As a content producer, I have often asked myself this question. Do I want to be more creative so I can squash the competition, or to provide better content for my customers? Through the years of writing and developing content ideas, I’ve learned that the latter should be the foremost concern – and that being a better content producer eventually comes as its own reward.
Here are some quotes from top social-media marketing influencers”
“Content is the reason search began in the first place.” – Lee Odden, CEO of Top Rank Marketing.
“Better content is outweighing more content.” – Rand Fishkin, Founder of Moz.com
“Quality content means content that is packed with clear utility and is brimming with inspiration, and it has relentless empathy for the audience:” – Ann Handley, Author of Everybody Writes.
Evidently, content is king in the social media world. These powerful views from great social media influencers put content creation into the correct perspective.
Billions of words of content crawl the internet daily, and they serve one purpose: to be read and heard. Writers and content producers want a piece of everyone’s precious time. And you’ve read about many technical ways to create better content and how to expound on a topic, such as by answering who, what, when, where, and why; by reading, reading, and reading; by providing examples of the topic in practice; by tracing origins and today’s views of the topic; by providing influencers’ views; by describing dos and don’ts and tips; by asking for feedback; by applying SEO techniques in writing …. and the list goes on.
All the above points are technical ways to produce better content. But what about the idea? Writing and developing the perfect idea doesn’t come naturally to everyone, but the above technical tips provide a sort of blueprint or road map for our content. But to actually have a unique blueprint that no one has thought of yet is something else entirely.
We can also learn from the success story of Buzzfeed, which is now valued at $1.5 billion. Former Buzzfeed President Jon Steinberg provided these eight tips for better content writing:
- Keep it short.
- Ensure the story has a human aspect.
- Give people the chance to engage.
- And let them react.
- People mustn’t feel awkward sharing it.
- It must feel authentic.
- Images and lists work.
- The headline must be persuasive and direct.
These are pretty much self-explanatory. But I think what makes Buzzfeed extremely successful is the way it puts the human aspect at the forefront of most of its content. Their content was welcomed and shared by thousands of users.
Moving forward, we already know these tips and techniques. Still, the world doesn’t stop coming up with better alternatives on a topic. You’re reading this right now because, even after you’ve read all the tips and tricks and magical potions you need to use, you still want or need more tips.
In this context, I will talk about content as any type of content that can be published online, such as videos, websites, articles, photographs, or even a business idea.
I will not sugarcoat this process. If writers get writer’s block, content producers suffer our fair share of the same phenomenon. But so far, these tips have helped me create, write, and produce more creative content.
1) Find Waldo, even if he’s been found, many, many times!
Let Waldo be the creative idea you haven’t found yet. This is most applicable when you’re writing or creating content for something that’s already been written about. Skim through a list of articles about the topic you are writing. Almost always, they will all miss one point that you arrived at yourself and no one else has come up with yet. For instance, the article I’m currently writing: many influencers have written about the topic. Thousands, if not millions, have written about it, yet we still struggle to develop content for a better cat story.
- Expose yourself
Read. Absorb. Write. The tips I practice myself allow me to think of unique ideas or develop better content that has already been talked about. But most of the time, stories about your idea have already been published. What you can do is read them. Read as much as you can and find missing points. Perhaps the content is already outdated. Publish a better version.
- Flip the book
I literally flip the book to see a different perspective when I hunt for Waldo. Each page provides me a different scenario of colors, peoples, and shapes. When finding Waldo, look at the articles you are going through like each hidden-Waldo page. The different angle you are looking for is what the other articles have missed.
You’ve witnessed the viral effect when a unique story breaks. Major news and social media outlets publish the same story of a giant alligator walking on a golf course. Or when a study connected farts and cancer, major news outlets reported that smelling farts protects you against cancer. Everyone jumped on the study and published the same headline, attracting millions of readers. Why not write from an angle why there isn’t actually a correlation between the two?
2) Keep the teacup half full and half empty
All great businesses start with a great idea. Some are well thought out. Some go through years of evolution, and some are just overnight ideas that become really successful, such as the million dollar homepage.
When producing content, sometimes it’s great to keep in mind that you’re after a unique idea that no one has come up with yet. So don’t box yourself in with rules; doing away with them will keep your writing open-ended. But also keep your writing rules and objectives intact, because they are the blueprint into which you will situate that great idea.
3) Play heavy metal music
When I was watching Christian Bale’s “The Big Short”, at the office the protagonist was portrayed as a heavy metal music lover, because the music helped him get into his best state. I have a friend who finds the same trick conducive to thinking better. Why not make work for you? Get lost within those deep thoughts, and perhaps you’ll find the right idea or make the right connection. What sort of external environment do you need to be in? A study shows that the best ideas usually come when you’re showering or when you’re performing routine, almost “mindless” acts. This allows your brain to wander and “connect the dots”.
4) Keep a handy-dandy notebook
Artists say that you cannot force a creative idea out of anyone. Elizabeth Gilbert, the author of the bestselling Eat Pray Love, narrated a story during one of her Ted Talks entitled, “Your Elusive Creative Genius”. She spoke about former poet Ruth Stone, who would rush into her house when a poem struck her, just so she could write down the poem.
Never trust your mind alone. Ideas come and go, and you have to keep tabs on them. I believe that everyone has unique ideas running through their mind, and many are unaware of the absolute brilliance of those ideas. They lose them because they have no birthing outlet. As content producers, we are lucky to be conscious of our thoughts – so write everything down whenever those ideas pay you a visit. Keeping a notebook handy allows you to capture the moment when your mind and surroundings are feeding you unique ideas.
I have sometimes trusted my mind too much, and told myself that I would remember the idea the following day if the subject matter was brought to me again. We all know it doesn’t work that way. My great idea vanished the moment I thought about the topic again.
5) Watch influencers talk
If you surround yourself with great thought leaders, eventually you’ll start thinking like one. The type of influencers or friends you surround yourself with most often will shape your thought processes. Association is important to developing a more creative mind and better content. When you read about tips on how to become more financially stable, almost always they advise you to find a successful mentor. This recalibrates your mind to start thinking like one. The same can be said about listening to great influencers.
If there’s anything to learn at all, TED has shared with the world one of the most brilliant minds of modern day society. This goes back to my tip about finding Waldo – expose yourself, and connect the dots. It doesn’t just have to be through TED, but watch influencers and listen to what they say. Try connecting the dots for the topic you are writing about.
For instance, let’s say you’re writing about a brand’s influence over its competitors and you just watched Brene Brown’s “The Power of Vulnerability”. You find a connection – but is it right to talk about a brand’s vulnerability? Will it make your brand weaker, or will it excite a different reaction altogether?
6) Connect the dots even if there aren’t any – YET
Connecting the dots about different subject matter allows your brain to find the correct path through the maze. The maze allows you to travel through important points that eventually lead you to make a unique connection.
7)Embrace the block
Even if, after doing everything, you still have writer’s block, give in to it. Succumb to it. Embrace it. Eventually it will go away. Perhaps you will summon more creative thoughts during this episode, but you just haven’t connected the dots yet.
The tips I practice myself make up my own system of thoughts and processes, which I’ve developed over time. They have helped me produce and write better content. I also believe this could be a general tip for any creative mind. You may be trying to develop a better photography story, poster, music, etc. But there’s no one rule that fits all. We all have different blueprints – and each blueprint requires a different engineer. Some of this may be applicable to you, and some may not be.
What do you think of these tips? What do you think allows you to be more creative when you’re producing better content? We’d love to hear your thoughts.