The Real Reason Most Blogging and Social Media Missed the Mark in 2013

Social media doesn't workI enjoy watching the Moonshiners TV series. (The events are probably fake, but it’s still entertaining.) In a recent episode, Tim Smith was setting up his first legal still operation at Limestone Branch Distillery, and Steve Beam was becoming concerned over all the delays in production. Every day Tim came up with one more change that must be made to the system before they could begin running whisky. His excuse was that he wanted to get everything just right. Steve, however, believed he should just start making them some money.

Backwoods Virginia moonshiner Tim had been waiting years to ‘go legal’, and I concluded that he was now afraid to pull the trigger. This was his big shot and he was afraid of blowing it. He was postponing the ‘do or die’ moment of truth.

I immediately saw parallels between getting his still setup perfect and a blogging/social platform just right.

The Pressure’s On

Most of the employees of clients I coach express trepidation over letting their boss down, or losing their position. Increasing traffic and conversions for their company through blogging and social media is an expectation that weighs heavily upon them.

Even where we’ve been hired to handle blog copywriting and  social interaction, the push for short term results can lead to a lot of second guessing on the client side. What if old school on-page SEO keyword density and volume link building are still the way to go? This is all new; is content marketing really the new SEO? How soon can we realistically expect the floodgates of traffic to open?

We’re Pushed Outside Our Comfort Zones

Becoming active in a content marketing strategy will push most of us well beyond the borders of our comfort zones. Coming up with a topic, the tedious research, laboring over a brilliant title, commenting effectively on other blogs, guest blogging, and engagement in social media channels, is not something most of us feel naturally drawn to or qualified for. Where there’s discomfort, this generation’s solution is to seek relief.

Fear of Rejection and Failure

For most companies that do not offer products and services people lie awake thinking about, learning to write content others will actually want to read involves a steep learning curve, a lot of hard work and the very real possibility of rejection and failure.

When we put ourselves out there, and they don’t respond, the feelings of rejection are real. Short term expectations were probably completely unrealistic, but it’s hard not to feel a sense of failure all the same.

Something for the Pain

Over the past few decades the media has told us that there’s a remedy for every pain and ailment. If you wake up with a headache, there’s no need to push through the pain, just pop one or two tablets. If you’re sad or depressed, there’s a pill for that. Pour yourself a double and calm down. As a society, we’ve become adept at pain avoidance. And yes, there is a remedy for BSA (Blogging/Social Anxiety) as well. :-)

When we’re feeling discouraged, disappointed, overwhelmed, fearful or anxious, we could choose to push through the pain. We could follow sound advice, blog more, engage more with prospective buyers in social channels and trust the process. Feel the fear and do it anyway. Or we can consciously or unconsciously decide to major on the minors, focusing on getting everything just perfect before we move ahead. In other words, invest our efforts in preparing to work rather than actually doing the work.

The Danger of Getting All Our Ducks in a Row

Admittedly, I’ve been a master of preparing to work. For a while, I convinced myself that I needed to remove myself from the office, to Starbucks, to get away from the distractions, so I could write more effectively.

If I was going to be mobile, I wanted to do it right. I tried several Bluetooth keyboards for the iPad, different cloud sharing solutions, more efficient bags for organizing and toting my gear, ‘fine tuning’ my workflow and assembling the ideal content marketing toolkit. Then I decided the iPad screen was actually too small and re-outfitted for the best MacBook Pro setup. Having completed that, I decided it was time to revisit the iPad. It was so portable…

I have an “impressive” collection of matched sets of writing apps that will sync between my desktop computer, my laptop and my iPad. I of course had to put WhiteSmoke, Grammarly and After the Deadline through their paces. I also felt I needed multiple dictionary and thesaurus apps, “for comparison.” I tried HootSuite, SproutSocial, SocialBro, TweetDeck, Nimble and other solutions, attempting to streamline my social connections.

In the course of becoming the consummate content marketing professional, I read hundreds of books on SEO, content marketing, copywriting, blogging and social media. I also invested in dozens of advanced courses.

And here’s a client favorite, “It’s the website.” Again, I’ve often yielded to the temptation of tweaking the website obsessively, or rebuilding it completely, avoiding content creation and social engagement for weeks at a time.

Like you, my excuse for not blogging, blog commenting and being active in social media several times a week has been that I’m too busy, or that I simply cannot afford to take that much time away from revenue generating work.

My accountant had a serious talk with me last week after going over my numbers for 2013. My “education” and “software” spreadsheets were ridiculously high, while my “revenue” totals were down from previous years. Here’s the thing; if I could reclaim all the hours spent in 2013 reading books on becoming a better blogger and more effective at engagement in social media, the countless hours going through email subscriptions I hoped would help me increase my returns, all the hours squandered sourcing and then learning how to use new software apps and online tools, and the time invested into getting my ducks in a row and systems in place to really get it done… If I could recover all the money I invested into online subscriptions and tools that were supposed to make me better at writing and more efficient in social connection…  I would have been able to afford to post every day. I would have a far more engaged audience in Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn. My authority in my niche would be considerably higher than it is. My site would have significantly more traffic. I would have more paying clients. And I would be less exhausted, with more time for myself, my family and friends.

The energy invested into running down all these “improvement” rabbit trails last year left me feeling depleted most of the time. I had convinced myself I needed to know all this stuff, that I really should try all the popular tools, so I could be a more knowledgeable consultant. If I had the perfect system in place myself, I could then pass on all my “content marketing efficiency” wisdom to my clients. Hey, it sounded very logical at the time.

I see the same tendencies in most of my clients. One of the bloggers I coach recently insisted that she needed a new iMac computer, an ergonomic Herman Miller chair and the latest suite of Microsoft Office software to improve her writing. Her boss called me to confirm that the investment was indeed warranted and recommended. I had to tell him the truth; the new computer and chair would undoubtedly make his employee’s work day more comfortable and interesting, but it would not improve her writing at all. It would not bring more engaged visitors to the website. It was unlikely to increase sales or customer retention. Getting her new system set up could eat up more than a week of quality online marketing time. What she needed to do was blog and interact more online. I suggested the requested items be offered as carrots for pushing past her self-imposed comfort limitations. In that way there could be a return on his investment.

The Distillation


  1. says

    Hi Cole,
    Excellent post… there is nothing better than just getting out there and doing it. Over the past couple of weeks the excuse has been “It’s holiday time so I can ease off a bit”. I had to pull myself up short and yesterday I made myself sit down and write. And surprise, surprise I had an extremely productive day. Thanks for the post.
    Donald Gavin recently posted…Planning For The New YearMy Profile

  2. says

    Hi Cole,

    That’s an excellent post you have here.

    Going for it, is the way to go. I agree with you, we’re in a society that doesn’t like to go through pain, and we are quick to swallow that pill that will make us feel better instantly.

    Unfortunately for us, success belongs to those who are willing to suffer a little and to go above and beyond.

    You’re right we also create some distractions that are just excuses to not move forward, because, yes, there is such fear as fear of success.

    Thanks for this great topic.
    Sylviane Nuccio recently posted…What Is All The Fuss About Hypnotic Writing?My Profile

    • says

      Hi Sylviane,

      I believe that not only have the pain remedies increased in this millennium, but also the pain. A writer for a newspaper or magazine twenty years ago sat in front of a typewriter and blank sheet of paper. There was no inbox filled with offers of ribbons guaranteed to improve the writer’s style, typewriter polish certain to increase writer focus or special dampening rubber feet to reduce distracting typewriter noise. :-)

      – Cole
      Cole Wiebe recently posted…The Real Reason Most Blogging and Social Media Missed the Mark in 2013My Profile

  3. says

    Hi Cole,
    Happy New Year! All the very best to you in 2014!

    I really enjoyed this post. As I was reading about the Moonshiners, I thought of people who I have coached that have struggled with procrastination, always waiting for the perfect moment to execute a plan. If having a few extra moments to make a better informed decision is required fine, but ultimately it all comes down to taking actions aligned with our purpose that leads to success.

    It does seem that in this social media world, more and more people are losing human connection. Even more reason to make sure our writing hits home with our readers.

    And you’re right. The best way to improve your writing is not to be found in any software purchase. It’s in the craft itself… honing, polishing, and tweaking.

    Kind Regards,
    William Butler recently posted…109 Personal Leadership Quotes To Inspire You!My Profile

    • says

      Hi Bill,

      Thanks for stopping by and taking the time to comment, and a very happy new year to you as well.

      There is a stampede towards greater automation, less personalized service, reducing marketing costs and decreased personal connection. Many of my “competitors” are in that space. I had a Jerry Maguire epiphany a few years ago and decided that I didn’t want to follow the herd. That decision cost me clients who were looking only at the perceived “bang for the buck” (number of posts and tweets for a bargain basement rate).

      I’m with you. Connecting with readers is the measure of great writing. Inspiring readers to make positive changes determines the content’s success.

      – Cole
      Cole Wiebe recently posted…The Real Reason Most Blogging and Social Media Missed the Mark in 2013My Profile

  4. says

    Hey Cole

    I think I’ve tried all of those social media tools you mention too!

    I convince myself they’re all going to make me work more efficiently and help me with engagement.

    Most of the time though, they fail to keep my interest. I’ve already fallen out of love with HootSuite!

    I did take a long hard look at where I’m going towards the end of the year and have changed the way I do most things.

    Gone is the reciprocal sharing, commenting and thanking – in has come more writing, more engagement and only sharing and commenting where a title connects with me and deserves my attention!

    I guess I may even have become not just a little but a lot more opinionated!
    Tim Bonner recently posted…The Great Popular Blogs Hoax: Is Popularity The Right Thing To Seek?My Profile

  5. says

    The first couple of months after I started blogging I was wasting so much time on new stuff to get started. I finally just decided the best route for me was to make a list of ideas of what I want to discuss weekly and write about it.

    Every business has a niche so it is hard writing for your niche but if you make it broad enough it can interest more people. Basically what I am doing is not worrying about what I should or should not do, but write about what relates to my business.

    Great article. Have a Happy New Year with more time for Cole
    Arleen recently posted…Super Bowl Advertising: You Don’t Need a Commercial Just Some CreativityMy Profile

  6. Steven J Wilson says

    Hi Cole,

    I appreciate how you tell it how it is.

    Sometimes all these tools we think are helping are actually doing more harm than good. You did a great job at how that is possible and sometimes not worth it.

    I learned this using to many WordPress plugins which slowed down my site. Then I realize with simple code etc I can take care it quick and easy on my own with out sacrificing my sites speed.

    Take care Cole!
    Steven J Wilson recently posted…How To Edit Photos Online FreeMy Profile

  7. says

    Hi Cole,

    Very interesting topic 😉 Loved reading different opinions!

    My previous computer was 11 years old and couldn’t even have Windows 7 installed. Then I started to wonder what I achieved more from blogging after investing on a new computer in last year 😉 The thing is I thought that something was missing, but it wasn’t. It’s always us, our own worst enemy.

    You are right there. Having perfect tools and environment won’t assure anything unless we devoted to progress. I always believe “time go wasted” is not wasted time after all. They are investments if we make use of ’em for our own success. Isn’t it? 😉

    You have a fabulous weekend ahead mate!

    Mayura recently posted…Does the Length of a Blog Post Matter?My Profile

    • says

      Hi Mayura,

      Forty years ago, great writing that really engaged with the readership came in the form of newsletters and magazine/newspaper editorials. The writer had a blank sheet of paper, rolled into a noisy manual typewriter, a red proofreading pencil, a well-worn Webster’s or Oxford Dictionary and perhaps a copy of Roget’s Thesaurus. Libraries and other periodicals provided some reference material, but most of the ideas behind brilliant copy of that era originated in the writer’s mind. There was an organic purity to that process, devoid of cool new apps or trendy online solutions, and I very much doubt that much of the current “me too” drivel on the web matches the potency of that content. I agree with you; when we go looking outside of ourselves for a quick fix to putting ourselves out there, we do become our own worst enemy.

      – Cole
      Cole Wiebe recently posted…The Real Reason Most Blogging and Social Media Missed the Mark in 2013My Profile

  8. says

    Hi Cole,

    I was glued to this post! Excellent advice for all of us to keep in mind.

    We are a fix it quick society and all those quick fixes don’t work in the long run. You do have to Go for it! This business takes time with determination and a good DMO (daily method of operation) to be successful.

    Also our time management….a realistic one at that. I don’t think it takes so many bells and whistles in order to get business going. Rather, just do it! Writing a post on your blog is one thing, but answering comments, going over to those folks who came to your blog and engage with them…not only on their blog, but on all social platforms.

    Also take time to be on social media…but not too much time. Once you get it all in synch, it becomes easier. We have to put ourselves out there and just be ourselves, have a little patience and there ya go!

    Donna Merrill recently posted…What’s Your Blogging Strategy?My Profile

    • says

      Hi Donna,

      I’m glad you stopped by and thanks for taking the time to comment.

      I couldn’t agree more. You mentioned writing and engagement through commenting and social media. There’s no way to automate those with shiny new tools and make a real connection. I read a post recently about a couple that found themselves in divorce court. The wife was citing lack of communication as the primary reason for divorce. The husband indignantly responded, “Lack of communication? What are you talking about woman? I text you at least three times a day.” :-) There’s real connection and the lazy, “efficient” substitute.

      – Cole
      Cole Wiebe recently posted…The Real Reason Most Blogging and Social Media Missed the Mark in 2013My Profile

  9. says

    Hi Colin

    That’s a very good post and makes many points that I know I’m guilty of.

    My Internet access had got so slow in November that I finally bit the bullet and got myself another computer, supposedly to move things over to it in non-emergency mode.

    My Internet access is certainly must faster, which must be good, but a month later I am still hitting problems and finding things on the “wrong computer”, or unintended consequences.

    As my “bright shiny objects” – I think that avoiding them must be my New Year’s resolution. Oh no – I broke it last night :-(

    Happy New Year to you.

    Joy recently posted…Speeding Up My BlogMy Profile

    • says

      Hi Joy,

      Thanks for stopping by and taking the time to comment. We’ve become conditioned to find a simpler solution that almost always involves a new purchase. In my post I mentioned my temptation to purchase the latest upgrade to Writer Pro for both Mac and iPad, and my decision not to bother this time around. But it’s been nagging me every day… it’s only forty bucks for both. The video makes it sound as though it would really help my writing workflow. In reality, I know I’d keep using what I already use daily, because I don’t have the time to learn new software, and the two new apps would take their place with the dozen or so matched app sets I already never use.

      One article I recently read made an astute observation. Every piece of hardware, software or online solution we don’t buy will not eat up our stored labor (money), cut into our company’s profits, add to our debt load or accrue interest. Choosing not to even search for a new solution in the first place saves us the hours it might take on Google, researching websites, downloading trial versions, installing and then uninstalling software, or the learning curve involved in familiarizing ourselves enough with solutions to make an educated decision. There will be no manual to read or software to master after a purchase has been made. There will never be any time wasted or frustration resulting from dealing with warranty or support issues. There will be no recurring subscription or upgrade fees. And you will be mercifully spared buyer’s remorse, guilt over purchasing a product that was never used, or at least enough to justify a purchase, or over its eventual disposal. There is no environmental impact in manufacturing or when it’s discarded. A product or solution never purchased causes no health issues stemming from radiation, eye strain or repetitive motion.

      I was watching an episode of Million Dollar Listing recently and noticed that one of the top earners was using an ancient MacBook laptop that still required the old blue LAN cable because it was pre-wi-fi. I was puzzled that a millionaire would use that old clunker. On reflection, I realized that he retained it because a new model with all the bells and whistles would contribute absolutely nothing to his bottom line. And he was sparing himself all the wasted time involved in making an upgrade. He’ll only replace it when it dies. Smart man.

      – Cole
      Cole Wiebe recently posted…The Real Reason Most Blogging and Social Media Missed the Mark in 2013My Profile

  10. says

    Hey Cole,

    The way I see it – and I know what it’s like to feel depleted of energy spent and not returned – I would be wiling to guess even in spite of the outcome, you’ve learned a lot…and are now aware of what may be necessary to cut out in an effort to save some of the time and energy that never made its way back to you.

    I’ve done this many times as well – and all I can say is that as humans…we do the best we can with the knowledge we have available to us at the time we make decisions.

    But it seems like you’ve allowed yourself to learn from the year’s activities and I’m confident that you’ll get a better return on your time this year now that you have acquired this knowledge and will act on it.

    It’s called wisdom…and you have it :)
    Sometimes we have to know what not to do before we know what’s best TO do…if that makes sense.

    And thanks for this post too.
    It reminds me of how valuable my own time and energy are – and how to take steps as not to waste them on activities that won’t offer me a return.
    Dana recently posted…When New Year’s Resolutions Go BadMy Profile

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