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We spend a fair share of time talking about the different types of content you could create. Lists. Infographics. Video. Interviews. That seems to be the pressing question for busy content marketers: what kind of content should I create?
But what if your content were like a blood type, and there were some people who were better matched for one kind of content over another?
If that were the case, the better question might be: what kind of content creator am I?
Knowing what type of content creator you and members of your team are will help you better match up who writes what on your editorial calendar.
A teacher is someone whose ultimate goal is to help others both learn and put into practice all that they need to accomplish a specific goal.
A teacher has the ability to break down an idea or task into the incremental parts that will build on each other.
They carefully choose the words, exercises, worksheets, examples, and illustrations in order to not confuse, but to allow their students achieve a bit of success at each level so they have the confidence to keep going and get to the end.
Teachers write the posts that are often the winning search result when we’re desperate to figure something out. Those long-tail searches such as “how do I remove the time stamp from my WordPress post” or “how do I do a 301 redirect in .htaccess” will take you to a classic teacher post.
Teachers are excellent at showing and telling you how to do something, but they don’t always tell you why you should do it. For people who need to be convinced first, usually with facts and data, a teaching post isn’t going to be enough. They have another first stop to make, and that’s someone who convinces them it needs to be done.
An insider is that intriguing person who has the gift of pulling back the curtain to reveal the hidden secrets and inner workings of something. Only they have the access and understanding, and so only they are qualified to reveal and discuss it. They help put what is otherwise confusing or new into context and explain what it means.
Insiders are all about exclusivity and curiosity. They have secret knowledge that we want access to, and we are thrilled when they share it. When an insider is part of a company or brand that we admire or that is experience success, the information they share is especially relevant. Readers want to learn by example, emulating success. Others prefer the proof of “we did it and it works” to all the theoretical data in the world. Insiders answer both kinds of readers.
Because their focus is so much on what they know, and what worked for them, it is easy for insiders to forget that their experiences and data can’t always be used across the board for everyone in every situation. The best insiders acknowledge this, but others trumpet and sell their insider knowledge as if it were broad knowledge and indisputable fact.
The outsider is a questioner. He asks questions of those in positions of power and authority both to test their mettle and see if their content actually holds water outside of the protected realm they operate in, but also because he genuinely wants to know and currently doesn’t.
They ask the hard questions, and brave the sometimes unpleasant responses, that we are afraid to ask. They probe, pick apart, test, and sometimes prove, helping us better believe what we’re reading without those nagging doubts on whether we’re being told a fast one. They do the testing to see if an idea holds water, saving us the time. And they do it without having a conflict of interest.
It’s easy for an outsider to become a curmudgeon, someone whose content is based solely on being disagreeable and seeking to prove other content creators wrong or make them look foolish.
An expert knows pretty much everything. In her niche, at least. She is the one people turn to for advice, the one whose blog sifts through all of the noise. This expertise comes from actual experience. She practices what she preaches, because she was practicing it long before she started preaching it.
Experts are the college professor, who teaches far beyond the basic “how to” method. We love to ride the coattails of their experience and subsequent knowledge without having to go through the trenches they went through to get to their level of expertise.
Sometimes experts assume everyone knows as much as they do. That’s fine if their audience is other people with a similar level of understanding and experience, but most of us aren’t experts in everything. Experts can sometimes forget to find a way to share their knowledge in a way that readers can not only understand, but put to good, practical use.
The newbie is the opposite of experts. He knows very little, has just gotten started, and is both excited as well as concerned about the learning curve. Newbies create content that they may, in the future, look back on in horror. “What was I thinking?”
Newbies are very enthusiastic, and they have a way of banishing our content creation doldrums with questions that make use feel good. We can answer their questions, they are appreciative, and they actually seem to read what you’re writing. When the newbie writes, they bring fresh eyes to the topic, without being jaded. They haven’t succumbed to the jargon or buzzwords that others in their niche may have.
Newbies don’t always last long in the content marketing world, where blogs often die within three months. They also ask questions we’ve answered, neglecting to do their own research and reading in favor of pelting experts and anyone that will listen with questions or requests for advice.
With a detached eye, hovering at the edge of the action, the observer takes note. She writes with a birds-eye approach to things, providing the bigger picture, or putting a topic into context so we get a bit more meaning out of it. She has a way of understanding a topic, an event, or a piece of content that allows her to explain it from the outside, not delving too deeply into detail but providing a good foundation. Her goal is to make us think, make us curious, and make us go digging for answers ourselves.
Observers help us get our perspective back. When we create content, we are necessarily focused on our audience and our niche that we start to lose an understanding of where our content fits in the larger ecosystem. Observers have the ability to note when something is sliding off the rails, when things have taken a wrong turn, or to connect seemingly unrelated content together to create new meaning.
Observers spend so much time on the outside they never really gain a deep grasp of topics. Without a good understanding of a topic, their observations can be completely off. If they aren’t careful, observers can quickly turn into nothing more than critics.
The cryptographer has plenty of knowledge about a subject, but dispenses it under great control. He speaks in circles and in vagueness, not wanting to reveal everything to his audience easily. He has a vast amount of knowledge, and shares just enough of it to whet appetites. He has a business to run and doesn’t give away his best content without a price.
We don’t, really, unless they’re an excellent storyteller and marketer who can write copy that naturally flows towards a call to action that offers something truly of value.
Cryptographers are generally problematic. The key pieces to the information and knowledge that should be shared in the content are tucked behind a pay wall or a forced download. If you want anything out of the guy, you absolutely must play along. Some cryptographers are excellent at the promise of big things, but when you finally do relent and give an email address for an ebook, it’s nothing new.
The convincer is a natural salesman. She is here to convince you, whether on how to think about a topic or how to act. Her content is full of powerful (and useful) research that, after reading, leave her audience in no doubt that she is correct.
Convincers can get the ball rolling on a new idea. They don’t just observe it or announce it, they convince people it is true and provide the research to back it up. They provide the proof to use in our own content or discussions. They inspire us, and get us excited about a new idea.
When a convincer is wrong, it doesn’t matter how great she is. She’s still wrong. Convincers are also prone to “sound bites” that they use to prove a point, willingly taking information out of context.
Most of us are a combination of these content creator types. When assembling your content marketing team, you might want to take these into consideration. You don’t want all teachers or all insiders. You need a good mix.
What are some great combinations, for your team or for yourself? Here are just a few:
Teacher + Expert = Content that creates more experts.
Observer + Insider = Brings context to complex proprietary data.
Convincer + Cryptographer = Builds email lists or sells services rapidly.
Outsider + Observer = Brings checks and balances to the content of an industry.
Newbie + Convincer = Gets more people interested in starting.
Insider + Teacher = Helps people learn to replicate the real success of a business.
Knowing what type of content creator you are means knowing what your strengths are.
Each time I am approached to write a post for someone, I inevitably insert a caveat. “I’m not a data-heavy writer,” I say. Numbers, statistics, data, and charts are not where my writing sings. I’m not upset about that. I mostly write in my strengths.
While it’s good to work in your weaknesses some of the time (that’s how you build content “muscle”), you should spend most of your time writing in your strengths. Writing in your strengths means you’ll:
Writing in your weakness is like exercise on a treadmill, and not the daily movement that gets you places. You need one to keep pushing yourself, but its not your bread-and-butter. Embrace your strengths when it comes to what kind of content creator you are.
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