02 Creating a Community with Jo Milmine

02 Creating a Community with Jo Milmine

About Jo and the early days of Shinybees

Jo has been running her multi award-winning podcast, Shinybees, since 2012. The podcast is all about knitting, comedy and yarn and she attributes its success to her honest authenticity and her genuine interest in her listeners.

In this episode we talk about the connection Shinybees has created with people from all walks of life, united by the topic and sense of community Jo’s podcast has helped create.

Jo’s career started in the RAF in a communications role, talking to aircrew in flight.

[02:40] She got back into knitting while she was pregnant and found it easier to listen to podcasts rather than watch TV while she was concentrating on her craft.

After moving from the UK to South Africa, Jo was missing the chat and community she’d found through knitting. She’d already started a blog and when she got to know some podcasters, she decided podcasting could be something she could do herself. Then she received a dare from her friend to start a podcast, so she did!

[05:30] Jo didn’t start her podcast to support any business aims – it was partly a response to the dare and partly a way to create they type of conversation she enjoyed when she had guests to her home in rural South Africa. She enjoyed the sense of company she derived from listening to content from the UK and wanted to share her own take on things in response.

Be yourself in your podcast

[06:45] Living in rural South Africa made both knitting and podcasting unlikely pursuits, but Jo persevered. She talks about the barriers she had to overcome to get her podcast content out, with the challenge of a poor internet connection in her rural location. I asked Jo whether it made her feel vulnerable to publish podcast content. She didn’t think so – partly because she’d been sharing her story through her blog and partly because she had no particular strategic aim for her podcast. Jo feels this enabled her to be herself in her podcast and that honest authenticity is the key to the success of her podcast.

Jo has a deep understanding of the type of connection that can form through listening to a podcast – she described how she felt the podcasters she listened to were ‘with’ her when she first moved away from the UK. She’s aware as a podcaster that she’s ‘with’ the people who listen to her, “You go with people where they are because you’re in their phone”.

[10:30] The ‘litmus test’ for good content is to ask yourself whether this is a conversation you’d have with someone at the pub. Jo takes a genuine interest in her listeners, who send her pictures of themselves and their knitting. She considers them to be ‘her extended knitty friends’ and that sense of friendship is what creates such a strong connection. From the tough early beginning of Jo’s podcast, she managed to keep it going through lots of house moves and personal change.

[12:47] Jo has avoided trying to conform to the ‘shoulds’ of podcasting and keep her content interesting by taking a genuine interest in it herself. She enjoys interviewing other people on her podcast, for the sense of ‘round a pub table’ conversation that generates.

There have been times when Jo hasn’t published any content. The good news is, she found that her community continued to download and listen to her podcast content when she was away and were ready to find out where she’d been, when she started podcasting again.

The podcast inspired business ideas

[15:00] Jo’s initial motives for starting the podcast were not related to business goals, so she tells us how the idea to step into business came about. She partnered with the friend who’d prompted her to podcast and together they established The Golden Skein, a yarn subscription club.

Jo shares her plans for a future business venture with us. She’s currently beta testing a multi-vendor market place for yarns. She tells us how keen she is to share rare yarns and that ‘she likes a party’, so this doesn’t feel like work. Jo loves to connect people who have something in common. 

[18:53] We also talk about Jo’s imminent move to China and the fact she will continue to podcast through this change. She observes that moving always provides inspiration for fresh content – she’s aiming to be the first podcaster to describe Chinese yarn shops in English!

The power of podcasts to form connections

[19:50] Through Shinybees, Jo has won two podcasting awards. She was delighted to achieve the ‘Most Engaged Audience’ award in 2015 as a testament to her community. I asked Jo what she’s done, besides create the podcast, to build that strength of community. She describes how she constantly responds to her audience in person, showing up at face to face events and consistently showing her interest in what they are doing.

[23:40] We talk about the power of podcasting to connect people from all walks of life around a common interest. Jo describes the intimacy of the medium and the fact it’s quite easy for anyone to create and share podcast content. This means it’s possible to start a podcast about highly niche subjects. Those niche podcasts attract people who are ‘geeks’ about that topic, since they can access an audience who share that specific interest. That creates a loyal listenership.

The rules of podcasting

[27:29] Jo talks about the perceived rules of podcasting and how they shouldn’t dictate the value of a podcast. She believes there are no ‘shoulds’ – people can make the podcast content they want for the audience they want, without the constraints of rules. Listeners have different needs and expectations, so they value podcast content differently. There is no one answer, just share what you are interested in and can share some value about.

Pickled Onion Crisps

[31:47] Jo’s key piece of advice for a new podcaster is to be more pickled onion and less plain in their approach! She feels that being a bigger fish is alike becoming a grab bag size of pickled onion crisps.

You can find Jo and her podcast at shinybees.com

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