There are few words in the marketing lexicon more odious than “content.” It is a conceptual insult not just to our industry, but our entire identities, a buzzwordian affirmation of every creative professional’s innate dread that the entirety of our daily output is totally meaningless. We’re not illuminating truths or exposing injustices or furthering human connection — we’re plugging time holes with face snacks. It’s an aggressively unspecific word, a catch-all phrase that can incorporate any kind of media or format or abstract occurrence. It is a top-down word, infused with inequality; it is not a thing anyone strives to create, it is a thing corporations demand. It is instantly disposable and intellectually unchallenging. No one ever wants it but they must never stop getting it. “What do you need?” “Content.” “And when do you need it?” “In perpetuity.”
For awhile there people in our business liked to say “content is king.” This is incorrect. Kings make the rules. Content is lawless. Kings are constant. Content is fleeting. Content is not king. Content is more like a viscount. A baronet. Content is the queen’s goofy third cousin who’s a little too into trains.
No, content is not king. Money is king. Anyone who doesn’t know this is woefully confused about what business is and should be kicked out of the private sector immediately. You don’t have to like it. I don’t like it. Money is the worst. It’s a made-up, arbitrary system of calculations that determines whether people live or die. No judgments, but if you like money, you’re a terrible person. Money doesn’t care if you like it. That’s why it’s king.
Content really, really cares if you like it. Content exists for the sole purpose of being liked. Likes lead to more likes which lead to more viewers which lead to more content which leads to more likes. Liked content is wonderful. Everyone loves liked content. When people share liked content they get likes, and everyone likes getting likes. When content purveyors try to get awards for their content they create submission videos sayings things like “we got 1.5 million likes.” And the people giving the awards are impressed because content with that many likes must be very likable indeed. But they’re still not sure so they give the award to whichever submission video about likes gets the most likes.
Unliked content is tragic. Unliked content is an embarrassment. Unliked content is the goldfish your parents got you as a tester pet when you were really asking for a dog, and when it’s found belly up no one cares and your parents get you the dog anyway.
There is far more unliked content than liked content. Unliked content is everywhere. It fills up our feeds and muscles in on our search queries and gets in our way when we’re trying to accomplish things. Unliked content is the backbone of the Internet. Unliked content never goes away, it just sits there, waiting for someone to not like it all over again.
Here’s a secret though: liked content is no better than unliked content. Three hundred people like an article called “How to End World Hunger.” Twenty million people like an article called “Look at These Dumb Cats.” Which article is better? If you said the one with twenty million likes, congratulations! You’re ready to make content.
So now that we know what content is, here are six great tips for creating content that grabs their faces and doesn’t let go for hours, sometimes days.
1. Use Pictures. Words are boring and hard to read. Pictures are interesting and neat to look at. You would never read a book without pictures, would you? So why should content be any different? See below for an example of a picture.
2. Be Brief. People have things to do. They want to see your content, like it, and get on to the next piece of content. They don’t need complexity or intellectually-stimulating discourse getting in their way.They just want more pictures. Like this.
3. Use hashtags. Hashtags are a highly scientific content organization system that no one over 30 understands. #This is a hashtag. So is #this. They might even be the same hashtag; I don’t know, I don’t really get it. What I do know is when it comes to hashtags, the more, the better. If your content is not at least 70% hashtags then you’re doing it wrong. If you want to do it right, the best course of action is to pay a 23 year-old $180K / year to be your social media manager.
4. Have an opinion. Nowadays, everyone has an opinion on everything. You don’t even need to know anything on a topic to have an opinion. People like opinions; they show conviction. And conviction shows unwillingness to change based on new information, which is a very attractive quality in today’s landscape. Brands should be no different. But make sure you don’t have too much of an opinion. Too much of an opinion can be controversial. Have an opinion that you’re pretty sure most people will like. And if people don’t like your opinion, blame it on your 23 year-old social media manager.
5. Post routinely. But not too much. But not too little. People don’t want to be bothered by you. They also don’t want to have to seek you out. They want to be reminded that you exist without being burdened by your existence. Like the Queen, or Tom Hanks.
6. Include a CTA. That means “call to action.” A CTA is a thing telling people to do something. The end result of a CTA is more clicks, more likes, more money. If you’d like to know more about CTAs, read this other article I wrote.
Maybe these tips will help you. They probably won’t. The truth is, none of us knows what we’re doing. We’re all in a state of perpetual confusion, just trying our best to stay aloft in the violently churning waters of today’s media landscape. All the stats are invented, most media dollars are wasted, every piece of content is a total crap shoot that’s far more likely to be mocked or ignored than it is to be enjoyed. And even if it is enjoyable, its only real purpose is to temporarily distract us from the insufferable, overwhelming mess that is daily life in the year 2019. Which, come to think of it, is maybe the most noble calling of them all.
And now that we’ve reached the end of this particular piece of content, all I ask in return is that you like and share it. Which brings me to my final tip: Don’t be afraid to demand the likes you’ve earned. Great content doesn’t just get attention. Great content takes it.