When All You’ve Got Is a Hammer, You’ll Break Your Blog To Pieces

This is a guest post by Danny Iny, author, strategist, serial entrepreneur, and proud co-founder of Firepole Marketing

Are you everywhere, or are you nowhere?

Some bloggers seem to be everywhere – they have active profiles on Facebook and Twitter, they blog, they email, they comment, and they use every new technology and channel as it becomes available.

Other blogs seem to have a much narrower focus – they write their posts, allow you to subscribe via RSS and sometimes email, and stick to what they know.

There is an obvious issue with being everywhere: you get so distracted by one thing after another that you run the risk of never getting much traction with anything.

But there’s an issue with focusing too narrowly, too.

But isn’t focus a good thing?

Yes, focus is a good thing – but there are two different kinds of focus:

GOOD FOCUS: This is when you’ve identified your customer profiles and you’re diligently sticking to the strategy and tactics that are going to work best for them. Good focus is audience-centric; cutting out distractions to deliver value to your audience.

BAD FOCUS: Bad focus is when you know how to use WordPress, aWeber and Facebook, so everything you do is a combination of WordPress, aWeber and Facebook (these are three random examples – substitute your three favorite technologies instead). Bad focus is blogger-centric – avoiding new things and staying inside your comfort zone.

This post is about bad focus, and how to avoid it. But first, we’ve got to learn how to identify it. This is easier said than done, because we don’t have a conscious thought train going through our minds that says:

“I’m afraid to learn new things, so I’m going to stick with what I know instead.”

If only it were so easy! But it isn’t – our thought processes usually look more like this:

“Okay, so I want to accomplish X. How can I do that using the tools that I have at my disposal?”

That’s an innocent question, and a good one at that – it’s what you’d expect from a resourceful internet entrepreneur who is looking to make the most of his or her resources and abilities.

So while the root cause might be a deep down fear of stepping out of your comfort zone, the practical problem that actually manifests, and needs to be dealt with, is tool theory.

“When all you’ve got is a hammer…”

Tool theory is the tendency to apply what you know to the situation at hand – in other words: “When all you’ve got is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.”

When applied in moderation, this is great – it allows you to stretch the boundaries of what you can accomplish without having to learn new skills.

When taken too far, though, it becomes an exercise of fitting square pegs into round holes; it might occasionally work, but often it won’t. Even when it does, it’s a lot harder than – and not as effective as – just finding a round peg for the round hole.

We see this all the time – for example, with blogs that insist on readers subscribing to updates using only email, or only RSS, or not on Twitter – whatever tool the blogger is comfortable using. The problem is that just because it’s the tool that the blogger is most comfortable with doesn’t mean that it’s most comfortable for the reader. Here are a couple of examples:

  1. I don’t subscribe to anything via RSS, and there are blogs out there that I would really love to follow, if only they offered an email subscription option.
  2. I’m sure some people would love to follow Firepole Marketing on Twitter rather than subscribe to blog updates. We do have a Twitter account (@FirepoleMRKTNG), but we don’t use it very much, and we don’t link to it anywhere on the site (this is something that will change as part of a redesign over the next few months).

It’s hard for us to see these problems because they all relate to tools that we don’t use, and since we don’t use them it is hard for us to know what we don’t know.

The right tool for the right job?

The first thing that you need to do is take stock of the tools that you have at your disposal, and the jobs that you need to get done.

Since the tools are what tend to constrain our thinking, let’s go the other way, and start by looking at the jobs first. Make a list of all the functionality on your blog – all of the different ways in which readers can engage and interact with you and your content.

Now explain how each piece of functionality is made possible, and honestly explore whether you’ve got the best technology doing the job it was meant to do, or you’ve just hacked a way for the job to get done, even though the tools weren’t really meant for it.

As a reality check, look at some of the blogs that you refer to as examples in your industry, and see how they’re accomplishing the same task. Is it the same way that you are, or have they got a slicker or more effective solution in place?

Spend a little extra time on those sites, and explore what other ways of interacting with the blog and content are available to readers, that aren’t available on your blog.

Ask yourself – why is that functionality not available on your blog? Is it that your readers don’t want it? If that’s the case, then great. But if it’s just that you never thought of it, or aren’t sure how to get it done, or wouldn’t use it personally, then think about adding that functionality!

Getting new tools…

Odds are that through this process you will reach the conclusion that you need to be adding some new tools to your repertoire – whether it is functionality on your blog, integration on various social media platforms, or just profiles and activity on those platforms.

This is where you run the risk of going off the rails and drowning in technology options, which is why it is so important to do this carefully and deliberately.

Start by determining how active you really need to be on these new technologies – for example, do you need to be engaging with your audience regularly on Twitter, or is it enough for you to tweet your posts as you post them, and give people the option to follow you? There’s a big difference between the two – in one case, you need to get really comfortable with Twitter, and in the other you just need to get some automated technology put in place.

Remember that the key factor in determining what you should be doing is your audience’s preference, not yours! Keeping that in mind, here are three strategies that you can use to learn how to do whatever it is that you need to do:

  1. Do some quick research. Start with a Google search on the tool or functionality that you’re looking into, and try to get at least a rough grasp on how it works. Most things aren’t that complicated, and you’d be surprised at how far this can take you if you allot 30-60 minutes to the job. Don’t spend more time than that – if after an hour you still haven’t reached a solution, move on to the second strategy.
  2. Ask people for help. Reach out to your network, and ask if anyone knows how to do what you want to be doing, or how to set it up. If you see someone who seems to be doing it very well, then reach out and ask them for guidance – more often than not, they’ll be happy to point you in the right direction. They might explain how to do it, and they might just point you to the third strategy.
  3. Explore automation tools. There are WordPress plug-ins and tools like Tarpipe and many others that allow you to automate a lot of social media cross-integration. In other words, if you just want your blog updates to go out on Facebook and Twitter, then you can do that without having to ever log in to either Facebook or Twitter.

The key, above all, is to find an effective way of allowing your blog to do what your audience wants it to do – while creating minimal headache for you. If you make a solid list of this sort of feature and activity upgrades, and spend an hour a day implementing them for just a week or two, you could seriously improve the user experience that visitors have on your blog.

Over to you – have you faced a challenge of learning a new tool because your audience wanted it, even though you didn’t? Have you resisted doing that? Leave a comment and let me know.

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Comments

  1. says

    That’s good how you defined good focus and bad focus. Also very clever how you integrated an ordinary hammer into this post.

    I tried may different methods available and I still look for the best plugin or method of delivery. There are so many out there that a new one could be found every day. I think looking at various blogs and what they offer is a good way to find new ideas to add to your blog. I found a new one last night and uploaded it to my blog.
    Tom just posted Teeball practice, in the off-season

  2. says

    Quick comment and question:
    I manually post everywhere vs. using WP plugins because I wasn’t able to identify any automated plugins that would update Twitter, FB, et al without looking crappy. It takes ~30 sec to manually add the link to FB which enables me to select a nice picture to go with it and add a few of my own thoughts. Seemed like a reasonable investment of time to have it look nice vs. have it be automated. Am I alone in this?

    And my question is about understanding your audience. As far as I can tell nobody cares that I’m on twitter. While I have few followers on FB, FB tells me that each post gets almost 200 “impressions” (which is far more than the # of followers my Page has). I’m not entirely sure what to take away from this. Is this people on FB who are seeing my page updates because of a manual FB search? My assumption is that I’m doing relatively quite well on FB despite my small number of followers and that I should invest more time on my FB page. Could anybody clarify what FB “impressions” is really telling me?

    Thanks!
    Alexis just posted Go the F**k to Sleep Book Review

    • says

      Alexis, you aren’t alone in this – I do the same, for the most part. Whenever a new post of mine goes live, I take 30 seconds to tweet and share it. The automated tools just don’t seem to do that good a job of it – at least, not the ones that I’ve seen so far, and the time that I would spend finding a better tool wouldn’t be justified by the 30-second time savings.

      Regarding your question, I can’t advise you specifically because I’m not very active on Facebook, but I think the real question is what action do you want people to take after Twitter or Facebook? In other words, whether you can measure the Facebook impressions or not, are they resulting in the desired action that you have in mind?
      Danny just posted Interview: Does a company have to be great to be big?

  3. says

    Hi Kristi
    “When all you’ve got is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.”

    That is one of my favourite quotes – used it on lots of occasions to make the point about learning new skills.

    “….there are blogs out there that I would really love to follow, if only they offered an email subscription option.”
    Once upon a time a only had an RSS feed and then the man himself, Marcus the Sales Lion, told me to add a subscription via email.
    Never looked back and that’s the way I subscribe to blogs.
    Keith Davis just posted The Coolest Voice on the Internet

  4. says

    This is something that everyone can reflect on. The question that “are my skills enough?”. I’ll always have this answer as no. And I know keep feeding my self new stuffs from reading blogs and doing comments on them and try some suggestions then apply. That’s one step of keeping your hands off from a hammer. ;)

  5. says

    If I had a little hammer…

    I do love it when I find the right tool for the job. Sometimes it’s hard enough keeping up, it’s nice to have something speed up the basics for me.

    It really pays to remember how different people like to subscribe different ways. I like RSS because I keep my feed reader well organized. Emails rarely get read, and tweets get lost in the clutter.
    Stephanie just posted Running Your Home Business and Keeping Up the House – How Do You Manage Both?

  6. says

    Where would we be without automation? I’d go crazy having to get it all done. I love having RSS Graffiti set up for Facebook posting and Tweet This for sending my post out to Twitter. It even sets up hashtags based on word tags. Pretty cool stuff.

    So true to focus on what else we can do to improve our blog, business and service. If it’s not working, no quitting, just look for a different way to do it and dive in deeper.

    So, the tool I still have yet to figure out is video. I know how to do it, but I used to have a program called Adobe Premier. I learned the ins and outs of that program, but don’t have it anymore. So now I’ve downloaded a trial of Camtasia to try and I keep putting it off b/c I know it’s going to take hours to learn.

    However, like you said, if you focus on the outcome, then figuring out those knobs and buttons in the software will come naturally. And a “Help” tab works well too.
    Gabrielle just posted 7 Secrets to an E-book That Wows Your Reader

  7. says

    Huge post. But, I’ve come to expect this kind of deep mental chatter packaged in a well written blog post coming from you, Daniel Son!

    I’m a humble dude. I’m with you, her and the other guy. But I will say this. I’ve been able to grow massively over the past year because I was SUPER conscious of the fact that inherently, we resist change as a species and that if I was going to really make an impact in the social web, I needed to evolve, DAILY.

    I’m so for this Danny. Think about why corporate has such a problem with social media… they have a big hammer, and they think social media is a nail, when in fact it’s NOTHING LIKE ANYTHING THEY’VE EVER SEEN BEFORE. Can’t apply a traditional marketing psychology to conversational platforms.

    Danny. I’ve said this before, but now you’re really scaring me. You’re brilliant.
    Ryan Critchett just posted 5 Reasons Your Business Needs A Blog (And How Not Having One May Hurt You)

    • says

      Haha, thanks, Ryan. Don’t worry, I may be scary, but I’m harmless! ;)

      Yeah, you’re right on the money with corporate, and it doesn’t just apply to social media, either. Why do they work with antiquated document collaboration systems that cost a fortune and take a day to update when the rest can use Google Docs for free? Why do we all have slick, open-source WordPress, and they’re stuck using garbage like Microsoft Sharepoint?

      I think the corporate world is going to be in trouble – there’s so much bloat and so much overhead that is no longer justified, and no longer gives them a competitive advantage (actually gives them a competitive disadvantage!), there’s no way a lot of these businesses will be able to stay in business for too much longer without some drastic changes.

      But now you’ve got me on a rant, and that’s really a topic for another post… ;)
      Danny just posted Entrepreneur SOS: Finding Your Way Clear of the Weeds

  8. says

    Hey Kristi, you are most certainly correct about focus. Just recently I tried to implement facebook into my blog and soon realized that I had NO idea what I was doing and what I was even going to accomplish. Twitter on the other hand, is something that I can see some benefit in, so now my Facebook efforts are going towards my Twitter effort. My followers and rising and I even get some traffic from twitter referrals. Focus is what made this happen.
    Max just posted Monthly Whiteboard Calendar

  9. says

    The greatest blessing any blogger can have is collaborators. Nothing has generated as much benefit or saves as much time and money as knowing experienced bloggers who have already been down the path you’re traveling OR who may have already researched, tried and implemented (or abandoned) that shiny new toy you’re considering.

    It doesn’t matter how long you’ve been blogging or how much you already know – or don’t – there are ENORMOUS benefits to regularly interacting with your blogging peers. Just today Ileane and I spoke on the phone and shared not only what we’ve been up to but traded all kinds of tips. Ileane even walked me through some Chrome plugins she loves and I then shared one of them in a post today.

    I have gathered input on almost every single plugin or strategy or site I’ve considered using and that is so very important. I can not even estimate the reduction in learning curve or the benefits. I highly recommend it – and if you don’t already know who to work with in your blogging niche ask me or Ileane or Kristi or Justin or any of the other generous bloggers around.

    I’m doing a series of posts on a blogging collaboration which include quotes from the bloggers involved about what they’re getting out of working together. Kelli wrote this on her blog today:

    “The frugal blogger deal collaboration that I won from Gail at GrowMap has far exceeded my expectations! In addition to the regular tasks she gives us to improve our blog, SEO, page rankings, we have really formed a bond. The five of us go to each other with any questions! I have learned more from these girls in less than a month than I have in years of blogging. We are really taking off and have even started kicking around the idea of publishing books!”

    Gail Gardner just posted Couponing Bloggers Best Practices and Case Study

  10. says

    Totally agreed to this post. Doing something that’s not working again and again is just like trying to sharpen a pencil with a blunt sharpener. It keeps the pencil breaking, it wastes our time and effort, and it exhausts the pencil. This works much the same with blogging and promotion. That is, we must avoid using blunt or ineffective strategies but focus on the efficient and effective ones.

    Excellent write up Danny.
    Extreme John just posted The Beginners Guide to Business Insurance

  11. says

    Great post Danny.
    I agree. I’m no longer killing myself doing everything! I do what I can do and release all guilt – now and forever. I make money and I’m proud to do so because I know what offer truly helps people. It may not be the equivalent of a full time living yet but, with commitment and continued effort I expect it to be so before long. I’m standing up with you!
    Angela Artemis just posted How to Tell The Difference Between Intuition And Your Thoughts

  12. says

    Danny,

    There’s no shortage of tools and strategies. New services sprout up often and we’re always on the hunt for the next magic pill. However, narrowing our target audience and showing up where the majority already hangs out is a good starting point.

    We can’t make everyone happy by showing up everywhere. We can only study the feedback and analytics to see what’s working (which may contradict what’s being openly expressed).

    There are channels I don’t explore to their fullest and I’m aware of it. It’s a matter of time management and establishing processes for me.

    Thanks for the heads up about Tarpipe :)

    Jon

  13. says

    “When all you’ve got is a company name, you’ll break your customers to pieces.”

    OK, not quite; but I blinked when you mentioned the corporate Twitter account is @FirepoleMRKTNG. Why MRKTNG? Because @FirepoleMarketing is beyond the required 15 characters and @Firepole is taken?

    How about think beyond the company name? Why not rename your Twitter account to something like @MarketingGuide or @BusinessHelp or similar that takes the focus away from your company name but what you do?
    Ari Herzog just posted TNT Lied; Twitter and Facebook Talk Back

    • says

      Hey Ari, that’s a good question. Yes, @FirepoleMRKTNG is because @FirepoleMarketing is beyond the character limit. I’m still figuring out how involved I want to be on Twitter, but it’s looking like most of my interactions will be with my @DannyIny account, and @FirepoleMRKTNG will just be for people who want content pushed via Twitter rather than email or RSS. Does that make sense?
      Danny just posted Is the Bank of Social Capital… Broken?