You have your content marketing strategy pulled together, and you know what goals you want to meet and when you want them met. Now comes the fun part – creating the content to help you get there. But for many companies, this isn’t the fun part at all. This is the excruciating part where you may feel uncreative, out of touch, and unsure of what to create that would be useful and relevant to your current and potential customers.
I’m here to tell you it isn’t as hard as you think. Content development can be quick and painless if you understand there are tools and processes out there to help you along the way. Here are 5 methods that will work for any industry, and help you move forward and start creating great content.
1. Ask your team
One of the most important facts you should know about content generation is that content ideas are all around you. From the account managers to the marketing team and design specialists, each person in your team has a wealth of knowledge about your company or product, and can be utilized in your content ideation process.
One simple prompt I encourage you to send to your staff is: “List 5 questions you get asked about our company.” Maybe those questions come from clients, or maybe it is just something they get from colleagues or wonder about themselves. These questions are perfect vehicles to come up with topic ideas for your content. For example, a question we get all the time is “How do I come up with ideas for content?” That question is exactly how this post you’re reading was created, and how we could come up with seemingly endless other variations of the same topic for niche industries who want something more specific. Even if you have a small team of 10, that will give you 50 ideas – more than enough to last you awhile.
Key Takeaway: Mine the minds of your team and open your content up to fresh perspectives.
Whether you’re aiming to create ideas for blog posts, resource articles, infographics or free guides, a creative brainstorming session can be a powerful way to spark the whole process. Gather some of your team from multiple departments into the same room, and see what happens. By pulling in people with different specialties, you’ll get different perspectives that can lead in a multitude of directions. Always remember to have a leader steering the discussion though, as creative brainstorming sessions have the tendency to go on for a long time without some type of structure.
Some of the best brainstorming tools involve prompts and free flow of ideas using processes like:
- Mind Mapping
- Trigger Method
- Right Braining
- Brain Writing
- Pessimist vs. Optimist
- Online Mapping Tools
We’ve gone more into depth about these process on content brainstorming video on our website.
Key Takeaway: A little creative brainstorming can go a long way. Keep it structured, but let the ideas flow when they come.
3. Google it!
Google gives you so much information, accessible right at your fingertips. Don’t neglect using this powerful tool in your content generation stage. This process not only gives you tons of ideas to work with, it helps legitimize your topics for search engines before you move on to content production.
Let’s take for example that you own an Italian restaurant in Downtown Phoenix, with close proximity to many attractions – the ballpark, convention center, public transport, etc. Start searching for phrases like “Pizza in Downtown Phoenix” or “Restaurant near Phoenix Convention Center” and see what shows up. Is there an article by a local restaurant with that in the title, or is there a content hole for that keyword phrase? Utilize the opportunity and write an article with that phrase in the topic and see how you rank after just a few weeks.
Don’t forget to take note of the automatic keyword suggestions that Google gives you. That is what happens when you start typing in your search phrase, and multiple options drop down to show you what people are already searching for. That’s a great place to discover more ideas, in addition to looking for the Related Searches near the bottom of the results page.
Key Takeaway: Google is a great research tool – use it intentionally and find content holes to fill in.
4. Web Sleuthing
Google isn’t the only digital outlet that can help you generate content ideas fast.
People are asking questions all the time about your industry or service; you just need to know where to find them. I’ve found great success on sites like:
- Yahoo! Answers
- Youtube related searches
- UberSuggest (keyword suggestion tool)
- LinkedIn Discussions
- Open Site Explorer
These take a little more work to delve into, but if you have a few phrases you’re researching at a time, it’s very manageable. Any questions on sites like Yahoo! Answers and Quora are potential content opportunities so I recommend writing the question down in one column and converting it to multiple topics in another so you can track what topic ideas came from what question.
5. User Generation
Why do all the work when you get can get a hand from your fans and followers? If you have fans or an active online customer base, create initiatives that facilitate content being delivered to you by them. Not only does this provide content that’s out of the box of what you may have come up with – it engages your user base and has high branding value.
- Run a contest where fans submit their photos relevant to your business and the promotion you’re running
- Create a campaign that encourages people to submit their content that is in line with your brand and messaging
- Allow your followers to suggest content topics they want to see covered on your content outlets
- Get questions from your customers that they need answered and create informative content around it
- Own a hashtag that surrounds your campaign or contest so everything is easily trackable and has branding value
As an example, New Belgium Brewing ran a contest on their social media outlets where they asked for fan’s stories about riding and enjoying their bikes. They collected thousands of stories, had a huge increase in followers across social media outlets, and were able to use the user-generated stories on marketing pieces, packaging, and other materials.
Key Takeaway: User-generated content can be extremely valuable to you as a brand – just remember to keep it engaging and interesting for your customer base.
I hope these 5 methods of content generation help you along in your process. If you get stuck, return to the drawing board and make sure your content development process is grounded with goals, strategy, and a structured content calendar.