Kicking Off 2018 with Content? Question Your Path to Success

An image of a path leading to a castle on the horizon.

As we approach the end of 2017, there are those who approach the new year as a starting line of sorts. It's a time when people can feel the need to begin a new project -- that could be resolution-based, like losing weight or quitting smoking, or it could be project-based.

Recently, a friend of mine asked whether she should start a blog. I didn't answer right away, because it's not a simple yes or no question. And it's a question I often receive from a corporate perspective -- actually, it's more fair to say it's a statement to the effect of "we are going to start blogging."

I've broached this topic a few years ago, looking at the value of corporate blogs, but it's fair to revisit it. In fact, we've written a fair bit about the topic of how to sustainably create content for your business, but how does that change for 2018?

Blogging's Last Rites?

Is blogging dead? Not at all. But it has evolved. The concept itself has changed, but whether you call it content marketing, blogging, or communications, the ultimate goal is to share your perspective with your readers.

Obviously, the hope is that you have something of value to add to the communication and you don't just devolve into "me too" blogging. So the five content-creation principles I discussed in 2014 still apply, but what's the right way to communicate?

The thing is, there is no one-size-fits-all approach to content marketing, blogging, and writing. In fact, writing may not even be where your content creation journey leads. You could find yourself doing video content, infographics, or podcasts. Or, more likely, it's going to be a combination of multiple things.

At Echidna, we're in the process of seeing how we augment our content efforts. We believe in sharing our knowledge with the community (it's that whole open-source ethos popping up again). In fact, this is our 126th blog of 2017. More importantly, we've had 24 different authors on the Echidna blog this year -- we've seen contributions from Aaron to Zhang!

Why It Works and What's Next?

The blog format works for us because it's easily consumable, it's easy to access -- both from a mobile perspective and in terms of accessibility, and it's great for search. However, it's important to have the quality of content to match its ability to be accessed. I feel we do a pretty good job of that.

But what else can we do? How can we make content more accessible? How do we make it easier to digest? Can we create alternative entry points to our content that allows people easier access to the knowledge we want to share? Is that video, infographics? We're planning and experimenting and the process -- and hopefully the results -- should be fun.

Asking the Right Questions

So should you blog? Let's reframe that question into what it actually should be today: Should you create content with the intent to share? And with that in mind, you need to answer the following questions:

Do I have something to say?

This is the big one. Vanity projects get tired quickly, both from a consumer and a creator's perspective. However, if you have a passion for a topic, combined with knowledge and a unique perspective, any content-creation effort can be interesting. If you can add value to a conversation -- or even just start a conversation -- that's going to gain traction.

Put Your Content First

Don't get too caught up in the medium without understanding what your message is going to be. Though the end result may not be a blog, I'd recommend starting with writing. If you have ideas for content, start building the skeleton of the message -- even if it's just a list of topics.

From there, you can figure out what you have to say and, equally as important, how much of it you have to say. Once you understand those two items, then you can take the next step. Maybe you have volumes of content on just one topic that lends itself to a book format; perhaps you have a bunch of quick-take, value-added content that lends itself more to an Instagram-type format.

Quality matters. You need to focus on the content first, refine your message, and even find your voice. Then you can take the next step of understanding what to do.

Don't Focus on the sizzle at the expense of the steak

Don't artificially restrict yourself by picking your medium first. You may have visions of creating a podcast, but if your content lends itself to an infographic format, you may be round-peg/square-hole-ing it.

Your medium needs to match the quality of your message. There's nothing wrong with a dry, clinical interpretation of your content if that content is dry and clinical. Adding video effects and artificial bells and whistles won't match -- and likely will not be appealing to your potential consumers.

Consumers First

I say this a lot, but the biggest consideration for any of your projects has to be answering one question for your consumer: "What's in it for me?"

The exception to this is true vanity projects. If you're just in it for an on-line journal, then do what makes you happy. But if you're trying to share a message, you have to understand your audience and cater the delivery to their needs. You can't expect them to come to you, but rather you have to use multiple tools at your disposal, such as e-mail lists and social media, to amplify your content reach.

It's OK to Pause

Don't feel bad if you have a lapse in your writing. It's normal and natural. Ideally, you're going to have a steady stream of content, but there are times when you just don't have anything to say. Remember, it's better to not post anything than to say nothing.

I've been guilty of this in my personal writing. Writing for work and other projects, along with living life, means that I haven't dedicated as much time to my personal blog as I'd like. That's OK.

It's also more than OK to soft-launch an idea. You can share your project with a few trusted friends/colleagues. Not only will you be able to solicit feedback from them, it gives you a chance to see if the format works for you without the pressure of a "big reveal."

So I really never answered the question of what you should do. But that's because there's no right answer to that question. It's a process

  • Start with quality content
  • Understand your audience
  • Understand yourself and your capabilities
  • Let the content determine the format
  • Test and see what works best for everyone

That process should lead you down the path that's right for you and your readers. And it's a great way to help ensure you start the New Year on the right foot, content-wise.

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