The 3 Stages of Content

​A common mistake that I see from aspiring content creators. Maybe you have done this too:

You have an idea that inspires you… so you think that it must also excite other people, too. Understandable!
Therefore you put lots of time (and maybe money) into packaging that idea into a book… or course… or you create an amazing video after a lot of hard work.

You share it with the world.

What usually happens?

Far less response than you hoped for…

You just fell for a core human bias — to be inside your own head. You’ve neglected to adequately test the idea 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 harder to promote it.

Still, the result is baffling: why is something that’s obviously so good (in your mind) not a game-changer for others?

Why aren’t people getting it?!

You might become resentful or cynical…

If you keep experiencing this, you might even decide to quit altogether, believing that it’s just “not your thing”.

I hope you will always remember this:

No matter what, your passion is a good idea… but how you share it will determine the response.

You need to experiment with different ways of sharing the idea, in the mindset of testing, until you discover a way that other people easily “get.”

In other words, I recommend 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.

This very post you’re reading was inspired by one of those casual videos! See here:

Update: By 2018, I’ve created so much content that, since then, most of my content creation is Stage 2 (I’ll describe that later.) I still make a Stage 1 video each Friday, from my office, as it’s become much easier to do that than making my dog walk videos.

I have 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 any likes or comments.

An important distinction to make here: I care about my audience. And I care about my own explorations too, to keep making Stage 1 Content. Yet I don’t care how people respond, because Stage 1 is meant to be exploratory and experimental.

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. Have zero expectations.

(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: 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 my definition, anything that is published for the first time is Stage 1 content, whether it took 5 minutes or 5 years to make. 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 it 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:
  • Think about how that piece can be improved.
  • Integrate any comments or feedback.
  • Would another story/example make it more impactful?
  • Might a different headline be more accurate and interesting?

Once you’ve made your edits, share the piece again, this time with a wider audience.

Perhaps you casually shared the Stage 1 version on the social media platform you use often. Now, your Stage 2 version can be shared on all the social media platforms you use, as well as to your email subscribers. You should also consider using some advertising dollars to promote that content.

If you have any friends with an audience that might enjoy this re-edited piece of content, consider emailing it to them personally. Let them know that this had traction with your audience, and you made it even better, and would love to see what they think.

Besides improving and re-sharing, you might also consider re-purposing this 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 themes.

Then, take one of the themes and consider turning it into a product, such as a book or course! In other words, Stage 3 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 a course, and are baffled when it’s not successful.

It’s also helpful to understand that what you see from others is often their Stage 2 or Stage 3 stuff. We don’t notice people’s Stage 1 content because the social media algorithms and search engines only show us what’s already getting above-average engagement.

And that’s good news for us 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 usually get buried by other people’s Stage 2 content!

I hope this will encourage you to try many ideas, and discover what the world really needs from you.

By following these 3 stages, with a mindset of playful experimentation, you will enjoy your creation process more.

Now, go create something Stage 1 content with gusto… be casual, be prolific, be experimental!

The above post started as Stage 1 video in early 2017. My audience liked it, so I edited the writing and re-shared it as a Stage 2 article. Finally, I integrated it into Stage 3 by having it be a chapter in my book Authentic Content Marketing.​