Wandering Off Topic


We all want to be seen as experts. So we end up believing we need to find our niche. We tell ourselves we need to focus on “one thing”, one service, one topic.

Yet hitting a single note over and over can make your website… boring.

And no matter how talented you are at creating content, you will eventually run out of ideas.

Going “off topic” while staying true to your brand can be a very effective strategy.

Rats, Boobs and Labour Unions

Here are 3 examples of people writing “off topic” while staying very much “on brand”:

Why You Should Veer Off-Topic

Going off topic adds heart to your brand. If you have a brand centred around you (ie: a personality brand), then focusing on other topics helps people connect with you.

You want to inspire people to see you as a friend, not just someone who is an expert on one thing. You are a three dimensional human being, not a collection of facts and expertise. People will connect to your heart, so it’s good to share with them what you care about.

It’s a great way of bringing people over who have no immediate need for your product. People connect to each other for the strangest reasons. Focusing on something you are passionate about gives people the opportunity to say “me too!” and instantly want to join your orbit. It’s up to you then to make sure they stay in your orbit afterwards, by providing super useful content.

Taking the example of Paul Jarvis: rat lovers will likely stumble upon his article and join his mailing list long before they have a need for web design.

Off Topic But On Brand

You don’t have to stay “on topic” all the time if you stay true to your brand. Your brand is bigger than one product or one service. If you get clear on your brand’s values, you can approach almost any topic and make it yours.

Danielle LaPorte focuses on entrepreneurship and spirituality, but “holistic” is a core value of her brand, and so a holistic take on beauty tips fits in perfectly.

Another approach is to focus on a topic you care about and tie your message at the end. In Paul Jarvis’ example, he started off writing about his rats, then he finished his post in a marketing lesson.

Going “off topic” every now and then might feel risky at first, but chances are your fans will care about the things you care about.

And you might even make some new ones…

Chasing Viral When others zig, you zag.


Do you lie awake at night wondering how you could make your website more… viral?

OK, so maybe you don’t actually lie awake at night. But you do think about it. If only you could come up with a gimmick to make your content viral, then all your problems would be solved. Right?

Chances are you are subconsciously comparing your website to Upworthy and Buzzfeed.

Or, to put it more bluntly, you’re chasing rainbows.

The business model of Upworthy and Buzzfeed is all about producing content that goes viral. That’s how they make money. But unlike them, your business is there to sell goods and services. Your goal is to turn customers into fans, by delivering awesome products or services.

Your social media and marketing strategy need to reflect your goal: to serve people. That is how you make money and change the world, not through creating entertainment.

It’s better to have 100 devoted fans who can’t wait to buy your products, than 10,000 likes on Facebook that never lead to actual sales.

Some people are great at producing viral content… but they fail on the “sales” part. They build popular websites that they can’t monetise. And it’s only a matter of time before the whole venture comes crashing down.

Here’s 3 things to keep in mind to make sure that focusing on “viral content” doesn’t backfire.

1. Viral Content Doesn’t Play Tricks

Focusing on “viral” can be a dangerous strategy.

You read somewhere that a certain headline is “catchy” and so you use it on one of your blog posts. People click on that headline because it promises them something awesome. Only, the content of the blog post itself fails to deliver…

That’s called bait and switch, and it’s a big no-no.

The person who clicked your “bait” will no longer trust you, and they will leave your website with a sense of having been tricked.

If people don’t trust you, they sure as the sky is blue won’t buy from you.

2. Pressure to go Viral Creates Anxiety

And anxiety blocks creativity.

Go into the creative process with the thought “this must go viral”, and you’ll find yourself unable to create at all. Self-doubt kicks in, and you spend all your time wondering “who’s gonna care about this?”

Not a productive state of mind to be in.

Remember, you are in business to create and sell products and services. Anything that puts a dampener on your ability to create, will jeopardise your business’ success.

3. Your Customers Can “Smell” Desperation

When you create something while thinking “this needs to go viral”, you create from desperation. And people are seriously turned off by that.

Don’t be surprised if you find that the harder you try to create viral content, the more it puts people off.

Remember, viral content is meant to serve you and your business. Not the other way around. You and your business are not meant to serve “viral content”.

A better strategy is to focus on creating an awesome product. Then bring in customers using viral content.

Forgetful Person

You want to grow your Twitter tribe. And you know what to do to make that happen. You need to post everyday to engage your audience.

The problem? When it comes to it, you find yourself reluctantly logging into Twitter at the end of a long day at work, and wondering “what am I going to share this time?”

And that only happens half the time.

The rest of the time, you totally forget to even log into Twitter.

Instead of your following growing, it stagnates. Eventually, you lost interest, and stop posting altogether.

What can you do to make sure you update your Twitter feed every day?

Turn Twitter into a Habit

Make a habit of posting to Twitter, and you’ll never forget to update your Twitter feed again.

Are you yawning yet? Habits sound boring, right?

Honestly, habits are pretty boring. When did you last tell a story about brushing your teeth? Probably never.

Habits might be boring, but they make life simpler. They give you more time and energy to focus on being creative, or to do what you enjoy.

Good habits can deliver amazing reults.

When did you last forget to brush your teeth? Can you even remember?

Brushing your teeth every day is a habit you (hopefully) formed in childhood, and that’s stuck with you ever since. And thanks to that, you have healthy teeth and gums today.

Habits are like that. Once you’ve formed them, they stick. That’s why it’s so darned tricky to undo bad habits. It’s also why it’s difficult to make new ones.

Fortunately, help is at hands. Pshychologists have studied what it takes to form a habit – and bloggers have started sharing this knowledge in an accessible way.

Let’s take a look at how to form a habit…

How to Form a Habit

James Clear has made a career of learning about how habits are formed, and testing different theories on himself.

He’s discovered that habits have three key components:

  1. Reminder (the trigger that initiates the behavior)
  2. Routine (the behavior itself; the action you take)
  3. Reward (the benefit you gain from doing the behavior)

Clear uses the example of a phone call to explain how this works, as most of us answer the phone by habit.

  1. Reminder – the phone rings! This triggers you to pick up the phone.
  2. Routine – you pick up the phone out of habit.
  3. Reward – you find out who is calling.

When the reward is positive, then you create what’s called a positive feedback loop. This means you’re more likely to act in the same way the next time the reminder is triggered.

Over time, a habit is formed.

With that in mind, here’s a really simple way you can form a habit of posting to Twitter every day. Start with just one post a day. Once you’ve established that habit, you can grow it from there.

  1. Set a daily reminder on your phone. It’s a good idea to set this at a time when you will have just have finished another activity – e.g. at the end of your lunch-break.
  2. Post an update to Twitter. This is your routine.
  3. Reward yourself! A nice way of doing this is by checking your Twitter notifications. That’s a direct and positive feedback loop, because notifications show people are interacting with you. Make sure you don’t check them before you’ve posted an update.

Alternatively, you could reward yourself with a piece of candy or fruit,. Or give yourself ten minutes to aimlessly surf the web (this could even be useful, as you’ll discover in a moment).

Sound good?

Maybe you’re thinking “that’s all very well, but I still don’t know what to share!”

Let’s take a look at how to solve that problem…

How to Find Interesting Stuff to Share on Twitter (or, How to Make Your Downtime Productive)

If you’re anything like me, you’re easily distracted. You’ve got an insatiable curiosity that leads you all over the internet when probably, you should be working.

An information magpie is what I call myself.

And as you’re procrastinating in this way, you discover all kinds of fascinating stuff.

Then problem? When it comes to updating Twitter, you’ve forgotten all that interesting stuff you discovered. You may even have forgotten that it was interesting in the first place.

What to do about this?

I once attended a workshop where the workshop leader asked us to go around the conference center, and find as many brown objects as possible. It was a contest, and he’d quiz us when we came back. There would be a winner.

We weren’t allowed to take notes, but it was pretty easy to discover brown items. Chairs, tables, doors. Plenty of stuff to share.

When we got back, the workshop leader asked us how we’d done. Everyone looked smug. “Great,” we all said.

Then he dropped the bombshell.

“Who can name the most blue objects in the conference center?” he said.

Dang, he’d got us there. We’d been so focused on finding brown objects that we’d all missed the blue ones. A few of us could name one or two items. That was it.

What’s the message here?

You see what you’re looking for. And, more importantly, you miss what you’re not looking for.

Psychologists call it “inattentional blindness”. It’s an actual psychological phenomenon, and it was discovered with the help of a virtual gorilla.

Here’s what this means for you.

When you’re aimlessly browsing the web, discovering all kinds of interesting stuff, you’re usually “inattentionally blind” to what you could be sharing on Twitter.

How do you change this?

Give yourself a goal, every day, of finding something to share on Twitter.

What happens? Suddenly you’ll start to see things to share everyday.

When this starts to happen, you’ll need a magpie’s nest to hide away all the treasure you discover. I use an Evernote notebook for this. But a word document, or a plain text file would work just as well.

Over to You

What strategies from this article will you use to make sure you post to Twitter every day? Let us know in the comments section, below.