Don’t be unique, be an original
You know how we all tell stories?
How we all told them before ‘storytelling in your marketing’ became a thing? Yeah, that.
Funny story… we’ve actually Black-Mirror-ed (yeah that’s a verb) ourselves into a surreal social media situation in which we’re confused, as a people, which ones the real fucking stories are!
Here let me back this story (you know the requisite story start) up a little.
I have a bit of a side hustle. (Are you allowed to call it a hustle if you do it for fun rather than funds, she muses.) I’m super lucky to work with a bunch of amazing Canadian food voices. And that’s how I met these two super cool chicas called D and E. Their online kingdom is called How to Eat. They are dietitians, who love food, and are vegetarian a lot of the time. So, you know, I love them. They have a meal prep FB live on the regular and I watch the playback often.
Their last one had D telling a story. You know, like people have done for ages. E listens for a bit, then looks at D for a second and says ‘are you making this story up?’
D almost has a coronary at the possibility that her story could be mistaken for fake. She even calls on someone else who was part of the story to pitch in and save her storytelling honour.
That was the funniest thing on the interwebs that day to me (the episode is here)! I’m laughing as I write this.
Such a sign of the times, isn’t it?! It’s hard to tell the real from the pretend!
As the mom of a 7-year-old, I remember a recent phase in which my child told a lot of errrrmmmmm bold-faced lies. It freaked me out enough to look it up and it turns out it’s a developmental phase where kids experiment with creativity. So we had several months at one stage in which, to not completely crap on her creativity, but still get to the goddamn answer, we would ask her a lot, ‘honey, is this a real story, or a pretend story?’ (And she would, thankfully, tell us which it was.)
That feels like where we are developmentally on this digital marketing thing.
We follow all the rules.
We jump on all the bandwagons.
The current side effect of social media is that is we’re all becoming startling in our sameness.
Scandinavian minimalism rules? We all have the white backgrounds and bright lights.
Video is big? We’re all doing video.
Storytelling attracts those clients? We’re all telling the shit out of those stories.
And there’s nothing wrong with that. It’s just likely not very effective on its own.
A row of clones, jumping through hoops? (Side benefit: watching repetitive GIFs like that is soothing! 😄
This is likely why every single conversation I have with an independent business that delivers digitally begins with ‘The Lament of the Stagnant Social Situation’.
‘How do we get engagement’ they moan.
‘What must I do with my 2 likes and 12 downloads,’ they wail.
I feel your pain. Life is much different when building a community with stakes that aren’t life-altering and dollars that aren’t your own. I know this from my efforts this year to reach more independent audiences for myself.
Building a community of your own is hard work. But it’s possible.
It distills down to one thing.
And I’ll tell you what that is. Not in a future blog post. Not in a webinar that you need to sign up for.
Finding an audience online means setting yourself apart. Being different.
Ask yourself the question ‘How am I different from everyone else who does what I do?’
(Swift aside: if you’re saying ‘nobody else does what I do’, go read this post. You need it in your life on the quick.)
Again, it’s not easy. Most of us stop at the surface of the answer to that question. Still others try, but get lost in the fog of it all, and say things like ‘I help women entrepreneurs realize their dreams’. Which is fab and I love you for it, but it doesn’t tell me if you’re an accountant or a masseuse.
Which is why I say forget the words first (odd thing to say for a writer) and focus on the idea. What is your differentiator or your unique selling proposition?
Remember, be different. That’s the whole point of a differentiator.
But also be aware that nothing is ‘unique’ anymore. There are a million people who are having the same thought as you right this second. But that doesn’t matter. The digital world is huge. There’s room for everyone. All you need to do is set yourself apart and get noticed by YOUR audience.
And the only real way to set yourself apart is…
Find and stay true to your voice.
In a world where nothing is unique, the only thing that you can do to stand out in a noisy space is to have some personality.
Replace the need to be unique with the need to be an original.
Think of it as the throw you have from a handmade market you went to in 2004. It’s the one you throw over the Ikea chair that EVERYONE has. Something about it changes everything about the chair. One quick look at your cozy corner tells people a little about you.
Quirky, inimitable, memorable.
Find a voice like that; despite the sameness of the interwebs that we must all adopt and experiment with.
So here’s some tips on how to actually distil down to that differentiator.
After years of struggling with this in various forms, I finally have a system.
It’s not rocket science. It’s just clear thinking put into a framework that is foolproof. You will get your answer every time and it’s easy.
The system is a part of my 10-step course to get to a content strategy that will deliver 10x your results if you’re a small business or personal brand. The course is here. But this series of blog posts is meant to give everyone who wants it access to the steps, with less of the structure and handholding, for free obvs.
So here’s the gist of the system to get to the bottom of your differentiator.
The system involves channeling your inner toddler.
Keep asking questions again and again until you come up with an answer that will make your inner toddler shut up with the questions. Ask yourself why you’re different. Now answer it. Then ask why a customer should care about that. Keep asking over and over again until you come up with an answer that’s compelling enough to get the toddler to stop with the questions.
Then remember nothing is complete without the context of your customer and your competitor, as we’ve established.
So take a look at your customers first. Read what they’re looking for in your space.
Is there a pain point that you can help solve?
Is there a joy that you can help to enhance?
Then, take a look at your competitors.
What are they saying?
How are they differentiating themselves?
I know that we all roll our eyes and say that we’re better than our competitors at everything – but how? Spit out the entire how and then distill it down. That’s where you’ll find your answer.
Once you have a clearly distilled differentiator, it will form the foundation of the content you build.
With that and the rest of the context that you’ve gotten in this series, you will now put together 3 strategies that will take you through the rest of the year of your content.
That’s my actual process.
Different levels of detail for different levels of need but that is the process.
Go ahead and use it.
If you found that useful, you want to read this 👇
I have a 6-week content strategy online program that has just launched. It’s called Content Clinic. It’s a step-by-step 6-module approach to ending the content overwhelm. At the end of it, you’ll have yourself a content strategy and a calendar of effective content for a whole year. The results you should expect to see are 10x your engagement on social. Take a look at the page for more info. There is a special introductory pricing on now that won’t last long.
This is Part 6 in a 10-part content strategy series for independent brands and small business.