Stop Sounding Like Your Competition: How to Find Your Content Tilt

Peter Thiel, co-founder of PayPal (along with Tesla founder Elon Musk), and Facebook’s first outside investor, believes that most businesses copy other businesses, and thus fail.  He says:

Figure out something that nobody else is doing and look to create a monopoly in some area that’s been underdeveloped. Find a problem nobody else is solving.

Type “SEO e-book” into Google and you’ll get over 11 million results. There are a lot of businesses talking about the same things in the same way. Jay Baer believes most businesses simply never go through the process of finding a content niche that they can own.

As Jay explains:

It’s like, hey I like knitting and I’m going to start a knitting blog. Really! There are 27 other knitting blogs. Why would anybody read yours? What is different? What is unique? What is interesting? Why would anyone stop reading the knitting blog that they’ve been reading for the last three years and read yours ever? If you can’t articulate that, you need to go back to the drawing board. Most people I find who haven’t been doing this for a while just don’t go through that competitive calculus, and it’s dangerous.

There are hundreds of blogs on chili peppers that tell stories about the “heat” of the peppers. Claus Pilgaard found a way to tell a story that was radically different than his content competition. His messaging was around the “taste” of the peppers. Claus’ content tilt made all the difference.

If Content Inc. is going to work for you, your content must be different. It must fill a content hole that is not being filled by someone else. As Peter Thiel suggests, we must find a problem area that no one else is solving and exploit that area with content.

This is called content tilting.

Explaining the content tilt

The word tilt  has two primary definitions.

The first is to cause to lean, incline, slope, or slant. If we tilt a glass or a table, we get to look at it from a different perspective. Neo, in The Matrix, tilted his head and saw the spoon differently and gained knowledge because of it.

The second definition of tilt is to aim or thrust, or tilt a lance, as in joust. With the tilt, we look at the content niche in such a way that creates the opportunity for us to attack, and lead, and ultimately own the category.

While identifying the sweet spot is critical to the Content Inc. process, it’s the content tilt that will separate you from everyone else in your market area. Andrew Davis, author of Brandscaping, calls this “the hook,” which is a simple twist on a familiar theme designed to entrap or ensnare your audience. Without tilting  your content just enough to truly have a different story to tell, you likely will see your content fade into the rest of the clutter and be forgotten.

Example of a content tilt

Sydney, Australia’s Ann Reardon is the “baking queen of YouTube.”

In 2011, after giving birth to her third son, Ann was looking for something to do during her night feedings, so she launched a recipe site called How to Cook That.

Before starting a family, Ann was a qualified food scientist and dietitian (her skill area). At the same time, she had a passion for teaching and working with children, so she changed careers and began working with youth in a poorer area of Western Australia.

You may be thinking that recipe blogs and “how-to” baking on YouTube are nothing new, and you’d be right. What separates Ann is her content tilt.

Ann focuses her recipes and baking on seemingly impossible creations such as desserts with 5 pounds of Snickers bars and a cake that, when sliced open, is a perfect replica of an Instagram logo.

Ann says,

Many people start a YouTube channel and try to copy what has already been done, but the horse has already bolted. For every single breath you take, there is eight hours of new video footage uploaded to YouTube, so I have to give viewers a good reason to come back and watch my channel.

In January 2012, Ann saw her 100th subscriber on YouTube and was thrilled. Exactly three years later, Ann has amassed more than 1 million subscribers. In an average month, she’ll see over 10 million views of her videos.

Yes, Ann found her sweet spot — the combination of her knowledge of food and her passion for teaching — but it was her content tilt of seemingly impossible food creations that has made all the difference.

Ask yourself

Have you found your content tilt, or can the content you produce be found just about anywhere?

Editor’s note: Listen to the audio version of this article on the Content Inc. podcast (episode 39) via iTunes or Stitcher.

Get in-depth education in person at the Content Inc. Summit. The Content Inc. Summit is held as part of Content Marketing World (September 11). Learn directly from Joe Pulizzi, Andrew Davis, Matthew Patrick, and other entrepreneurs on how to grow your business with content.

Author: Joe Pulizzi

Joe Pulizzi considers himself the poster boy for content marketing. Founder of the Content Marketing Institute , Joe evangelizes content marketing around the world through keynotes, articles, tweets and his books, including best-selling Epic Content Marketing (McGraw-Hill) and the new book, Content Inc. Check out Joe's two podcasts. If you want to get on his good side, send him something orange. For more on Joe, check out his personal site or follow him on Twitter @JoePulizzi.

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  • tpldrew

    Thanks for the shout out! As you know I’m a big believer in the Tilt (or the Hook, as I call it.)

    I recently did an hour long webinar on 6 ways to find your hook. It was such a fun time:
    You can watch the webinar here:

    Thanks for another great post!