The internet is flooded with content, and sometimes it can feel like you are drowning. The number of bloggers in the United States will reach 31.7 million in 2020, and there are now over 800,000 podcasts. There are currently 3.8 billion social media users worldwide, which is nearly half of the world’s entire population. Facebook has 2.45 billion monthly active users, Twitter has 340 million active users, and Instagram has 1 billion monthly active users.
I’m not even getting into everything else that competes for people’s attention: movies, television shows, streaming services, music, video games, ebooks. So in the midst of this deluge, how do you create content that’s remarkable? How do you get people to read your blog posts, listen to your podcasts, or watch your videos?
As a musician, author, blogger, playwright, YouTuber, and content creator, I have struggled with this. I have always created so much content. Some of it has done pretty well. Some of it hasn’t made much of an impact. Although I don’t believe any piece of content is a waste (see #9), over time, I have learned what makes some content more remarkable than others. Here are some ways to create captivating content.
1. USE YOUR UNIQUE VOICE.
There are no completely original ideas, thoughts, stories, songs, etc. Anything you can say has already been said before. It’s not originality that makes content compelling as much as it is a unique voice. Let’s say you’re a chef. Maybe there have been a million blog posts written about French cooking, but what can you say about it that is unique to your experience? How can you be authentically yourself and amplify your voice?
No one wants to read blog posts that are just other blog posts rehashed. No one wants to hear a cover song that’s exactly like the original. No one wants to watch a video that gives the exact same information as another video. Don’t try to copy other successful content.
That doesn’t mean that you can’t reference other content or talk about what someone else has said. But add to the conversation. Be yourself. Generate content that is authentic and genuine.
2. DON'T BE AFRAID OF YOUR OPINIONS.
You may not want to say anything that could be viewed as controversial because you want to appeal to everyone. This is a futile effort. You are never going to appeal to everyone. This is why we create customer personas in marketing. Instead of trying to reach everyone, we narrow it down to the relevant audience and create content geared towards them.
Now I’m not saying you should be preaching your politics on Facebook if you run a bakery. But if you have opinions about your field, don’t be afraid to express them and stand by them.
3. SWITCH IT UP.
It’s ideal if you can create a mix of audio, visual, and written content. But even if you are just writing blog posts, break up your text with visuals. Make the text more engaging by putting important sentences in bold, using photos throughout, or creating relevant graphics.
4. READ, WATCH, AND LISTEN TO OTHER CONTENT.
If you’re a blogger, read other blogs. If you’re a podcaster, listen to podcasts. If you make YouTube videos, watch other videos. You can always learn something from another piece of content, even if it isn’t well done. You can learn what not to do.
You may also find that a blog post or a podcast inspires you to make your own content. You may have something to add to the conversation. Or you may just be inspired by a really well constructed piece of content.
5. DON'T POST CONTENT JUST TO POST CONTENT.
This is one I’m guilty of. It’s easy to get caught up in the pressure to post content. Everyone always tells you to be consistent with your blog posts, your podcasts, your videos. I have definitely been so obsessed with putting out one blog post a week or doing a video every Wednesday or posting about music on Twitter on Mondays that I end up posting mediocre content.
Something I have to keep in mind is that it’s better to post one well-thought-out blog post every other week than it is to post three half baked blog posts in a week. Post content when you have something of value to say.
6. PAY ATTENTION TO THE BEGINNING.
You have about 15 seconds to capture someone’s attention, whether it’s a blog post, video, or podcast. Take some time to make sure the beginning of your content is strong. Rope your audience in with an attention grabbing first line.
The beginning of the content may depend on the intent of the piece. If you have a blog post that’s meant to be informative, make sure you allude to the valuable information you are presenting in the very first line. If you have a YouTube video that’s meant to be entertaining, make sure the first few images are extremely compelling.
7. ASK A QUESTION AND ANSWER IT.
Clickbait works for a reason. “A man finds a puppy on the street. You won’t believe what happens next!” People click this because it has created a question in their minds: What happened with the man and the puppy?
This is especially important when sharing to social media. You want to create a headline that will get people to click on your blog post, video, or podcast and the best way to do that is to ask a question that will only be answered by your content.
8. REVISE, REVISE, REVISE.
Don’t just write a first draft of a blog post and then post it. Don’t edit a video and then post it without watching it. Take some time to read back over your blog post or watch your video. Is everything in the best order? Are you using the same words over and over? Is there anything that can be added or taken away? There is always more editing that can be done.
Also, proofread for errors. A great way to catch typos and basic grammar mistakes is to read the piece out loud.
9. JUST KEEP CREATING.
Not everything you write is going to be brilliant. Not every podcast you record will have people glued to their seats. Not every video you post will get a ton of views. Sometimes you will create content that doesn’t do as well as other content. You may quickly judge this content as being a “failure” or a “waste of time.”
There’s no such thing as a wasted piece of content. Even if it wasn’t your best work, even if it wasn’t remarkable, even if it didn’t get much attention, you can look back and learn from it.
All content creation is practice. Malcolm Gladwell says it takes 10,000 hours (or about 10 years) of practice to become an expert at something. So if you wrote a blog post that didn’t get many clicks or you made a YouTube video that didn’t get many views, think of it as practice and move on to the next piece of content. You’re just getting your 10,000 hours in.
So whatever you do, don’t stop producing content. Before you know it, you’ll be an expert content creator.