Go ahead, brush the dust off that social media planner you downloaded but didn’t use. It’s from 2017, but these days who’s counting?
You’ve almost made it through hell, a year no one was absolutely sure we’d get through. But while we all tested out sourdough and home workout routines, many embraced new channels like TikTok and questioned their relationship with and trust of mainstream media. We went to our Instagram stories to become advocates and helped news articles and memes go viral.
While, unfortunately, January 1 does not guarantee that we leave the problems from 2020 in the past, it is a symbolic fresh start. Life is going to look different, and when culture changes – small businesses do too. What we’re seeing is a shift towards the digital realm. And this can be your opportunity. It’s time to determine what kind of content creator you will be in 2021.
Side-note: As a reminder, this quarter, I’m walking you step-by-step through a studio refresh so you can get a behind-the-scenes look at what it means to go through the branding process. I hope that it takes the guesswork out of the branding experience and helps you decide whether or not you can do it yourself.
Yes, I’m going to start here because it’s important. I want you to consider the foundation of your brand – your values, what you’re trying to say, who you’re saying it to, how you say it (we’ll get to that later), and why it matters. Bonus points for a creative slant, but that may come with time.
For Drop Cap Design, I am sharing branding tips, design trends, and stories about small business for those looking to start and build an online brand.
As a studio, we value freedom, collaboration, elegance, and growth. These are not dormant values, they are woven into every single way we show up and work together. This means I’ll make a few hard decisions, like letting our clients and audience have freedom of expression, even if it doesn’t perfectly align with my own. It means welcoming others to participate in the studio, and not holding my own vision too tightly. It means showing that I am growing and don’t have it all figured out.
There are four main content pillars we’ll have moving forward: entrepreneurship, branding, art + design, and stories. As a fellow small business owner, I like to share what I’m learning about the world of online business in the entrepreneur category. This is also where we’ll highlight stories from others doing cool things in the digital space. As a branding studio, the branding outlet lets us share our work and trends we’re seeing in the industry. As creatives, art and design will always inspire us, and this is where I’m excited to dive in even more in 2021 as I introduce you to our newest studio member, Isaac! And finally, what was formerly a category on personality that primarily dealt with the Enneagram will now be a more universal stories category that will encompass a larger part of our ethos in storytelling.
Ok, so audience and tone. The Drop Cap audience is a fellow digital small business owner, dedicated to producing high-quality work and products, intentional with their footprint – be it environmental or social, acknowledging of how our stories connect us, and eager to grow. My tone and personality is more on the serious side with a wink. My content is thoughtful, but not dry. Edited, but not overly curated. There’s a commitment to excellence, but a love for the space that exists to always get a bit better.
How does this influence me as a content creator? I know that I will have a hard time committing to something if it can’t be at the quality I expect it to be. Which means I may be slower to pursue new ideas until I feel confident executing them.
When determining what kind of content you want to create for your audience, you want to first think through where your natural creative strengths lie. While I believe that creativity is universal, the way it’s expressed can look different. And when you’re starting to build a following, it helps to see which tools you already have in the toolbox before committing to anything new.
So let’s first consider how you naturally express yourself when you have an idea and want to share it. Do you write it out in an email or slack message? Do you send voice notes to your friends? Do you love video Facetime and sending clients tutorials? These are all pieces of content, even if they haven’t been refined into marketing material just yet.
Let’s start with the lowest barrier of entry – the written blog.
With just your pre-existing computer and a simple Squarespace website, you can start writing and publishing blog articles almost immediately. Including written blogs on your website will boost your site’s SEO, but even more importantly, the content can be easily digested almost anywhere and easily repurposed for social media captions and emails.
To take it to the next level – focus on adding great visual elements – beautiful photography, a few editorial illustrations (like I do for this blog!), screenshots if you’re explaining a process, or even pull quotes and stats. Think of it like a magazine article – what keeps you reading?
Word to the wise, get someone to check your copy. Nothing is more frustrating than an article riddled with typos and incomplete thoughts, or laced with so much industry jargon that you feel you need a master’s degree to make sense of it.
And finally, the way to increase traffic to your blog is primarily through social sites like Pinterest. This is where those visuals really come into play to attract a new audience. You’ll want to encourage your existing readers to share your post with their friends. While comments are great, they don’t necessarily promote your blog any further. Think of it as a nice-to-have.
If you’re ready to start blogging with intention, I recommend checking out Your Content Empire’s Blog Planner.
Next we have the podcast – the audiobook of blogging.
Sure, it can play in your ear during your morning run or blast through your car during a commute, but not all podcasts are created equal. It engages new senses, like sound, while eliminating others, like sight. If your brand is primarily visual, then podcasting handicaps your strengths by removing the visual wow factor, and focusing on new aspects like your expertise, your network, or your personality.
This is not necessarily a bad thing, but something you want to consider when pursuing this outlet. There are also many elements to consider – will you bring on guests? How do you record high quality interviews? Do you have an intro song? What’s the length and format? How will you edit your audio?
A perk of podcasting is that advertising starts to become a real possibility. The days of sidebar ads on blog posts are behind us, but podcasting is still in the game. If you commit to a routine, diligently build a loyal audience, and provide high-quality content – you could be rewarded for it.
If you want to head down this path, I highly recommend Jenna Kutcher’s Podcast Lab.
Admittedly, I have less experience or knowledge here but I know it exists, and many content creators are figuring out that it works well.
These days, the diversity of videos you can find on the internet is truly remarkable. Creatives and service providers have found clever and genius ways to share their expertise and capture the attention of their audience. However, and this is a big note, most of what I’ve found is cringe-worthy garbage. Think of it like film – the memory of bad movie just stays with you.
So, if you go down this path I urge you to do it with intention. Can you produce your best work, and make it worth your viewer’s time? Is video necessary? Can you sustain it?
Because it isn’t a content outlet I’ve pursued (yet… who knows!) I don’t have many resources for it. I do know that Your Content Empire covers her video production process in her course, and based on the level of detail she puts in her blogging content, I imagine that it would be a really useful resource for vloggers.
Ok, so now we get into workflows and this is where I’ve had the most breakthrough this year.
I started to see my email newsletter, blog articles, and social content as connected entities, instead of separate tasks that needed to be done in the name of marketing. And I embraced the concept of repurposed content. Because if it’s done right the first time, the value is a ripple effect.
While I have a few other content ideas in the new year as we grow, here’s what my current process looks like:
Write the blog post.
With every article, I identify the goal for my audience and the goal for me or my business. Having a reason for both makes it a mutually beneficial way to use my time. This is what I consider the core content piece and it usually ties back to one of our products or services.
Get my team to check the copy.
Make sure I have an illustration ready for the visual.
Write the email blurb.
I pull the essence of that article, condense it into a mini press-release, and add it to my Sunday Edition newsletter. This is kind of like the trailer for the larger article, and my goal is to get my subscriber to commit the extra amount of time to read the full post. In the Sunday Edition, I also use the format of my newsletter to give a quick update on my personal life, share any promotions we might be running, and give a quick list of favorites to start the week.
Get my team to check the copy.
Add in the extra newsletter details – like my favorites list, around town, and classifieds.
Plan the social media content.
As I’m writing my newsletter, I usually have ideas about what I could share online in little snippets, like breadcrumbs. Maybe one of the visuals from the blog article is really strong. Or we’re launching a new product. Or something big is happening in my life – I can make a list of what’s coming up in the week ahead that I don’t want to forget to share. And from there I have the following built-in content to start adding to my social scheduler:
link to the original blog post + title graphic
pull quotes from the article
list of what I’m loving
personal and professional announcements
additional resources related to the article that didn’t make it in
From here, it’s a matter of simply showing up. Yep, write the story, build the home, and then welcome in your guests. Engage in conversations. Respond to comments. Answer questions.
I hope this walk-through helps you to identify a process that will work for you. As always, leave any questions or insights in the comments below and I’ll be happy to brainstorm with you!