If you follow digital marketing, Derek Halpern needs no introduction. The insightful, intelligent posts he publishes to his Social Triggers website are so widely recognized that he’s able to boast of more than 300,000 subscribers who anxiously await his updates.
But I wanted to know more about him than just the stats of his success, so I brought him in for an interview. Here are seven of the best lessons that came out of our conversation:
1. Never lose your integrity.
Halpern’s first major success was as the owner of a celebrity gossip site that racked up an impressive 40 million visitors a year from 2006 to 2007. The problem was that he dreaded waking up and spending another day making fun of people.
Even though he received a pretty attractive buy-out offer for the site, Halpern eventually shut down the company just to keep his integrity (and his sanity) intact.
2. Own your work.
After shutting down his gossip website, Halpern’s next move was to a Fortune 100 financial company. He stayed on for two and a half years before struggling with the frustration that he wasn’t 100 percent in control of his end results.
Taking ownership of your work is the only way to ensure that it lives up to your standards. If you can’t do that, you’ll find yourself constantly plagued by discontentment and hard-to-overcome challenges.
3. Consistency isn’t key.
Halpern launched his popular Social Triggers website after leaving his financial job and working for a few years as a marketing consultant within a friend’s software company. Upon his entry into a crowded market, however, he quickly realized that the standard “publish often, publish regularly” advice wasn’t going to cut it for his new website. Instead, he decided to focus the majority of his efforts on content promotion.
“If you write a post that 1,000 people read, chances are there’s another 1,000,000 people in the world that could use that exact same article," Halpern says. "So instead of just putting a bunch of content together and hoping something hits, you should focus your time on creating the best article on a certain topic, and then on getting that resource into the hands of as many people as possible.”
4. Apply the 80/20 rule to content creation and promotion.
Ultimately, Halpern wound up spending 20 percent of his time creating content and 80 percent of his time promoting it -- a strategy that led Social Triggers to attract 70,000 subscribers in 16 months. That’s an impressive feat for any blog, but it’s even more impressive when you consider the vast competition he was facing within the noisy digital-marketing space.
For those who are following in his footsteps, Halpern recommends the following schedule:
- Publish one great piece of content every 10 days.
- Spend the next nine days trying to get that content piece into the right hands (what Derek calls the “drafting” technique).
- Spend three to four months building relationships with influencers before asking them to help promote your work.
5. Increase conversions with content upgrades.
Despite the reach of his site and the relationships he’s built, Halpern still invests tens of thousands of dollars each month to promote his content, which means he has to convert that traffic.
One of Halpern’s favorite strategies for increasing on-site conversions involves looking through his site’s analytics to find his most popular posts and adding a content upgrade to them (typically, a free downloadable file that complements the initial article). This helps him capitalize on the traffic he’s already getting with content he’s already created.
6. Be memorable.
Halpern is known for his big personality and his “take no prisoners” attitude. But while he concedes that part of that comes from his natural persona, he does play things up to make his interactions with his website visitors more interesting.
“You very rarely get attention from the public eye by being a little extroverted or a little introverted," Halpern says. "You gain trajectory by being loud and obnoxious and by going a full 10 on whatever it is you want to do to become memorable.”
7. Think beyond productivity.
Finally, when I asked Halpern for his favorite productivity hack, he actually surprised me by arguing that we shouldn’t be so focused on productivity, especially if you’re in a creative role. He sees the two as almost being mutually exclusive and argues that people need to go easier on themselves about their workloads.
“When you give yourself permission to do that, you don’t stress yourself out when you’re not productive, and it frees up time for you to actually be productive,” Halpern says.
If you want to learn even more about how Halpern works, check out the full interview here: