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The Smart Passive Income Podcast

AP 1060: How Do I Grow My Small Social Media Following and Build My Brand?

AP 1060: How Do I Grow My Small Social Media Following and Build My Brand?

By Pat Flynn on

Today I’m talking with Cody, who is a budding entrepreneur in the cannabis space, in the state of Illinois. Of course, growing cannabis recreationally is illegal in Illinois, so that’s one roadblock. But aside from that, how can Cody grow and monetize his brand through Instagram, consulting, and more? You can find Cody on Instagram and YouTube.

Now just a side note, we don’t get much into the actual act of growing cannabis itself in this episode—we talk more about marketing—but if you don’t want to discuss it, maybe you have little ones in the car, feel free to skip past this one. This is a valid business idea and brand and I’m just here to help Cody in an entrepreneurial capacity.

We kick off talking about Cody’s current business status—he’s just starting off. We dive into a bunch of strategies for building a following and monetizing, like affiliate revenue, influencer marketing, and using Instagram to connect with his followers and discover what they need. We pivot to discuss strategies Cody can use to validate his business and see if consulting calls are in his future. We wrap up with some tips on building an email list so that Cody can maintain his audience, and Cody ends the session with lots of ideas for the future. Good luck, Cody!

If you’re looking to build an email list like Cody, there’s no one I recommend more highly than ConvertKit. They have a ton of advanced features without advanced feature pricing. You can get a free trial by heading over to [Full Disclosure: I’m a compensated advisor and an affiliate for ConvertKit.]

What You’ll Learn:
Discover blueprints for validating your business, monetizing, and growing a following through influencer marketing, social media, and more.

AskPat 1060 Episode Transcript

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Pat: What’s up everybody? Pat Flynn here and welcome to Episode 1060 of AskPat 2.0. This is the podcast where you listen in on a real coaching call between myself and an entrepreneur just like you. Today we’re talking with Cody, who is a budding entrepreneur. He is in the cannabis space in the state of Illinois, which gives us some problems because those kinds of things are illegal in that particular state right now.

First of all, if you’re listening in the car and you know what cannabis is but perhaps those young ones in the car don’t, maybe you might want to skip to the next episode or go to a previous one if this is a topic that you don’t want to discuss. Now, we don’t get much into that topic. We go more into marketing strategies and those kinds of things, but it is brought up. But it is a valid business idea and a brand that this person is building, and I am here to help him through that. This has no reflection on my take on any of those kinds of things, I’m just here to help entrepreneurs. Cody, stoked to help him.

But before that, I do want to mention today’s episode sponsor, which is They have been sponsoring the show since we’ve had sponsors on the show, since a couple of years ago. They’ve been amazing and thousands of people have signed up to get their free trial. I want you to do that now if you haven’t done it yet, because it is an amazing piece of software, cloud accounting software that’s going to help you better manage your finances.

If you have any money coming into your business or any money going out of your business and you don’t want to have to keep track of all that and have things happen automatically, especially if you’re doing any invoicing, you’ve got to get this free trial from FreshBooks. All you have to do is go to, and just make sure you enter, “Ask Pat” in the “How did you hear about us?” section. Cool. Well, let’s get to today’s show with Cody and we’ll see how it goes. Let’s do this.

Hey Cody, welcome to AskPat 2.0. Thanks so much for being here.

Cody: Thank you so much for having me.

Pat: Why don’t you just share a little bit about yourself and what you do, and then we’ll just go from there.

Cody: Okay, my name’s Cody. I’m from Illinois. I am currently in community college in Bloomington. I plan on going into a ISU next semester, but right now I started GrowingTec. I started in the summer and I’ve just been trying to help people learn how they can grow cannabis, how they can do it for a hobby or a business.

Pat: How long have you been doing that for?

Cody: I started this summer.

Pat: What’s it been like to start a business on your own and try to do that, so far?

Cody: It’s been fun. Right now I’m just trying to provide value and build my credibility. I haven’t really made any money or even offered a product yet. I’m on Instagram right now and then I’m also starting on YouTube.

Pat: What has been working for you thus far?

Cody: I’ve been getting followers. I just got reposted like ten minutes ago by a grower, so right now I’m getting followers like crazy.

Pat: You’re literally at the start here as you grow your, pun intended, your business.

Cody: Yeah.

Pat: That’s cool man. What are some of the things that you are wondering about or curious about? Maybe you’ve tried some things and they didn’t work. I’m here to help you man. Where do you want to start?

Cody: Well, I really want to start with just the fact that I live in Illinois. It’s illegal right now and I don’t really know how I can make a product for people right now. I’m just teaching the information right now. I’m not actually offering a product to actually teach you how to grow at your home or anything, because it is illegal and it has to be legal everywhere for that to happen. I just wanted to ask you like, some tips maybe or advice that you could give me to work around that, I guess.

Pat: Cool. Well, I would obviously recommend not doing anything illegal, and it sounds like you are paying careful attention to that. Obviously if something like that were to happen, it would pretty much put any business to a halt so we want to avoid that. But, I think it’s smart to think about like, “Okay, well in the meantime, what can I do?” If you are not in the product creation or product selling phase, I think you are already on the right start with just audience growing and building authority and giving value.

Another thing that, on top of that, that I would recommend that would be really helpful would be building relationships. I don’t know if you’ve connected with any other influencers or even other people at your stage in other parts of the country who may have some great value to share with you and vice versa. A lot of times you can get—like you said, you just got reposted from somebody. Those kinds of things work really well, sometimes better than paid advertisements in a sense, because you’re getting an endorsement from somebody who already has a following.

I think especially in the beginning stages, understanding, although you are likely doing a lot of what other people are also teaching, try to find a unique angle or a unique superpower in that space that you could potentially become known for. This is something you can do even before you sell anything. For example, with my website Smart Passive Income, when I started it in 2008, I wasn’t planning on making it into a full-time business. It was just a platform for me to share things and give value just like you’re doing.

It was only until a year and a half later that I started to make money and realized that that was even possible. During that time however, I was building all this clout. I was becoming known as somebody who is sharing new information. I was doing things like income reports and sharing how much money I was making, and that was pretty new in the space that I was in. So, finding a new thing or a super power that you have can work really well for you to then go to a influencer and not worry about that influencer going like, “Hey, who’s this guy Cody? He doesn’t have many followers,” or whatever, but instead going, “Whoa, this guy Cody is like an undiscovered piece of gold because of this knowledge that he’s sharing. More people need to know about him because of that.” Does that spark any ideas for you on how you can create a superpower in this, in this realm?

Cody: It definitely makes sense, of breaking down everything and breaking down the information and then taking one piece, and then trying to build onto that. That makes sense, that’s helpful.

Pat: Well that’s good. I think another thing that could be helpful in the meantime would be to, and I’ll talk about the more, like the Illinois things specifically. Not work arounds, but other things. But, the other thing that I think you could think about is, with your audience as it is growing, what are their biggest pains? Honestly, I wish I did this better at the start as well Cody, and that was really understanding my audience and understanding, really what do they want? Really, what are their problems? What’s holding them back? What have they tried that hasn’t worked?

The more I could learn about those kinds of things over time, the better I’ve been able to answer those questions and provide more value, because at the start it’s very simple to go, “Well, I think they need this,” or “I’m going to guess that this would be helpful,” as opposed to literally knowing that they are asking these questions and then literally creating information or the steps to do them.

It really helps you excel faster. It’ll grow your following more. It’ll get you into other relationships faster when you really go, “Okay, well honestly, what does my audience need help with? What have they tried? What are their struggles?” There’s many ways to go and find those things. Number one, you can actually try to have conversations with them. I think Instagram is an amazing platform. Gary V has talked about this a lot as well for doing business, because you can get people to say, “Yes, I’m interested in something,” on a post, all the people who comment.

But then you can go and direct message those people and go, “Okay, tell me more about that. What did you try? What are your biggest struggles?” This is your advantage at the start, Cody. It’s the fact that you have more time and more bandwidth to help those individuals because there aren’t as many individuals reaching out and talking to you yet. A brand like me, I cannot possibly reply to everybody and that’s a huge disadvantage I have, and huge advantage that you have. Use those mechanisms, and social media, and the direct messages especially to, like I said, learn more about your people and see what you can do to better help in the way that you’ve been helping already.

Cody: Okay. That’s very helpful. I think that’s a great piece of advice honestly, because I think I’m not asking as many questions as I should. I think that learning what they actually want out of me will be much better than just doing a bunch of random stuff at the start. I’ll started thinking that maybe polls and Instagram Stories and stuff like that—because I’m mainly on Instagram. I’ve been building my website. I want to get into that more, but yeah . . .

Pat: Instagram is where the people are right? I have some friends in social media who are saying that people are flocking to Instagram from Twitter, from Facebook, from Linkedin. Instagram is going to continue to grow, and I think that you’re at a perfect time now to really focus on that and put more of your efforts there. I think you’re doing the right things there. As far as listening to people, that’s perfect. I’m glad that sunk in. I mean, you could do posts where you literally, with text on the posts say, “What was the biggest pain that you have about this?” Or, “What’s your biggest challenge?” Or, “What was the last . . .”

Here’s a question that I love to ask, “What was the last thing you bought?” When I ask my entrepreneur audience, “What was the last thing you bought,” I get to then see hundreds if not thousands of people go, “I bought this course, I bought this tech, I bought this, this.” Now that’s giving me ideas on the kinds of things that they’re spending money on so I can go, “Hmm, well I can create a better thing than that,” or “Wow! I could partner with those people.” Now I have a connection.

I can go, “Hey random company, my followers are talking about you. I mean, they’re already working with you. Maybe there’s a way we can do an affiliate partnership where if you give me a link then you give me a commission.” Again, I’m not a legal person. This is my disclaimer Cody for all the legal stuff: I’m not a professional, I’m not an attorney, et cetera, but affiliate marketing could be a potential solution for maybe not the actual plants and such, but maybe for the tools and the gear and all that stuff.

You can reach out to a company and go, “Hey, I have this following and we all want your stuff. Can you hook me up with a deal that I can give my people and maybe I can get commissions on that?” That could be a way for you to monetize without you actually having to create your own products. There’s already products that exist that they may already be buying.

Cody: That’s a really good idea that I’ve never actually thought of. I have tried to start affiliate marketing a little bit. I got approved by one store and I’ve been doing it on YouTube, but that’s another thing, I just am not . . . I don’t feel that great on camera on YouTube, but maybe that will be a way better way to start actually doing affiliate marketing, just working with a brand on my Instagram page and then posting it there to my followers. But yeah, I will actually maybe start trying to do that more, just talking to other brands that my followers like to buy from.

Pat: That’ll start some really cool conversations with them too, because you could . . . A lot of brands like that who are mostly in the product realm, they need help with content. They don’t know how to post content about their world. They just know product mostly, and that’s it. You could actually go, “Hey brand, let’s scratch each other’s back. If you give me a deal on these, and I’ll push them out to my audience on Instagram, I’ll make them my top resources. What if I were to write an article on your website once a month, and I could contribute to the content,” which helps them because number one, they don’t have to do it themselves.

Number two, it’s from an insider in the space, that would be you. Number three, they would get search engine optimization back to their website, which is huge and you can just go, “Just let me link to my Instagram and my website at the end of that post.” Now you have this platform of new people who are going to find you and this amazing relationship with this company who is going to be like, “Wow! Cody’s pretty cool. We’re going to treat him nicely and as his following grows, we’re going to make sure his people come our way. Let’s hook him up with some good deals, let’s get like . . .”

Sorry, I’m just getting really excited here. There’s also the ability for you to go, “Hey company, I am focusing a lot on this kind of thing this month. Do you have any products about that that you could send to me for free so I can review them and share them honestly with my audience?” You can get free stuff in this way to if you have these relationships.

Cody: That sounds nice.

Pat: Free stuff is nice, yes.

Cody: That’s very helpful, honestly. I’ll probably start doing that today, honestly. I want to ask you another question.

Pat: Sure Cody.

Cody: I want to talk about consulting, consulting calls and stuff like that. I had the idea of doing that the other day, of helping people to maybe have a setup in their house, but I also had the thought that I’m doing consulting work to hobbyists—it’s not a business. What’s your advice on that? That’s what the course is and everything honestly, all my products. It’s not really centered to anything. I’m used to buying business and personal development courses and I just feel like that’s different than the hobby aspect, because there’s equipment that they’ll have buy, there’s a ton of stuff that they’ll also have to buy with this. What’s your advice on that?

Pat: That’s a really smart question because you’re right, people who buy programs and coaching for business related things, there’s a very direct outcome which should be, “Wow! I made up the cost of this thing and more,” versus, “Okay, let me buy this product that’s going to help me set up my aquarium at home. How does that make my money back?” That’s a great question.

The real answer is, people spend loads of money on hobbies. There was a very famous, in the internet space years ago, ClickBank, a website which still exists. One of the top products on their website for a while was how to build a chicken coop. It was literally how to build one of those little houses where you put a chicken in the back, or chickens to get eggs. There is a little ROI there, and it’s not money. It’s in number one, just the joy of having your own chickens, but also there are eggs and you can eat the eggs. In your field, I would consider it to be very similar although you don’t have live—

Cody: I see the resemblance.

Pat: You see the correlation, right? Dude, it was super popular because chickens were a thing for awhile and I think they still are. People have chickens in their apartments now, which is kind of ridiculous. Hopefully that just shows you that yes, it’s not a business thing, but there are people out there who spend thousands of dollars on hobbies. I mean there, there are little niches in the world that you wouldn’t believe how much money people spend on things. From those little Pop dolls that you see at Barnes & Nobles, all the little comic looking ones, to toy trains, to a wooden boats, and they just go ballistic with those kinds of things.

I wouldn’t let that stop you from wondering like, “Would people even pay for this?” Here’s the real answer Cody, the real way to know if this is going to work for you is to see if you can just get one person to agree to get on the phone with you for $50 or whatever the price might be, and just go, “I’m going to talk to you for an hour about all the things that you need to know to get this set up in your home.”

Don’t even worry about the website. Don’t even worry about all those things; just, can you get one person? That’s going to teach you a number of things. Number one, it’s going to really challenge you for how to make that sale. It’s going to test you, but that’s such good education for, “Okay, how am I going to do this again, and again, and again in the future?” Because you’ll have people go, “Wait, I don’t understand what I’m getting here.” Now you know, well you need to do a better job of letting people know what they’re going to get.

You’re going to have people go, “Well that seems kind of expensive to me,” which is just translated to, that translates, “Well, I just don’t think that that’s worth it for me.” Your job would have to be to say the right things so that they know it will be worth it like, “Okay, that’s fine but you could spend twenty hours online trying to find all the right information and waste a whole day, or I can just tell you in an hour all the things you need, and it comes with this checklist that has all the items on it too,” which by the way could also be affiliate links.

Those conversations that you’ll have, trying to find just one person, are going to teach you all the things that you need to know before you sell it to the many. Additionally, when you do your first call, you’re going to be super nervous, maybe not. Maybe you’re not like me; I get super nervous when I talk to people.

Cody: Yeah, I get pretty nervous.

Pat: Okay, cool. Well that’s good. Now you’re getting that muscle going, but also you’re going to finish that call and go, “Did I like that and do I want to do more, or was that enough?” Now you can just go, “Okay.” Maybe it’s like, “All right, I tried that once and now I know I don’t want to do it,” and now it’s a question that you never have to think about again, or you can come back to it later, or it could be like, “Wow! That was so cool, I need to find more people,” and then you’ll know to focus on that. What I’m basically saying is micro test it. Go easy on yourself and just find one, and it’ll tell you all the answers of whether you should do it or not.

Cody: Okay, that makes sense, like testing the waters a little bit. It will tell me if I really can provide the value of the service, like if I can really hope for them enough, to where they can be confident doing everything right after the call. I think that’s a good idea. I’m going to maybe try to . . . Should I just try to sell a spot, basically be like, “Yeah, I’m going to do a one hour consulting call?”

Pat: You can even have an Instagram post and go like, “Hey, I’ve been getting a lot of questions lately and I just want to see if anybody’s interested. If you are interested in having a call with me, I will charge for it, but it will be worth your time and if not, I’ll give you your money back.” Say, “Shoot me an emoji below,” and then you’re going to get all these people if they’re interested, giving you emojis. Then you can just reach out to them one by one on a DM and to see if they would even call you and make that happen. Just give them your PayPal or something and see if that comes through.

I really love what you said, that you’re worried about making sure that you could actually provide. I think this shows that you’re coming at it from the right angle. What you can do to make it easier for you is go, even up front like, “Hey, I’ll only allow you to pay me after this if you think there was value there and that you think it was worth it. If you don’t think it was worth it, I don’t want your money, I don’t deserve your money.” That way on both ends—

Cody: That’s a good idea.

Pat: There’s safety on both ends if you do it that way. The first test will be, would even people raise their hand to say yes they want that? B would be, when you do have this call, are they going to pay you or not? If not—here’s the other thing, if they’re like, “Cody, I was hoping for something more,” you can go, “Hey, you know what, then don’t pay me. I told you you didn’t have to pay me, but what I would love for you would be two or three things that you know that I could do the next time to make it worth it for the next person.”

Now you’re hearing directly from the person who had just had a call with you go, “Well, I wish you were more prepared with like, the steps,” or, “I wish there were some checklists I could follow or something like that,” those kinds of things. Then the next time you do it, you are now armed with all this new information to make it better and exactly what you need to turn it into.

Cody: That’s a good idea. I’m going to definitely try that now.

Pat: Good luck man.

Cody: Just try to test it out. I want to maybe plan it out a little bit more just so o can have some structure to the call I guess, but maybe I should just dive into it—

Pat: I would dive in to see if you can get one person, and then you could have a call next week or something. Step two would be, “Okay, now that I know that Joey from whatever state is interested, I’m going to prepare for the call now.” And if you get nobody yet, then you don’t have to prepare. It’s just a messaging thing, and you can figure out really what they want.

The other thing I was going to say with the Illinois thing is, you could potentially become a voice for other people who are interested in that in Illinois, and just keep people up-to-date on the progress of the legalization of that, and be a proponent if you wanted to go down that route and really share those kinds of things as well. It’s not something you have to do, it’s just, I know a lot of people who use Instagram for more than just business. They use it to make change and help with politics and other things like that. Having an Instagram following allows you to make movements too. How you feeling?

Cody: That’s a good idea, I like that. I haven’t really said too much about Illinois on my actual page. I think I know, or my followers know that I’m from there, but it doesn’t really say Illinois. Should I make it . . . you know what I mean? Should I make it a consulting service for Illinois?

Pat: That depends on who it is that would be interested in this. I wouldn’t say that specifically, but again I’m not a lawyer and you might want to just check with somebody who is more of a professional just to make sure that you’re following all guidelines and stuff. There may be in this particular world, in your particular state, certain things that you are allowed to or not allowed to say depending on . . . It doesn’t even matter if the person you’re consulting is from a state where it is legal. Would it be okay for you, being in a state that it’s illegal in? All those questions. I bet you could probably go on a forum, a legal form, and just ask. Maybe there’s even people who have asked this question already. You could probably, within a few minutes, find some stuff.

Cody: Okay, that’s helpful. I was going to ask one more thing. Instagram, with people in the cannabis community, Instagram is always deleting the pages on Instagram. What are some tips that I can maybe diversify a little bit so if I do get deleted on Instagram—because that’s where all of my audience is. Do you know what I’m saying? I don’t want it to just disappear. That’s where all my work has gone into also. What is some advice on that?

Pat: Well, that’s where I think you said the work on your website really comes into play, because then you could have a lot of the things that they could get for free or download on your website, which doesn’t happen on Instagram. You’re essentially working to get the bigger fans on Instagram off of Instagram and onto your website, so that you can get them on an email list at least, or at least have them know that that exists as a resource. But ideally, and this is what I’ve been a proponent of forever, that’s getting an email list in place so that you can control that audience no matter what any other social media platform does.

That might mean creating some sort of a lead magnet or special free gift that you can exchange for an email on your website like, “Here are my top ten things you need to get as a grower on this pdf file,” and then of course having a resource on your website with affiliate links could be great. You can even start to see some income come from there. You can do all those things at the same time.

I would definitely also do a little bit of research on, what did these Instagram channels that got banned do? Just really following the terms so that you like, “Okay, well I’m not going to post a picture of that,” or, “I’m never going to say this word,” or “I’m never going to ask for that.” Just make sure you know what those boundaries are so that you can protect the asset that you’ve built, but also at the same time getting them off of Instagram and onto your email list would be the next best thing.

Cody: Okay. I do have a small email list, but I tried to get away with it whenever I though my ebook was outdated. I want to redo that also.

Pat: I’m encouraged by the questions that you’re asking and the growth potential here. Obviously, most of us listening probably know that this is the next big thing. Cody, good luck to you man. I wish you all the best and I’ll keep in touch. Let me know how things go.

Cody: Yeah. Thanks a lot for having me on the show. It was a great . . . It was a lot of fun for me.

Pat: Thanks Cody. Do you have a website or a resource, or maybe share your Instagram just so we can follow along.

Cody: Yeah, it’s GrowingTec, it’s one word, no H on it. It’s GrowingTec.

Pat: Okay, well we can find everything—

Cody: That’s also on YouTube.

Pat: Oh, okay sweet. Thanks, man. All right, well good luck.

Cody: Thank a lot.

Pat: Thanks, take care. Bye.

All right, I hope you enjoyed that episode with Cody. Cody, thank you so much for coming on and sharing what you got going on. Best of luck to you and just make sure you stay within the boundaries of what you know you should be doing. That’s really all that is . . . You don’t want to have your Instagram taken away and things like that after you building it, but build that email list.

Everybody, if you want a email list provider that I want to recommend, I can’t recommend any other but ConvertKit. They are a company that I’ve been working with for the last four or five years. I’m an advisor to the company in addition to an affiliate and I love it because it’s easy to use. They actually care about your success and they’re so easy to connect with on their customer service lines. In addition to that, they have all the advanced features without the advanced feature prices. If you want to check it out for free, for a free trial just go to Again, That’ll get you set up with your email service provider and a free trial so you can see how awesome it is.

Again, thank you so much. I appreciate you Cody and everybody who listened through. Let me know what you think. Hook up with me on Twitter @PatFlynn. I want to know what you thought and if you have any advice for, again, a budding entrepreneur like Cody. Good luck at school and all that great stuff.

Best of luck to everybody, thank you so much. Make sure you hit subscribe if you haven’t already and we’ll see you in the next episode. Cheers. Team Flynn for the win.

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