Welcome to the Era of Crappy Content
There’s never been so much content, and there’s never been so much crap.
That is the sad fact in this time of the content creator, where everyone is making stuff and publishing it, willy nilly. Friends, colleagues, business associates and family — posting one blurry kitten photo after the next, banging out blog post after crummy blog post, ad hoc images with quotes slapped on them in Comic Sans, shaky videos that would make a sailor puke…
Even worse, the persistent drumbeat of current social media thinking says that content must be created on a consistent basis to stay relevant and expand influence, so the bombardment grows worse with each passing day.
Well, I’ve got great news for you, content creation isn’t for everybody — and it doesn’t have to be!
But ever notice all the frenetic talk about the latest, greatest DIY tools these days? And all these great new technologies? Everyone goes gaga over the next quick fix for throwing up a website or using all these new social platforms, cheap templates, plugins, widgets, software… Mac vs. PC… ARGHHHH!
People always seem to be enamored with the latest-new-hot-gadget or gizmo, hoping to produce the next most amazing thing ever known. Talent can be checked at the door — the tools will do it all, or so they think.
When the desktop publishing revolution began back in the ’80s — everybody and their office assistants were soon calling themselves designers. As if just pushing some buttons would magically produce the same work that professionals who spent their entire lives mastering their craft could do.
But just as a paint brush is a tool and will not paint a beautiful painting by itself, a computer is a tool and will not design a beautiful design by itself either. It certainly won’t think strategically.
- A paint brush will not paint a masterpiece without a master behind it. The brush is a tool.
- A scalpel will not save a life without a skilled surgeon behind it. The scalpel is a tool.
- A garden tool will not grow a bountiful garden without a green thumb behind it. The garden tool is… you got it — a tool!
Nobody cares about your tool
Social media is awash with people talking about… wait for it… social media! But social media is also just a tool! Now, there’s nothing wrong with this, it’s a relatively new area and if you’re trying to establish “thought leadership” in the social media space, then maybe non-stop conversation about Facebook, LinkedIn, or Google Plus fits your MO. I get that. But shouldn’t the focus really be more on what exactly we are doing with social media? And no, I don’t mean the ROI conversation, I mean the content creation conversation and sharing good, engaging, original content.
Isn’t that vastly more interesting, anyway? And isn’t that what, ultimately, will separate the best from the rest — perhaps eventually putting you in a position to grab that highly-coveted ROI?
What separates the best from the rest is what you do with the tools, not the tools themselves. It’s always been this way, of course, it just seems to be more-easily forgotten these days. Computers, software, platforms and the like are all part of the same thing — they are a means to an end, not the end in and of themselves. Producing amazing work is really where our focus should be, and while tools and the other things may help you get there, they will not auto-magically produce good work any more than a paintbrush will produce the Mona Lisa; or a pen will write a Shakespearean sonnet. A camera does not a good photograph make — without any regard for composition, lighting, timing, and all the other things that go into capturing a wonderful moment in time — it will never happen without the proper training, practice and talent!
And believe me, any illusion of slickness is quickly disregarded as run-of-the-mill by most people and brushed aside as completely amateurish by others who know better. Is that the impression you want to make? Is extremely average OK with you?
Everyone else has access to all those same tools and using them will make you look like everyone else, at best. That’s not going to get you very far in a time when there has never been so much content produced and the need to stand out never greater. Crappy content is everywhere — producing more of it is not going to get the results you need.
Why, oh why?
So why are we so enamored with technology and tools? It is amazing, I admit, but perhaps it’s also an easier conversation to have. But if we stop and take a moment to realize what will truly set us apart and make a difference, shouldn’t we be spending more of our time discussing the very things that will get us there?
The best creators, those with real talent and the chops to back it up, are not the ones endlessly talking about the tools. They are too busy doing the work — feeding their creativity with the information and inspiration it needs to be remarkable, and then using the tools the way they were intended — as a means to get the job done. That’s it.
But let’s face it — not everyone is cut out for content creation. And that’s fine. Maybe it’s about fear, or people simply trying to make up for what they feel they lack. Hey, we’re all human and we don’t all have to be good at everything.
Producing good content is hard — writing, producing an infographic, an e-book, a good photograph or illustration — and not everyone is cut out for it. Access to all these new tools doesn’t change that. It may be easier to produce a cheap facsimile, but that’s all it is. If you produce insignificant work, then you will also be stuck in that same rut of insignificance. Period. Is that what you want for yourself and your business?
Now, while I encourage everyone to develop their creative skills and interests, I also encourage them to make an honest assessment of where they are and the impact they are having on their professional reputations and personal brands. Maybe even consider hiring a pro, especially for matters as important as your business.
Nope. Content creation isn’t for everybody. And that’s OK.
Photo illustration work: Paul Biedermann, re:DESIGN