The end of boring content: A call to belong

boring content

By Mark Schaefer

A few years ago, I wrote about the most important personal trait for blogging: Courage. In this era of overwhelming competition for attention I’m compelled to re-visit the topic, in stronger and more urgent terms.

You no longer have a choice. Whether you blog for a company, create videos for customers, or simply enjoy recording your own podcast, the recipe for success is radically simple. You have to stop trying to fit in. You must show yourself. And that’s not easy.

The problem with fitting in

When I started blogging nearly 10 years ago, I was determined to fit in. What a mistake that was.

Here was my plan for success: Be Chris Brogan. At that time (and still today) Chris was a pioneering blogger who established many of the best practices we take for granted today. So, I relentlessly copied him.

If Chris wrote five posts a week, so did I.

If Chris wrote long blog posts, so did I.

If he got in people’s faces, so did I.

I was freaking out over this overwhelming world of competition and I desperately wanted to be part of it … like Chris and my other blogging heroes.

But what I didn’t understand is that “fitting in” means conforming. It means playing a role. That was not sustainable, and I became bored, disheartened, and exhausted. On top of everything, nobody was paying attention to me — the mini-Brogan.

A focus on belonging

About a year into my blogging journey I decided that to keep from going crazy I just needed to be myself. I started to add my own voice and personality to my posts. If I felt happy I said so. If I was cranky, I said so. I even took a stand at one point and disagreed with Chris in public (He was bemused).

Being myself was the true and only turning point in my content career. You see, I learned that I didn’t need to fit in. I needed to belong.

When you truly belong to a community, you don’t have to live by other people’s standards, you are accepted for who you are.

I didn’t need to be Chris. I didn’t need to change who I am. I needed to BE who I am.

You belong, too

Are you trying to “fit in” or “belong?”

Based on the volume of content I see every week, the answer is resounding: Almost everybody is trying to fit in.

Believe me, I KNOW how hard it is to stay centered in this competitive world. You see somebody doing something cool and you probably think you have to do that, too. When a topic gets hot, you might want to pile on (like everybody else).

One of the weirdest things about the social media world is that often when some leader like Gary V says something, everybody starts repeating it to fit in … even if it is blatantly false (my theory is that Gary V wakes up every day thinking “I can’t believe I got away with that.”). Sometimes I feel like I live in an alternate universe run by Gary V and Seth Godin instead of a vibrant and free-thinking community that values new ideas and diversity.

Disengage from Guru Mode

Here is the truth — if you want to be the next Gary V or Seth it will not work. Ever. I know these guys would tell you the same thing as I’m telling you now. Just as I had to abandon my Brogan Plan, you have to stop following the Guru Pack, and you need to stop right now.

I know that’s scary.

What if people don’t like you or accept you? It seems so much safer to stay in Guru Mode and rinse and repeat whatever other people are saying.

But here is my promise to you. You can stop trying to fit in because you do belong. You belong. You deserve to be here and you deserve to be heard. We need to hear you, we want to hear you.

Your voice is worthy. Make people feel something. Make people do something. Write or record something that makes them notice you.

Here are a couple topics you can create content about right now that will push you into your own zone. Create content about:

  • A childhood event that changed your view of the world.
  • Lead with an emotion like joy or anger about some development in your field.
  • Disagree with somebody you consider a leader in the field (you don’t agree everybody ALL the time do you?)
  • An experience that made you wonder about the world today.
  • A person that made the biggest impact on your life.
  • What is happening in the world that makes you feel joyful? Resolute? Hopeful? Discouraged?
  • What does this moment feel like right now … trying to belong instead of fit in?

To stand out today, you simply have no choice — you must be original. To be original, you have to add YOUR story, not repeat somebody else’s story.

Take a step toward finding your own place. Every step gets easier … but you have to begin.

Start now. Belong.

Keynote speaker Mark SchaeferMark Schaefer is the chief blogger for this site, executive director of Schaefer Marketing Solutions, and the author of several best-selling digital marketing books. He is an acclaimed keynote speaker, college educator, and business consultant.  The Marketing Companion podcast is among the top business podcasts in the world.  Contact Mark to have him speak to your company event or conference soon.

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