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Five reasons we suck at creating content

January 22, 2014

We live in an age of content creation. Many brands – including the one where I work – create content. We take pictures, make videos, write blog posts, create Facebook posts, Twitter feeds, LinkedIn University page posts – the list goes on. We don’t suffer from too little content.

It wasn’t always thus.

It used to be that professionals created content, and the people (call them consumers) consumed it. Think movies, Books, TV, radio and print. Sure, there were people with newsletters and video cameras, plus there were self-publihed authors and self-financed movies, but those were exceptions.

Then along came the internet. And, as Clay Shirky wrote, here comes everybody.

Now people create and share content. Even brands. Actually, especially brands.

Congratulations, we’re content creators. Yippee. What’s not to love?

Here are five reasons we suck when compared to professional content creators

1. Frequency: their content comes at defined times, our content often doesn’t.

Magazines land once a month, newspapers come daily, the Walking Dead is on Sunday night at 9:00pm. These defined times help people reach content. Sure, people don’t read or watch things at the time the content is released or delivered, but they know when to go look for the content. The normalized frequency helps content get found. Hint: create a schedule.

2. Professional content isn’t about marketing:

Brands that create content are doing it for a different reason than professionals. With a magazine, or a newspaper, or the Walking Dead, we understand the motivation to create content. With your brand, consumers aren’t sure about the motivation.

They don’t understand the contract. Why should I read/watch/consume it? What’s in it for the content creator?  That doesn’t mean we don’t like it – or won’t consume it – we love the YouTube star. But we know, deep down, that brands are doing it to sell stuff. Hint: be overt about your intentions. Hint: think about the audience.

3. The source.

This is close the last one. A magazine has credibility – this blog doesn’t. You can look me up, see where I work, see what I’ve written, and that can help. But I need to prove to people I’m credible. Someone who writes in Wired magazine doesn’t have to prove credibility, they get cred from Wired. They just need to make an argument. The same with a brand: brands need to prove credibility of their content. Hint: Don’t try to be an authority. You aren’t. In the case of higher ed, let the authority be the authority.

4. You’re not a professional.

Unless you get paid to create content, you aren’t a professional. Anyone who has ever done their own plumbing knows that you get what you get when you do it yourself. If you create content on your own, there’s a good chance that it sucks. Before you get angry, consider that you will suck at doing heart surgery, installing a new bathroom, painting a self-portrait, etc.

Note: That doesn’t always mean by default that all non-paid for content sucks. It just means it is more likely to suck. Hint: Make sure the content lives up the brand creating the content. I don’t do Instagram for the brand I work for because I fear the content won’t live up to the brand.

5. There is good news.

Brands don’t have to create content every day. Instead, focus on getting people, aka the best customers and employees to create content.

There are a couple of reasons for this: first, you don’t have to do it – and content still gets created. Two, if the content these people create sucks, you can still share it, and people will still think it is endearing. They will hold you responsible for crappy content (see 1 through 4), but they will not hold you accountable for other people’s crappy content.

So what does it all mean? Are you a non-professional content creator? Do you take Instagram pictures for your brand? Do you Tweet for a brand? Do you rock?

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. January 27, 2014 6:59 pm

    love the unadulterated, and existential, commentary.

    great, actionable advice in here

    bravo and thanks for thinking through these things, we recognize how difficult it is to have perspective when your caught in the day to day weeds

  2. January 28, 2014 1:00 pm

    Hi Wills,

    Thanks for the comment. To be better at something it is important to know where to improve. I don’t take all of my own advice, but I’m working on it.

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