How to find clients and build your audience without relying on social media, with Meg Casebolt

Listen to the episode:

“With relationships, it’s not about numbers. It’s about depth.”

Meg Casebolt

What happens to your business when you take an extended break from social media? Will it fall apart? Wither on the vine?

What if the answer is…not much?

Meg Casebolt is an SEO expert and the founder of Love at First Search, an agency that helps online businesses get found in search results, and to turn new readers into leads, subscribers and sales.

Meg’s business used to be super active on social media, until a few years ago when she took a 100-day social media break. Kind of by accident. That’s when Meg discovered that even though social media had been taking up a ton of her time, it wasn’t contributing much to her sales.

In this episode, we discuss Meg’s new book, Social Slowdown, which examines the intersection of entrepreneurship, social media, and mental health, and explore creative new ways to engage with your audience and find clients without relying on social media.

More from the episode

  • Meg explains the difference between social media and SEO. (As well as answering the question, what is SEO, actually?)
  • Brownies vs. Painkillers: How to determine what problem your work solves.
  • The pro and cons of using social media for your marketing.
  • How to set healthy boundaries around your social media usage.
  • What are some effective networking strategies for introverts?

About Guest

Meg Casebolt is a digital marketing strategist, SEO specialist, boy mom, productivity nerd, and bibliophile. Meg’s been helping business owners create beautiful, search-friendly websites and strategic content for the past 6 years.

Connect with Guest

SEO Strategy & Training for Online Entrepreneurs | Love at First Search

Additional Links

Social Slowdown podcast | Love at First Search

Social Slowdown: Take a social media break, set better boundaries, and market your business without sacrificing your mental health


Click here to view the transcript!

Meg: I feel like I’m in that boat all the time when I would go on social and be like, oh, Helen’s doing this. That’s really cool. Double tap. Keep going. Versus Hey Helen, I saw that thing that you’re doing. It’s really cool. Like making those personal connections, building those personal relationships, with relationships, it’s not about numbers. It’s about depth,

Jessica: What does it really take to become successful as a writer or artist?

There are a lot of destructive myths out there about what a creative career is supposed to look like. We’re told we shouldn’t care about worldly success or money. We’re told that if we’re good enough, everything would magically fall into place. That’s a lie and it keeps us struggling, baffled, and hungry for any shred of information that might shed light on how to keep making the work we love. That’s why I get any two artists or writers or any creatives really together in a room. And it’s a foregone conclusion that the conversation will turn to money and the nitty gritty reality of being a professional, creative.

I’m cartoonist and creative business. Coach Jessica Abel.

In my own life. The studio visit back channel conversations with other artists where we share our insights and hacks anxieties and red flags have been critical to any success I’ve achieved.

And now. I’m bringing that conversation to you. This is the autonomous creative.

my guest today is Meg Casebolt, founder of love at first search, an agency devoted to helping online businesses get found in search results like Google, YouTube, and iTunes. And then to turn those new readers into leads, subscribers, and sales.

That means she does S E O, which is search engine optimization. It’s all about making it easier for people to find your work via search.

And we’ll talk about that in a little bit. I know it’s slightly scary, but also extremely intriguing in equal measure to most people who listened to this podcast.

Really for anybody who creates content, the idea is pretty cool. People organically finding you. Wouldn’t that be nice?

A few years ago, Meg was in a situation that I think will sound familiar around here. Meg’s business was super active on social media, even though it made her feel anxious and overwhelmed. And she was burnt out.

Then she kind of accidentally took a hundred days off social media. Completely. Even though she was worried by the impact it would have on her business. She just couldn’t do it anymore.

And then. Nothing really changed. She’s still had leads. She still had new clients coming in.

Social media had been taking up a ton of her time without contributing very much to her sales. That’s when Meg decided to take a closer look at the intersection between social media, entrepreneurship and mental health. And that turned into a whole new project, social slowdown, which was first a podcast and is now a book. Social slow down, take a social media break, set better boundaries. And market your business without sacrificing your mental health.

Meg came to her business via a long and winding road involving nonprofit management and design so she very much gets the creative mindset.

She also mentioned in our prerecording chat that she’s a romance novel super fan. And I happen to know she’s extremely into Broadway musicals and very likely to quote song lyrics to you.

So after several years of focusing myself on how and why, and when to slow down or stop social media. I am so excited to have Meg here today to talk about it with us.

Do you find it hard to talk about your work or make it clear to potential clients how incredibly valuable it is? Have you wanted to find higher paying clients, but have no idea how? Does it feel scary to set your prices at a level that you know you need to hit to make your work sustainable?

Jessica Abel: If it does, that puts you in very good company, most of my clients. And in fact, most of the creative professionals I meet struggle with these same issues.

You, like them, probably have a creative career that’s based on your passion for your work. Your vision for how meaningful it can be for others and your commitment to a creative life.

You’ve probably managed to score some nice gigs along the way, via referrals, word of mouth, and pure determination.

You’re justifiably proud of your work and what you’ve achieved.

But you face a gap. Maybe a chasm.

You’re stuck on an income plateau and are so busy, keeping the treadmill rolling, you don’t have time to figure out how to grow.

You know you’ve got it in you to hit the next level and the one after that. But you see your career stalling because you’re not launching the ambitious work you envision.

And you want to do it all while taking care of yourself mentally and physically.

First of all. Let me just say that you’re a, bad-ass it is no joke to get as far as you have. But you know what got you here. I won’t get you where you need to go.

That’s why I’m excited to invite you to the simplify to amplify round table, a free live monthly conversation, where we get together to tackle the big questions, celebrate our successes and plot out what to do next.

Running a creative business is no joke. It’s complex. Issues crop up out of nowhere. And more often than not, we have no one to turn to, to ask for help. If you have a creative business at any stage of development from nascent to veteran, you’ll get a ton out of these sessions.

Bring your questions and join me and an amazing group of creative peers who take their business as seriously as you do at the free simplify to amplify round table.

Check out Jessica that’s J E S S I C a B E to register for the next session of the simplify to amplify Roundtable. I’ll see you there. Okay, now let’s start the show.

Jessica: Meg, welcome.

Meg: Thank you.

Jessica: Okay. So, for our audience here, can you start off by just kind of giving us the quick version of what is SEO and what does an SEO specialist do so we can understand where you’re coming from. And also how does SEO differ from social media as an audience building, visibility building, technique.

Meg: Sure. So SEO stands for search engine optimization. A search engine is any platform or tool that you use that has a search bar on it. Probably the most obvious one would be Google. So if somebody is looking for a creativity business coach or productivity coach, they might go to Google and type that in and find Jessica, right?

Also YouTube is the second biggest search engine on the planet. People often go there for tutorials, not just to watch people unbox gifts or whatever people do on YouTube but they are going to discover something new.

Apple Podcasts, Amazon, eBay, these are all search engines that you can use so that– and here’s the second half of your question– so that when your audience is looking for what it is that you offer, for what it is that you can do to help them, you will already have thought through what it is that they need, and you can show up in those search results for them.

This is very different from social media, which is on platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn to a certain extent, TikTok to a certain extent, right?

Like those are platforms that are meant to connect us with others, and the algorithm shows us whatever it wants to show us in whatever order based on I don’t know, chronology? Reach? Interactions? Who knows why, right?

And depending on when you show up on those platforms, that’ll tell you what is shown to you. You’re not going to seek out information. You’re not going to solve a specific problem. A lot of times, these social media tools are much more about entertainment, connection networking, but not necessarily problem solving.

And I would say that that’s one of the biggest differences in terms of how these two strategies can work differently for your business, which is if somebody has a problem and they want to solve it, they’re not going to go to Facebook and be like– well, maybe, you know, maybe they will. Maybe they will.

I use an example a lot, which is I have a friend who woke up in the middle of the night one, one morning, I guess, and she walked downstairs because her dog was barking a lot.

And there was a badger sitting in her kitchen. And she didn’t sit down and wait for a Facebook ad to show her like is there a badger in your kitchen?

Do you need pest control services? Right? She’s like, Oh, I don’t know if I can swear on this. Oh, shit. There’s a badger in my kitchen. Like, what do I do? And she, she Googled. And it wasn’t like, what is the average size of a badger?

Right? Like, who cares? She wants to know, how do I, is it safe for me to get this? Like, how do you get a badger out of your kitchen? How did it get into my kitchen? Right.

And she figured out that the dog door had been left open, and the badger had walked in behind the dog, and so what you have to do is you block off the house, and then you make clanging noises anywhere else, and you turn on the lights, and the badger walked right out, right?

But like, search is for those moments where people have a problem that needs to be solved, ideally fairly quickly and if they find you and you’re like, do you have a badger in your kitchen? Here’s how to get it out. Right? Like they feel so seen and so heard and they trust you immediately because you’re so specific with the problem that you’re solving for them.

Jessica: I think that the question is going to come up in this community, a lot of people here are writers, they’re artists, they’re people who are not doing something that solves a problem like there’s a badger in your kitchen. They’re doing something a little more difficult to kind of express in some sense.

And some ways, I think there’s, there’s probably some value in showing up on social media, regularly talking about whatever it is that you’re interested in, that your work is about just to build relationships and community around it.

It’s not necessarily business building in a direct sense, but it can be community building.

And SEO can sometimes be a big question for people. Like what if you’re a romance author. It’s not like a kind of immediate pain solution kind of situation.

Meg: You are a vitamin instead of a painkiller.

Jessica: Yeah. Or a brownie instead of a painkiller.

Meg: Oh, I want a brownie now. I have done a lot of work with people who are like jewelry designers and there isn’t really like, sometimes there’s a problem to be solved about, oh, I’m in a wedding and I need a rhinestone necklace that will match the other bridesmaids or whatever, but there’s often not an urgency behind it.

And sometimes it’s like, I don’t even know exactly what I’m looking for, but if I see it, I know that I’ll like it. Right. Sometimes there’s some of that vibe to it of I know I need a necklace. I don’t know even what it should look like, but I want it to be silver. And then they might go, Oh, a silver pendant necklace.

Oh, but actually I want it to be a silver pendant necklace, maybe with some turquoise. As people are searching, they might get more specific. Now, if you are building your website and you have silver turquoise pendant necklaces, but you only call it the Suzanne necklace then nobody’s going to know.

Jessica: Right. So there are ways to talk about like, you’re looking for these qualities, whatever, like you’re saying, like, how do you discover romance novels? How do you discover things that are going to be pleasurable for you? You’re looking with certain kinds of keywords then too, even if you’re searching Reddit or whatever else. You’re not going to find those things by searching in something like Facebook or Instagram easily, like it’s going to be really hard.

I find search, I have tried search in those platforms, and it has not worked for me. You get totally useless results.

TikTok’s a little different. And my, my daughter who’s 15 basically uses TikTok instead of Google. Like she finds like recipes and fashion and all the stuff that she wants on TikTok by searching. So that is, I think, something that’s shifting, where that sort of crosses the boundary between search and social.

Meg: Yeah, I agree. And I think TikTok a little bit different because it does have a very strong discovery algorithm

versus many of the other social media platforms don’t show you anything new. They show you featured content, but not necessarily new things that are outside of the scope of what you’re looking for.

TikTok’s much more of a search platform.

But to your point, even with romance novels, I’m still searching for tropes in romance novels.

Jessica: Sure. That’s what I’m saying. Like, there’s still things, right? There’s still keywords you can put in to a search of some kind, and you’re looking for, I know there’s like, I don’t read romances, but there’s like a bunch of specific types of romances, right? And people are like, I’m in this camp or this camp, right?

Meg: Really want like an enemies to lover vampire romance.

Oh yeah. yeah. Right. But those people are seeking out very specific.

And that’s the

benefit of search is that you can be specific in your content creation and give a list of here’s all the, the vampire romance novels, and people who are looking for werewolves won’t find vampires and vice versa.

So it can allow you to be more specific and it can allow you to get found for something that is, you know, maybe not a lot of people are looking for this topic, but they can find you very easily and you can rank for it very quickly because you can get targeted.

And it doesn’t have to be, either you do search or you

Jessica: No, of course.

Meg: So you know, a lot of people will create something on their website or record a podcast interview like we’re doing right now. And then you can take the podcast interview and use the script and get the transcript and put it on your website so that people who aren’t here live can find this interview later. But then you can take that and repurpose it and put that on TikTok or Instagram Reels.

So it doesn’t have to be one or the other. You can continue to create content in front of the audience that you’re hanging out with on social, but it doesn’t have to be you must post on social every day

Jessica: Yeah. It’s that intensity, I think that is so demoralizing and like the demand that you need to prioritize that over all other things.

So your new book is called Social Slowdown. Do you use social media? And if so, how?

Meg: I still use it, but like almost, I probably log into my accounts once a week and just make sure that nobody’s DM me. LinkedIn a little bit more than that, but I mean, but as we were saying in the comment box, it’s like the notifications can be, even when I’ve adjusted my notifications, I’m still getting people cold DMing me and saying, don’t you need SEO services? And I’m like, did you look at my profile?

If y’all

are those notifications, like, it’s not personal. They’re just spamming everybody. Even those of us that do SEO for a living still get those. Don’t you want rank number one for whatever search term you want? And I’m like, yeah, I want the search term that you want.

Jessica: You’re going to get me above you on the search results? That would be great.

Meg: And the other difference I think from where I used to be even five years ago till now is I go into the social platforms because there’s something specific that I’m looking for.

I’m like, oh, I want to post something on to the local by nothing group or somebody told me to check out this specific post.

And then I’m out because it’s just like I think I’ve detached my ego from my profiles and like the vanity metrics around it. And also I have found other ways to spend that time. It used to be, I would just be like, Oh, I’m bored. I’m waiting in line at the grocery store. Let me flick open Instagram and like kind of see what’s going on.

But that’s a habit that we can choose to engage in or we can choose to draw back from. So my boundaries around social media are really tight, not on everything in my life, but social media I can be like less than an hour a week I’m spending on these platforms, but it took a long time to get there.

Jessica: Yeah. Yeah. And I mean in your book you, I’ve never been a huge social media person.

I’ve never like been that on it, but you did bring me some clarity on a change that I’ve observed without really thinking about it too much.

Because I know that it used to feel possible to kind of keep up with people and things you care about by visiting a few feeds, checking some stuff out.

And basically now when I log in, I never know what I’m going to get.

I just get fed suggestions and ads and I was just thinking the other day how much I miss free weekly tabloid papers where somebody’s job it was to go find out what are all the movies that are on in town, what are all the music shows. All the venues would send in little ads. You could go one place, you could find out everything’s going on.

Here I’m in Philly, tons of stuff going on and I follow all these local businesses and I follow all the local restaurants and I never see anything from anybody. I never see and I have no idea unless I happen to find some post or decide to go to their profile.

That’s all gone. And it’s, it’s so just stuff being thrown at me. It’s so passive. It’s all about consumption, which I think as somebody who’s a producer, that’s really difficult too.

Feeling like I need to either step into this like 100 percent content producer role, or just sit here and let stuff fly at me randomly, however they decide.

Meg: And I think also the stuff that’s flying at you is often, the people who are bragging about how successful they are, and then they get, because they have a larger audience, they get more reach, and therefore they get shown to more people, so it’s sort of the self fulfilling prophecy, and those are often the people who are paying to get in front of you, too. And saying, here’s how you can market your business to be successful like I am, and building this grand narrative, but still paying $2 a click to get people to join their email list.

So they’re paying to get in front of you and then saying, here’s how you can use my course to get organic reach, even though they aren’t successful in getting the organic reach.

Like there’s a lot of, I don’t want to call it gaslighting, but there’s a bit of gaslighting happening on these platforms where we are being told that we are inferior and we just need their simple solution in order to be as successful as they are.

But maybe they got on the platform 10 years ago and built on a different algorithm, or they’re using strategies that they are not the ones who are selling it, or they’re using strategies as you and I spoke on my podcast recently, like for a business model, that isn’t appropriate for the business model and the people that they’re trying to reach, but they’re not giving that clarity.

And I’m looking around this room. We have people across the gender spectrum in this room, but I would say that many of us have been socialized as women and we have not, if somebody says to us like, you’re doing this wrong, we get that vibe of like, oh my gosh, I’m doing this wrong.

Not like, well, well, let me think critically about what it is that you’re telling me. Right. We have been socialized to internalize and to look at somebody who’s successful and say, why am I not that successful? What, what am I not doing versus what’s the real narrative here? Show me your book. Show me how profitable you are.

And then you can tell me about your seven figure months

Jessica: but that too, but like they may actually be profitable, but what they’re doing won’t apply to you. If they built their platform at a different time and under different circumstances and they have different kinds of resources, it doesn’t apply.

I don’t think these people are intending to gaslight anybody, but they are effectively because they’re showing these kind of… like there’s a series of decisions you make around growing your visibility, growing your audience that start from what kind of audience do you want? What do you need?

And then they roll out from there to what are you actually going to do to make that happen. Right.

And they’re starting at that end saying, here’s this thing you could do to have this audience, but it doesn’t, it doesn’t relate back.

And this is also what we talked about on your podcast. It doesn’t relate back to what works for the person, the person who’s trying to create that audience.

I mean, are they somebody who is going to be able to show up on a social media platform on a daily basis? Are they somebody who needs a massive audience? Are they somebody who needs the kind of audience who shows up in this kind of situation?

None of those questions are getting asked. So I think that that’s, those are all, it’s just that there’s a big piece that’s missing of building a solid foundation before figuring out what the tactics are that you’re going to use and just hearing all of this chatter all the time about do this, do this, do this. This is how it’s done. This is how it’s done. And of course, because their job is visibility. They’re the most visible, right?

Meg: The ones who are the loudest are the ones that we’re seeing, but there are hundreds of thousands of people who are running very successful businesses that aren’t screaming about it from the rooftops, but we don’t hear their stories so we think, well, that must not be the way that it needs to happen.

Jessica: That it might not, must not be working.

So you talked about your old Facebook group because you used to run part of your lead generation on a Facebook group and how it felt like betting on a losing horse. That was your quote. Was the moment when you realized that was happening, was that kind of scary for you to like, realize that it wasn’t working.

Meg: Terrifying. When you think I have spent so much time building this group into a couple hundred people. I have invested my time and my team’s, like money into my team, my resources into creating an archive of content that people can come in and they can follow through the pathway and they can go through all these trainings that I’ve created.

And I’ve developed these relationships with people and I’ve hired somebody to put up the engagement posts and make the quizzes and like we built this entire system and then I would run a live challenge or do a Facebook live and either nobody would show up or nobody would buy from it. I was like, what am I doing wrong?

Again, coming back to like somebody told me this would work. What am I doing wrong? Versus the recognition that after a while my people didn’t want to be in Facebook groups anymore, that the people who were going to buy had already bought and everyone else, I was giving a lot of value in a free group and they got what they needed out of the free challenges.

So they didn’t need me. They didn’t need to give me money because I was giving it all away for free. I was, I wanted to be helpful. I wanted to be supportive.

Jessica: but there’s a balance between being helpful and doing your entire job for free.

Meg: For free. And the expectation then that they would get access to my brain, my time, my heart, without also providing those resources to help me do that, to put money on the line really, but it was really also scary to walk away from the Facebook group because it felt like a sunk cost.

Jessica: Yeah. One of the things you talk about in your book is the idea of how social media is unpaid labor.

And we are doing labor, we’re doing labor literally to support these companies because they don’t exist. Their product doesn’t exist unless we do the work to create the content.

And artists and writers, creative people in general, are already, they’re already used to this idea of doing tons of un and underpaid labor. And I just wondered, what you’re just talking about feels like it’s connected to that.

I mean, you have a service based business. It’s not the same kind of business, but it’s like that feeling that you need to be just, and this is also, this is some of that sort of business influencer culture of like give away all this value for free, do all this stuff for free, balanced with, it is important to help people get to know who you are and what you can do.

Right. And if you are an author, if you are an artist, people need to see or read bits of what you do so that they understand that it’s for them. So how did that, going from that group, then not having a group, how does that balance out?

Meg: For me, it was what can I do instead? So yes, it was terrifying to say, okay, I’m not going to do this anymore. But then instead of just saying burn it down, walk away.

What am I going to take those time, energy, mental resources and put them into instead? For me it was a lot of coffee chats with people and saying who should I talk to next? Who should I introduce, who do you know that I should talk to. Not even like who in my network but trying to get into those weaker ties

of my network and saying who else should I know?

Starting my own podcast was part of that because it gave me a strategy. It gave me an opportunity to interview new people and to expand my network and to create content that showed my values that I still owned.

And that I could have, in my case, I really wanted to be having deeper conversations. I didn’t want this to be 15 second snippets or 60 second point at the screen and have the words pop up.

That just wasn’t the way that I wanted to engage with my audience.

There are people for whom that works incredibly well for their businesses, especially to your point, people who are creators.

And if they can get in front of people and they can show their products or give a taste of their work, sometimes 60 seconds is enough.

Sometimes 60 seconds is all you should be giving away so that we are not giving away everything for free. So it’s not that there’s one thing or another, but I think we can think critically about how do I want to be investing my time in my marketing.

Jessica: Mm hmm. Yeah.

Meg: are the strategies that have worked well for me previously too? Because I built my whole business on referrals until I worked with a business coach who said, well, referrals aren’t sustainable.

You need to have an email list and a this and a this and a this. And then I built all those other things and my referrals dried up and I didn’t have the money to pay that business coach anymore.

Jessica: Okay.

Meg: You laugh because it’s true.

Jessica: Yeah. When I think of the business coaches, I have paid for various things that did not pan out the way it was planned. Yeah. That’s a lot of money.

Okay. So the last third or so of your book is a very practical hands on guide to creating a marketing plan without reliance on social media, which doesn’t mean if you like it or you’re using it and it’s good for you that you need to leave it.

But how do you take some of, like you’re saying, take some of that energy that’s freed up by not spending a bunch of time on it and do something else with it? Because you got to do something. Right.

So obviously it’s a third of a book. There’s more than we can cover here, but can you give us like, I don’t know, some top ideas or highlights from that how to part?

Meg: Sure. So my recommendation is to think of your marketing in sort of two buckets. One is your content.

And to an extent, social media could be part of your content marketing strategy. I recommend that for most businesses, we have some email marketing involved.

It doesn’t have to be, here’s your, you know, seven part email sequence that automates and segments and ping, ping, ping, ping, has all these triggers and stuff.

But it can be sending a monthly broadcast or having a nurture sequence to welcome people.

Having a way to sort of automate that onboarding to let people get to know you can be really helpful. Your content can be something that’s more forward facing a podcast, a YouTube channel, a blog.

For a lot of us it starts from a blog because it’s something that you can sit down and write anytime. You don’t have to, you know, for my podcast I have to be prepared.

I have to– like, right now I’m kind of feeling a little scratchy. It’d be a bad day to record my podcast. Then I would do my YouTube channel, man. I had to like, do the hair and makeup thing. It was a big commitment. I had to pay an editor to do that work for me.

Whereas a blog can be a fairly low barrier to entry, but you don’t just want to write a blog to write a blog. You want it to be strategic and think, what is the thing that people would need this blog post to tell them? What is the reason I’m creating this particular piece of content?

Jessica: Right. Like, do you have a badger in your kitchen?

Meg: Right, but I have that right there on my, my website. You can go search for the term badger and you’ll find my badger in the kitchen post.

Um, or maybe the content marketing, you don’t need to be the one creating it.

Maybe part of your strategy is targeted outreach to go on other people’s podcasts, to be interviewed as an expert instead of being the one hosting the interview or

Jessica: Yeah and for people who are artists or creators of various kinds, often PR, you know, be on other people’s podcasts, getting articles written about your work, getting your work reviewed. These are very powerful ways to get your work out there, to get people, you know, being cited in things. I was talking to Oliver Burkeman and he quotes me regularly, the pay yourself first with time thing. And he’s like always with credit.

And I was like, I know people come to me for that. So it’s like that cross pollination there between our audiences happens because I sent him some of my work. He liked it. And then he wrote it up in The Guardian and that’s been a huge thing for me, right?

So people who are in this community tend to be people with great ideas, doing great work. People in the media world need that. They need content that’s awesome. They need stories.

So, pitching reporters with your work is one way to use the time you might otherwise be making Instagram posts that get seen by three people.

Meg: Right. And the other benefit of getting featured in press in particular is that if they link to your website, then you also have the SEO benefit of having that link that goes from The Guardian to your website and people respect The Guardian and Google goes, Oh, look, The Guardians talking about Jessica. I should pay more attention to her. She’s more of an authority than I realized.

So there is an SEO benefit to pretty much everything that I just listed in the content marketing bucket. And then to your other point, the other bucket that I recommend, the other thing that I think about when it comes to my marketing is what are the relationships that I can leverage?

What are the communities I’m already in that I can find collaborative partners who I can borrow their audience, they can borrow my audience? Whether that’s a conversation or I talk about their email freebie and share it with their audience, or I interviewed them someplace. What are the ways that I can collaborate with those people?

What are the partnership opportunities that I have for a promotional activity? If it’s a service business, I work a lot with website designers and copywriters because they need somebody to do their SEO strategy. So I don’t need to have a thousand people on that list. I need like 10 good design partners and that could fill my books for a year.


So it doesn’t always have to be how can you get to know more people? Although you can connect with new people, but who’s already in your world that, I mean, maybe you’ve liked their posts, but you haven’t actually reached out to them in a while?

You know, I feel like I’m in that boat all the time when I would go on social and be like, oh, Helen’s doing this. That’s really cool. Double tap. Keep going. Versus Hey Helen, this would be Voxer. This wouldn’t be like an actual phone call because I’m a millennial.

But hey Helen, I saw that thing that you’re doing. It’s really cool. Like making those personal connections, building those personal relationships, instead of feeling like you have to get breadth. With relationships, it’s not about numbers. It’s about depth, meeting the right people and connecting with them.

Jessica: Yeah, I just had this whole, I teach undergraduates as well as doing this and it was like talking to all of my undergraduates about relationships yesterday.

I was like, listen, if you’ve been to my other classes with me, you know how I feel about this. Your network is everything and the people here in this room are going to be your network and the people you meet.

it’s, building a network and keeping it alive and keeping it strong is the difference between a career that happens and a career that doesn’t. It really is.

Meg: I actually just had a play date with one of my kid’s friends. They’re six years old, they’re in first grade. And I was talking to the mom and she was like, ah, I really want to start my own business, but I feel like I need five more credentials before I do it. And I said, or you need one person to vouch for you.

Right? That’s the benefit of the network is you need one person to vouch for you.

Jessica: Yeah, exactly. Yeah.

Jessica Abel: At the top of the show, I invited you to the free simplify to amplify Roundtable, where I meet monthly with a group of awesome creative professionals just like you to dig into the challenging questions that come up all the time when you’re out there on your own, trying to run a small business and make it work.

This is just a quick nudge.

If you’re listening to this episode and questions are popping up for you. If you’re thinking about how what we’re talking about would apply in your case, or maybe new ideas are bubbling up.

I got to say the simplify to amplify Roundtable– Star for short. — is the perfect place to get more clarity.

So save your zoom window at And let’s get your questions answered. And get your creative business moving in the right direction.

It’s free. It’s live and I’d love to see you there.

So open up your phone right now and go to Jessica to save your spot.

Alright, back to the show.

Meg: I want to answer Gina’s question from the chat. She asked a really good one, which is what’s a good way to start relationships with somebody you only know as a virtual acquaintance? Can you just message them and be like, Hey, do you have a half an hour?

That works sometimes depending on what’s happening in my life. If somebody messages me, I’ll be like, yeah, let’s hop on a call. Another thing that I love to do is go to a platform like a LinkedIn and see if you have any mutual connections with that person and then ask that person.

Hey, Jessica. I saw that you’re friends with Katie.

Can you just send me an email introduction? Having that sort of ambassador who can help with that introduction, who can vouch for you, can be really helpful. I’ll also find something that that person created and start it with a compliment.

I’ve been listening to your podcast for a long time. I love the most recent episode that you did. Do you want to hop on a call and talk about it? Or if you have a platform, I love that episode you did. Do you want to come on my podcast and talk about it?

Jessica: I

think that last one will definitely work. But the one where you’re like, I love your podcast episode. The additional twist to this which comes from Michelle Warner and her thank you strategy is don’t just say, I love your thing. Talk about something very specific that you love about it and then what did you do with that thing? How did you implement that?

Because if you’re just saying, thank you, I love it. The person’s going to read it and go like, that’s nice and then file the email, but they’re not going to remember you.

But if you tell a story, like just a sentence or two about what it meant to you and how it changed your mind or what kind of effect it had on you, that’s something that definitely really sticks with people.

And don’t worry if you don’t get an answer. Like you could write another one a month later and be like, Hey, new podcast episode. That was amazing.

No, one’s sad to get those things. They’re going to remember you. And at one point or another, there’s going to be an opportunity to actually connect with them directly.

It’s really, really powerful, but it does require putting a little thought into it. Not just writing a straight up like, Hey, you’re awesome. I think you’re awesome. You know, I needed to hear that today. None of that. That’s just not useful to you or them. I mean, it’s nice, but it’s like just nice.

Meg: Yeah. And I just put Michelle’s website into the chat box because I think that she’s brilliant about her approaches to doing this and I highly recommend checking her work out. But I love that reminder that like, you need to personalize it. You need to give yourself a reason for that person to agree to your time, right? Like you and I both host podcasts and so we’re constantly getting pitches that are like, love your podcast, would love to come on and talk to you about this. Like, dude,

Jessica: guys, unrelated thing.

Meg: podcast. I have a podcast called Social Slowdown. Do you know how often I get pitched for people who are like how to get more Instagram followers?

I’m like, did you look at the brief? Did you read anything on the website?

Jessica: And I, I’m doing a podcast full of creative people and for people with creative concerns and I get stuff like my boss was the top 40 under 40 on Forbes and I’m like, okay, whatever, like nobody I’m talking to is going to care about that.

Yeah, I just ignore those and delete them.

But the point, I think the point being is like, if you’re trying to develop a relationship, start by developing a relationship. Think about what this person’s work means to you, even if it’s one way, because they haven’t answered you yet. You’re starting to understand where your threads cross and how those things, what could be the basis of a connection with this person.

Meg: I think the first time you and I talked, you were like, I live in Philadelphia. And I was like, I went to college in Philadelphia. Let’s talk. Like it wasn’t how can we collaborate with each other to mutually grow our businesses? It was me making fun of Philadelphia and you defending it. If I remember

Jessica: No, I think I did that. I think you are misremembering that conversation.

Meg: Most, most Philadelphians do come to its defense when I start to bash it.

Jessica: Yeah, but I’m not a Philadelphian. So no, I

Meg: but it doesn’t have to be how can we leverage our businesses and how– it can start with what we have in common

Jessica: And I think it’s important to always bring those things in.

So, I think that for, again, a lot of people who come through this group, the idea of one to one relationships feels like, wow, I’m trying to sell thousands of books. How did that help me?

And I get it, but I also think that those kinds of relationships those are what turn into opportunities to go and give a talk or to do a book talk like this and be in front of somebody else’s audience or to get a connection to the third party that you might need. There’s all kinds of reasons to build a network that aren’t about selling to– selling anything, selling to one reader, or selling one print or whatever it is.

It’s really about thinking much more broadly about the ecosystem in which you exist and where you want people to, how you want people to encounter you.

Meg: And the recognition that not everyone’s going to buy from you, but everybody knows somebody else who might.

Jessica: Yeah, exactly. Eventually that those things start to come together and the more seeds you plant, the more you get to get from that.

There’s another, there’s a follow up here, which is as an introvert, what do we talk about over a coffee date? Just chat or how can I add value for them? If I’m trying to get clients and don’t want to appear desperate.

Well, first of all, don’t ask for clients. Like don’t, don’t ask referrals at all. Like the first time you talk to somebody, if they say, how can I help you say like, well, if you happen to know somebody who needs da da da, let me know, I’d be happy to talk to them.

You’re looking for points where you’re crossing over. Again, like sharing about how your businesses might fit together.

Jessica: You’re looking for ways to help them as well. How can you be of service to their enterprise, whatever it is?

So first I think, I always on a call with somebody new, I’m always just like, tell me about your business. Who do you work with? What do you do? That kind of thing. And then I expect them to ask me that also. And then we’re starting to find things that cross over. What do you do?

Meg: Yeah, and I think instead of it being, how can I get clients from this conversation? It’s how can I help this person? And hopefully there’s some reciprocity there.

It may not be immediate. Oh, great. I love hearing about that. And do you know this person yet? Who can I introduce you to? How can I help you with this? Which may not turn into money, but goodwill is just as important, I think.


much harder to track. It’s much, you know, you have like a coffee date with somebody that doesn’t actually turn into– I have coffee dates that come out of, or clients that come out of coffee dates that I had three or four years ago.

And then, Oh, somebody said that they needed an SEO person and I thought of you. You never know when that’s going to happen or who it’s going to come from.

And so it doesn’t feel as… it doesn’t feel like as good of a use of your time to invest in those relationships because you also can’t open up your phone and be like, Oh, what was my reach and my engagement on this coffee chat? It’s harder to measure, but it is still important to track.

Jessica: It also does feel good because you’re talking to a human who’s interested in what you’re doing. So like there’s some very, it’s a very direct feedback loop, which I actually really enjoy when I’m having those kinds of chats. I definitely, there are definitely times when you talk to somebody, you’re like, Oh, this is not a fit. And then that’s fine.

You have total permission to never talk to that person again, or never reach out to them again. And not make time in your schedule for them. That’s fine. And appropriate. You know you’re there for a reason. You should know you’re there for a reason. And hopefully they know you’re there for a reason too and they’re not expecting to just– nobody opens up their calendar just because. There’s some kind of reason behind it.

Meg: And I think, you know, you don’t know what it’s going to turn into. I had coffee chats seven years ago that turned into me hiring a business coach that sent me leads.

I’ve had them that turn into masterminds that we talk every quarter and have for five years, and you don’t know what that person is going to reach out to you with later and say, Hey, I thought about you. Are you

interested in that? So going into it with an open mind instead of, what can I get right now? How can I help this person right now? It’s building a network that may or may not pay off right away.

Jessica: Yeah. And a much lighter weight ask you can almost always ask is, who else do you know who you think I should talk to? And so that’s always, I think like 95 percent of the time, that’s an appropriate question to ask. And you could then get an introduction to one or two more people and maybe those people will be a closer fit to what you need in your network.

Meg: And maybe it’s not a coffee chat, right? I have a lot of clients who have success with personal email outreach

of saying, Hey, you know, I am doing this new thing.

Do you know anyone who might be interested that you can introduce me to? And I don’t have to get on a call to tell that person

something, but if I have that goodwill already established, I’m like, Oh, great. Let me. Have you? I was just on this podcast. You want to talk to this person, right? These connections can happen without needing everything to be that 30 minutes on zoom connection.

Jessica: Yeah. And to get back to social media, like I’ve used linkedIn, especially, but also Instagram messaging for these kind of conversations and never talk to somebody on the phone. We’ll go back and forth a few times and sort of get introduced to somebody else via the same messaging platform.

So there are definitely ways to use that as well to get back to the social media thing. We did have another question. I want to make sure we get to which I think it’s important in terms of the slowdown part of Social Slowdown. Leah asks, how did you get there? How did you get to the point of checking in once a week?

Is it just strong boundaries around the scrolling habit? And you do actually talk about in this, your book, you talk about weaning yourself off and you give some steps.

So I definitely really recommend that.

Meg: For me it started completely accidentally because I burned out. So I, as Jess shared, I had a Facebook group.

I decided to close it down, and then once I let go of my social media manager who was running it for me, I didn’t have somebody there to be like, Hey, what are we gonna post on Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday?

And without having that prompt from somebody else, I sort of just forgot. Like, there’s, there’s the Meg has ADHD answer.

Without somebody to tell me, hey, here’s your executive functioning you need to do, um, but after about, I think it was about 40 days after I made that decision, I looked at my calendar and I went, huh, I guess I didn’t really need that. I needed to walk away because I needed the white space because I was feeling very unhappy with Facebook at the time.

And then after I did, and I realized that, well, at the time I was still also creating YouTube videos, blogs and emails every week. And those were still going out to my list. So I didn’t feel like I had stopped marketing. I had just stopped posting on social media. Which is the difference. I think sometimes we feel like we have to post on social or nobody will believe that we’re working.

And by still having that outlet of look, I have this YouTube video, but I’m not going to repost it to a Facebook group cause I don’t have a Facebook group anymore so you have to just go to YouTube. That felt really good to still have that production happening.

And then once I’d been a couple months of just like, okay, I don’t have the Facebook group. I’m not going to post on the thing. And I was still getting clients from my referral network. I kind of realized maybe that wasn’t where my leads were coming from anyway. And that also helped me detach, that knowledge of I was doing that, but it was really hard to track whether or not it was working. And when I took a step back, I didn’t see a major difference in my sales pipeline.

Okay. That’s good to know.

Now I did put more effort in my email marketing at that point because I thought if I no longer have this sort of space to nurture people, how do I want to engage with them? How do they want to engage with me?

I still wanted to build that relationship. I still wanted to have a place where I could be in dialogue with people, but I made the decision of, I don’t want it to be in Facebook.

I don’t want it to be in the Instagram DMs. I trained my team and had a canned response that we would put in. They would check the Instagram DMs and if people were like, Oh, let’s talk about this. I’d be like, great. Here’s my email address. Please go email. Fill out my contact form or email my support address because then we won’t lose you.

It’s really hard to like mark on red and have to go back in your DMs and remember who you were talking to and what do they need and I can’t put that on my calendar very easily and it doesn’t integrate with my project management tool nearly as easily as just tapping something in my email that will tag it that will send it to ClickUp.

Right? Like, it’s much more difficult to track and to not lose people in that process. So

I just tried to push everybody into my inbox.

Jessica: Yeah, I think Chris asked a good question here, though, because I think that there’s a distinction to be made. And this is also goes back to your like standing in the grocery line and scrolling Instagram. Chris says, I’ve often thought that Facebook started out as a personal network and that the business world tried to steal it. And that was a mistake. Is there an argument to place Facebook and any other social media for that matter in a personal only category?

Meg: Yeah, and I think that’s okay, right? I was reading something recently. What was it? Facebook and Instagram just rolled out Threads, which is like their new thing.

And I saw an

article pop up the day after Threads was released. It was like, how long until marketers ruin Threads? Because it can be fun. It can be engaging. I used to love going on Facebook and like poking my brother and seeing what my college friends were up to and seeing all the baby pictures and the wedding pictures.

And then I started running an online business and all that I see, thanks to the algorithm, is business and marketing related things. And my mom will even be like, Did you see that so and so got married? And I’m like, I don’t know. It doesn’t, even though I’m friends with them, I don’t see it anymore because Facebook doesn’t make as much money from that as they do from showing me these ads and these targeted things.

Jessica: Well, that’s what I was saying about like tabloid papers that I miss the free weeklies. Because I follow actively follow stuff in my local area, and yet I still don’t see anything.

And so I agree that when I do use… I don’t use Facebook at all, but when I do use Instagram, I use it just as a human and I’m like looking at my human interests, not at my business interests, generally speaking, but I still find it super frustrating.

So I do think you can make those divisions. For me personally, it still doesn’t work on a personal level either and I try to delete it from my phone.

When I don’t need it for a business purpose, I just get it off the phone. So I only look at it every once in a while on the desktop.

You have Meg, and we don’t need to go into the details here, but you have a bunch of specific ways to think about how to decrease the amount of time you’re spending on social media, how to like put boundaries around it in the book that I’m sure come from your interviews as well.

Meg: Absolutely. Yeah. And I’ve had people come on and say, like, I thought I had to be on all the platforms for my business. And then

I realized that I just like to watch TikTok videos of people making creepy doll houses.

And so I’m not, I’m not going to post on TikTok anymore because that’s not enjoyable. It doesn’t help me get clients. It doesn’t feel like a good use of my time.

That is just going to be like a entertainment platform for me when I’m relaxing at the end of the night. That’s a choice that you can make.

Jessica: For sure. Yeah.

Meg: You don’t have to post about your business in all the places all the times in order for those tools to be useful to you. You can say, I’m gonna use LinkedIn for my networking.

And then I’m just going to enjoy these platforms for what they were actually intended to do. What was the intended purpose of Facebook? It was to connect people. It wasn’t to sell your offers.

Jessica: Initially.

Meg: Intitially. Of course their mission has evolved and changed over time. Instagram started as a photo sharing platform, then it became a video sharing platform, now it’s more of a shopping network, right?

Like, these things are going to change and evolve. And if you’re spending all your time building up an audience on a platform that could very easily change its mission statement, At the drop of a hat and go, Oh, we’re not photos anymore. Then you could be investing in something that could completely disappear. Or, I mean, even worse, you get shut out of the platform.

Jessica: Yeah. I mean, it’s hard though. It’s hard when you have so when you, you’re talking about one kind of thing, which is building a business, building an audience for your creative work in some sense or another on a platform. There are arguments for that, there are arguments against that.

I mean, I think everybody has to decide for themselves whether it’s actually something that is actually functioning for your business the way you intend it to.

of course, when you do decide this is something I’m going to invest time and energy into, that means what you just said is a danger, which is like the algorithm can change at any time and you’re subject to that. Fine.

The separate thing is, the addictive nature of these platforms and the way that they are designed to suck you in and spend time with them as consumers, as passive consumers, which we can decide, like, again, scary, grody dollhouse TikTok aside, like, if you decide, that’s what you want to spend your time on fantastic. Enjoy it.

But hard when something happens to the algorithm or on the platform. It changes for you to change your behavior when that changes. And that’s what’s happened with me, where it’s like, I did enjoy being on Instagram in the past, seeing at least mostly things I signed up to see. That was fun for me some of the time, as long as I didn’t do too much of it. And now it’s just kind of less fun. I just don’t enjoy it. But to end that habit of looking is really, really difficult.

Meg: And I mean, these platforms, they’ve worked with psychologists and behavioral specialists to say, how can we make this more addictive so that our users are spending more time on these platforms?

And what can we put into the notifications to make people more likely to log in again? So that way, when they log in, we get more money from our advertisers.

And they work with copywriters to figure out what is the way that we want to, you know, what is the message we want to send in notifications? Or emails that will get people to log in again.

I was recording a podcast this morning about this and they showed me, the host of that podcast showed me, her phone that she, while we were recording the podcast, she got an email from TikTok that said, What’s stopping you from looking at your TikTok notifications, right?

Like copywriters are being paid to draw us back into these platforms. And

Jessica: That sounds diabolical, but on the other hand, that’s literally their business. They’re

Meg: That’s their job.

Jessica: It’s their job. They’re trying to pay their bills. So, I mean, yes. But their job is to, yeah, make it

Meg: It feels a little icky to

us, but that that’s what they’re getting paid for, that if you log in they get paid more because they have done their job. And so we as consumers, as consumers of content, not necessarily as creators, but as users of the platforms, we have to choose how to protect ourselves. It’s not up to Facebook to keep us from getting addicted. I’m getting a little libertarian here.

here aren’t I?

Jessica: it’s not.

Meg: But we can protect ourselves in much the same way that, like, the way that the social media platforms are built it’s meant to activate the dopamine receptors in our brains very similar to gambling and it can cause that same addictive response of like I’m pulling the slot machine. I’m hoping it’ll light up I’m gonna hit the jackpot.

That’s the same feeling of like I’m gonna go viral on my content or I’m gonna find the thing that is the answer to my problem.

Like I’m going to Vegas in five days. I love gambling, but I have to come up with a plan going into it that isn’t just I’m going to pull the slot machine until I hit the jackpot and then I’ll just keep going because like my husband and I have a very specific strategy of here’s how much we’re going to spend every day and once that money runs out, we walk away because we have a container.

We have a boundary. That we’ve agreed upon beforehand. Otherwise, there goes my kid’s college fund.

Jessica: Boy, that’s dire.

Meg: I’m not actually, I’m not the gambler. He’s the gambler. He’s a poker player.

Jessica: Uh, I’m not the gambler. You’re the gambler.

All right. I don’t have a problem.

Meg: No, I’ll be at the pool and the buffet. I’ll be at Cirque de Soleil. I won’t actually be at the craps table.

Jessica: Okay, on that note, I think ready wrap this one up. That’s awesome. Thank you so much, Meg, for being here.

Meg’s book is called Social Slowdown and Meg’s podcast is also called Social Slowdown and I recommend both. You can see what a charming host she is and think you really enjoy it. So I hope you’ll check those things out.

Meg, thank you for being here.

Meg: Thank you so much. I really appreciated it. Thanks everyone.

Jessica: Meg and I were having so much fun at the live recording that I completely forgot to ask her the classic outro question, which is, and where can people find you?

So, if you want to get your own copy of social slowdown, which you very much should check out social That’s pretty easy, right? Social

And if you’re ready to learn about how to improve your chances of being found via search, or you want to find out more about the social slowdown podcast. Find meg at

Thank you so much for joining us today for the Autonomous Creative.

Our show is produced by Matt Madden, our production coordinator is Lousine Boyakhandjyan, and our production assistant is Rhiannon Sunday. Music is by Matt Madden, and I’m your host, Jessica Abel.

You can find all our takeaways as well as any links and extras we mentioned today plus transcripts, in the show notes. Find everything you need at

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