Orig. Post November 6, 2014 by Julia McCoy, Search Engine Journal | Re-Post November 11, 2014
Ever wonder how many content pieces get shared, re-tweeted, blogged about, posted, mentioned, you-name-it, on the Internet? Wired’s infographic from last year showed Facebook as one of the hottest platforms for sharing and viewing activity, with 20% of every single page view on the web taking place there, and 3.2 billion likes and comments posted daily. And that’s just on one platform. 500 million tweets get sent per day; 70 million people use Pinterest; more than a billion people use YouTube monthly; and the list goes on.
Online social platforms are hot. It’s time to figure out how to make them work in your favor. Nowadays, people using Google to find local restaurants, chiropractors, outdo the amount of people turning the yellow pages. Granted, all that online activity may not be the healthiest for the nation, since it results in a lot of teens (or those beyond the teen years) spending peak recreational and activity time indoors on a couch, but let’s face it—if you’re selling, a large percentage of your crowd to market to is undoubtedly online. No matter if you’re local or not, your stronghold is attracting, engaging and growing your online audience.
With so many layers and elements involved with content marketing, you may be left scratching your head for ideas that attract, engage and convert. Where do you even begin? Believe it or not, content ideas and inspiration are everywhere if you know what you’re looking for, and it’s a lot less complicated than you think. You have an edge if you’re the creative type, but even if creativity isn’t your finest trait, there’s strategies you can use to find content ideas around almost every corner.
Content Curation and Releasing Your Creative Mastermind
Let’s be clear on one thing: not every new piece of content that you create is going to be a masterpiece. Even if you consider yourself a modern day Picasso with your content, sometimes you’ll have ideas that just don’t get the reaction you were expecting. It’s disappointing, but that’s the life of a content marketer. It’s all about finding exactly what your audience wants and what kind of content that generates a response.
It Starts With a Spark
On your side of the coin, generating content ideas begins with one thing: a spark. The spark can come from anywhere; comments from your audience, something that you saw while driving down the road, a newspaper clip, or an idea that suddenly jars you awake out of a dead sleep (trust me, it happens). When ideas don’t naturally pop into your head, that’s when you need to set off on your own to find some good old inspiration — and here’s exactly where to find it.
- Give Your Competitor’s Content an Overhaul: Scoping out the competition can work wonders when you’re digging for some inspiration. Take a good, thorough look around the website. Observe what they’re doing right, what they’re doing wrong, and how you’d do it better. If their blogs or articles are the same old put-you-to-sleep content that you can find on any other website, give it your own overhaul. Put your own twist into it with original graphics, your own voice and a unique perspective. Fortunately for you, with so much garbage cranked out on the ‘net these days, it’s not too hard to put a new spin on old ideas and make it your own.Even if your competitors are cranking out some impressive content, you can still learn from it and use similar techniques to grow your own content base (with your own thoughts and voice, of course). You can also use their content’s levels of engagement as a gauge for your own. Just keep in mind, if you’re going to repurpose content from your competitor, it better be the you-gotta-check-this-out kind of read. You need to completely surpass your competitor’s presentation, voice, and one-up what they have to offer. Six months down the road, you might find that your own content has surpassed blogs that you once found inspirational — and that is one awesome feeling.
- Find Your Spark From Social Media: Social media is an excellent resource for finding untapped content potential. You already can see from your previous posts for what’s working and what’s not. Using old social signals can be a good indicator as to what holds your audience’s interest, and what they want from you. These clues are helpful, but if you’re still drawing a blank on that new blog post, it’s time to branch out further into the social realm. Continuing with the competitor theme, check out their social media profiles and see what they are saying and doing.
Better yet, see what their customers are saying and doing.
Customer feedback is gold, as it gives you real life feedback from people who have questions or need concerns addressed. If your competition is terrible at responding to social inquiries, guess what? That’s a blog post. Your audience wants to know that you’re going to address their concerns. What better way to convey that message than dedicating a blog post on how you’re ultra focused on customer service?
- Yes, it’s Still Good For Something: If you’re in an industry where you can get your hands on some print publications, take advantage of it. You might be wondering why you just wouldn’t surf the web for industry-related articles, and that’s a valid point. However, it’s a different feeling and experience to hold a tangible publication in your hands and thumb through the pages. Use this opportunity to read articles and circle inspirational titles or words that trigger an idea. Sometimes, ideas can leap right at you off of the page. Try it.
- The Web That You Weave: The content web reminds me of those story webs that I made back in school. You’d start with a core plot and branch off into different subplots and characters. With the content web, it’s generally the same idea. You can either put your core message inside the main bubble, or you can use just one keyword. If you’re still stuck, go back to previous blog posts and use the topic as the main idea. Then, you can branch off in different subtopics of your main topic. This has the potential to spark tons of spinoff ideas.
- Ideas to Your Inbox: Well, not exactly. It’s more like articles and blog posts to your inbox that may or may not contain some ideas. With that said, setting up Google Alerts with your very own list of keywords can get your creative juices flowing from a single e-mail. Add your relevant keywords to the list, and also include competitors so you can be notified of their mentions around the ‘net.
- Taking Your Content Quest Away From Google: It’s a no-brainer that searching Google can generate some solid content ideas. However, it’s a big world out there on the web, and there are other sources to search for new ideas. Try searching for relevant topics on websites like Reddit or Stumbleupon. The cool thing about these websites is that you can find relevant topics that are presented in a unique way; and that’s exactly what you’re looking for.
- Play With Headlines: Even if you don’t have any ideas (yet) about your new content, there are some pretty fun headline infographics you can use that might give you just the spark you need. The most engaging headlines these days include numbers, colorful adjectives and ask questions. You can find some good templates on Pinterest, but here’s one to get you started.
- Visual Cues to Cure Your Content Blues: Speaking of Pinterest, you can use their endless photo database to spike some content inspiration. Search for industry-related graphics and closely analyze the results. Pay close attention, as the smallest details may trigger an idea.
- Scraping Content Like a Fox: FAQFox has earned some recognition lately for content curation. The free website scrapes the Internet for your keyword, finding real people who are talking and asking questions about your industry. It will search by category, and can also perform generic searches on places like Reddit and Yahoo Answers.
- Repurposing Existing Content: It’s one of the older tricks in the book, but it can be an awesome strategy if you use it the right way. Take some of your most popular pieces and turn them into another version of the same content. If you have a popular blog post, make it a slideshow. If your slideshow was a hit, make it into a video.
- Using Google’s Auto Fill Search: Another classic tactic, type in your keyword in Google’s search bar and see what suggestions Google brings. Google knows what people are searching for better than anyone else and offers suggestions based on trends it’s seeing.
- Related Searches: At the bottom of Google’s search pages, sometimes you’ll find a section where Google has additional related search queries. These are direct topics you can use to generate new ideas.
- Don’t Ignore This Monster Search Engine: YouTube is reportedly the second largest search engine after Google. It also happens to be a content gold mine. Search on YouTube and you will open up a whole new world of content ideas for you and your brand. Don’t forget, YouTube is optimal for sharing, and it’s much easier to dominate within YouTube than organic Google Search.
- Talk With Industry Professionals: Getting information straight from the source can sometimes trigger great ideas. Have a sit down Q&A session, listening carefully for trigger words or phrases that might spark an idea.
Tricks For Clicks and Shares
- Tread Where Others Won’t: Some of the best content you can create is controversial content. This doesn’t mean to whip something up with the sole purpose of spite; you need to have a clear and relevant topic. For example, if you’re in an industry where posting prices online isn’t typically practiced, bring attention to it and explain why.
- Inside Secrets: You don’t have to unveil your CEO’s salary, but giving away some inside scoop on your company or your trade will usually generate some clicks. Be sure to get permission before posting anything that may be considered sensitive; losing your job is not part of the best content marketing practices.
- Learn Something New: If you truly want to engage your audience, you have to present value. You can do this by giving them something that they literally cannot access anywhere else. This can be tough, but with a bit of creativity and smart thinking, it’s totally doable.
- Inspire: Sometimes, to get your audience to take action, you need to be a source of inspiration yourself. Share success stories, testimonials, or create helpful how to’s that inspire people to click or share.
- Relate: What better way to connect to your audience than relating to their needs? If you can connect with your demographic on an emotional level, you’re golden.
- Help: Showing your audience that you care, are ready to legitimately help them with their needs, will usually get them returning for more. After all, would you rather deal with a business that is all about me, me, me . . . or about you, you, you?
Keeping your audience engaged is crucial to creating a strong online presence, becoming an authority in your niche and growing your brand. Reaching your audience through strong content takes time to strategize and execute, but finding your sweet spot can pay off big time in the end. Hit every aspect of engagement level that you can with your content, and watch your online presence and social profiles grow.
Jim is a 30 year veteran of Fortune 500 sales and marketing with companies such as Oracle, Dell, and EMC, as well as Hilton and Omni hotels. His passion lies in helping emerging growth companies raise funds by leveraging the marketing tools and strategies that large corporations typically use. His focus is simple. “Help Businesses Raise Capital!”