What Grade Would You Give Your Content?

I cringe when I hear the word content. It’s becoming analogous to “stuff,” which is to say general material with no specific use, the bric-a-brac of the internet. Of course, there is very informative content—and lots of it—but it’s mixed in with a tsunami of swill that devalues it.

There are over 450,000,000 active English language blogs out there. Yours will be 450,000,001. Do you have something to say that will stand out? YouTube receives 4,000,000 hours of new video content per month. Podcasts are on the rise and stand at a somewhere over 225,000—but listeners aren’t rising with them. The number of online or email newsletters has jumped 475%.

Pardon me for tipping the sacred cow, but does everyone NEED to spew content? One article after another says we do. But everybody? Really? We all know companies who practically herniate themselves trying. They post a blog per (week? month? geologic epoch?) They work late to create Facebook posts. They Tweet like crazy, whether they know why or not. And they dutifully crank out a newsletter to the anticipating masses. (When was the last time you read a newsletter that slipped into your inbox?)

Let’s reacquaint ourselves with the Dos of content creation:

  • Do impart unique information
  • Do make yourself a credible source (does your track record make you a thought leader?)
  • Be easy-to-read (don’t present an off-putting morass of badly written and organized information)
  • Do make good use of a reader’s time by teaching, engaging or entertaining
  • Do link to items that reflect well on your brand

And the Don’ts:

  • Don’t copy from another source and call it your own
  • Don’t bore your readers (lively engaging writing is worth paying for)
  • Don’t confuse by failing to think out your statements before writing
  • Don’t lie (someone will notice and then you’re out of the game)
  • Don’t put out content that’s inconsistent with or detracting from your brand

So, is your content making the grade?

Grade A: Thought leaders and innovators, teachers and national figures are natural content creators, because people seek them out. They should be blogging, podcasting, Tweeting, passenger-pigeoning, whatever. They have the power—and perhaps the responsibility—to create good content.

 

Grade B: Upcoming unknowns in new categories who have something to say should put it out there in multiple media and in as large a volume as they can handle to tell their story and put themselves on the map. People or companies riding trends should maximize the wave by engaging with fans/followers at every touch point.

 

Grade C: Most of us are here. Organizations and individuals dealing with commodities or low-interest goods or services who live in the gray area of content. Few users will actively seek us out. If we are new and lack a history of successes, we’re at a real loss for credibility. Following the mantra of the day, we try to fulfill the burden of content. We’ll import info feeds from other sources (usually a waste of time). We’ll blog based on borrowed information and desperately try to connect on Facebook and Twitter only to attract legions of no-shows.

 

Perhaps the best advice is: don’t waste much time inventing content just yet. Better to let your brand grow than to besmirch it with the wrong content. Cultivate the content you do have (on your website, in emails and marketing materials) so it’s cohesive, delivers your advantages and cross-references from piece to piece—especially on your site where inbound and outbound links are gold. Grow yourself as an information source or as a personality (entertainment is a huge bonus). You should know when you’re at a point to up the volume of your content—and make it worth your while.

 

Here are some tips.

 

Grade F-: The lowest marks go to pop culture sites and trailer-park news sources (even once-credible ones who have slathered their sidebars and video entries with non-news of a carnival sideshow quality: wardrobe malfunctions, sex scandals, the freakishly fat, freakishly thin, freakishly tattooed, etc.) Much of their content consists of links to titillation, propaganda, uninformed opinion pieces, celebrity gossip and lurid topics of no value. This is the flood of sewage in the content stream that has poured the talentless, amoral, hate mongering and ignorant onto our monitors and mobile devices to distract from things that matter.

 

The internet should be an open forum, not an abused one. At some point, a saturation point will be reached and content will be further devalued, until it is stuff cluttering a desk nobody knows what to do with.

 

So please, content wisely.

–From the braintrust @ Creative Dimensions