If you’re part of a content team, I’m sure you share the pain of coming up with great ideas for blog posts.
At some point you run dry of new ideas and think “well, now what”.
The frustration leads you to look around and ask yourself, hey, what makes this competitor’s piece so viral? What can be a good blog post for my brand? What will fit best for my audience?
There are a few ways to solve this issue.
1. The Eureka Shower
It’s well known that the best ideas come to mind while we are taking a shower. That’s why I’ve always wanted a water-resistant whiteboard. It’s a great place to wander around with your thoughts. It might even prove to be a great resource for an occasional one-hit wonder. But is it really something you can count on for long? Not to mention the water bill….
2. The Smoking Cigar Brainstorm
If it’s in every Hollywood movie, it must be true. People can only come up with creative ideas while drinking coffee and smoking cigars. Get everybody in the room and start throwing ideas in the air. That’s one of those things that sound great in theory, but tend to end up with endless arguments. Then you’ll need a really good idea to clear the air.
3. The Data-Driven Way
Imagine yourself coming into the annual strategy meeting, presenting content ideas. Immediately questions and concerns get raised.
Why did you choose these topics?
Do you think our clients are interested in that?
Does it have traction potential?
Those questions are easy to answer if you have the research to back it up. Attach a proofed metric to your decision and you’re all set to go.
If you are still stuck with no ideas after that shower and you’re not a smoking fan, here’s a methodical way to come up with data-backed content ideas:
Gather the Data
Good content might not have a hat on, but it does have very clear characteristics. Two things come immediately to mind: the content is custom-made to your audience. What one audience might like, won’t fit another.
The second thing with good content is that the results are clear. It’s highly engaging. And what’s a better way to check that if not with monitoring the social media channels?
First of all, it depends on your audience. What one audience might like, won’t flow well with another.
Secondly it’s highly engaging. And what’s a better way to gather such insight if not by researching the space on social?
Set up social monitors to track your space. The two immediate suspects are (1) Blogs of your direct competitors and (2) Publications in your space. Looking at social data is key to measuring engaging content, especially when combining owned AND earned media.
Collect the most engaging successful posts each has created during the past few months. Take notes of the specific audience each has managed to attract.
Cluster the Trendy Topics
With your findings of top content, can you map some trendy topics? Can you cluster several pieces into a bigger picture?
In your space there must be trendy topics that rise time after time. It can be general trend like “millennials” or more specific ones, like “vegan diet tips”.
Article Tear Down
Dive in and see what’s the common ground for shared content in your space. Take a deep look into the structure of the content:
- Length: What does the word counter say? Calculate an average to measure the optimal length.
- Image/text Ratio: Count the number of images per article.
- External links: Are there links to external sources or is the text link-free? Which external sources?
- Form: What’s the form of the content – list, guide, opinion?
With this data in hand you’ll now know better who’s your audience, what kind of content to write, how lengthy, how much graphics you need and how deep your research should go.
The Distribution Hook
Take another look at the monitors. Can you see something specific that was shared from the articles? Aim to find:
- Twitter-length quotes
- Shared images
- Mentioned people and companies that helped sharing the content
- Tools for sharing
This one is pretty hard to decode, but when you find a pattern of shares it would be reasonable to give it a try yourself.
We hate to admit it, but you must allure your audience with a tempting title.
Having said so, a title shouldn’t be deceiving. If you don’t want to see a high bounce rate, the title must fulfil its promise with the content inside.
Analyze the titles with these questions:
- What’s the average word count?
- What’s the format: questions? 1st person experience? a list?
- What are the power words they’ve used (e.g.: Must, Best, Now)?
Don’t be tempted to use titles that you love from one industry and try it in another. What works for Buzzfeed won’t necessarily seem right in the sports or fashion industries. Each industry has its own style. Let the data help you with a suitable title structure. Be creative.
Never Face a Blank Page
We are big fans of data-driven decisions, but we’re not fanatics. We actually love to play with decisions. After you’ve got all the research insights in front of you, feel free to gamify your decision process. A/B test some ideas and see for yourself what works best with your audience. Maybe you’ll find that you can set yourself free to try new things that haven’t been tried before.
One thing you can be sure about: use the data-backed method and you’ll never start brainstorming content ideas with a blank page again.
And oh, at that next content strategy meeting? ask your colleagues if they know what good content looks like, and then show them.
“Look, THIS is what good content looks like.”