Commentary

Don't Know Much About [ ]? Develop Engaging Content Anyway

Growing up in the early aughts without television, I learned just enough about the show “Even Stephens” to join a conversation without having seen the latest episode. 

Fast-forward 15 years, and I find myself using that skill frequently as a content creator. I have to understand things with huge importance to large groups of people — even if I’m not in that group — and synthesize it into content that feels authentic to them.

It’s easy to know if a subject falls in this category, because people will be deeply offended when they realize you know nothing about it. This is exactly what happened when my coworkers realized I’d never played “Oregon Trail” in my life. 

You can’t know everything. But in a world of never-ending content creation, you might have to know about anything. The following is a beginner’s guide to creating cool stuff on topics you know zilch about.

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Get schooled. Start with your basic online research to get the basics. Then, find one of those people who shamed you for not knowing about “Oregon Trail.” “This is your one chance to save me from a life of not knowing about ‘Oregon Trail,’” you can say.

Get them to fill in the gaps. A comprehensive guide will yield personal stories and at least three to five memes that never would have shown up in your Google search. (Memes are like that.) You need to learn how a cultural entity has been consumed and convoluted by the Internet, and a human has to help you with that task.

Get a big picture, then a little picture. Another example is baseball. Let’s just say I’m not a connoisseur of America’s favorite pastime. After Googling my heart out, I invited all the Braves fans (yes, I live in Atlanta) in the office to school me on baseball. 

Having specific questions is critical. Starter questions about history, specific anecdotes, and personal significance gives you a jumping-off point, leading to more insights.

Your average Braves fan probably won’t wax poetic about Ozzie Albies and Ronald Acuna Jr.’s beautiful friendship. However, this unexpected (but informed) point of view will fill out your big-picture understanding, and it’s your responsibility to find it.

That said, the Braves big picture won’t necessarily give you ideas that transform into one-minute videos for Instagram. Focusing on the tiny minutiae of fan culture will -- and that’s key to creating content that people really relate to.

Embrace your perspective. What makes you different is what makes you beautiful, and in this case, it’s zero personal experience with the topic of the moment. 

This  can feel like a handicap, but a fresh perspective is a great tool. Lean into it. Remember the clarifying questions you have to ask; others will probably need the answers, too. Learning about something as an adult, you’re likely to make fresh, weird connections, and that’s a superpower.

Everything is gonna be fine. People like seeing things they recognize. They also like comedy, so if you’re struggling, default to humor.

Whether your topic is a massive cultural phenomenon or a cult classic, smart content will get a response, which means engagement. Which means, you won’t get fired!

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