Everyone can create, but should everyone create? Plenty of great ideas never get off the drawing board, and seemingly terrible ones manage to make it all the way to YouTube. Everybody is different of course, but before they even start creating, here’s six questions every creator needs to ask of themselves.
Although the term ‘creator’ has become a bit of a catch-all for anyone making and distributing content on the internet, it is also synonymous with the independent artist making their best effort to get themselves and their work out there. Today’s ‘creators’ actually encompass a variety of roles that can include artist, co-ordinator, accountant, entrepreneur, and many more.
However, they are almost all producing the same form of content: an idea that they came up with and decided to make. The resulting quality can all over the place, and many creators can become disgruntled or even despondent if the idea fails to take off. It’s almost like many did not even think about what they were doing before diving head-first into production. A few manage to pull it off, but others aren’t quite so lucky.
Here’s the questions they should be asking themselves before they even begin, in order of importance:
Will anyone want to watch this?
It’s nearly too easy this one, but is almost always taken for granted. The YouTube gold rush and the continued illusion of its existence contribute to the “if you make it, they will come” frame of mind. Nothing could be further from the truth, and if Google’s heavy-handed push into multi-channel networks is any indication, if your content isn’t being pre-sold to an audience, it has an extremely slim chance of getting any traction at all.
Seriously though, it’s a question that needs to be asked, and asked objectively. Professional content in any form is never made unless it has been determined that there is a potential audience for it. Sure that audience may never actually show up to watch or read, but the point is that someone did the research, and assumed that they would. the process actually happens in reverse now: MCNs already have an audience and need have to find the content to put in front of their eyes.
So creators need to think long and hard about whether their work has any appeal to individuals other than themselves or like-minded individuals. As a sub-question, you should try and determine an answer to how big you would like the audience to be. Numbers can stroke the ego, but they don’t guarantee any results.
Will anyone who sees it, like it?
So you’ve determined that yes, a couple of people out there will consume what you’ve made. Now you have to consider whether they will actually like it. And when I say this, I don’t mean the act of giving it a thumbs up, or a Facebook ‘like’, I mean will they actually form a favourable opinion of it, and a strong one at that?
This is a critical question because, people know what they don’t like, and they like to form strong opinions as a result. The opposite is also true, but the effect is far weaker. Today, it is often a struggle to even get a ‘like’ out of consumers; one mouse-click being one too many for many viewers after the video is finished. The goal is to get them to actually like the video, and to like it in such a way that they will form a strong opinion, or at least feel like they have a stake in the game.
As a sub-question, think about how the audience will like the creation. Will it be the characters? The humour? The style? A blend of all of the above? Keep in mind that just because they like one aspect of it, that doesn’t mean that another aspect that they don’t like will overrule it. For example, I liked the use of colour in Superf*ckers, but the characters were a real turn-off, and as a result the show as a whole lost its appeal.
Will they like it enough to tell their friends?
Although this question may seem comparable to the one above, it really isn’t. It is one thing for people to like content; it’s entirely different for them to like it enough to tell their friends.
Yes, the notion of a ‘sharing economy’ is somewhat rooted in fact, but the actual truth is that people trust the judgement of those that they know over anyone else. To be fair, Facebook’s ‘frictionless sharing’ has diluted the effect somewhat, but an actual good word can still work wonders. Any content should aspire consumers to write a few to their friends.
Consider it the equivalent to word-of-mouth. It may be slow, but it is effective and desirable. It will also attract viewers who are more likely to do what the following questions ask, and isn’t that beneficial?
Will it connect with them strongly enough to part them from their money?
The first of the big three, and perhaps the most puzzling. If you’ve created something that people will watch, and like, and tell their friends, the next thing to ask is whether they will part form their hard earned cash for it.
Merchandise is as old as the hills, and plenty of new business models enable creators to sell merchandise of all shapes and sizes. What I’m pointing out here, is that simply having merchandise available isn’t enough on its own. We’ve all been to a hole-in-the-wall bar where the band has a table set up down the back flogging CDs (showing my age there), T-shirts and whatever else they can muster. If the band does a terrible gig, do you think they will sell anything?
Marketing content is a similar gambit, and if you, as a creator haven’t adequately answered, and addressed all the questions above, then you will be that band trying to sell something that is truly priceless.
The key here is to also be smart with the merchandise; people only need so many T-shirts, wallets, posters, etc. Having something to sell is better than nothing of course, but there is nothing worse than a lost sale. Be smart and listen for, and be open to, feedback from viewers and fans, and don’t be afraid to give them a reason to buy either.
Will they come back for more?
Before we discuss this one, do not misinterpret it, I do not mean more of the same thing, I mean more content from you. Any idiot can strike while the iron is hot, but they will quickly flame out like a one hit wonder on the charts. Ever notice how their follow-up singles tend to sound so similar to the previous hit?
What the question really asks is whether viewers will hang around for, or come back for, more content from you, the creator. Granted, this has become a lot easier since YouTube instigated ‘channels’ and thereby allowed viewers to automatically be notified of new content. That may be grand, but ideally, you will want viewers/readers to be anticipating your new content. This can take time to build up, but engaged and anxious people make for better fans than the ones who watch your video just because it showed up in their feed.
Do they like the content, or the creator?
Lastly, and perhaps most critical, this is a question that may only be fully answered after the content is created, but anticipating the answer can help guide things towards it. The bottom line is, will viewers like the content, or the person behind it. These are not mutually exclusive, but they can make a difference.
For example, liking Family Guy because it was created by Seth McFarland, or, liking The Simpsons, Futurama, and Life in Hell because they were all created by Matt Groening. In the case of the former, greatness can be achieved, but it may not be easily transferable. As for the latter, it is more likely that a core group of fans will circulate, and support all the creator’s works.
There is no right or wrong answer, but there is a decision to be made as to which one you prefer. I would rather have viewers and fans like me, because that not only permits more creative freedom on my part, but also ensures that my unique advantage cannot be replicated easily by others.
Did I miss anything? What other questions would you add? Leave a comment with your answer.