Should I Post Regularly or Irregularly? The Power of Intermittent Reinforcement Over Consistency
Article after article insists that the key to successful content strategy is consistency. Right-brained, logical, formula-driven writers warn, “Don’t ghost your customers! They’ll notice if you post something every day at 3 pm and then all of a sudden, stop posting!” You’re right they’ll notice. They’ll notice when you come back and be all the hungrier for what you have to say or offer. By ghosting your customers, you’ve raised their interest and focus, not diminished it. Sometimes, consistency kills content. Inconsistency, done strategically, revives it.
Repetition and Routine
There are YouTube shows that I have stopped tuning into simply because I assume that their same-time-of-day and same repeated insights have run their course. With so much fresh content to explore, I can only enjoy predictability for a few months before I seek novelty. It’s not that I don’t take comfort in familiarity, but if I catch wind that a brand or thought leader likes to sing the same song every day, I lose enthusiasm after three months. Repetitive, consistent content cannot sustain me. It must grow, evolve, and inspire in fresh, new ways.
It’s not that I want one surprise after the next; it’s just that I gravitate toward fresh, new insights over rehashed ones. A person who thinks they have to post every day is going to get burned out. A better mindset than “I have to post every day” is “I have to post at least every week and pick my best idea for that week.” Your insights and drive and originality will all go into that once-a-week post rather than stretching yourself out thin with a post every day.
April Fools Day
Anything that becomes predictable becomes something easy to take for granted. Where dopamine levels drop, attention levels diminish. The better approach to content is to establish a routine and then just when people get used to it, drop content at a different time and consider a different voice.
Before you dismiss this strategy, hear me out.
April Fool’s Day is a time when brands you’re used to can gain traction by catching your attention. Think Gmail. They often reveal a strange email feature that stops you in your tracks and makes you think they’re crazy. It’s an April Fools joke but suddenly, you tune into a brand you’ve tuned out for months because they broke out of their stale routine. Intermittent reinforcement is more powerful than consistency because people pay rapt attention to random rather than routine activity.
Continuous Reinforcement vs Intermittent Reinforcement
As usual, this has a classic mice-in-the lab experiment to back it up. Mice in a lab could push a lever and receive a pellet of food; they were regularly fed and came to expect that every time they pushed, they got their food. Thus, they come to associate that lever with food because of continuous reinforcement, or consistency. Scientists ran an experiment where pushing the lever sometimes led to food pellets, sometimes it did not. The scientists assumed that the mice would lose interest because it was inconsistent and intermittent, but the exact opposite happened. The mice became obsessed with the lever. When would it offer the pellets (reward)? When would it not? Much like the allure of slots, they kept pushing down to see whether they’d win. They delayed their grooming habits and fixated on the lever.
When you cannot predict the pattern, you put more, not less focus on it. If a brand I come to associate with having a different sale every month and accompanying blog post to announce it abruptly shifts their sales to occur intermittently and their blogs to be a random treat with an hidden sale code within the blog, I’m going to put far more attention in their intermittent strategy and reward system than I would one that provides a consistent reward and consistent content.
Try This Test!
I challenge you to test it out for yourself. Establish a routine by which you post content on a regular basis. Preferably this content has a reward feature in that it offers a discount to merchandise or provides a shareable truly inspiring original message that people tend to engage with. Then, take it away for a full week. Post again at a different time or whatever changes you’re willing to make to stay on brand. Observe the results. Did more people respond after that break? Writers and clients, consider employing intermittent reinforcement rather than consistency in your content strategy; it might bring you all the pellets you need!
Samantha S writes direct, dynamic, digestible copy for any purpose and any medium. She has written for apps, games, websites, literary journals, trade magazines, newspapers, e-commerce brands and health//nutrition brands. Samantha’s most notable achievements are authoring a guidebook for College Prowler, interviewing Leonardo Dicaprio, Zac Efron, and Amy Sherman-Palladino for The Hollywood Reporter, reviewing books for Publishers Weekly, covering the World Series of Poker, teaching creative writing at Harvard-Westlake, and working as Editor-in-Chief of The Oval literary magazine.