Writer’s block: the content creator’s curse. Coming up with bright ideas for content can go from fun and exciting to hair-pulling and frustrating in no time flat. So how do the best in the business keep coming up with breakthrough ideas and pertinent pieces?
While there’s something to be said for innate creativity, the fact is, there are tools and processes that make the content ideation process and make brainstorming content ideas a lot easier.
Remember Your Personas
As with most things in marketing, you want to begin the process by recalling the audience you’re attempting to reach. Most pertinent here are your audience’s interests (including associated interests), the pain points (the problems you can solve for them) and their unanswered questions.
If you don’t have this information immediately available, I suggest creating a quick pull-sheet with abbreviated profiles to refer to in a pinch.
To get great content ideas, you can tap into the conversations already being had around the web. There are dozens of tools that can help with this. As you use each one, keep track of the topics and ideas you’re collecting in a spreadsheet – you’ll need them in a moment.
Reddit can not only show you conversations happening about your chosen keywords and concepts – but ranks them according to popularity for you! Take a run through reddit, cataloguing popular posts that you could add a new spin on.
If you want to get the latest lowdown on a subject being discussed on Twitter, Topsy makes it easy. You can sort out tweets by relevance, hunt for influencers and even track down videos and photos to see what else is being shared on the topic – all of which may spark ideas.
How people search can reveal the questions they’re trying to answer. Ubersuggest scrapes Google’s “suggest” functionality to show you the most popular queries people are making about your topics and keywords.
Question-and-answer platform Quora is a fantastic place to drop in and see what others are asking. Look for popular questions – or even popular answers you disagree with – that could be turned into full-blown posts.
Trendhunter.com pulls together emerging ideas and interesting pieces on a huge variety of subjects. A search for something as mundane as “plumbing” yields some pretty interesting results and can definitely get your creative juices flowing.
Need something timely? Trendsmap shows you exactly what’s trending on Twitter – and where! It’s a great first reference if you’re looking for hot topics.
It’s a little old school – but forums still popular hubs of discussion. You can use tools like Boardreader and Omgili to search multiple forums at once and eavesdrop on pertinent conversations.
This one takes a little planning and won’t work in a hurry – but there are few people better to ask than your customers themselves. A conversation with a customer can reveal everything from their deepest concerns to lateral interests that you can tie in to your content. Conduct a survey or better yet, take a few for coffee.
Brainstorming alone can be incredibly limiting. Coworkers can be a source of inspiration – and two heads are always better than one. Your sales staff, for example, will have insights into the most common questions and objections of your customers, while others in the organization will have different perspectives and ideas of their own.
Apply Lateral Thinking
Taking the topics and themes you’ve collected, you can apply a bit of “lateral thinking” to try and generate further ideas. Asking questions like “What if…”, for example, can open you up to a bevy of possible posts. As highlighted by Kelsey Libert, five ways to go about this include:
- Escape: Negate what you have taken for granted about the topic.
- Reversal: Reverse something you have taken for granted about the topic.
- Exaggeration: Is there a numerical or quantitative element you can play with to arrive at new ideas?
- Distortion: Try to distort one piece of something you take for granted about the topic.
- Wishful thinking: Suggest a fantasy you know isn’t possible that relates to your topic.
When asking these questions about your topics and themes, ponder what the consequences of that scenario might be, how it might become a reality, or how things might be impacted if you changed them even further.
Narrow Down Your List
By now, you should have a fairly strong list of potential topics to cover. It’s time to cut them down to just those that are:
- Interesting to you (never write without a passion for the topic!)
- Original (even a re-telling can add your own spin)
- Elicit an emotional response (ideally, interest and surprise)
You want topics that are compelling, but not so out of left field that your audience wonders if you’ve lost your marbles. You still want to snap up the user’s attention, but not with something gimmicky.
Having monitored conversations, brainstormed with peers and applied some out-of-the-box thinking, you should now be ready to create something worth consuming – so get to it!
Great ideas! I hadn’t heard of Trendhunter. Have you heard of Bit.ly’s new tool called Realtime?
thank you justin,
yes i heard of it ..but its more lean toward whos the most popular publisher in each state.. do you know how to use it to pull content ideas about it ?
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