sure you're putting it into action. So this helps community members jump in and find others going through the content at the same pace, which, in turn, increases connection and a sense of belonging—all things important to help increase engagement.
Now, once my team and I wrote the copy and created the graphics for each post in the community, the copy doc was passed over to a virtual assistant to schedule the post in advance. Now remember, you can recreate this system for your own boot camp by downloading this exact template from the show notes. So if you go to amyporterfield.com/534, you can grab that template.
Now, up to this point, it's been a lot about the prep work for your highly engaged boot-camp community, so let's shift gears to having your boot camp go live and cover best practices for engaging with your members. So the Course Confident boot camp was officially fourteen days. Get excited because I'm going to do it again in 2023, only better. I have so many fun ideas for it, so look for the Course Confident boot camp in 2023.
Now, my community team and I have learned that it's important to do what we like to call a soft open a few days early. Now, in addition to the fourteen days, we did a soft open. So this is especially important with paid groups because you have the extra step of verifying that the person requesting to join the group has officially registered and paid.
Now, we have a system to do this, using a tool called Zapier. If you've never used that tool before, it essentially allows you to connect multiple applications to establish more-streamlined workflows. Music to my system-loving years. So Zapier—Z-A-P-I-E-R.
So for example, once someone’s signed up and paid for the boot camp, they got tagged in my customer-relationship management system as a boot-camp enrollee. The minute this happened, a “zap” automatically added the person's email address and name to a spreadsheet called the Master Boot-Camp List. From there, my team puts a checkmark next to the name once they let them into the group. So a lot of people are part of this to make it run smoothly. So this system saves my community team so much time, and it's a great task for your virtual assistant to set up and monitor.
Okay. So for my boot camp, admitting members happened during the soft open, which was three days earlier than the official start date for the boot camp. This meant once the boot camp was officially live, my community team could completely focus on engaging and answering questions in the group versus fumbling to see if this person should be let in or that person. So we love that we get to focus on just getting people in. During the three-day soft-open period, I suggest creating count-down posts aimed to hype people up.
It's also a great time to cross-promote your weekly content. So for me, that's this podcast. So I would tell people about different podcast episodes they can listen to. By posting episodes that offered strategies to jump start their course-creation goals, I create a win-win situation. So I was able to increase my podcast downloads, and my members were able to set themselves up for course-creation success.
So the soft open is also where I encourage people to post a video, introducing themselves to the group. So to set this up, when members enter the group, they saw a welcome video from me and one from each of my three community-team members. Now, these videos reaffirm their choice to join the boot camp and introduce the group mantra. Then, we invited people to post their own videos.
So I would encourage you to do a soft open. Setting yourself up to have enough time and space to let everyone in before you start delivering content is a game changer, and it's a great way to start fostering connections between members.
Okay. So let's talk about some real-time engagement strategies. But before we go there, I want to pause for a minute and touch on a word I'll use in this next section. That word is algorithm. Now, I believe to my core you should never do anything in your business to beat the algorithm. I feel like it's a lost cause. And quality content will always win. Nothing will work better for increasing engagement than quality content. We both on the same page? But there are some tips—notice I say tips, not hacks—to help ensure your quality posts show up in more of your group members’ feeds, and that's what we'll cover next.
So obviously, I'm talking about a Facebook group for your boot camp, so some of these might not apply if you're going to go into Circle or some other type of community. But I've been using Facebook groups. That might change in the future, but that's what I'm talking about here.
Now, first, a counterintuitive piece of advice: do not answer every question in the group. Often, when people in a group see that the creator has answered a question, they shy away from adding their two cents. So rather than spending the time to answer each question yourself, lean on your incredible community, like, the other people in the community. Always be on the lookout for ways to tag members into a post to share their expertise and answer questions.
So, for example, if someone in the group asks about what email-service provider to sign up for, rather than just giving them the answer, use the group search feature. So what I mean by that is, in this example, I would search keywords like Kajabi or ConvertKit or MailChimp. Now, this would filter the posts so I could find members who've mentioned they use this software in their business. Then, I could go back and tag members into the posted question and ask them to share their experiences.
Now, this is important because conversations between people in the comments of a post are weighted heavily in the Facebook algorithm. That is, if you're using Facebook to host your community, you need to pay attention to this. I'm going to repeat it. Conversations between people in the comments of a post are weighted heavily in the Facebook algorithm. So when this happens, it makes it more likely that posts from your group will show up in your member's feeds, which, then, brings them back into the group. So this can be a great task to give your VA or think of past students or clients in your network who can help. But your past students can be some of the best people in your community to increase engagement. You'd be surprised how many students would love to do this in exchange for free access to your boot camp, so don't shy away from asking.
Now, as your boot camp progresses, you'll also start to notice some key players in the group. So these people go above and beyond helping to answer questions and offer support. So make sure to recognize them. So I like to create and tag members in a shout-out post. So I'll create a shout-out post, I'll tag all the members, and then maybe even surprise them with, like, a Starbucks gift card to encourage their amazing contribution in the community even further. It could also be as simple as sending someone a DM to thank them for being such a positive force in the group. People like to be seen, so don't forget just how powerful a thank you can be.
Next, let's chat about live video. When setting my boot camp up, I wanted to host my five main trainings outside of the group on a WordPress page. That might seem weird, right? So having my trainings outside of Facebook, it did mean that I lost the massive engagement boost that live video brings to a group. And being that this is an episode all about engagement, you're probably wondering why I did it this way. Because, yes, I care about engagement. But do you know what I care about more? Getting my students results. And I've learned over the years that people are less distracted and pay way more attention when you take them off of Facebook. So remember, sometimes you have to sacrifice engagement for other benefits in your boot camp. So your students’ success is ultimately what you're working towards. So keep that in mind when you're making decisions like this.
Another benefit of hosting my trainings on a WordPress page is that I can track attendance to see which students show up live. So tracking the show-up rate was essential so my team and I could have data-backed conversations about what was working and where we needed to pivot.
Now, this might be different for you. Your boot camp may be heavily focused on teaching inside of the group. There's no right or wrong answer here. The important part is ensuring you have a set goal to know what you're working towards and how you'll create engagement around that. So with that said, I knew I still wanted to boost engagement in the Facebook group using live video without overwhelming my boot-camp members with more content.
So I chatted with my dear friends Jill and Josh Stanton, who taught me how to do this boot-camp model. I talked about them in episode 532. And they suggested a strategy that worked well for them. They suggested adding in short, fifteen-minute mindset calls every day.
So to go back to this WordPress page. I created a page that looked really good, with a video embedded in it. And so when they went to this WordPress page, they would click on a link—I’d post the link in the Facebook group—I'd email it to them; say, “Today’s a training;” it would take them to a page outside of Facebook; and it just looked really good. But again, I wanted that live-video engagement boost in the group, so that's where these fifteen-minute mindset calls came in.
So the minute I heard about it, I knew I wanted to do it, because mindset is a huge part of being an entrepreneur. So it aligned with what my community needed to be successful, and it gave me the benefit of increased engagement in the group. So every morning, every morning in my boot camp, I would pop in for fifteen minutes and just chat about mindset. I would tell a quick story, I would give some context around a mindset shift I made or one that I see that they need to make, and we would just go right to it. So it'd be fifteen minutes—sometimes even a little less—I was in and out, and they were really well attended. So this allowed me to provide tips to help members overcome any roadblocks that got in the way.
So shout out to Jill and Josh Stanton. They actually—I'll say it again—they have this entire program you can sign up for to learn exactly how I did my paid boot camps, because I'm not giving everything away because some of it is just theirs that they teach. So if you want to learn this, if you're serious about making money with paid boot camps, check out Jill and Josh Stanton’s program. I will actually link to it in the show notes. It will be one of the very first links you'll see. So just go to amyporterfield.com/534.
All right. So the last piece of advice I want to share today is to add a few implementation days to the end of the live experience in your community. So implementation days are structured after all your trainings have been delivered, so you can continue to offer your members support while they're getting into action. And one of the best things to do during these implementation days is to create badges to help encourage members to celebrate their progress. So these badges are simple to create—we created them in Canva—and they help people rally around the shared experience they just had. So for my boot camp, members could edit the badge to declare things like their course title or their course price, like, decisions that we were making in the group. So it was a really cool way to let them highlight and spotlight the work they've done.
So there you have it, a complete system for creating and managing a highly engaged community component for your boot camp.
Before we part ways today, since we covered so much, let's quickly recap your action items. First, you're going to create a goal for the community component of your boot camp and tie a powerful mantra to it. Create a few hashtags to help bring your goal to life, and provide your members with a shared language to use in the group. From there, you're going to establish your content calendar and the categories of posts you'll rotate through, and then you're going to create content copy and graphics, and schedule all the posts before the group opens, if you can, at least the first few days. And then remember to visit amyporterfield.com/534 to download the exact template I used to help with this. And as you decide when to open the group, consider a system and soft-open process to ensure everyone gets in on time, and then, you can create a fun count-down post for this period. Now, once your group opens, set aside time each day to interact with your members by answering questions, fostering connections, and cheering your community on. And lastly, consider when your main trainings will end, and add a few implementation days after that, where you'll help your members get into action.
So there you have it. That's your whole system. And remember, if you didn't listen to episode 532, go back now and listen to it because, then, this will all make even more sense.
Thank you so much for joining me for another episode of Online Marketing Made Easy. I'll see you next week, same time, same place. Bye for now.