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A content creator makes and provides content for digital channels, such as websites and social media, that targets a specific end user or audience.
Content creators can create various materials, ranging from blogs, news reports, images and videos to audio content, emails and social media updates.
And with the average person now spending almost 7 hours per day online, the importance of getting content right has never been greater.
There are two types of content creators — individual creators and those working within a company.
Stay up to date on the latest news, trends, and best practices in digital publishing.
While individual content creators have become a new subset of celebrity, professional content creators are now an increasingly important part of digital marketing strategies. Indeed, content marketing is commanding ever larger budgets.
Content Creator Types
The first type is what most denizens of the digital landscape are familiar with — the individual creator. The individual creator, or influencer, is most prevalent across social media platforms such as Instagram, Snapchat, YouTube, Twitch, etc and spawned the birth of what has been dubbed the creator economy.
The creator economy, according to Influencers Club with research from Linktree, refers to more than 200 million independent creators, consisting of community management, content creation, management and operations, and on & off-platform monetization solutions. The value of influencer marketing worldwide surged from just $6.5 billion in 2019 to $13.8 billion in 2021.
Individual influencers by and large can be viewed as focusing on business-to-consumer (B2C) content marketing, as they look to build followings that can later be monetized.
But not every content creator is a social media influencer.
Businesses also employ content creators to write blogs, articles, adverts and other materials as part of their wider digital marketing strategy.
These creators focus on creating content that improves their companies’ digital presence and boosts visitor numbers to pages geared towards selling products or services.
These content creators will either focus on B2B or B2C content marketing operations depending on the company’s target market.
Regardless of whether we’re talking about individual or company content creators, however, the goal for both remains the same — create entertaining or educational material that engages an individual or a business.
Read on to learn what it takes to succeed in this subset of content marketing and how to create great content that will attract organic traffic.
The Truth About Content Creation
Before starting to create digital content, a few points should be made about content creation. For all its advantages, the truth is that content creation is not for everyone.
While being at the cutting edge of content creation can transform a business for the better, it also involves a fair bit of research and careful thought. Half the work — if not more — behind any great content production is gathering appropriate data, then conceiving, planning and executing an effective content strategy.
All of this can take time and some fine-tuning. After all, behind every piece of viral content is not luck but, rather, a strategic content creator who understands marketing and the brand they’re promoting.
While a content creator can enjoy a diverse range of topics, a successful content strategy tends to revolve around the pillar and cluster strategy.
State of Digital Publishing’s (SODP) Content Cluster Strategy Toolkit provides an extensive breakdown of the ins and outs of pillar and cluster strategies and why they’re so important when competing for a top spot in search engine results pages (SERPs).
For the purposes of this piece, however, we’ve avoided going into that level of detail. Rather, we’ve provided a list of the key content types, including the core elements of any pillar and cluster strategy.
1. Uber Pillar/Category
An uber pillar is a resources page that displays — and links to — content on a particular topic and includes at least one piece of pillar content in the listing. It is the category page for a specific content cluster.
An uber pillar should include not just links to relevant content but also, where appropriate, other, more in-depth content as well. The content on this page is not just presented in chronological order but is designed to feature the evergreen content of pillar pages.
2. Pillar Page/Hub Page
A pillar page is a piece of premium content that is found on a single page. It is typically between 3,500-4,500 words long, and is focused on a large search-volume keyword topic.
A linking strategy between the main topic and at least 8-22 subtopic pages is usually required to drive web traffic.
A content series is a collection of at least two articles that target the same short-tail keyword. The structure of the post titles is typically “[Keyword]: [Blog Topic]”. It can be a limited series or an ongoing weekly or monthly series — for example, marketing news of the week.
Each article in a limited series links to the previous and next articles in the series. Ongoing series are usually grouped under a tag for easy reference and grouping.
A longform article is at least 1,500 words long and provides an in-depth view on a particular subject.
A glossary defines specific terms and aims to rank on a search engine results page (SERP), mostly commonly Google’s.
A listicle is simply that: an article that consists of a list with some extra detail for each item.
A step-by-step solutions article that guides a reader and gives instructions on how to achieve a particular outcome.
A functional content asset that is used to achieve a certain function or solve a pain point.
A downloadable or linkable document that users can download to solve a specific pain point or process.
How To Become a Successful Content Creator
Successful content creation involves more than just getting views, it’s also about engagement. Great content creators know how to create content that’s shared widely, simply because of its audience value.
Here are five habits — the secret sauce — that the best content creators practise. Whether working on social media posts, blogs or a general marketing strategy, these five habits will lead to the creation of engaging content.
1. Read Widely and Deeply
Creativity is an integral part of content creation, and successful content creators understand that the creative process takes time. Moreover, ideas for new content aren’t confined to just one industry or field.
Because of this, it’s worth reading both widely and deeply to form new connections between niches or industries that might not, on the surface, seem connected.
There are five steps to this approach.
Step 1: Create a Feed System
Whether relying on an RSS feed or an app such as Feedly, content creators need to create reliable information streams they can regularly tap for different news and trending articles.
Another good idea is organizing the content on social networks by subscribing to pages run by publications such as The New Yorker, Medium, The Atlantic and BuzzFeed.
Step 2: Schedule Official Reading Time
Content creators are particular with their time — and this includes time regularly set aside for reading. Spending the time to check out the latest news in social media posts, blogs and other media, even if that means getting up an hour early, will pay dividends.
The time needed to complete such reading can vary from creator to creator, but once an amount has been set that time should be considered non-negotiable.
Step 3: Use Social Media Platforms to Search for Conversations
Reading widely and deeply is also about understanding customers’ and audiences’ reactions to different issues. And one of the best ways to gauge readers’ thoughts on a matter is to check out their posts on social media.
Use the hashtag function on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram to search for relevant conversations to understand customer or audience views.
Step 4: Use Long-tail Search Words To Find Related Articles
Use a Google Chrome extension such as Keywords Everywhere to help suggest terms for new searches. This not only can provide insight into audience search habits but it can also help find other high-quality content.
Step 5: Keep a Digital or Hard-copy Reading Journal
Reading is not a passive activity. To benefit from the steps mentioned so far, any successful content creator also summarizes or reviews the articles they’ve read, as well as any other media they’ve consumed. This is a key part of their ideation process.
The best way to achieve this is to keep a reading or commenting journal. It can be something as simple as a GoogleDoc, where thoughts and links can be stored. Or it can be a hard-copy journal in which to ideate and create a few concept maps.
2. Write as a Practice
Content creation is also about consistency. Stephen King, in his book On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft, emphasized setting a writing goal that is initially “low” at 1,000 words per day to develop a habit.
In an interview, he was asked how he writes, to which he amusingly replied, “One word at a time.” What King means is content creators can better focus on their craft if they set a daily goal to get the writing process started.
James Clear, who published about the importance of developing habits in his book, Atomic Habits, on the other hand, wrote twice per week at the beginning of his career.
A strategy he recommends to start developing habits is following the Two Minute Rule. Consistently setting aside two minutes to start habit forming can help anyone achieve their goals. The first two minutes become the ritual at the start of every routine to “reinforce your identity”.
Meanwhile, Diana Briceno, the head of content at online video editing software company VEED, recommends writing daily by becoming more aware of every opportunity to produce, whether it’s web content or just Slack messages to colleagues.
Establishing a regular writing practice involves these four steps.
Step 1: Set a Goal for the Year
Content producers will struggle to follow through on anything without a specific goal. Having a yearly goal will serve as a motivator, because writing anything will, in one way or another, bring that goal closer.
Step 2: Identify Optimal Writing Hours
As part of the content creation process, creators should set aside a particular time each day to write and preferably when they have the most energy.
While most argue — and understandably so — that this will be in the morning, this may not be a set rule for everybody. Instead, creators should look to the research conducted on circadian rhythms to understand the impact biological rhythms have on the creative process
Step 3: Brainstorm Content Types
Remember that writing is the foundation for all content creation. Thinking of creating case studies? That begins with writing high-quality, informative and instructive content. Or perhaps the goal is to assemble an FAQ list? That will require concise questions and answers.
Brainstorm the preferred format, then focus on the specific language most suited to each.
Step 4: Create a Content Calendar
Once the content type has been selected, create a content calendar that will help organize production.
Let’s say, for example, that it’s August and planning for September content is underway. To create four videos in September, releasing one video per week, requires planning the number of days that will be spent on scripting those videos. This will then allow for the organization of production days.
3. Create, But Also Curate
Becoming a great content creator is as much about monitoring what’s working and what isn’t as it is about creating great content — selecting only the best content for the audience, then ensuring regular delivery.
Such curation is an important part of creating and maintaining audience relationships. Here are the four steps for achieving just that.
Step 1: Research Content That Others Produce
Research 5-10 businesses within the industry that produce a steady flow of original content for their audiences. They can be direct competitors or businesses that share some similarities. Analyze the content they produce, including any feedback from their audiences.
Step 2: Identify the Target Audience’s Desires
Content is directionless without feedback. Set up a tracking or a dashboard system that allows for real-time feedback on how the target audience is interacting with curated content and what is most popular.
These tools can help creators understand the type of voice their audience loves to listen to or read.
Step 3: Create an Editorial Calendar for Curated Content
Creating an editorial calendar can help organize the postings of different content, keeping track of work across different platforms.
Step 4: Value Add
Curating content works best when using it to add brand value. To achieve this, add a distinct take on various topics, question the audience, send newsletters to email subscribers, and then actively engage with the ensuing conversation.
4. Stay Curious — the Secret to Content Creation
Another thing that successful content creators understand is the importance of curiosity — the need to learn more about the world around them in order to create exceptional content.
YouTuber Jimmy Donaldson, better known as MrBeast, is the mastermind of creating viral, share-worthy content. He has launched multiple channels that have more than 200 million subscribers.
However, he has repeatedly stated that his success was built on the back of thousands of hours of researching YouTube content. He and a close group of peers studied anything and everything that could contribute to a successful video, from story ideas to video titles and even the color vibrancy of a thumbnail image.
Here are three steps that will not only help foster ideas but will also help underpin the creativity pipeline.
Step 1: Use Tools
Also consider checking relevant industry news for statistics and other data about the people and companies that can add value.
Step 2: Specialize in One or Two Mediums
The sky is the limit when it comes to content types and it might be tempting to re-work a great idea across several platforms. For example, Twitter posts that did exceptionally well could be refashioned as infographics, case studies and YouTube videos.
However, when starting out in the digital world, it’s best to pick just one or two mediums for cross-purposing content. This will help to build an actual following on a particular platform, while greater experience opens the door to creating various pillar and cluster forms of content.
Step 3: Use Social Media Networks, Product Reviews and Customer Service Surveys
These three sources are like goldmines of feedback and ideas. They can give content creators a unique insight into their customers’ pain points, product expectations and experiences.
While reading customer service surveys and Amazon product reviews can be an effective way to find new content ideas, social media platforms can give a window into the latest impressions that an audience has of a brand or business.
5. Deliver Fresh and Quality Content
Every good content creator knows that holding the audience’s attention across multiple posts requires the addition of fresh elements. This isn’t as hard as it may seem.
Step 1: Keep it Updated
Good content creation is all about keeping things up-to-date. Readers value the latest info on a topic, meaning that the inclusion of outdated information in a blog runs the risk of losing their interest.
Therefore, it is vital to keep “check the pulsing” of both the wider industry as well as anything else the audience cares about.
Step 2: An Eye for Detail
Another thing any content creator worth their salt knows is that details matter. They proofread their content before publishing it, while also keeping an eye out for any interesting facts or figures that could make their content even more appealing.
Step 3: Reformat, if Needed
The material that a content creator delivers to their audience should be easy to understand. Such ease of understanding includes presenting information in a way that makes it easy to follow — think bite-sized paragraphs and plenty of white space on the screen, along with fonts and a general appearance for content that will resonate with readers.
Step 4: Refocus the Content
If the way a content creator has delivered their content doesn’t align with the perspective their readers need, they shouldn’t hesitate to rework the content according to the required perspective.
Tools to Consider
The five tips mentioned above are a solid foundation from which to nurture creativity and productivity.
However, content creators, whether working alone or as part of a department, need to stay abreast of the various tools that boost productivity.
The creator economy is awash with software platforms all aimed at facilitating the production and publication content. See the below table, courtesy of Doug Shapiro, to understand what we mean.
These tools are great at automating some of the content creation process. At the same time, however, it’s important to figure out which will serve a particular workflow and which will serve only as a distraction — there’s a learning curve to every piece of software, with many turning out to be steep.
The role of a content creator is to find information that might be useful to their target audience, then to fashion such information into a form that will resonate with their readers.
More specifically, successful content creators understand that if information is to resonate with readers, then the right ideas have to be communicated in the right way — whether the right way happens to be a blog post about a new business, an Instagram post or some other content.
The above points are worth reviewing whenever trying to create high-value content. While hitting all five points all at once may be a tall order, it’s still a worthy goal to aim for.