What is Good Content, Anyhow?

If you’ve spent any time at all working in social media, you’ve heard the aphorism “Content is King”. Every social media “guru” I’ve ever read or heard has devoted a corner of their web page and at least one presentation talk on why your social media platform will become a wasteland of electronic tumbleweeds and the mournful howl of coyotes, unless you pack it full of content often. 

The advice is sound. You do need content — pictures, posts, videos and funny GIFs — and you do need to post that content on a regular schedule. You have to be diligent. You have to work hard. You have to shop your stuff around to your friends and associates for them to share, tweet out your links, or send them to your Facebook timeline. What happens, though, when you’ve spend countless hours over a couple or three years for King Content and you find yourself without much to show for it? What happens when your site traffic has barely moved for months (or years), despite all the content you’ve created? (tweetable)

Discouragement, that’s what. You slack off posting, maybe from daily to weekly. You “mail in” a post here or there. You grab a stock photo off Google to head up your posts or maybe you don’t even bother with a picture. Does that sound familiar? Hey, that’s where I was not all that long ago. I spent years diligently posting every day — sometimes several times a day. Then I’d get tired or something else would come up and I’d miss a couple days but I’d get right back to it because Content is King and who can build a strong online kingdom without the King? 

Despite all that, though, my traffic numbers stunk. I don’t mean they were a little bit short of where I thought they should be. I mean they were a solid order of magnitude worse than they should have been. I had churned out a lot of content, but I hadn’t taken a lot of care to make sure the content was good.

What is good content? That’s the question asked in a tweet from Sean Hackbarth.

Most important thing to know about being successful on Twitter: Produce good content. But that’s the rub. What’s good/compelling?

I’ve thought about that same question for a few months and have come up with three qualities by which I’d call a piece of content “good”. Take a look and tell me what you think.

1) Is it different? Not everything you create will be a unique and special snowflake but your work shouldn’t look like everyone else’s. (tweetable) I touched on this briefly in this post last week, but let’s go just a bit farther. Say you want to write a story about the manifold failures of your state’s health care exchange. You could write a basic ranty post with a link to a news article, a quote from the article, and a paragraph that’s a variant on “Obamacare LOL”. Of course, that’s exactly the same sort of article a couple or few dozen other bloggers will write too. What will distinguish your work from theirs? A better angle might be to use that news article as a springboard to find quotes from the person who headed up the exchange over time. You could show how the promise that the exchange would work well has slowly slipped to where it is today. You could do a little math and figure out how much money per uninsured person in your state was spent on the site or advertising for the site. You have plenty of choices to give your readers something they won’t find anywhere else. That’s the trick: give people content they won’t get from all the other sites.

2) Is it easy to share? Your blog post may be the greatest thing to hit the blogosphere but if it’s not easy to share, no one will care. (tweetable) Make sure you have plenty of “handles” for folks to grab so they can share your good work with their friends and family. Make sure your “impact” sentences are short enough to tweet (and set up a tweetable for them, to make sharing even easier). Write a lede that people can easily quote in blog posts of their own. Pick images (or better, create your own) for your post that’ll work on Facebook or Pinterest. Give your readers as many ways to share your post as you can. Yes, you’ll have to spend more than a few minutes on your content, but the rewards will be worth the effort.

3) Does it provoke action? I want to be careful here because “action” can mean a lot of things. I’m not talking about the sort of action provoked by trolls and cheap mob rousers. Does your content provoke a positive and constructive reaction from your audience? What that reaction is depends on what call to action you put into it. Sometimes you’ll only get likes or retweets. Sometimes you’ll get comments on your blog post that advance and enrich the conversation you started. Sometimes you’ll get signatures on a petition or phone calls to the office of a legislator or business. You have a whole world of possible actions as your disposal. As a creator of good content, your job is to provoke the right ones. (tweetable)

It’s not enough to merely produce content. Anyone can churn out boring, same-as-everyone-else stuff all day long. You’re better than that. (tweetable) You can produce good content, content that is different, sharable, and provokes action. Right? Right! Now get to creating!

(Photo Credit: skittledog on Flickr)