If you listen to any business podcasts, read business blog posts, join Facebook Groups and/or attend a lot of networking functions, then you’ve probably heard all the hard-and-fast rules of running a business in the New Millennium.
For the first 18 months of running my own business, I did my best to follow steps exactly as my business mentor laid out for me. If I wasn’t following steps from my business mentor, then I was abiding by one of the many rules I’d read in books and e-books, heard in online courses, found among top search results on Google, and so on.
But then there came a point when I knew that to get to the ultimate destination I was headed for in my business, I needed to start doing things my own way. I needed to break the rules.
You may have been feeling in your own business that there’s a direction you need to take that defies all the “rules,” and you’ve hesitated. I’m going to challenge you to consider something: No one in history has ever had the exact dreams you’ve had, and no one has ever owned a business exactly like yours. Rules are for the many, but breaking them is for the few. While some ideas apply to almost any business, there are going to be some that apply only to you and your business, because what you’re creating for yourself and your audience is unique.
I can’t tell you what’s right for your business, but I can share what I mean by walking you through 5 of the “rules” I’m breaking at Alexis the Greek—to the benefit of my company and to get me closer to my dreams.
So here they are.
Rulebreak #1: Long blog posts
If you’ve been around the ATG block for a while, you know my blog posts are long. In terms of SEO, this is actually great; I heard an SEO expert on Amy Porterfield’s podcast a while back say that Google rewards blog posts and articles that hit the 2000-word mark, as it tends to signify depth of content.
But when it comes to what all the other the marketing gurus say, my long blog posts are a real no-no. According to them, blog posts and articles that are too long tend to dissuade visitors from staying on a site. I guess it’s just too much work to read more than a few hundred words at a time in today’s culture of instant gratification.
That said, I know my audience—and my audience is a lot like me. When they’re looking for something, they want hearty content with clear action steps and takeaways that can be applied in more than one way.
Of course, they also want to know if they’ve hit the jackpot when they, say, click on a search result, so I also make my content super skimmable—meaning, I break my posts down into bite-sized chunks by adding subheadings, and often putting Calls to Action in bold. When the right people land on one of my blog posts, they can get good intel fast, but also dig deeper if the sub-headings are compelling.
Rulebreak #2: Content that challenges my readers
I’m making a guess on this one, but I think that younger millennials and everyone born after them craves deeper information than the generations preceding them.
I have no legitimate data to back this up; only my own observations. But the Marie Forleos and Brené Browns and even Marie Kondos of this world were groundbreaking because they reminded their own generations, and maybe even people a little older, of simple wisdoms and concepts that had gotten lost over the effects of the Industrial Revolution, standardization of education, and the many other massive cultural shifts that happened between 1900 and 2000.
Younger generations have now grown up exposed to a lot of this information in everyday life. They’re aware that they tell themselves stories in their heads, or that they need to separate what they see on social media from what reality looks like. They don’t want to become packrats and are very willing to part with possessions (even when they thought they had to have them when they bought them). They understand how to create a personal brand because when everyone has an internet self and a real-life self, you just naturally develop a personal brand as a survival skill.
Which means that these younger people are ready for the “next thing.” They hunger for something more. What was earth-shattering to their parents isn’t a big deal for them… so they’re not going to stick around when up-and-comers like me are just parroting off ideas they’ve already heard 1000 times.
That in mind, I don’t worry too much about keeping my concepts “simple” in my blog posts, mentorship calls, and e-courses, as is recommended by virtually every marketing expert around. Instead, I build on what others before me have laid as a foundation, and I expect my audience to rise to the challenges I give them.
And guess what? So far they do.
Rulebreak #3: Using Facebook
(for more than just ads)
In about 2011, I worked in a tiny coffee shack 30 hours a week with a couple of teenagers who were literally ten years my junior. And I vividly remember having a conversation with them one day when they told me, “Facebook is for older people. If you want me to see something, you need to tweet it, and if I care about something, I’m going to tweet it.”
Now, if Twitter had been around when I was 15, I would have been the same way. One-liners were my jam. Plus the idea that I could tag a celebrity or politician and have even the remotest chance of getting a response or a retweet would have motivated me to tweet constantly.
But as an adult, I’m far more invested in my own mental health than in debating with others (which I see a lot of Twitter users doing) especially when, face it, at the end of the day we’re all going to stay on the sides we started on. Not to mention now that sharing content on any platform is super commonplace, I’m never going to be the first person to tweet a Gotye music video and watch it go viral.
While that whole “Facebook is for older people” thing might sting a little, I don’t let that sting affect my decision to market myself over there, because I know that it works.
I show up in Facebook groups almost daily to offer encouragement, personal stories, expertise, and feedback whenever other members open up questions to the group. And although I do have a business page and a couple groups of my own that I moderate, I suspect that the reason Facebook is the #1 social driver of traffic to my site is that I’m showing up for others in groups I don’t run; I’m behaving on the platform the way it was designed. For community.
So whether or not people are saying “Facebook is dead,” I continue to use it, because sometimes what all the voices are saying isn’t true.
Rulebreak #4: Not worrying about my Instagram (for now)
This decision goes hand-in-hand with my previous rulebreak.
Everyone in my peer group (meaning business peers) has been saying since 2014 that Instagram is the place to be—the fastest-growing social platform, and the easiest places to build Know, Like, and Trust with new people, fast.
And truth be told, my post engagement on Instagram is always significantly higher percentage-wise than it is on Facebook or Pinterest. When I still had less than 400 followers, I would sometimes get close to 100 likes on gallery posts, and over 100 views on stories. On Pinterest, a pin might get in front of 4000 people, get 22 clicks, and 9 repins. I don’t even want to get into my stats on Facebook posts.
But posting on Instagram daily is a struggle for me in the same way it was a struggle for all my subscription clients before they met me: I just don’t have the pictures. I’ve got plenty of pictures of my clients—pictures designed to match their goals and their brands—but not a whole lot of pictures of me, for me, to build my brand.
Which means I’m lucky if I post on that platform 3 times in 2 weeks. At first I stressed about this all the time—I felt like I was just losing money and opportunity by not being active on the platform—but now I realize I need to work by my own mantra, which is to do what you can, with what you have, right now.
The photos I take of clients work great for Pinterest graphics, because I know my target market really well, and my existing clients visually represent the kinds of clients I want to continue to work with. Plus, since I take photos specifically for social media and web marketing, I have a large portfolio of work I can use to show others what they can do better—which a lot of business owners are searching on Pinterest.
I’ll get to Instagram when I can, and when I do, boy, watch out! But for now, I’m getting enough work through other channels to not panic about this one, single platform.
Rulebreak #5: Posting in batches
Amy Porterfield, Marie Forleo, Chris Guillebeau, and nearly every other major influencer whose brand took off between 2009 and 2012 swears by the rule that you have to drip out content consistently and constantly.
I don’t do that.
Let me rephrase. I don’t do that perfectly.
I discovered somewhere along the way that I batch really well. Basically this means that when inspiration strikes, I tend to have a lot of ideas; and rather than writing down all the ideas and picking just one so I can save the others for later, I do all of them at once.
When it comes to my blog, I write my headlines all at once; then I write the articles to go with those headlines all at once; then I publish them all at once, usually around the first of the month.
The reason the Porterfields and Forleos and Guillebeaus of the world wouldn’t like this is that theoretically, my readers could visit my blog on a Thursday, see no new content, come back on Friday and see a month’s worth of content, binge it all in one sitting, and come back every day for weeks hoping for more great content and feel let down—or maybe after the first few days of checking, forget to ever come back at all.
Since most of my readers aren’t visiting my blog daily, though, I don’t think this is an issue. Since people only visit my blog when I tell them to, I think it’s a business model that works for everyone involved.
By releasing all my posts early in the month, I can also sit down and in 15 minutes schedule their publication to Facebook all at one time. Not that they’ll all be announced at the same time—they’ll just be scheduled in advance by me at the same time, and then their release out into the world will be staggered. Same goes for email. And on Pinterest, I’ll know have a full month’s worth of thumbnails to release, test, and gather data on over month to see what people are interested in so I can plan the next month’s content accordingly.
Not a bad model, right?
It’s okay to break the rules sometimes. Usually, you have to be clear on what the rules are before you can break them, but when it comes to business, remember: No one has all the answers. Every business is as unique and one-of-a-kind as your own DNA. And if your gut tells you that you should try something, it might be worth a go if it’s going to connect you to more people, ease your stress, or grow your profits.
Was this article helpful for you? If so, pin it so you never lose it! And leave me a comment below to let me know what rulebreak inspired you the most, and how you might apply the concept to your own business!