Top 10 Ways to Be a Likable Content Creator

15 February 2016

Have you ever been listening to a podcast, watching a YouTube video, or reading a blog with a big smile on your face, and you realize, I really like this person!

I’ve had that reaction many times. I’ve also had the opposite reaction when consuming content I’m interested in, but I find it difficult to read/watch/listen to because I don’t like the way the hosts are treating each other.

Having a likable persona as a content creator makes people more likely to consume what you create. And share it. And support you in other ways.

Why does this matter for crowdfunders? First, hopefully you’ve been building a tribe through content creation well before your campaign. Second, as soon as your project launches, you have a content platform to maintain. You’re going to appear on videos and updates, not to mention other peoples’ podcasts, blogs, and YouTube channels.

This topic has been on my mind for a while, and I’ve been compiling a list of attributes that I believe add up to a likable persona for a content creator. Keep in mind that these are somewhat subjective–for example, if you’re the type of person who finds joy in other peoples’ misery, you’re probably not going to connect with this list.

Top 10 Ways to Be a Likable Content Creator

  1. Act as if you like your co-host. A lot of the podcasts I listen to involve more than one person. If the co-hosts convey that they actually like each other, I’m much more likely to like them as well (e.g., The Secret Cabal). There are other podcasts where the co-hosts belittle each other or treat one person as a punching bag, which is tough to listen to.
  2. Talk to your audience as if you’re addressing one person. So many YouTube videos and Kickstarter project updates begin with, “Hey guys!” or “Hi everyone!” But when I watch the video, I want to feel like you’re talking directly to me. Because, really, you are–there aren’t thousands of people huddled around my computer to watch the video with me. If you can train yourself to extend this method beyond the greeting, you’re able to let thousands of people feel like they have a direct connection with you. Destin at Smarter Every Day excels at this.
  3. Convey passion in your words and voice. Regardless of whether or not you like the thing or game you’re discussing, if you talk about it with passion, your listeners will be much more engaged (see Bower’s Game Corner). This is a tough one to execute, because we all express passion differently. However, I’d recommend listening to yourself or reading some of the older content you’ve created to give yourself some perspective on how people perceive you. The key, really, is to avoid sounding bored and uninterested.
  4. Replace platitudes with stories and specific examples. If you’ve never listened to Rob Daviau (co-designer of Pandemic Legacy) on a podcast, do yourself a favor and give it a try. Rob checks off every item on this list, but the thing he may do best is that he always has a specific example or anecdote to illustrate what he’s trying to say (even if it’s a fake example to avoid spoilers). It makes you feel like you’re just hanging out with Rob and sharing stories rather than have a highbrowed professor lecture you on what you should or shouldn’t do.
  5. Use inclusive language. No matter which industry you’re in, there’s a lingo that only people who are well-versed in that industry will understand. For everyone else, it creates a huge barrier to entry if you’re using terms and acronyms they’ve never heard of. It’s like telling a private joke in public. This doesn’t mean you have to over-explain every phrase, which would alienate your core audience For example, a board game review could talk about how a game is AP-prone…or they could just say the words “analysis paralysis,” which at least gives the listener some context from which they can derive the meaning. I have a feeling that Tom Vasel of The Dice Tower gives these instructions to his team, because they’re quite good at using inclusive language. Bonus tip: To make your content as welcoming as possible, pretend that your audience is brand new for every entry/video/recording.
  6. Reply to at least some comments. When I post a blog entry, project update, or game design video, I read every comment. But the commenters don’t know I’m actually reading anything unless I comment in response (which I do for all questions and some comments). By itself, this doesn’t make me more likable–sometimes I reply a comment more bluntly than I’d like. But it at least shows that I’m here to connect with you and hear your thoughts, whether or not I agree with them. Rodney Smith of Watch It Played does this exceptionally well, especially give the scale of his channel (70,000+ subscribers).
  7. Geek out with your audience. After I saw the latest Star Wars movie, I came home and watched/read a ton of video reviews. At that point, I wasn’t looking for a critical dissection of the movie; rather, I just wanted to geek out about it. I found that the reviews I enjoyed the most (for that purpose) were ones where the reviewers had strong, over-the-top reactions (Harry Knowles at Ain’t It Cool is always good for these). I think that’s why certain “let’s play” video gamers are so popular too, as it’s simply fun to see how they react to games.
  8. Be tactful when talking about something you dislike. Unlike the Star Wars example above, the reason I consume board game reviews is to get an honest opinion (and to increase my knowledge of game design). That means you’re sometimes going to talk about stuff you don’t like. But it’s the way you talk about things you dislike that reflects on your likability. Here’s my tip: Talk about stuff you dislike as if the person who created it is reading/listening/watching your review. It’s not about looking out for their feelings–in fact, it’s not about them at all. Rather, that method will help you retain your humanity in the eyes of the other viewers.
  9. Show your love for more than just yourself. Have you ever met someone who only wanted to talk about themselves? They never ask questions or express interest in anyone other than themselves. Perhaps they’re an author who only wants to talk about books they’ve written instead of any of the billions of other books in existence. Don’t they come across as self-centered and self-promoting? After your first conversation with that author, are you compelled to return to them, or are you more drawn to authors who express their love for other books too? Patrick Rothfuss strikes a good balance (The Name of the Wind) in these regards. He gives his fans what they want (insights about the book, his writing process, and random personal anecdotes), but he’s also brimming over with love for literature and other writers.
  10. Have fun. I know, most generic advice ever, right? Perhaps this is a better way of saying it: Be acutely aware of the amount of fun you’re having, and find ways to have more fun (or take a break). Your audience is only going to have as much fun consuming your content as you have making it. There’s a great food blog in St. Louis called Off the Eaten Path. Recently the blogger–who had been posting less and less–revealed that it had simply stopped being fun for her. She says it took a while for her to admit this to herself, and when she did, she decided to take an official hiatus and only return when she is truly excited to write something new. I really admire this approach. It’s okay to take breaks or pivot to a new format/discussion. Maybe you started off writing a blog about movies, but now you’re much more excited about cats. Give yourself permission to make the switch to the thing you’re going to have the most fun with, and your audience (old or new) will like you all the more for it.

Thanks for the opportunity to make this list. I have several speaking engagements coming up (one in a few hours!), so it’s been really helpful for me to think about this whole “likability” thing and try to embody more of these traits.

What do you think? What of these attributes do you associate the most with likability, and which ones did I miss?

23 Comments on “Top 10 Ways to Be a Likable Content Creator

  1. I totally second your last point – I’ve basically stopped reviewing games because the process has become unfun. I talked to Hunter (Weapons Grade Tabletop) about this exact thing a few months ago. In those moments that I’m inspired (like about Scythe, for instance) it still feels great to write a review… but doing it to “punch the clock” makes a hobby into something much worse.

    Love that you mentioned Pat! NotW rocks!

  2. Thanks JR–I’m glad you were able to figure that out. I have it happen in little spurts; like, sometimes I’m just not excited to write an entry on my personal blog, so I just have to admit to myself that it’s okay to take a night off. :)

    By the way, for the record, the content you create is an excellent example of everything on this list.

  3. Thanks, Jamey. This had some really good insights. There were examples I could pin point in podcasts, videos, and blogs that led me to exactly why I don’t particularly care for their content. And there were areas where I could see my reflection and say, “that’s something I need to work on.”

    One of the problems I will never be able to overcome in exuding excitement is that due to Parkinson’s my voice often has a very monotonous tone and very often fades away. Add that to my already gravely voice and you get what Ben Stein would sound like as a chainsmoker. This often gives what I say an insincere cadence. Sometimes when I feel better I can get away with enthusiastic, but it’s not as often as I’d like and it’s not consistent enough to create audio/video content.

    That’s why I think I will stick to writing. People can’t tell how you feel, see how you look, or hear how you speak, behind the keyboard. :)

  4. Erik: Definitely, I agree. It’s why I generally try to write post that talk about “do’s” instead of “don’ts”. There’s usually a positive approach to every negative. :)

    Billy Board Game: Thanks for sharing that. I think it’s a great example of finding the medium in which you can best express yourself. Like you, I express myself best in writing, especially since it gives me the chance to think about what I want to say before I say it!

  5. Jamey,

    Great list ~ whether we like it or not, I think we’re hard-wired these days to do a Top 10 list, even if we have 9 or 11. :)

    Anyway, the part about the podcasts resonated with me, as I often find podcasts with one person or more than two to be either boring or chaotic. Recently, I’ve been listening to the Brawling Brothers podcast out of the “balloon capital of the world, Albuquerque, NM!” They have a great style, they generally like each other other, and while they don’t always stay on point they’re having fun.

    Overall, I agree with the list of 10, but I focused on “Passion” as a driving factor and remaining “Tactful” in any correspondence. Sometimes, passion gets the better of people, as we’ve seen on various fora, in which hubris and arrogance can sometimes replace well-intentioned passion. On the other end of the spectrum, disagreeing with someone can remain quite fruitful, until such time as one side or the other loses all manner of tact and the conversation spirals way out of control very fast.

    I guess if I were to add a characteristic, and it may simply be an amalgam of those listed, I would add Remaining Positive. It’s easy in this industry to have your feelings hurt or your grail game dismissed out of hand. The Cult of the New wants nothing to do with yesterday’s deck-builders, and new mechanics have replaced worker-placement games. I understand it, but quite honestly, it’s those who can have a civil exchange that really set themselves apart from others in the community…remaining positive, sometimes when there’s a great deal of negativity around you.

    Cheers,
    Joe

  6. Ha ha…that’s true, Joe. I don’t know why that is, but 10 seems to be the magic number. :)

    I like the Brawling Brothers example. They’re definitely having fun, and they poke fun at each other, but it seems to stem from a place of respect and friendship instead of a power struggle as I’ve seen on some podcasts.

    I actually think you’re an excellent example of “Remaining Positive.” I’m sure you have your dislikes and pet peeves, but you do a great job at publicly focusing on positivity and progress.

  7. One of the issues I have with my podcasts, and quite often my rules videos is that I’m still really nervous. So, I find it hard to smile / relax and give off a good vibe. Everytime I try to “chill” and make a joke, it always comes out wrong, and I guess I’m just really uncomfortable with it all still. However, since it’s my job, I try to work through it, but when I watch it back and compare to others, I look at them and think “they look happy, and enjoying what they do”, and I look at mine and think that I’m just delivering information concisely and often coldly.
    It’s something I’m more aware of than others and will keep trying to get better. Articles like this help :)

  8. Paul: Thanks for your comments. I can understand your nervousness (I have the same thing for my channel, and I end up speaking in one loooong sentence). I think the self-awareness you describe is a huge step!

  9. Thanks for your great insights Jamey. I (Patrick) will be sure to keep them in mind as we continue to create our content.

    I will add that by following these steps you will be able to extend the life of your endeavor. Creating content is a lot of work, but if you truly enjoy being with the people with which you work, if you build community by interacting with your audience, if you build up other creators, if you embrace your joy without self awareness, if you play a role in inviting others to the party, you will get as much out of it as you put in.

    I can honestly say, the friends I have made, the trust I have been able to foster, the people I have been able to support, the great creators with whom I have been able to interact, the warm thanks I have received make all of the work worth it. When the work give as much as you give, it is easy to keep it going.

  10. Thanks Jamey for sharing. I always enjoy seeing what people like/don’t like about content that is being created and than ask myself “Do I do that?” I think it helps all of us grow, even though the truth can be brutal at times. :)

  11. Brilliantly said, Patrick–thank you for sharing. I completely agree with how all of those elements contribute to extending the life of your endeavor.

    I actually almost cited Blue Peg Pink Peg in this post under “Diversity”–I like that you have both female and male perspectives–but it didn’t quite fit into the thesis for this post (I enjoy your podcast for having diversity, but it doesn’t inherently make each of you more likable. :) ).

  12. Jamey great article that everyone can learn something from this. Some are very hard to do but with practice and listening to the comments of those who partake in your content you will succeed. Number 3 is one that I have always tried to improve on with written word and always need to work on number 9. Its hard when your proud of your work and want to talk about it.

  13. Yeah, #9 is tough. I think balance is the key, like the Rothfuss example. He talks about his work a lot (his fans want to hear about it), but he shares his passion for other books as well, and it makes him exponentially more likable.

  14. Hey Jamey, great list!

    A couple of quick things:
    1 – The link for the Rob Daviau interview is actually http://www.dinganddentcast.com/archives/episode-11-rob-daviau-interview (your link had episode 12)
    2 – You may have meant “uninterested”, rather than “disinterested” in point 3 (uninterested means you don’t care about the topic, disinterested means you impartial — e.g., you are neither uninterested nor disinterested in Scythe as you are passionate about it, and you have a definite vested interest there!)

  15. I always enjoy reading your articles. As a content consumer I appreciate your list. With so many options, finding people I genuinely like is, in my opinion, the key factor in whittling down to a manageable list. My go to board game podcast is The Geek Allstars. It was started by 3 friends, Dan, Todd and Red back in August of 2011 and now is co-hosted by Dan and Chris Kirkman of Dice Hate Me Games. These guys have a real affection for each other and the many guests that appear on the show. It is a good time and it feels like you are just listening to a group of your friends discuss a hobby you love. They cover most of your list in spades and for that reason, it keeps me coming back for every episode.

  16. Ian: Thank you! I’ve now learned something about “uninterested” versus “disinterested.” :)

    Chris: Thanks for sharing your favorite podcast here! You’re right, there are a lot of options these days, so I’m glad you found one that you really connect with.

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