At the beginning of the century, most young people were watching “TRL with Carson Daly” while scouring the web for the coolest quotes to post on their AIM Subprofiles.
Not Julie R. Neidlinger though.
She discovered that if she lured people to her website through writing high-quality posts, she might be able to sell them one of her products. In 2000, Neidlinger was hand-coding her own HTML pages for blog posts before switching over to Blogger.
Neidlinger did not know it back then, but she was content marketing way before it was cool. She says it was very much a learn-as-you-go, trial-and-error type of thing, though.
“Over the years I worked on writing better for the web, and in recent years, when blogging and social media veered clearly toward marketing, I started to learn how that all worked by reading blogs, writing and seeing what bombed and what people latched onto — that kind of thing,” she said.
She is one of the few people who actually consistently creates original posts for popular blogs, including Todaymade and CoSchedule.
Recently, SkilledUp asked Neidlinger to share her content-marketing insights with our readers. Here are some of her suggestions.
Content marketers must have a wide range of soft and hard skills
Do you enjoy to read? Are you patient? Or how about curious? Do you read ravenously, and are you a good writer? How about a life — do you have one?
There are a few catches though. Neidlinger says that all of this combined is what differentiates you from the thousands of other content marketers out there.
For instance, being an avid reader does not mean you can scoot by just reading marketing blogs.
“You must, must, must read all kinds of topics in all kinds of formats about all kinds of things,” she said. “This is where you find interesting science research, history references, literature references, techniques — anything that you won’t find if you only read marketing content.”
And yes, she did say you must have a life outside of marketing — that was not a typo.
“Having interests, hobbies and experiences that are not related to your work are where you find the anecdotes and experiential knowledge that you can bring into your writing,” Neidlinger said. “If everyone writes about the same things in the same way, it gets lost in the shuffle. It is the outside reading and experiences that allow you to make it yours.”
Of course, there are always the practical skills too, such as meeting deadlines, handling criticism well, keeping organized and letting go of the projects that are not the right match.
Above all else, be original
“Every two days we create as much information as we did from the dawn of civilization up until 2003,” Google CEO Eric Schmidt, said.
“There is no shortage of the same posts, same headlines and same content out there, so I look for someone who has a different take, a different idea, a different theory, a different tactic, a different philosophy, a different tone — whatever it is, something original,” she said. “It doesn’t mean you can’t write about something others have written about it, but I like to see an attempt to create content from the unique perspective and experience each person can bring to the table.”Neidlinger is not surprised.
Refining your skills in three steps
She suggests three ways to keep your skills up-to-par.After speaking with Neidlinger it is safe to infer she is committed to her work, and she continues to refine her skills regardless of the fact that she’s already an expert in her field.
Neidlinger writes a lot. She writes every day, actually. In fact, there isn’t a day she hasn’t written something, she says. Today, she writes between three and four, 2,000-word posts per week. Not to mention, she has her own blog and additional writing projects on the side.
Mimic the greats
“Read good writing, and practice mimicking what you see there,” Neidlinger said.
She recalls studying art in college, where she would often paint from images of classic paintings just to learn about color or light. When she learns a new piece on the piano, she listens to the pianist who excelled at playing it.
Neidlinger says bestselling author James Hall taught some of his graduate students to find a book they liked and mimic its structure for their first novel.
“It works. So find writing you like, and mimic it in your own way. Don’t plagiarize or steal. Really dissect it, and see what makes it work, what techniques the author is using. Then go from there, and make it all yours.”
Neidlinger reviews past content that didn’t perform well or reads poorly the first time. After time has passed, she says, she can see the piece more clearly.
“I learn lessons from what I did. At the very least, I can get a sense that I’ve improved and that alone is an encouragement to keep going.”