Here are 14 tools to help you generate content ideas that are based on science, social proof and metrics, so you can deliver your audience the content they really want.
Google “Creativity is like…” and you’ll get a lot of encouraging results.
“Creativity is like a muscle. The more you use it, the more it grows.”
“Creativity is like a flower. You can make it bloom by giving it positive affirmation.”
“Creativity is like a tap. The more you turn it on, the more it flows.”
For anyone who is under the constant pressure to be creative, that sounds like a bunch of crap. In my opinion, this quote is much, much better:
“Creativity is like washing a pig. It’s messy, it has no rules, no clear beginning, middle or end.”
In my own words, creativity is like a squatter. It arrives unannounced. It might stay for a minute or a month. And you can never seem to reach it once it’s gone.
For people who constantly have to be creating original content, creativity can be mentally and emotionally draining. So, rather than approaching creativity like it’s a muscle, a flower, a tap, a pig or a squatter, I choose to approach creativity like a scientist—giving myself an outline to follow that will definitely give me some good ideas to get started with.
To approach creativity like a scientist, there are a few “laws” you should follow. You need to discover a problem, ask some questions, do your research, ask an expert, and measure your results.
Discover A Problem.
Being able to isolate and anticipate your audience’s pain points—the problems they’re facing—and provide solutions through your content is probably the most effective content strategy.
Reddit & Quora
See what sorts of questions people are asking about your industry on Reddit and Quora.
Look at the top questions on Quora and Reddit to see what people need help with. If you have a more specific idea, these are also great places to ask people about their problems. (What do you find most frustrating about _____?)
The only problem with Quora and Reddit is that they define your audience to a specific topic, not a demographic. For example, not EVERYONE who cares about video will be my ideal customer. For that, you have to go social.
Facebook, LinkedIn & Twitter
Check out related Facebook groups, LinkedIn groups and Twitter chats. See what questions people are posing, and answer them in your own blog posts.
My favorite method is by using Twitter chats. I spend a great deal of time on Twitter Chats that my audience hangs out on, find people who are my ideal demographic, look at their profile and see what blog links they're sharing. From there, I have a running list of blogs that my niche follows and I look at the comments. What questions do they still have after they've read the post? Not only do I get ideas from their questions and comments during the chat, but I also get ideas from their comments on the blog itself.
Visit Amazon and look at products similar to yours or books related to your services and read the reviews. Because there is SUCH a variety of books, you can really niche down.
You can look at the type of book--does its branding convey anything about its target demographic? Then, you can also look at who's commenting. Man or woman? Old or young? People often give some context of their own experiences in their reviews, too. Do they fit your ideal customer profile? If so, what complaints did they have about the book? People often talk about what they wish the author had included more about. Bingo, more ideas for you.
Ask Some Questions.
You don’t have to be an island. Oftentimes, the easiest way to generate content ideas is simply to ask your existing clients or customers a few questions.
Ask Your Customers
I’ve done this using surveys after providing one of my training sessions, informally over coffee, or sending out personal emails. Rarely has anyone turned me down cold. Most people answer at least one or two questions.
Plus, a secondary benefit of asking people you actually know is you can send them the link once your blog is posted. Not only did you produce a well-informed post for your readers, but you’ve also added value to someone who should be very valuable to you (a current customer).
Here are some questions I ask my clients (just replace content marketing with your own product or service):
- What is the most frustrating thing about [content marketing] for you?
- What was your main hesitation when deciding to hire someone to help you with your [content marketing]? What made you pull the trigger?
- How does [content marketing] benefit you and your business?
- What three things do you wish you knew more about [content marketing]?
Although the best blog posts are rooted in our customers’ pain points, we also have our own unique insight on what we do. So, it’s also important to ask ourselves some key questions. These questions can make excellent pillar content (content that provides a strong base for the rest of the content you’ll be producing).
Here are some questions you should ask yourself (just replace content marketing with your own product or service):
- What questions do people always ask me about [content marketing]?
- What are the top misconceptions about [content marketing]?
- Why is what I do so important to my clients?
- If people don’t do [content marketing], how might it hurt their business?
- What are the biggest mistakes I’ve seen people make with their [content marketing]?
- What often keeps people from taking action and hiring someone to help them with their [content marketing]?
- What are some current trends in [content marketing] that I might have insight on?
Do Your Research.
Spend some time to discover what is already trending. With today’s analytics, it’s easy to find what content is already resonating with your audience. It’s important to add your own spin to each topic, but it’s a great place to seek some scientific inspiration.
Search your keywords on BuzzSumo to find the most popular blog posts on any topic.
Use Google Trends to look for what people are searching for. Set your location, time period and category, or look for specific search topics.
Look at trending content on the social media platforms your audience hands out on.
Ask An Expert.
Blog topic generation tools can also be useful. You will certainly get some duds, like this one, “How Nostradamus predicted GIFs. No, really,” (which I may yet find a use for), but you’ll also generate some attention-grabbing headlines.
HubSpot’s Blog Topic Generator is one of the best to find some topics that each blog should probably cover about their niche at some point or another.
Portent’s Content Idea Generation Tool will give you a bunch of funny headlines that play off pop culture.
Measure Your Results.
As you continue to produce and publish original content, it’s very important to measure your results to make sure you’re getting enough of a return for your investment of time.
To do this, you first of all have to isolate your goals. What are you hoping to achieve with your content? Try to dig deep on this. Your first instinct will likely be to get more followers or to build your list, but you need to get to the root of your motivation. For most of us, this means increasing our income. How will your content efforts increase your income? And how will you measure your success?
Be sure to tell me your favorite ways to come up with awesome content ideas in the comments!
About the Author
Hey, I'm Sarah! I love teaching online business bosses to create better content and incorporate cool tech and tools into their content marketing machine so they can get better results (more traffic, more customers, more money) in less time. After all, isn't that what content marketing is for? Connect with me on Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest and LinkedIn.