brainstorming sticky notes
In the words of Seth Godin, “Content marketing is all the marketing that’s left.”

Consumers increasingly don’t want—and don’t respond to—outbound marketing tactics. To be successful, marketers have turned to content marketing (or inbound marketing). Content marketing centers on the creation and sharing of knowledge, rather than the blunt promotion of a brand or its products alone.

Content marketing relies on the steady creation of relevant content. Think blogs, whitepapers, guides, case studies, and more. In fact, 53% of content marketers focus primarily on blogging. An influential blog is an asset to any inbound marketing strategy. To have an influential blog, you need to post quality content regularly. And, that isn’t always as easy as it sounds.

Plan for better ideas

Fresh, relevant articles are the key to a successful blog, but where do the ideas for those articles come from? And what makes a “good” idea? Though ideas often seem to “come out of nowhere,” the idea generation process is not so simple, nor is it random.
An idea is a new connection between previously disassociated elements in a way that adds value.
A good idea is something that’s resonant, relevant to your audience, and different than what they’ve seen before. If your content hasn’t connected previously, figuring out what works can prove to be a more significant challenge. (And, that means, there’s a valid reason why you haven’t pinned this down so far!)

This when the technical side of idea generation can help. By forcing your mind to go to new places, you’ll have an easier time generating new, engaging ideas.

To get started, here some classic brainstorming techniques:
  • Juxtaposition: Place two unlike things next to each other for comparison.
  • Constraints: Take something away and image solutions without it.
  • Gaps: Close in on a goal or objective with the resources available.
Mind mapping is a helpful tool to get you starting identifying juxtapositions, constraints, and gaps. Also known as word association, it helps you to think laterally. Lateral thinking allows you to get outside of your own head, solve problems in an indirect approach, and make new connections.

Emily's mind mapConsider “social media” as an example. In about five minutes, you can create a mind map of potential blog article topics relating to social media. Not every idea you think of will be useful (Do cats still rule the internet? Maybe, but that doesn’t have much to do with B2B social media, unfortunately), but that isn’t the point. Some of the more useful ideas that have the potential to become blog articles are:
  • Finding your voice on social media
  • Things to know before you do a social media giveaway
  • What kinds of social media posts are the most popular? Why?
  • What is a “good” level of engagement to expect from your followers?
  • Is social media ever not worth it? In what cases?

Look outside the box

There are plenty of idea generation strategies that you can employ with only your mind, but if you’re really stuck, the internet is a source of endless ideas.

Quora, a question-and-answer site, is a unique place to gather ideas. Anyone can ask a question, and anyone can answer. Search “social media, ” and the questions people are asking appear. Sometimes, just the question itself can spark a blog article. Questions like, “How can a small business leverage social media?” and “What makes a good social media strategist?” have the potential to be useful blog articles. Since anyone can ask and anyone can answer, not all of the content will be relevant, and you should always verify facts by referencing reputable sources before publishing an article based on any content found on Quora.

Ubersuggest is a free keyword tool that presents hundreds of variations to a term, and it includes plenty of related terms as well. Continuing with the “social media” example, a keyword like “current events social media” could turn into, “How to build an agile social media strategy?” and “restaurant social media marketing” might inspire a useful best practice series on social media strategies in different industries.

Portent title generator is useful for creating juxtapositions. While the titles themselves can be a little goofy, they can get you thinking, which is what this exercise is about. “How to be unpopular in the world of social media” (a title that the generator suggested) could become “10 things to avoid in your next social media campaign,” or “Why your social posts aren’t getting noticed.”

It’s easy to get caught in a content rut when you’re writing about the same topic every day. Regularly-posted fresh content is essential, but blog posts will only help your business if your articles are new and answer questions your audience is asking.
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