Deconstruct your content, SEO and social media regularly

I don’t always agree with everything entrepreneur and author Tim Ferriss writes, but I definitely agree with his approach to challenges. In The 4-Hour Body, he frequently refers to the ‘Minimum Effective Dose’ which is what allows you to achieve big changes in short periods of time by focussing on the minimum you need to achieve results.

And you find out what that is either by reading his books, or by doing the work of deconstruction yourself. Here’s a TED talk from 2008 where he covers his approach to swimming, learning languages and ballroom dancing.

Why deconstruct your content and marketing?

It’s easy to spend a lot of time and money on the seemingly endless churn of creating content, improving your SEO or connecting to new people on Social Media. And if you can cope with that workload, you’ll certainly learn to create content quickly, and benefit from the sum of your connections (with reference to Stowe Boyd).

But what is actually working? What’s the Minimum Effective Dose for publishing content? How long should you spend on optimising your headline or link building to improve your search rankings, and how much of your social media promotion is actually worthwhile?

It all comes back to how you generate revenue, and learning how to track everything back to that end goal with your analytics software.

I don’t propose that every tweet needs to show a positive ROI, or that you shouldn’t try new things. But you’ll be better placed to enjoy the experimentation and fun of connecting and chatting if you know you’ve already covered the foundations of your digital business by doing the effective dose for the day/week/month, and any additional work is a bonus on top of that.

If you can combine the Minimum Effective Content and Marketing Dose with the three layers of asking ‘So What?’ when you’re measuring/tracking something (with credit to Avinash Kaushik), then you’re well on the way to making yourself and your business more efficient in the basics, and giving yourself more time to either devote to fun projects or relaxing in front of the TV.

ipod deconstruction - 5

A useful skill for everyday life and business:

The ability to look at models and mechanisms and deconstruct them isn’t just handy for digital marketing. It’s a lifehacking skill which applies to most areas of your profession – how long does it really take to fill out your tax form? How about your bookeeping? And what it you apply it not only to the gym, but to housework, or or areas of life? How much time could you free up for other things?

And I don’t believe you have to be naturally analytical to achieve it. I spent the years between school and working explicitly in SEO doing a number of very creative roles, mainly as a journalist and writer. In that time I’d forgotten basic math, let alone what I’d learnt in statistics classes, and viewed Excel as an instrument of torture. But since I began working for myself, it’s been utterly essential to figure out what needs to be done on a daily, weekly or monthly basis, and how to achieve it as efficiently and effectively as possible, or the workload would be completely overwhelming, and I’d never be able to spend any time working on my own websites (Another one of which, Rescogs, has just launched by the way).

I’m still at an early stage in learning the art of deconstruction, but both the 4-Hour Work Week and the 4-Hour Body provide some valuable insight into how it can be achieved, even if you don’t intend to work out even for that long each month.

And if you need any help, there are people you can turn to. Find your nearest talented software developer/programmer or master criminal, and watch them deal with their professional problems with analysis and deconstruction, even if their personal lives might still be a shambles. In fact, combine the two professions and you’ve pretty much found a typical hacker from my experience, who will happily deconstruct a lock, a software program, or Western society over a beer or two.

The stopping power of simple and effective marketing

Before you click on the video below, which shows a very literal example of being simple and effective, I should point out that it does contain a very small amount of violence, that I know it’s from the film ‘Never Back Down’, and I also know it’s not an accurate reflection of the effectiveness of Capoeira as a martial art.

But still…

I’m not going to suggest that business strategy, marketing or writing are related to fighting or violence, although I do know that to excel in martial arts or any endeavour requires similar levels of focus, dedication and perseverance. What I wanted to point out is that the most effective route to a solution is quite often the simplest, and that’s something easily overlooked in a digital world which tends towards information overload and constant hype cycles around the latest startup and innovation.

 

The thing of it:

I’m not suggesting that you shouldn’t experiment, innovate and impress. But these should always come after your core business and marketing ideas. The hardest bit is often stripping back everything to the simplest expression of what you do and why you do it. In fact, you can often find business people will try to delay answering or avoid the question altogether, and I imagine that’s because they fear that actually there’s nothing there.

That’s never been true in my experience.

It’s simply about digging deeper and asking the right questions to find the one core element that will really resonate. Even the dullest business you can possibly imagine, which may have been set up purely to make a profit, will have something of interest in it, whether that’s something in the story of the founders or workforce, or in the history of the business, or in future ambitions. The trick is to find it, and this is something which is potentially a lot easier for someone like me to discover as an ‘outsider’ working on a freelance basis, who can take an overall honest view and then ask potentially career limiting questions if you were putting them to your boss.

I recently had an epiphany when trying to simplify the brand idea for a client, after losing myself in all the great functionality of their product, and struggling to explain a lot of detailed technical terms. I’d succumbed to selling the features, rather than the benefits. But looking at it from the angle of their potential consumers, I suddenly realised that the one key benefit was incredibly simple, and could be summed up in 6 words. Now that’s got potential as a strapline, message, brand idea and identity etc.

Image courtesy funtik.cat on Flickr (CC Licence)

 

It’s about simple messages:

Particularly in the early stages of a business, it’s about getting who you are, and what you do, across in the simplest, most comprehensible ways.

People are great at passing on information. They’re not always great at taking information in, processing it, and repeating it all accurately, and that diminishes as the amount gets bigger.

Imagine you’re at a party, and you’re introducing an old friend to someone. Would you tell them absolutely everything that you know about your lifelong friendship? Or would you be more likely to say ‘Here’s Dave, he works in marketing and I’ve known him since I was five.’

One of my favourite tricks when it comes to simple messaging is to think about the classic game know as ‘Telephone‘ in the U.S, and without wishing to cause offence, ‘Chinese Whispers’ in the UK. If your message isn’t simple enough to pass from the CEO of the company down to the receptionist without the basic gist of it remaining, then it isn’t simple enough.

Or just think about the companies and slogans you remember off the top of your head. There are plenty of examples which not only function as a simple and effective strapline, but go further in explaining what it is you do, e.g.

Making collaboration productive and enjoyable for people every day. 37Signals

That goes a bit further than the classic strapline. And if it passes down the line and comes out as ‘they make working together more fun’, then it still works.

And there’s another reason why it’s more important than ever:

If you’ve ever come across Gary Vaynerchuck, you’ll already known why ‘passions,hustle, wine and business’ is a great 4 word summary. Generally SEO advice is always about ranking for keywords, but that site description is what converts people to following up on the search results. And as search and social become more and more intertwined, then memorable and sharable become even more important.

Oh, and if you can keep it under 140 characters, that’s even better:

 

Practising what I preach:

Along with a lot of bloggers and commentators, I can often fall into the trap of talking a great game about other people, and failing to do it for myself.

That’s particularly true when I’ve spent a lot of time working on client projects – part of the reason I took up blogging was to have an outlet for writing which didn’t follow a traditional news structure (At the time I was writing a lot of online news). That probably explains why I tend to write lengthy posts whenever I get the chance.

But now that TheWayoftheWeb is increasingly a lead generator for my marketing and content business (which is continuing to grow and may well expand in the future), and I’m also responsible for the marketing and lead generation side of Jodanma design and development, I’m going to be able to show more of the process that goes into that simplicity. The current Jodanma holding page will be replaced by the full website shortly, and the initial attempt at conveying what we do isn’t anywhere close to what it should be.

So here begins a real journey to apply what I do for clients to my own two businesses, and explain what goes into it along the way…