Introduction (Find out whether this article is likely to be of value to you)
Before we get into how often you should post online, let me explain the context. This article aims to help business owners who want to communicate their product or service offerings on the internet better. With online reputation management becoming increasingly important for employees, the same principles will be relevant. As individuals, we’re all CEO and Founder of our online presence, which will affect how our customers, employees, peers and bosses see us as well!
If you manage teams that create content for you, how often they post on your behalf is also very important. Finding that crucial balance between posting often enough to get noticed, of sufficient quality to be welcomed, without turning customers away is an art. This art should be mastered by you first before you can share it with your workers – and they share your message to the world.
Cutting my teeth in online marketing
I remember when I started publishing blog posts online, a dilemma was how to structure content production. As a budding internet marketer, I was keen to find out what all the online experts had to say. I understood how to communicate effectively in the ‘real world’ but somehow thought that it might be different online. After all, we don’t communicate to one person, or even five, we’re interacting potentially, with millions.
In the previous paragraph, there are at least four significant errors in judgement. Misconceptions that I still find myself falling into from time to time. By reading this article, you might be able to dodge these potential pitfalls and get focused more effectively.
Mistake #1: “… a dilemma was how to structure content production…”
If you don’t know what to say to people, then say nothing at all. If you are unsure of what to write about, then don’t bother. If you force yourself to create content when you don’t know what to create, then the end product will be worthless.
I noticed in different online industries, that when people went ‘through the motions’, and followed a fixed structure or plan set forth by others, the result was terrible if the process were lacking in inspiration.
There’s far too much competition in the world, for second-rate content. If you don’t think that you’ve something to say or promote that will win over hearts, minds and wallets, wait until you do.
It’s not that you should avoid structure and planning, far from it. The point is that there should be no dilemma. If you have something worthwhile to share with the world, you will be bursting with ideas and enthusiasm. You’ll know what makes your offering special, and where your target audience hangs out online. You will instinctively do the right thing. If you don’t, then your idea was not sound, or you got attracted to the process, not the value that you have to offer.
Mistake #2: “… find out what all the online experts had to say…”
Most online experts will guide you through strategy, and they will often re-iterate the FAQ’s, guides and documentation that can be provided by software providers. Looking back, I wish that I had avoided all experts e-books, and just read the documentation from each online software service itself.
For example, you could buy two $99 e-books or mini-courses about email marketing and Facebook advertising. The chances are that you will learn better and faster getting started on the platforms, and reading the user guides provided by Facebook, MailChimp or anyone else. The manuals from the software providers will not be out of date either.
That’s not the only reason why we should often avoid experts. They’ll not be in your niche or know your clients. What works in one industry won’t work in another. You will get advice that leads you down the wrong path.
Another problem is that you end up spending too much time on consumption and not enough on production. It is better to learn by doing, testing and scaling. The deeper you get into the ‘world of experts’, the further you get away from simple principles like this 2 step path to success:
- Find one person who will buy your product or service.
- Find ten more.
Another reason why gurus and experts can be overrated is the fact that many make their living by telling you how to make yours! They don’t walk the walk; they need a steady stream of new wannabe followers!
If you find an expert who will work for you and create the desired result, then you are paying for value exchange. The previous few paragraphs refer to ‘guru’s’ who do not do any work for you. If you want to hire someone to create a new website or run an ad campaign, then you’ll want an expert.
Mistake #3: “I understood how to communicate effectively in the ‘real world’ but somehow thought that it might be different online.”
We can communicate with bots better when we optimise our on-page SEO, and we can follow guidelines to fit in with search algorithms. When communicating with peers, bosses, employees or customers, there’s no difference at all between online and offline communications.
We should speak in the same tone, and about the same things as if our audience were sitting right across the table from us.
The main difference is that we can draft, create, edit and polish what we communicate before we hit publish. We can always be at our absolute best.
More importantly, what we publish can stay online. We will be at our best when being ‘introduced’ to strangers years from now, with no further time or effort on our part. That’s the power of the internet.
Mistake #4: “we don’t communicate to one person, or even five, we are communicating potentially, with millions…”
It seems intuitive but is entirely wrong.
While a viral post or fruitful article could be shared or seen by millions of people, if written in that tone, it won’t be.
Most people don’t want to be lectured or patronised. Something directed to millions will come across as aloof, disconnected, or even authoritarian. Think about annual speeches or public announcements; there is a tendency for them to sound inauthentic. I don’t know about you, but when I see or hear these types of heavily spun speeches, my mind starts to wonder. I think things like “I wonder who wrote this?” “Huh, they are bound to say that, I wonder if it is true?”
Perhaps I’m a bit cynical, but that seems to be a hyper-growth market in itself right now.
The point is, there is a disconnect, and the message is not received correctly.
For those of you who came here to find out how often they should post online, and at the risk of sounding like the very guru that I’m knocking.
Since you did get all the way this far down the post,
Let’s answer it.
How often should you post online?
Let’s re-phrase the question, shall we?
How often should you talk?
If your mother is/was anything like mine, you’ll know that if you don’t have anything important/sensible/nice to say then say nothing at all.
Some gurus will say something like:
Your readers will want a routine, post three times a week, weekdays are better for traffic, and time them between 9-12 am. and 5-9pm because these will offer higher social media interaction rates. So, try Monday, Wednesday and Friday, split test between the AM and PM slot to optimise…
Talk about taking the art, pleasure and creativity out of your life. You’ll end up freaking out at 12:05 because you forgot to turn to update the split testing software and fear that you have to start the whole experiment from scratch.
Don’t be that neurotic, anal robot.
Post when you have something valuable, sensible or helpful to say. If you’ve picked a great industry to be part of, and are going to succeed, you’ll post often enough to get the job done. You’ll post about the right topics at the right time because you will be tuned in to the industry, and your audience.
The same applied to the length of a post. Twitter aside, don’t tailor the word count of an article based on a preconceived idea – especially one from a guru!
Write naturally; don’t count the words. Take as many words as needed to make your point. It could be 200, or 5000 it doesn’t matter. Never stretch a 200-word point to 1000, or a 1000 word post to 2000. What’ll happen it that you will lose your reader, either through adding fluff or filler or from allowing yourself to drop your creative standards and slip out of ‘the zone’.
If you shouldn’t pay too much attention to ‘Guru’s’, where can you learn?
I have three favourite places where I like to learn — areas where I experience the most valuable lessons and life-changing experiences.
In reverse order of importance, here they are:
1) The best Podcasts, Books, and articles from non-fiction and business sources OUTSIDE of the industry where I make my living.
That might seem counter-intuitive, and I do follow what is happening in my industry. When we read and listen to the information in subjects that we are already familiar with, we tend to hear the same things. It’s especially the case when we get to the stage of mastery; we are very likely to follow the words of those whom we share an opinion.
When we learn about new topics, we get ideas about how these principles can apply to our industry — cross-pollination of the best ideas from other areas.
If you’re one of the first people to bring a successful idea, technique or product to a new market, massive growth can occur.
2) My own mistakes, failures and experience
I’m the kind of person that seems to make every mistake possible, and always try to find the ‘hidden benefit in every failure’. It sometimes seems like I value this process so much, I’ll often make the same mistake repeatedly!
There’s no substitute for experience. You can only master a subject or skill once you have perfected it through action.
3) My Clients!
If you’re doing a lousy job, your clients will tell you. (Sometimes by cancelling). If you’ve created something that will suit their needs better, they’ll let you know that too.
If your clients aren’t saying anything, then ask them – How can I make your life easier? They’ll tell you!
By working closely with clients on their projects, you get to understand their business deeply. You get into their mind and the minds of those that work with them. You can develop an insight that other similar clients might appreciate, as you grow your business.