How important is it for small businesses to develop original content? In my experience, it’s essential.
Before we dive into that conversation, let’s get one important thing out of the way: there is very little truly original content out there. When I say that, I mean “original” in the sense of being completely unique. Most ideas, no matter how niche they seem, have been discussed and written about already. Unless you are writing a first-person account of an experience, there’s a good chance that you’ll be rebranding or repurposing content so that it resonates with you and with your audience. So in a business context, original content simply means the content you own.
And in many ways, that’s a good thing. Some entrepreneurs and business owners stall out when it comes to creating content because they think they don’t have anything completely unique or life-changing or revolutionary to say. When you realize it’s not about that, the whole process becomes a lot less challenging.
That doesn’t mean that creating content is always easy, though. For some small business owners, it’s hard to implement a content calendar, and it’s even harder to stick with a routine and maintain it. For others, it’s doing the writing or content development that’s the hard or even grueling part. In that way, content development is the same as any other business-related task: some people love it, some people tolerate it, and others don’t want to have anything to do with it. Still, just like bookkeeping or accounting or networking, it has to be done in some shape or form for your business to succeed to its full potential.
Telling stories, about yourself and your business, is an opportunity to connect with colleagues, existing clients or customers, and yes, complete and total strangers who may ultimately hire you. Sharing the ideas that resonate with you is a way for people to get a sense of your style and vibe and identify if it’s aligned with theirs.
When I talk with small business owners, I often hear similar questions about how to develop and maintain business content. If you’re just getting started, here’s what I suggest.
1. What types of content should I be developing? The short answer is, it’s up to you. You can use your website as a content platform for publishing weekly, biweekly, or monthly blog posts. You can grow your social media following by featuring narrative posts on Instagram or Facebook. You can schedule regular newsletters. You can collaborate with other entrepreneurs or small business owners on resources or guides.
The longer answer? You’ll probably want to do some combination of the above, and you should partly base your decision on your target audience. How do the majority of your clients discover you? For example, if you get a lot of referrals via friends or colleagues, you may want to focus on building blog content since referral traffic very often lands at your website first. Or, if you have a strong Instagram following, develop long-form posts that speak to that semi-captive audience.
2. Where can I get ideas for content? Much of my inspiration for blog and social media content comes from my clients. Through our conversations, I recognize the recurring topics and themes that are relevant to the people in my entrepreneur community. Because I aim for my website to be a hub for new entrepreneurs to gain insight and resources, it’s incredibly valuable to tap into questions and ideas from the people I’m currently working with. And as an entrepreneur myself, I draw on my experiences launching my own business: the challenges I faced and, now, looking back, what the takeaway lessons are.
Often times, ideas for blog posts pop into my head during a client session, in the middle of the night, or when I’m walking down the street. When I get inspired by an idea, I record it right away --on my phone, in a notebook, or my Google doc of ideas. It’s so easy to forget an idea once you move on with your day, so I recommend this method to everyone. Not every lightbulb moment will ultimately turn into content, and you’ll end up throwing away an idea here or there. In my experience, though, it’s better to record every idea you have and see if they’re viable later.
3. How strictly should I stick to a schedule? I help my clients develop business processes that work for them: ones they can integrate, maintain, complete efficiently, and execute regularly. When you set a schedule and establish timelines, you’re less likely to let a task fall by the wayside.
That said, I know firsthand how hard it can be to consistently create and post content. When I first launched my business, I decided that I would send weekly newsletters. I had been inspired by Marie Forleo’s weekly video content. I know to keep an eye out for her email every Tuesday and I look forward to it. In my own business, I emulated that model for a while before switching to a monthly schedule. After some time, I went back to sending emails weekly before stopping entirely. It was pretty simple: other things became my priorities, and once my momentum was gone, it was hard to get it back.
During that time, however, I realized something important: that I only like to send a newsletter when I have something big or important to share. Sending newsletters weekly was too much. Monthly was okay, but my schedule really needed to be dictated by the internal progress within my business, not the dates on the calendar.
If you have a deadline that you consistently fail to meet, it’s probably time to evaluate why you keep missing it. Are you posting too frequently? Trying to generate content about topics that don’t come naturally to you? Are you bored with it? Or, like I was, are you trying to force yourself to say something for the sake of saying it, despite not having anything new to report?
4. How can I develop and execute content if I’m not a writer? It’s a common misconception that you need to be a writer to create content. But content is both ideas (everything you know about your business and industry) and execution (conveying, via writing, those ideas in a way that resonates with your audience). And despite what many think, you don’t have to be good at both things to create engaging content.
I’m a huge fan of outsourcing tasks that don’t necessarily play to your strengths. If you aren’t a great writer and you’re not interested in becoming a great writer, consider delegating the writing to someone who can do the task quickly and more effectively. Even though they’re executing the content, you can still be involved in developing it, shaping it, and aligning it with your audience.
On the other hand, if you enjoy writing and want to get more proficient at writing for business, you can take courses specifically geared toward this niche. If you find that you don’t especially enjoy the conventions and requirements of business writing, you can then decide to outsource it. When it comes to establishing business processes, it often requires some trial and error to determine what works best for you. If you hate developing content or can’t find the time for it, find someone who enjoys it, who you can collaborate with, and, just like your target audience, which is aligned with your style and vibe.