I was grabbing a coffee with a random connection the other day and they asked me how I come up with so many different ideas for blog posts. They talked about how they have always wanted to start a blog but never did because they fear they’ll run out of things to write about. The classic tale of writers block.
I wish I could say it’s easy to come up with ideas but that would be a flat out lie. Coming up with new topics and subject matter that will keep an audience engaged and connected to your blog is no walk in the park. Throw in the fact that you’re not only developing ideas for your own personal blog but also the blogs and ebooks of clients and developing ideas has become an art and science on its own.
Every couple days I’m tasked with creating content plans and schedules for my own blog along with that of clients. It’s challenging but one thing I’ve found is that if you put in the head phones and focus on landing on a topic, you’ll eventually find one. Here are a few things I do to help get over writers block and come up with blog topics:
Check out Scoop.it for Relevant Stories
It’s a channel that doesn’t get the amount of love it deserves.
Scoop.it is a network filled with content curators from a wide range of industries. It includes everything from online marketers and professors to real estate agents and non-profits. The goal of scoop.it is to allow their members to collect relevant content and add their own personal insight to the content they curate.
From a content marketing perspective, Scoop.it allows you to scan through a number of topics within specific industries. All you have to do is search for your industry and suddenly you’ve got dozens of curated infographics, blog posts, interviews and more right at your finger tips.
When you see these articles think about whether or not you agree with the author. If you don’t agree, maybe that’s an angle you can take in a post. Additionally, give thought to how a topic or post from a different industry would work if it was written from the perspective of yours. Essentially, you want to use these curated posts to get the wheels turning and drive inspiration for your next great piece of content.
Sign up for HARO for Releases
I’ve been a subscriber for HARO (Help a Reporter out) for the last few months and have found it useful for generating press and ideas for content. The ultimate goal of HARO is to give reporters subject matter experts to connect with and use as sources when they write articles or news stories. For me, while I use it for that reason, I also use it to stay on top of stories that are top of mind and relevant.
Every morning, afternoon and night, I receive an email from HARO with a list of article topics in which a reporter is looking for a source. The emails are filled with queries that you subscribe to which are categorized by topics like lifestyle, fitness, business, health, etc. The emails and their queries range from journalists looking for an expert in business insurance to a middle-aged man in New York who’s raising three girls.
When you receive the list of queries in your inbox, use it to (1) identify opportunities to help a reporter and (2) identify new angles for stories that you can craft for your content. For example, if you’re a personal trainer and receive query list like this:
You could easily look at #1 and say, I’ll write a blog post titled: 5 Types of Athletes Society May Have Forgotten About. Furthermore, you could look at topic #6 and conclude, I’ll craft an article titled: 15 of the Most Inspiration Female BodyBuilders in The World. From there, you could create a badge that each of the body builders will place on their site and like that, you’ve created a compelling post and potentially an effective backlinking strategy.
Subscribe to Other Blogs
I’m subscribed to hundreds of blogs. I don’t read all of them but I’ve subscribed to hundreds over the last five years and wouldn’t change it for the world.
Most bloggers only subscribe to like minded individuals and people blogging about the same things they blog about. For me, I generate my best ideas and moments of inspiration from reading blogs that have nothing to do with my services or the offering of my clients. Reading other blogs give you a chance to not only get out of the bubble but also capture perspectives and knowledge that wouldn’t be shared on a competitors blog.
Another great reason to follow other blogs is the opportunity to find timely angles. For example, I’m not a huge television watcher but when I was looking through my subscription feed and noticed that it was almost time for Mad Men to return back to the air; I wrote a blog post titled 5 Life and Business Lessons You Can Take from Don Draper, as expected, it generated more traffic than any other post that month.
Do Some Actual Work
A lot of people talk but not a lot of people work.
That’s something you hear time and time again when chatting with public speakers. One of their biggest challenges is staying up on the recent trends and upcoming news because they don’t have time to focus on actual work anymore. Many of the top social media speakers are on the road doing talks and signing books instead of actually working with clients to generate meaningful results.
If you’re looking for a bit of inspiration, I recommend getting to work. Roll up your sleeves and start executing projects and learning from them as you go along. When you start doing work you will start to find little things you do that could actually turn into a blog post. Something like, 4 tools I use everday to stay super productive or the ultimate guide to finishing a project.
If you don’t actually have lots on the go, create a project and work on it. As you go through the process, start to think about what lessons you’re learning along the way and if you still don’t have something, simply write about your progress. For businesses, write about your client success stories or run experiments that would interest your clients.
Browse Forums for Active Discussions
What? You thought forums were dead?
Not so fast. For any industry that has a passionate group of leaders, customers or brand evangelists; there is a forum waiting for you. You would be surprised how many nuggets of insights and information you can capture from browsing forums around the web.
Web forums are the original social network. It’s where people from all over the world would gather to have ongoing discussions and often debates, about topics that they were interested in or passionate about. I remember my first forum, it was for Nintendo 64 and then from there I started joining and creating forums about Fantasy Football. That was more than 10 years ago and today, forums are still relevant.
Whether you’re looking for a Forum on Parenting or a Forum on Business, there are hundreds of forums online. As content marketers, use these forums to identify what questions people are asking and create content that solves their problems. Additionally, find the most popular threads and see if there are any key insights or reasons in which that thread was so popular. Take these insights to create your own content and reap the benefits of already knowing what make a specific audience tick.
Use Quora to Find Important Questions
Similar to Scoop.it, Quora is still a channel that content marketers have yet to embrace for its full potential. Not only is it a great social network for both personal development and sharing knowledge, but it’s also a great channel for sparking new ideas for content.
Quora allows you to follow a variety of different topics that are of interest and keep track of a wide range of complex questions and answers. A content marketer helping a Healthcare company could do a quick glance through the healthcare topic and find some of the most popular questions such as these:
From a quick scan of the best questions along with the “follower” counts, a good content marketer can identify topics that might generate buzz for a brand in the health industry. The last question is about cell phone radiation and has 24 answers along with 42 followers. The number of followers on this post demonstrates some interest and the number of answers demonstrate some differentiating opinions. As such, there is potentially an opportunity for a study or blog post highlighting key insights about this subject.
This process can transcend into thousands of other businesses and industries. Quora is a pool of knowledge just waiting for people to jump in and it’s allowing content marketers to use questions, answers and topics to generate ideas indirectly.
Get in the Shower
You think I’m joking? I’m not.
According to research and an extensive post from the folks at BufferApp (also known for great content marketing), there is actually quite a bit of evidence that demonstrates and confirms why great ideas hit us in the shower. In that study, Leo Widrich from BufferApp shares the following conclusion:
If you are in a relaxed state of mind,easy to distract and full of dopamine, your brain is most likely to give you your best, most creative ideas.
Content marketing is a constantly evolving game that requires marketers to combine a combination of digital knowledge with news reporter instincts. Generating ideas is just one piece of the puzzle but it’s definitely one key opportunity that is overlooked too often.
What I’ve personally experienced with content marketing is that in many ways, the power of a piece of content lives and dies with the idea. When you create something that you’re confident is a unique idea and hasn’t been done before, you see great results. When you do something safe that you know has already been done before, the results aren’t always top notch.
What other ways have you generated ideas for your content marketing efforts?