So you as a leader you create content (and products) you’d love the world to see.
How do you make sure they see it?
In an online world that’s getting more crowded every month, it seems to be getting harder and harder to get noticed.
I’ve been creating content for years in various forms: podcasts, articles, blog posts, pics and posts for social, courses, talks, messages and so much more.
And we’ve seen some traction. Excluding social media, my content gets accessed more than a million times a month, and last year once again we saw over 40% growth in audience size.
In the last year, in particular, I’ve noticed some really interesting things about content sharing that honestly have surprised me.
These might seem a bit basic…perhaps these insights should have been obvious a long time ago and maybe they are to you.
But, in the hopes of helping you get your message seen and heard, here are 7 quick and mostly counterintuitive lessons I’m currently learning about sharing content.
Let’s start here…
1. You’re probably a bad predictor of the content people will love
At least I am.
I spend hours (okay, days) putting content together each month. And, like you, as a content creator I get very excited about some of the content I’m creating.
Here’s what I find: there is almost no correlation between the content I think people will love and the content people actually love.
Take this post on helping young leaders soar at work, for example. I’ve personally found the strategies I write about in the post transformative in coaching younger leaders. I love the ideas I share in that post.
I believe so deeply in those ideas that I’ve shared them through multiple posts. Despite my passion, the internet just gives those posts a polite golf clap and moves on.
Just because you love an idea as a content creator doesn’t mean others will. Often, nobody cares about the insight you thought was brilliant.
Lesson: Don’t quit.
Keep writing, keep posting, keep recording, keep sharing. You’ll stumble your way to resonance and it will surprise you.Just because you love an idea as a content creator doesn't mean others will. Often, nobody cares about the insight you thought was brilliant. Click To Tweet
2. People often love the insight you almost threw away
I lead off each year with a post on trends that often is one of the most read posts I write.
This year, I did two trends posts (well, three if you include this one), pouring days into each until they were just right.
Here’s the surprise.
The most shared insight in both posts were ideas I almost threw away and only added at the last minute.
As I was writing, I felt the point needed something a little more concrete, so just before I hit publish, I went into the manuscript for a new book I’m writing (not released yet), literally cut and pasted a stat about how many times people touch their cell phones every day (2617 to be exact), didn’t think much about it, and hit publish.
That stat got quoted 10x more than anything else I wrote. (See point #1 above).
Then in my church trends post, a similar thing happened. Again, I spent hours writing the post and crafting the insight.
In the very final edit before hitting publish, I thought one trend needed a little more clarity, so I whipped together a line about hype no longer resonating with a generation looking for hope.
Again, 10x resonance from readers with that line.
No matter how many years I do this, I find that people often most love the insight I almost threw away.
Lesson? I don’t know that there’s a lesson other than don’t throw it away. Keep writing.People often most love the insight you almost threw away. Click To Tweet
3. Unpolished Is Really Resonating
Yep…super fancy. Took me like 30 seconds to do the screenshot and post. Zero design.
Similarly, in my IG Stories, one of the most popular things I did in the last twelve months was post stories about my dad’s obsession with desserts. He’s a slim man who works out, but at almost 80, enjoys dessert a lot. So I call him out on it and we have fun bantering back and forth in these videos.
Again, totally unscripted. Just fun. Spur of the moment stuff.
Not polished. Not edited. Just real.
Brady Shearer, of Pro Church Tools, calls these ugly posts.
Here’s what I’m learning from moments like these: In a world of spin, people are looking for real. And leaders, people want to see you, not some perfect version of you.In a world of spin, people are looking for real. And leaders, people want to see you, not some perfect version of you. Click To Tweet
4. Slick graphics don’t make lame content shareable
Sometimes you will want to invest in some great design. I do that too.
It’s tempting to think that after you’ve invested dollars and effort into an awesome design it will give your content a boost.
Slick graphics also don’t make lame content shareable. And all of us who produce content know that, for whatever reason, sone content just doesn’t connect (see point #1 above).
If you have a shareability issue, it’s probably your content, not your design. You can’t design your way out of sub-par content.Slick graphics don't make lame content shareable. If you have a shareability issue, it's probably your content, not your design. Click To Tweet
5. Experimentation Outperforms Set-It-and-Forget-It Sharing
The key to shareability and keeping your audience engaged is to keep experimenting.
Experimentation leads to breakthroughs.
The challenge most leaders and organizations have is that content sharing can be automated to the point where you stop innovating or even thinking about it.
As soon as content-sharing becomes so systematized that you fall into a set-it-and-forget-it mindset, you lose, and so does your audience.
That’s also the best way to ensure you get diminishing results over time. Algorithms are always changing and your audience will grow bored of the same old same old.
So keep trying things you’re not sure will work. They just might.
Then track the impact carefully, learn and move forward.As soon as content-sharing becomes so systematized that you fall into a set-it-and-forget-it mindset, you lose, and so does your audience. Click To Tweet
6. Your best content keeps producing again and again…don’t abandon it
As a leader, you’re likely attracted to shiny new things. So am I.
But having written this blog for seven years now, the trend I see emerging is unmistakable: often content I wrote years ago continues to be some of the most read and most sought after content.
The temptation is that I get bored with it and want to ignore that. Don’t.
And none of this should be surprising.
Imagine going to hear your favorite band live only to have them announce We’re not playing any of our hits tonight. Just new material and B sides.
You’d want your money back.
Patrick Lencioni is one of my favorite leadership experts. In my most recent interview with him, I asked him to unpack The Five Temptations of a CEO—a book he wrote back in 2008. Imagine if Pat said “Yeah I’m bored with those ideas. I’ve moved on.” (Which, of course, he’s not. And he gave a superb interview.)
Another example. I wrote this post on toxic people way back in 2013. Last year, over 150K people read it. Why?
Not because of me. I barely mentioned it.
Google led them to it.
So, what do you do with that? We took that toxic people post, cleaned it up and optimized it so leads people to what we’re doing today, not what I was doing in 2013.
You can do the same with your best performing content.
Leaders, when you’re done with a topic, others are starting to catch on.
Church leaders in particular really need to pay attention to this.
Nobody is better at producing important content that is immediately forgotten and never referred to again than the church.Nobody is better at producing important content that is immediately forgotten and never referred to again than the church. Click To Tweet
7. Email Is Much Sexier Than It Sounds
I’m going to guess that the most ignored tool in your content-sharing toolbox is your email list.
So while everyone else is focused on YouTube, TikTok and social media, dust off your email list and start using it again.
Unlike almost anything else online, email isn’t controlled by an algorithm. With very few exceptions, your email gets through. On all other platforms, the algorithm changes regularly. Just when you think you’ve cracked the code, Instagram changes the code.
The key to getting high open rates on email is to serve your audience, not just sell to them.
Most people use their email list to sell. Be different. Use it to serve.
So how do you do this? Help people when you email them.Most people use their email list to sell. Be different. Use it to serve. Click To Tweet
I’ve got an email list of over 55K leaders I talk to via email almost every day with a very decent open rate and tiny unsubscribe rate. I almost always keep the emails short and to the point and link to helpful content designed to help leaders solve problems they’re facing.
My filter for those emails (and, I hope, for all my content) is a single word: helpful.
I want my content to help leaders. Plain and simple.
So can you sell via email or call people to action? For sure. Your inbox is loaded every day from organizations that try to do that. I do it from time to time too.
But if that’s all you do, that’s why you end with really low open rates and very high annoyance rates.
Instead, make your primary use of email to help your audience. They’ll come to see you as a trusted voice, an ally in a noisy world where everyone wants something from you and few people want something for you.
Do something for them many more times than you ask for something from them will make your audience really look forward to hearing from you.Do something for them many more times than you ask for something from them will make your audience really look forward to hearing from you. Click To Tweet
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What’s Helping You Gain Traction?
What’s helping you gain traction online?
And…what are you noticing?
Scroll down and leave a comment!