Sharing My Mistakes Of Creating Meaningless Content
Who you are trying to reach and how you reach them outweighs just putting stuff out there.
Just because you can broadcast a message doesn’t mean people are listening or are going to stay.
Getting others to stand beside you is about nurturing and building from a base, that way it becomes easier for them to come back.
We are obsessed with communication and the places to put our message, rather than the overall message that goes into our communication.
This article looks at mistakes I have made. Looking back in 2018, it is clear that just because you can create and publish, doesn’t mean that you will see any form of return when a goal is building an audience that is yours. Let me share this with you.
In short, we can all create and broadcast but:
– It may mean something to you, but not to your marketplace
– It is pretty lonely when a message resonates with no one
– If you are continually borrowing audiences ie. paying Facebook, Google and the message doesn’t connect, all you have is paying someone else
– No one listens if you say nothing different or of worth to someone else
– It all becomes pretty empty when there isn’t an audience to serve
– The message you communicate has to align with what your business does
These are conclusions looking back at my own work from a few years ago.
I cleared my office last week. I found a burst of activity between 2012 to mid 2013. From a magazine to a range of ebooks, it was focused on being helpful and educating from a perspective of how people look at their marketing.
It got me nowhere. I barely had an audience and was one idea after another, rather than focusing on one discipline (although blogging started ‘properly’ from January 2012). I was creating work but did not have an objective to build an audience.
MY MEANINGLESS CONTENT FOR YOU
If You Could Go Back
(445 views, 3 downloads from Slideshare)
Whilst a solid idea, looking back, the 2013 If You Could Go Back project did not align with my business and became a huge drain on time and resources.
It worked like this. I asked 20 local business owners what three things they would do differently if they could go back to the start of their careers. It was documented, had its own site to download and the intention was to keep this going so it could become a book for a business to sponsor. It nosedived. I had no audience, the people I interviewed had no audience, reach was minimal.
However, if this project was taken on board by an organisation that focuses on the growth of small business from the Local Chamber to a government backed initiative, this could take on a life of its own. To established organisations they have a ready made audience in place and relevant to their development.
The Best Practice Guides
During 2013, I had spent time producing a couple of ebooks that were called:
- How to stand out from the crowd (343 views, 5 downloads)
- The good, the bad and the ugly. Social media, the digital world and the role content marketing plays in your business growth (392 views, 2 downloads)
These were two, quite in depth ebooks, that had a design element added, so it became more than a dull PDF with an 11 point arial font on a white background.
The thing is, they were pretty generic pieces of work that skirted around the themes of brand and message but had no defined voice. It was pretty formulaic from a marketing company that was telling others how to behave. I clearly enjoyed reading the contents of the jar, but no-one else was interested in the ingredients.
The Insight Magazine 2012 to 2013
This was a printed magazine, that consisted of three issues. I took the most read articles from my blog via Google Analytics and then put this into print.
It took time to layout and design but looking back now, it was presented well and glad that I took the time explore a printed magazine format. However, at the time, I had no audience, apart from the clients I was working with.
I can remember printing 200 copies and sending many to prospects with whom I didn’t really have any form of relationship. If I am being honest, these would have mainly ended up in the bin after a quick glance over.
Hands up, it was more about feeding an ego ie. the front page even highlights a project the company worked on, rather than contributing to the business.
What Are The Lessons Learnt?
There are things that I know now that I didn’t realise back then.
The reason I am sharing is that if you are thinking of dabbling into something that you haven’t done before but costs to entry are minimal, just because you can create, doesn’t mean there is a receptive audience.
Don’t throw yourself into something without recognising the message you are creating and who you are creating for. Save yourself a year of investment in creation and communication by taking on board who you are trying to reach and how you can reach out to them, so people are more willing to come on board with you.
I was just part of a bubble alongside many other businesses that were more obsessed with creating rather than having a strategy in place.
Before you go gung-ho with throwing one piece everywhere, put the brakes on. I don’t want you to waste time that you will never get back.
Here is what I know now that I didn’t between 2012 and 2013, when I believed then that doing stuff meant there was going to be some form of return ie. downloads, subscribers, customers:
Nurture and grow a homebase
The objective is to get people to subscribe ie. leave their email, so you know them by name.
Companies who are winning are those in control because they have built their email list and find it easier to direct people/traffic to their website, rather than relying on producing a message and then hoping people will download/read. If you have built an email audience, it is easier for people who are familiar to watch/read/listen, rather than go in cold.
Recognise the people you want to reach and the message you create for them.
I used to think that the people I wanted to reach was everyone, that was such a mistake.
The audience I want to build are those people/companies who believe that they can create a consistent message from a homebase (above) to create loyalty. These are companies who believe in self sufficiency and control and not thinking that the answer is in a paid gun to do their homework (have a read of this article). I define an audience as those people who are interested in what you have to say, come back again to pick up the narrative and enjoy being part of the whole experience.
It is more important to have a plan, than to create.
By looking at the ebooks, projects and printed material, what is clear now is the lack of any plan, but the lure to create.
I get it now. I used to play Football Manager for hours on end. I never wanted to work on the training sessions, I just wanted to play the matches. The B2B equivalent is watching random LinkedIn headshot videos of someone in their car or walking down the road, telling the rest of us the elixir of life. There is no plan behind these, just a way to look into a camera, press record and spout. You have to have intent behind what you create and share.
Talk in a way that everyone understands, not what you want them to understand.
No one cares about influencer/social media/content/inbound/account based marketing, apart from the person banging the drum.
On the ebooks, I went from generic to convoluted. If you can create a narrative that is easy to understand, rather than looking at ways to make you look clever in your own eyes, then the audience can become bigger than one person (and that one person is you). There is no point in talking in a manner that people have to dig deep to understand, that way, they will never come back.
Have a point of view and stick to it.
From the output of work, I can now see that there was a host of angles that did not put the finger on any outcome, that was easy to recognise.
Whatever the end result you want someone to take away, you have to stand resolutely to it ie. save time, be a better leader, communicate stronger, connect in a way that no one ever wants to go somewhere else. If you can keep to a defined point of view, it then becomes easier to deviate into other channels over time. For instance, the You Are The Media weekly email became a lunch club, a podcast and then a conference.
Recognise that you can’t do everything.
From looking at online to offline output, the work that went off in all directions and didn’t come back (it was a stick, not a boomerang) was a belief that to work, you have to been in as many places as possible.
That just isn’t the case. You really do not need to be on every platform/channel. If your audience isn’t in the place you want to reach out to, why commit time and effort in putting on a rave when your audience prefers country and western. This is all about creating for what someone else will like, rather than what you want them to like. Rather than putting all the efforts in the grand reveal, if the whole process is relevant to your audience, show them the steps (you can read more about that here).
Patience where you stick to one thing is where the reward is.
It is easier to make an appointment in someone else’s in-box, on a regular basis, than it is creating a one-off ebook download.
If you create every month and share this with a subscribed audience, over the course of a year you have built a library of work. This can then be cross fertilised into a more download ie. ebook that comes back to a particular theme that you have explored and shared. It is easier to get an audience who are loyal and familiar to you, to action, rather than turning up by surprise with something you have spent weeks/months preparing but with no one else in the room.
Looking back now, whilst the forms of communication had every intention to be useful, not just a means to promote an offer or specific product, there was no audience who took any message to their hearts and wanted to share with others.
Creating content where everyone is on one side, but you don’t have the key to open the lock is one of the loneliest places to be.
For a period of 18 months, I can see that I had the enthusiasm and commitment, but I did not have a clear plan. What was created clearly sat in isolation from every other piece before or followed it. Whatever you create and distribute, one question that I didn’t ask myself and what I would advise my 2012 self is that it is vital to have a vision. Every piece of content that is created has to support that vision.
Lets Round Up
Your audience on Twitter and Facebook is someone else’s audience, not yours. Growing an audience that you have ownership of is very, very hard.
From what I have learnt is that it all comes down to three things:
1. Having a vision
2. Supporting that vision to help a marketplace
3. The marketplace recognises your voice
I guess looking back now is a case of having to make continual pivots and being able to look back.
The content you create has to be different from everyone else, by putting your own stamp to it. It can help you build relationships, that can drive revenue. If you can build an audience who trust you, they will be more inclined to buy.
By reevaluating and reassessing where you came from, also provides a process to document and share from your own learning. This is how you can differentiate but it is also important to acknowledge that everything has to have a start.
When you are starting out on your journey to create, if you know who you are trying to reach and how you can reach them, puts you in a place of huge opportunity, rather than muddling through and the lure of uncharted land. By putting yourself out there, time and time again from a place that makes sense to others is how you can generate a strong audience who won’t turn their backs.