Lucy and I thought we had found real treasure when I dug up this chain link fence-post cap on our walk by the river this morning. It was just a few feet from the existing fence, but it was much more substantial and ornate than the flimsy aluminum strap that was capping the fence post now.
I was pretty sure that my fence-post cap was once part of a Civil War-era chain link fence that protected a long-forgotten Union Army outpost from Indian attacks. (I know. I know. American Indian attacks. But if I’m being honest, I imagined Indian attacks, not American Indian attacks.)
Anyway, my treasure fantasy was short-lived because the next fence post was capped with an older and less flimsy cap than that cheap aluminum band. And 10 yards down from that, the posts were capped with my Civil War-era treasure.
I did a little research when I got home and learned that my fence-post cap was from the mid-20th century, which means it’s most likely from a Cold War-era fence that protected a long-forgotten stash of uranium-235 from commie spies. (Yeah, I said “commie.” What of it?)
I also learned that fence-post caps were heftier and even more ornate decades before that, as evidenced by this pair of horse-head fence post caps that you can get on etsy for a mere $95 (each). Unfortunately, 20th century technology did to fence post caps what it did to most of our once hefty and ornate culture, including the way we communicate—it mass produced the charm right out of it.
But here’s the good news: Internet technology is forcing all of us to be much more creative and thoughtful with the content we create. Your mass-produced press release just ain’t gonna cut it in the Interactive Age. If you want to be heard over the din of millions of self-publishers screaming for attention, you have to infuse some creativity and craftsmanship into your content.
Here are six lessons you can learn about creating better content from a mid-20th century chain link fence-post cap.
Be attractive—Do you know how many people would take the time to dig a modern-day fence-post cap out of the ground? Zero. The modern cap looks like something that fell off a bicycle. If you want to attract eyeballs and make sure they come bouncing back to your site day after day, you need to toss a little spice into your copy. Here are two tips that will help you right away: Thesaurus and active verbs.
Develop a style—The team that designed my fence-post cap didn’t have to put a decorative little thimble on top. But they did. Why? Because it looked cool. And it gave that fence-post cap a style that allows me to identify it in an Internet search decades after it was designed. You need to do the same with your content; put a thimble on top.
Be functional—Sure, my fence-post cap looks cool, but it also performs a valuable service—it keeps the top rail from falling over. Unless you’re a fiction writer, your copy should provide valuable information as well.
Be enduring—I found my fence-post cap very near where I found the fossilized vertebrae of some mammal that wandered around these parts in the Pliocene era. I’m not saying my fence-post cap is going to be around for four million years, but it will be around centuries after its modern-day counterpart rusts away. When creating content, you should occasionally—maybe once a month—produce something more long lasting than, say, a tweet or a vine video of your cat.
Be prolific—One fence post does not a fence make. Just like the guys who produced my fence-post cap, you’ve got to churn out a bunch of content if you want to fence in some online real estate that you can call your own.
Be brief—The thimble was a nice touch. But there simply is not enough time to design and produce horse-head fence-post caps in the Interactive Age. And frankly, no one has time anymore to appreciate the craftsmanship that was commonplace before Henry Ford taught us that mass-produced efficiency was more profitable than artistry. So you need to find the middle ground between functionality and creativity because you’ve got a lot of fence-post caps to churn out to get the job done.