Being a decent content marketer is about matching your strengths with what actually gets results.

For some, that may mean creating the next cat-riding-a-sneezing-panda-to-K pop viral sensation, but for me it’s often about using data to create powerful stories that influence social heavyweights.

Based on my wins and fails in content marketing, here are six principles that I’ve come to realise play a part in making content stand out. 

1. Your content shouldn’t be about you

If your content features a single perspective, or doesn’t shine light on anyone but your own company, you’re missing the point. 

Your content should force you to make new connections, and to have conversations with the great minds in your industry.

I recently put together an article called ’30 Pieces of Advice From 30 Music Industry Entrepreneurs’. Not only did this mean I ended up with a 2,500+ word post brimming with inspirational words of wisdom, but I also made some great connections in the process.

The point though, was that the light was not on me or my company, it was on these 30 entrepreneurs.

Several weeks earlier, I put together an interactive infographic called The Music Industry Social 100, which was essentially a summary of which companies in the music industry are using social media effectively, categorised by labels, instrument manufacturers, streaming services etc.

Once again, this content wasn’t about me. It was about Spinnin Records being the most social independent label, Reverbnation being the most social music marketing platform, and Gibson being the most social instrument manufacturer. 

2. Make your data do the hard work

I learnt at an early point in my journey as a digital marketer that opinion-based content works best for people whose opinions are highly respected or well thought out, but factual or data-backed content works whoever you are.

When I first entered the industry and started speaking at SEO conferences I was 18 years old. I was keen to find a way to overcome the preconception of being inexperienced. For me, using data was the answer.

I’d talk about experiments that I had run and explain the results I saw to the audience. That way I didn’t need to talk about opinions – I’d inform the audience with the data and let them form their own opinions about what it meant for their strategy.

This taught me another important lesson – in an industry where opinionated content is saturated (true of both the music and digital marketing industry) experiments and data-backed stories really stand out. 

There is so much opportunity to collect public data to craft great stories – and they work. Let your data do the hard work for you. 

3. Your content should shine light on the people you want to influence 

The first blog post I ever wrote that got a decent amount of traction was a piece called ‘Which Mabel Record Label Uses Twitter the Best?’

I analysed data from bit.ly+ links to work out which major label was getting the most engagement from their tweets (this was before social analytics tools). I concluded that at the time EMI were using social media far more effectively than the other three major labels. After a few days, I noticed EMI sharing my post from 20 or so of their global Twitter accounts. Not bad.

This made me realise that if you say something nice about someone in a post, it’s highly likely that they’ll share it. Better yet, if you say something nice about someone in comparison to their competitors using hard data to back up your point, you’re almost guaranteed a share.

Since realising this, I’ve managed to get my content shared by P Diddy, Guy Kawasaki, Bloomingdales, Hot Chip, and many other social media heavyweights. 

4. Your content should be more ambitious than everyone else’s 

If everyone in your niche is writing top 10 posts, stand out with a top 100 post. If everyone is doing interviews with one to four people per post, write a post where you interview 10-50 people in your industry.

If everyone is doing one thing – be it text posts, opinionated writing, or sharing memes, try doing the complete opposite, or do what they’re doing 10x bigger and better.

OkCupid is a great example. There are many dating sites, and the data they share is owned by many different companies. What makes its content stand out is that it’s the only company spending eight weeks+ crafting the data into a monster of a blog post.  

Ultimately though, they were just more ambitious with their content than their competitors.

5. Your content must have never been done before

Unless no one saw it, it’s about kittens, or it’s become topical again, there’s rarely a good reason to rehash a piece of content.

One of the most popular articles I’ve written about SEO was about an experiment I ran a few years ago on ‘What Happens When You Build 10,000 Dodgy Links to a Domain in 24 Hours’. It worked because it had never been done before.

No one in the industry knew for sure what would happen if you build such a huge quantity of bad links to a domain in such a short space of time – many thought they knew, but as the post showed, what the industry thinks is true, and what is actually true can be two very different things. 

6. Small touches go a very long way

It amazes me how most bloggers put so much effort and passion into writing great content, but then don’t format their masterpiece to do their content justice. That’s the equivalent of a tech company creating the best phone or laptop in the World, but shipping it without any casing. First impressions count, and small touches definitely make a World of difference.

Pay close attention to detail when creating content – it pays off. 

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