On Establishing Expectations

When you’re driving your car around town, you expect people to stop at red lights and go at green lights. You expect them to drive on the road and stay in their lanes, rather than hopping up onto the sidewalk and haphazardly zig-zagging their way around traffic. So, when someone decides to violate one of these expectations, you might get visibly upset. You expect them to do one thing, but they’re doing something else. Of course, there is nothing inherently meaningful about a red or green light. It’s just something we we’ve all come to agree upon.

Now, what if we were to apply the same kind of psychosocial phenomenon to the world of online entrepreneurship, particularly as it pertains to online content creators like YouTubers and bloggers. When you’re in this kind of business, you’re not only working within the context of societal expectations (even if you’re actively challenging them), but you’re also establishing several of your own for the people with whom you interact on a regular basis.

As such, the responsibility then falls on you to establish these ground rules, implicitly or explicitly, because you don’t want to violate the expectations that you set. Otherwise, you could have a reader who gets upset that you’re driving on the wrong side of the road. So, what does this actually look like?

Content Calendar

It goes without saying that if you want to succeed as a content creator on the Internet that you need to create quality content that people actually enjoy reading, watching, or listening to. If the stuff you’re making isn’t any good, nothing else is going to matter. And while so many new bloggers can get hung on increasing the frequency of their blog posts, the more important factor is consistency.

If you publish three blog posts today, but then your blog goes without any updates for two weeks, potential readers (and fans) really have no idea what to expect from you. Instead, consistency is far important. While it’s great if you’re able to publish brand new content on your site (or YouTube channel or podcast or anywhere else) each and every day, you can still build a loyal following if you follow a different posting schedule.

What you should do is establish a consistent and predicable content calendar — there are a number of WordPress plugins you can use for that — such that the frequency of updates remains constant. That could be every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. It might even be only every Tuesday if you prefer longer form content. Whatever you choose, stick with it, and establish that expectation.

Social Media

The same fundamental philosophy applies when it comes to the world of social media. Ideally, you maintain a very predictable and consistent schedule for YouTube and Instagram, for instance. However, you’ll likely notice that Twitter conversations can be much more spontaneous and that your Facebook posting schedule can vary. Even so, it’s important to establish and maintain expectations here too.

Thankfully, whether you’re going away for a few days or just don’t want to worry about it too much, you can usually schedule most of your social media updates ahead of time. These scheduled updates can then be supplemented with more “real-time” updates. Similarly, you’ll want to work on establishing expectations in terms of how often you respond to comments and replies. This becomes increasingly important as you gain more followers.

Email and Other Messages

I’ll admit that, likely to my own detriment, I’m one of those people who tend to keep a Gmail tab open almost all day long. I’m not the kind of person who can allow unread emails to pile up in my inbox. Thankfully, Gmail does a pretty good job at filtering messages into the “social” and “promotions” tabs, so the actual primary inbox is mostly “real” messages from real people.

Even so, expectations are important here too. When dealing with clients, partners, collaborators, suppliers or anyone else, if they come to expect that you’ll always reply to emails within minutes — at any time of the day — then they could get upset when you take more than a few hours to get back to them. Even if you are available to reply right away, you might want to hold off and finish whatever it is that you’re working on first.

Realistically, a great practice and habit you can implement is to check your email only once or twice a day, and always at around the same time of day. This helps with batch processing, it boosts your overall productivity, and it sets the expectation that when someone emails you, you might not reply back right away. You’ve got bigger fish to fry, right?

Like working on your next blog post to maintain a consistent content calendar.