Peanut butter and jelly. Batman and Robin. Eggs and ham. You’ve probably heard of these famous pairs (or, in some cases, noshed on them), but for inbound marketers, there’s one pair in particular that goes hand-in-hand: content and marketing.
Ninety percent of marketing companies use content marketing as part of their strategy. Still, that doesn’t mean all the content they create is top-notch, compelling, valuable content.
But what does it take to become a good content creator? How do I become one that peers in my industry would look to for advice and opinions? Let me tell you a secret: It all starts with what you do before you put your fingers to a keyboard.
Whether you work on a content team at your company or you’re riding solo, there are some tried-and-true habits you can adopt that will put you on the path to being a truly successful content creator.
Fair warning, though, marketers: Like all good things, it’s not going to happen overnight. And it shouldn't, because you're trying to get good at it, not just simply do it. But the sooner you start working these five habits into your routine, the sooner you'll be well on your way to becoming a high quality content creator.
Habits of Successful Content Creators
1) Read Industry-Related News Daily
Creating great content that really resonates with your target audience requires you to know what’s going on in your industry. And the best content creators scour -- not just read, but scour -- the internet for industry news and trends. This sets them up nicely to understand the context behind what’s happened historically in their industry and how that shapes their target audience's mindset in the present.
Get in the habit of reading by putting everything you read in one place. You can set up an RSS feed with an app like Feedly for blogs you know that contain relevant industry news. Also, ask a few colleagues what they’re reading these days and follow suit. Discover where your buyer persona spends time online and snag those blogs, too. Ahead of the game and have a few favorites already? Add ‘em to the list.
2) Write on the Regular
If you don’t use it, you lose it. Successful content creators understand the importance of constantly flexing their writing muscles. Doing so helps them work through ideas that might be jumbled in their head and identify nuggets that could turn into fully realized ideas later. Successful content creators may not always be inspired to write, but they know something inspiring can come from their writing.
Get in the habit of writing by doing it daily or every other day. I’m not saying you need to write a polished, 1500-word essay on an industry-relevant topic daily. Rather, I’m talking about setting aside 10 or 15 minutes to jot down some thoughts and ideas. Figure out when your mind is the clearest -- for most people, that’s after or during a cup of coffee -- and just free-form write. What did you read yesterday that stuck with you? What didn’t you understand? Asking yourself those questions should start the flow.
3) Curate Content (When It Makes Sense)
There’s no shortage of people curating content these days. In fact, anyone on the internet can take someone else’s content and retweet it, share it on Facebook, pin it -- the list goes on. But successful content creators know it’s not enough to take relevant industry news and spit it back out to your fans and followers.
“You must also position yourself as an expert and genuinely interact with your communities,” says Guy Kawasaki, the New York Times best-selling author. Sharing content isn't enough. Engaging with the content you're sharing now makes it unique to you.
Get in the habit of curating content when you have something valuable to add. Now that you’ve started scouring the internet on a regular basis for industry news, you probably have a wider depth of knowledge than you think. So be confident, and give your readers additional, useful information or even a thought or opinion when sharing others' content. Your networks will appreciate it, and the author probably will too (or it could at least spark a debate -- bonus!).
4) Network at Every Opportunity
Successful content creators know their success is due not only to their passion, but also to those who taught them, inspired them, and pushed them to think in different ways.
This is one way content creators grow into successful content creators. They’ve accepted the fact there’s more to learn than what they already know, and they’re open to new ways of thinking. Networking forces you to do just that. It's a time to listen to others' ideas and take them into consideration alongside your own.
Get in the habit of networking by seizing the countless opportunities you have to do it. They aren’t called social networks for nothing! Spend some time on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn to check out who the thought leaders are in your industry and follow them.
Once you do that, you can ease into in-person networking. If you’re not a natural extrovert, the thought of networking can make you cringe. Make it easy on yourself and start small with colleagues. You already have something in common, so striking up a conversation in the kitchen or at your desks shouldn’t be too scary.
5) Question Everything
Polished content creators are curious by nature. They’ve learned to be curious about the internal knowledge they already have and the external information that's being promoted out in the world. It's the insights that come from this inherent curiosity that makes great content.
“You need to be curious to identify problems worth solving,” says Lorraine Twohill, head of marketing at Google, “and then come up with new solutions.” It's these proposed solutions to age-old problems that gets content creators on the radar.
Get in the habit of questioning the status quo by constantly playing devil’s advocate. Taking the contrarian view of a piece of content can be difficult at first, but if you start to question why the author thinks this way and what happened in the industry that triggered this viewpoint, you’ll begin to think more critically about the content you’re consuming. And if you didn’t know, critical thinkers make great content creators.
There’s a lot of pressure on inbound marketers today to churn out great content as part of their marketing strategy -- so much so that 18% of marketers confirmed that developing quality content was their top priority this year. If you’re part of that 18%, know that being a successful content creator starts with the habits you form, as they'll set you up to produce some seriously valuable content for your target audience.
Image credit: Sebastien Wiertz