What makes content good?

Good content has to be about something you know, and that cuts out 99 percent of the stuff in social media.

My last post on content as the driver of successful online programs got a relatively lively discussion over on my Facebook page and young Anton Molodetskiy (rhymes with "my broken jet ski") at the Hoffman Agency suggested I follow up with a post on what makes content "sharable."  Then a long time compatriot, Don Tuite (the analog guru at Electronic Design magazine) tossed out a bunch of questions.

"What about content nobody can find because it only shows up on page 10 of the search results? What about content that isn't true, but is truthy? If content is crowd-sourced, is it true? What makes for a 'trusted source.'?"

So, at the risk of giving away the store, because helping companies do this is my business, it's probably a good idea to get into this.  Let's start with Don's last question.

First, good content has to be about something you know, and that cuts out 99 percent of the stuff in social media.  Let's say, for argument's sake, that you are well versed in the subject of your content and that you are quite passionate about it.  This can describe almost any marketing person.

Second, you have to know what makes your audience excited about the subject matter.  This weeds out a LOT of corporate content because most marketing managers have no clue what the customer base really needs.  Their job is to tell the customer, tell them again and then tell them one more time what the company wants them to hear.  Truth is a luxury.  You may be one of those rare people who does understand the customer base but there are so many out there that don't that just by being an employee of a company cuts deeply into your credibility with the customer.  You will have to go a long way to convince them otherwise.  Social media can help with that, if you are willing to make the effort and/or investment in the process.

What makes for a "trusted source" is a relationship based on mutual respect.  While I was doing the PR thing, there were several journalists who would call me up and ask about a certain subject knowing that if one of my clients could not provide insight, I would provide contact information and introductions to sources even if they were not a client.  There were several who told me they would take my calls, even if I hadn't talked to them in a couple of years, because they "knew" I wouldn't call unless I had something interesting.  What made me get out of the PR thing was the complete lack of substance I was seeing coming out of the clientele and their absolute disrespect of the media.  Which was par for the course because they really didn't respect their customers either, for the most part.

You don't get to be a trusted source just because you can write stuff and post it on the interweb tubes.  You get there by knowing what you communicate about and respect your audience enough to know what they need to hear.  Journalists are good at that because they are not directly reliant on revenue from the company they are writing about.  Their audience may not agree with their perspective, but they generally trust that the journalist made some effort to look at the story as objectively as possible.

So if you're objective and independent that makes you a trusted source?  Nope.  It still goes back to the relationship.  When Don writes about technology, people read his stuff because (1) they have been reading the magazine he writes for for a while and (2) Don's stuff is what they are interested in.  They may not even know Don's name, but the source of the information (the publication) is trusted.  If Don were to change his style and start boosting certain companies' tech without regard for balance, the readers would soon stop trusting the source... and Electronic Design would find someone else to write the stuff.  That takes work because relationships take work.

Coming soon,  "Truthiness is a myth."