What with the Cambridge Analytica scandal, cyber-bullying, and rising incidents of online hate-speech, social media gets a pretty bad rep these days.
And plenty of that’s earned.
But it’s not all bad. (And, no, I’m not talking about 30-50 feral hogs.) If you know where to look, you’ll find little pockets of positivity and support in amongst it all.
One such little oasis of calm is #ContentClubUK: a community of creatives who meet on Twitter once a week to answer three questions all about content. The group is made up of some of the most generous, smartest, and funniest people anywhere on the internet, all bringing heaps of wisdom to the table each and every week.
One thing that makes CCUK so special is that it belongs to everyone. Someone different takes up the mantle of host every time, responsible for coming up with and asking the questions. And, this past Tuesday, I was lucky enough to be given a turn.
The 30 minute period is so crammed full of laughs, advice, and expertise that it’s nigh on impossible to take in everything. Most likely, you’ll be waylaid by a fascinating little tangent about true crime podcasts, cats, or setting up an animal sanctuary in Cornwall.
With this in mind, I’ve compiled my questions and a summary of some of the answers below for posterity, and so that the goodness shared isn’t lost.
Let’s get cracking then, shall we?
We kicked off by talking about the obstacles that we face when it comes to making our own content: whether that’s designing new pages for your website, spending time creating a brand new logo, or writing a blog post.
One thing’s for sure, there are plenty of things that can get in the way. The range of responses highlights just how difficult it can be for creative professionals who normally work to client briefs to sit down and get their own content done. There are just so many hoops to jump through:
A1 It’s a mixed bag, playing lots of roles from giving yourself a brief, being the creative, judge and jury.
Knowing when good is ‘good enough’ might the top challenge. Perfectionism can be a curse. #ContentClubUK
— Leigh James (@words_person) July 30, 2019
A1: I feel like whatever I put out has to be SPOT ON. Like, no mistakes, provides value, shows off expertise and writing ability… etc. The weight of responsibility to get my own stuff right is strong so I often just put it off #ContentClubUK
— Tim (@TJtheGoodfellow) July 30, 2019
Perfectionism is a hell of an obstacle.
Maybe it’s because we think any work we put out in the public eye will go under the microscope and a single typo will mean the inevitable end of our creative careers and oh GOD how am I going to fund my already out of control biscuit habit now?
Of course, none of this is true: it’s just easy to start thinking that way and put off publishing anything at all. If this sounds familiar to you, there are three things you should remember:
1. No one’s out to get you.
2. Perfect doesn’t exist.
3. A flawed but interesting bit of content is better than no content at all.
A1: In no particular order:
– Translating initial enthusiasm into the final product.
– Trying to get a handle on what will actually resonate with people.
– Distinguishing between really good creative ideas and rubbish generated by my own prejudices! #ContentClubUK
— Wealden Wordsmith (@WealdenWordsmi1) July 30, 2019
Another answer that popped up in several responses was the difficulty of getting out of our own heads.
The majority of the people who swing by #ContentClubUK each week are freelancers, and when you’re a company of one it can be really hard to know whether an idea is an awesome gem of genius or just a weird little notion that means nothing to anyone but ourselves.
Daunting as it may be, there’s no real way to know whether something will resonate with others without just biting the bullet and putting it out there.
The thing is: you’re probably not as weird as you think you are. It takes all sorts to make a world, after all. Have faith in your own ideas and keep your expectations grounded, and you can’t go too far wrong.
A1: I definitely struggle with anything that involves talking about myself. But if it’s my own content (blogs, fiction, etc) and it’s NOT about me, that’s usually fine 😀
The only real problem there comes from allocating time to get it sorted. #ContentClubUK
— Jake Keane ✏️💻🎮📚 (@Jakebrap) July 30, 2019
The UK element of #ContentClubUK made an appearance here, too: it’s a very stereotypically British thing to find it tricky to talk about yourself.
So, what can you do if you find yourself in this predicament?
Urm… don’t… er, be British?
Failing that, try to find your authentic voice and then use it in your work. It can help to think about yourself and your work through the eyes of friends or peers.
Just be yourself. You’re great.
A1: Time, time, time, time, time and time. #ContentClubUK
— Katie Uniacke (@KatieUniacke) July 30, 2019
Katie and Jake also hit upon the most commonly cited obstacle of all: finding the time.
And that brings us neatly on to question 2. After all, there’s nothing like a bit of peer pressure to get you to squeeze an extra bit of time out of your day…
With so many obstacles that crop up when attempting to create our own content, one way of making sure we get stuff done is to lean on our network. Telling your goals to a peer and having them check up on you to keep you accountable can be an effective tactic.
A2: Telling someone else you’re going to do something and then not wanting to let them down is a great way to get things done. Having them there to pick you up when you’re floundering is good too. #ContentClubUK
— That. Content. Shed. (@thatcontentshed) July 30, 2019
As Gareth points out, an accountability buddy isn’t just there to tell you off if you don’t follow through on your goals; they’re also cheering you on, celebrating your wins with you. Support goes both ways.
#ContentClubUK A2: had an accountability pact with @_juliagraham_ and it really helped me kick start my own blog writing again. I’ve since lapsed though! Think the balance of pressure needs to be just right for me, or it’d become a hindrance rather than a help.
— copycontentwriter (@copycontentw) July 30, 2019
A2. I currently have a writer’s group/accountability pact, we’re called The Writers’ Thunderdome 😅 We share our work in a Dropbox folder, then discuss it in a weekly Skype session. We each set a goal at the end of every call. It’s a lifesaver! #ContentClubUK
— Rebecca Spelman (@RebeccaSpelman) July 30, 2019
Lots of people shared stories about accountability agreements that have worked for them in the past or which they are currently engaged in (my favourite being the spectacularly named ‘Writers’ Thunderdome’.)
A2: I’ve never had an accountability partner as I’m pretty well disciplined about posting regularly. But after discovering how amazing the ‘FAQs’ perform for lead generation, I committed to #Write52 to ensure I post weekly and keep it up! #ContentClubUK
— Alice Hollis (@AliceKHollis) July 30, 2019
Accountability pacts can take on all sorts of different forms; some people find structure and a regular schedule (say, once a week…) works for them, other people just want a gentle prod every now and again.
A2. It’s not a concept that works for me but I can see why people do it! I just like to do things on my own, most of the time, and I think I’m pretty good at holding myself accountable, anyway. #ContentClubUK
— Lisa Gust (@lisagustwrites) July 30, 2019
And, of course, some people prefer to go it alone. It’s not for everyone: especially if you’re great at self-motivation.
I guess you really don’t know what will work best for you until you give it a go, so it was great to see new accountability pacts being struck up!
This was my favourite section of the whole session.
Awesome creatives sharing their great ideas, while others gave them support and advice on how to get it done. Seriously, just read through some of the gold below: it’s just a small selection of the genius that the hive mind had to share.
A3. I’m actually going through this now (and would love help/suggestions)
I want to create a spectacular roadmap. Not a boring month by month one but a personalised interactive experience that 1. Is totally awesome and 2. provides the reader with a super asset.#ContentClubUK
— Dominic Kent (@DomKent) July 30, 2019
A3: It’s not a very big dream, but it might actually happen this way. Some video content – a “hi, I’m straightforward to work with”-type thing #contentclubuk
— Amy Boylan (@amyboylanwrites) July 30, 2019
A3. I see so many people doing amazing things in the design world, I would absolutely love to collab with people to create a map of some description, something big, something significant *drools* #ContentClubUK
— Hello I’m Nik Design (@HelloNikDesign) July 30, 2019
A3: Probably a course? Or more a toolkit for internal comms. But, you know, one without all the absolute bullshit that a lot of courses contain. #ContentClubUK
— Stephen Marsh (@smcopywriter) July 30, 2019
A3. I want to write another play! I’ve already written one and it went really well. I was supposed to get a bit of funding so I could work on it. But wait a minute- arts funding? Falling apart?? Who could have forseen this??? 😔 #ContentClubUK
— Rebecca Spelman (@RebeccaSpelman) July 30, 2019
A3: A flawless website that is so **on it** that the copy and design wouldn’t need touching for a decade or more 😆 #ContentClubUK
— Rose Crompton (@RoseC_Leic) July 30, 2019
Now, I know I said that every week the host asks three questions, but most weeks there’s a fun little bonus question too.
In a move that has been described as “potentially misguided,” and “irritatingly on-brand,” I thought it might be fun to make a playlist out of songs that the #ContentClubUK community find inspirational.
I’ve collected up all of the songs into a playlist, and it’s waiting just below for you!
Here’s what they came up with:
OK, I lied.
There’s one thing I need to plug before I can let you have the playlist.
If thinking about the challenge of making your own content and having peers around to keep you accountable has piqued your interest, then you should definitely check out #Write52.
What started as a few off-hand comments I made on Twitter about why I found it hard to publish anything on my blog has blossomed into a community of writers, designers, and marketing professionals who have all committed to a group accountability pact.
The rules? Post one original piece of content every week. For a year.
And that’s it. Write about anything you want, post it to your own site, Medium, Linked-In… wherever. Just as long as you write.
At time of writing, I’m now seven weeks in to the challenge, and while it’s been tough at times, the impact it’s had on my own ability to stop the endless tweaking and hit that publish button has been incredible. And there are now so many talented writers sharing great content every week on all sorts of different topics.
If you’d like to check out the project in more detail, search for #Write52 on Twitter and sign up to the weekly newsletter here. Fans of try before you buy* can read the latest installment of the newsletter here.
*It’s free, anyway.
Right, plug done. The playlist really is below, with the names of the people who suggested each track. If you like their choice, give them a follow and tell them so.
And I’ll see you at #ContentClubUK at 11 next Tuesday.