Original Content adds immensely to your brand; being a copycat content marketer blows your pretence of authority. That’s the truth. By following those are successful at Content Marketing, you may believe you too can easily acquire Content Writing expertise. Maybe that’s why you also always try to start your posts with “8 points that work” or “12 points that don’t” … but then, why does it work for those others and not for you? Why do “content creation formulas” not produce the kind of results that people tell you they will?
The short answer is that to be a success yourself, you have to be aware of a formula just in order to break it! You should see what makes others tick, but instead of being a copycat, you have to try and avoid what they did, so you can be an original. The world is so full of formula-based content, that to succeed you have to be unlike most of today’s successful people in order to succeed yourself!
The best advice I ever got from a copywriter boss who was brilliant: “See how I do it, and then go do your own mad thing!”
When you have truckloads of content to produce everyday, you are naturally tempted to take shortcuts. And among the many shortcuts we like to take is to look at research that points out “what works best” and then follow that as closely as possible in our own content-creation. We justify this approach to ourselves that we are doing “what it takes”.
In truth, we are just being mentally lazy if our creativity is being guided by advice on “what works and what doesn’t”. Sure, the research is right and all that works … but why shouldn’t your own different style also work just as well, if not better?
The irony of following what “seems to succeed” for the majority of people is that you melt into the crowd instead of being the one that stands up tall in the midst of it. Of course, it does help to know the trends around you and what has worked for other people … but it’s not so that you can be like them, but to see how you can be entirely different from them and make your own success an even stronger new statistic!
Can you do that? Can you dare the research and the formulas for content creation, can you cock a snook at them, and decide to be an original? If you are even remotely considering the non-conformist path to your own success, you already need applause! You can’t be a breakthrough thinker if you’re not mentally geared to break apart the rules.
Here are some pointers if you’re looking to be differentiated and one-of-a-kind in your Content Marketing!
1. Be bold and disruptive!
There is a common fallacy that often prevents people from being bold and disruptive in their thinking. The fallacy is that they think they have to be at some extreme of a topic to be seen and heard as different. They believe that to take an “anti-establishment position” on a topic is the way to be above the crowd (which they are loathe to do!).
But in fact, that needn’t be true at all. Difference comes not by taking a radical position … it can just as easily happen if you were to take the middle path, the supposedly boring golden mean on any topic.
What will set you apart is the ability to take the ordinary, the unexciting, the non-extreme position, but to give it a spin that is entirely your own. You have to be bold in expression, hammering your points in, and you have to be able to make people sit up and review the topic once again because you have opened up unexpected or unanticipated points about it, without having to become a rebel.
How often have you looked at a piece of content you want to create and then thought: What can I bring to this topic that no one has opened up before? Have I got something new to say without necessarily striving too hard to be against the grain? Has someone missed something important that I can see in this whole issue? And if yes, can I make people stop in their tracks and say “Hey, there’s a great point now!”?
To be bold and disruptive does not mean being “intellectually shattering”. It just means disrupting people from rutted thinking and forcing them to think along new lines.
2. Be innovative and tangential!
We often hear the words “blaze a new trail” or “get off the beaten path” but we hardly ever come across a suggestion as to how exactly to do that. How do you really find something new in any idea, for that matter, because almost everything in this world is neither really new nor “untrodden”?
A very interesting solution that I have found for myself is to take a topic that I want to write about and then just flip open a dictionary (or any fat book!) to any page that falls open on its own. I look at the first word that hits from the open page and see if it can have any connect with the subject I want to write about. Nine times out of ten the word will be so random that it makes no connection whatsoever with the topic in mind … but wait!
Could there be some way I can make my topic and that word fuse? Can I find some connect that no one’s seen before? I let that thought invade my mind and then just get onto other things, almost forgetting my zeal to make my topic gel with that random word from that random book.
Then suddenly, in some strange inexplicable way, a new idea occurs where this word seems to bring some new angle on my topic.
For instance, I had to write a topic on digital shopping when the word “marriage” popped out at me from a fat book. “Marriage” stayed in my mind … but after some gestation time, it suddenly became “walking down the aisle” … and guess what, I ended up writing about what may be the equivalent of the “aisle concept” of a digital store!
Could the arrangement of goods in a digital store have anything to learn from the way aisles are deliberately arranged in offline stores? I’m sure the thought of digital aisles would never have entered my head without the fat book! This is what I mean by being “innovative” and “tangential”.
This fat book trick is just one of the many I now use. The idea is to find a new connection in things already known to people. You cannot create anything really new in the world, but you sure can connect up seemingly unconnected things and bring new angles to the whole picture.
3. Be fallible and individual!
Since I am a “branding” professional, I have, all my life, heard about being consistent, authoritative and credible as the hallmarks of a great brand. I accept all this. But I draw the line on the notion that being an expert or a brand with domain expertise also has to mean having a “stiff upper lip”. I also draw the line on all experts sounding like they’ve been cloned … to have a certain vocabulary, a certain tone of voice, a certain process to their approachability.
“Brand personality” is a word that means just that. Every brand has to have a personality that is different and refreshing, and part of being like a person is being fallible too. We cannot criticise a brand for making mistakes with its Content Marketing, but we can stand back and admire the grace with which the brand then recovers, and admits its fallibility, and remedies the situation with its aghast consumers.
There are two characteristics to being human. One, is that no two humans are exactly alike in this world, not even twins. Two, so as long as you or your brand seem human and have a “personality” you will be “individualistic” willy-nilly. But you have to admit you are human and not try to be a perfect automaton, or refuse to admit to inadequacies, quirks of personality or deficiencies.
All that applies to the way you content-market too. Instead of obsessing over being a “perfect domain expert” it is easier to win trust by being “authentic, even if occasionally faulty”. People trust people. The more of a person your brand is, it is but natural to expect that will have good and not-so-good points.
What you should not do is to apologize for being only human. But you should apologise for the hurt you may have caused by being human, and aim to rectify the trust-breakdown as a result.
Being yourself via your content, letting your imperfect personality come out, is not a disgrace nor a brand-killer. Trying to be someone you are not, and wearing an artificial avatar of being a never-wrong ace is a sure brand-killer.
4. Be a maverick and multidimensional!
People who are different from the common mold are referred to as mavericks, but there is also a kind of stereotyping of mavericks as “always a bit quirky”. The secret to be being a successful Content Marketing maverick is never to be “predictably maverick”. Being a multidimensional Content Marketer is a very important quality needed to stand out from the crowd.
When you are aiming to be different and original, the word to beware of is this word “always”. You can never be genuinely a person most-listened to, or most-read, or most-followed, if people are able to fit you into a box – even if that box is that of a maverick. You have to constantly surprise people with sides of yourself they never expected – or even you yourself never expected.
Predictability is the downfall of Content Marketing. Think about the last ten posts you shared but never read, no matter how famous the writer was, because you felt that his “8 points why” would be more or less as the same “8 points why” of most other good writers? On the other hand, when you have a person who is not someone you can second-guess on his articles or opinions, you invariably spend a moment to think “Now, what’s he about today?”
If you’re happy about people mindlessly sharing your links but never reading what you write about, how will you ever build a brand? It’s the opinions and values that you hold out that shape and build your brand, not the shares and likes!
Another mistake is to think “multidimensional brands” are “schizophrenic” and there needs to be this one constant typification of what your brand stands for. That makes for a boring brand not a vibrant one!
Your brand, via its Content Marketing, needs to still show a multi-facetedness, while maintaining brand promise coherence. For example, if your brand stands for the overall promise of “providing value for money” that same promise can be expressed in many ways and that’s where the creativity quotient is important.
You have to apply mind and ask: In how many ways can I express that quality, being surprisingly different every time, and yet without diluting the promise and its sincerity?
On an entirely different note, look what I came across as I was researching for this article … awesome!
I came across an article titled “Five Ways To Stand Out From The Crowd” by an absolutely gifted writer called Terry Mitchell. I was expecting that he would show the usual ways to be very different from the crowd … but in fact his way of being different was so … well, different! Just look at his ideas!
- The first way to stand out from the crowd is to take time to do the little things right. (His example: people never return a cart after grocery shopping, but if you do you are really different, aren’t you?)
- The second way to stand out from the crowd is to find alternatives to profanity. (Since everyone thinks its cool to have a cuss-word vocabulary, stun them all by not having one!)
- The third way to stand out from the crowd is to memorize things that most other people commonly forget. (Gosh yes, forgetfulness is so prevalent that to remember is to be different!)
- The fourth way to stand out from the crowd is to live below your means. (Oh, what a good point!)
- The fifth way to stand out from the crowd is to make decisions based on logic and reason instead of emotion. (Another really insightful one!)
I felt like pointing out this article not just because it was about how to be different, but because the author was himself so original in the way he had tackled this whole subject!
In conclusion …
The moral of this whole story: it takes application of mind to be different, and its easier to follow “what works” and be one of the crowd. Despite the enormous content-creation workload, do you still have the bandwidth to apply mind to being original? If not, don’t waste your time being an also-ran!
So what are your thoughts on this topic? Do share!
This post is incomplete without your input. The community of content-marketer solopreneurs would feel galvanized to hear from you … so do share your thoughts on this topic with us, in the comments field below this post.
Other articles in our series “Content Writing Expertise”:
- Learn To Write Content Like A Pro With Force And Authority!
- Writing content for customers versus writing for influencer outreach!