6 Challenges in Content Creation and Creating a Community
Updated: Apr 27
I started writing down thoughts and experiences in late 2020 and, surprise surprise, it has been harder than I expected. I wanted to share my experiences here by listing them out as challenges.
In today’s day and age, everyone can be a content creator. Are you considering creating content? Do you already create content regularly? Let me know your thoughts - which of the below challenges do you experience or worry about? For the ones below that aren’t a challenge for you, how did you tackle them?
Meme credits to Inner Action Media.
Challenge 1 - Depth and Editing time
When I start an article, I start it with a 2-3 sentence prompt where I summarize the key ideas I want to capture. For example, I started this article with the prompt:
“Challenges faced in content creation and distribution - being on schedule, editing, perfection, images, visuals, graphs, building an audience, understanding preferences of where there is a large audience vs where I can share thought leadership.”
But when I started writing it, I built it out into an intro, a skeleton of six headings, and an appendix for potential solutions to these challenges. From there it grew into what you see now. Herein lies the challenge - how much time to spend and how much to deep-dive into each aspect of an experience or learning?
“I didn't have time to write you a short letter, so I wrote you a long one”, said Mark Twain; on one hand, the more I dive in, the less effort I need to spend on summarizing it. On the other hand, the more I dive in, the more effort I need on editing the grammar, paragraph cohesiveness, and sentence constructions. There have been articles I’ve written the skeleton for in Jan 2021 and am still editing in May 2021.
After all the content editing, I use Grammarly to review the grammar, I post the text on a few online free grammar checkers to get varied feedback, and request my wife to review and give her inputs. Overall, the impact of this challenge for me is a long timeline between the start and end of an article, more time spent per article, and a feeling of uncertainty when posting it eventually.
Challenge 2 - Visual perfection
"A picture is worth a thousand words" - Not only as an English language idiom but also a rule of thumb for content creation. There is a lot of text and several generic images in blogs all around, but very few authors use images that make it easier to grasp text-heavy articles. I aim to visualize information as well as show the inner workings of Product Management via mockups. I find it fun to visualize information and like how it adds colors to an article.
I start with some words or numbers I want to visualize, make a rough visual, fit it into the article, refine the visual, and edit the visual as any text or numbers change. This requires the use of Google Drawings, Draw.io, Whimsical, Noun Project, Freepik, and Google Sheets to visualize words and numbers. And of course, takes a lot of time. Overall, the impact of this challenge for me is adding more time to the article creation and editing.
Challenge 3 - Habit Formation and Focus Time
Image credits to Medium Creators.
There are a lot of demands on one’s time, including the regular work for one’s employer, going above and beyond at your employer, household chores, and so on. These hold for me too. Additionally, I also find that weekends are solely spent with family and catching up over video calls with friends and family, so it is a challenge to be regular in writing or editing.
For a few weeks, I had the routine of writing for 5 mins every weekday morning, however, as I got busy with a new job, a new routine of dropping my son to daycare, and got involved in never-ending paperwork for searching and purchasing a house, writing every day fell by the wayside.
I find it hard to just flip the switch and go from playing with my son to writing the next paragraph in an article to back to chopping vegetables. Overall, the effect is I am always anxious about when will I progress in my articles. Will I get to spend the coming Saturday on writing? How about 1hr on the next Thursday evening? How about 9 pm on two weekdays this week?
Challenge 4 - Posting Schedule
General guidelines for publishing articles, especially when delivering content to your inbox, recommend maintaining a regular publishing frequency - be it daily, weekly, fortnightly, or more infrequent. Disrupting your frequency of emails reduced your trust score in the eyes of email spam filters or the dreaded Promotions tab in Gmail.
So, I tried publishing weekly but then my weekly routine changed as I mentioned earlier. I went from having a runway for 4 articles ready to publish (so a buffer of 4 weeks) to needing to put in 3-4 weeks before the next article is ready. To come back to a schedule, I published an intermediate article writing about the upcoming articles to create a buffer and set expectations. I then published on a bi-weekly schedule instead of a weekly schedule, which reduced the stress a bit. Overall, the impact of this challenge is stress on completing an article editing before the “deadline” and I sometimes jump from one incomplete article to another incomplete article, in the hopes of completing one of them early enough for the next publish time. As you can guess, the jumping between articles doesn’t speed up the work, only delays it.
Challenge 5 - Building an Audience
Images credits to PR Daily.
To make a broader impact and get more feedback on one’s articles, having an audience is beneficial. The larger the audience, the better. The higher your frequency (of valuable content), the more you are likely to add value to the audience and build an audience that way.
I’d mentioned earlier how it was hard to maintain a high frequency or even a regular frequency of posts. Audience creation would prefer as high a frequency as possible. Recently, I was reading the book One Million Followers by Brendan Kane thanks to an Audible deal and the book also mentioned the need for a higher frequency of content to reach more people and finding ways to nurture discussions with one’s audience.
Building an audience is a new skill for me since I have never put in deliberate practice towards it. My personal social media posts on Facebook and Twitter fall flat, I have never posted on Instagram or Snapchat, and my LinkedIn posts do not create much engagement. So, I keep creating content with a lack of feedback and uncertainty into whether my audience finds my content valuable. Overall, the impact of this challenge to me is the slow growth of my audience, fewer feedback cycles, less reach of the content, and anxiety on how to improve the situation.
Challenge 6 - Matching Audience and Content
Visual credits to Content Marketing Institute.
As a Product Manager, I aim to wear the customer’s shoes to understand the customer’s needs so that I can understand the problem statement and design the right solution. Business needs or my needs are secondary to the needs of the customer. How do I apply the same to content and audience creation?
On one hand, I have gained valuable insights in specific areas of Product Management that I’ve realized I can share and demonstrate thought leadership in. From my conversations with PMs across companies and PM aspirants, I feel these topics would be valuable for my target audience of Product Managers (See Understanding Customer Behavior series). However, I find that the most engaged segment of my audience is the segment of PM aspirants, for whom PM skills are less important than to get a foot in the door, i.e. getting their first PM role. For this segment of readers, I know I have other valuable content to share since I faced challenges head-on in my PM job hunt and had documented my experiments and findings (See Webinar on Getting your First PM Job). So, should I focus on writing the former or the latter type of content?
Overall, the impact of this challenge is I jump from one idea to another that benefit different segments of my audience, and I continue growing a backlog of ideas in different spaces that I know I will get to eventually, but how do I meet the needs of diverse segments right now while the future articles are far away?
How to solve these?
I have been looking up solutions for these challenges but there is so much I do not know. There are many experts in content and audience creation out there. There also are many in my audience who are consumers of content and independent thinkers who know what they like or do not like. What challenges have you faced the most? What has worked the best for you to solve some or all of these challenges? Drop me a line and I would love to feature you and your advice in the follow-up article that will focus on solutions.
Originally published at https://harshalpatil.substack.com on May 26, 2021