9 Steps To Creating Engaging Content [INFOGRAPHIC]

[Adorable girl image via Shutterstock]

[Adorable girl image via Shutterstock]

[Guest blog post by Craig Silverman]: Great content can spark engagement, foster relationships and generate new leads. It can also help to establish you as a thought leader. Content is seemingly the gateway to a new world of success for every professional and business.

You must have a plan in place that helps you to regularly produce quality content for your marketing.

But how?

There is a simple, proven path that anyone can follow to create terrific content… every time. Here is  your no hype, follow-it-and-it-works guide to creating excellent content.

[Girl writing image via Shutterstock]

The no hype, buzzword-free guide to creating good content for your business

First, check out this handy, at-a-glance infographic. Share it, pin it, tweet it… even save it and embed on your own blog!


Then scroll below for a text based explanation of the 9-Step guide…

No Hype Guide to Content Creation

1. Think about what you know

They say, “Write what you know.” Sometimes, they’re right.

What do you know about? What do you like to talk about? What do people seem to like to hear you talk about?

Now, make a list of the things you know about, the things people seem to want to hear about, the topics you’re interested in (and that matter to your business) and that you get excited about.

Hey, look, someone just put a list of interesting topics in front of you that you’d be good at writing about, and that will help your profile and business.

2. Find good sources

Who produces good content and good data about the items on your list? Find the websites, blogs, books and other material that contain the best writing and reporting about your topics.

Did you notice they’re now your topics? Yes, take ownership. You’re now invested in them, and that means you need to learn everything you can. Find the sources you need to track, and collect them together. Keep adding new sources and pruning the less valuable ones.

Now all you need to do is…

3. Read

Read every day. Read the good stuff, a lot of it. Read within your topics, by the sources that matter.

You’re seeing what good content looks like, and you’re seeing what people have already talked about. You’re also staying up to date on the topics that matter.

Take some time to read the bad stuff, too. Ask yourself, “What makes it bad?” Think about how it could be better. How would you have done it? What’s missing? What makes the good stuff so good?

Now you’re not just consuming content — you’re analyzing it and understanding what makes it work, or not. This is how you get good at creating good content. It’s also how to generate ideas.

4. Save things

Remember when you read that one piece and you realized what it was missing, or it sparked a related idea that went unexplored? Did you save it, file it away in a proper place with your notes?

That’s what writers do.

They read things and save them and jot down ideas and questions.

You must set up a system. You must save the things that matter, and annotate them. Add your thoughts. Keep notes and ideas.

5. Hold an editorial meeting

Here’s what an editorial meeting looks like: People come together and bring things they read and saved and jotted down. They begin sentences with, “What if…” and  “Wouldn’t it be interesting if” and “I’m interested in…”

Grab a few colleagues, tell them to bring in a few good things they read recently and one or two topics they’re interested in. Now talk about this stuff.

Talk about the things you read and what they made you think about. Make strange connections. Take someone’s idea and help make it better. Then think of a headline for what you come up with. Now go write something to back up that headline.

Repeat this weekly, and start reviewing the stuff you created and whether it worked or not, and why.

6. Give yourself deadlines

Deadlines provide focus and motivation.

To make them really work, don’t keep deadlines yourself. Make them public, on an editorial calendar. That other people have access to.

Hold yourself to your deadline. Get other people to hold you to them. Hold other people to theirs.

When someone misses a deadline, go into their office, close the door and smash something against the wall. Get a mad dog crazy look in your eyes and scream a bunch of unintelligible things punctuated by the word DEADLINE.

Okay, maybe don’t do that. People might write about it. It could be good content, but it’s not the kind we want.

7. Write

Writing is a natural extension of the reading, the ideation, the discussions and refining of your ideas. Now you have everything you need to write something. Sit down, get started. Don’t censor yourself too much in the early stages.

Quote from sources, and link back to them. Credit other people for good ideas, as that doesn’t diminish yours.

Add your take, your value to what’s been gathered. Have an angle. Share an anecdote that helps illustrate your point. If you have personal experience, share it. (No boasting, though.)

Three things to keep in mind:

  • Being clear and/or useful is better than trying to be funny and/or outrageous. Easier, too.
  • Don’t use words you don’t understand.
  • Don’t waste the words you understand by using them carelessly.

8. Get edited

Those people in the editorial meeting? One of them is going to be your editor. Tell them to help you follow the above advice. Tell them to be ruthless in the name of ensuring what you’ve written is clear and has a point.  Tell them to be generous with praise. We all like that. But they also need to tell you what doesn’t work.

Argue a bit when you disagree, but always focus on what best serves the reader, rather than your ego.

9. Repeat

Good content takes practice. Keep following the process, keep reading and saving and sharing ideas and writing them. You’ll get better.

People will compliment you on your progress. Say thank you and get back to work on your next good piece of content.

Now you know the truth about good content: it creates tremendous value for your community and can help grow your business, too!

Did you enjoy these tips? What would you add? What are your favorite sources of content. Please add your comments below. We love to hear from our readers.

Craig SilvermanAbout the author: Craig Silverman is Director of Content for Spundge, a platform that helps professionals and organizations discover, curate and create engaging content. He is the author of two award-winning non-fiction books, and his writing has appeared in The New York Times, International Herald Tribune, The Globe And Mail, Toronto Star, Harvard’s Nieman Reports, and Columbia Journalism Review.

[NOTE from Mari: I am a huge fan of Spundge and use it daily for my own social media and that of my clients!]

Mari Smith

Forbes Top Social Media Power Influencer | Facebook Marketing Expert | Globe-trotting Speaker, Author | 'Mari like Ferrari' | Bubbly Scottish-Canadian!

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Posted in Content Marketing, Social Media
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  • Tamarray Cain

    Most people just post an infographic & they’re done! Thanks for going above & beyond by breaking down each point. I definitely found this blog post very valuable!

  • Great to hear, Tamarray!

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  • Craig, I’m curious about one aspect of #7 — when/how do you determine whether you’re going to write an information-centric editorial or a character-centric story?

    Do you look for pointers during the later steps of the process, or do you decide in the beginning that you’re going to develop a narrative for a particular topic?

    I’m not trained as a journalist, so I’m curious about how professionals address this aspect of storyline development. Thanking you in advance for your response.

  • Thanks for the great question, David. For me, I find that the process of reviewing what you’ve been saving, and then talking about it with colleagues helps shape your angle/narrative. The material usually guides your approach and focus.

    Often you’ll see a connection between a few items and realize you can tie it together into something. Or a discussion about a topic yields an approach you didn’t think of right away.

    However, I’d also note that it’s also to look at your content and try to make sure you have a good mix of different approaches. So there’s nothing wrong with deciding your focus ahead of time — but just make sure you have the material to support it. If not, it won’t deliver what you had hoped.

    One last thing: the steps leading up to #7 are all about helping stimulate ideas, and providing you with the material and authority to produce something of value. So work the system and you’ll see that the best approach with often reveal itself!

  • KirstenNelson

    I agree, great example of how taking the time to explain your infographic can add much clarity. Thanks for taking the time to break it down like this Craig!

  • That’s also great to hear, Kirsten. Thank you for taking the time to say so.

  • Great work and idea sharing here. Thanks for your presentation, awesome!!

  • I love this article. I am an aspiring blogger/writer and I need pointers to get things going. Many thanks for sharing your thoughts.

  • G-Force Marketing

    I fully agree with the 9 steps. Great visual checklist. BUT what small business has time? This reinforces though my efforts to build marketing apprentices to extract and manage this from time starved business owners! http://www.gforceacceleration.com/apprentices

  • This was great and #6 (set deadlines) as simple as it sounds really works.

  • vechols

    Craig,
    I agree with others – your added comments about the infographic are a great idea. While I am attracted to the visual, your elaborations were helpful. In fact, each of these steps could serve as a blog on their own.

    #4 – Would you mind sharing your thoughts on ways you save information? I am constantly saving – but have not devised a system where I can find it easily. I use Chrome bookmarks, Google Docs, and apps like Evernote, Add this or Delicious. I’d like to simplify and keep track of things better so I can then carry them to the next step in your outline. What are your thoughts? Hey – this could end up being a blog post for me. I appreciate your help.
    Vickie

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  • Claire Georghiades

    Thank you Mari. We love your infographic so much we have embedded it in our own blog. Invaluable advice to overcome writer’s block.

  • I really like the “have an editorial meeting idea.” I’d make it even broader and say just have a meeting. Some of our best content comes from a team meeting or a casual discussion in the office.

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  • Yakhouse

    Thanks for your presentation, awesome. Great work and idea sharing here!!

  • I agree — setting deadlines and hold yourself and others to them can be powerful.

  • Cheers!

  • Exactly. The idea is that having a focused time to share ideas and discuss what matters can result in great content ideas. The key is to have that content mindset in place so that you think to translate the good stuff into good content.

  • Thank you!

  • Lovely that you shared it!

  • Hi Vickie,

    Thank you for your comment and question. Regarding #4, I have suffered from the same problem — it requires so many tools and apps to gather and save the best info, and organize it properly. I also want to be able to share it easily with team members.

    Please forgive me for mentioning our company, but to be completely honest we built Spundge in part to solve this problem. I personally was using Delicious, Google Alerts, Evernote, Google Reader etc. to find and save items.

    So we built Spundge to do the core act of reading/discovering/saving/organizing in one place. We also added content creation tools and collaboration to offer the full workflow for marketers and content creators — but the starting point was a smart place to save and organize things.

    So, of course, that’s what I use now. I know other people have their own workflow and tools and am always interested in hearing what they keep in their toolbox. I hope this helps, and that you forgive me for mentioning our product! It’s honestly what I use now.

  • Great to hear it’s useful!

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  • vechols

    Ok thanks! I will give Spundge a try. I appreciate your responsiveness.

  • One thing I need to improve is giving myself deadlines 😉 Great post!

  • Great advice, just one thing a bit confusing: “Sign up for a free account at Spundge.com”. Spundge isn’t free, it only has a 30 days unlimited free trial. Big difference. And very difficult to find any information about pricing after the 30 days on their website.

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  • I have to check out the Spundge! You have written an easy-to-follow guide. I like the reading part. “Leaders are readers.” #10 could be a foot-note: rinse (& repeat), i.e., edit, update and comment on your content.

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  • Nely

    Hi Craig thank you for your nice post and such a great visual but I have to be honest with you, I do not like deadlines. I think ‘deadlines’ and I have a love-hating relationship lol. It is perhaps because I don’t like to feel anxious or as if someone is pushing me, however I have to admit a bit of stress makes me work quicker and productively. Crazy Isn’t it? But everyone is different. :)

    Another point I would add is ‘stay focus’, many people have lack of concentration while they are trying to write or developing any activity.

    We have written a bit more about it on the website I’m collaborating with, I would love if you give me your feedback

    http://www.eelanmedia.com/how-do-i-improve-my-business-focus/

    :)

  • Great visual, full of awesome tips. Thank you for this useful article!

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  • Good article on how to make a basic infographic for your brand/industry

  • Aneta ThinkofAll

    Wonderful information, Craig! Thanks so much for gathering this info and
    pulling it together so well in this succinct article. Great advice!
    Keep up the great work.

  • Brie Dorsey

    I especially like the tip about holding an editorial meeting. Its so easy to get caught up in your own thoughts as a content creator, but its important to examine what is moving the needle for other people as well.

  • Rachel S. Park

    Hi Craig! Thanks for the quick and easy-to-remember list! i love your content inspiration tip – read what’s already out there and create supplemental content to support or make the information better. and of course, practice really does make perfect!

  • Craig, I love the idea of adding a more detailed information to your infographic. I use some of these ideas – apart from number 6 – setting goals and deadlines doesn’t work for me :)

    I agree that reading has many benefits but you don’t need to “Read within your topics”. In fact, I found that very often I find inspiration or a new idea for my business when I red a book that has nothing to do with my profession.

    Looking outside your specialty area or outside your comfort zone helps you think and create outside your familiar frame of reference.

  • Bardi Toto-Drake

    Mari love your posts. maybe you could be a guest blogger on my blog and vise versa. contact me http://www.barditoto.com under contact us please

  • Michael Lucy

    Thanks Mari for the wonderful article …

  • TalineVertians

    Fantastic
    article. No amount of fancy buzzwords and hype can compensate for solid
    content. I’d like to add a tip –make your content stand out. Don’t
    always jump on the bandwagon.
    For fun, take an opposing stance on the topic and even play devil’s
    advocate. This will stimulate people’s minds into thinking from two
    angles on a topic. Include a catchy, maybe even controversial, headline
    that will spark someone’s interest, and watch how
    your content will be found, read and shared. Thanks for the great read.
    – Taline Vertians, Sprocket Media

  • Its so simple rally, just like most great ideas in real life. Plan out what you want, find the resources to make it happen, and then adjust the plan as necessary. No need for buzzword laden puffed up content full of filler, just say what you mean and mean what you say.

    Its nice when things work this way, simple to understand and simple to take care of. Thank you Craig, this is a great article.

  • I love this article. I am an aspiring blogger/writer and I need pointers to get things going. Many thanks for sharing your thoughts.

  • Junaid Ahmed

    Amazing article! How simple you made the effective content writting. The last point I liked the most that in content writting more focus should towards the customer along with the search engine optimization. Thank you for sharing the great infographic.

  • Susan LilBear Perry

    I love infographics like this that get the point across! This is great info for anyone like myself who has trouble finding good content to write about. Definitely bookmarking this one :)

  • dxkodmk

    Thank you very much., Youare a good writer.

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  • Amanda Morgan

    Thank you Craig, for this easy to understand infographic. I have personally always found the “Save Things” step to be the most helpful for me in any process – creating engaging content and beyond. It is all too easy to forget great ideas if you don’t have a brainstorming system that works. So, consider this pinned!

  • Guest

    This graph is simply awesome! Having these 9 steps as a routine, it can really help us to be able to generate more engaging content. These steps can also fit very well for those who manage Social Media content for brands. Having good sources and keep up to date are crucial to be a content strategist. But we know that gathering content and curation are not a easy job. I would include a previous step: knowing your target audience. Knowing for whom you are creating content is as crucial as the other steps. Create personas can be a awesome tools for this step. And finally, I think we should also develop good eyes to be able to filter what will be relevant for our target and at the same time for the brand. The intersection between both will be the content killer, dont you think? :)

  • lisandramaioli

    This graph is simply awesome! Having these 9 steps as a routine, it can really help us to be able to generate more engaging content. These steps can also fit very well for those who manage Social Media content for brands. Having good sources and keep up to date are crucial to be a content strategist. But we know that gathering content and curation are not a easy job. I would include a previous step: knowing your target audience. Knowing for whom you are creating content is as crucial as the other steps. Create personas can be a awesome tools for this step. And finally, I think we should also develop good eyes to be able to filter what will be relevant for our target and at the same time for the brand. The intersection between both will be the content killer, don’t you think? :)

  • Extremely informative article here. Lots of of things that can help me blog, Up Next at http://upnext.tk immediately. I love the graphic. Thank You for sharing this!

  • Martin

    Nice. I recogniczed the same things you describe. When we applied them we had a huge readership on one of our articles. http://www.entrepreneurial-insights.com/marketing-plan-complete-guide/

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  • Paul Coonor

    Thanks so much for this article, presently undergoing training at the http://www.wdc.com.ng digital center and this post has really helped me understand content marketing.

  • Practical advice for both agencies and businesses – especially the part about giving yourself deadlines! Thanks :)

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