Suffering from Brain-Melt? That's ok - you're not alone.
Sometimes, it seems as though you’ve covered every topic your audience cares about, and you hit a creative wall, struggling to come up with fresh content ideas. Even though we sometimes feel as though there are no new topics to cover, that’s simply not the case.
There’s always something fun and interesting to cover in your blog to bolster your content marketing strategy… you just have to get creative!
Trying to generate new ideas when writer’s block and creativity deficits surface can feel as fruitless as running on a hamster wheel. So, let’s take a look at some of the best ways and places to search for illusive creative revelations.
Your Customers and Social Media Following
I’ve seen countless YouTubers and bloggers reach out to their audience directly and candidly ask them what videos and posts they would like to see next. This can only be done if you already have a moderate following of users who engage with you through social media, leave comments on your website content, post comments on your YouTube videos, and other comments of that ilk.
Sometimes, your users will simply ask for a post on a given topic of their own free will, without any prompting from you. This is a bit of a freebie, but be careful: you need to make sure that you’re not making content for one single person, or even a small subset of your audience. The challenge is to determine whether or not the requested content idea is applicable to the majority of your audience. If only a handful of people in your audience would find it helpful, interesting, or fun, you’re veering off course.
But how on Earth are you supposed to know how much of your audience likes a new idea? Well, take a leaf out of the big brands’ book. Haven’t you ever seen a food company (Pepsi, Coca-Cola, Frito-Lay, etc.) introduce a new flavor by allowing users to vote on one of multiple flavor options as a way to test the market? You can do the same by employing a voting system. Ask your audience which topic they would prefer, and reward them by creating the winning topic.
It's very important to know who your audience is so you can ask the right questions in the first place.
Another great way to generate content ideas is to leverage your email list by asking questions and getting feedback. It’s pretty darn easy to add a line to any email marketing message saying something along the lines of, “Have any questions? Feel free to send topics for which you would like me to post by email or by leaving a comment on the blog.”
Alternatively, you could a list of topics and have your readers vote. This is good, but could be a bit short-sighted, as you may miss some great topic ideas by limiting their choices.
We've done something similar, combining this with the advice in the previous section - we posted a request on our Facebook page asking for feedback, and then we sent an email to our subscribers directing them to our post. This helped us boost our Facebook fans, and also gave us some great feedback on topics that our clients needed help understanding.
Twitter, News Sources, RSS and Industry Leaders
For some types of content, it may even be appropriate to monitor Twitter feeds of top industry leaders and influencers, and to create reactionary and speculative content. The same holds true for news sites.
For instance, you may not be a proper journalist, but following genuine journalists and blogs via an RSS feed or news aggregator can help you keep your thumb on your industry’s pulse to stay in the know. The idea with these sources of content idea is to stay on the bleeding edge of topical information and current events.
My favorite news tool is Feedly - which also has an app you can add on your phone.
The only problem is that you have to rapidly react and create content. If you wait too long, the topic can go stale. Not only will it have been covered by your competitors, but your audience may lose interest or be bored with the topic if they feel it’s old news, which makes it look like you’re way behind the curve in your industry.
Are there recent changes to your industry that affect your customers? Take it head on and reap the benefits - both of current content as well as the perception to your customers that your business is on top of things.
Spy on (and Borrow from) Your Competitors
Naturally, your competitors’ websites and blogs are a great source for content ideas as well. However, I need to first issue a word of caution: make sure you’re not copying their content or committing plagiarism! This is only a way to mine content topics and ideas.
Furthermore, you should strive to make your content better, cleaner, and more informative than your competitors’ content. We wrote about 10x content here.
Can you find a way to say the same thing, but be much more concise? Are your competitors guides and posts missing something crucial, such as quality images? Perhaps their content is slightly out of date, and you can make your content more up to date. What is their content missing, and how can you make it better?
A great way to keep up with your competitors is with Google Alerts. Simply create an alert using the site: operator and adding your competitor's domain name. Now every time they update their site, you'll get an email with links to the new content.
Want to see content that a competitor has published in the last few weeks? Or last few hours? You can do this with a Google search.
You'll start by doing the same search, site:domain.com - for example site:sydneyscloset.com
This brings back a list of results from Google that are only for that domain. Now we can refine the results by time to see their latest posts and updates.
Next, click on Tools and then click the dropdown labeled Any time and select a range that you'd like to search. Now you'll only see content that has been updated or added since that time!
The self-proclaimed "Front page of the Internet", Reddit is actually a fantastic tool to see what real people think about any given topic or idea within an industry. Invariably, if a topic exists, there is an extremely high probability that there’s a section (called a subreddit) for that topic. You can see what people like, dislike, or think about it by reading comments and looking at the amount of 'upvotes' a particular post or comment received.
Run through Reddit, and in particular, look to see if there are a lot of common questions, confusion, or misunderstandings about a related topic to your industry. If you can find a knowledge gap or a lack of understanding, you can offer value to your audience by demystifying the topic.
You can even post followup questions/comments on threads that you see were popular, and get more information.
Just be careful, if you come across in the slightest way as being promotional and self-serving, the users will call you out.
Last but not least, note that Quora is another good resource to see what questions people have around a certain topic. Quora separates questions and posts into categories including Food, Education, Science, Technology, Websites, Web Design, Books, and more. Some of the questions that get asked are strange, vivid, and unique, and there are plenty of uncut gems to mine from some of the questions users ask.
The best way to use this site is to search for keywords related to your industry or products, then using those questions to create your own content. Answer it better, more succinctly, and you'll see that information push your website higher.
Stop Banging Your Head Against the Wall!
If you’re struggling to come up with content ideas, try to sift through some of these sources for topics and ideas. If you still can’t generate content ideas, then it might be time to reach out for help from a content marketing professional to augment your digital marketing campaign.