We create content and content also creates us

create content

By Mark Schaefer

Recently I was interviewed by my friend Elizabeth Sosnow and she asked me about an observation in Return On Influence: “We create content … but in a way, content is also creating us.”

It had been a long time since I thought about this and I thought it was timely to reflect on this powerful concept. I think my friend Jason Falls put it very well when he stated in the book:

“Before the social web, there was always a ceiling or a velvet rope – a limit to where you could go with your influence unless you were somebody famous. Now anybody can be heard. Social media and the Internet makes it possible for every person to be published, find an audience, and become influential.”

Let’s face it, most of the people making an impact on the social web today would not have been heard from even a few years ago, including me. Yes, I create content. But as you see, content is also creating me.

A few months ago, I was cornered at a conference by a lady who kept telling me, “You’re a rockstar! You’re a rockstar!” I realize that “celebrity” is something that exists in a person’s head and there is nothing I can do about it, but this kind of stuff makes me very uncomfortable. I’m no rockstar, trust me. This is a perception … a creation … manufactured entirely by what I publish.

And while I am occasionally unnerved by both the positive and negative extremes of fandom, I realize how very fortunate I am to live in a time when my voice can be heard and I can truly have an impact on a global audience.

And you know what? You can have an impact, too.

If you’re not using this amazing, historic opportunity to publish, you’re missing out on one of the greatest technological gifts of our generation. Free publishing tools. Access to the world. The ability to connect with people nearly anywhere.

If you’re not a decent writer, try video blogs. If you don’t like video, start a podcast. If you don’t want to commit to podcasts, how about slide presentations on Slideshare, or even photographs on Instagram?

This is Jason’s time because he found blogging and committed to it. This is my time because I have the courage to create conversational content.

If you haven’t become a content creator, what are you waiting for? This is your time too! What are you going to do about it?

SXSW 2016 3Mark Schaefer is the chief blogger for this site, executive director of Schaefer Marketing Solutions, and the author of several best-selling digital marketing books. He is an acclaimed keynote speaker, college educator, and business consultant.  The Marketing Companion podcast is among the top business podcasts in the world.  Contact Mark to have him speak to your company event or conference soon.

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  • Hi Mark, I’ve been amazed by the opportunities that come up and the amazing people I have met all through writing content. I believe the more content I write the more opportunities will happen.

    I want to mention anyone that is out there that is currently looking for work. You have time on your hands and you have expertise start a blog and share your expertise. You’ll be surprised about the opportunities that may land on your door step.


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  • Mark,
    Points well taken. Still at the start of my re-creation by content adventure, I’m just coming to appreciate the peculiar power of shaping oneself in the social sharing sphere, where the community and conversation has tremendous impact on the shape, direction and possibilities of what we become (this is in stark contrast to the era of “paid monologue” in which I was professionally reared, wherein the pre-determined position of whomever was paying largely determined what ones impact and resulting opportunities would be.)

    BTW, terrific photo illustration today. Shows you have the blogging gene, only wilder 🙂

  • Powerful point Ian. In particular, I recommend blogging for anybody looking for work.

  • Ha! That made me laugh. It is a good creative outlet in many ways!

  • Sir Mark,I enjoyed your inner soul writing up here, I love the experience reading it and feeling your heart – may God bless you!

  • Thank you for your very nice comment Umer!

  • While I was a fiction author before I was a blogger, it is blogging that has really expanded my world. There isn’t a day that goes by where I don’t learn something important from the blogs I follow. And I think, I hope it makes me a better writer.

    My personal blog helps me in so many ways, too. I will admit to being addicted to blogging now. And I don’t go anywhere without wondering if I could blog about it. Well, there are few places I don’t plan to blog about. LOL

  • Totally agree. Blogging is the best part of my job and has opened up so many amazing opportunities!

  • Still plugging along and trying to stay at it. Great idea about video. My business is very visual. I’ve tried video a few times. Used one today. Short to the point. I kind of like it, so I’m going to mix in a few more. Thanks for the inspiration…as always!

  • Yes, we are shaped by our content today. I’m not a rockstar (in my blogging book, that’s just you Mark) but occasionally I meet someone that has seen my blog and thinks well of me because of it.

    But it raises the question: as the content we create (or even share) shapes perception of us, does it also increase the space between the real person and the one people perceive us to be? For instance, I definitely see you as the limelight-seeking, Today Show expert, etc public profile that your blog and public presence turns you into. 🙂

    As we develop our own profile and influence, sometimes inadvertently, and almost always in a way that focuses on just a small portion of our lives, what is the long term impact on the space between who we really are, as a complete person, and what people know us as? I think its increasing, and not because we “lie” or present an “inauthentic” version of ourselves, but simply because we are becoming comparatively one-dimensional versions of our true selves to many of the people who feel as if they know us.

    A bit tangential from your post (which I largely agree with), but wanted to share the more personal thought it sparked.

  • Victory through progress!

  • A very relevant and interesting perspective (as always!) Eric. i think you are right. A long time ago, I wrote a post about the idea that I have no idea what people think of me. I get the most unusual reactions. I have been a rocker my whole life and one follower seemed shocked that I like some rock band. Another expressed surprise at a funny TV show I like.

    Even in your comment, I am not limelight seeking. Sometimes i want to crawl in a hole and get away from it all. I am somewhat introverted. But I also realize that my career depends somewhat on “being known” and I need to embrace this or will fall flat on my face. I am very, very uncomfortable in the lime light. At Social Slam this year, the conference I founded, I did not even want the emcee to mentioned me from the stage (and she didn’t). I would rather lift other people into the spotlight. So I guess this proves your point my friend! : )

  • Ross Quintana

    Yes a statement worthy of conversation. I think content creates us in two ways: One is that it is changing other around us, the second is that sharing helps us grow and develop our thinking and ideas. Cheers Mark

  • For what its worth, I’ve gathered that you don’t actually love basking in the lime light. I guess a text smile wasn’t quite enough for that to come through. That said, if I knew about you but didn’t read as many of your posts, I would likely believe you were, in part, looking for just that.

    I hope to join you at Social Slam one of these years. And saying hello in a hallway or back row will be right in line with my own aversion to the public spotlight.

  • Hi Mark,
    It’s definitely great to show a side of me that would otherwise remain hidden by creating content on my blog. So far I’ve had nice reactions (and social shares) from current and former colleagues. Not at the rockstar stage yet though – I’m not sure what I’d do 🙂

    Thanks to my blog I nearly got a job that includes creating content on a regular basis. If it ever really happens I’ll be happy. Until then… I’m a happy part-time blogger.

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  • That would be great. Would love to see you!

  • nice observation Ross!

  • Keep at it. It does take a lot of patience and hard work to gain traction!

  • I am continuously amazed at the people I’ve met and the opportunities that have come my way as a result of the content I’ve been creating over the past months. It’s been a wonderful opportunity to be able to express myself through writing.

    It can be hard to keep going when you know you only have a handful of readers, but every day it seems to grow a little bit and I figure that if I help even one person gain a better understanding of something or be inspired to try something new I’ve done something worthwhile.

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  • Pleasure is all mine sir Mark!

  • Soozcat

    I’ve been personal-blogging at Confessions of a Laundry Faerie for nearly seven years and have never really accreted a “following” because I’m unwilling to monetize or specialize — I just write about whatever happens to take my fancy. But I’ve realized a benefit from it all the same. Any kind of writing, if composed on a regular basis and placed where other people can see it, is worthwhile if only because it improves your ability to write.

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