As marketers, we’ve all been there. You intend to check Twitter, LinkedIn for Inbound for “just a second” and suddenly you’ve spent an hour reading content, adding comments to discussions, and following related links to new wonderlands. You’re Alice. You’re curious about what’s out there and with an insatiable appetite for the new and interesting.
The thing is, once you follow your curiosity down the rabbit hole, you won’t get that hour back. That means you might have to spend extra time doing whatever it you were supposed to be doing, meaning you’ll miss out on other activities. But was that hour truly wasted?
Pros of falling down the rabbit hole
Falling down the content rabbit hole isn’t all bad. In fact there are some great reasons for taking time to explore what’s out there.
- Keeping up with trends
You simply can’t keep up with what’s going on unless you keep up with what’s going on. Nothing beats getting in the trenches and reading the latest articles if you’re trying to find out what’s trending. Staying on the front edge of what’s new and exciting online means being online when it starts to grow – and in the digital world, it’s easy to fall behind.
- Getting your name out there
Every comment you make, every online interaction that you have, gets your name out there. Making those comments, offering up those links, and creating those online relationships are worthwhile activities that disseminate your digital identity.
- Get ideas for your own content
The spark for creativity isn’t something that is only on you to make happen. Inspiration almost always comes from somewhere, rarely does it fall out of the sky and into your lap. One way to make sure that the inspiration sticks is to create a Pinterest board or an Evernote notebook to track things that offer you that fire. You never know when you’ll find something that inspires you to do something amazing with your own content.
- It’s fun
There’s a reason that surfing the net is such a time suck – it’s fun! It makes us happy! And guess what – that’s ok. This notion that we have to actively produce content during every moment of every hour of every workday is simply insane. You can be a sponge and still be productive, even though you aren’t producing. Keep in mind that the pleasure that you’re getting from falling down the content rabbit hole is the same feeling that you want to enliven in others, and it’s difficult to create someone in another person if you don’t experience it yourself.
Cons of the Rabbit Hole
If falling down the content rabbit hole was only a good thing, then we of course we’d have no need for this article. There are obvious reasons for not allowing yourself to get lost in the milieu of the net, but it’s good to lay them out so that you can avoid them.
- Time suck
You’re surfing along gloriously and reading away voraciously, when you look up and suddenly realize that it’s been an hour already and that you’ve not gotten anything done that you were supposed to. That’s definitely not a good feeling, and it’s one that you don’t want to have to experience. Letting yourself go too far is a recipe for guilt and frustration.
- Content overload
It’s easy to literally get lost in the amount of stuff on the internet. That insane feeling that you’re buried under–you know the one where the words just don’t make any sense anymore? That’s content overload. At some point, you’ve read so much that you aren’t getting anything out of it, which is why it’s a good idea to pace yourself and allow time to process and organize the information that you’ve absorbed.
- Idea overload
There comes a point when you are generating so many ideas that they aren’t useful anymore. When it comes to this point, you’re no longer getting value out of the content. However, sometimes that numbness invites us to keep going, to just kind of wallow through the content anyway, like some zombie that’s unable to control their actions. Good ideas don’t come from overloaded brains.
- Getting sidetracked
You start off reading a great article about time management in Forbes, only to find a few minutes later that you’ve somehow linked through to a piece about the latest Kanye West/Taylor Swift social media storm over on Perez Hilton. It’s important to be clear that a mega danger of falling down the content rabbit hole is that you’ll move off topic and actually, materially, and undeniably waste your time. You cannot justify watching that cute kitten video as being in service to your business needs.
The true key here is to find balance. When Alice followed the white rabbit, she got lost to the point that she was unable to find her way home. You do not need to go on a content adventure that keeps you from other things.
Here are some strategies for keeping yourself on the positive side of the content rabbit hole.
- Consider your motivation
Ask yourself why you’re reading what you’re reading, and if you can’t come up with a compelling reason then close the laptop and do something else.
- Get physical
Rather than zipping through content on your screen, consider getting some actual, physical content to read like a magazine or a newspaper. It’s much more difficult to get lost in these forms of media, not to mention the physical pleasure of holding pages in your hand.
- Stop if you’re making excuses
If you find that you’re making excuses, even to yourself, to justify why you’re still surfing or commenting or reading, then it’s time to stop. Immediately. If you keep going then you’re betraying yourself and the people who are counting on you to get things done.
- Save it for later
You don’t have to plunge into every interesting thing that pops up on Twitter. Take some time to come back by bookmarking your content, saving it to your favorites, or putting it onto a management interface like Evernote or Pinterest. Even if you just come back ten minutes later, you’ll still find that you’re less likely to get completely lost.
Filling yourself up with content that enriches you can be a powerful way to push you forward and help you to generate new ideas. However, letting it run away with you is a recipe for disaster. By all means, jump down the rabbit hole, but make sure you leave yourself a way to climb back out.
But if you do happen to stumble down that rabbit hole, learn how to re-create the experience on your own website or blog – so you can turn your own content into a Wonderland.