Let’s indulge our inner curmudgeon today and look at a case study of how to get content completely wrong. (And then, I promise, we’ll talk about what to do instead.) Back when I was a freelancer, I used to check out job boards for various blogging gigs. One day, I ran across one that was so ridiculous I didn’t know whether to laugh or scream.

The job ad said they were looking for people who could write about a variety of things. I thought, Hey! I can do that!

They wanted someone edgy. Sure!

Humorous. Check!

Someone who could write in the style of Cracked.com. Sounds right up my alley!

The gig was to write three blog posts a day (for somewhat dismal pay) on … (wait for it) … language translation!

Mmmmkay.

And to apply for the gig they wanted writers to do two things:

1. Pitch them three blog ideas about language translation (as the job would call for THREE POSTS A DAY on this subject).

2. Submit a writing sample on the of topic language translation that would show them how edgy, humorous and “viral” my writing could be. Because obviously edgy blog posts about language translation often spark massive Internet virality.

Use Your Words – But Be Smart About It

So many companies don’t get blogging. They don’t get that people want genuine genuosity. They don’t get that in blogging and social media you can totally use a made-up word like genuosity and it’s totally fine. They don’t get that people can see right through a thinly-disguised sales pitch. Companies like this want to pay people to create fake intimacy – fintimacy! – with their target audience – on a topic that probably very few people feel particularly intimate about.

If you use words the right way, they can be very powerful.

Saying you want to apply the writing style of Cracked.com to the topic of language translation is like buying a stud horse and then using him for pony rides. It doesn’t work and it makes everyone look foolish.

That’s not to say that what companies like this do isn’t good and important and worthwhile.

But to these companies I would say the same thing that I would say to a person:

1. Know thyself. Figure out who you are and what’s valuable about you.

2. Be real. Don’t wear your teenagers’ clothes. Don’t pretend you’re young and hip if you’re not. (Clearly I’m not because I just said the word “hip.”)

3. Play to your strengths. There are probably great things about you. You’re not fully developing those things if you’re busy chasing what you think the rest of the herd is doing. Figure out what makes sense for you.

4. Hang out with people who like you. Is it nice to make new friends? Sure. But don’t bang your head against the wall trying to force yourself down people’s throats. Start with the people who love you and build from there. If you’re constantly trying to infiltrate a clique that doesn’t want you, you’re going to end up getting boogers wiped on your locker door.

So, in the end, it turns out that everything you needed to know about blogging, you probably learned in high school. (And if you didn’t, I suggest you clear your weekend and binge watch John Hughes movies until you’re sufficiently schooled in Being Awesome as You Are.)