How to Stand Out in a Sea of Content

How to Stand Out in a Sea of Content

We’re drowning in content.

I could find at least a dozen answers to any question in an instant. What has already happened in my industry is well documented, and what is currently happening is a matter of constant debate.

It goes round and round. What we were doing, what we are doing, what we should be doing.

The problem is that most content follows the pattern of TV pundits. Keep your points vague enough, and you can always back out. You never look the fool by stating hard numbers that might turn out to be wrong. You never take a risk by giving an opinion that’s later revealed to be stupid.

It’s boring, but it’s safe.

We’re worried we’ll look like fools. You’ve certainly heard about the guy who didn’t believe anyone would ever want a personal computer, even if one could be made. You’ve heard about the idiots who turned down J.K. Rowling’s manuscript.

Do you remember those people?

Do you even know their names?

Of course not. Failure isn’t important. Steve Jobs, who successfully made the personal computer popular, is important. J.K. Rowling, the author of the wildly popular Harry Potter series, is important. The failures? Not important.

Well, not to anyone but us, of course.

In the moment, failures feel immense. We forget our successes as soon as the thrill of victory wears off, but our failures haunt us for months – sometimes years – reminding us of that foolish claim we once made or that action we took that tainted our reputation.

Letting failure haunt us is dumb. Because that’s not how history works. It’s not even how the internet works.

Most people are remembered for their successes – even those who failed spectacularly and publicly on their way to victory. The failures were just hurdles they had to overcome along the way.

Edison said it best: “I have not failed 10,000 times—I’ve successfully found 10,000 ways that will not work.” We don’t remember Edison for his vast amounts of phenomenal failures. We remember him most because of a single success: the light bulb.

Only you remember your failures. Other people remember your successes.

So if you want to know how to stand out in a sea of content, you’re going to need to take risks. You’ll have to start taking some chances. You’ll have to make some failures that will be forgotten to achieve some successes they’ll remember.

Here are some ideas to get you started:

Make Predictions

Forget what’s going to happen next month, or even what’s in the process of happening now. Don’t tell me that Twitter is over or that Facebook is the new black. Don’t tell me that content is king or that blogging is dead.

Tell me what the online world will look like in ten years. Tell me what will happen to online businesses. Tell me what your business model would look like if you started outsourcing everything.

Try to be right. Do your best to make accurate predictions. It doesn’t matter if you’re wrong.

We need people to make us think about the future. We need people brave enough to make bold predictions. We need to imagine what our own businesses would look like if everything changed – or if nothing changed and it all imploded on itself.

We need to think about what comes next.

It makes for fascinating reading.

Give Your Real Opinion

People are afraid to say what they really think. They’re worried they’ll be seen as over-reacting. They’re afraid there might be a terrible backlash. They’re concerned it’ll turn out to be a gut reaction, and that they’ll be proven wrong.

It’s easier to give softer opinions that are hard to argue with.

But it’s worth giving your real opinion, because people remember bravery.

They forget demurrals.

If you participate in a discussion about your industry, take a firm stand. Be for something, or be against it. Take on a prominent figure and give your real opinion about whether they’re helping or hindering. Explain your position fully, and run through it point by point.

If you’re wrong, you’re wrong. You can always write another article later detailing how you’ve been persuaded to a new point of view. In the meantime, say what you really think.

Imagine Out Loud

This is one of my favorites. It’s a little similar to making predictions about the future, but it’s a lot more fun.

Predicting the future is what you think will happen. Imagining the future is what you wish would happen.

For example: I think that within the next five years, online business owners trying to keep up with new technology, tools and trends are going to reach a point of overwhelm that’s irrecoverable.

I wish we could create a secret society of online business owners who’ve gone back to their roots, shunning all new gadgets and trends in favor of using proven old-school techniques.

Now, I know the latter isn’t practical for many reasons. But it’s fun to imagine, and it raises many interesting points about the effectiveness of traditional marketing and the dangers of trying to keep up in a world that never stops.

It gets my imagination going. It gets other people’s imaginations going.

And when you get a group of people willing to dream alongside you? You’ve basically achieved what content is designed to do: you’ve made them see the world from your point of view.

Post by James Chartrand

James Chartrand is an expert copywriter and the owner of Men with Pens and Damn Fine Words, the game-changing writing course for business owners. She loves the color blue, her kids, Nike sneakers and ice skating.

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  1. I’d stress the importance of having people who believe in you and keep you going through all those failures. It helps if they’re also good critics.

    –Michael W. Perry, co-author of Lily’s Ride

    • It’s definitely good to have supportive people to help you stay balanced and believing in what you do – surrounding yourself with the right people is key to success!

      That said, the danger zone is that many writers rely too much on what other people think… and that can lead to a lot of self-doubt, fear of publishing what they’ve written and worrying over potential reactions from readers. Learning how to develop internal validation and self-acceptance tends to go farther in the long run!

  2. I like it James. This really is the point of content, having people see the world the way you do. If you can get them to think the way you do, that’s successful business! Thanks for more great tips. I appreciate your point of view!

    Sincerely,
    Lindsay

    • And that’s the whole point, isn’t it? Helping people see the world as we do. Every single person in the world has a unique perspective, and it’s worth sharing that to gather others of like minds closer, or even to encourage discussion about a certain topic or situation.

      Good things come from those, always!

      • I fully agree. Encouraging discussion and sharing like minds is the point of everything I do! Words can be so powerful. It’s one of the reasons I became a writer, and not just a reader! I wanted to be an active participant in this world of words.

        All good things:-)

  3. Thanks for shaking my thinking pattern, James. I didn’t try predicting the future but that’s something I believe we should do regularly. For us, writers, we can produce a massive stream of content on just this point. Combined with imagining out loud it will be even more explosive. New writers can easily build their writing muscles with this changed mindset – I’ll be trying this myself.

    Your wonderful words are always impressive and encourage me to take action. Thanks again!

    • You’re welcome! I think the ideas I outlined in the post sure would make a nice break for bloggers who are sick of writing on the same old topic – like you mentioned, we have to produce a massive stream on content, so it’s good to have new paths for a mental change!

  4. I’ve always secretly wanted people to shun the new technology, gadgets and just revert back to the old ways. I personally took upon a project for myself where I gave up my smartphone for a stupid, yellow box that hangs up every time I get a message. Smh. But, despite the weird looks I still get from people, I kind of like knowing that I’m not in the clutches of these ever-growing technological gadgets. That said, I do still own my iPad, and mac. Baby steps, lol.

    And fantastic post, James! Plus, I absolutely adore your website design!!! I think I’ll write a post on imagining a life without all these technological constraints(as I like to call them). I can always write a case-study on myself!

    Thanks for the burst for inspiration, and awesome, supportive words!

  5. I like the idea of the secret society of people who rebel against technology. One of my favorite mystery writers wrote about sitting in a pub with a yellow legal pad to write his next novel.

    I agree. Nothing like a yellow pad for planning, outlining and even first drafts… and coming up with six controversial ideas before breakfast.

  6. Excellent read, James!
    That subject is really topical nowadays. Thanks for the great tips.

  7. Big and bold! I like the advice. Here’s another way we can generate fresh content … When helping clients, we can keep our eyes open for problems they have that other clients can learn from. In the midst of solving a problem, take a moment to write a note to yourself on your “blog ideas” list about the issue. Jot down bullet points for key ideas the post would entail. If appropriate, ask the client if you might use his or her particular problem in the article as an example. Applying this method to blogging, I actually build my blog while doing my client work. My business is book editing, and every time I find an interesting problem in the manuscript I’m working on, it goes onto my blog-topic list.

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