Content creator tips: 5 ways to write good posts
Common content creator questions
Before I launched Content Marketing Startup, I asked people who were interested in learning to become a content creator what questions they had. I shared some of their questions around how to get started last week.
This week, let’s focus on a dilemma every new content creator faces: how to write good posts.
This is a broad topic, but here are five basic questions I’ve been asked:
Do I write my own stuff, share links, or something else? How do I find relevant content? As a busy content creator, how do I find time to write those pesky posts? How do I avoid duplicating stuff that’s already out there? How do I write to get my message across?
Let’s look at how good post-writing strategy plays out in practice.
Q: I’m a content creator newbie: Do I write original stuff, share links, or…?
The short answer to this question is, “yes, all of the above.”
To become an effective content creator, you’ll need to get comfortable with writing lots of different material including original blog articles, social media posts, comments on others’ posts, e-books and even scripts for podcasts or videos.
But unless you’re incredibly proficient it’ll be difficult to write original long-form material every day. And yet some type of daily contact with your audience is essential to maintain your visibility, helpfulness and relevance.
Content creator best practice
A good content creator best practice is to consistently mix original long-form content, shared links (curated content), comments and promotional material on a regular basis.
For example, each week I write one long-form blog post. But I also curate and link to five or ten articles that others have written, with short comments on their relevance to my audience.
I also comment directly on LinkedIn and Facebook posts I find interesting, which automatically get shared on the feeds of my contacts in those channels. And, I try to write one shamelessly self-promotional post every week or so – especially if I have a special offer that’s active.
Do you think this multi-faceted approach would help you plan and execute your posts? Let me know in the comments below.
Q: How do I find relevant content?
The job of a content creator is to write to help your audience succeed in their jobs or personal lives. That starts with defining what matters to your audience (using personas) and matching your content charisma (personality) with that of your readers.
To find relevant ideas for original material:
Use a detailed outline of your content topic, organized according to your unique perspective. Extend and refine your outline continuously.
Ask your audience what questions they have. Then answer them.
Read what others have written about your topic, and write about those subjects through your own lens.
Keep a running list of questions and ideas as they pop up.
Listen to your customers and capture success stories and case studies.
If you’ve chosen a subject you’re passionate about, you’re likely to search, read and react to lots of material about that topic every day.
That’s like gold for a content creator, especially when it comes to curating articles.
To share relevant curated content:
Post links on social media, adding brief comments on your perspective and the article’s relevance to your audience. (Don’t just post the link.)
Write a roundup or list-type blog post on multiple articles, with links.
Write a review of previously published material. Reviews work best for meatier content such as books, courses, e-books or even software.
When curating content, always give credit to the original author, and always provide your original observations. In other words, don’t plagiarize.
Content creator tips: How to find material online
To find published material to share or analyze:
Conduct Web searches on keywords in your topic.
Use Google Alerts to receive emails about newly published material.
Subscribe to blogs and online publications in your field.
Join professional associations in your field and monitor their websites.
Join LinkedIn and Facebook groups that include your personas, and follow the discussions.
Subscribe to a story digest site such as Medium.
Have you tried any of these techniques? Do you have other tips to suggest for new content creators? Share your thoughts in the comments below.
Q: I’m really busy. How do I find time to be a content creator?
I wish I could tell you that being a content creator takes very little time, but that would be “fake news.” The truth is it can be very time-consuming and requires an efficient schedule, discipline and some automation to do it well.
Make a schedule and stick with it
Content creation is one of the most time-consuming aspects of content marketing. Quality long-form blog posts (or videos, or e-books) especially require a lot of time for a content creator to research, write, edit, format and publish.
To use your time wisely, draw up a periodic schedule once you have a solid plan and sequence for your blog topics.
- Determine a recurring day and time to publish and work back from there.
- Reserve time for each step leading up to the publishing date.
- Allow plenty of time for research and writing – this could easily take a day, two days or more.
- According to a study by ConvertKit, 52% of bloggers write either the day before or on the same day as they plan to publish. If possible, give yourself an extra day or two after writing but before publishing to refine your research, find supportive graphics and get input from others.
With your schedule set, stick to it with discipline to create and publish original content consistently. Regular blog posts add fresh content to your site (important for improving search traffic) and establish credibility and trust so make them your priority.
What about curated content?
In between blog posts, you’ll need to keep your content marketing engine fueled with curated content.
Fortunately, there’s a growing set of free and low-cost software tools to help automate this job for the startup content creator. I covered several of these briefly in my post 9-Step Social Media Checklist for Startups. Here are a few more automation tips:
Content creator automation tips
Use automated searches to keep your pipeline of potential curated material full. Tools such as Google Alerts, Medium and blog subscriptions are much more efficient than conducting your own online searches. It’s like getting a suggested reading list in your inbox every day!
Use Buffer, Hootsuite, Post Planner or similar tools to set up a social posting schedule and load up the content links you like along with your comments. Once scheduled and loaded, these tools post automatically on your behalf to multiple social channels. This allows you to dedicate a single chunk of time every day or so to curate content, rather than scattering this task inefficiently throughout each day.
Use Sniply to link curated content back to your website, sign-up form or other call to action. Besides driving traffic from shared third-party links, Sniply can save you time by loading links directly into Buffer or Hootsuite.
Are you ready to get efficient? What other time-savers have you tried? Use the comments section below to weigh in on this topic.
Q: How do I avoid duplicating stuff that’s already out there?
LiveScience estimates that there were over 1 billion websites and nearly 5 billion web pages in existence in early 2016. Message security company GWAVA calculates that nearly 3 million Facebook posts and 400 hours of YouTube video are uploaded every minute.
Chances are good your blog post won’t be entirely unique.
So what’s a conscientious content creator to do to avoid (or reduce) duplication? Here’s a quick list of do’s and don’ts.
Content creator do’s
Do start from your narrow niche business definition to select topics.
Do write about your personal ideas, using your personal voice and style.
Do give credit whenever you share information from someone else.
Do add value when you share information from someone else.
Do conduct research first to see what else is being said.
Do provide comparisons, alternatives, personal examples and other amplification of content someone else has shared.
Do keep your specific audience and personas in mind as you write about their interests.
Do focus on the unique, less common or poorly understood areas of popular topics.
Content creator don’ts
Don’t attempt to write about broad topics such as “entrepreneurship” or “personal development.” Stay in a narrower niche.
Don’t quote large sections of someone else’s content. Keep quotes short.
Don’t simply link to someone else’s content. Add your own commentary.
Don’t rewrite someone else’s content in your words, but with their flow, structure and theme.
Don’t claim (or imply) that another’s unique idea or concept is your own.
Don’t simply list third-party content in a round-up or list article. Describe how they relate and contrast to one another.
Have you struggled with duplicate content in your writing? How have you dealt with that issue? Share your thoughts in the comments area below.
Q: As a content creator, how do I get my message across?
Well, first of all it’s not about you or your message. It’s about your reader and their needs. Write to them as individuals and address their interests, and you’ll be on the right track.
Still, you’re not writing without goals and objectives, which probably include getting your readers to seriously consider your solutions to their issues.
Here are some tips that every content creator can use to be more effective with their writing.
Write to your audience
Your audience determines what you write about. Keep their needs and interests in mind with every word you write.
If you haven’t done so already, create personas for each potential type of reader you’re trying to reach. That will define the needs, wants, pains and interests that you need to address.
As you write, keep those persona definitions near your computer. Try to imagine what your readers are going through at a personal level.
In other words, write from a perspective of empathy.
Spend time on the title
Take almost as much time to craft the title as you do on the rest of the words. If your subject line isn’t catchy, compelling or clear you’ll never get a chance at communicating, because your post won’t get read.
Organize before you write
No one has time to read a poorly organized post.
Before you write the first word, take time to plan a well-organized flow, structure and theme for your piece. After the post’s title, this is the second-most important way to get readers to pay attention to your content.
Think about how much effort it will take to read from beginning to end. If the flow isn’t clear and forward leaning, no one will get to your stunning conclusion.
Improve your writing
At a bare minimum use correct grammar, punctuation and spelling. If those are a challenge for you, get an editor to help. I’ve stopped reading many a post after one paragraph of poor English.
Beyond that, Barry Feldman recently shared a great article on word power for content creators. His points were based on 100 Ways to Improve Your Writing, a book by Gary Provost.
Barry covered 12 points in all, but the three that struck home for me were to use active voice, strong verbs and short words.
Write as if you’re talking
When you write blog posts and similar content, try to imagine that your readers are in a conversation with you. Yes, you’ve got the pulpit for a while, but what if you invited a response now and then? Would that help?
See if you can spot the places in this post where I’ve tried that technique (including this sentence).
Get a second opinion
Before you publish your post, get a second look. Ask a colleague, a friend or a professional writer or editor to read your draft and give you feedback.
Keep the door open to constructive criticism, and use that to improve your post effectiveness.
Good posts are your goal as a content creator
To become a content creator you’ll need to learn how to write good posts. I hope these tips and strategies help make your post stand out above the noise on the Web.
Your feedback on this topic is important to me. If you’re just getting started as a content creator, what questions do you have? Please use the comments section below to share your thoughts, ideas, stories and suggestions.
After all, we’re in a conversation, aren’t we?
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