The Future and the Essentials: 2 Books Worth Reading

Had I not heard Amy Webb on an episode of This Week in Tech, I would never have picked up her book, The Signals Are Talking: Why Today’s Fringe Is Tomorrow’s Mainstream (2016, PublicAffairs).

Had the first chapter not hooked me, I probably would have taken it back to the library and devoured one of the many novels on my pile.

What Webb proposes throughout the book is…well, it’s fun.

Especially if you’re a techie.

Even if you’re not a techie.

She begins, simply enough:

The future doesn’t simply arrive fully formed overnight, but emerges step by step. It first appears at seemingly random points around the fringes of society, never in the mainstream. Without context, these points can appear disparate, unrelated, and hard to connect meaningfully. But over time they fit into patterns and come into focus as a full-blown trend: a convergence of multiple points that reveal a direction or tendency, a force that combines some human need and new enabling technology that will shape the future.

She goes on to describe an experience she had in Japan in 1997, where she was first introduced to mobile web browsing…long before it became something so ordinary that we barely talk about it (unless you’re in marketing, and then you obsess over mobile).

Signals is a book that, Webb explains, “contains a method for seeing the future. It’s an organized approach that, if followed, will advance your understanding of the world as it is changing.” She spends the next 10 chapters and 250-plus pages teaching you the forecasting techniques she uses in her career as a futurist.

I couldn’t help but think that many of us — perhaps, in fact, all of us — should be reading books like this.

Webb’s approach is one of strategic thinking, a kind of thinking that the entrepreneurs and business leaders I’ve been working with for over two decades have long embraced. She’s outlined the exact steps she uses, and peppers the book with examples from both a looking-backward and a looking-forward approach.

I couldn’t help but smile as she outlined the cases for flying cars, or rather, the cases for not having flying cars. It became a shorthand conversation throughout the book, and I can’t say I minded it.

Do flying cars matter? No, not really. But how often are we blinded by the glitter of something like flying cars and lose sight of the very boring, very real, very obvious changes in the world?

Webb is challenging readers to see the future not as a big scary place, but as the next moment from now. The future, as it turns out, is something that’s not so shocking.

It makes me think, in fact, of a current commercial from CarMax. “I know this because I’m from seven days in the future,” the man on the screen says. At the end, after his monologue, he admits, “It’s pretty much the same,” referring to the differences between seven days and now.

But changes happen in small increments, gathering steam until it seems they suddenly take over: had you heard the “signals” that Webb teaches you to pay attention to, you would not have been so shocked (though you may be just as delighted).

How can we apply this to our lives? I can think of about 1000 ways, and rather than outline them, I would rather recommend this book and challenge you to read it for yourself. You might even want to highlight it, dog ear it, and come back to it later.

And that leads to the next business read that seems to reach far beyond my business background and into every nook and cranny of my life, from faith to parenthood and all the things in between.

Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less, by Greg McKeown (Crown, 2014), was mentioned in a by-the-way manner on a call with my mastermind group. I really respected that person’s mention, took it as a recommendation, and ordered the book.

It then sat on a bookshelf gathering dust until we turned our house upside down rearranging and reworking our living space.

As I put it back on a different shelf in a different room, considering whether I would keep it or give it away, I remembered how Lisa had said, ever so casually, that it was a really helpful read.

I’m in a strange juncture right now, and “really helpful” triggered my desire to read it.

So I picked it up on a Sunday, instead of firing up my laptop to try to squeeze in more work.

Four days later, I was finished with it, but not before sharing images of it all over my social media channels and feeling my brain exploding.

The last time I had this experience with a business book, I was reading Stephen Covey’s The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.

In fact, I hate calling this a business book, because in so many ways, it feels like a “life” book. (The same is true of Covey’s writing.)

The way of the Essentialist is the path to being in control of our own choices. It is a path to new levels of success and meaning. Despite all these benefits, however, there are too many forces conspiring to keep us from applying the disciplined pursuit of less but better, which may be why so many end up on the misdirected path of the Nonessentialist.

On the page following this excerpt is a sentence that I could paint on my wall:

If you don’t prioritize your life, someone else will.

I need that reminder. And don’t we all, especially as we carry around an electronic tether and find ourselves treating Saturday as the new Friday?

So often, we approach our lives as though they are a tunnel, and as though there is only one straight way through. Even when we’re at a juncture, we consider that there’s an A or B choice, not that we could choose both (or neither).

Sometimes, we just need something to shake us up, turn us upside down, remind us of what’s truly important.

There are many ways this can happen, and surely a book isn’t just the only way. I’ve had more than one of these experiences in the last decade, and I’m sure you have too.

But what do you do with them? How do you actually change your life and your way of executing?

That’s one of the things I really appreciated about Essentialism. McKeown isn’t speaking in theoreticals, he’s speaking in practicalities. And he’s not wasting words doing it.

I’ll be rereading this, that’s for sure. And I’ll be doing more than just thinking about how to apply the concepts: I’ll be doing.

Grow Your YouTube Metrics

YouTube is the third most visited website in the world. I believe it.

And it’s not just TV. It’s a social network + advertising platform + content platform.

In other words, YouTube is many things to many people. In many ways, it defies categorization.

And that’s frankly a bit scary.

As Mr. Ziglar said, and I remind myself of it as much as I can: “If you aim at nothing, you will hit it every time.”

YouTube is an enormous opportunity for everyone who wants to produce content.

Let’s talk numbers, because I’m a numbers guy.

  • The total number of people who use YouTube – 1,300,000,000. (Billion! That’s a LOT of zeroes!)
  • YouTube gets over 30 million visitors per day.
  • In an average month, 8 out of ten 18-49 year-olds watch YouTube.
  • The average mobile viewing session lasts more than 40 minutes.
  • More than half of YouTube views come from mobile devices.

There are plenty more stats, if you want them.

But I think I’ve painted the picture for you: you could make a splash and get some customers on YouTube. There are people there.

So how do you find them, keep them, and convert them to paying customers?

What YouTube metrics matter?

It’s not necessarily views, even though that’s what you hear about in conversation.

A view, by definition, happens when the video is played.

Here’s the tricky part of a view: it’s logged every time a video player loaded, which doesn’t tell you whether or not that person actually watched it.

So what you want, in fact, is watch time.

Watch time

Watch time tells you how engaged your viewers are.

Longer watch time = better.

It’s measured in cumulative minutes watched, and every video and every channel on YouTube is ranked by watch time. If your video or channel has higher watch times, it’s more likely to be higher in the search results and the recommendations.

For example: a 20-second video that gets watched from beginning to end will outrank a 10-minute video that people only watch for a minute or two.

Note: YouTube ads don’t count toward your watch time.

Subscribers

Subscribers, those people who subscribe to your channel (or any channel), are far more engaged than other YouTube viewers.

Subscribing connects viewers to you. They’re as warm an audience as you can get!

Shares, links, and embeds

Shares are an indication of what is resonating with your audience. You’ll also want to look at how often the links and players are embedded on other sites.

How can you impact your YouTube metrics?

Get more subscribers

One obvious way is to convert casual viewers to channel subscribers. Here are some tips to make that happen:

Creation story. Share how you began and what got things started for you. Make your message relatable to your audience.

Creed. What makes you tick? How can you make it resonate for your audience?

Personality. Consistency is important: subscribers like personalities associated with the channels they subscribe to. Be an authority and let your personality shine through.

Rituals. Maybe you have a certain greeting or phrase that you begin or end with.

Language. Here’s a way to make your viewers feel like insiders: come up with your own lingo or phrases that describe things.

Put annotations on videos

Have you ever watched a video and noticed that there are clickable words and boxes that show up?

Those are annotations.

The best place to use them is “10 in and 10 out” — the first 10% and the last 10% of your video. So take the length of your video and make sure you have annotations planned for that first 10% and last 10%.

A cautionary note: only use one annotation at a time.

Know your keywords and phrases

Your Google Analytics and YouTube accounts should be linked. (If they’re not, go do that right now.)

Spend time on YouTube researching the keywords and phrases that bring up content like yours. This is worth an investment of time, and maybe even asking some people who are in the group you want to reach (i.e., if you’re trying to reach women, ask women). What are people searching for?

Then make sure you are using those keywords and phrases within your descriptions and tags and even in the title of your video.

Strong CTA

Does your video have a strong call to action? Because if it doesn’t…why not? You can do that within your annotations, in the description, and also within the video itself.

Produce great content

Saving the best for last: great content!

Some quick tips related to that:

  • Focus on one specific need in each video.
  • Get the right length, about 3 minutes
  • Consistency + congruency = win!

What can you measure and track to know if you’re succeeding on YouTube?

There’s a lot of information available, that’s for sure! These areas should be, at a minimum, things you’re considering and looking at as you build and grow your YouTube presence:

Views over time

This gives you an idea of trends, of how you’re growing (or not) and of changes. It’s a way of stepping back and looking at the big picture.

Source of traffic

Where are people coming from? Are they embedding your player, finding it through an ad, YouTube search, Google search, an outside website…?

Demographics

You might think you’re appealing to a 40-something woman in the Midwest when, in reality, you’re being watched and shared by 30-year-old men on the west coast. (That is a slight and crazy exaggeration, yes.)

Understanding your audience will help you make better content and who you are reaching. There’s a lot to be learned from that information, including where your viewers are from and what kind of impact you have geographically.

Playback locations

How is your audience discovering your content? You can learn whether they are searching and finding it within YouTube or from another website.

Retention

Wonder where you lose people? The Audience Retention page will tell you…and paying attention to when people stop watching can inform your future videos.

Subscribers

Yes, this is a theme: subscribers are important! But when are they joining? And leaving? What does that measurement look like?

Social Shares

This goes almost without saying: tapping into the social nature of YouTube is a must. You can also see where people are sharing things (hint: Facebook wins most of the time).

Commenting

When you get comments, respond to them. This is part of the back-and-forth that makes YouTube a community atmosphere.

You can also cross-reference your commenting statistics with others, you can gain further insight into what’s working with your audience.

Likes, dislikes, and favorites

Very few people will actually leave a comment, but a lot of people will like, dislike, or favorite a video that strikes a chord. Make sure you’re tracking this information and watching it.

Things to make sure you have set up properly

  1. YouTube channel and AdWords account
  2. The connection (link) between YouTube and AdWords
  3. Video remarketing lists in AdWords
  4. Conversion tracking pixels from AdWords placed accordingly

Strategies to use with YouTube

  1. Get back in front of users who don’t register or buy
    • Build video remarketing list off first video ad
    • Target those viewers with a new video ad
    • Exclude those who convert
  2. Stop advertising to those who have registered or purchased
  3. Increase your reach with similar audiences and Google Display Network

10 Ways to Avoid Burnout

We’ve all done it: you jump into a project head first and double your hours. Then you skip sleep, forego the regenerative “me” time that keeps you sane, and start taking out your frustrations on loved ones.

Maybe you find yourself sluggish, dragging yourself to the computer or workplace in the morning with a sense of dread.

Or, just as bad, you’ve been procrastinating and putting off all the tasks.

According to the Asscociation for Psychological Science, burnout comes in three varieties: overload burnout, boredom burnout, and worn-out burnout.

Statista reports that 65% of the people who are at the beginning of a burnout situation frequently felt run down or drained of physical and/or emotional energy.

Yep, I’ve been there. Recently, in fact.

Sometimes, you can nip it in the bud and keep the big “B” of burnout from getting control of your life.

Other times, it would have been better to just avoid the situation altogether.

Here are my top ways to avoid burnout and stay motivated in your work.

Plan your day AND write it down.

Write down everything you need to do. This will keep you focused and on track.

I use a bullet journaling system that I continually modify and adjust. When I went “backwards” from a completely cloud-based back to a paper-based system a few years ago, I expected to encounter some problems.

What I found, though, was that I was able to focus better and even remember things. It was like what I learned in college, taking notes during lectures and then studying by rewriting them, was still relevant.

Turns out research supports what I’ve experienced. So not only will you have a plan of what’s ahead, you may find yourself thinking more clearly and remembering better.

Then again, you might just have a handy place to doodle. 🙂

Sever the tether.

With 77% of Americans owning a smartphone, it’s no surprise that, in addition to crushing candy and obsessively checking Facebook, we’re also working longer hours.

It. Never. Ends.

But it can.

Set working hours and stick to them. And, my TOP advice? Turn off notifications.

Make your time intentional. Not only will it free you to enjoy your off hours, it will also help you focus during your on hours.

Do the tough stuff first.

Confession: I don’t always follow this advice. Sometimes, I need to do the opposite of eating the frog; I need to butter myself up and get ready for the tasks I’m not so fond of.

But when you’ve done the tough or unsavory work first, it’s out of the way. It’s done. It’s not hanging over you all day long.

Have a hobby.

Give yourself something to look forward to outside of work…and then make time to do it!

There are all sorts of reasons to have a hobby (Psychology Today lists six), but mental health tops my list.

When I curl up with a book or grab my husband for a round of golf, the working part of my brain can relax…and I come back refreshed and ready to dive in.

Say no.

You can’t do everything…and you shouldn’t.

But often, once you start saying yes, you get asked to do more. And more. And more.

Saying no doesn’t make you a jerk (though there’s something to be said for tact). And it may not be easy to say no, especially if you’re a people pleaser or talking to someone you don’t want to disappoint.

Do a quick search online for “benefits of saying no” and you’ll find a trail a mile long. This is its very own challenge, but one that is important to embrace and pursue.

A well-placed no can help you in many ways, not least of which is to keep you from the brink of burnout!

Take breaks.

Go outside. Enjoy nature. Meditate and/or pray.

You’re not made to be glued to a computer screen or a task for long amounts of time. A change in scenery, even if it’s just to stand up at your desk, can make a huge difference in your mentality.

Years ago, in my first job after college, I noticed that the only people who seemed to take a sanctioned break during the day were those who smoked.

Rather than start a habit that could lead to your death, why not set a timer on your phone or computer so that you take a break? Neil Patel recommends no longer than 90 minutes of work at a stretch before you take a break.

Whatever it is, make time throughout the day to stop and pause. You’ll be better for it.

Avoid perfection paralysis.

Done is better than perfect.

I know, I KNOW. It’s hard to say and even harder to accept. But the truth is that most of us aren’t doing life-altering jobs.

Usually, we need something done more than we need it to be completely 100% perfect.

I’m NOT advocating a half-way job or doing less than your best. But your best and what’s needed often — usually — isn’t perfect.

And besides, perfect can be a subjective term. Let go of it and let yourself move forward.

Take care of your body.

We aren’t just intellectual beings; we’re physical beings. That means we need to take care of our bodies, too!

Eat right. Sleep well. Exercise. Drink lots of water. Research whether some vitamin supplements would be appropriate.

Get up and move around during the day (while taking one of those breaks I recommended earlier).

Add beauty.

Beauty comes in many forms, and it will change the atmosphere for you.

Listen to music; add some flowers; put on a diffuser with bergamot or peppermint.

Make your work environment a place where you are inspired and that makes you smile. There are many factors you can’t control, true, but you can stack the deck in your favor.

People time is a must!

Even if you’re an introvert, you need loved ones and support. What people in your life give you energy?

66% of people categorized as being at the beginning of burnout stated that “stable family life is one of the best ways to avoid burnout.”

Whether family means your closest friends, the people you live with, or some other group, make time for them and with them.

Humans are social beings.

How do you avoid burnout?

What tips do you have to share? Or, if you’ve battled with burnout in the past, what helped you?

Numbers Matter: How to Measure Your Social Media Campaigns

Measure Your Social Media Campaigns - EZMetrics

I’m a numbers guy. I’m such a numbers guy that it drives my wife crazy.

But here’s the thing: you need to be a numbers person, too.

If you’re spending money on advertising — and let’s not forget that time is money! — then you need to know if it’s working or not.

And the way you know that is, usually, by some sort of number.

Social media is a hot way to advertise, and with good reason.

You don’t always have to spend money on social media — we grew the Zig Ziglar Facebook page purely organically — but you can (and often, it makes sense).

If you have a budget, I’m a big fan of Facebook ads. (Which would be why I have a whole course on it…) They allow for targeting in a way that, quite frankly, makes every dollar well-spent.

Know why and what you’re measuring in a social media campaign

To be clear, I’m not a fan of numbers just for the sake of numbers.

You have to know why you’re measuring and what you’re measuring, because that’s how you find out what’s working.

And when you know what’s working, you can keep rocking it, tweaking it, and improving it so that you convert prospects into customers.

Two types of metrics for social media

We’re going to consider that there are two types of metrics for social media:

  • Ongoing metrics
  • Campaign metrics

Ongoing metrics are things you keep your eye on all the time: you want to understand the trends and activity from one point in time to another. You want to look at snapshots, but also at the bigger picture. This is something you check in on regularly and keep track of.

Campaign metrics are focused on a definite beginning and end. These numbers help you know whether your specific campaigns or outreaches are effective. You can look at these within the overall scope of things, and you can look at them individually.

Both types of metrics are critical: you should be looking at both and keeping track of both.

How to measure social media campaigns

Ask — and answer — these 5 questions to measure your social media campaigns. In fact, I’ve found it’s a good practice to revisit these on a regular basis.

1. What are your goals?

What do you want to accomplish and where can you best accomplish it?

Some goals might be:

  • To gain exposure
  • To sell products
  • To spread the word about something
  • To engage with customers or prospects
  • To share news and information

You may find that, due to limited energy or resources, that it’s best to pick one social media channel (i.e., Facebook or Instagram) and build that up before you attempt another channel.

2. What metrics matter for your goals?

What numbers tell you what people are doing and whether things are working?

Here are a few metrics to get you started:

  • What are people talking about? Your “conversation rate” helps you build relationships and helps you nurture leads, answer questions, and support current customers so that you have retention.
  • How many shares/retweets do you have? This “amplification rate” will tell you your reach and determine what kind of content to create and what channels to use.
  • How many likes/favorites do you get? This “applause rate” and it can tell you what your audience likes, which should inform your future decisions.

3. What tools will measure and capture the numbers?

Each social media platform has some built-in analytics, but there are also external tools that can help you. For example, Google Analytics should be installed and running on your website already.

You don’t have to spend anything on tools: if you’re starting in Facebook (and why wouldn’t you?), the analytics and insights are part of the dashboard. For more tools, do a quick search for free social media metrics tools.

4. What gets monitored and reported?

For some people, this is the hardest part. You have to sit back a bit, and at the same time, you have to watch and keep track.

You want to know how your numbers compare to what you expected. Are your conversions better or worse or right on target?

Take a look, too, at how often and what you’re reporting, even if it’s just to yourself.

You can help a good campaign go to great, and you can help a faltering campaign rebound, but only if you’re paying attention.

5. What needs changed?

The real power of the numbers is that they inform your decisions. You can change your tactics and consider if you’re missing something.

Maybe you’re not looking at the right thing. Maybe you see a trend that shows you an opportunity.

The next step

Social media can be a drain on your time and energy. It helps to understand the metrics that matter and adjusting your strategy in light of your numbers.