You haven’t posted a Facebook message in days. You haven’t tweeted in weeks. Your blog? Well, it’s got more dust on it than a phone book.
Now you’re covered in cold sweat, staring at your computer monitor. You’ve been told engaging your audience through social media is important, but you have immense trouble creating content regularly.
You want to bang your head against your keyboard, hoping something trickles out onto the screen.
The cursor is taunting you, blinking on a white page.
Then comes the desperate Google search:
“22 Ways to Create Compelling Content When You Don’t Have a Clue.”
“How to Create Content that Sells.”
“25 Ways to Create Shareable Content.”
This moment is what scares most businesses away from building and maintaining a public platform.
Content creation is a hot topic in marketing circles online because brands are finding it easier and easier to establish their own platform. And when that platform is an authentic interaction with consumers, brands have found their content creation platforms, whether blogs, columns or video channels, to be successful.
One of the best in the business is Taco Bell. Their Twitter presence is legendary — answering many followers each hour with snarky responses. Taco Bell’s posts are timely, clever and well crafted for their target audience.
Emulating this success is extremely difficult.
Social media attracted a lot of attention because of its seemingly cheap and easy way to engage an audience. It turns out this usually isn’t the case.
Taco Bell doesn’t have social media success because a part-time intern manages their Twitter account. A part-time effort won’t work for you either.
The reason content creation is so intimidating to brands trying to build a platform is because we mislabel it.
The best content isn’t created out of thin air, it’s discovered.
In the frustration of staring a deadline in the face with no work to show, it’s easy to forget why we publish original content. We usually publish our next blog post, column, essay or video for no other reason than the fact that it’s due — due to our publisher, our department head or to our seemingly arbitrary and almost impossible to follow internal deadline.
If that’s where you are — staring at a deadline and wondering why you do it — here are four reasons:
» We publish content to interact with our customers and strengthen our brand’s reach.
» We publish content to keep our brand in the forefront of the public consciousness.
» We publish content to inform the public about our brand.
» Most important of all, we publish content to help or entertain the people who choose to interact with us.
I know what you’re thinking, “Josh that’s all very inspiring, but I’m still staring at a blinking cursor on a blank screen.”
Content creation is a misnomer — unless of course you’re a science fiction or vampire fantasy novelist. Content is discovered. It’s curated. The best content is the stuff that flows right out of your fingertips onto the screen. It’s the video that you film in one take because you already knew what you were going to say. The best thing you can write about is the thing your brand is already doing.
The next time you’re slapping your fingers across the keyboard in hopes the gibberish will magically transform into English, stop for a moment and look around the office.
» Do you have an employee who spends hours each week volunteering with the community’s homeless or a creative teaching after-school art lessons?
» Did you work with an especially awesome customer this week?
» Did your company hit a milestone or a setback recently? What did you learn along the way?
» What have you been reading, watching or drawing inspiration from this week?
If you can’t find an example of a customer or employee that merits 500 words of praise, it might be time to re-evaluate more than your content discovery process.
We work with an organization that helps the children of incarcerated women. They do amazing work, caring for children and then helping the mothers as they re-enter everyday life. We were asking some of the caregiver families what makes their story so special, and they were perplexed that their existence could hold a compelling story.
“It’s just normal, everyday life. There isn’t anything exciting about it,” one of the guys finally piped up.
I probed: “Tell me about the process.”
“Well, once a week, we gather the kids, we go through the metal detectors, then we’re patted down, the prison guards check our bags, then they send us through the lockdown facility to wait to visit the mother. It’s everyday stuff, really.”
Hopefully, this statement seems odd to you, too. In my mind, I could see this upper-middle-class family in their Sunday best going through a prison patdown. When I filmed it, the paradox was as surreal as it might seem. Yet, these people didn’t feel like there was anything interesting about this process.
He was living the story, so it was hard for him to see. He takes his entire family to a federal prison each week to spend time with an inmate they’ve brought into their family. Since he’s there every week, it seems normal and “everyday” to him, but it’s not to everyone who sees that organization from the outside.
We see it every day, from life-changing organizations like this one to financial institutions that offer financial literacy courses in impoverished school districts and restaurants that serve up lunches to fight cancer.
The stories are there; sometimes we just have to step back and view our brands as an outsider. We must approach the challenge as a curator would in filling a museum wing — find the best, most compelling pieces of real life. Work out how they fit together to create the most impactful impression.
Shoot for that. If you come up short, it’s a lot better than a blinking cursor.
Trust me. I try to outrun one each week.