I wanted to challenge myself to do something new and different than I’d done before so I did a 5-15 minute vlog (not a v-log, it’s pronounced vlog – one word – and it’s a video blog).

And I just finished doing a vlog every single day for a month.

We’re talking about 4-6 hours of time every single day on top of my regular work load.

It was a bit crazy, I admit. I had a 7 day vacation to kick it off so it didn’t seem that bad for the first week.

But after that, it meant shooting in and amongst my regular days then spending most nights from 8 until 11, 12, 1AM editing the vlogs.

I just published my 40th vlog and am pretty proud of them.

Honestly, the quality after the first few was really, really solid.

To end up with about the same amount of content as 3 feature length films in less than 2 months is pretty awesome.

I’m taking a bit of a break because I’m burnt out, but as I’ve been thinking about it, there’s some great lessons I learned along the way.

1. Creating Good Content is a Lot of Work

There’s no shortcut to great content.

You gotta put in the time and effort to make it happen. You used to be able to get away with simply re-tweeting or sharing someone else’s content, but that doesn’t count as good content these days.

Good content needs to be original, on-brand, and high-quality.

I invested heavily in training and gear to make this happen. I had a good chunk of stuff because of my regular work, but there were still some other pieces I needed to get.

The bigger cost was the time learning about video shooting and editing and the time put in to practice it.

2. You Can’t Wait for Your Content to be “Good Enough”

If you watch my first vlog, it’s awful. Out of focus, short, little-to-no-story.

But if you don’t start somewhere, you’ll never move forward.

After I shot it, I knew it was bad.

I also knew it had to be put out there so I could build and move forward.

3. The only way to be good at Social Media is to be a practitioner

Almost anyone can claim to be a social media expert.

It’s easy to be a user and then read a few books and feel like you’ve got a handle on it.

But when you’re actually in the trenches, putting in the hours, and spending your own money to Boost posts, it’s a whole different world.

You start finding much more creative ways to “hack the system” because you realize that the things you read in books just don’t work the same way.

Every city, demographic, and platform has a different context than someone else’s experience.

By actually jumping into this head-first and hoping to try and make something big out of this, I learned a ton about what ACTUALLY works and what doesn’t.

You don’t learn this quickly or effectively reading a book.

4. Advertising ROI’s are so much worse than word-of-mouth

I spent hundreds of dollars trying to get my content in front of people on YouTube pre-roll (the ads that run before other YouTube ads) and boosting Facebook posts.

I was even targeting smart, low-hanging fruit using some really smart advertising strategies.

And it worked.

But not as good as you’d think. Or at least not enough to make it worth the hundreds of dollars I was spending.

Sure people watched, Liked/Subscribed, and engaged with the content.

But I got WAY better results doing something for my already-engaged community to encourage them to spread the word.

A Snapchat filter contest that will be an entire other post was by-far the best $150 I spent without a penny of it going to advertising.

You wouldn’t know that from reading a book, though.

5. It’s all about community

So many businesses are so, so, so bad at developing community through their social media.

They’re just pushing out content – even good content – and forgetting that it’s real human beings on the other side.

So little time goes into connecting and engaging with those people.

While it was a tremendous amount of work, I commented on 95% of comments on my videos and I sent a personal “snap” to every follower that I picked up on Snapchat. If I saw it was someone’s birthday, I sent them a personal note. If someone sent me a message, I did my darndest to respond to it quickly.

And over 30 days, I ended up with a group hugely loyal fans that are telling everyone they know about me. Some of them even show up at my house just to meet me.

This wouldn’t of happened if I hadn’t taken the time to engage them.

6. Again, it’s a huge amount of work

I don’t believe you can hack or automate your way to being great at social media. People are too smart.

The only way to really make it fly is to put in the time and effort.

You’ve got to invest in resources and skills to cut through the crazy amount of noise out there.

Either get in or get out, but please don’t just dabble – you’re wasting your time.

7. It’ll be worth the effort

This journey has re-energized a lot of me in the power of social media. It’s easy to get cynical or indifferent to it.

But when activated properly, there’s a huge, huge upside for businesses to be present and creative in the social media spaces.

Word-of-mouth has and I believe will always be the best form of “advertising”.

Social media is unbelievable effective at this when you’re present.

Building a community of loyal followers doesn’t require a single person to step foot in your business – it just needs some time and effort to engage them.