I don’t know who needs to hear this, but there’s too much “content” out there. Whether or not it’s high quality, the quantity of content pushed out is exhausting. Not just on social media, filling up the endless feed, but also through email, requiring constant vigilance to guard my inbox(es) from everyone I’ve ever bought something from online, ever.
“You’re just too darn loud.”
On the supply side of social media and email content, I get it. Everyone wants to break through the clutter of the crowd on social media and reach out directly through what I’ve often heard described as the “forgotten” channel of emails. (Hahahaha, no. I’ve bought your product or service; I don’t have to be reminded to buy more, every single day.) But they also create that clutter themselves by believing the mysterious algorithm will reward them with more visibility if they just keep creating the right amount of the right kind of content. And so it goes.
This is where I get a little salty. Does all that thirst for fresh, juicy content translate to meaningful work for creators, like writers, designers, photographers, videographers, podcasters, bloggers, etc.? <sad laugh react> Maybe for those who’ve managed to build a platform and gain a following, which is no easy feat and should be rewarded. For countless others, content creation might pay the bills, if you get into the right company or find clients that value your work – as I’ve been lucky to do. Too many so-called jobs just want robots to crank out a lot of crap that generates clicks without the burden of actually caring about it.
Besides the fact that these jobs pay about as well as you’d think they do, I think we’re all well aware of the damage done by misinformation and disinformation and just plain lying – but most people might not be aware that the memes your crazy uncle spreads are often created and pushed out by well-organized content farms.
Until recently, I was even less aware of an insidious form of content farm that pushes out appealing, innocuous-looking recipe, craft and “life hack” video content on YouTube/TikTok/Instagram etc. Except, as exhaustively debunked by food scientist and YouTuber Ann Reardon, they often don’t work and can be downright dangerous. Not only that, but she traces these videos back to their sources, untangling the webs of channels pushing out volumes of noise (which are richly rewarded with clicks, despite often skirting the so-called community standards for things like clickbait and content aimed at children) and exposing how some happy, fun, colourful looking videos can conceal some pretty sinister (and weird) messaging.
That kind of “content creation” is not what made me want to be a writer when I grew up. We are not here just to fill up spaces and feed the feeds, much less injure people, damage property, and waste food and money with untested and/or worse, blatantly faked content for clicks.
I don’t have a simple formula for “quality content,” although I can say, after doing this for a little bit, that people like numbers, lists and appeals to emotion (e.g. how will this improve my life). Preferably your communications are engaging and error-free (unless you’re a grocer or real estate agent, and then proofreading doesn’t seem to matter…). It should tell me, clearly, what to do with your message (e.g, call to action). And it should genuinely show you value relationships with real, live human beings with concerns of their own.
When I edit a recipe, for example, I think of the person standing in their kitchen, with all the ingredients they’ve bought to make this dish and maybe being less than confident in their cooking skills – so I want to make sure the quantities and conversions are correct, that everything listed in the ingredients actually appears in the method and in the same order, that nothing is set aside and never seen again. All the recipes I work on were developed by professional food writers and chefs, but errors happen. Caring about the content we’re putting out is caring for people, both authors and readers.
So if you’re sending out an e-blast every day to meet a content marketing schedule, please stop. If you’re struggling to find something new to say about the same product in different ways every day so your posts never slide too far down the feed, take a day off. Unless you have new, important information they need to know, you don’t have to contact your customers every.single.day – no matter what the algorithm says. Even my mother doesn’t call that often.
I haven’t posted in this blog in nearly two years, so perhaps I’m not one to talk about frequency. You don’t need me to tell you this world has been crazy in 2020 and 2021 – so I didn’t. But I did keep pretty busy writing and editing content for other people, trying to help them make sure it was as useful and sensitive and timely (and, yes, typo-free) as possible for their audiences – the people they were trying to connect with.
Quality content is welcome, just not quite so much of it all the time. Let’s take a little more time to make it special and give each other room to breathe.