Blogging in Obscurity
You wake up in the middle of the night, and you need to pee.
It’s 2:47 AM and you’re in your own bed, in the bedroom of your own place, so this is a walk you’ve taken a thousand times before. As a result, you do what any logical, big-brained Homo Sapiens will do under the circumstances.
You get up and start walking to the bathroom.
In the pitch black dark of a sleeping house.
And guess what happens?
Sure enough, you stub your toe on the corner of the bedroom door jam. And there’s that two-second pause between when you know it’s going to hurt and when it actually does, so you open your mouth and scream silently. Then, as you hop up and down as quietly as possible and try unsuccessfully to stifle the string of colorful metaphors spewing from between your clenched teeth, your good foot lands on the toy car your son has so thoughtfully left on the hallway floor and…
Well, you get the picture.
Bottom line: you decided that past experience being what it is, you were capable of wandering around your house in the pitch dark with impunity. And the universe just definitively kicked your butt.
It’s interesting to note that the autobiographical aspects of this story (cleverly hidden by my use of second-person narration) can teach several important lessons about blogging, content marketing, running a business, and mastering the physical laws of success.
Are You Wandering Around the Blogosphere in the Dark?
Maybe you’ve been there. I know this isn’t my first time.
You’re pounding away at the keyboard, or clicking away on the mouse. You’re doing what seems like the right thing, because it’s what they always tell you to do, and you think you’re really giving it your all.
Then, suddenly, you realize something pretty scary:
You’re getting absolutely nowhere.
It’s not a good feeling. Especially when it’s combined with that age old “I’m a complete idiot” refrain in your mind and, worse yet, in your heart.
It’s kind of like stubbing your toe and realizing it would have been really cool if you’d decided to turn on the light.
You see, this whole content marketing thing can be pretty overwhelming. Blogging is a huge, time-consuming affair. Producing and re-purposing content can feel like a bottomless pit that you’ll never be able to fill. And when you add to that the fact that you need to be producing and distributing all this content strategically?
Mistakes I’ve Made
I’ll come right out and tell you: I’ve screwed this whole thing up for a while now.
And it’s particularly interesting (and depressing) to me because I have branded myself as a content marketing specialist, and I’ve proven that claim time and again on behalf of my clients. But with my own content marketing efforts…
Well, let’s just say I’ve left some things to be desired.
And when it finally became clear to me, it hurt like that stubbed toe I described above: sharp pain mixed with head-shaking foolishness.
You see, I’m currently not on course to meet any of my established goals for my marketing program in 2012. None.
How’s that for head-shaking and toe-holding?
So take a look at the following list of mistakes I’ve made recently, and see if you may be making one or two of these yourself. I’ll be begging shamelessly for your comments later, so give this list some thought. If you’ve figured out a foolproof way to overcome one or more of these mistakes, please share. Or if you’re struggling with it yourself, let us know so we can help. (Misery loves company, after all!)
1) Lack of Consistency
Successful content marketing requires quality, quantity and consistency in order to accomplish the desired effect.
Your content needs to be really good, and there needs to be a lot of it, no doubt. But you could write millions of words, put out hundreds of videos and podcasts and still get nowhere if you’re just throwing things out there sporadically, with no rhyme or reason.
And that’s exactly what I’ve been doing.
I preach consistency to my clients, even offer them a discount for allowing me to work consistency into the mix on their behalf, because I know how important it is. Yet, with my own content, I’ve been publishing if and when I have the chance, and calling it good.
Well, it’s not good, as the results prove.
2) Putting My Own Work on the Back Burner
I think one of my biggest downfalls is likely an issue for many freelancers like myself: I tend to put off my own marketing efforts in favor of obtaining and completing work for my clients.
And don’t get me wrong, it’s vital to put the necessary effort into completing active client projects well and on time. And it’s also important to be actively seeking more work. After all, cash flow is fairly important to business survival (not to mention little things like eating and paying the rent…)
But here’s the thing: Every time I choose not to write a new blog post for my own blog or film the next video in an ongoing series, I’m promising myself less of a chance of future success!
Every single piece of strategic, high-quality content is a step toward future success. So, the inverse is obviously true as well. By completing that client’s work, I’m guaranteeing momentary, immediate success. But by completing my own work, I’m guaranteeing lasting, long-term success.
So balance is necessary. And thinking about it now, I’ve been completely unbalanced of late.
3) Organized Wishing Instead of Goal Setting
I’ve always been a sucker for lists.
I work with a To Do list and a schedule, just like a lot of other folks. And I’ve tried numerous times to establish and maintain a set of written, prioritized short and long-term goals, both personally and for my business.
But here’s where I falter: all too often, I find myself viewing a goal as just a pleasant dream or wish. It’s as if the initial desire and passion that caused me to write it down in the first place has evaporated or been forgotten, because I can easily push it back to another day, or another week, or cross it right off the list.
And that’s pretty scary when you consider that some of those goals are directly connected to my business and personal success as I’ve defined them.
What it really comes down to is a sense of urgency.
I’m naturally a fairly laid back person, and it takes quite a bit to get me riled up. I get really excited when I consider the power of the written word and I love to write. I’m also passionate about helping other people succeed by means of content. But, for reasons I haven’t nailed down just yet, I sometimes can’t manage to connect menial task A with long-term marketing goal B and transfer some of the passionate excitement I have for B into the completion of A.
As a result, truly important tasks sometimes wander around my To Do list for days or weeks waiting for the urgency to magically manifest itself. And, as all you other freelancers can confirm, we rarely have the luxury of a true deadline on our own marketing efforts.
4) Just Plain Old Laziness
I’d be remiss to leave this one out.
Truth be told, sometimes I’m just plain lazy. And that gets me in trouble on a number of levels:
- I’ll sleep in when I’d be much better off using that extra hour or two writing a new blog post or polishing up a client’s project.
- I’ll watch another episode of X-Files (man, I love that show – I watched it as a teenager and rediscovered it thanks to the magic of Netflix Instant Watch!) instead of networking with some of my powerful LinkedIn connections.
- I’ll go a week, sometimes, without sharing any of the cool stuff I’m reading with my Twitter, Facebook or Google+ networks.
These are just a few examples, but they all boil down to one simple truth: if I could master my tendency to take it easy on myself, I could get a huge amount of important work done and start reaping much greater rewards from doing so. Period.
The Physical Laws of Success
A lot of my mistakes above have to do with failing to understand and work with The Physical Laws of Success. Specifically, I’m referring to inertia, direction and momentum.
You see, the law of inertia taught us that an object at rest tends to stay at rest. And that perfectly describes a non-existent or lackluster content marketing program: at rest. It’s not going anywhere. It’s dead in the water.
But, the other side of that same coin is that an object in motion tends to stay in motion! And that’s a lot more encouraging. If I get myself in motion, actually doing something, it’s easier to stay in motion!
And this brings in the laws of momentum and direction as well. Once an object is in motion, all the other forces that affect that object will tend to change its momentum and its direction. Gravity, magnetic fields, collisions, friction… all these other forces can either increase or decrease an object’s momentum and/or change its course.
Depending on the intended goal, that could be a good or a bad thing.
So the trick for a business person is to minimize those forces that will slow you down or push you in the wrong direction, and maximize those forces that will speed you up and keep you pointed where you want to go.
Those forces are different for all of us, and they can involve physical, mental or emotional baggage of all kinds. For me, some common negative forces are physical laziness, fear of rejection, fear of failure and the myth of finite ideas. Positive forces include pride, passion for the job, and a desire to prove to my wife that I’m not insane. (Whether or not this is true is irrelevant.)
A Manifesto for Those Blogging in Obscurity
With inspiration taken from the hilarious and poignant An Invocation for Beginnings, released by Ze Frank to announce the start of his new A Show, I’d like to offer the following manifesto for myself and all the other content marketers who have struggled with not fully practicing what we preach:
- I AM SCARED AND I AM POWERFUL. My fear gives me the power to turn this ship around and finally find Atlantis.
- LET ME REMEMBER that my source of ideas and creativity is a spring-fed mountain stream, sometimes rushing and overflowing its banks, sometimes barely trickling, but always running fresh, not a stagnant cesspool, crusted with the remains of every bad idea I’ve ever had and stinking like the backside of forever.
- LET ME REMEMBER that my audience is made up of people, not Google, and that my content is, and will forever be, the product of one human being sitting on the couch with a glass of lemonade and talking about cool stuff with another human being who would love a chance to talk too.
- LET ME REMEMBER that the human body doesn’t need eight hours of sleep nearly as much as it needs the ferocious adrenaline high that is success and a job well done.
- I COMMIT TO producing one spectacular piece of fresh or re-purposed content every single day, realizing logically that I can’t possibly accomplish this perfectly, but that if I accomplish the same percentage of successful attempts as I’ve managed to date, I’ll still be producing at least twice as much as I ever have before.
- I COMMIT TO publishing that content according to a predetermined editorial calendar and list of goals. While that calendar and list have always existed, the commitment is apparently new.
- I COMMIT TO working smarter, not harder, by means of the magical power of re-purposing my content. Without exception, every single thing I produce can be used at least two ways without losing value.
- I COMMIT TO my blog readers, my newsletter subscribers, my Twitter followers, my Google+ circles, my LinkedIn connections and my Facebook friends: I will not let you down.
In Conclusion, I Need You.
Now, if you’ve stuck with me through 2000 words of confessional, obsessional ranting and raving, I have a humble request.
Help make me accountable for all I’ve said in this post.
Help me realize the commitments I’ve made, now and into the future.
Help me help you, if I can.
- Leave a comment at the bottom of this post. It doesn’t have to be long or profound, it doesn’t even have to make a ton of sense. Just let me know you’re out there, and you’ve heard me.
- Link to, Tweet, Share and +1 this post. The more people who get a chance to see it, the more people will comment, and the more I’m going to need to be accountable to follow through. Please. If you see even the slightest glimmer of value in this post, share it with your world.
- Subscribe. My e-mail newsletter, which you can subscribe to in the box at the top right of this page, is a huge part of this new commitment to fresh content. Be there, and see the magic unfold.
Thank you sincerely for reading, for being here at all, and for helping me get to content marketing Nirvana.