We’d all like to think that the cream of the crop always rises to the top. We’d like to think that years of blood, sweat, tears and sacrifice will eventually pay off in the end. We’d all like to think that the person who is legitimately better at something and works hard at that something will be rewarded and recognized. But that’s not how the real world works. That’s the lie you’ve been fed by conventional capitalism and it’s the lie that keeps the rat race alive and well. And it certainly extends into the world of making money online too.
In the 1989 movie Field of Dreams, Kevin Costner’s character is told that “if you build it, they will come.” This kind of philosophy or perspective has been applied to the world of online content creation too. One of the most common pieces of advice that you’ll read just about anywhere about “making it” online will tell you that content is king. And it’s (mostly) true that you won’t find any real success at this unless you really do offer some quality content.
But quality content, however you choose to define it, is not going to be enough on its own. This is even truer today than it would have been a few years ago, largely because self-publishing content on the Internet is infinitely more accessible today than it was a few years ago. It used to be that you had to hard-code a website and pay for expensive hosting in order to have your own place on the web. Now you can have your own domain and website for less than $100 a year.
And even if you don’t take that route, there are all these free platforms to leverage too, from Facebook and Twitter to YouTube and Medium.
I came across a post by a fellow dad vlogger who said he was getting increasingly frustrated at the lack of success that his YouTube channel was achieving. He’d tried several different strategies over the course of the last couple years and, for the most part, nothing has really stuck. He felt defeated, because he started to feel like his content just wasn’t good enough for anyone to care.
But that wasn’t his problem.
I’m not going to name him here, as he might feel a little embarrased about the whole thing, but the truth is that his vlogs are actually pretty good. He’s got a great presence, a big personality, and the videos offer a terrific blend of authenticity and good humor. The content itself is good.
But it’s not enough.
Success isn’t necessarily rewarded to those who work the hardest or produce the best content. It’s rewarded to those who know how to play the game the most effectively. The rules of the game shift frequently, so you’ll need to be flexible and adaptive. If you’ve ever tried to bend at the will of the latest Google algorithm update or tried to figure out how best to promote affiliate products on Facebook where such certain practices can get you banned, you’ll know this pain all too well.
But that’s what it is: It’s about playing the game.
How many times have you seen or read content on the Internet that is probably mediocre at best, but it was the first to break a story or it was the one that re-framed the content in the most shareable meme-worthy format possible? How many times have you watched a video shared on a Facebook page that wasn’t even that page’s own content, attracting multitudes more views than the original creator who is oftentimes left with little to no credit? It happens all the time, because people are playing the game.
Great content is great, but it’s not enough. Merely good content that is promoted and marketed very well, packaged in a way that exploits every possible advantage it can get, will rise to the top far sooner and more effectively. Recognize that trying to stay “pure” to your art or story will only get you so far without a big dose of luck on your side.
Network with the big players, learn about their game plans, and get back on that court with newfound insight and clever strategies.