The big issue: content creation and originality

Sometimes inspiration drops in through Twitter. It happened to me a moment ago and since I had been planning to blog this evening (yesterday evening by publishing time)¬†I decided to write about it ūüôā

In this post you’ll find my thoughts about content creation plus 3 tips.

This post originated in something I said in a DM:

No human is ever as original as they claim to be Рor as unimaginative as they fear to be. {click quote to tweet*}

I think this quote is mine, but if you’ve seen it anywhere before, please let me know. My opinion in the matter is, as you may have guessed:

  • There are plenty of people out there – some of them I’ve met on Twitter – who claim to be completely awesome. I haven’t unfollowed anyone yet for boasting about their accomplishments –¬†but I’ve come close ūüėČ
  • On the other hand, some people are so hesitant you’ll never get to hear from them because they never even try…

The quest for originality in content

The worst thing you can do is consider blogging, or creating any kind of content – or anything at all, from the perspective of what you don’t have.

Content creation and originality

Content originality? Parts of this picture from OCAL.

  • Your¬†first¬†issue¬†is that you’re human and so is your audience (unless you’re Men In Black). This limits your spectrum to subjects humans find interesting.
  • Then there’s the marketing issue: not everyone likes the same stuff. You need to find your audience and come up with stuff they like.
  • Next up: competitors. There are so many people blogging about the same topic – what can you possibly add?
  • And so on.

If you follow¬†a similar¬†train of thought, the sensible thing to do is, well,¬†nothing. But wait –¬†let’s try the same thing from the perspective of options that are open to you:

  1. You have a personal set of experiences in your life and career that is unique.
  2. This gives you an original view on topics that (many) others are interested in.
  3. Knowing this, you¬†can learn by watching what¬†competitors do in coming up with (original) content without getting the nasty feeling there’s nothing left to do.
  4. Lots of competitors? Great! Keep an eye on the ones who do their research. Be nice though – no stealing.

Here’s my best advice when it comes to the quest for original content: stop searching – for now. Accept that you’re probably not producing original (unique) content. Focus on other aspects instead. Originality will find its way to you once you’re actively creating your own stuff.

Tip #1: Opt for quality rather than originality

I wrote two posts about content curation earlier. One is about levels of content curation (the good, the bad, and the ugly). In the other I talk about content curation as a way to show your expertise. Here’s my view for what it’s worth:

Content creation is basically high-level content curation.

If you have no idea how to start,¬†try curating other people’s stuff. Collect other people’s content,¬†select the interesting bits and re-write it¬†so that¬†the¬†resulting¬†piece of content adds value¬†in the eyes of¬†‘your’ audience.

I started my collection of interesting content on Pinterest, but any tool that will let you group and re-group information easily will help you get a clear picture of what there is, and where you might add the biggest value based on your expertise.

Your content¬†may not be original, but what’s original about the post I’m writing? I’m sure there are similar posts all¬†over the internet. The difference is that this one represents my take on a familiar issue.

Tip #2: Focus on delivering relevant content to your audience

Create stuff that matters to the people you create it for, and do it well. The rest is BS.

What insight can¬†you add that’s relevant for¬†your audience?

{click question to tweet*}

If you’re¬†wondering what content curation looks like on a good day, read this¬†blog post by Kara Jackson that is a great example of content curation while also being about content curation. As you’ll see, good content curation is quite similar to content creation. Both require writing skills, for one thing ūüėČ

Tip #3: Don’t, ever, advertise at me and call it a blog

This one is for you if you’re a creator of business content.¬†If you want to tell me¬†“you must be running into problem X, we happen to have the perfect solution, please register here”, do it elsewhere on your website.

Use your blog to build your credibility as an expert and potential problem-solver. Show me something that makes me think: hey, I didn’t know that, never viewed the subject that way, I’ve learnt something today… You’re allowed to amuse me while you’re at it. Be creative¬†ūüôā

It’s originality, but not as we know it

The truth about originality is it doesn’t exist in the way we think it does. What does exist is “something old, something new…” in new, unexpected combinations.

*Click to tweet: the first time I¬†saw this type of link I wondered if all it took was one click to tweet. Fortunately you also need to click the actual¬†Twitter action button ūüôā

Please leave your musings about blogging, content, and originality or your tips for further reading in a comment РI will respond to any non-spammy contribution!

Levels of content curation: blogging

This week I came across¬†the following article – I should tell you I once studied art history. You will understand my natural interest in¬†the subject ūüėČ :

From Pop Music to Blogging, Everyone’s a Curator

– Kyle Chayka on Hyperallergic

In this post you won’t hear me talk about content curation from a “social media ladder” (Forrester) viewpoint. You can ignore the 1-9-90% story. Or the 75-23-2 version by Gartner. Anyone interested in the subject needs to realize:

Broken Social Media Ladder inspired by the Forrester Social Media Ladder

Broken Ladder inspired on (but not identical to) Forrester’s Social Media Ladder (for the original: click image)

  • The numbers will change as more people get (more) used to sharing their information online;
  • There are many different forms and levels of curation.¬†You might as well lump the categories “1-9”, or alternatively “23-2” into one group.

Why would you do that? My answer:

Blogging is essentially high-level content curation.

Don’t get me wrong: not every blog reflects the same level of curation.

If you blog by selecting a couple of quotes from different articles about a subject you want to publish on and writing down why they are interesting, you’re curating content.

On the other hand, you could start by writing your view on a subject and add a few quotes. Curation or creation?

Or you could start your blog post¬†with¬†a quote which reflects a similar take on the subject or which contradicts your view – thus giving you an excellent starting point to explore the pros and cons of your insight. Most people would agree this is content creation. In terms of brain science¬†it’s probably high-level content curation.

Blogging in your brain

In the Netherlands, Dick Swaab’s book “We are our brains” has been the center of some debate around free will and the question whether we have any. The controversy was largely based on Swaab’s assertion that what (and how)¬†we think, feel, say and do is¬†a result of influences on our brains throughout our lives, starting in the womb.

Swaabs opponents are mainly psychology experts who¬†seem to take¬†the idea of “No output without input” as¬†meaning we’re¬†compared to machines, only able to act in response to triggers. Let’s leave that kind of simplistic nonsense aside though, especially since I’ve read Swaabs book but only a few articles about the other side of the argument. Instead, I’d like you to focus on the following question:

How does this brain talk relate to the writing process?

When it comes to writing, the fact that I’ve read any number of articles and books in my life¬†helps me to come¬†up with¬†all sorts of ideas. Think about it for a minute: when you’re new to a subject you need to learn about, you read, listen and think and rethink until you end up with a rough idea of what there is to know about that subject – which you can then refine over time or revise if necessary (this is the tricky bit for most of us).

Our opinions are based on the information that is available to us when we’re learning new stuff. If new information, which does not match the opinions we have formed, becomes available we have some serious ‘un-learning’ and revising to do.*

Content creation by blogging

Even if you make a point of sitting down to write without distractions, if you blog without referring to other authors and articles because you simply don’t know exactly where or when you got the first idea for what you’re writing, you are still influenced by all the information you have reviewed.

All the information you’ve fed into your brain is¬†let out in your writing process.

This means that it may well pay off to be single-mindedly interested in one particular subject. Your interest means you can read about, and focus on, that subject and ignore other information. That in turn makes it easier to write about the subject without the distractions of a million other fascinating subjects.

So if you’ve recently taken up blogging and are finding the step from social networks or from curation platforms like Pinterest or a bit much to adjust¬†to¬†at times, I hope this post has helped¬†you ‘revise’ your idea of blogging.

More about blogging and content curation

If you find all kinds of subjects are trying to find a place in your blog posts, you may find this earlier post useful.

On the flipside of today’s post are¬†content curation and creation outside blogs. I could write a whole post about that, and I’ve already written one before: this one.

If you’re interested in my collection of articles about content creation (and content curation)¬†I would invite you to¬†check my Pinterest board.

* My first source for the term¬†‘unlearning’ is Frank Herbert’s book Dune. Just saying ūüėČ

As always, you may your insights, and other contributions in a comment below this post.

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Great content curation: How using your expertise adds value

In my previous posts I have talked – a lot! – about social networks and sharing. I only briefly touched upon that which is being shared. Content. Loads of content.

This post is different. It’s shorter. And it can be summed up as follows:

Why content curation deserves your attention: a great way to add value using existing

If you hang around online long enough you’ll notice content is being reduced, re-used and yes, recycled endlessly.

I’ll be the first to admit that not¬†everyone can blog full-time. But that doesn’t mean you can’t share your expertise. First, here is what you don’t do.

Definite don’ts in content curation

Here are some methods of re-using content you really should not consider:

  • Complete blog posts copied into a company website. Luckily I haven’t seen much of this, yet. “Text produced originally on blog X” – This had better be evergreen content because whatever it is, it’s not news. Stay well away from the murky waters of content theft.
  • Tweets that contain no reference to the author of the content it is linking to. This method suggests to casual observers that you’re rolling in home-made content. I’ve seen this a couple of times. How will anyone be able to tell quickly what your personal expertise is?
  • Blogs on company websites that contain image and some text from a different blog, add sauce “Well I think it’s a great contribution on subject X…” blah, blah. Actually I ran into one of these recently. Reading this particular blog left me feeling disappointed and guess what? I went to the original blog that was way better than the drivel I’d just read.

How to apply your expertise effectively

Great ways to use existing content without spending a lot of (extra) time can be swept into two heaps: social network updates, and the light version of blogging.

Updates¬†are great¬†if you don’t want to start blogging in any way:

  • Start by mentioning¬†the original author’s name (Twitter handle¬†for preference) in all your tweets, pins and updates.
  • Refashion the original title if necessary. Make sure your text reflects what you think makes this content worth reading or viewing.
  • Use keywords or hashtags depending on what your audience likes – only if they suit the content of course.

If this sounds like a lot of work in a tight space, you’re right. But it¬†will cost you less time¬†than drafting a¬†full-length original¬†blog post. The same goes for ‘light’ blogging:

  • Write a¬†“Top 3” based on articles¬†you’ve read on a subject in the past week. While you read, jot down what¬†each article adds to your line of work.¬†It doesn’t really matter where you do this:¬†in Notepad, or directly into your planned blog post. Whatever works for you.
  • Or you can collect a few snippets of text¬†and proceed in much the same way.
  • If you’re good at visual¬†representations it’s faster and easier to (re-)visualize content than¬†to write¬†about it.

Your main aim should be to inject your expert opinion, however briefly.

The content curation methods I’ve just described will not lead you to eternal glory but they will allow you to show your expertise without risking your professional credibility or possibly even legal issues.

Do you curate existing content often? Did I miss any methods to curate successfully? If so,¬†you’re welcome to¬†add your comment to my list!

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