It can be tough come up with ideas for content. Starting with a content strategy helps you understand who your audience is and what kind of content they might like, but a content strategy is a roadmap, not a set of directions to build each piece of content. Sometimes you just need some ideas to get the content flowing.
A lot of ideas start from simply knowing who your audience is. You may not always think so, but you know your audience well. Really, think about it. You’ve been working in your industry, amassing knowledge and experience for quite a long time now, sharing it with past, current, and future customers and clients. We’re really very impressed with your knowledge and experience and your willingness to share it with others. We also think you’ve got a great personality to share.
That’s a great place to start. So, let’s do it.
Who are you writing for?
Start planning every piece of content with one person in mind. This helps you craft a focused article that will give real value to a real person. And since a lot of us people are a lot alike, it will apply to a lot of us, and we will each feel like it was written just for us.
So start off by thinking of that one person who is a lot like many other people. What problems are they looking to solve, what questions are they looking to have answered? What’s their favourite colour? How did they get to work this morning? Do they work? Do they work in the morning? Why would they come to you to answer these questions or solve these problems?
Seriously, the more you know this person, the better. Give them a name. Or better yet, think of an actual person you’ve spoken to or worked with recently and use them as your audience.
Right now, I’m writing this for Phil, an imaginary client who repairs imaginary lawnmowers in the very real city of Calgary.
Serving with Information
Commonly asked questions, or questions that should be commonly asked, but aren’t
Phil needs help thinking of article topics that his customers and future customers would find useful if they read it on his blog or saw a link to it on their Facebook or Twitter feeds. Sometimes he feels he’s too deep into his business and has trouble coming up with the topics that his audience would genuinely find interesting. He drove to work this morning in his pickup, and yes, he obviously starts work in the mornings.
That’s how the post you’re reading was conceived. Now back to how this can help Phil.
Phil sits down and starts thinking of a client he helped recently. Jane contacted him last week after finding him through a Google search. She needed to get her lawn mower back up and running seeing how Spring arrived early in Calgary this year, but the mower just wouldn’t start for her no matter how hard she pulled on the starter cord. She called Phil and asked him to come take a look at her mower.
When Phil arrived at her home, he found that the spark plug wire was somehow knocked loose, and once back in place the mower immediately roared to life with only one pull of the starter cord.
Phil was already in the area and it took him only seconds to fix the problem, so he didn’t charge Jane for the service. He also spent some time with her to go over the other common reasons it might not start for her in the future, as well as some regular maintenance tips so she can be sure that her mower performs flawlessly all summer. He mentioned that her blade looked fine for now but could probably use a sharpening in the Fall, and he left his card so Jane could call him once she was ready for him to come back and sharpen the blade up.
Remembering all this, Phil realizes there is a lot of content to create from that. Jane was very appreciative of the time he took to educate her. Phil knows there are a lot of other people who could benefit from this sort of educational content, and starts making a list of all of the maintenance tips he shared with Jane. He makes a separate list of the common reasons why a mower might not be starting.
In no time, he has turned those two lists into great articles he knows his audience will find helpful. He creates the articles on his site and schedules them to be released over the next few weeks, along with some scheduled posts for Facebook and Twitter that link back to the articles.
Mining your memory for the times you helped people by answering their questions will give you a lot of ideas to start with. Each of these topics is something that has proven its value to an actual person, so it will provide value to more people in the same situation. As these situations come up with clients, make some quick notes so you create content you know people will find valuable.
A detailed preview of things to come
This idea is all about giving more detailed information on your products and services through content that gives people a deeper understanding of what you provide. People will appreciate learning more about what you have to offer and what makes you different from others who offer similar products or services.
Here are some detail-heavy ideas for content:
- Share an inside look at how you work,
- put together a video and associated post showing how your product works,
- feature your unique process, how you do things differently,
- preview the newest thing you’re about to launch or a service you’re thinking of offering,
- explain the value of your product or service (does it save time? money? embarrassment?),
Sharing details will be more effective if you answer the audience’s questions, “Why should I care? What’s in it for me?” Bullet points showing technical specifications can be interesting, but they don’t tell the most compelling story to your audience. For every piect of detail-focused content you put together, go through the mental exercise of actually asking those questions, like this:
Q: What’s the benefit of a heat-treated mower blade compared to a regular one, and why should I care?
A: It’s more resistant to wear so you don’t have to sharpen it as often.
It turns a bullet-point specification into a differentiator that actually matters to your audience.
Connect a little deeper
It’s good to switch things up with your content. Not all of your content needs to be purely informational or promotional, especially if you’re looking to create content for social media where things can can be more personal and lead to one-on-one interactions with real people.
Because, let’s face it, us people like to interact with other people, not a corporate identity.
Getting more personal can be as easy as creating something like this:
- Introduce members of your team through profile posts,
- highlight your team’s achievements,
- highlight a member of your team’s achievements,
- tell the world about the causes you support,
- show the world your team volunteering for the causes you support,
- tell the story of how your product, service, or brand started,
Be as personal as you can and you’ll find people are more likely to respond to your brand and content. People like people, so work on being one through your content.
Spin the Wheel
Using topic idea generators and lists
There are some great articles and tools on the Internet that can help you generate ideas for content. Lists will give you a bunch of topic structures and ideas that are either time-tested formats that work, or just a starting point for your own ideas. Some tools allow you to plug in a key word that you want to write about and return to you with headline ideas, and other tools give you some insight into the questions people are asking about a topic.
Here are a few great examples we found:
- Hubspot’s Blog Topic Idea Generator: Enter a few words and it will generate topic ideas for you.
- ContentIdeator: Enter a topic or keyword and it will show you some popular articles to inspire your own. Pro account includes statistics on the content’s popularity on social media.
- The Ultimate List of Blog Post Ideas: A great, long resource with tons of examples.
Get to it!
I hope this helps you create more content for your site and social profiles, and removes a lot of the anxiety when you sit down to create. Once you’ve got some words arranged in a nice article-type fashion, check out The Ever-Evolving List of Stock Photo Sites to help you find some visuals to go along with it.