Creating Great Content is Hard (there, I said it)

I love how the web is changing the way that we publish, empowering both creators and consumers in a myriad of ways.

Dan BlankTwo trends concern me though:

  • The idea that great content is easy to create.
  • The idea that you can become an expert quickly.

I’ve paid a lot of attention to online training programs over the past year, where experts teach a group of people tips and strategies via online tools such as webcasts, forums, etc. Some of these programs get great reviews, such as Teaching Sells.

As these types of programs proliferate, I’m noticing more people whose expertise is based on a single experience, and who promise that creating and leveraging great content online is easy.

For instance: “Here is the 1 Amazing Tip to Catapult You to YouTube Stardom.”

But the reality is, creating great content is often very difficult. It takes years of practice, and a fair amount of luck. Even the best directors, writers and musicians struggle to follow up one hit with a second hit. Many who have early success spend decades living off the halo effect of that initial effort, unable to recreate that magic.

Gary Vaynerchuck makes this clear in his book Crush It. He talks about using social media to reach your goals, but he tells you that you will need to be waking up at 5am and going to bed at 2am. The story of what he has created is inspiring, but he is careful to not sell it as a quick fix for your life.

This is why traditional media will continue to be valuable, and the experts within that field can do so much to succeed on the web. Editors, journalists, writers, photographers, musicians and creators of all kinds.

Yes, the revenue models have changed. But their knowledge and ability to create something from nothing will be valuable on any platform, at any time.

So the real question is: will you be one of those creators? Someone who looks past traditional revenue models, to jump into the online world and try new things – to take skills you have developed through your entire career, and use them in new ways?

Let me know if I can help you: @DanBlank, 973-981-8882 or



How to Use Twitter for Competitive Analysis

Dan BlankLet’s just say your business is jumping onto Twitter, and you want to get a sense of where you stand compared to your competition. How will you benchmark and judge if your efforts are doing well? How do you consider ROI? Here are some easy tips to help figure that out before you send your first Tweet.

Identify the Competition

If you can find even one person or brand in your industry that is on Twitter, then you have an ‘in’ to find many others.

If you are starting from scratch, start with well-known brands. Check their homepages for links to their Twitter account, or use Twitter search. Use Google.

For instance, let’s say I’m in the construction industry and my company leases and services big machines. How do I get started on Twitter?

Well, let’s start with Caterpillar. A simple Google search for “Caterpillar Twitter” brings you the Caterpillar Twitter page as the first result.

You’ve now taken your first step into social media for your niche.

Followers & Following

Even if we ignore Caterpillar’s own Tweets, we now have a ton of information in front of us, including a list of 34 people/brands that Caterpillar is following, 3,539 people/brands that are following Caterpillar and 168 Twitter lists that have added the Caterpillar brand.

If you see who Caterpillar is following, you may notice that Battlefield Equipment is on there. If you sell used Caterpillar equipment in Canada, then these folks are your competition.

You can keep doing this again and again. See who your competition is following and who follows them. This tells you so many things.

Look beyond brand names to individual people. It won’t always say “Caterpillar Northwest Sales Manager.” Someone’s Twitter name may be @Jon58Dirt – but if you click his over to his Twitter page, you may see in his bio that he is indeed the Caterpillar Northwest Sales Manger.

It takes digging, but the info is all out there!

Twitter Search

When defining your competition, look past traditional boundaries. Use Twitter search to see how those in your market are finding & sharing information on your industry. Use it to see what people are saying about products.

For instance, the Bauma tradeshow is going on right now, which is billed as ‘the world’s largest industrial show.’ Want to know what people are saying about Caterpillar there? Just do some searches on Twitter for “Caterpillar Bauma,” and see what comes up.

Hours of fun await you! Links

Let’s stick to our example of looking at Battlefield Equipment as a direct competitor. When you go to their Twitter page, you notice that they use to shorten their URL’s. On April 16, this is one of their Tweets:

The updated 2010 Used Equipment List has been published (pdf) …

Want to know how many people clicked that link? Just copy it and past it into your web browser, and add a plus sign after it:

BOOM! You can see the full data of how many people clicked on it and when. Why is this useful? It allows you to benchmark where you want your metrics to be, and it gives you indication as to what people are interested in, helping you shape your own Twitter content strategy.

Use This for Your Business or Your Career

Now, this example tackled a big brand in a big industry. What if you are a florist in Indianapolis or an SEO practitioner in Olympia or fashion blogger? These same tips apply to your role and market.

If you are a marketing manager in the consumer electronics industry, you can find others on Twitter with a similar role as you too. The great thing about social media and Twitter is that it is great for very specific niches.

Let me know if I can help: 973-981-8882 or