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Brian Basilico: Five Ways You Can Generate Better Content


Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at

Every bit, byte, and document you use by using a computer, tablet or smart phone is creating data. Every search you do in Google, Yahoo and Bing creates data. Nowadays, even turning your TV on is generating data. And you thought you were just sharing an article on Google+, liking a LinkedIn post, re-Tweeting or posting a picture to Instagram… nope, you are creating content.

Since the beginning of time, man has created content. It may have all started with grunts and cave paintings, however, it continues to evolve. We have come a long way from the Dead Sea Scrolls and monks copying books by hand.

In the mid 1400’s, printing presses were common (originally invented in China around 1000 AD). By the early 1800’s, pictures no longer had to be hand paired or drawn (photography). It was only in the late 1800’s, that words started to modulate off the page onto wires and the airwaves via audio. Video and TV commenced in the 1920’s. Computers and the internet started to become mainstream in the 1980’s. All of these have converged to what we have today… blogs, podcasts, and YouTube… (in the words of George Takei) “Oh My!”

While the majority of us aimlessly just pile on with a reckless abandon, some people (savvy marketers) actually do it with a plan and a purpose. That does not mean that every like, comment or share has to part of a complete world domination strategy, but it’s better if you are at least aware of what you are doing.

Text – You don’t have to be a professional writer to create great content. All you really need is an idea, an audience and a purpose. There are many ways to write: a blog, word processor, text editor, note taking software (Evernote), even a good old note pad. All good content takes rewriting, proofing and editing. There are many tips and tricks to making good content great, including: killer headlines, stories, flow, calls to action and more. What matters most is that you just write and start to formulate some content. You can always hire someone to edit or proofread your work. Having written four books and hundreds of blogs and websites, I’ve learned how to start, and when to ask for help!

Pictures – People with smart phones take way more pictures than people with regular cameras. That’s because they are easy, accessible and infinitely more sharable via social media. I am always on the look out for opportunities for good or unique pictures throughout my day. Meetings, nature, animals, food, even pictures of pictures can be repurposed in all of your communications. The best part is you own the rights to them, and they cost you virtually nothing. Stock photo libraries like Shutterstock, GraphicStock and IStock Photo offer inexpensive quality photo options, but can be restrictive since you pay based on the size (resolution) of the image. Pictures are often worth a 1000 words, and actually enhance the communication of your written words.

Audio – Sometimes that text you have written can be used as an audio script. That script can be used to produce a podcast, radio show, audio for video, and more. Recording is easier than ever. With a smart phone or tablet (iPad), audio recording apps are either built in, free or can be bought for a small fee. On the desktop or laptop, free programs like Audacity are available to record, edit and mix audio. Paid versions include: Adobe Audition, Apple Logic, and the granddaddy of them all Avid ProTools. Add in an inexpensive USB microphone and some stock music or sound effects, and you have the makings of an audio production studio. Audio can just be an extension or evolution of your audience engaging with your content.

Video – Now that you have words, audio and pictures, you could convert all that to video. You can also use your smartphone to record some video. A lot of people use the built in camera on their laptop to record talking head shots. Intersperse some audio, pictures and keyword content from your writing, and you have the makings of a training or marketing video. Macs come with iMovie free, which can be a great place to start to learn video editing techniques. Programs like ScreenFlow (Mac) or Camtasia (PC) are mid level programs. When quality counts, you may have to learn to use a higher end editing program like Apple Final Cut, Sony Vegas, or Avid Media Composer. Finally, sometimes it just makes more sense to hire someone with all the knowledge and equipment.

Repurposed – I have learned over the years to create content with a vision to the future. Not all content is going to be repurposed, but always be on the lookout for ways to extend the life of your efforts. Ideas an be turned into blogs, which can be turned into presentations, which can be turned into classes, which can then be turned into products. All of my books and products were built on the foundation of my blogs, which involved building upon ideas and maturing them into future returns on my investment in writing. Even if you never plan to write a book, or create training classes or products, keeping that in mind can help make your writing easier and flow better.

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