How To Know When It’s Time To Press Stop
Sometimes stopping – pressing pause on your content activity – and taking stock of where you are, is the best thing you can do.
If you’ve been creating content for a while and are seeing little, or not enough, return on your efforts then this article is for you.
In a recent article, I highlighted the tangible and also the intangible returns that start percolating through as time, your track record and back catalogue start to build. But it’s just as important to recognise when, if you’re writing a blog, putting a podcast together or creating video, you’re not getting anything back, and what to do about it.
Sometimes, pushing through and carrying on regardless is the worst thing you can do.
It’s not that you have to admit to yourself that your work isn’t any good, it’s more a case of asking yourself a series of questions to determine where you are in relation to where you want to be, and being honest with your answers.
Pause what stalls, kill what’s nil
You Are The Media got off to a slow start with very few subscribers. The reason I kept going with it when things were quiet was that it was serving a purpose as far as I was concerned. It was a way for me to learn and put together a lot of the content that eventually became The Content Revolution when it was published in 2015.
Another reason why YATM was such a quiet online space in its first few years was that I was involved in too much other activity. As well as running my main business, there was also an offline event (called Once Upon A Time) and a podcast called Marketing Homebrew.
I had to press pause and stop on those so that YATM had a chance to stick. And by stick, I mean that it connected better with people, started building a community, told stories people enjoyed and cared about to the point where they’d buy from me.
I pressed “stop” in 2017 after that original purpose of helping write The Content Revolution had been served, so I could get clear on exactly how I was helping others and what I wanted to achieve.
Here is what the You Are The Media timeline looks like:
🕦 2013-14 Established and committed to YATM with gusto and energy, but little expectation or intention of audience growth
🕤 2015 The original purpose had been served but YATM’s generic marketing message meant continued limited growth and little differentiation in the marketplace
🕘 2015-17 Involved in too many other things alongside YATM so lost focus
🕒 2018 Focused on one thing – how YATM could help the community it built – by showing them how to develop and grow owned online spaces
🕐 2019 People cared
🕞 2020 onwards – Focused on keeping going and adapting to a changing world until it feels the YATM mission has run its course.
There’s a phrase for it, it’s “kill your darlings” and it refers to getting rid of something you become too attached to for its own sake but that ultimately doesn’t serve why you exist in the first place, nor what you’re hoping to achieve long-term.
What Are The Signs That You’re Heading Into A Place Of No Reward
Whilst it may be easy to say, “stop what isn’t working,” what are the signs you should be looking out for that could indicate that you’re not hitting your stride and not building momentum?
It all comes down to relevancy between your message and your audience. If there is no audience for your message or your content is too inward-looking, i.e. all about your company, then you will never win.
Taking this further, CB Insights produced their post-mortem for why businesses fail. The top reason for new businesses collapsing (42%) is that there is no audience. When businesses fail, it is often less to do with money running out and more with their not meaning anything to the audience they hoped to find. A similar thing happens when content creation efforts fail.
Here are some pointers to look out for that mean it could be time to stop and evaluate content that’s making little or no impact. The goal shouldn’t be producing more, but creating greater meaning and resonance with others:
An initial burst of energy, then a lack of momentum.
There is a thing called ‘podfade’ where the average number of podcasts made before activity dwindles, is seven. No one wants to look back and see evidence of initial devotion that evaporates into nothing. Similarly, when the articles you publish have dates associated with them, your apathy becomes apparent when your readers can see long breaks between publishing.
Persistence, say a podcast or article once a month, is far more powerful than an explosion of activity over a period of a few weeks, followed by silence over the following six months.
Focusing on the wrong metrics.
When your short-term goal is conversion to paying customers, you’re only going to be disappointed. Content creation is always a slow burn activity and there are aspects of it you’ll never be able to quantify such as the breakthroughs finding your voice, becoming confident in the creation process itself and finding consistency in your narrative, bring. Trust can, and will lead to commercial returns, but you have to earn it first.
All the effort going into creation and little into promotion and repurposing.
This is one of the most unequal outputs from content creation, where people spend 80% of their effort in creation and 20% in sharing their work.
If you don’t share, no one will see what you’re doing. If you ask people to share your work, they won’t, unless they get something in return. Your narrative also shouldn’t just sit in one place, you should be able to repurpose it, extending its longevity, for instance making a blog a starting point for a newsletter, editing highlights and sharing them on social media or creating an audio format from a blog post.
Lack of distinctive style.
When you look and sound like everyone else, there is little chance you’ll stand out, clearly differentiated. One of my biggest mistakes and the reason for YATM’s early lack of growth was that my message was generic and sounded complicated. When I leaned into simplicity and made everything feel accessible, YATM’s fortunes changed for the better.
No plan or framework that drives activity, that you can return to time and again.
All content needs a plan. If you create on a whim, the chances are you’re going to run out of steam or your message won’t be brave enough. Start with a guiding purpose followed by an editorial plan, and perhaps even more fundamentally commit to gathering inspiration and information continually – have a dedicated space in Notes or use Evernote for ideas/topics to follow up on or test out.
Think about, for instance, what type of theme resonates more with others? Read this article to help you discover content themes to explore and build a calendar.
Believing that people can’t get enough of you.
Only your family will tell you exactly what you want to hear, nobody else will ever scream that they want more from you. Many businesses are fantastic at dedicating themselves to one thing – themselves.
You have to give the audience you’re wanting to connect with something they can care about, showing them that you can help with the problems or issues they have. When the focus always comes back to you and not your reader/listener/viewer, returns on your content slow down.
Having no strategic direction.
This comes back to why you’re doing what you do in the first place. As I mentioned, in the early years of YATM I was so happy dabbling with other side projects that all focus got lost and this affected subscriber rates. Having something that defines why you’re setting out on this journey and what you want to achieve from it, is a barometer to check back into, to see if you’re going off course, becoming distracted or sticking by what you want to achieve.
When Things Stick
The moment you realise your work is having an impact on others, is when you can start taking what you’re doing to the next level.
💥 You have tangible and intangible proof that your work is building your audience and achieving your overall objectives
💥 Your regular content creation activity becomes a process you can replicate over and over again, minimising waste and time taken (all YATM activity is recurring, it doesn’t stop)
💥 The community you build means you lean into others for their help and advice
💥 Your community, fired up by what you share, becomes a place where your people ask questions that drives further content creation
💥 By repeating a winning formula, you can test and experiment by trialling other initiatives
💥 People care enough to buy from you
There are no rewards for creating work that doesn’t strike a chord.
Stopping and pausing activity, all the better to recalibrate, allows you to realign and minimise the effects of sharing the wrong kind of work. In this way you’re not wasting time or resources, or tarnishing your reputation.
Looking out for early warning signs that things aren’t going to plan, whether that’s recognising that content creation has become a chore or say, being honest about it not having much impact, means you’ll be better placed to create relevance within the marketplace or niche you want to succeed and build longevity in.