Knowing When To Quit

 In Content Marketing, Content Strategy, Social Media Marketing

There’s a wonderful quote by W.C. Fields that goes like this: “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. Then quit. There’s no use being a damn fool about it.

There’s certainly no secret that our marketing strategies change more quickly these days. But, sometimes it feels like, rather than changing – things are simply accumulating. New platforms, new tactics, new content and engagement strategies, and new ways of measuring; it only seem to add to our ever-growing mountain of to-do’s.

And, maybe even the most radical is how fast we are latching our brand to more and more social networks. New networks and methods of conversing with our customers seem to come online every day.  And I’ve noticed that the accumulation of all these networks is a very real distraction.

Really, It’s Not You – It’s Me… Right?

Now, okay, some of this is the business I’ve chosen. As a content marketing consultant in the digital space, I’ve got to keep up with “what the kids are dancing to” so I’m a “joiner” by nature. But I’ve noticed this entering into my client’s worlds as well – mostly by comparing two recent extremes.

I walked into Client A’s office recently to talk with them about Social Media and Content Marketing. They have no social media or content marketing strategy going at the moment.  They’ve done some basic research – and they are simply overwhelmed at the prospect of having a “Blog/Facebook/YouTube/Twitter/LinkedIn/FourSquare/Quora/Pinterest” strategy. They are much relieved when I tell them that they shouldn’t even consider all that – and we begin to talk about what the “right” content marketing process is for them before they even consider which channels to converse on.

But, then – that same week – I go to Client B’s Office.These guys are grizzled veterans of social media and web content marketing. The have attachments to everything.  They’re quite handily managing their Blog/Facebook/YouTube/Twitter/LinkedIn/FourSquare/Quora/Pinterest” strategy. But, now they’re just not seeing results.

They complain that they just simply have to outsource all the “content production” because of all the channels that they are managing.  Their editorial calendars are way more complex than they need to be – as they add new channels immediately as they come online.  They just have to make sure they don’t “miss out” on the next, big thing.  ”What about deleting that LinkedIn Group?”  I ask. I’ve suddenly grown alien tentacles.  “That’s Mary’s job you’re talking about.  She’s never going to give that up.”

And what about those of us that have slowly but surely attached ourselves to every social network out there. One day you wake up and you’re spending your entire morning checking out new followers, updating status and maintaining your “status quo”.

Figuring Out The Dip

Way back in 2007, Basex research estimated the business loss due to “unnecessary interruption” at $650 million.  That was five years ago! And, interestingly, as I was writing this post last week – an article came out discussing how social media can now be considered as addictive as cigarettes and alcohol.

Oh, and yes, the writing of this post was interrupted by the Tweet that informed me that this article existed.  But it felt right to go read it.  Irony duly noted.  Moving on…

I just got through reading (for the second time) Seth Godin’s The Dip.   In it, Seth, discusses how when you learn a skill – the very beginning is fun.  New information comes in, new capabilities seem to be right at your fingertips, and the experience is exciting.  But then, shortly thereafter, the long, slow and difficult climb toward mastery begins – and it makes you want to give up.  Of course in many cases we are programmed to “not quit”.  We can’t quit – because then we’ll be “quitters”.

Seth’s point – and it’s a good one – is that any short term task that isn’t benefitting a longer term strategy is a great candidate for quitting.  In fact, he quotes Jack Welch who, as CEO of GE, would pull the company out of any industry that they couldn’t be #1 or #2 in as it was a waste of time and resources.

It was a lesson that I learned (in very real and difficult terms) during my eight years at a startup company.  One of the most valuable things I learned (dare I say am still learning) was from one of my board members.  He would say “hire slowly, and fire quickly”.  What he meant by that was to take your time and hire the best people that you possibly could.  But if they aren’t working out – fire them as quickly as possible – as that’s a gift to both you and them.

Chinese Proverb: If You Must Play, Choose The Game, The Rules & The Quitting Time

These are important lessons to us as Content Marketers. It’s always hard to know when to let go of creative that isn’t working (can’t we just give it a little more time to go viral), or a tactic that isn’t providing the results we need, or just continuing to add on more and more and more platforms because it *MIGHT* be the next big thing.

It’s Okay To Be Wrong.

It just has to be.  We have to have the flexibility and give ourselves (or our team) the permission needed to be wrong. It may be a mistake to quit Twitter because we haven’t been able to develop a community on it – and we barely use it. But a year and a half later and 24 Tweets and 150 followers later – is it furthering the brand story?  Is it furthering our marketing?  How much will it hurt if it sits out there unused.

We need to periodically check in with ourselves – and give ourselves permission to quit things that aren’t furthering our adventure. And we should do this – despite what conventional wisdom or how “cool” that thing might be.

As for me – I quit (well you could say I never really started) Pinterest.  I’m afraid I just don’t get it.  I’ve given it a good solid try for almost three months – and I find it’s now a distraction to me. I may come back to it some day.  But for now – I just can’t find the reason to continue.  I know that makes me just slightly less hip. But, I have to say… Being a little more square can feel pretty good.

How about you – what have you quit recently?

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