If you want to attract leads, you must catch people’s attention. To capture people’s attention, you need to have awesome content. Seems simple, right? WRONG! Creating content that is useful, entertaining and focused on driving business results is very hard. When done right, Content Marketing can turn your website into an always on lead generating machine that the search engines and social media sites love. When done wrong, it can be a huge waste of time and energy. While we usually recommend creating content around solving a problem, in this blog I want to talk about different ways you can get your creative juices flowing so that next great content marketing piece pops into your brain. Away we go!
1. Group Brainstorming
Brainstorming is probably the most well-known ideation exercise. However, most people brainstorm wrong. Brainstorming should happen in a small, judgement-free group with a moderator. Each member of the group should share their thoughts around a concept while the other try to build off of the idea. While the actionable idea might not come right out, the discussion and banter around the topic usually brings some good stuff to the surface. Be sure to be respectful of your group members and let everyone finish their thoughts without being interrupted. Group Brainstorming is a fun way to get your team together and leverage the thoughts of everyone collectively. The goal here is to walk away with an actionable idea for each member of the group.
2. Thought Dumping
Thought dumping can be done in a few ways. If you are going to do this exercise alone, you will want to open a word processor (or take out a pad of paper if you are old school) and put the main concept you want to ideate on at the top. Then for the next minute, write down everything you can possibly think of for that topic. Don’t stop writing no matter what. This allows your brain to sift through thoughts outwardly and eventually those fragmented thoughts will come together, even if what you’re typing seems like gibberish. If you are in a group scenario, have one member of the group talk for one solid minute about the concept you are generating ideas about while the team takes notes. When everyone has gone, discuss the notes as a group. What did you like? What didn’t you like? Anything useful? BOOM! There’s your idea!
3. Content Mapping
Content mapping is the visual representation of how different concepts connect to an overarching theme. This is a very useful exercise when trying to come up with ideas and see how they relate to one another. Through Content Mapping, you can discover content themes that you never knew were connected thus helping you create a slew of different ideas. Here is an example.
When thinking about wine, I broke out 3 supporting concepts – varietals, food and lifestyle. From here, I thought about what goes into each of these three buckets and listed them out. Now that I have an overarching concept, content themes and content buckets, I can repeat this process until I build out an ever-growing map of different ideas. The goal with content mapping is to continuously build out ideas and visualize how they connect.
4. Competitor Stalking
We all have a set of competitors that we keep an eye on. Keep an eye on your competitors to see what kind of content they are creating. This by no means you should start copying them, however seeing a concept that they put into play could trigger some good thoughts on your end. How would you improve it? Do you agree with how they approached the content? Sometimes all you need is a little push and that can come from reviewing your competitors’ content!
5. Fringe Social Sites
Fringe social sites are a wonderful way to learn about what kind of content is being created in a more targeted way. If you stick to the bigger social sites, you must cut through a TON of static before you find anything useful. Content published to fringe social sites has usually been done so for a reason. Here are a few of my favorites to turn to when I need content marketing ideas.
- StumbleUpon - StumbleUpon is a discovery engine that finds and recommends web content to its users. You can select categories of interests and “Stumble” across different web pages. This is a fun way to see what’s out there!
- Tumblr – Tumblr is a microblogging social network with a ton of multimedia content. Their audience skews a bit younger, however there are a lot of interesting perspectives on different topics. You never know what you might find that could trigger a great idea.
- Quora - Quora is a question-and-answer site where questions are asked, answered, edited and organized by its community of users.This is a GREAT place to see what kind of questions people are asking about different topics. You can then take these questions and create content around them, thus providing a lot of value!
These tips can help you find innovative ways to put your content to work generating tangible business results. Keep in mind that your brain does a lot of processing in the background when you don’t even know it, so don’t get discouraged if that next great content marketing idea doesn’t pop into your head immediately. Trust the process. It will come!