Car speeding down highway with caption "When someone tells you there's a right way, flee"
Once upon a time — 8:56 AM EST, to be precise – the Internet was born.

A great collective intake of breath rose up from the land. And for the next four minutes, the world oohed and aahed at the magical creature humanity had just birthed. (Well, OK. Some of the world oohed and aahed. A few folks sniffed, muttered “It’ll never catch on,” and went back to reading their newspapers and books, which were basically things we used to have on which words were printed before the Internet was born. And also a lot of folks didn’t even know it had happened, because – duh – no Internet yet.)

Then, at precisely 9:01 AM EST, a funny thing happened.

People started telling other people how “it OUGHT to be done.” (“It” could have been anything, but for the purposes of our story, let’s focus on those people who were referring to how folks could market their businesses using this newfangled thingamabob.)

And it went on like that for about a hot minute, and then at 9:02 AM EST, some other folks rose up and began fighting back against the first folks, saying “No, no, no, that advice is ALL WRONG. This is what you should be doing.”

And thus the Way of All Things Digital-Marketing-Related was born. As if we’d been cursed by the Evil King (what? In my world, the bad guys aren’t always women, plus it’s my story I’m telling here, so..), we became doomed for all eternity to suffer through this cycle.

Every.Damn.Time.

  1. Something new and shiny pops up.
  2. People begin to take notice.
  3. Group A, almost always the early adopters, begin preaching “The Way of the New and Shiny Thing.”
  4. Everyone follows along with Group A for a while, and then…
  5. Group B rises up in opposition, preaching “The One True Gospel of the Not-So-New-And-Shiny Thing,” which is diametrically opposed in some significant way to Group A’s message.
  6. Like lemmings, we turn en masse and follow Group B.
  7. Lather.
  8. Rinse.
  9. Repeat.
  10. Throw up.

God almighty, enough.

Just take a breath for a second. And consider this tantalizing possibility …

There is no one right way. There is only Zuul.

Wait, no, that’s not right.

There is no one right way. There is only the better way for you and your business.

I agree, it’s not nearly as catchy. But it has the unique advantage of being absofreakinglutely true. For everyone. In every situation.

I ask you: How many other things can you say that about?

I don’t wholly understand why this back-and-forth/”us vs. them” shit happens, y’all, except that we’re all humans, and as such we’re all hardwired biologically and especially neurologically to seek out patterns, because patterns make our lives easier (or at least we think they do), and because they feel true.

But they’re not true. Not always, anyway.

Reasonable minds differ on so many different aspects of digital marketing, in particular, and I think this is why so many of us get lost, confused, overwhelmed, and frustrated. Here’s a short, excerpted list of the online marketing topics I’ve seen or discovered widespread disagreement on just in the last three weeks:

  • How often should you post on social media?
  • Heck, let’s narrow it down – how often should you post on Facebook?
  • Should you curate other people’s content? Or only post your own stuff?
  • Should you be everywhere? On just one or two social platforms? Anywhere? Is it all a waste of time?
  • What about blogging? Do we have to blog every day? Once a week? Twice? Does it even matter, as long as we’re consistent in our publishing schedule?
  • OK, but how long should our blog posts be? Will readers balk at 1000+ word posts? Or do those longer posts get better results?
  • Fine, fine, no consensus on any of that, just tell me this: What the HELL am I supposed to do first? What should my focus be?

I submit to you, dear reader, none of these questions is capable of a single answer that’s equally right for all of us.

The only thing any of us “pros” can tell you (and retain our integrity in the process, anyway) is, at best, a general conclusion based on experience and observation, together with the key factors we think are important that might have changed that conclusion:

  • How often should you post on social media? It depends. Engagement per tweet, for instance, seems to diminish when you post more than 4-5 times a day, but overall engagement continues to rise up to about 15 tweets a day, when it then begins to diminish a bit.
  • How often should you post on Facebook? It depends. If you’re getting good reach organically, once a day may be enough, assuming it’s visually eye-catching.
  • Should you curate other people’s content? Or only post your own stuff? It depends. If you’re interested in exploring higher-volume social media marketing tactics and you can’t afford outsourcing content creation to feed that content monster, you’ll probably need to turn to content curation in some way. Content curation can potentially give you a host of relationship-building, authority-enhancing, humanity-strengthening benefits, too.
  • Should you be everywhere? On just one or two social platforms? Anywhere? Is it all a waste of time? It depends. For most solo and small business owners, being everywhere isn’t cost- or time-efficient. You’ll probably want to focus initially on one or two channels where your prospects are already participating actively. And yes, it can be a waste of time – for some businesses, some business owners, in some contexts. It just depends.
  • What about blogging? Do we have to blog every day? Once a week? Twice? Does it even matter, as long as we’re consistent in our publishing schedule? It depends. Blogging is a great way to build authority, and since most blog posts carry a useful marketing life of two or three years (compared to the 1 to 3 hours of useful life of your average Facebook post), it might make a lot of sense for you to focus your efforts there. And it depends – on your content, your niche, and your readers. What do they want? Do you even know?
  • How long should our blog posts be? Will readers balk at 1000+ word posts? Or do those longer posts get better results? It depends. One business’s prospects may only have time for the short, down-and-dirty how-to kind of post. Another might be craving more thought-leadership kind of stuff, wordy and dense. Or anywhere in between. Or something else entirely – inspiring quotes on pretty pictures, for instance. Or podcasts only, so they can listen during their workout at the gym.
  • What the HELL am I supposed to do first? What should my focus be? Sing it with me people … It depends! What are your goals? What are your assets? What do you do best? What scares the crap out of you? What does your business need right now, and what’s the fastest way to get it?

Right about now, some of you may be hyperventilating.  For you folks, I hear you. I feel you. For you, and just for you, I offer two things:

  1. First and foremost, here. Breathing is good. Hyperventilating is bad. Yeah, pretty much always – but – ahem – it depends. (Please note: In no way do I endorse that last one. For my purposes here, it’s just a metaphor. Hyperventilate at your own risk.)
  2. Second, while you’re breathing into that bag, consider this: If there is no one right way, then you can stop looking for it.

That’s true for everyone, actually. Yes, you’ll have to do a little more digging and experimenting, but there’s value in that process. You get to know yourself and your own business much better.

And the more you do that, the easier it gets in the future. You can even get to the point where Group A starts in with the “Gospel of the New Shiny” and you can say “Hmmm, yeah, not for me, thanks.”

Or “Ooh. That will very likely solve Problem X for me. Sold – for now.”

Think of that. You are your own best expert. You’re in control. You decide the better way for you and your business.

So what’s the moral of our little fairy tale up there at the top of this post?

It’s just this:

When someone tells you there’s “one right way” to do anything related to marketing or running your business …

Run. Run like hell.

The New Year is bright with all sorts of new ideas, but in certain circles there’s still plenty of shady tricks and underhanded practices that we think should be called out. This month’s word carnival: Dirty Deeds and Due Diligence – what to watch out for in 2015. Check out all of this month’s posts at that link!

Photo credit: cosmo flash via photopin cc

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Facebook thumbs downThe first time it popped up in my feed, I rolled my eyes.

Then it popped up again. And again.

Four more times.

Then it popped up under a LAWYER’S name.

And that’s when I said “enough is freaking ENOUGH, people.”

And I wrote this.

Image credit: Wikimedia Creative Commons

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