Like my favorite ketchup-salesman-turned-presidential nominee said when he quoted Pokemon: The Movie 2000, life can be a challenge. Life can seem impossible. It’s never easy when so much content is on the line.
Okay, I’m paraphrasing a bit there, but what I’m getting at is: Creating content can be hard. An impossible challenge, seemingly. What does it take to create good stuff? Years of practice? (Yes.) Tons of discipline? (Probably.) A million industry contacts? (Couldn’t hurt.) To create truly compelling, informative, and above all, entertaining content, you need all of that as well as a few good habits. But, what habits exactly?
To find out for sure, I reached out to a few successful content creators to see how they do things. All of them have been creating a wide variety of work for the better part of a decade, so be sure to take their valuable advice and apply it to your own methods. Whether you’re a content marketer working in-house, on a team, for a third-party client, or just someone who wants to get a little creative online, here are 6 tips from successful content creators:
Kevin Lieber has over 100,000 Twitter followers and nearly 4 million subscribers on his VSauce2 YouTube Channel—and that’s not even counting his personal pages. You could say he knows a thing or two about successful content creation. As producer, host, and researcher at VSauce2, an equally entertaining and educational show about strange science and technology, Kevin gets right to the point when it comes to creating visual content: Be your own critic.
“Make videos that you are excited to watch when they’re done,” Kevin advises. “Video-making can be a laborious process if you’re not looking forward to the result. So make what you want to watch, listen to feedback, and always make the next video you make the best one yet.”
Video content will soon become most of all Internet traffic. That should underline the position of video as the visual medium to send a message in the modern age, and Kevin’s advice should encourage the production of high-quality content. If you don’t want to make it, nobody will want to see it.
Now that you want to make something, you should know your audience and your purpose. Johnathan Gibbs, producer and host of podcast This QPOC Life, emphasizes the importance of passion and understanding your niche: “With This QPOC Life I know who my audience is, I know what I want to do, and I know that Internet fame is not part of the equation. My focus is to share the stories and perspectives of Queer People of Color. I do this because I am a firm believer in representation mattering, so that someone like me might find a voice that resonates with theirs. I want people like me to feel included. Find something that you’re passionate about and create toward that. If you do that, subscribers, followers, etc. will be an afterthought.”
Great content is useless unless you know who you’re delivering it to and why, and that could require complex analytics or market research. Or it can be as simple as satisfying an underserved niche. Whatever the method, you should engage your listeners, readers, or viewers on a personal level like Johnathan does.
“Having an editorial calendar is key to making great content,” Michael explains. “Every week at Tom’s Guide we brainstorm stories around major trends and events, such as helping people find the best TVs for the Super Bowl, and come up with a publishing schedule that’ll allow those stories to be seen by as many people as possible and have a strong impact. Having planned coverage on a weekly (or even monthly) basis helps ensure a steady flow of content, and can eliminate the kind of crunch that comes with trying to meet a quota or cover a hot new topic thoroughly.”
Johnathan echoes the importance of consistency: “If you do manage to capture an audience, no matter whether it’s 10, 100, or 1 million people, treat them right. They’re the ones appreciating your creation. They’re the ones you’re doing this for. If they weren’t then you’d be doing the thing without posting it online. Being consistent, in my experience, has generated buzz for the next episode, has generated feedback, has encouraged listeners to share our work, and has lead to some pretty interesting one-on-one conversations with listeners who have reached out to express their gratitude and even ask for help.”
A consistent plan means more carefully crafted content that will gain a loyal audience who will in turn, share and grow your audience’s numbers, which can then convert into sales. And if your content can turn into a real public good that genuinely helps people, then all the better.
Meanwhile, Tatjana Vejnovic has been writing for a variety of tech and gaming websites for eight years. She says if you’re a writer, you shouldn’t be afraid of writing: “If you’re just getting started, but you want to write, don’t wait for someone to hire you! Start your own blog; make posts on Facebook for your friends to read, even. Practice makes perfect, and if you don’t practice, you won’t get anywhere. Don’t stress too much about focusing on one subject, either. Write about as many things as you can, and share them with as many people as you’re comfortable with. You are your own worst critic, and what might seem like your worst piece might be your best to many others.”
Tatjana’s latest role is Senior Reporter of Overwatch Wire at USA Today, which covers one of the most popular esports in the world. Everyday, she must pay close attention to the matches, teams, individual palyers, and controversies of Blizzard’s insanely popular team-based shooter. “Esports can be intimidating. I’ve only been writing about esports for a few weeks, and the best advice I can give is to reach out to other writers in the community. There’s a lot to learn! Don’t be afraid to ask questions.”
“That’s lesson number one: Always be learning,” Johnathan adds. “If you’re new to the scene, do your research online, watch YouTube videos, take a class, or do all of the above. The most important thing is that you are creating. If you have a general idea of how to use the tools available to you, get to it!”