Too many platforms not enough content

“Social media sparks a revelation that we, the people, have a voice, and through the democratization of content and ideas we can once again unite around common passions, inspire movements, and ignite change.”

- Brian Solis

In social media land, this would seem an odd message, but it’s my take on things right now.

When I talk about content, I mean something original, novel and interesting. But, perhaps most of all, I mean something produced by you!

Take a platform like LinkedIn (it’s the platform of choice for those in the B2B space). If you’re connected to me, or have read my feed, you’ll have seen me moan more than once about the dearth of connection-centric material and the fact that, much like Google+, it’s a dumping ground for whatever content shows up in someone’s RSS or Twitter feed.

Not surprisingly, I’ve had some push back from people saying that that’s not the reason they’re on LinkedIn, but, frankly, that’s a lame excuse. Perhaps I’m in the minority, but if I was someone who had limited time to use social media and LinkedIn was the only place I surfaced, I would want to make sure that I didn’t just get to hear about job changes, company updates and what the BBC or some well-known blogger had to say. I would want to hear from those I’m connected to in a way that made me remember them, or want to take the conversation further with content that sparked an interest beyond (simple) sales promotion. Of course, there are people who take the time and trouble to produce content for LinkedIn (not those supposed influencers), but the problem for them is that it’s drowned out by everything else. Perhaps a better way to think of LinkedIn is to see it as your own CRM platform where you create a list of people to share your content with privately. Right now that functionality is lost save the minority of people who think nothing of sending a random email to promote some off-topic event or promotion. Shame on them.

And what of Twitter?

I don’t know where you’re at with your follower numbers but unless you’ve got real tight with your Twitter lists – only a few people have bothered to use them – then chances are you struggling to keep up with the number of Tweets, embedded content and the thinking behind the overwhelming noise. At least that’s how it was for me. Having spent too much time on Twitter, I realised that it wasn’t working. For a start, it had become too predictable e.g. the same people were making the same comments or sharing the same material, and I had lost any sense of perspective. In the early days, I looked at Twitter as a place to grow my practice, develop my brand and keep up with the legal sector. Thereafter, I tried to connect with and network with people. I don’t know exactly when things changed but I knew that I had to refine my involvement to make sure that I didn’t abandon Twitter completely.

About a year ago, I decided to limit the people I followed. I wanted to strip things back and then rebuild who I followed or included in lists, only focusing on those areas that I was really interested in. Also, I wanted to find a way to reconnect with aspects of my life that I had neglected. Now, if you check out the people/companies I follow, you will find an eclectic mix but much closer to who I am. And, even though I spend far less time on Twitter than I used to, when I do head over there, I know that I’m going to spend time reading the Tweets, engaging with people and clicking any worthwhile links and not skimming the surface as previously. As to content, I wouldn’t say it’s a huge improvement save that I don’t go anywhere else to find out what someone is saying i.e. Google+ or LinkedIn.

As for Google+, the less said the better. I think it’s a travesty that such a technically strong platform is used by so few people. Not only that but if you were committed enough to produce content only for this platform, then you would quickly recognise that all you were doing was talking to yourself. I know there are exceptions but when I look at those posts that get the most +1s and comments, they are much more likely to be images or videos and not blog posts or even posts written exclusively for Google+.

As I said recently on Google+, I suspect the only reason why people continue with the platform is because they’ve been brainwashed to believe that absent its integration as part of their marketing or business development process, then their SEO ranking will disappear. If that’s all you’re doing then it doesn’t say much for content marketing or your focus on social media.

In my case, I try to share something every day – either my Audioboo micro podcast, my weekly blog (which I publish on a Tuesday) or a story from Cowbird. I also try to look at my friends and acquaintances’ circles and +1 or comment on what they’ve posted. I suspect I spend no more than five minutes per day and whilst I’m not sure I get a huge amount of value from the platform, I do feel that it’s richer in content than LinkedIn or Twitter.

Enough said on the platforms. Back to the case in point; namely the lack of engaging content.

I don’t know your business or modus operandi, but assuming you’ve got your buyer persona nailed down, you’ve carved out writing or creative time and you’ve a plan in mind for your content, then there shouldn’t be any excuse for not being able to produce one piece of quality content per week. You might think that blogs are everything – they are certainly very important – but there’s no reason why you shouldn’t use audio or a short video (try Vine or Instagram) or perhaps a short presentation uploaded to Slideshare.

But of course all of this is meaningless unless you find the time, any time. I know what you’re thinking – the work always comes first – but that’s no reason not to produce something. Let’s face it, if you knew you had 10 minutes today to produce your stellar piece of content then would you really spend that time on Twitter or LinkedIn? Surely your best bet is to type 250 words and share it to your blog or, better still, you could do a short audio on Audioboo, Soundcloud or Cowbird. (If you’ve never heard of these platforms then check them out. They’re excellent.)

The other negative that I hear said why people are not interested in producing content harps back to the ‘What’s In It For Me’ mantra. The glib response would be to say…it’s likely to lead to work, (personal) brand differentiation and raising your profile, but that’s not enough in my opinion. Most people are not bothered sufficiently about their career or business to want to produce something. Instead they default to type using the same suite of marketing or business development tools because it feels safe. But that’s stupid. Unless you’ve seen a significant increase in all of the aforementioned why on earth would you keep doing the same stuff knowing that you’re very likely to get the same outcome? No me neither.

Of course content comes with a big fat question mark but nothing ventured, nothing gained goes the saying. It’s a bit more than that of course. What you have to think about is how you produce content that’s beyond your current capability. If I was back working for someone and they told me to produce a blog a month I wouldn’t keep peddling stuff that didn’t work. I would get help and not necessarily from inside the business. As a start, I would enrol myself on any number of writing classes that abound on the web. In addition, I would look to other industries or sectors and see what makes for engaging copy. In my case, I’ve lost track of the number of times I’ve signposted some of my favourite bloggers like Julien Smith, Chris Brogan, Derek Sivers and Seth Godin but I doubt if anyone has bothered to check them out or better still try to learn from them or someone that they think rocks.

If this all sounds preachy then I’m not about to apologise. I know there’s a temptation to think of content through the prism of cause and effect but I fear you will be sorely disappointed, particularly if you’ve read how blogging can lead to the development of some earth-shattering business.

Content can open doors or lead to new opportunities but you have to think daily about producing the best content you can but more than that you should do what you do because you love it. If you don’t love content then in time you will give up. And whatever spin you put on things you can’t really say that content didn’t work. It’s just that (a) you didn’t do it for long enough and (b) it wasn’t good enough.

OK then, my simple message: if you want to see the benefits of social media then it will only happen when you start to produce brilliant content that engages your audience. Absent that social media will amount to nothing more than a distraction from doing the real work.

If you’re stuck don’t be afraid to reach out and connect with me. I can’t promise to have all the answers but I may unlock some of your creative brilliance that has remained dormant all these years.