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14 Unique Instagram Post Ideas for Online Business Owners

February 6, 2020

If you want to experiment with content to reinvigorate your audience OR if you’re just drawing a blank on content ideas, here are 14 Instagram post ideas to get the wheels turning!

We’ve been using Instagram since 2013 and oh how the times have changed.

Stories, filters, IGTV—it can be hard to keep up with all the new features (not to mention the algorithm). However, the first feature Instagram started with (Posts) has stood the test of time and will continue to be one of the most valuable parts of the platform.

In this article, you’ll find 14 unique Instagram post ideas that can help your content stand out from everyone else’s! Don’t know what to post to drum up engagement? Pick from this list and put your own spin on it to see what resonates with your audience.

Sound good? Let’s dive in!


Unique Instagram Post Idea #1: Embellished Photos

We had to start with the Instagram OG—photos! Want to bring more life to your photos? Try using the markup app on your phone or apps like Procreate and Over to add illustrations or layers to your photos.

We love the way Arabella adds fun embellishments to her photos which really make them stand out next to a see of other photos in the feed.

We love using the app Over to add embellishments, so unsurprisingly Over’s Instagram account is a great place to look for inspiration!


Unique Instagram Post Idea #2: Quote

Again, starting simple here because quotes are everywhere, but with good reason! Take a line from your best article or newsletter and turn it into a quote card with branded elements like we did here:

View this post on Instagram

We’re about a week into the New Year and who is starting to think their list of 2020 intentions was a bit…ambitious? 🙋‍♀️🙋‍♂️⠀ ⠀ It’s okay if you have a LOT of things you want to tackle this year. But just remember that overwhelm can zap your motivation quickly. ⠀ ⠀ Sometimes if you’re trying to do it all, you lack the focus necessary to actually FOLLOW-THROUGH.⠀ ⠀ 💡Here’s an idea: Consider picking one or two things from your list to prioritize and try following through on things before you move on down your list. 👍👊⠀ ⠀ .⠀ .⠀ .⠀ #workingtolive #intentionalbusiness #startwithwhy #livewithintention #theimperfectboss #creativebiz #fueledwithheart #creativelifehappylife

A post shared by Jason/Carol⚡️Business Coaches (@wanderingaimfully) on

OR…you can take a page out of Amy’s book and keep the design super simple to let the words shine.


Unique Instagram Post Idea #3: Branded Status Update

It’s the era of embracing cross-platform content! By using a design that embraces the status update layout of Twitter, you can grab someone’s attention with a longer quote.


Unique Instagram Post Idea #4: Branded Digital Tools

Similar to the status update idea, this is about using digital tools we all recognize (reminders, emails, etc.) to enter your own custom message.

Refinery29 recreates a “compose email” set up here with their own brand fonts which is a uniquely compelling way to present a basic quote.

🔥 Tip: use an app like Over to insert a fun background image or pattern in your brand’s color story.


Unique Instagram Post Idea #5: Quirky Illustrations

Think of a sentiment you want to communicate and what visual object or illustration could enhance the meaning.

Not the best artist? That’s cool. 🔥 Tip: You can still search for royalty-free illustrations or drawings online or with an app like Over and pair with text.

Artsy Affirmations could have included this text as the post, but the addition of the large scissors adds a nice visual element.


Unique Instagram Post Idea #6: Animated Illustrations

Already using illustrations? Take them up a notch by adding an animated element. 🔥 Tip: You can use an app like Procreate or Rough Animator to draw frames and export as an .mp4 video file for easy uploading to Instagram OR you can actually use Keynote to make a frame animation and export as a video as well!


Unique Instagram Post Idea #7: Moving Photo

You can use a cool app like Pixaloop to make parts of your images move, adding an eye-catching dynamic quality to your images. You can also use Google Photos automatic animation feature to take similar photos and turn them into an animated photo.

Moving Photo Instagram Image


Unique Instagram Post Idea #8: Process Video Clips

This is especially great for artists, but it’s not exclusively for them! People love seeing behind the scenes of how others work, so think about how you can share your process in a helpful/interesting way.

We love the way Gal Shir shares his illustration process in these gorgeous videos.


Unique Instagram Post Idea #9: Micro-Blog Carousel

More and more people are using the multiple-image carousels to teach or inform. Think of it as a mini slideshow presentation. How can you share valuable content and tell a story? You can also the same functionality to share portfolio images.


Unique Instagram Post Idea #10: Infographic and Data Visualization

An infographic is a visual way to express data or information. You could share steps in a process, statistics, or use a graph to share something relatable that makes your audience feel connected to you.

Spark Sustainability is using data here to promote conversation about climate change.

We love the way Liz and Mollie incorporate data visualization with relatable illustrations.


Unique Instagram Post Idea #11: Meme

See a popular meme going around? Think about how you can customize it so it will be entertaining for your specific audience.

For example, The Everygirl knows their audience are mostly millennial women who will appreciate this Rachel Green from friends reference.


Unique Instagram Post Idea #12: Caption a GIF

Look for reaction GIFs and add your own captions that are relevant for the kind of content you share with your audience.

🔥 Tip: You don’t have to go looking for reactions, you can create your own. Take a short reaction clip of yourself and add your caption.

Hello Sunshine used this popular reaction gif to relate to their audience about coming back to work after a long weekend.


Unique Instagram Post Idea #13: Testimonials

Find a way to highlight awesome things your customers have said about your business in a visually interesting way.

This is a simple but effective execution from The Social Media CEO. Screenshot great comments or emails and put them over a fun photo background:


Unique Instagram Post Idea #14: User-generated content

This works especially well if you have a physical product, but encourage your audience to share their own photos using a specific hashtag and you can repost (with a proper credit shoutout of course!)

The Start Today Brand does this with their Start Today journals, sharing customer images of the journals in real life.


Don’t Be Afraid To Experiment With Instagram Post Ideas To See What Works For YOU

If you want to create content that grows your visibility, the keys are experimentation and listening.

Try different types of visual content and see what your audience responds to. It might take a few different executions of each idea for you to figure out if it’s something you want to keep doing.

Here’s an example of the first micro-blog carousel (idea #9) we tried versus one that was created a few months later:

Slider Comparison from @wanderingaimfully

*The 10x growth in shares and saves proves that our IG audience has really started to enjoy these types of posts as we’ve continued to create new ones!

One last tip for your Instagram posts: Don’t just look at likes.

Look at other engagement metrics like saves and shares. A post might get low likes but a ton of shares, and that’s what you want to keep doing because it will lead to people discovering your business on IG.

Most of all, have fun with the platform, engage with your audience, and share content that feels right for YOU. 👍

**

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14 unique Instagram post ideas

032 – We Need To Stop Measuring Our Self-Worth With Social Media

May 26, 2019


Listen to the audio version


Episode Summary

Being on social media websites can be helpful for our businesses and for staying connected with loved ones, but the longer we spend on these networks the more our self-worth gets tied to them.

We’ve realized over the years how swept up our decision-making can get with social media metrics. Even on this episode, we talk about not posting more “real” moments because they don’t match the curated life we want to portray.

We definitely don’t have all the answers when it comes to NOT measuring your self-worth on social media, all we know is that it’s a slippery slope and we need to tread lightly. We need to acknowledge our behaviors, our choices, and force ourselves to take breaks from always being connected to social media.

Related article: Do A Social Media Detox

Source for dopamine article: Are Facebook Likes Similar To Cocaine Addiction

QUESTION FOR YOU: Are you willing to take a break from social media or at the very least only check it once or twice per day? (Feel free to comment with your answer on YouTube).

 


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Don’t Share This

April 4, 2019

When was the last time you hit publish on a piece of content and immediately crossed your fingers hoping it would get shared? When was the last time that plan worked out?

That approach hasn’t worked for you, has it? It certainly hasn’t worked for me, either. We’ll spend countless hours creating an article, post, video, etc, only to feel like the crickets aren’t even interested in it (the jerks!) The problem is that often times we create content from the entirely wrong angle.

Too many content creators think, “how can I make shareable (or viral) content” instead of thinking, “how can I make really helpful or entertaining content?”

 


500,000 People Agree With Me, Getting An Article Shared Does Not Require “Growth Hacks”

A few years ago I wrote an article about a 30-day detox I took from social media. I can distinctly remember the 2014 version of myself sitting at my laptop and cranking out word after word for that article. I remember asking myself a few questions while I was writing what would become a 6,000+ word post:

  • How can my experience not using social media help someone else?
  • What did I actually learn from my social media break that I can share?
  • I felt really great at the end of my detox, how can I help people feel that too?
  • How can I make this article not suck??

Do you notice anything about those questions? None of them have anything to do with making that article share-worthy. None of them involve some viral growth tactic to get tons of shares, likes, RTs, etc.

And yet… That 6,000+ word article has gone on to be viewed by over 500,000 people since it was published.

Jason Zook Social Media Detox Article Growth

Fancy charts are fancy.

There are a few things to note about that article that may surprise you:

  1. There are NO social share buttons (never have been)
  2. There is NO call-to-action to share the article anywhere
  3. There is NO freebie, download, opt-in, which incentivizes sharing

All things considered, I may as well have written, “don’t share this!” across the top and bottom of that article (obviously styling the text to match the yellow CAUTION tape you see at crime scenes).

So, why/how did that article get shared and how is this going to help you create content that gets shared?

First: Let’s talk about how to create shareable content by not thinking about creating shareable content.

If your intent is to create something under the guise that it will be shared you’ve almost already lost your battle to get attention from other people.

You need to create content that focuses on one or two things:

  1. Your content needs to be helpful
  2. Your content needs to be entertaining
  3. Bonus: Your content needs to be both helpful AND entertaining

You can play all the keyword research games you want but if your content doesn’t help someone or doesn’t keep them entertained while reading it, you’re donezo. And kudos to you if you use words like “donezo” in your writing.

There is too much content in existence on the Internet nowadays and we’ve all developed a strong bullshit radar for growth-hacky content.

Second: You must prepare your content for success (aka: do a tiny bit of SEO work).

Now… hold on. Don’t flip over your desk in anger about how much you hate SEO and how much it confuses you and makes you want to punch pillows ’til the cows come home (a saying that I believe is catching on).

SEO SUUUUCKS

(Hopefully this isn’t you right now.)

When I talk about preparing your content for success, I just mean doing a couple of simple things that put you in good standing with search engines:

  • Writing a compelling headline (read: not click-bait, but interesting)
  • Making sure you use H2, H3, H4 headings with your focus topic (keyword)
  • If there’s a question to answer in your article, do it early and plainly
  • Use a WordPress plugin like Yoast SEO*

*Obviously this only pertains to WP users. For everyone else, just skip this step.

If you want to dive deeper into my extremely rudimentary process for SEO, read the full guide I created: Everything You Need To Know From My Experience With SEO

The reason to think about SEO just slightly when you’re writing content is to set yourself and your content up correctly from the beginning. Read: Do the things Google wants you to do so it can find and share your content for you!

Third: You have to be patient.

Don’t aim for virality, aim for longevity.

For every single person reading this article (myself included), none of the content we create will go viral. And truthfully, virality should NOT be the goal. Viral content is a flash in the pan. It’s over and done with faster than you can blink, usually with zero long-term net gains.

However, long-lasting, quality content can continue on an upward trajectory. This is especially relevant if you create a piece of content, like my social media detox article, which was written before people started talking more and more about taking breaks from social media.

Social Media Detox search term growth over time

Thanks to my buddy (and SEO wizard) Brendan Hufford for helping me find this Google Trends graph!

You have to be patient with your content. My social media detox article didn’t start gaining organic search traffic and shares for months. In fact, it wasn’t until a year after originally posting it that people started to include a link to my article when they did a social media detox of their own and wrote about it.

IMPORTANT NOTE: I’ve had a handful of other articles follow the same pattern of how they took to get organic sharing and growth as my social media detox one:

  • Start A Business With No Money: Took 2 years to gain traction
  • How To Write A Pitch Email: Took 2 years to reach #1 on Google
  • I Failed P90X: Took 12 months to get consistent readership
  • How To Get Sponsorships: Took 18 months to land on page #1 on Google

There’s a recurring theme here and it’s that content worth sharing can take time to be found and to be shared. And again, none of those articles have share buttons, ask for shares, etc.

 
 


Here Are Your 5 Actionable Takeaways From This Article

Takeaway #1: Don’t set out with the idea to create shareable content. Create helpful or entertaining (or both!) content.

Takeaway #2: Unless you can prove to me that those god-awful share buttons cluttering up your beautiful website are working, it’s time to remove them. They do not work. Great content gets shared because it’s great, not because a few buttons make it easier to share.

Takeaway #3: You can set yourself up for success by doing a little bit of SEO work. Just a few small things! You don’t need to hire an SEO professional.

Takeaway #4: Patience is incredibly important. If you’re creating helpful and entertaining content, publish it, share it where you can, then move on to the next piece of content you’re itching to create.

Takeaway #5: I didn’t mention this anywhere else but it’s probably time you go back through your older articles and see if you can make any of them go from good to GREAT. It’s easier to improve something that already exists than it is to create from scratch.

Don’t share this.

Unless this article helped you. Unless it inspired you. Unless it motivated you and gave you actionable steps you can take on your journey to having your content shared.

Otherwise, onto the next article you have open in those 43 tabs in your browser.

I’m Unfollowing Everyone on Twitter, Feel Free to Follow Along (get it??)

August 17, 2017

This article was a real-time experiment to track my unfollowing of everyone on Twitter and report back with results.

I’ve decided I’m unfollowing everyone on Twitter for 60 days. I’ll be using this post as a semi-updated journal to track my thoughts, feelings, and discoveries. If you want to chat with me about it, send me a tweet: @jasondoesstuff.

Quick jump to updates: #1 | #2 | #3 | #4 | #5

*It should be known ahead of time that I quit Facebook in 2016. Hence why I’m not mentioning quitting Facebook.

Jason Zook @jasondoesstuff Twitter


Why I’m unfollowing everyone on Twitter

Since 2007, I’ve greatly enjoyed Twitter. It’s a wonderful platform that gives you access to people and lets people have access to you. I can’t deny the fact that I wouldn’t be the person I am today without sending 73,000 short messages out into the world (that’s an average of 20 tweets per day over the course of 10 years). I believe that 3/4 of those messages have been direct replies to other people: conversations I’ve enjoyed having that wouldn’t have happened anywhere else online.

But for the past few years, I’ve become a different person.

I no longer want to share as many updates about my life. And I no longer need to know what everyone else is doing and thinking all day, either. Maybe I’m becoming a grumpy old man (get off my virtual lawn!), or maybe I’ve simply started to recognize that social media is the next great addiction. Either way, these are the two main reasons why I’m unfollowing everyone on Twitter:

  1. I want to break my addictive habits (constantly refreshing feeds)
  2. I want to remove as much negativity from my life as possible

Can we all agree that social media sites are the FIRST places we, as humans, go to share our displeasures? Have a bad experience with your cable provider? Angry tweet! You don’t like the current state of political affairs? Angry Facebook post! If something negative happens in your life, you share it.

Remember when that used to be a new, empowering, even positive thing? Social media was the place an individual could publicly confront a corporation and get action taken faster than would have been possible with a private email or phone call. I can’t discount that people who deserve an answer or a solution have often found it a lot faster by leveraging the power of social media.

However, when EVERYONE is sharing their grievances all the time, there’s a cumulative effect happening that I’m not comfortable being aware of all day, every day. While it may feel good to air frustrations and blow off steam, it can/does have a negative effect on the people reading.

I’m not here to convince anyone how they should or shouldn’t use their own social media accounts, but I do want to control the messaging that I consume on a daily basis.

I’ve tried pruning my Twitter feed on many previous occasions, but it’s not enough.

For the past decade, I’ve done what most people do on Twitter: I’ve haphazardly unfollowed and followed people. There was no rhyme or reason to it.

Then, in 2014, I spent an entire day organizing the people I followed into Twitter Lists. Painstakingly, I went through hundreds of Twitter accounts I followed. I moved them into carefully curated Lists. I ended up with a main Twitter feed of only 100ish people. For about 48 hours, I felt great about myself and these new Twitter Lists. Then, I never looked at those Lists ever again, ever.

Jason Zook Twitter Lists

Since that time, Twitter has changed. One huge change that has led to “the great unfollowing of 2017” is that they now show tweets liked by people you follow (whether you follow the person they liked the tweet from or not). I may really enjoy the tweets of @person, but absolutely not enjoy or care about the tweets @person likes. I have to unfollow that person if I don’t want to see tweets they’ve liked. Which led to the big question:

Why follow anyone on Twitter at all?

That’s the answer I’m going to find by unfollowing everyone for 60 days. I feel like my life (online and off) has gotten better with 30-day social media detoxes. Could this be the next step?


My 60-day experiment of unfollowing everyone on Twitter

This journal-of-sorts won’t be updated on a daily basis, but I’ll try to update it weekly (if meaningful-to-me thoughts occur). A few parameters I’ve set for myself:

  • I will ABSOLUTELY still be reading mentions/replies. That’s the part of Twitter I love and want to keep. That’s where the best conversation happens.
  • I’ll still be going to people’s Twitter profiles to read their tweets… if I can remember to do that (part of what I want to find out in this experiment). Who are the people I really want to read tweets from? Who do I miss? Can my brain remember those people??
  • I created a private Twitter List and added the 116 people I was following in case I wanted to re-follow everyone (or the folks that stood out the most) after the 60 days.

So, without further ado, let’s dive in…

Day 1 of the great unfollowing (August 1, 2017)

Well, technically, it’s 9:15pm PDT on July 31, but who’s counting?? If I’m being 100% honest, I chose to do all the unfollowing later in the evening because of a main concern I have about unfollowing people on Twitter (in general): People will be offended.

I could use the “it’s not you, it’s me” line until I’m blue in the face, but feelings will still get hurt. I’ve wanted to do this unfollow-all experiment for quite some time and hurt feelings has been the reason I haven’t done it… Until now.

Unfollowing everyone on Twitter GIF

Please let it be known that I adore Matthew Inman (aka @Oatmeal). That was a tough unfollow. But truly, none were tougher than…

Unfollowing your mom on twitter

Yep. That’s my Mom. She’ll understand though. She knows I like doing these weird experiments (and that my love for her goes well beyond a Twitter following). Hopefully the same goes for my wife. (Update: checked with my wife, she was cool with it.)

Unfollowing 116 people felt like I was doing something wrong. It felt like I was breaking some unwritten Twitter rule.

There was definitely a twisting in my gut, the same twisting when you know you’ve made a mistake or screwed something up. Let’s hope that feeling was merely an initial reaction. Time will tell.

Jason Zook Twitter Unfollowing Experiment

There’s a weird mix of emotions as I wrap up this first journal entry for this experiment. On one hand, I’m intrigued and excited to see how it goes for the next 60 days. On the other hand, there are a lot of unknowns and unknowns are scary.

I’m no stranger to 30-day detoxes from social media, but this experiment has a unique feel to it already. We’ll just have to wait and see what happens!

Day 3 of following nobody (August 3, 2017)

One of my biggest concerns when I decided to embark on this unfollowing experiment was that everyone would notice I unfollowed them and send me angry messages. That didn’t happen.

Now… My assumption is that those angry messages didn’t happen because I didn’t selectively unfollow a handful of people (as I’ve done in past years). By unfollowing 100% of the people I followed, it put everyone on the same unfollowing spectrum. I can’t prove this assumption, but it’s clear to me that the end result (no angry messages) is a victory over my biggest concern.

TIP: Want to unfollow some folks on Twitter but you’re worried about backlash/angry messages of some sort? Unfollow everyone. Call it an “experiment.” And re-follow the folks you want to follow again (quietly) a few weeks later. You’re welcome.

Anyhoo, I had my first moment of I wonder what this does now? when I clicked the Home button on Twitter:

Jason Zook Twitter Feed

I expected to see a nice blank page. No tweets. Maybe a note from Twitter saying “Hey, you’re a weirdo, go follow some people!” I even thought Twitter might go one step further and offer up some random accounts they deemed popular. I’m honestly glad they didn’t do the latter. But nope, my Home (or feed) is now just my own tweets. The good news? If I want to get caught up on all things me, I know where to go! 😅

There were a couple tweets I received after announcing this experiment that I really liked:

A secret goal (that’s not a secret after you read this sentence) when I decided to do this 60-day unfollowing experiment is that it would inspire other people to do some Twitter housekeeping. That seems to be working! Yay for secret goals inspiring people to take control of how they use social media.

So, how has it felt not having any tweets to scroll through for a couple days?

Honestly, not that weird. As I mentioned, I enjoy doing social media detoxes and I’d experienced not having a feed of other people’s tweets to mindlessly thumb through before.

I did, however, keep track of the four Twitter accounts I selectively chose to visit to catch up on some tweets:

  • @ugmonk (found this amazing thread through Jeff’s tweets)
  • @pjrvs (who I found is on his own break from Twitter – hehe!)
  • @amyhoy (she just launched a new SaaS and I wanted to read about it)
  • @marshal (love hearing about what he and @jon are up to at Need/Want)

And random/silly thing. It looks like Twitter still thinks I’m following people:

Twitter is silly

¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Day 15 of the unfollow experiment (August 15, 2017)

Holy moly, where did the past two weeks go!? Well, I can actually tell you: “work.”

One of the outcomes from my social media detoxes over the years has been all the extra time I have to focus on my projects. It’s amazing how many extra hours you find yourself with and how better you can spend those hours on things that actually matter. Don’t get me wrong, I really enjoy engaging in conversations on Twitter, Instagram, etc, but I also really like investing in myself, my businesses, and my customers.

The past two weeks have been incredibly productive for my wife and I. We’ve:

  1. Developed a plan of action for the remainder of this year (work and life schedules)
  2. Come up with an interesting idea to promote the upcoming BuyOurFuture launch (Sept 26)
  3. Been able to have a lot more 1-on-1 helpful conversations (Skype, phone, etc) with our customers
  4. Built an authentic automation for Better Branding Course and The Imperfect Writer
  5. Spent time at the beach and enjoyed a few beautiful summer days (what we’re doing all this work for)
  6. Watched too many Tesla Model 3 speculation and review videos (this is mostly me, hah)

Where has that left me with my unfollowing experiment on Twitter?

Truthfully? Almost forgetting about it. And I think that’s a great thing.

I waste so much less time using my Twitter feed as a place to escape doing all the mundane work (you know, the unsexy part of running businesses).

I do want to bring up one thing I have noticeably missed which is the ability to easily discover new stuff. I recently had a convo with my friend Pat on Slack about this:

Discovery without Twitter

Discovering new people, new interesting projects, new opinions, is a lot more difficult without a Twitter feed. I’ve found myself visiting a handful of the same websites: Colossal, The Verge, and Site Inspire. Two of my favorite things I’ve discovered recently are:

  • Masters of Doom (book) – If you grew up in the 80s/90s and played computer games, you’ll LOVE this book.
  • BLUEPRINT (video series) –  I’ve been itching for a video series similar to Chef’s Table or Abstract that focuses just on entrepreneurs and their unique stories. I think I’ve found it!

Speaking of discovery, I can’t remember how I found it, but I came across this amazing tweet:


One other small update is that Twitter finally realized I stopped following people. It no longer says “You follow each other” on anyone’s profile. And, the Twitter home feed has been updated to this:

Twitter home feed when following no one
I guess that’s an improvement from just seeing all my own tweets?? I’ll take it.

Last but not least for this update: I’m loving all the replies from folks who are inspired by this experiment to clean up their Twitter following. Again, if that’s the main outcome from this little challenge, I’m a happy camper.

Day 22 brings the fire 🔥 (August 22, 2017)

Today’s update is less about how my Twitter unfollowing experience is going and more about social media in general. Don’t worry, I’m not gonna soapbox you about taking a social media detox.

It occurred to me the past few weeks, while my time spent using Twitter has plummeted to almost nothing, there’s a gigantic elephant in the room with social media. Well-to-do successful business people will tell you that using social media to build your “brand” and grow your audience is necessary. You need to build deeper connections (we’ll get to that in a moment) and you need to hang out where the people are. But there’s one HUGE missing piece to that advice:

When do you reevaluate and realize that spending time on social media isn’t helping your “brand” or your business?

I know for a fact those same well-to-do successful business people would tell you to shut down a brick and mortar business if no one is walking in the doors each day. If you’re doing marketing, promotion, creating a unique in-store experience, and no one is showing up, those business folks would tell you to close the doors and move on after a certain period of time. No way in hell they tell you to keep the doors open because it helps your brand and helps you build stronger customer-connections when zero people are paying attention to you.

But… Those same business folks who tell you that social media is important for your business don’t ever tell you how long you should be investing time into it. They don’t have a clear deciding factor (no one walking in the door) to tell you it may be time to stop using social media to promote your business.

I’ve said it before, but it bears repeating here: My previous businesses had social media at the forefront of my brand-building and promotional efforts. Every day I spent time and money trying to craft unique content (yes, you can craft tweets) to keep my social media audiences engaged and interested. Yet, with all that effort, my businesses failed. In 2013 when I decided to focus less on social media and focus more on actually building a business (and great products to go along with it) I started to have success. I realized the majority of the time I was spending on social media wasn’t getting people in my virtual doors.

  • Did I still want to build my brand? Yep.
  • Did I still want to build connections with customers? Yep.
  • Did I notice both of those things were happening with greater effectiveness when I stopped devoting time on social media? 100% yes.

The past three years have been the most profitable years of my entrepreneurial life. They are also the three years I’ve spent the least amount of time on social media.

If you want to waste time everyday scrolling through Facebook, Twitter, watching YouTube videos, etc, that’s your prerogative. But if at the same time you are trying to build a business or you are trying to chase a big dream, you’re never going to be successful. You’re going to stay in the rat-race of trying to keep up and throwing valuable time at something (social media) without a guaranteed return.

So what should you be doing with your time, if not promoting your business on social media?

1. Build a product people actually need. Is the product or service you are selling is actually helping the customers who buy it? Not just getting them to buy, but once they buy, having your product improve their lives in some way (spoiler alert: this is ongoing in business).

2. Build entry points that bring potential customers immediate value. You should be creating simple ways for people to learn more about your product and get to a purchasing decision: helpful articles, in-depth video walkthroughs, actionable workshops, free email courses, awesome free trials, etc. Not just free downloadable garbage. Actual life-changing stuff that solves problems (note: it may take you weeks or months to create this stuff).

3. Build your firehoses. When you have a product/service that people are happily paying for and sharing with their friends, create unique and different ways to attract more people. Sure, I’d advocate you could use Facebook Ads at this point in the process, but using Facebook Ads has nothing to do with creating a Facebook Page with a content strategy for posts, images, videos, etc. You want to create opportunities where you can turn on/off the flow of additional customers (because you know you nailed #1 and #2).

The last thing I want to touch on is the “deepening of connections” on social media. While I wholeheartedly agree that you can create meaningful connections, I don’t believe they are “deep” connections. When you’re just another avatar in a constant feed of swiped-through updates, how is it possible to create a deep connection? I’ll tell you: It’s 100% not.

You may start a new friendship or connection on Twitter. You may find someone interesting through a friend on Facebook. But rarely does that connection stay strong for more than a few months unless you move that connection elsewhere (email, slack, Skype, in-person, etc). And if you’re being totally honest with yourself: Do you actually believe you’ll be able to improve and grow your business by fighting to cut through the noise of social media?

My time away from Twitter these past 22 days has provided me the space to:

  • Write over 30,000 words for various projects
  • Create a 12-day pitch sequence for a product
  • Work with my wife on an awesome 5-part video series
  • Scrap an existing business plan and build an entire new one
  • Take 10 calls with existing customers to simply try to help them
  • Feel like I can problem solve faster for customer support issues
  • Get more shit done that actually helps my businesses grow!

Maybe now’s the time to ask yourself: Is spending time on social media actually helping me grow my business and achieve my dreams? Or I am simply wasting valuable time?

Day 60… kind of (Date unknown!)

Welp, it seems I got so focused with my work and extra time, I 100% forgot to update this article/challenge. HAH! Truthfully, I think that’s a good thing. That was the entire point, right? Get free time back and take control?

Sometime after the 60 days I did end up following 20 people again. I spend almost no time mindlessly scrolling through the Home feed because I have almost nothing to scroll through.

I’m glad I took the plunge to do this. I hope you’ll at least think about going through who you follow on Twitter and unfollow a few people who constantly share things that get under your skin (or that you simply don’t want to see). I feel like I’m in complete control of how I spend time on Twitter and I loooove that.

Quitting Facebook, An Open Letter

October 30, 2016

Dear Facebook,

It’s time we took a break.

We’ve been together for over 12 years. Kind of hard to believe, right?

I remember when it was just you, me, “the wall,” a few silly pokes, and a couple friends sharing tidbits about our lives. It was innocent. You were trying to figure yourself out, and I was in my 20s trying to do the same.

But, my oh my, times have changed, haven’t they? And I’m not naive to think things would always be the same as they were in the beginning.

One thing I’ve learned about our relationship over the years is that you’re kind of demanding, Facebook. Actually, that’s not true. You’re extremely demanding. I know that won’t offend you because that’s who you are and who you’ve always been. And anyway, that worked for me in the beginning because I was young and trying to learn about myself and what mattered to me.

But you see, I’ve changed.

I didn’t realize it up until a few years ago, but I’m actually kind of introverted. Which is why I think I felt so comfortable being in a relationship with you and using you as a conduit to reach so many other interesting people. And you did a great job of that. You helped open up doors for my life (and business) that may have never existed. I really do appreciate and thank you for that.

But I’ve had one big realization about our relationship, and it’s probably due to my growing older and having more life experience: I don’t enjoy sharing every detail of my life with you anymore. I don’t like the way you make me feel like I have to scream for attention every time I have something to say.

You’ve probably noticed I’ve been acting differently. I’m not signed in to you on a daily basis. I don’t have your chat turned on, nor do I check your messages. I deleted your app from my phone a couple years ago. And recently, I installed a plugin on my browser that blocked your News Feed altogether. I’ve slowly been pulling away from you and limiting how much you can grasp my attention.

But there’s another thing…

I feel like a better person when I’m not with you, Facebook.

You see, we’ve taken a couple short breaks from each other over the past couple years. Four of them, in fact. If I reflect on those times apart, they’re the times when I’ve felt the most creative and most unencumbered to make things and experience the life I’ve tried to build for myself. Notice I didn’t say “share the life…”

Sharing my life with you has been a rollercoaster ride, Facebook. My biggest accomplishments receive praise and cheers from people all around the world. My failures, mistakes, and normal life experiences get swept under the timeline rug, leaving me feeling empty.

Without you, I wouldn’t know what dopamine was or how interacting with you gives my brain the same chemical response as doing cocaine*. To be honest, that fucking scares me, Facebook. And the worst part? Since 2005, you’ve done everything in your power to increase my dopamine responses while using you. You’ve introduced more ways to Like something, to peer in on others. And you’re so damn intelligent these days that I’ll catch myself sucked into viewing the cascading timeline of other people’s lives, not realizing how much time I’ve wasted scrolling through moments that you convinced other people to share. Before my first self-imposed social media detox, for example, I would scroll through your News Feed for hours and leave you open in a browser tab all day long. I could never stop being with you.

I used to really enjoy being with you and all my other friends in one place. There was a time when there were no agendas to being with you. It was fun to see where friends would travel to and reconnect with people I’d lost touch with over the years.

No one cared about the “right” time to drop a little update about their lives.

No one took 14 different versions of a photo just to try to find “the one” that would get the most Likes/shares/comments (dopamine responses).

No one was trying to milk every ounce of you to feel as good about themselves or their businesses as possible.

No one was sharing their opinions just to join in the cycle of everyone sharing their opinions.

I know that being on you is a game, Facebook—a game I could win if I wanted to. I could write posts with words of reflection and inspiration, accompanied by a share-worthy photo. I could jump on every intriguing world topic and weigh in with my thoughts, perspective, and wit. Heck, I could even outsource my use of you to someone more well-equipped to handle your demands.

But all those things things would keep me hooked on you. Hooked on you, Facebook, like a junkie hooked on a drug.

I’m one of the fortunate ones. I feel my deep emotional attachment to you and know we’ve been on a slippery slope together. An uncharted slope, without decades of research and studies to prove what I feel in my heart. Somehow, you’ve wooed 58% of the US population into hanging out with you every day, and I just don’t want to be one of your guinea pigs anymore.

You are the next great addiction, Facebook. And I want to quit you.

This is me, closing the door on our relationship. I’m not slamming it shut, locking it, and throwing away the key. I’m simple shutting the door gently and walking away. Maybe I’ll be back if I realize my life was better off with you in it. But I’m going to put this feeling of a necessary separation to the test.

I know you won’t miss me as I’m but one small twinkling star in your vast solar system of galaxies, planets, and much brighter stars. Tomorrow, you and everyone reading this will have moved on to some other moment in someone else’s timeline.

Thank you for everything you’ve done for me since 2005.

Sincerely,

Jason Zook

Why I Gave Up My Verified Twitter Status

May 15, 2016

One morning in August 2012, I woke to a very weird email. The email was from Twitter, and it was alerting me that my account had been granted “verified” status. I knew what verified Twitter accounts on Twitter were, but I hadn’t applied for one. It just simply appeared one random day.

Screen Shot 2016-04-20 at 7.16.04 PM

(Yeah, I kept the email. Thanks, Gmail.)


.00001% of all accounts get verified Twitter status

I can remember the moment my account got verified like it was yesterday.

At first I felt confused: who was I to get the same elite verification status as celebrities, athletes, and other noteworthy people? In our weird modern world, Twitter verification signals success of some kind, and I didn’t necessarily feel on par with others who’d been verified. But then I felt extremely proud. I had taken a wild idea (IWearYourShirt), turned it into a business, and made people take notice of it. Twitter noticed!

For years, I would visit my own Twitter account and look at the blue verification badge with pride. I earned that. Yeah, it was just a silly blue icon, but it was a silly blue icon that validated my hard work and my unique idea.

In 2013, when I officially pulled the plug on IWearYourShirt (after it dragged me $100,000 in debt), I remember wondering what I would do with my @iwearyourshirt username on Twitter. At the time, I didn’t have another online identity or brand to switch it to. I was in my first year of living with a crazy last name (Jason Headsetsdotcom), and because that was only a one-year deal, I knew it didn’t make sense to change my Twitter username to that. Then in 2014, I had another new last name (Jason Surfrapp) and had just begun to focus on building JasonDoesStuff.com into my new virtual home. For a few years I was in a kind of virtual limbo, with nothing to change my username to and no longer relating to the one I had.

Now, granted, this wasn’t my first Twitter handle. I actually joined Twitter in the beginning of 2007 with the username @thejasonsadler. I created the second username @iwearyourshirt because I figured it made sense to keep my personal name account separate from the account I made for my business. But now here I was with no business attached to my username and no idea what to do next.

If I’m being honest, I didn’t want to let go of the verified badge.

While my IWearYourShirt business was done and over with, it was still the thing that most people knew me for. It was what defined me as a person (I thought). So I hung on to the @iwearyourshirt username on Twitter and continued to allow a small blue icon to play mind games with me.

The past year was the first year I felt really confident about JasonDoesStuff as a business. Not that I didn’t believe in the other businesses I had started since 2013, but I didn’t feel like any of them defined me or fully encapsulated what I was doing with my life.

A few people began asking me about my @iwearyourshirt username and if I had thought about changing it. I gave them the honest answer: I hadn’t changed it because I’d lose my verified status, and I felt like that was some small advantage I had as a completely online-based business owner. Reading that back now, I can see how silly it sounds. But it’s amazing the lies we’ll tell ourselves to avoid difficult decisions.

Then I got a message from my good friend Jeff Sheldon:

After reading his message, I opened up my Twitter profile and looked at it for a minute. I just stared at this page on my laptop. Then, I made a decision and wrote Jeff back. (Sorry in advance for the language.)

I clicked over to my Twitter settings and could feel my heart racing. It feels so dumb to write that, but it’s the honest truth. I was absolutely a nervous wreck while changing my username. It was the last remaining relic of my previous life, and it meant letting go of something that gave me validation.

I hit the delete key a bunch of times. I typed in “jasondoesstuff” as my new username. And I clicked the save button on my Twitter settings. My new and more appropriate identity now replaced the one that gave me my entrepreneurial start. And my blue verification symbol was gone.

I’ve written about letting go of other parts of IWearYourShirt before. I definitely carried the weight of imposter syndrome every day I looked at my Twitter username as @iwearyourshirt. I knew that if someone had a similar situation and asked for my advice, I would tell them to change their name and leave the tiny blue verified badge behind. But it was way easier said than done.

Letting go of things, even virtual ones that make you feel something deep inside, is really hard.

So I made the change. I finally ripped off the bandaid. And a few moments after clicking the save button, my wife, Caroline, walked into the room. I told her that I’d finally changed from @iwearyourshirt to @jasondoesstuff, and she said something to the effect of, “In a week, you won’t even care. It’s a lot like when we started with minimalism and it was hard to let go of our physical stuff.”

And Caroline was totally right. When we started embracing minimalism as a lifestyle (our flavor of it), it was an emotional rollercoaster to get rid of the dumbest stuff. Old shorts I wore in college. Electronic gadgets that I never used. And of course, boxes of things related to my IWearYourShirt business. It was, and is, hard to let go of stuff because you immediately think to yourself, What if I need that thing? What if I miss it? What if it’s gone forever and I regret my decision?

Then you just have to remind yourself, It’s just stuff. And a stupid small blue icon next to my name on Twitter? Am I really going to let that define who I am and dictate how I feel about myself? No. I’m not. Not anymore.

https://twitter.com/essentiallymike/status/723070441011720192

In a week, I won’t care. A completely made-up digital status on a social network does not fully describe who I am as a person and what I’m capable of. It was difficult to finally muster the mental strength to let go, but now I can completely move on and close that chapter of my life.

What about you? Is there something you’re holding onto in your life?

Some physical or digital relic that you grant some form of control over you? Something you need to let go of so you can fully move on?

It probably won’t be easy to let go, but I’m 100% sure you’ll be glad you did. Because I’m glad I finally did.

Update (two weeks after): Well, I survived. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t check my Twitter account a few times to see if the blue verified badge had reappeared. But that badge was simply a digital vanity metric, and one that doesn’t matter anymore. Besides, I’m busy. I’ve got stuff to do.

What I Learned From a 30-Day Social Media Detox

November 10, 2014

Taking a social media detox for a month really opened my eyes to the feelings and motivations I had using Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, etc. Here’s what living without social media for a month is like.

Most people won’t admit how much social media means, or has meant, to them. For me, social media WAS a huge part of my life since 2008. I’ve built multiple businesses using Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube and other platforms to garner attention, build community and generate revenue.

Now, more than ever, I believe we all need to take control of how we use social media platforms instead of letting them control us.

I don’t know how much you’ve used social media sites and apps over the years, but for me, after six years of HEAVY social media use (read: nearly every waking hour of every single day) it was time for a break.

  • I was fed up with feeling like I could never put down my phone.
  • I was tired of “creating content” all the time.
  • I felt myself becoming cynical and even angry with people I was following.
  • I wanted to regain my free time AND my mental health.
  • Maybe you’re experiencing these same feelings? If YES, then keep reading…

For 30 days, I quit social media cold turkey and implemented a self-imposed detox.

Should you do a social media detox starting today? If you’re reading this article, you probably already know the answer to that question. 😉

Without a doubt, doing my first social media detox (which you’ll read about below) changed my life for the better. Let me repeat that: Taking a break from social media changed my life. I want you to experience that same feeling I had.

The following is a daily journal I kept on the notes app on my iPhone during the 30-day social media detox.

If you want to skip the journal, click here to jump to my final thoughts (and recommended social media detox tools).

 


Day One of living without social media:

*As a heads up, this first journal entry is longer than others.

My morning ritual had changed in previous months from waking up and checking all social networks and email, to only checking Instagram. But on this day, I didn’t even touch my phone and went straight to making coffee. Normally I’d stand in the kitchen, scrolling through feeds and clicking notifications, but on this day I thumbed through The Essential Calvin and Hobbes (my form of meditation). I felt the boyish smile on my own face as I flipped the pages of one of my favorite books. From there, it was time to go to my upstairs office and pull the plug.

As I sat down on my giant blue yoga ball and flipped open my Macbook, I placed my coffee on my desk and grabbed my iPhone. I swiped it open, stared at the social media icons littered across the Home screen and pressed my finger on one of them. The icons started to shake and the little “x” bubbles appeared. With a confident ferocity I removed Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Vine, Pinterest, Google+ (although never used) and finally Instagram from my iPhone. None of the apps were opened before deleting, they were simply removed (thus also removing any lingering push notifications I’d get on my phone). This would be the first time since 2008 that I wouldn’t have the Twitter and FB apps on my iPhone.

From there, I closed my phone and moved to my laptop. I moved my mouse to my Bookmark Bar in Google Chrome and deleted the shortcuts to FB and Twitter (the only social sites in my toolbar). I typed my Facebook URL into the address bar and quickly navigated to my Settings, while opening another tab to Google “How to turn off all Facebook notifications.” Ten seconds later I had turned off email notifications. I closed those tabs and moved to Twitter. One click to Settings and another click later, email notifications were turned off for Twitter as well.

All notifications were turned off. All apps were removed. And I felt an immediate feeling of freedom living without social media.

It was as though I’d lifted a 900-pound silverback gorilla from my back. I could feel myself wanting to go to Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, especially on this day because I had just relaunched my personal website the day before (the timing was not only impeccable, it was planned).

After what felt like a few grueling hours, I had spent 30 minutes answering emails. One of my first realizations was just how much time can be wasted browsing social networks without knowing it. I could feel myself wanting to sneak a peek at Facebook, so I decided to get up from my desk and run an errand.

You’d think getting in a car would be an escape from social media and technology, but most of us don’t even realize how much we’re checking things while driving. I probably glanced down at my phone 20 times during the course of an eight minute drive. Then I hit a stoplight. Like a drug addict reaching for his/her fix, I scooped my phone up from the cupholder and swiped it open. It wasn’t until I was staring at a barren Home screen, devoid of red notification icons, that I realized what I was doing. I closed the phone and put it back in the cupholder. As I moved my gaze from the center console to the front windshield I took notice of how beautiful of a day it was. Not a single cloud in the sky and the trees on the sides of the road slowing swaying back and forth in a cool Florida breeze. I rolled down the windows and took the moment of beauty in, completely understanding how often I take for granted amazing weather and a moment of stillness.

Making my way back home I decided to swing through Starbucks to grab a cup of coffee. After placing my order in the drive-thru lane, I happened to look in the sideview mirror and take notice of the lady behind me. From the time I pulled forward from the drive thru speaker, I barely saw her eyes come up from her phone one time. Not while she placed her order. Not while she pulled around a tight corner. Not even while waiting in line. It was at that moment I decided to pay for her drink. Selfishly it wasn’t even because I wanted to make her day better, but I did it in hopes that she’d look up from her phone and acknowledge the gesture (or heck, just something else in the world). I paid for the drinks, pulled up, watched her take her [free] drink and was shocked. Not once did her demeanor change or her laser-vision locked on her phone. I shrugged my shoulders and drove home.

The remainder of the day was filled with answering emails, writing a few articles and little fixes with my new website. Typically I close my email inbox at multiple times throughout the day to focus. On this day I caught myself checking email on my phone more often than normal.

The first day of my detox ended with a feeling of relief and freedom. I was relieved that I hadn’t caved and secretly checked one of my social accounts. And I had a sense of freedom from the shackles of notifications and rabbit holes of links, photos and feeds.

Random fun note: My iPhone battery was at 52% at the end of the day. Prior to that day, I hadn’t come close to going even half a day without needing to plug my phone in and charge it.

 


Day Two:

I woke up in the morning and reached for my phone. Again, my ritual had been to scroll through my Instagram feed upon waking up. I swiped my phone open only to remember Instagram was no longer there. I don’t recall how long it was, but I stared at my home screen in bewilderment for quite awhile. What else can I do on my phone? I thought to myself. I checked ESPN.com on Safari and snuck a quick peek at my emails. I felt dirty for looking at my emails.

I got up and started my day like the previous one; making coffee and reading Calvin and Hobbes. When my coffee was done I headed to my desk and opened up my email (now with less guilt). I had quite a few emails from people who were interested in my social media detox. Funny enough, multiple people sent me the “Can We Auto-Correct Humanity?” YouTube video:

 

I was about 20 seconds in before realizing I had gone to YouTube, a site I was going to stay off for the month. Crap! I felt dirty again.

This brought up a conversation with my wife about YouTube being part of the detox. I decided I would finish watching that video because it was outstanding. But after that, I would abstain from YouTube, mostly due to the time-suck of it.

Throughout the day it felt like things had slowed down considerably. It just seemed like I had much more time than normal. This would become a recurring theme of the 30 days.


Day Three:

This day brought about the first big takeaway from my detox:

So often in my social media life I kid myself into thinking I don’t care how much response something I post gets. Often times I’ll write and rewrite a status update or tweet many times, hoping that my cleverness, insightfulness or humor will get more attention.

We all do it. We’ll take a photo of something, look at it, not like it and take another (or 10 others). We want to capture the perfect moment or share the wittiest update. All because we want the most positive response possible. It’s simply human nature and what social media has done to amplify the feelings of acceptance. I could already feel the freedom from worrying about posting something and hoping it would get Likes or Retweets.

Today was the first day I was acutely aware of just how many email notifications I get from social media. One of my email inboxes, which usually has 50-100 messages in it per day was dead quiet. Not a single email came to that inbox. It was shocking when I realized how much of my attention and mental energy probably got sucked away every day just because of that inbox.

I was also noticeably happier today too. Not that I’m normally unhappy, but I often feel stressed or strained. I could sense myself feeling happier (if that makes sense).


Day Four:

This day was a Saturday, one I spent the majority of cleaning and organizing my house. On most Saturdays I try to stay off the Internet, but it rarely happens. This day I was fairly busy, so my phone and laptop were mostly left untouched.

There was a moment later in the day when I finally made the decision to get rid of my entire DVD collection (over 350 DVDs). I took a before and after photo of my DVD shelf. I wanted to share my big decision to let go, only to think to myself: Who cares? I mean, I guess I could inspire someone else who’s holding onto to something that doesn’t have much value anymore. But instead, I kept the photos for my own memories and moved on.

As a quick aside, 350 DVDs being sold to MovieStop are only worth $490 in store credit or $225 in cash. I chose the cash. Also, the process of selling this many DVDs took about four hours, which was about three hours and 58 minutes longer than I wanted to be standing in a MovieStop store without anything to distract me on my phone.

This was the first day my iPhone felt more like a brick in my pocket than a time-wasting device. I honestly couldn’t even think of anything else to do on my phone but keep refreshing my email. It’s kind of silly in retrospect since I had the entire Internet at my fingertips, but all I could think about was wasting time on social media sites.


Day Five:

Sundays are the days I sit on the couch for 90% of the day. I’m a huge NFL fan, especially NFL RedZone. Normally I’d tweet something to show my support for the ailing Jacksonville Jaguars, but on this day I simply kept it to myself.

I did get an email from a longtime IWearYourShirt community member named Joby. He’s a Pittsburgh native and emailed me a tweet he posted talking trash to me (since the Steelers were playing the Jaguars). I loved his commitment to talking trash and emailed him back some emojis or something silly.

I miss Instagram. It’s the only social media site that I keep wishing I could check. I think that’s because there’s almost zero negativity, complaining or criticism in my photo feed. Instead, it’s just beautiful landscapes, cars, people doing cool stuff and random food and art I love. I will definitely be back on Instagram immediately after this detox is over.


Day Six:

A Monday, typically my most active day on social media, was interesting.

I crafted my weekly newsletter to my email list (an explanation of my 30-day social media detox). Normally my email gets posted on my blog and I share it via Twitter and Facebook. On this day, my email was published on my blog and that was it.

I usually receive 5-10 replies to my weekly emails. This email received 72 replies. Many people had no clue I was doing a 30-day social media detox. Even though I’d posted it on all my social accounts the previous week, this goes to show the limited reach of a single update on Twitter or Facebook.

I spent quite a bit of time replying to emails, almost all of them encouraging. Multiple people said they were going to start a detox of their own (though only one person was willing to commit to 30 days).

One thing I did notice myself doing way more than normal on this day was checking my website’s traffic and my MailChimp analytics. Truthfully, I rarely ever checked either of those things. I could feel these becoming the new vanity metrics, replacing likes, comments, favorites, etc. I did my best to catch myself refreshing these accounts and moving my attention elsewhere.

Most Mondays end with the feeling of hoping for more. Hoping more people would have enjoyed my weekly newsletter. Hoping more people would have liked it on Facebook. Hoping more people would have tweeted at me about the content. I was actually perfectly happy with the response and enjoyed not worrying (as much) about what people thought.


Day Seven, one week living without social media:

One week into my detox, an experience on this day would lead to one of my biggest takeaways about my current disdain with social media.

While driving to get coffee, my wife checked her Instagram account and asked me if I knew the name of someone who had followed her. The name wasn’t familiar, but upon further investigation it was some Internet Marketer that had reached out to me in the past. While looking at this person’s Instagram profile we noticed he followed over 6,000 people but only had 800 followers. I completely realize that’s a stupid thing to be upset about, but it really irks me when people do that on social media.

It didn’t stop there though; the bio this person wrote was awful. He was a self-proclaimed “social media maven, chief defier of gravity…” and some other nonsense. I felt myself getting angry reading his bio and seeing his overly self-promotional and braggadocios photo updates.

Then it hit me: Before the advent of social media, people like this couldn’t weasel their way into our personal space and lives.

Social media has allowed people to push their agendas and put their messages in front of us, with barely any way to avoid it.

This was, without a doubt, one of my biggest problems with social media. I may not create projects or ideas that everyone agrees with, but I certainly do my best to not spam other people with them or to be overly pushy. The people who do spam, who do brag, who are sleazy, can get their messages in front of us, whether we like it or not.


Do you like posts like this? Want more?

I consider myself a bit of a human guinea pig. I like trying difficult challenges (like quitting social media for 30 days). If you want to get more of my challenges sent directly to your inbox, get my weekly emails here…


Day Eight:

I woke up with a massive headache. I don’t ever get headaches, and fun fact, have never once had a fever in my life. I don’t know if this has anything to do with the detox, but the timing was certainly noteworthy.

There was a task on my to-do list that’s been bumped for months (writing an e-book). I just kept dreading doing it. Today I sat down and was able to knock 2/3’s of the task out without taking a break. There wasn’t a moment I felt I needed to stop to check FB or Twitter. I was able to focus completely on that task and get the majority of it done in one sitting (which took about two hours of writing).

Proud of myself for making progress on that task, I decided not to overdue it and shut my laptop. One of my goals during this 30-day detox was to read two books a week. I cracked open my first book since the detox started and began reading Steven Pressfield’s The War of Art.

Interestingly enough, I realized I had purchased The War of Art a year prior and hadn’t once looked at it. I read about 100 pages, enjoying Mr. Pressfield’s commentary on resistance. It felt fitting and timely with what I was doing. And I felt great that I had overcome my resistance to taking a break from social media. So meta!

Random thought of the day: Could I sell my Facebook account? Would it be worth something? Is that stupid? Answer: Yes, stupid idea.


Day Nine:

No more headache. Phew.

Each week I write an article for Inc.com. This was the first week I think I’ve ever looked at the amount of shares the article received. Normally I write the article, share it on social and go about my day. Without social sharing and the conversation that ensues, I felt a little void. I guess I tried to fill that void by seeing how many shares the article received throughout the day.

Today was another day I looked at my website analytics more times than I’d like to admit.

With six Skype calls on my calendar, this day flew by fairly quickly. It was fun to get asked over and over again about the detox and how I was “surviving without social media.” Kind of funny to think that was a serious question from more than one person.

On one call I did have someone say, “I don’t think I could give up Facebook for even a week.” My immediate thought was: “Then you need to give up Facebook more than you know!” I didn’t actually say that, although I wanted to.


Day Ten:

Normally I write my weekly newsletter for my list on Sunday or Monday. Instead, I found myself motivated to write it on this day (Friday). I was also able to write the first draft of the article distraction-free, meaning I didn’t stop writing to check any website, email or even my phone.

Just ten days in to my detox I started to feel like my attention span increasing and the length of time I could focus on one task was greatly improving.

Random aside: Jacksonville got its first Trader Joe’s and I took a trip to check it out. Normally I would have shared a photo on Instagram or Facebook holding some random vegetable or something. I didn’t even think about taking a photo, even when a UPS guy came through the door with multiple large Amazon.com boxes (odd??).

 


Day Eleven:

Spent most of the day dealing with Craigslist buyers. So while I was on my phone a bunch, it was almost exclusively to answer questions about the random crap I was selling.

Toward the end of the day I reflected on my social media break. At first I felt grateful that I could create the opportunity to do this, but then I wondered a few things:

  • Why the heck do I need to be grateful for taking a break from social networks??
  • Is it stupid to make such a big deal of this?
  • Will other people care?

I thought about those questions a lot before realizing that social media had taken some control from me. Not just in algorithm changes, although those suck, but in that I felt like I was a slave to them and the conversation or feedback that ensued. I want to be in control of how I feel using something or doing something, not the other way around.

This day ended in a swirl of thoughts and questions, if you couldn’t tell.


Day Twelve:

Another Sunday. Another day for lounging on the couch watching football. GO JAGS!

I mentioned it on Day Three, but I am absolutely much happier and less stressed. I didn’t land any big business or launch a successful project. I simply removed stuff from my daily routine that negatively affected my thoughts and feelings.


Day Thirteen:

Monday email newsletter went out and I immediately checked the MailChimp report. I probably checked it 3-4 more times throughout the day, again, way more than normal (most times I don’t check it at all).

A random LinkedIn invite email wound up in my inbox. I laughed to myself, realizing LinkedIn wasn’t even on my radar as something to take a break from (due to never, ever, ever using it).

I did miss an opportunity to share an overheard comment (OH): “He’s dressed like a lesbian from the waist down.”


Day Fourteen, a huge increase in productivity starts from my social media detox:

This day was probably one of the most productive days I’ve had in an incredibly long time. The things I accomplished:

  • Edited two 30 minute videos (about 90 minutes spent on each)
  • Edited four 5 minute videos (about 15 minutes spent on each)
  • Troubleshooted issues for a SaaS product I’m building (including 10 or so in-depth responses)
  • Finished writing the e-book I mentioned on Day Eight
  • Wrote the first draft of my weekly Inc.com article (a day earlier than normal)
  • Opened my email inbox only three times throughout the day (it’s normally 10-15)
  • Outlined an idea for a new project (500 word doc)
  • Played in a YMCA league basketball game
  • Cooked dinner with my wife and watched The Voice (yeah, #TeamAdam)

It’s safe to say I had more will power and motivation on this day than any I can remember in a very long time. Not once throughout the day did I feel stressed or like I had too many things to do. Everything just kind of clicked into place and got done.


Day Fifteen:

I’d noticed it a few times before, but on this day I realized that because I deleted the FB app from my phone and it was connected to my Contacts, it removed a ton of contacts from my list. Some of which were in my phone before the FB app was ever installed (like my Mom, my GF, and some other friends I text message with often). Not only did this suck because it seemed like a weird security flaw, but I also had to say “sorry, this # isn’t in my phone, who dis?” on a few occasions. (I later found out this was an iOS 8 setting in Contacts Group settings).

Also today I went to someone’s personal website and they had not one, not two, not three, but four separate pop up boxes on their website to try to get me to sign up for their email list. Seriously, I get it, email marketing is important, but if you need to ask 4 times (abrasively), I’m not interested in whatever emails you’re going to spam me with. Ugh, sorry, had to rant about this somewhere.

That brings up an interesting thought about not really having an outlet to rant or share frustrations when not using social media. Maybe I should start a diary? Or just keep writing things in my notes app on my iPhone?


Day Sixteen:

It was bound to happen: I had to login to FB today.

But wait! It was for business reasons, not my own desires…

I needed to give someone access to my FB Ads account and didn’t feel comfortable just giving them my login info. With the stealth of a leopard stalking it’s prey in the jungle, I logged into FB via the ads URL. In a matter of seconds and just a few clicks, my task was done. Unfortunately, the red notification numbers caught my eye. I didn’t click them, but I felt like I had cheated myself.

Also, I wanted to upvote something on Product Hunt and realized I couldn’t do it without being logged into Twitter (or having the Twitter app installed on my phone). Having already felt like a “cheater” today, I decided not to login and the upvote wouldn’t happen on this day.

From my Monday email, one of the replies was someone who started doing their own 30-day social media detox. I enjoyed this line from their email:

“The biggest benefit has been the removal of negativity and unnecessary information. Some people who were, how do I say this in a nice way…annoying, were still occupying my mind long after I logged off of social media. One thing I know I’ll need to do once I’m back is filter my newsfeed and timeline.”

I’d made this realization about social media and negativity about a year ago and wrote this article and this article about it.

It made me happy to see someone else being positively impacted by taking a break from social media. Then I thought about how happy I was that they were happy. So much happiness!


Day Seventeen:

Attention span increasing noticeably and not feeling like I need to check other things while working. I actually didn’t remember to add an entry about this day in my notes until the morning after Day Seventeen. That’s how focused I was on getting work done and being present in other things I was doing.


Day Eighteen & Nineteen:

Lots of football and relaxing over the weekend. Jaguars finally got a win!!! Peyton Manning broke the TD record in the NFL. Both things I would have shared on social media, but instead, I just enjoyed them happening and went on with my life.

Wrote an update post about this social media detox for my newsletter and blog.

Also, I downloaded the Angry Birds Transformers app. That was a bad idea as it was super addictive, hah. After a few hours of non-stop play I deleted the app.


Day Twenty:

Decided to have a relaxing Monday. So often Monday’s are packed with work and are exhausting. Finished up my weekly email, posted it as a blog post, answered a handful of emails and spent the other parts of the day reading The Circle by Dave Eggers (a book that was sent to me by my buddy DJ).

Actually started reading The Circle over the weekend, but read almost 200 pages on Monday. Amazingly well-timed read, but that’s also because DJ knew I was on this detox. I really really enjoyed it and couldn’t stop reading, which never ever happens for me.

Fun fact: This is the first fiction book I’ve read since James and the Giant Peach when I was a little kid (not kidding).


Day Twenty One, deciding to remove social media apps from my phone for good:

Recorded an interview with Dave Delaney for his podcast. We talked about my book, but more timely, my social media detox. One big question that popped up, and one that’s been asked by many people via email: What will I do on social media after the detox is up?

I don’t want to get sucked back into social expectations and notification addiction.

Yesterday’s email update talked about my big problem with social media (which I mentioned in my Day Seven update). The first clear thought I had about what to do was a weekly update on FB. Maybe it’s Friday morning and references my week and anything I want to highlight or share? This won’t work for twitter, so I still am on the fence there. I will, however, use Instagram again (as mentioned a few times).

As of right now, I’m 98% certain I won’t put the FB or Twitter apps back on my phone again. I don’t want to feel tied to them or get back into old habits.

Fun aside: Got a new Kindle in the mail today. While I love reading paperback books, I’m also trying to be more of a minimalist. My first Kindle book? Creativity, Inc by Ed Catmull.


Day Twenty Two:

Had an idea strike!

I was thinking about the second season of the podcast I co-host (update: this podcast has been retired) and how we could generate more revenue from it. The go-to (and we did this with our first season) is to get episode sponsors. While this is all well and good, it’s not great or passive income. In a matter of a few hours, I outlined the idea I had in a Google Doc, mocked it up in Photoshop and shared it with my co-host Paul Jarvis. We’re both really excited about the idea.

Didn’t even really think about social media at all. Was focused on working and my big idea.

Amazing to think it took only 21 days to rid myself of something I couldn’t imagine living without. I felt an entirely new perspective on my digital life.

I think James Clear would be proud of me. This thought and realization came after reading his weekly email he sends (typically about forming habits).

Update: The idea I mentioned here ended up generating over $41,000 in revenue!


Day Twenty Three:

Thought about this a few times before, but it became more clear today: I was (and many of us are) addicted to social media in the same ways people are addicted to alcohol, drugs, and other vices.

It may sound silly to compare social media abuse to drug or alcohol abuse, but I firmly believe it’s very similar at this point. Some recent emails and conversations I’ve had with people about them doing their own social media detox often had things said like this:

  • I could take a break from social media whenever I want to, I just don’t need a break
  • I only use social media to waste time
  • I’m not addicted to social media because I only check it a few times per day
  • I get all my work done, so I don’t need a break from social media
  • It’s not hurting me to be on Facebook all day

Those are real responses from multiple people I’d emailed with or talked to during the month. It’s kind of scary how much those same statements reflect the telltale signs of people who have addiction to other things (that we’ve had years of experience dealing with).

Addiction is a scary thing. It’s definitely not something any of us want to admit to. Taking this break from social media has more than proven to me that I was addicted to Facebook and Twitter. Was it an unhealthy addiction? I feel happier, of clearer thought and less stressed out. So yeah, I’d say it was unhealthy.


Day Twenty Four:

Had coffee with a friend. Facetimed with my brother-from-another-mother Ben. Spent the evening eating dinner with friends.

I felt really grateful for all of these interactions. They felt more meaningful to me. None of them needed to be shared on a social network or documented outside of these notes. These were just moments in life I really enjoyed.


Day Twenty Five & Twenty Six:

I finished the book The Circle. Wow. What a great book. And for me to finish a 500-page book in less than a week? That’s almost a miracle.

I have a ton of thoughts about Dave Eggers’ book. I don’t think they necessarily fit here, but it does bring up the discussion of privacy and are we too connected in life? For me, I’m not too concerned about my digital privacy. But I’m not sure I want to get any more connected than I already am.

Was excited that I’d be able to use Instagram again in less than a week.


Day Twenty Seven:

Sent out my weekly newsletter. Finished up some odds and ends.

Realized it had been two full days since plugging my iPhone in to charge it. That’s unheard for me. I can’t ever remember going one full day without plugging my phone in for a charge.

Tomorrow starts a two week vacation with my wife and my dog Plaxico.


Day Twenty Eight:

Drove to the Smoky Mountains in North Carolina. It couldn’t have been more perfect weather for the trip. The trees along the highway were beautiful shades of yellow, orange, red and green. I can’t remember an 8+ hour drive feeling so short.

Had a conversation with my wife that was important. I don’t want to make people feel like I’m judging them for using social media. I also don’t want people to think I think social media is all bad.

Like anything else, I think social media is great in moderation. It’s helped me do some amazing things and meet some awesome people. But, I do hope people reflect on their usage of social media and think about taking a break, if nothing else just to see how it makes them feel.

We arrived at our beautiful cabin in the woods right at sunset. I wrote these notes realizing I hadn’t taken a single picture of the journey or the place we were staying. Previously I would have probably taken 20 or more.


Day Twenty Nine:

Spent most of the day writing, reading Creativity, Inc and thinking about what my decision would be about returning to social media and my usage schedule. The more I think about returning to social media the less I want to think about it. Does that make sense? I have no idea.

Wrote over 5,000 words on this day. These were spread across my weekly Inc article, my next newsletter and a random paid article. Not once did I feel distracted or wanting to stop writing to check emails, my phone, etc.

I also made some white bean chili in a slow cooker. I tried to make it “healthy” by not adding too many ingredients to it. It tasted like dog food. You’re welcome for that bonus info.


Day Thirty:

It’s amazing how much clearer I’m thinking. Along with a bunch of writing and emails, I outlined an entirely new business idea and sent it off to a developer friend for feedback.

It’s been awhile since I’ve had so much clarity and focus in my thoughts. The only thing I can equate it to would be “getting in the zone” in sports.

Whenever I sit down to write, I can do it without the feeling of distraction or procrastination. Whenever I answer emails I can tear through them without breaks. Even during Skype and phone calls I don’t have any urges to do other things (even during less than exciting calls).

Again I’m thinking about what I’ll do when the detox is over. I don’t want to regress back to into old addictive habits.


Day Thirty One of living without social media (the last day):

Still on vacation, I started to work on this very post. The more I thought about writing it, the more I thought about the response it would get on social media. How would that affect me? Would I be able to fight the urge to constantly check responses, likes, comments, etc?

I decided to stop writing this post for a week. I didn’t want to force myself to write it and share it just because that’s what I thought everyone would want. Instead, I worked on it here and there, finishing it at my own pace.

I really value taking control of my time.

Jason Zook Social Media Detox

Hey, that’s me and my wife Caroline enjoying a social-media-free experience at the beach.


Final thoughts about taking a break from social media and living without it…

Not being on social media for a month really opened my eyes to the feelings and motivations I have using Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, etc. Immediately after my first 30-day social media detox I felt a sense of freedom. To me, that’s a huge takeaway. It literally felt like ripping shackles off my mind and body.

Since the initial writing of this article, I’ve completely quit Facebook, am on the verge of quitting Twitter, and will probably stop using Instagram as well. I simply feel like a happier, more productive person without social media dictating my life.

I got tired of people showing up in my feeds, completely disrupting my life. I bet you’re tired of that too.

Even with filtering, muting, and blocking on social media, you can’t avoid the modern-day telemarketer (or crazy family member who can’t stop reading conspiracy theories and sharing them). If you have a profile on any network you’re incredibly likely to have people push their messages in your face. I know I want less of those situations to happen in my life.

  • We all care what people think of us.
  • We all want to feel accepted.
  • We all want to feel liked.
  • But social media is corrupting our minds and we have to take back control.

Social media multiplies those thoughts and feelings without us even realizing it. It’s not healthy to always be under the knife of criticism. In a digital world, we need a break from having our lives judged and commented on (often times by complete strangers who we don’t align with).

My productivity, attention span and clarity of thought all increased greatly with living without social media for a month.

I felt like I broke bad habits (refreshing feeds and checking notifications) in a very short period of time. If all of that can be done in just 30 days? Shouldn’t you at least give it a try this week or weekend?

I’m not suggesting you also have to completely quit social media. But I do hope if you’re reading this you’ll think about taking a break from social media to see how you feel. Start with a weekend or a week, but aim for 30 days.

Give yourself a chance to feel how I felt after just one month.

Social Media Detox Tools

I’ve found a few free helpful tools (and had a few recommended) to keep you off social media if you embark on a detox of your own:

  • StayFocusd Chrome Extension – This is the perfect tool if you use Google Chrome as your web browser and want to remove the temptation of checking Facebook, Twitter, etc.
  • Facebook News Feed Eradicator Chrome Extension – This is less about your full detox, and more just keeping your usage of Facebook more sane by removing the News Feed and replacing it with a quote.
  • Self Control App – A Mac App that let’s you block certain websites (similar to StayFocusd, but not just for Google Chrome).
  • OurPact – Block social media apps from your phone! Made for parents to control their kid’s phone usage, but good for adults who can’t help themselves.

Why Posting YouTube Videos On Facebook Sucks

August 21, 2013

If you haven’t figured out by now, Facebook and Google (Google owns YouTube) are not best friends. So, when you create an amazing video, upload it to YouTube, and are ready to share it with the network you’ve painstakingly built on Facebook… be prepared for a lackluster response. No, it’s not because Facebook limits who sees your newsfeed now (although they do, kind of), it’s because of the way YouTube videos are displayed on Facebook.

Update: It’s not just YouTube videos, it’s pretty much any content hosted outside of Facebook and shared (tumblr, your website, other video platforms, news sites, etc).

YouTube videos on Facebook

Let’s take a look at an example of a video uploaded directly to Facebook and shared versus a YouTube video link shared.

Facebook and YouTube Video

Completely ignore the content of these two videos and look at them from an aesthetic point of view only. 99 out of 100 human beings would absolutely click the large video thumbnail on the left way before the tiny thumbnail on the right. If you’re scrolling through your newsfeed, you’d see the large thumbnail way before the smaller one. For the record, the Facebook thumbnail is about six times larger than the thumbnail provided for YouTube. And let’s not even get started on the fact that half the time Facebook doesn’t even want to show a thumbnail for a YouTube video altogether.

(Thanks for the example Sean!)

So, obviously Facebook wants to display content uploaded to their platform in a more attractive way. But what’s even worse, is this comparison:

Facebook Newsfeed Ad vs YouTube Video

You’re looking at two items in the Facebook Newsfeed. The item on the left is a company I don’t currently “Like” (nothing against 20Jeans), and is a “Sponsored” post that Facebook placed in my Newsfeed. On the right is a YouTube video my friend Sam shared. Honestly, Sam’s post looks more like an advertisement than the actual advertisement does! The thumbnail is about 2.5 larger in the advertisement and the white space around the thumbnail makes it stand out a bit more in the Newsfeed. *Just FYI, whether it’s a personal profile or a business page, a shared YouTube video formats the same way in the Newsfeed.

What’s interesting to me is that most other media platforms (magazine, radio, TV, etc) typically make the content look better and give space for advertisers.

Kind of like what Facebook does in the right column with standard Facebook ads. However, it’s blatantly obvious that Facebook wants you to see their ads and doesn’t want you to see YouTube videos. Another thing to note, where’s the play button on the YouTube video? In the Newsfeed Facebook strips the play button from the thumbnail, but on your page they leave it. Odd.


How to make your YouTube videos look better on Facebook

What can you do about making your YouTube videos actually get viewed on Facebook? Well, besides pressing the dreaded “Boost” (or is it “Promote”) button on all of your posts, you can use interesting screenshots for you YouTube videos with a link in the status description. Here’s an example:

Post a Screenshot of a YouTube Video on Facebook

The inherent design of Facebook is geared towards the sharing of photos. Just look at the screenshot above comparing the same exact content shared as a photo with a link and just the YouTube video itself. Not only is the photo about eight times bigger, you can show a lot more visual information which will hopefully attract people to watch.

What’s the worst thing that happens by only posting the photo? Someone clicks on it and realizes it’s not an actual video. Hopefully if they’ve invested a click and are interested they click to the link you’ve included in the photo post description. Another bonus to sharing the photo is you get to pick what photo you share! With just sharing the YouTube link, your only thumbnail option is whatever comes with the video through YouTube. You can make the photo whatever you want and hope to attract more eyeballs and interaction.

*As another point of comparison: In the hour the above photo was posted it “reached” 365 people. The YouTube video only “reached” 654 people in 24 hours. There could be a lot of factors that go into this (like timing of the post, description, etc), but that’s enough for me to almost always want to post a photo with a link to the YouTube video.

As Brian Solis mentions in this article:

Facebook has it’s own SEO game, just like Google does. You need interaction and engagement for more of your posts to be seen by your friends/fans on Facebook.

In my mind, captivating and interesting photos with well written descriptions are the way to do that. Unless it’s of extreme importance, I wouldn’t waste money on the Boost/Promote button. Yes, you can pay for more people to see that post, but if the post isn’t any good, it’s not going to help your cause.

And because I mentioned SEO, you might be asking “Should I upload my videos to Facebook instead of YouTube?” My answer is no.

You aren’t going to get organic traffic to your video if it’s uploaded to Facebook. This goes back to the Facebook vs Google battle. Google has no interest in showing Facebook videos in its search results. A well titled, tagged, and description on a YouTube video has much better SEO implications.

Food for thought the next time you want to share a YouTube video on Facebook.