The iceberg chart of content creation

Content creation

Content creation success is slow and steady


I was having a conversation with a fellow author the other day about the slow progress of building a personal brand through content creation. My friend said, “Everybody only sees the tip of the iceberg! Nobody sees the years of work that went into the success.”

I think this is an accurate analogy and I think that is a great issue to explore today.

The “iceberg of content creation” chart at the top of the post is a true example — it shows my progress growing an audience over time. If you’re just starting out, perhaps you’re exasperated because it feels like nobody is seeing your content. Does anybody care?

Guess what? Everybody goes through those anxious feelings! When I started on a content creation journey it was a frustrating and lonely experience. I felt like I was throwing a message in a bottle out into the ocean. “Helloooooo … is anybody out there?”

I don’t know anybody in this business of content creation who was truly an overnight success.

Familiarity breeds familiarity

content creation

Kristian Bush and Jennifer Nettles of Sugarland

I’m working on a new book project (“Cumulative Advantage” out soon!) and had a chance to interview Kristian Bush, a founding member of the band Sugarland and a multi-platinum recording artist. Kristian had spent more than a decade building a career in music before he had his first hit. He told me a similar story of slow growth:

“Everyone thinks our momentum started with a big hit, but it wasn’t that way at all,” he said. “Music business success comes from cumulative progress. There are two kinds of bands. One kind is the one-hit wonder. You don’t want that. If that happens, you realize it would have been far more profitable to be an accountant instead. What I realized — especially in the country music industry — building a career is progressive.

“The momentum really starts with the first song on the radio. It may take years work to get there, but you have to put in that work for the doors to open. A second hit song proves that the first song wasn’t a fluke. But at that point, people still love the song … not you. They’re not attached to you because they don’t know who you are yet.

“As the momentum builds you become associated with a song and a sound and a story. Sugarland songs have a certain emotional temperature, a moral center, a compass, and of course the pleasure of hearing Jennifer Nettles as a singer. Momentum builds from just being consistent and focused. Familiarity breeds familiarity.”

Content creation success takes time

So what does this mean to you and me?

As I consider the people who are making a name for themselves in the world today, there is not one person who was an immediate success. Social media pioneer Chris Brogan once famously said that it took him three years to get his first 100 blog readers. But a few years later, he was the leading keynote speaker in his field.

Building a personal brand requires a patient mindset. When I work with people on individual coaching, I tell them to plan on committing to at least 18 months of effort before they start to see any progress.

When I wrote KNOWN: The handbook for building and unleashing your personal brand in the digital age, I interviewed 97 people who had become “known” — the go-to person in their field. The last question I asked them: “What advice would you give to somebody building a brand?” Almost all of them used some form of the word tenacity or resilience. You can’t quit too soon.

The world is crowded with content today, so in some ways breaking through is more difficult. But compared to 10 years ago, there are also more platforms and more easily accessible content creation options. A decade ago, creating and posting a video or a podcast was a chore, and probably an expensive one. You needed equipment!

Today. it’s so much easier to create content but one thing is constant: There is no shortcut.

There is a historically important opportunity ahead of you. It doesn’t matter who you are or what you’ve been through in your life. You can have a voice, you can make a dent in the world, if you’re willing to put in the patient time and effort.

Keynote speaker Mark SchaeferMark Schaefer is the executive director of Schaefer Marketing Solutions. He is the author of several best-selling digital marketing books and 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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