After concluding my studies and research about deep work, I have made peace with the fact that my life is inundated with content literally every second I walk out the door or peruse the web. Each piece of content I am exposed to has a very specific motive behind it, hoping that people like me will click around and choose to spend money. Marketing for any product or service has become cutthroat as companies battle to gain attention from distracted and saturated internet users. In an effort to differentiate themselves, companies have taken to content strategy to formulate decisive pillars and action items in order to make lead conversions. Some businesses do a great job of it, while others are still trying to get a hang of how to create, curate, and manage content. At the end of one of my previous blog posts, I invited readers to take a look at the content they consume and interact with. In this post, I am going to practice what I preach. To touch upon a variety of subjects, I am going to break down my relationship with content into three sections: what I create, what I consume, and what I attract. Sounds like a fun time, right? Let’s get into it.
What I Create
If there is one thing I can definitely say about myself, it is that I am no stranger to creating. My background in the arts dates back to even before elementary school. Doodling on every surface within reach was a bad habit, and my creation addiction in my adolescent years has gotten me in trouble more times than I can count. Today, as a more mature creator, the things that I produce have more intent and meaning behind them. Gone are the days where I could sit for hours working on one project that may or may not be finished. Between a full-time job and going to graduate school, any time I find to sit down and seriously create needs to be used on something worthwhile that will have a receptive audience.
Right now, I am focused on using content to enhance my personal brand. On LinkedIn, personal branding is a hot topic that is taking users and corporations by storm. Personal branding allows you to establish and promote what you stand for – essentially upping your reputation as a thought leader. Many influencers (although they don’t like the word) on LinkedIn like Kerri Twig, Adam Karpiak, Goldie Chan, and Allen Gannett have been able to create and curate content that has added to their brand presence. To contribute to my personal brand as “Digital Daredevil,” I create and curate content that is useful to my mission. Take this very blog, for example. I use it to not only educate my readers but to enhance my understanding of the very subjects I am writing about. As a whole, this blog acts as a conduit for my value as a professional and demonstrates my thought leadership within the digital sphere.
“It’s important to build a personal brand because it’s the only thing you’re going to have. Your reputation online, and in the new business world is pretty much the game, so you’ve got to be a good person. You can’t hide anything, and more importantly, you’ve got to be out there at some level.”
– Gary Vaynerchuk
With any content I create for professional use, I take a detailed approach by branding it and tagging my posts appropriately so it can be easily found by new and returning readers. The same detailed approach is taken when I organize files. A series of clearly labeled folders and color codes help me to distinguish what to keep, where assets are stored, and what subject the content falls under. I cannot say I am a content hoarder as the majority of my work was created within the past year – but who knows what atrocities I could commit after a couple more. As all of my content is digital, having a strategy set in place is super helpful when pulsing it out. Medium writer, Mathew Lowry, states that a personal content strategy helps to funnel out what does and doesn’t matter – especially when curating content. Granted, I am still trying to figure out what works best for me but I do have to say I have found a sweet spot in content curation. Trial and error experiments are necessary to determine the timing, frequency, and targeting of content, so for now, I am not bothered by the fact it is not where I would like it to be.
In summation, the content that I put the most effort into creating are bold, lighthearted pieces that will enhance my brand and foster my reputation as a thought leader. Through my brand, I hope to impart curiosity, motivation, and positivity; exactly the feelings I experience when I consume a good piece of content.
What I Consume
The past year has been dedicated to me learning and growing. As this is my first year out of undergrad and into the workforce full-time, I have made it my mission to keep learning in any way I can. I turn to sources like HubSpot, General Assembly, Social Media Today, Harvard Business Review, and many others to satiate my hunger for knowledge. On social media platforms like LinkedIn and Twitter, I followed people who were doing innovative things in my areas of interest. Sometimes my efforts were a bust – like following someone who actually was a nasty person or clicking on an article that yielded no helpful takeaway – but I do have to say what I have consumed thus far has helped me become a stronger, more valuable professional.
To keep track of content that is important to me, I have an additional series of folders (so original, I know.) One of them is in my bookmarks bar in Chrome and the other is on my desktop where I store PDFs and eBooks. These are compartmentalized by subject and importance. Extremely relevant content that is either timely or complex gets its own spot on my bookmark bar or is situated right on my desktop, front and center.
“What I love about content is it has the power to change people’s lives for a second or for a day or forever. Great content creates space for people to pause and reflect, and that space is where transformation happens.”
– Jolie Miller
While I do my best to stay very focused, some content I consume is neither something I’m interested in nor is it something I am actively looking for. On my personal social media pages, ads and rogue content run rampant. Whether I like it or not, I consume those too, and sometimes they are not at all satisfying. On Facebook, I get everything ranging from the pages I follow to sketchy sites wanting to sell me cheap, trendy clothes. On the internet, you are always going to be exposed to things you do not want or need to see, regardless of your privacy settings or preferences, so just be sure to scroll through the vitriol. However in many cases, what you give is what you get, so you can’t exactly be surprised.
What I Attract
Through my position at Merck Animal Health, I have been able to gain a deeper understanding of how social media works. Targeting, paid promotion, and lookalike audiences are just some of the ways a marketer can reach their desired audience. This newfound knowledge made me curious; what kind of content am I attracting based off of these marketing practices and algorithms? For around a month, I paid close attention to the ads and content that were being served to me. The majority of them circled around viral content that I might enjoy based off of my likes, while another large handful prioritized personal things like cosmetics, clothing brands, and shops I’ve frequented. These more general ads were served to me on a daily basis – on some occasions, I’d see the same ad around five times each day. When it came to attracting actual content I was interested in, such as eBooks, articles, and videos, these popped up less. Did content marketers think that I wasn’t worth the exposure and spend?
I found that I was only served content when I started interacting with a company’s products, returning to their website frequently, or sharing something from them. This was interesting to me because with companies that are CPG or retail focused, if I so much as went on their website ONCE, I was bombarded with ads and content as soon as I went back to my social media feeds. The subjects/businesses that I was actually interested in made me work for their content. Perhaps this is a way to kill off weak leads? In retrospect, I would have to say that the majority of the “real” content I attracted aligned nicely with how I try to position my personal content. The visuals were bright, the language colloquial and informative, and the messaging focused around enhancement. All around my experience with content has been pretty positive – exactly the way I like to maintain my online presence.
We are exposed to and interact with content every day. Whether we are absorbing it through social media or creating our own, content affects the way we think, feel, and express ourselves. By cultivating what is important to us as individuals, it is possible to foster a personal brand that promotes visibility and trust. While it is great that building a more intimate relationship with content can grow new opportunities, be aware that it takes time. Success never happens overnight so be sure to be strapped in for the long run. In the meantime, check out the rest of the content on my blog and connect with me on LinkedIn to experience my personal brand for yourself. I’ll see you there!