It’s that time of year. Over the next few weeks all of your favorite online publications will start trying to outlist each other with all the best things of last year or super-important things for next year. It’s going to be "10 best" this and "eight worst" that, and so on.
Call it "Listember" — the season of lists. This column will be no different.
Since I know the readership of this column is constantly bombarded with messages about what they have to do in order to stay current, or what they must try or deploy or add to their digital life in order to be complete, I’m going to focus on letting some things go.
If you’re really going to adopt any of the super-important stuff that everyone is telling you will be oh so fashionable come 2012, you’re going to need time to play with it. You won’t be able to keep doing what you’re doing today and pick up all the new stuff. Unless you happen to have another 15 to 20 hours in your schedule.
So let’s clear some things off of your to-do list instead.
1. No need to stress out about your online reputation.
Crazy, I know. But the truth is most people aren’t actually going to go through the hard work it takes to clear up an online reputation problem.
In addition, most "reputation management" services and software are really just reputation monitoring: they’ll send you some sort of notice to let you know something "negative" has occurred online but there won’t be any sort of actual action.
That’s a recipe for being stressed out. It’s like signing up to get emails that read, "Hey someone said something bad about you and there’s not much you can do about it. If you want to read it, click here."
If you aren’t prepared to actually do something about online reputation management (and the "do something" is usually the equivalent of doing some serious search engine optimization work times 10), then stop stressing out about online reputation.
Take that time and devote it to building a good real-world reputation. Not only will you feel better — having a solid reputation in your field is going to make any negative online stuff look out of character — because you’re actually an alright person who does good stuff in your community and in your business.
2. No need to worry about your own Klout score, or to spend time giving "plus K" — sort of a Klout shoutout (akin to a like on Facebook) letting others know a person is influential in a particular topic.
Feel free to take note of who has a high Klout score and see if you can get them to talk about stuff you want them to talk about. But don’t worry about your own score. Klout is pretty useless for letting you know if you’re doing anything worthwhile online.
And instead of giving "+K" to people on Twitter and elsewhere, go ahead and just give them a freeform "thanks for being awesome about [fill in the blank]" via those same public channels. It makes your gratitude more meaningful and gives you more characters to be thankful because you’re not including a link back to Klout.com.
Maybe take the time you used to spend looking at your Klout profile and instead look at the Twitter feed of people that live in your market area.
3. You can officially stop wavering between whether it’s OK to hire someone else to write content for your site, or whether you have to write it all yourself.
If you haven’t been making fresh content for your website but you’ve been meaning to, you can now stop worrying about it. It’s OK to hire someone else to write it.
Yes, it’s true that it would be better and probably more likely "your voice" if you wrote it. But if you aren’t writing it, go ahead and hire it out.
Whether you write or someone else writes it, your website needs fresh content more than ever.
Also, get a decent writer or writers if you can. (Good writing has an added benefit: readers.)
4. You don’t need to have a substandard relationship with your website vendor.
If you aren’t happy with the relationship you have with your website provider, this is the year to make a move. Take a hard look at your budget and then see if your current website allows you to do the following:
- Make text changes to any of the content pages of your site without calling an expert.
- Quickly generate landing pages for marketing campaigns.
- Get complete access to Google Analytics or an equivalent (Visistat and its white-label offspring are not equivalent products).
- Install additional tracking software if required.
- Have genuinely pleasant interactions with your tech support people.
If you don’t have these things then it’s probably time to investigate a switch. Sites driven by WordPress or other content management systems allow for the first two items to happen. The nature of your relationship with your website vendor allows for the bottom three items on this list to happen.
This one is a bit of a two-way street. If you’re always on their case trying to get stuff for free, then your relationship won’t work. On the other hand, if they aren’t willing to patiently explain why what they do requires resources, then they aren’t doing their part either.
Either way, if you don’t have items in that bullet list, it’s time to make a serious change. No need to have a bad vendor relationship for your website.
5. You can stop doing any social media stuff that isn’t working.
This one will be hard because there’s so much chatter about it everywhere you look. But if your social media stuff — Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Foursquare or whatever — isn’t working, then you can stop doing it.
The definition of "working" is up to you. But I strongly encourage you to have it be more related to how much business is moved forward than how many people are supposedly receiving your messages.
If you don’t know what "working" means for your social media stuff, then you can probably stop spending time on Facebook and calling it work. Yes, there are people who are making these social platforms work for their business. But that doesn’t mean you have to as well.
Instead, you can do more of whatever is working. Or you can take the time to define "working." Either way, you don’t need to do stuff just because everyone else is telling you how important it is. Chances are they don’t know what "working" means for them either.
Or better yet, you can start doing more networking in the real world instead of just online.
Some bonus advice: Go and do stuff that you enjoy, that works, and is genuinely helpful.
So there you have it — five things to stop doing and to stop worrying about. This should free up some time and some mental overhead for you.
In 2012, go do stuff that works for you instead of stuff that works for everybody else.