Sharing content is for each person a process of testing and learning what works. Every audience is different and there are different dynamics for different kinds of content. After thousands of posts on this blog and a range of different types of content across videos, books, talks and more, here are my lessons for creating content that adds value for an audience.
- Don’t say what others are saying: It frustrates me that so many people follow the advice to post on topical subjects but then all say exactly the same things. I put down many business books when they are full of the same quotes, anecdotes, recommendations and stories. If you want to add value, bring a new and different perspective. For example, instead of describing the announcement of a new feature or product, can you put it in a bigger context, describe what it means for you personally, focus on a specific use case or string it together into a story?
- Start not the End of a Conversation: Recognise that in a community every piece of new content is a trigger for a new conversation. You don’t need to be definitive. You don’t need to answer every question. You can ask questions that remain unanswered or highlight what you would like to know. The discussion about your content will be richer if it is not the end of the road.
- Take a Position: Sitting on fences is not that entertaining. Be bold. Say what you mean. Expect someone to take offence. If there is no opposition to your viewpoint, is it really worthwhile talking about it? Taking a position challenges you to be clear on what you think and why. That is always to the benefit of people who engage with your content. Nobody wants to spend time with your work for a wishy-washy perspective that maybe means something, but might not.
- Build on Your Themes: If you share content consistently (& you should), then a philosophy will underpin that content over time. You will have themes you share regularly, approaches that repeat and a sense of unity to your thinking. Build this into your content and help your users to make sense of the bigger picture and connections in your work.
- Seek Feedback: Before during and after the process of creating content, engage others to get their feedback. Great ideas are one thing. Great conversations are what prompt the best content. The value of feedback is that it can also be the basis for the next piece of content. I have often created further material to respond to questions or suggestion or broken long pieces into parts to extend and open up the conversation.
Here’s the story of one of the more successful post on this site to elaborate these points. I attended Microsoft Ignite in 2017 when Microsoft explained their inner and outer loops approach to collaboration. I immediately celebrated a new found clarity of Microsoft’s collaboration tools. However, I began to reflect that the simple models were missing something. On the long flight from Orlando to Melbourne, I jotted notes on these questions. One thing that struck me was that the model didn’t clarify transition between these loops. As a result some scrawls began the first draft of tables that ended up in the post.
When I got of the plane, I started conversations with other experts in collaboration. People encouraged me to share more and suggested points I had missed. Eventually, with an almost finalised draft, I had a conversation with the Yammer product team to get their thoughts and understand what I might have missed. They encouraged me to clarify a few points and start the conversation. Just before I posted the final draft, I realised that it related to some themes of this blog that both I and Harold Jarche have discussed in our content. That went into the final post too.
The response to that post has also led to posts by others (and here) , great discussions and also further posts as I picked up loose threads and answered questions. The magic of this post is that it is different, extends and enriches a key topic of conversation and people keep coming back to it for that reason.
The way to create value in sharing content is to have it be something that inspires others to action or new discussion. That is the definition of influence. That value only comes if you see your content as part of an ongoing conversation with your audience. Anything else is just shouting into the wind.