Pinterest is filled with helpful people posting helpful tips to help you succeed. Or is it? If you've spent more than 35 minutes on Pinterest in the last month and a half or so, I'm sure you'll know exactly what I mean. How I doubled my blog traffic using Pinterest. Or How I went from 5,000 to 30,000 views per month. Or how about How I grew my email list from 0 to 10,000 subscribers in 30 days. See what I mean? Helpful people trying to be helpful. Unfortunately, these formulaic posts do almost nothing for you and instead just help the author rack up more followers, more likes, more subscribers, and yes more money. As it turns out, these helpful blogs are anything but.
It's not that the authors are trying to mislead you or that they're giving you bad information. On the contrary, I'm sure they are outlining exactly how they got those 30,000 views and 10,000 subscribers. But I'm also sure that if you follow these “How I did it” formulas, you'll find yourself frustrated and no closer to that boosted web traffic or those thousands of subscribers.
Anecdotes don't make the best growth formulas.
The next time you're browsing through Pinterest and you see a pin promising to lead you to the secret of 30,000 new email subscribers, remember that the author is really telling you a story about how he or she did it. They aren't presenting you with a proven formula, tested on multiple channels, and backed by statistical analysis. It's an anecdote — and there's a reason anecdote and personal experiences are not accepted as proof.
First off, their data was collected casually, almost like an afterthought. The scientific method of data observation and analysis isn't implemented, meaning that the author most likely sat down after 30 or 90 days, noticed their growth, and wrote out a blog post saying “here's how I ran my blog the past month” but has no way of verifying the success of any of their processes.
Their experience will not be your experience.
No matter what you do, you are not the same person as the blogger who posted that growth formula. You have different equipment, different demands on your time, different lighting available for photographs, different products for sale at different price points, different audiences…
You get the idea here. For you to duplicate the results of someone's growth formula, you would need to match all the variables that played a part in their success. Too much variance and you'll find yourself frustrated and no closer to your goals.
The information is usually good — but the formula is off.
I should clarify — a lot of the information that these bloggers include in their posts is good information. Most of the time, the advice that they give you includes tidbits such as engaging with your audience, pinning and repinning a blend of posts across a wide spectrum, reviewing your site's data and analytics, etc. This is all good advice, and all the most helpful blogs are posting this.
So, if the advice is good, then why won't it work for you?
To be honest, parts of it probably will — just not in the way you may be expecting it to. If you go over to John Doe's blog because he promises to show you how to get 30,000 new Pinterest followers in 30 days, what are you expecting to gain 30 days after following his advice? And what happens when you find you don't have 30,000 new followers at the end of 30 days?
A lot of people blame themselves, thinking they did something wrong or missed something (usually not the case). Others blame John Doe for giving them bad information. But it's not John Doe's fault either — it's all the other variables not accounted for when John Doe wrote out his blog post.
And let's not forget about the tools they used.
Most of these blog posts include a number of tools, some free but often paid, that they used to help them achieve these results. Different WordPress plugins, hosting platforms, scheduling tools, and the like. Whether or not their success was a direct result of using these tools is pretty much up in the air. I mean, can you succeed using a free scheduler such as Hootsuite versus a paid scheduler like CoSchedule? Probably.
But do they tell you that? Not always. And what's the difference between them? If they used the more expensive CoSchedule, how can you duplicate the results using a different tool?
It's a bit like using a rotating peeler to help prep your apples before getting them into the pie versus manually peeling and slicing them with a small knife. Yes, you can still get apples into your pie, but it's probably going to take you a bit more time and effort than if you were able to afford using that automatic peeler.
Use these helpful posts for advice, not for results.
In the end, reading these blog posts will help give you some great information on social media etiquette, but they shouldn't be used as a roadmap for your growth. Try to implement their formula into your blog or social media strategy, and you will end up frustrated and wondering where you went wrong and why you couldn't get a “proven” formula who worked for someone else to work for you. Glean the good advice and put it to good use in your plan, and you'll find much better success.
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