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Welcome to Episode 7 of Authentic Online Marketing Season 2, discussing how you can build follower trust! Boy, are you in for a treat today. We have Christian author, speaker, and podcaster Sophie Hudson here. At the end of this episode, you’ll have learned some simple yet powerful tips on connecting to your audience organically.
*This episode contains either affiliate links or links to my products. Should you choose to purchase, the show will go on! Woo hoo!
Click below for show notes!
Click below for links to Sophie’s social pages!
Sophie Hudson’s Website
How Sophie got her start
Ruthie: Sophie, you’ve been blogging since 2005, right?
S: Right. I really haven’t blogged much in the last four or five years, though!
I think when I started to write books, it was kind of like, well, I can use the words in a blog post, or I can use the words and say part of a chapter and just write naturally. Sort of saving stories for books. So ever since I started to write books, I haven’t blogged quite as much the last four or five years, but I still use the blog even if I don’t write blog posts.
I podcast with my friend, Melanie, who has a blog called “Boo Mama!” When we started the podcast, we didn’t know what to do with it unless we put it on our blogs.
Just out of habit, many people go to my blog to get the podcast. But, it’s a good place for me to have show notes or something, just a good sort of home base for both of us. So, we still post those episodes.
R: That’s kind of what I did with mine is when I transitioned to do podcasting.
S: We’ve talked about if we wanted a podcast website, but you know, Melanie and I are pretty breezy. We were just like, why are we going to build something new? We both already have something. It works.
R: When building follower trust, when you’re doing a pivot or you need to do something new, why not use what you already have?
Build on your experience
R: As we dive into how to build follower trust, let’s talk a little bit about some of the things that you’ve transitioned into. You blogged and then you transitioned into writing and transitioned into podcasting.
Did you foresee yourself doing this?
S: I would say when I started the blog, I had this deep sense of knowing it was something that I was supposed to do because I loved it so much. I loved the daily writing and then eventually I loved the community that kind of came with that.
Then I met my friend Melanie through the blog. So many relationships that I’ve had now for the last 10 or 15 years have come out of that blog. But, that was it for me. I didn’t know what a podcast was when I started it! I certainly never thought that I would write books.
Everything that has come out of that has been a surprise to me, honestly.
The podcast we started because my husband would hear Melanie and me talk on the phone and said, one day when I hung up, he was like, you should record a podcast.
Cause he was a real early adopter of podcast. He was Saying, “People might want to listen to what y’all just talk about every day.” So we did it, and it took us a long time to really get momentum with that because neither one of us could accept that it was something that was really a legitimate thing for us today.
Then, the first book was just because I had an idea for one that hit me out of nowhere that I could shake, but I only did something with it because Melanie convinced me to try to be open to whatever possibility is in front of me. So, the reason why I speak is just because at some point somebody asked me if I’d come speak, because apparently that’s something that happens when you write books! People decide that you can speak. So, I had been an English teacher for so long at that point that I was really comfortable in front of people.
I’ve been in front of teenagers for 15 years. It has kind of all worked together. The whole book writing thing was not as intimidating as it could have been. I was the yearbook sponsor at school, for example. It’s just weird how things sort of dovetail and fit together. You kind of get prepared for things without knowing you’re being prepared.
You’re just doing the next thing you think you’re supposed to do!
Building follower trust by doing what is in front of you
R: Right. Do the next thing, whatever is right in front of you. It may not have been your original idea, but, in your heart of hearts, when the Lord calls you to something, listen!
S: So there’s a peace that’s come on this side of things, just from knowing I didn’t force anything, you know what I mean?
To a certain extent, I have not been responsible for whatever these things that I’ve done and that Melanie has done. Um, we’ve really just done them because they were fun and we enjoyed them and it was a great way to be creative and a great way to, to hopefully give people a little time to pause and laugh and think in the middle of a really busy day.
Keep it real
R: Yes. That’s exactly what you do! Your Instagram bio reads, “I write, I speak. I watch TV.” And, that’s also your tagline for your blog “Read by 10.”
S: It was really accurate for a long time. I love everyday life. I love the ordinary stuff.
R: It shows who you really are! It shows that you have a giant sense of humor and you don’t really take yourself too seriously which lends itself greatly to follower trust. I love knowing that. I love it. Your books make me laugh. As I shared with you before, I have picked them up in times of grief or dark times.
Sometimes it’s because I just need a nice little laugh before I go to sleep.
Building follower trust – Don’t rush the process
R: Knowing you don’t take things super seriously, how are you using Instagram then to drive traffic to build follower trust? And where are you driving it to?
S: So, social media, Instagram in particular, has been a really good way to let people know you’ve got something going on. It’s a good way to do it, whether that’s through a post on your feed or through stories. One thing that Melanie and I have found is that when we have any podcast episode, a really good way to get the word out about that is to put something in our stories. It doesn’t have to be in a primary post on our feed, but just something that’s like, “Hey, here’s a podcast episode.” Lots of times we’re using Instagram as a reminder that tells people there is a podcast, then with the book writing stuff, Instagram has been so great in terms of keeping track.
In the main feed, I’ll post that I wrote a book or that I have a new book coming up. That’s typically when I’m not posting about something silly, which is what I usually post about, to be honest. Because I really like the relational side of Instagram, I like the peeks into real life.
Build follower trust by using IG as a relational tool
I tend to follow people who post a lot of real life with their families. If I’m going to use Instagram in a more business-y way, it’s going to be for the podcast and it’s going to be for books, generally.
R: I so agree with you. I feel like Instagram can be such a relational tool. I mean, people develop that trust with you. They feel like they know you when you just share parts of your day, like taking Hazel for a walk, or different real life things.
Interspersing them with the ads for what you talked about on the podcast, like your Amazon links and things. Sometimes, we do like Melanie does her fashion Friday. She’ll put links up on Instagram.
S: I only put up links to products when I really think people will enjoy them. That way people aren’t thinking, “There’s Sophie again, she’s being salesy.” You’re actually truly sharing things. I only share things if I really love them. I mean, that’s, that’s sort of my, that’s sort of our thing, you know, Melanie and I do a thing on the podcast every week where we do our five favorites and we take turns.
Share what you love
One week I will talk about my five favorites the next week she talks about hers and we really only talk about certain things that we are truly passionate about.
It doesn’t have to be spontaneous, but just somebody’s unfiltered opinion about something that they’ve enjoyed or sometimes even something they didn’t enjoy it. But, I feel like I have discovered so many great authors and books and occasionally even moisturizers through what somebody has shared on their social media.
I love to read that kind of stuff. I think it goes with the theme of this podcast, Authentic Online Marketing. We need to really be sure that we believe in the product. If you’re going to share a product, don’t just sign up to be an affiliate thinking, “I can make two bucks on this from Amazon or something.
Let’s be authentic about it, because if not, people can smell that a mile away.
R: You don’t want to feel like you have just like happened upon somebody’s sales pitch every day. I think it’s just part of building trust with the people you follow and the people who follow you. It’s like in friendship. If Kevin goes to coffee with you trying to sell you something, eventually you’re not really want to go to coffee with Kevin.
R: Exactly. There’s a balance there.
I feel like Instagram is a lot about relationships, you know, the platform is kind of designed that way.
Nuggets to build follower trust from “Stand All the Way Up”
R: Anyway, all that aside, let’s talk about your recent book “Stand All the Way Up” and let’s talk about some wisdom nuggets from it.
There’s some common ground between you and I, Sophie, we’re both in our fifties.
My audience is too, either that, or they’re old souls, they call themselves that or they social media, but they know they need to be on Instagram. As a 50 something year old, one of your quotes in your book that I pulled was.
We middle-aged moms have reached over half of our lives, we lived to tell the story and we’re ready to ready to be bold, we don’t want to play small, and we speak up. My audience wants to be a voice for their product, their podcast, they want to be authentic and right.
One of the things that you say is, we’re not going to change people’s minds by yelling on social media. How do you suggest we do this on social media while integrating how to build follower trust? You know, establishing our voice and our authority? How can we state our opinions with grace, right?
Two ways to build a safe place for follower trust
S: I don’t know that it’s all that different than it was when everybody was starting to blog back in the early two thousands, you know, because I remember back then thinking that, that one of the important things in terms of making the blog feel like a safe place for people was to 1.) post consistently. I think that’s important on Instagram too, so people get an idea of who you are. It’s just so much easier to trust someone’s voice in a podcast or be interested in a product that somebody has made.
So, I think it’s really important to post consistently. People get an idea of who it is on the other side of that product, piece of media, or that book that you’ve written or whatever. Then the other thing that I think is super important is 2.) to interact sincerely. It’s not just a one-way street. It’s not just sit and wait for people to come to you. You have to go out and find people you want to know more about, you want to know about their lives and be able to respond to them really sincerely and genuinely, with no motive other than just really trying to understand those people.
That may be my favorite thing about Instagram besides the pretty pictures is that I feel like I’ve learned a lot, especially over the last three or four years I’ve really kind of intentionally tried to pay better attention to the things people are saying. It’s been with no motive other than to want to understand people better and I think we have to interact sincerely when we’re on social media, whether that’s Twitter, Instagram, or whatever.
Build trust by organic interactions
Then, I think you kind of have to be patient as you do that. You’ll build an audience organically, you know, not because of a bunch of strategy, which is great.
I’m not a strategy person, but I envy people who are, so I think that when all those things are happening. You have to have grace to speak your mind a little bit more because people have an idea of who you are and what you’re about. You’re not just like this person who sweeps in every couple of weeks and lectures everybody in there.
What I have discovered is that there are very few people who are interested in anybody else telling them what they need to do or what they need to think. I just kind of have a mentality of wherever people say they are, I’m going to believe them.
That doesn’t mean that I’m going to agree with everybody, but if something matters to them, I believe it matters to them and I’m going to respect that it matters to them.
You know, it may be that over the course of our interactions online, after a post about a podcast episode, they may want to listen or they might not want to and that’s okay. But, I think not demanding things of the people who follow you is helpful in a time when the world is just asking so much of us and we have so much information coming out. It’s a bit of a relief to find people online who are just being themselves and are welcoming, warm, and tell the truth about their lives.
S: Basically, I see a lot of us having our own agenda. We know what we’re going to post on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, and we want to get our message out all the time, which is great by the way. The business coach that Melanie and I work with, she would be so proud of us if we would plan or have some idea of what we were going to do on Instagram and I think it’s great to do that. That’s not necessarily about your message. That’s just about your life.
Key to build trust = Invite conversations
R: It’s okay to invite conversation over at your place. Something I like to do is true or false.
I just put something out there on Stories and see what people say. I think if we did more listening, we would know our audiences better and we develop a better rapport with them.
S: One thing I know beyond a shadow of a doubt about the people who listen to the podcast is they are not interested in Melanie or me getting into anything that would be controversial.
That’s not because they don’t care about things that are controversial and it’s not because I don’t care, because Melanie does care, but our podcasts are just not the space for that. Our podcast is a place to talk about what we want. A couple of weeks ago, we talked about cereal. You know our podcasts are a place to just breathe a little bit.
It’s been good for me to realize that even though I listen, I have a lot of opinions. Everybody doesn’t necessarily need my opinion. There are other places that they would go for that. I think too, it’s good to know what your strengths and your weaknesses are.
Conflict makes me anxious. It makes me, makes me uncomfortable. Here’s what I’m not going to do on Instagram is court controversy. I’m not going to stir things up. But if somebody asks me a question, I’ll give them an honest answer. It’s just a balance.
You have to honor your personality and for some people, the planning is really a comfort to them. To know that they know what they’re going to post is great. I think the predictability of social media can really be helpful if that is something that works well for you.
R: A lot of this is just kind of knowing your own personality, where you need to hold yourself accountable, what makes you feel comfortable, whether that’s planning or rolling with it. For some people it might be going on Instagram live. They kind of like for things to flow freely and don’t care if they don’t have a plan.
For some people it’s going to be some artfully crafted reels that they’ve worked on for two weeks which that’s great. I just think it’s not as formulaic as we would like for it to be, but as people do what makes the most sense for them and they interact naturally and genuinely, I think that’s kind of its own role.
Stand All the Way Up
R: Could you quickly summarize for us why you wrote your book “Stand All the Way Up?”
S: Well, originally I was going to write a book called “Burn it All Down” because I was on the backside of my forties and I was aggravated with everything. Then I realized that was not necessarily going to be very uplifting. It ended up being a book more than anything about transition and change and about learning to lean into the change instead of fighting the change.
That all kind of became clear to me four years ago. I went to Kenya with my son and we were at a church on the side of a cliff that looked over a valley. When we got there, the women who participated in Compassion’s ministry at that church came and they sang us in to the church grounds. Then, they sang us into the sanctuary. They met us at the gate of the church and it was really beautiful. Just one of those really surreal things.
The book is really about a bunch of different figurative gates and what the Lord taught me walking through them.
R: I feel like a lot of us in our fifties feel that we are in the caregiving stage or that we’re letting go of children and entering empty nests or even becoming grandparents
A lot of us are afraid. We’re excited about stepping into this second half of life. But, it is such a huge time of transitions. That’s where I’ve kind of landed.
I think turning 50 has a way of forcing your hand a little bit with this kind of stuff. It’s like, Hey, we’re burning daylight. So there’s a lot I want to do. I feel like in some ways, I’m just getting started.
S: I want to go full blast as much as I can in all these areas of my life. I don’t want to get 20, 25 years down the road and look back and think, well, I totally held back. Played it safe. Not that the Lord wouldn’t be faithful and gracious if I played it safe.
Relating to your audience
I think for some people walking away from a job or walking into a new job or going back to college because there is a degree that they’ve always wanted to do or they wanted to go to seminary and they’ve never done it.
It’s the beginning of it. Sometimes it’s the continuation of something you’ve been doing for 30 years. I want to sit down and enjoy these grandbabies and I want to be available to my adult children.
It’s different for everybody, but I do think there’s something about turning 50. How much time is there and how do you make the most of this time in a way that I feel like honors God? How is the Word leading me?
S: About six years ago, my husband had a surprise 50th birthday party for me. My nephew came up to me and his parting words were just remember, you’re halfway to a hundred. I’m like, okay, thanks for that wake up call now I got to get busy here and do whatever it is I’m supposed to be doing the second half of life. I think what’s so weird to me about this stage of life.
R: Sophie, who’s been your biggest role model in your career?
S: I’m fascinated by how different kinds of leadership are so effective with different people. There’s no template that works for everybody, but the leaders have one thing in common and it’s that they really love people.
I can kind of look at different places in my life, but I don’t know that anybody has meant more to me than Beth Moore. In terms of how she has navigated the writing part of her life, in any place that you interact with her, whether that’s online, whether that’s at an event, whether that’s sitting on our porch, wherever you are. She’s exactly the same. Her honor and esteem for people and deep love for people is something that has impacted me a ton as a writer and a speaker. I think right beside her, in terms of that amazing example is Travis Cottrel who’s her worship leader and a great friend of Melanie for Travis and his wife.
Angela had been great friends to Melanie and but in terms of deep affection for people, my principal at school who is a writer and he has such deep affection for people.
My sister has also been such an example to me. She’s been in the same kind of career for over 30 years and her long walk in that career undergirded by this really deep affection for the people that she works with has been really instructive to me. Ultimately, I don’t know that anybody has been more of an example to me than my mama was. Not in any specific career function necessarily, not as a teacher necessarily, or somebody who works with teenage girls or as a writer, but as somebody who always put people first, always. Because of that, when I think about her legacy, I think that’s what it was. She loved people so sincerely and without agenda.
Make loving others your goal
I can’t think of anything I could do in my life where that would not be the most important thing to love people sincerely and without agenda. Romans 12:10, “Love one another with brotherly affection, outdo one another in showing honor.” I can’t think of any better verse to guide us as we work and lead in every aspect of our lives.
R: I love how you wrapped that up because we can take that right back to Instagram and love people without an agenda! You might have a product. We might have a podcast, a blog, or a book, but the important thing above all else is to love others.