Your content strategy is essential to the growth of your business. From blog, to e-books, social media content to white papers, small businesses need to churn out new and innovative content to keep their audiences coming back for more.
Some small-business owners are writers. Some aren't. Whatever group you fall into, you occasionally fall victim to writer’s block. It happens. Fortunately, there are hundreds of useful tools that can help you generate marketing ideas to produce content, which will make an impact on your audience.
“In all honesty, I simply set myself up for inspiration by using the tools at hand,” says Cate Conroy, director of marketing for AKTA Web Studio. “I know that when I am on the train or doing some other daily task that doesn't require my full attention, I am ripe for inspiration to strike.”
Flipboard: Aggregate Social Conversations
One of Conroy’s favorite tools is Flipboard, a self-proclaimed “social magazine,” which aggregates social content based on the user’s interests and connections. Social networks in general, including Facebook, Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn, Pinterest and many others, are valuable resources for generating content ideas.
Social networks tune users in to what their audience and networks are talking about today—and that's the key for successful content creation. Flipboard eases this process by delivering all those social discussions to a single interface, making it much more feasible to brainstorm today’s content ideas while riding the train to the office.
Even Twitter, as a stand-alone tool, is a valuable resource for discovering trending topics. “One of the easiest, fastest and most relevant tools that we tend to forget about for sparking content ideas is Twitter. Use the search feature and see what kind of content is being discussed or shared around your category. On Twitter, the same article can be shared a million times but be presented in a million unique ways,” says Mike Bal, digital marketing director for Baseline21.com.
Quora: Uncover Common Questions
Katherine Leonard, digital content developer for LonelyBrand, says she turns to Quora for content ideas. “Because Quora is a place where people ask specific questions about a wide variety of topics, it's also an ideal resource for researching exactly what your audience wants to know,” Leonard explains. And of course, content marketing is all about providing value, so answering the tough questions always results in useful, needs-driven content.
Leonard also suggests scouring the comments sections of previous blog posts. Readers are likely to weigh in with controversial opinions, views from the opposing side and thought-provoking questions—all of which are prime material for future content pieces.
Google: Tap into Google’s Keyword Tool
“Type in a trend and look at the long tail keywords people are searching,” explains John Forberger, communications group account manager for Oxford Communications. “No need to guess. If you are a mechanic who blogs, you can immediately find out what online users are wanting information on. Why guess what your customer wants to read about in this day and age?”
The beauty of the Google Keyword Tool is that it auto-populates search queries for related terms based on the information users input. So a user searching for “dog training tricks,” for instance, will be shown dozens of the most popular search queries using related keywords, which can be an instant inspiration for the next piece of content.
Customer Research: Ask Direct Questions
Of course, searching around the Web isn’t the only method for brainstorming marketing ideas to help create content. Small-business owners can simply pose the question directly to their own consumers.
“The most effective tool that I've used for generating a steady stream of content ideas is to include a question in website lead-generation forms that asks what the user's biggest challenge in marketing, finance, sales, etc., has been,” says Brad Squires, creative director for Bold Type Design. Posing questions directly to your targeted audience, those who are already purchasing your products and services, is a sure-fire method for uncovering the hot-button issues that will resonate with your audience.
These tools are a mere drop-in-the-bucket among the vast resources online that can help small businesses aggregate, curate or develop brand-new ideas for content that will generate interest. The more content becomes the cornerstone of an online marketing strategy, the more savvy developers will create tools and apps that can be used to find out what’s being talked about, what consumers care about and what topics will generate the most discussion among your target audience. Don’t neglect the power of these tools to enhance your content strategy.
Looking for more marketing tips and advice? Check out these marketing articles.