I 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.