content creation: the contribution of information to any media and most especially to digital media for an end-user/audience in specific contexts
Ever since my return to YouTube, I have started to step fully into defining myself as a content creator. While I consider myself a blogger first, as it is something I have been doing for five and a half years now, I also realized that I have been consistently creating and editing YouTube videos for a year and a half now. It only makes sense that I widen the umbrella as I continue to learn new skills on different platforms. Let’s also not forget the innate Millennial skill of being able to adapt to new social media as they arrive. But when it comes to compiling all of these skills and turning that into a career, the world of creating content isn’t as simply boiled down as the two-word title.
What’s the difference between an influencer and a content creator, for example? Is it the age-old conundrum that an influencer can be a content creator, but a content creator is not necessarily an influencer? Should people who work in social media be expected to also know graphic design, video editing, animation, etc.? If I do apply for a video editing job, am I expected to take over social media as well? This is all part of the confusion that I can personally say I am witnessing in job descriptions, advice webinars, and panel discussions about media. When I Google “What is a content creator,” the first page of results stem from personal blogs rather than major publications. The definition I pulled at the beginning of this post was one I found on Wikipedia which goes to show how new this realm really is, even to people who are considered to be a part of it.
Obviously, jobs in social media, YouTube, blogging, digital media, and so on have been around for years now. But as an industry, it is still very young. I looked up ‘content creator’ positions in my area and here are some descriptions I pulled (without disclosing the companies):
- Content Creator: “It is the responsibility of the Content Creator to provide editing and copywriting support”
- Writer/Content Creator: “We’re looking for a killer copywriter, blogger, and/or business writer with wit and insight, who is passionate about delivering sound strategy and brand positioning through content”
- Content Creator: “The Content Creator will be responsible for 50% Video/ Content Creation, 50% Social Media Strategy”
- Social Content Creator: “Social Media Content Creators are responsible for bringing a brand’s social media program to life in-platform”
- Visual Content Creator: “The Visual Content Creator produces strategic content in multiple formats for various marketing channels, including website, social, and email.”
The examples listed above are short excerpts–usually the opening line–from longer job descriptions that range from a minimum of one year experience to five years experience. Additionally, some of these descriptions call for experience with specific programs (e.g. Adobe Creative Suite, G Suite, Microsoft Suite) while others do not. While yes, I technically *can* do all of these things or at least can learn on the job, many people in various age brackets and career levels are usually left confused by these job descriptions. Not to mention, they can be extremely vague.
I researched further and found almost identical descriptions for “digital media specialist,” “social media strategist,” “branding analyst,” and even “social media intern.” When you read these titles, these all imply different career entry levels, but somehow involve the same type of work. Should an intern at one company be expected to do the same amount of work as an analyst at another company and not get paid? Some descriptions I skimmed through even disclosed that video editing tests will be required. What if I am good at writing or social media, but my video editing skills are minimal? Does that make me less qualified to do the job? I write all of this to emphasize the types of confusing messes that content creators are constantly running into.
So, what about the content creators out there, like myself, who want to be independent/work for themselves? The number one question is: how do I grow my following? Well, if you don’t fall into the pretty, skinny, white woman category or handsome, skinny/fit, white man category, the odds are already stacked against you as they have been since visual media was created. I have attended a few virtual events this summer specifically tackling social media and content creation; despite some of these hosts/panelists working as content creators, I’ve noticed a commonality amongst them which is that their content seems to support a larger business–physical and/or virtual–that engages in customers and sales. The experts that are invited to talk about careers in social media and/or content creation are usually working for media companies that are on the receiving end of the content and are advising from their perspective–usually a business (read: financial) perspective. While this advice is still valuable, it doesn’t help content creators learn how to enhance their content (visually or otherwise), identify their brand, and/or position themselves to be competitive in a world that many want us to believe is “too saturated.”
In 2017, I paid $50 to attend an event on social media growth hosted by a very popular Dallas-based Instagram account. I discovered very quickly that many people were complete novices to social media altogether but were looking to learn to use it for their business. The description of this event did not disclose it was a beginner’s course/event, but the bulk of the time was spent introducing attendees to using Instagram and stats that show Instagram was ~*the new wave*~ for growing your customer base. By the time the presentation reached the section on pitching to brands–the only section I had hoped to gain information from–we ran out of time. Now, events hosted by influencers and content creators are even more costly and hosted locally in cities like L.A. and New York City (pre-COVID). Since then, I have been hesistant to attend any paid events or pay for influencers’ or content creators’ e-books or master classes because that is money and time you cannot get back. It’s not that the events I have attended and information I have read thus far has been useless. It’s just yet another point that this industry is in a stage where everything is almost undefinable.
While it is equally as exciting as it is frustrating to be experiencing a time where more people are realizing how important it is to love and be a part of your work v. being a cog in a wheel at a large company, this means any tips at this stage for becoming successful are pretty standard. Still, I wanted to share these tips because they can apply to those who are creating content to enhance a business/organization as well as those who are looking to brand themselves as overall content creators:
- Consistency: Even if it’s not your best work or a rushed job, putting something out is better than nothing. A harsh truth shared in one of the panels I attended was that “people don’t care why you didn’t post, they just notice that you didn’t.” Being consistent also requires you to develop a level of self-discipline and structure.
- Authenticity: We have heard the saying for decades that it’s better to be a first-rate version of yourself than second-rate version of somebody else. It is hard to see the same success story over and over and not assume that is what you need to do to get noticed, paid, etc. I can speak from experience that I have unfollowed/unsubscribed to many people based on their behaviors and actions being too similar to others. We can always tell when someone is faking it and you ultimately don’t want THAT to be your brand. Be someone and create something that you know is a genuine reflection of yourself.
- Engagement: This is quite possibly the most important yet most exhaustive part of creating content. I am extremely bad at this which likely accounts for why my following is still small. You have to put in the work beyond responding to your own comments and messages. You have to follow and engage with others in your community (e.g. beauty, fashion, travel) and do it regularly. You have to essentially treat it as a full-time job because engagement is what builds your following, especially if you don’t fit into a conventionally attractive category (another harsh truth that I’d like to do away with). A friend reminded me recently that though it is time-consuming, it should be fun. Just like any level of networking, it’s awkward and feels unnatural, but you never know what could come of it.
- Audience perspective: I just wanted to include this *bonus tip*. Whenever I start to get down on myself about why I’m not gaining a following, why nobody engages with my posts/videos, and all the negative things, I remind myself that at least I put out something I like and enjoy. I know that I enjoy long-form content whether that be blog posts or YouTube videos; I enjoy Instagram posts that aren’t selfies or feature people’s bodies; and I follow different types of creators from home content to fashion to beauty to travel. Even if it’s not the most trendy or has a more niche audience, ask yourself, “Would I, as a viewer/consumer, enjoy this? Do I, as a viewer/consumer, watch, read, or engage with this type of content in my free time?” If the answer is yes, keep doing what you’re doing. The right audience will find you.
As a small-time content creator, I think it’s important to share these bits of knowledge even if they are basic and can be found by any Google search. If people are out here dropping $100+ to be told the same thing by influencers, why not save people some money? I watched a video recently that discussed how no industry is too satured, contrary to popular belief. If that were true, we wouldn’t still have new films, music, art, and so on. It’s not the story you tell, it’s how you tell it.