Creating Great Content

Oh boy. This was a tough one! Creating great content is something we all strive to do, but it’s not something that comes easily to anyone.  With the growing ease and simplicity of creating and posting content, the market gets more and more crowded!  Here at 10twelve, we know a little bit about content creation, and I’m hoping to share what we’ve learned from our business and pet projects.

No matter what content you want to create, the following tools, techniques, and tips will help you generate ideas and hone in on your audience to get the most from your content, whatever it is.  From YouTube videos and podcasts to ebooks and blog posts, good content can be in many forms.  It’s our job, as creators, to make the most of our opportunities and make sure we all publish engaging, meaningful content for our subscribers, clients, friends, or whomever you have as your audience.

First up, where do you find ideas and inspiration for your content?  When you’re stuck and can’t figure out where to even start, then just do what all great artists do: beg, borrow, and steal.  If your new blog needs a kick-start to get rolling, why not collect a list of posts from your competition to see what they offer?  Find the top ten blogs, video channels, or whatever you want to create and look to see what they do for content.  Reviews, personal stories, interviews, guest writers, top lists, case studies, and success stories are all common ways to create content around a similar theme.  Don’t be afraid to go “meta” – recycle old content with a fresh look, do reviews of other creators/content, and write about your struggles creating!

Next up, we have the creative process.  You have your ideas, so now it’s time to translate them into a creative product.  Some writers and content creators like to start with a title; others like to decide later after the work takes shape.  It’s up to you. Remember to always use engaging and enticing headlines!  Many of your potential readers (or listeners, viewers, etc.) will glance at the headline or title for less than a second before they either move on to something else or delve into your content to see what amazing things you have to say about your topic.  Make it easy for them to click through to find out more – don’t be vague or generic here.

I often struggle to get started as a content creator, but once I’m in the zone, I can work for hours on my projects without stopping.  This isn’t a good thing!  Take breaks and get out of your chair – it really helps to keep up your mental stamina.  I like to split up my work using the Pomodoro technique (Google it if you’re curious!), and a quick walk to the store or coffee shop always reenergizes my creative juices.  Don’t let yourself get too frustrated!  Even on a deadline, it pays to take a minute to step back and look at your work with fresh eyes.  Do it!

Talk is cheap, and with the ease of publishing and reaching a wide audience today, it’s cheaper than ever.  Respect your reader and their time!  Short, to-the-point, and pithy content is way better than rambling on and on.  If your writing is trying to inform or educate people, give them fast answers!  Don’t bury the good stuff in paragraph ten – be up front and offer value to your readers early in the process.  Don’t give it all away in the first minute, but let your readers or viewers see a clear benefit to your content; do it early and often. 

Cut out what you don’t need!  Channel your inner Hemingway and don’t be afraid to use short sentences.  Split up your work into digestible chunks, just like your mom told you to chew your food.

When you create content for your project, it’s important to always consider the lifecycle and permanence of that content you worked so hard to make.  “Evergreen” is the thing to remember; try to craft your content so it’s still relevant and useful for many years to come.  If you keep it in mind, it’s easier to mold your content into a form that will easily live on for many years. Be timeless and relevant, for years to come!  Avoid dates and stale pieces of information if you can help it.

Always keep in mind “WHY am I creating this content?” when you make decisions about your creative work.  Know your audience!  How can you connect with them and provide value?  Does it fit my personal or business goals?  Can you draw an easy straight line from your content to your organizational mandate?  Why are you bothering to create content at all?  If you can’t answer these questions, it’s time to rethink your approach.  Customer engagement and “getting the word out” aren’t specific enough.  No matter what content you create, you should always have a clear idea what it’s supposed to do out in the wide world once it leaves your desk as a final product.

I like to think about content as a food pyramid where we get our nutritional guidelines.  You need the right “diet” of content to keep your audience engaged and hungry for more.  No matter what you’re doing, personal or business, you have many types of “food” you can feed to your family.  The bottom levels of the content pyramid are filled with stuff you can easily create in a short time: comments, news, curated links, status updates, etc.  Next up you have the content that takes a little more work, but it offers more value to the viewer: blog posts, videos, web copy, infographics, case studies, and longer-form writing.  The top level? eBooks, webinars, live events, and anything that takes a significant effort to produce – these pieces of content are the cream of the crop.  Just like your own diet, your content diet should include as many food groups as possible, given your resources and time. 

The last thing I’ll mention about creating good content is some technical advice.  Learn your SEO and keyword techniques to move up the rankings and reach more eyeballs.  Social media is your friend – if you use it the right way.  Look at your competitors and other market leaders to see what “good” social media looks like.  Each platform offers a different approach to marketing yourself, so check out some big players to see how they use a mix of social media to reach and engage with their audience.  Photography and video are hugely important in this space, but there’s still room for great writing and mixed media (infographics, memes, etc.) if you can tell good stories and offer value to your audience.  Be the content creator you want to see in the world, and don’t be afraid to try new styles of content!  Mix it up, be original, post consistently, and you’ll be well on your way to becoming an official “Great Content Creator.” 

Need help? Contact us today to learn more about how we can help with content creation and other marketing efforts to grow your business.