Connor Blakely asks “What are your suggestions for making content stand out in an ecosystem cluttered with content?”
Let me count the ways…or at least a few. But first, two things. First, let’s clarify the question, because “making content stand out” is not the goal. If your only goal is to stand out then that’s easy enough–Miley Cyrus stands out. The guy who wrapped himself in an American flag and hopped over the White House fence stood out. If you wear a speedo to work every day, and nothing else, you’ll get noticed, but this isn’t the kind of attention you want. The goal is to grow your business. That may require making your content stand out, but to whom? In what ways? Let’s assume you want your content to stand out to your prospective customers in ways that build your credibility and make them want to buy what you’re selling and then stick with you for the long term.
Second, some people mistake “making your content stand out” with “making your content different than anything that’s ever been created.” This will give you writers block, so don’t focus on doing what nobody else has done. There are 100 articles out there on “The productivity tips of successful people,” and there is room for 100 more. Why? Because there are millions of people who never saw the first 100 articles, or who saw one of them, but didn’t like it (and yet they might like yours).
Now that we’ve made those two points clear, let’s get started.
1. Make it Correct
C’mon people, at least spell correctly and use reasonably proper grammar. Not a day goes by that I don’t see a typo, or several, in a piece of news or content marketing on a major website that should have a better editorial process. Yes, I’m looking at you CNN.com. If I make a typo on my blog that’s to be expected, although not necessarily excused. But a major news website? Be better than the major news websites.
I’m not talking about technically good writing so much as interesting writing. You better have writing that people like to read. If you want to get nitty gritty when it comes to quality read Ann Handley’s Everybody Writes, but also don’t underestimate the importance of reading a lot and writing a lot. The more you do of both the better your writing will get.
Quality isn’t enough. If you write one 500 word piece each year, it would have to be really, really, REALLY good to reach your objectives. Most of the blogs I follow post 2 to 3 times per week. Other forms of content might lend themselves to a daily, weekly, or monthly schedule. Figure out the right ratio, and bear in mind the more you do it, the better you’ll get at it.
What you think may be interesting to your mom, but the rest of us need a bit more. Providing data makes your content more believable and gives it a foundation of authority. 9 out of 10 professional bloggers agree with me.
5. Name Names
A wise newspaper publisher once said what he wanted from his writers was for them to print the entire phone book. Why? Because he knew everyone in the phone book would then rush out and buy his paper, and maybe a few extra copies to give to friends. You know who’s good at this? John Rampton. Check out what he did with 25 Experts You Should Meet at Pubcon 2015. Do you think every one of those 25 people shared his article to their substantial social media audiences?
6. Make it Useful
Everyone wants to be successful and beautiful. Give people tips on one, the other, or both, and people will consume your content. They’ll consume it even more if you break it down into short, actionable tips. Hate the listicle? Well, it works. That’s why you see so many “7 Ways To Be Successful and Beautiful” posts out there. You know who’s great at this? The folks at Buffer. Check out the Buffer blog–I read pretty much everything they produce because I can instantly apply it and benefit from it.
7. Attach it to the News
If you can, be newsworthy. If you don’t have anything particularly newsworthy, then attach your content to the news. My post What Would 2016 U.S. Presidential Candidates Look Like With Beards? got over 100,000 views on BuzzFeed. How many people will be interested in that post a year from now? Not many, but for now, it works.
8. Get a Channel
I write for Forbes, Entrepreneur, TechCrunch, Mashable, etc. If you can get that kind of channel for yourself I highly recommend it. Here’s my guide on how to become a contributor to Forbes or anywhere else. If that doesn’t seem realistic right now, start blogging and then copying and pasting your posts onto LinkedIn Pulse. That’s what I do. A few weeks ago I wrote Should Women Lean In Or Should We All Lean Back? and then posted it to LinkedIn where it has received over 70,000 views and sent thousands of visitors to this blog. The trick is to get it featured on Pulse, which isn’t all that hard if you follow the other tips above. Likewise, create presentations and post them to SlideShare. In the past two months I’ve created seven presentations that have gathered almost 40,000 views on SlideShare, again by getting featured on the homepage. I haven’t gotten featured on LinkedIn Pulse or SlideShare because I’m a Forbes writer or anything like that–the people at SlideShare and LinkedIn don’t know who I am or what I do. They just check out the content and feature it based on the quality of the content itself. That means anyone can do what I’ve done. Between all my channels my content has likely been seen over 1 million times during the past 12 months.
9. Drive Email Subscribers
The above channels are great, but except for a blog you don’t own those channels, and they could disappear or somehow lose their value at any time. That’s why you need your own blog, and your own email list of fans. No matter what happens, you own that list and you can reach out to those people whenever you want.
There are more ways to make your content stand out than what I’ve written about above, but this should give you a start. What I hope you can see is that while good content is important, it’s not enough. Create good content with all these other tactics and your content will be supercharged to get in front of the people who are your customers, and that’s what really matters.