Finding Balance

IntroCave Updates

When it comes to images that say "balance," you're pretty much limited to stacked stones and yoga ladies. I went with stacked stones. I was going to use this image to talk about different strategies for load balancing the render pipepline, but I bored myself and switched gears to different types of tasks.

Finding Balance

Progress is a balancing act these days. I've mostly been splitting my time between email, growing new traffic streams, pushing forward on the new render pipeline, and starting a pipeline for new content. In the last few weeks, I feel like I've been able to make a little bit of progress on every single one of those fronts!

Solving Email Woes

Email (welcome sequences, the newsletter) has taken up a huge chunk of my mental energy for the last few months, but I feel like that's finally going in the right direction. I started sketching and planning what some basic email sequences might look like all the way back in January, but the newsletter blew up (marked as spam, 1.7% open rate) and I had to shift all attention into figuring what I was doing wrong. It's been a few months of tinkering and testing on that front, but I think I finally have a pretty good handle on how to send out newsletters in a way that doesn't get them immediately flagged as spam. It turns out most email providers don't like it when you send 50,000 emails exactly one time each month. I send quite a few emails each day just for signups and orders, but it's nowhere near enough volume to keep my email IP address "warm" enough to send out a list that size.

With the newsletter mostly under control (I hope), I finally sat down and brute-forced my way through some email automation tasks. I've got a total of 9 messages planned across 3 sequences, but the hard part was figuring out the best way to queue them and make them cancellable in Laravel. It turned out to be way easier than I thought (the mail system has some thoughtful event hooks that give you opportunities to alter/cancel messages), which has me kicking myself a bit that I've waited this long. I've only implemented 2 of the 9 messages, but the bottleneck now is entirely content and not technical... I just need to write those emails.

If I can get sequences and the newsletter "figured out" in the next month or two, that'll be a HUGE victory.

Render Progress

Work continues on the new render pipeline, albeit slowly. While writing the first couple of Knowledge Base articles, I realized that the current live templates have some inconsistencies when it comes to how uploaded images are placed in existing intro video templates. I had already finished preparing about 2/3 of the templates for the new render pipeline, but now I'll also need to revisit all of those "done" templates to make sure they're applying consistent text and logo scaling. It's slow and tedious work, but the end result will be a good foundation to start adding new templates.

This task has taken a bit of a back seat to email and traffic, but if either of those efforts takes off the servers are going to start buckling under the strain again and this will shoot right back up to the front of the list. If I can continue to chip away at it, I can buy myself some peace of mind.

New Sources of Traffic

I mostly stopped using IntroCave's social accounts (FB/Twitter/YouTube) when I took over the site last year. Those can be great sources of traffic, but they require tremendous amounts of energy to yield results. With organic traffic dropping substantially, I started getting a lot more interested in diversifying my traffic streams off of just organic. I've started seeking out places where IntroCave's likely customers hang out: looking for relevant subreddits, looking for keywords on Twitter that mark potential customers, looking for Facebook groups that seem likely for new YouTubers to hang out. There's a LOT of noise out there, but also a lot of customers! I haven't figured out how to target those customers just yet, but just finding them seems like a good first step.

One area where I have made progress is on Twitter. There are a few things I can look for in a tweet that are pretty good indicators of potential customers, so I've been slowly writing and refining a script that searches for relevant tweets and surfaces them for me. Some services will auto-like and auto-follow certain keywords, but—for now—I'm steering clear of anything that breaks ToS. It's enough that I can turn some pretty unfiltered search results into much more highly targeted search results and then browse through those tweets whenever I have a few minutes to kill. I've been browsing that feed, liking a bunch of tweets, and watching random videos (mostly gaming-focused). The cynic in me calls this "social media prospecting" while the optimist thinks of it as spending a lot more time with my customers trying to figure out exactly what they want.. and so far that's been a pretty good way to pick up new followers.

Follower count is meaningless unless I can convert those followers into traffic (and eventually sales), but it's a good first step. I'm thinking about how to best curate and/or create content for the type of users who would want to follow an intro maker, and that might involve writing some more scripts to look for interesting content to share. I don't have much in the way of tangible results here (yet!), but this is an area of interest.

Content Updates

I keep a huge list of template ideas for when I'm finally ready to start creating new intro videos. A lot of my content problems (what do I tweet? what do I blog about? what do I put on FB? what do I put on YouTube?) can be completely solved by creating new templates for the intro maker. With so much else going on, though, this is one area where I haven't been able to devote much attention. Figuring out email and the new render system are HUGE endeavors compared to getting a video pipeline going, and I can't wait to stop coding and start animating.

Realizing that I'm the bottleneck here, I've started reaching out to a small number of folks in that last few weeks to start creating new templates for me. I don't have much to show progress-wise, but it feels like things are starting to move on this front for the first time since taking over the site.

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