You Are Your Content (Who Are You Online: Part One)
There are a few solid factors that direct how we, the good people of your audience, feel about you and who you are to us. I’m just guessing here, and this is a longshot, but you probably want to be somewhere between the fun + informative friend and the go-to source for (insert your topic or industry here), yes? If this is not your goal, then this is not the blog series for you, because we are going IN. Okay?
We, the people of your audience, will allow you to be the person you want to be to us, provided you authentically reach us in four major areas: (1) Content, (2) Experience, (3) Social Proof, and (4) Brand Identity. So, in true Regina fashion (translation: I’ve never done this before), I’m using the month of August to address the first three of these four areas (the fourth I’m offering help with through this short eBook and workbook) in a series that shall henceforth and forevermore be titled: #WhoAreYouOnline
There will be checklists, exercises, and worksheets for you. There will be adult homework for you. This series is not for one of your lazy days, it’s for some of your “I’m about to go in.” kinda days.
(Pop culture side note: “Going IN” simply means getting serious about something or taking a long, deep look at it. Another phrase that is similar would be “going hard” or “doing worrrrk” . . . actually I suck at popular culture references. Don’t take my word for any of this. That’s just what I want it to mean. Moving on . . .)
What is Content?
Your content is way WAY more than just your blog posts. Content is anything people can access from you or find out about you online. Your content is your:
- visuals, graphics, photos
- blog posts
- social media updates
- Facebook statuses
- Google+ posts
- Instagram images + videos
- YouTube or Vimeo videos
- About page, Services page, Contact page, every page
- responses on social media and your blog (or, lack of responses)
- emails you send out privately
- email list emails
- handouts and resources you create
- eBooks, classes, and webinars/seminars
- services you provide
- profile pictures on social platforms
- text descriptions and links on social platforms
- backgrounds and custom elements on social platforms
The Content Criteria
(by which we judge you)
Here’s the deal: whether good or bad, people are judging you. It’s not necessarily something to get offended about either; you can use it to your advantage. People will naturally start to define your role to them (your place in their life) based on the content you put out. Do you teach us something? Do you make us laugh? Do you make us want to achieve more in life? If so, we love you, and we give you prominence in our social life. We’ve made the judgment that you are helpful and that we want to keep you around.
There are four “content” factors that help us determine who you are (to us) online:
- How you help us.
- How you entertain us.
- How authentic and confident you are.
- How much time and quality (we perceive) you put into your content.
You trust me, right? And you know the drill, yes? Then feel free to download and print the quick worksheet below (just click on it homies) and use the guide below the image to fill it out completely. Yes, it looks basic, but if you’ll really, really think through it, I think you’ll come up with some helpful conclusions for your brand content.
1. How do you help us? Let’s be honest here. We’re not looking for shallow relationships online. Good looks will attract us, but how you help us and what you do for us is what makes us stick around. Jot down 5 – 10 ideas of content you can develop that will be helpful + valuable to your audience. Draw inspiration from the following places:
- Think about what you consider helpful online.
- Think about your readers and clients, what are they drawn to online. What helps them the most? How do they need that material delivered (audio, text, video, interactive, etc.)?
- Research other blogs/businesses in your field. How are they helping their audiences? What would you add or do differently if you were in their shoes?
- Look at the comments people leave and questions people ask on social media, your blog, and in email or at physical events. Your audience likely asks questions for one of three reasons: (1) They haven’t found the answer elsewhere–yay, an opportunity for you to shine! (2) They’ve found answers elsewhere but are convinced you have a better, more structured, more awesome answer, or (3) They realize they could find the answer using Le Google, but they believe the way you present it will be more convenient and more useful. P.S. This goes for your free and paid content; people will pay for convenience.
- Research other businesses in different industries or other blogs in different niches/genres and see what they do to help clients and readers. Modify it and make it unique to your industry. So, you like the really cool guy who does 15-second recipes on Instagram? Me too. Let’s modify that and make 15-second tutorials, “how to” videos, or inspirational messages for our _________ (fitness community, amateur mixologist audience, fellow designers, or whatever you do).
Huge note: Sometimes the biggest part of being helpful is actually inspiring your audience to change, to achieve, to grow, to (insert whatever they care about here). When you’re thinking of ways to help your audience, think of resources + challenges + motivational words that will require (or draw forth) an actual action from others.
2. How do you entertain us? Even if you’re in the business of educating us (your clients and readers), you can still take time to entertain us. Certainly you remember the difference between teachers/professors who made learning fun and those who monotoned you to boredom. Fill out the second section of the worksheet with notes on what you and your audience consider entertaining online.
- Do you like when people share personal stories that you can relate to and learn from?
- Do you like when people make nerd jokes?
- Does your audience like sarcasm?
- Does your audience like when you share your gaffes and goofups (thus displaying the ability to laugh at yourself, be unapologetically human, and learn from your mistakes)?
- Does your audience enjoy when you go off topic and rant in a cute/appealing way? (Yes. That’s possible. I’d like to think I do it all the time. If you’d like to think differently, don’t.)
- How can you add a bit more entertainment into each piece of content online? How can you create (if applicable to your brand) entire pieces of content that are made solely to entertain?
3. How authentic are you? So, umm, would we get along in real life? Would I feel like you’re telling me the truth and being the most accurate version of yourself? Would you be real with me or would you guard every single idea and thought and word so carefully that I can’t distinguish you from someone else after consuming several pieces of your content? Fill out this section of the worksheet above by thinking of several ways you can show more of who you are in a confident, comfortable way.
- Can you incorporate a few personal photos on Instagram, a few semi-embarrassing moment tweets on Twitter, and a few “deep” thoughts on Google+?
- Can you make sure more of your blog posts include relevant stories from your personal experience?
- Check out this post on using your voice for an exercise to help you get more comfortable online.
4. How much time and quality do we perceive you put into your content? Whether you actually got a professional designer to create your blog post images + social media photos or not is irrelevant. If we feel that you either hired a designer or created these nuggets of excellence yourself, that’s all that matters. “Wow, he actually put real work in on this infographic, this thing would have taken me 37 hours.” or “Say what?! She included a 5-page workbook with this post for free. Amazing!” This is what we say in our heads when you go and add value to our lives simply because you can. That’s sexy. That’s a good look ma dude (can you tell I used to live in Brooklyn? I’m so hip with the slang).
The Three Types of Content
After you go through the worksheet above, it might be useful to categorize your content ideas and brainstorm more ideas based on the three major types of content. Granted, I did write that one post on the 51 Types of Blog Posts you can create, and I did make that download as a part of my eKit on the 25 Types of Content You Can Share on Social Media (baby preview to the right), but in general, there are only three main categories of content you can create:
- Purposeful: “how to” pieces, tips, tricks, tutorials, informational updates, etc.
- Personal: “get to know me” updates, stories, anecdotes, your real life
- Promotional: a post on the book you just wrote, images displaying the new services you offer, etc.
The idea with content is to establish the correct ratio (in each platform you use) of purposeful:personal:promotional. Your ratio will depend on your audience, your brand, your personality, and your desire to meet your client/reader needs.
My blog brand is not built around personal posts. There are exactly zero posts about me–but you can get a sense of who I am by reading my purposeful content. However, my Instagram content is at least 50% personal. You can see the Super Nintendo games I play, the 5Ks I attempt to run, and the Zoolander faces I so accurately make. Is this directly related to my brand that is built to help creative business owners and bloggers? Not exactly, but people often want to respond to you as a person, not just you as a information/product entity.
So, last exercise of the day, think of your main content platform (which is your blog, I hope), and get out your favorite tool (OneNote, Evernote, Wunderlist, pen and paper, Google Docs, Workflowy) to develop a master/running list of content ideas. Set your timer for 10 minutes and write down all your purposeful content ideas. Then set your timer for 5 minutes (each) for your personal and promotional content ideas.
Oh, wait, not done yet. I’m all about mixed metaphors, long titles, and inappropriate uses of phrases and popular culture references, so here is something special I made for you: The 10 Golden Rule Commandments of Blogging and Some Checklists (TGRCBSC). Download, print, hang up, frame, take selfies with, do as you wish:
P.S. Please help me out as this series develops and beyond: Comment below with why you like some of your favorite bloggers. What draws you to them? What made you notice them? How do they consistently deliver on your expectations? What do you wish you’d see more of?
P.P.S. Stay tuned later this month for the second part of our series. With more checklists and whatnot. Oh, and if you want to see it even sooner, like this week, just tweet something with our hashtag: #WhoAreYouOnline and @ me.
Photo of woman: Aleksandra Jankovic
Photo of man in preview image: Eduard Bonnin