Here’s a mistake I see from many aspiring content creators. Maybe you have done this:
You have an idea or framework that inspires you... so you think that it must also excite other people, too. Understandable!
Therefore you put lots of time (and money) into packaging that idea into a book… or a course... or other product… or maybe you create an amazing video after much hard work.
And then you share it on social media, or with your email list, and what happens?
Far less response than you hoped for...
What happened? You experienced a core human bias -- to be inside your own head. You’ve neglected to adequately test the idea, or the way it's expressed, to see if it really inspires other people -- besides yourself -- before you spent all that effort!
Maybe you think it’s a visibility issue, so you try even harder to promote it.
Still, the result is baffling to you: why is something that’s obviously so good (in your mind) not a huge game-changer for others?
Why aren’t people getting it?!
You might even become resentful or cynical…
If you experience this again and again, you might sadly decide to quit your content creation altogether, believing that it's just "not your thing".
I hope you will always remember this:
Your passion is not a bad idea... it's how you are sharing the message.
You need to experiment with different ways, always in the mindset of testing, until you discover a way of sharing that other people easily "get."
I recommend that you learn and practice The Three Stages of Content.
Stage 1: Casual Content
This is where it all starts.
For example, I casually make three short videos while on my long Saturday walks with my dog. In each video, I share an idea that I think might be helpful to some clients and audience members.
In fact, what inspired this post was one of my casual videos. See the original video here: www.FB.com/GeorgeKao/posts/10106365973759363
2018 Update: By this point, I've created so much content that now, most of my week is spent doing Stage 2 content (I'll describe that later.) Still, I do make one Stage 1 Video each Friday, through Facebook Live.
I have low or no expectations about how these casual videos turn out. At this stage, I spend as little effort as possible. Therefore, I am not concerned whether the content gets many likes or comments.
There’s a distinction here: I care about my audience, and my own explorations, to keep making Stage 1 Content. Yet I don’t care how people respond (if at all) because Stage 1 is meant to be exploratory and experimental!
Here are the principles of Stage 1 Content...
(1) Either explore a new idea, or try a different way of saying an old idea.
(2) Test the idea with the market by sharing it on social media (or if you feel shy, then share it first with a supportive group of friends). Have zero expectations for responses.
(3) Minimize your energy and time when making Stage 1 Content, since you don’t know if your audience will like it, no matter how important you believe the message to be. “Casual” is the word that helps me in this situation. Definition of casual: relaxed and unconcerned; temporary or impermanent.
(4) Be prolific and consistent with your Stage 1 Content, so that you give yourself many opportunities to explore ideas and different ways of saying things, spending as little energy as you can for each piece. Remember, you are testing here, not trying to be perfect or polished!
In fact, anything that is posted or published for the first time is by definition Stage 1 content, whether it took 5 minutes or 5 years to make, because Stage 1 is all about the audience’s feedback to something they're seeing for the first time.
I’ve noticed that no matter how unpolished my content is, the choice of topic or how I frame it makes all the difference for whether there is audience engagement.
Only if it gets good feedback from the audience do I then take something to Stage 2…
Stage 2: Improve on What’s Liked
Once a month, go back to your recent Stage 1 Content, and see which pieces received the most likes, positive comments, or shares, especially from people who are your ideal readers or clients.
These well-liked pieces are worth your effort to bring into Stage 2!
This is where you:
Once you’ve made your edits, share the piece again, but this time with a wider audience.
Perhaps you shared the Stage 1 version with a small group of friends/colleagues. Your Stage 2 content can then be shared publicly on social media, and to your email subscribers. Maybe use some advertising dollars to promote that content.
If you have any friends/colleagues who have an audience that might really enjoy this re-edited piece of content, consider emailing it to them personally. Let them know that this idea had traction with your audience, and then you made it even better, and would love to see what they think.
Besides improving and re-sharing, you might also want to re-purpose this piece of content into another format -- for example, turn an article into a video… or a video into an article.
Stage 3: Integrate & Productize
Once a quarter, take a look at your collection of Stage 2 content, and categorize them into overall themes or topics.
Then, take these categories and consider turning them into a formal product, such as a book or course! In other words, this third stage is about creating something that can add to your income and your legacy.
In fact, each of my books are Stage 3 pieces. It combines my Stage 2 posts into a themed and sequenced package, with a designed cover and table of contents.
Your content will have a much greater chance at success if you follow these 3 Stages.
Too many people ignore Stages 1 & 2 (or don’t even realize they exist), and jump right into writing a book or creating an online course, and are baffled when it’s not successful. In other words, you might be creating content for Stage 2 right away (spending a lot of time writing an article or making a video), before it’s gone through the Stage 1 process of testing with the market.
It's also helpful to understand that what you’re seeing from others is oftentimes their Stage 2 or Stage 3 stuff. We often don’t notice other people’s Stage 1 content because the algorithms of social media and search engines show us mostly what’s already working (what is already getting above-average engagement).
And that’s good news for us creators too: we don’t have to be concerned that our Stage 1 content will get too much visibility, because if it isn’t actually good, it will normally get buried by other Stage 2 content!
I hope this post will encourage you to take it step-by-step to try out many ideas, and discover what the world truly needs from you.
I hope that following these 3 stages, with a playful experimentation mindset, will help you enjoy your content creation process.
Now, go into your own Stage 1 content with gusto... be casual, be prolific, be experimental!
In case you're wondering, the above post started as a Stage 1 video in early 2017 with some written thoughts. My audience liked it, and so I edited the writing and re-shared it as a Stage 2 article. Finally, I also integrated it into Stage 3 it became a chapter in my book Authentic Content Marketing.
George Kao is a Marketing Coach for small business owners, especially solopreneurs such as Coaches and Mentors. He focuses on ethical & effective ways to grow one's platform and build true livelihood.
All content on this website is Creative Commons CC0 license -- No Rights Reserved. Feel free to use or repurpose it however you like!
Here's why :)