As a digital entrepreneur, it is my responsibility to constantly seek new ways to progress my businesses. The digital world is not static, and exerting the time and energy into exploring emerging trends, building cutting-edge social media plans, and expanding skill sets into new arenas, like learning to code, are par for the course if you want to build long-term,viable companies.

But constantly pushing yourself beyond your laurels takes grit and mental toughness, and of course time, which is one area where most entrepreneurs consistently run short.  It's easy to get wrapped up in the day-to-day responsibilities of running a company, and looking beyond short-term deadlines to find new ways to expand an organization that is already working demands steadfast dedication.

To be completely honest, my unwavering commitment to spending time learning about new technologies, trends, and best practices stems from my days spent behind bars where I had no choice but to build up my personal resolve to carve out a fulfilling career upon my release.

For two years straight, I read, researched and wrote. I ordered subscriptions to Inc., Wired, The Wall Street Journal, and every other business magazine imaginable to glean insights from the top entrepreneurs who were making waves in their respective markets; I was essentially a sponge soaking up every marketing lesson I could.

Today, I run several companies ranging from virtual reality platform startup, blendar.io, to a digital marketing agency, AgentBeta. I attribute my success to the lessons I learned sitting behind bars.

Although the entrepreneurial landscape looks drastically different now than it did upon my release, I still practice the same commitment to self-education, and I constantly look to other leaders and pioneers for guidance.  

Here are a few of the marketing lessons I have found to be most impactful in carving out a dynamic and engaging digital business:

1. Authenticity is everything.

If you don't have an authentic story to tell, you will fail to connect with audiences. They've seen and heard every brand gimmick in the book and they aren't interested.

According to Ryan Williams, founder & CEO of Industry Threadworks, if consumers don't connect with you they won't buy from you--it's that simple. Once you feel comfortable telling your honest story, you'll find your audience.

2. Focus on the forest, not the trees

It's easy to get caught in the weeds of managing and planning for today's high-performing social platforms. But, Justin Wu, CEO of Growth.ly says  it's much more beneficial to focus on mastering content mediums, like audio and video.

You could master Snapchat videos only to see the social network drastically change their product five months from now. It's better to develop sound understanding of how to tell good stories across mediums and tailor your platform approaches from there.

3. Content is king but community is queen.

Strong content is not enough if you don't have a community to consume and share it across the digital sphere. Goldie Chan, Head of Content & Creative at confirm/deny, believes that your content is only as strong as your community.

There's no point in investing huge amounts of time and resources into content that is seen and shared by no one. It's more productive to spend time connecting with your community and create content that resonates with them.

4.  Pay attention to your competitors.

Sydney Liu, co-founder of Commaful, advocates for studying the content and brands that your audience engages with across social platforms. In this era, there's rarely such a thing as a wholly original idea. It's in your best interest to take consistent stock of what works for your competitors and apply the findings to your specific brand voice and audience.  

5. Not all platforms are created equal.

Every platform excels at facilitating unique audience connection tasks. According to CEO of Wonghaus Media, Jason Wong, platform discrepancies mean that certain types of content are better suited for specific platforms.

For example, you Twitter audience may appreciate witty responses to trending news topics, but on Instagram, your audience wants to see inspirational and aspirational lifestyle shots.  Learn the tone and behavior of your audience across each platform.

6. Consistency is key.

Delivering quality content consistently to your audience is crucial. Chris Preston, CEO of Preston Media, believes consistency should be a foundational element of your content strategy.

One piece of quality content followed by five pieces of subpar content will not do your brand any favors. If you know a piece of content is not up to your brand's values, it's better to scratch it and move on then diminish your overall brand perception.

7. Overthinking is a waste of time.

The digital landscape moves fast, and if you spend too much time harping over a concept or deliverable, you may miss your moment to contribute to the cultural conversation. Thomas Ma, co-founder of Sapphire Apps, believes that nothing will ever be perfect.

If you spend too much time waiting to perfect your content, you'll never distribute anything. Besides, audiences prefer authenticity over perfection.

Published on: Oct 19, 2017
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.