You already know content is a big deal. Creating high-quality content is a vital way to engage, educate, and connect with current or future clients and customers. But ideas are pesky little things, and seem to be the area where most people seem to struggle.
"I am just not creative."
"I don't know what to write about!"
"I only write when I have a really good idea." (which means you don't write much at all)
Sound like you? I totally get it.
I think it is time to change the conversation around where ideas come from. Ideas aren't magic. They don't come from some fickle muse. They are around you, all the time. They are waiting ot be uncovered in customer complaints, in staff meetings, in sales calls, and on social.
Coming up with ideas for great content is more about recognizing when those ideas present themselves than it is about being creative.
Here are ten tips for coming up with more content ideas.
Pay attention to the questions your customers ask you, and write content that answers those questions. Let's say you are a social media manager who works with small businesses, particularly restaurants. You probably get a lot of questions about what platforms they should be on, or whether being on Facebook is really necessary.
Write articles, eBooks, white papers, or produce webinars to answer those questions!
The benefits here are two-fold. First, you are educating your customers, hopefully before they even come to you. This means the customers who come through your website will already know that Facebook is going to help their business. (Time saved!) Second, you are positioning yourself as a leader in the social marketing field who knows what they are talking about, which builds trust.
Not all ideas have to be new! Taking content you already produced and reworking it into a different format or a taking it from a slightly different angle is a fantastic way to get the most bang for your buck.
Let's look at an example. Say you are a life coach who publishes a weekly podcast and last week's topic was about using time more effectively. Can you turn that podcast into a blog post? Can you tweak it a little bit and write a post titled "10 Tools to Work More Effectively" or "10 Tricks to Work Smarter Not Harder"?
Writing content loosely based on other content also gives you the opportunity to link back to the original piece in an organic way.
3. Use Tools
As I said before, ideas aren't magic. They require work. Tools are a great way to shake the ideas that are already rolling around in your head loose. Here are a few of my favorites.
Buzzsumo: This tool analyzes what type of content is the most popular for specific topics or even your competitors. Just type in a topic and you will see what content people are sharing the most.
For this I typed in content ideas. Turns out it is a pretty popular topic!
Portent's Idea Generator: This is an awesome tool that generates quirky titles based on whatever topic you give it. It is super easy to use and will generate topics over and over again if you hit the refresh button.
HubSpot's Blog Topic Generator: This fancy tool gives you a full week of content ideas. All you have to do is enter in three nouns and it goes to work. I typed in "content", "ideas", and "writing". They might need a little tweaking, but it is a fantastic starting point.
4. Put It on The Calendar
When I say that coming up with good ideas is work, I mean it! Just like any other skill, you need to make time for it. Flexing your idea-muscles on the regular is the best way to build up a supply of ideas so you are ready to go when you need a new blog, want to try out a platform like Medium, or get tapped to write for a place like Inc.com or Entrepreneur.
5. Make It A Team Affair
Brain storming session can be a treasure trove of really great ideas - if they are planned correctly. I recommend limiting the number of participants to three or four at the most and paying attention to the dynamics.
For example, if you put a bunch of middle management folks in with the Director of Marketing, the lower ranking folks might not feel comfortable throwing out ideas that aren't completely formed.
And I fully believe coming up with really terrible ideas is part of the process.
6. Look in Google Analytics
Dig into your metrics and look at the most popular pages on your site. Can you expound on that topic? Could you update a really popular post? Are posts about social media getting tons of traffic? Maybe you should be creating more content about it - you already know your audience is into it.
For many, coming up with ideas is the hardest part of the content creation process. But it doesn't have to be. Stop waiting for your muse to show up and start putting in the work to come up with great ideas all on your own. I suspect you will find it is easier than you expect.