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Can’t Come Up With Content Ideas? Try These Tips

4/16/21

Content Creation, Content Marketing, Content Planning

Written by: JESS HAMMONS

When it’s time to come up with new blog post topics or whip up some fresh email newsletters, how do you feel? What’s your creative process?

Are you an advocate of “throw everything at the wall and see what sticks” method? Do you like to scroll for inspiration on your favorite social media platforms…and get distracted by memes and cute cat photos?

Are you one of those people who have topics mapped out two months in advance (like we do, because it’s like, our job), or do you come up with posts and blogs on the fly?

Whatever your method of content brainstorming is, we know that it’s hard to constantly come up with new ideas. By the time you sit down to draft something, you feel a bit like this dude:

I Dont Know Stuart Smalley GIF by Saturday Night Live

Because we’ve been there and because we know just how not fun brainstorm block feels, we have some tips for you on brainstorming fresh new content. Check ‘em out.

Write down every idea you have

Yes, every single idea that pops into your head. Write it down on a pad of paper or type it out in a new Google Doc. You can also use our free content planning spreadsheet — don’t worry, we’re not pitching anything.

Dump it out. Get your ideas down before you start to think about how it won’t work, how it’s been done too often by other people, or that it’s too stupid to flesh out. Trust us, just do it.

Once you’re out of ideas, look back through the list you made. If you hate them all, leave the list for a little while and come back to it with fresh eyes. You probably need to go the f*** to sleep. 

With fresh eyes and a better attitude, you may be surprised at the ideas you’re drawn to then. You may even come up with new ideas based on what you have on your list.

Look to your audience

You’re probably following a good chunk of your target audience on social media. (And if you’re not, you should be. It’s a good way to learn about the people you want to serve.) 

So, look to these folks for content ideas. Pick a few people on Instagram who often comment on your posts or share your Instagram Stories and see who else they’re following. Which brands do they like? Are they competitors of yours? What about influencers? What hashtags do they follow?

Pay attention to what your audience is saying, too. What are they commenting on Facebook or Instagram? What kind of questions are they asking you in DMs? Do any of your published blog posts have a lot of positive (or negative) comments?

Places where you engage your audience are great for mining new content ideas because you’ll find out what they want to talk about, see, or read next. Plus, you can always ask your audience directly what kind of content they want from you! Use surveys, Instagram Stories, or Facebook polls to get some helpful feedback. Teamwork, baby.

Team Think GIF by SoulPancake

Check out your competitors

No, we are not suggesting that you copy every blog post that your competitors are putting out. Plagiarism aside, that’s lazy and boring.

However… scoping out the competition may inspire you to offer up your own take on a hot topic in your industry, or find a new way to present content to your audience. You can certainly use the same idea in your own content, as long as you make it your own.

For example, we recently published a post on making your website and blog accessible. Do a quick Google search on “web accessibility” and you’ll find tons of websites, articles, tools, blogs, and guides on the topic. That doesn’t mean we couldn’t write about it ourselves. But we Uncanny Content-ified it by focusing mainly on copy, content, and user design.

A note from Latasha: I tend to collect posts I HATE on Instagram. Bad advice from copywriters, or simple industry standards I refuse to abide by. I keep them in a Collection folder on my app, and when I’m feeling stumped for content ideas, I read through those posts. This gets me fired up all over again, and I tend to come up with some of our most popular Instagram posts. Like this one, about “following frameworks for 7-figure launches.”

Search topics on Google

Speaking of Google searches, they can help you out when you’re in a content brainstorming rut. Say you’re struggling to come up with blog post ideas for your photography business. Search “photography” and see what comes up. 

You’ll probably get a few hits for local photography companies in your neighborhood. You can visit their websites to see what they’re blogging about or posting about on social. However, the “People also ask” section at the bottom of the search page is where the good stuff lives. You may find a lot of fantastic topics here based on questions people are already asking Google on that topic. 

For reference, the topics in our search brought up:

  • How do I start photography?
  • What are the 3 types of photography?
  • What are the basics of photography?
  • What subjects do you need for photography?

And that’s before expanding each question and closing it, which will prompt Google to bring up even more frequently asked user questions. Don’t those all sound like great topics for your blog or social media?

Bonus search tip: Use Pinterest and Answer the Public 

Pinterest has its own native search tool, and will often show you what people are “Pinning” on a specific topic. You’ll also be able to see alternate titles and graphics people use, which can be helpful in getting your content shared.

Answer the Public offers a fun interface that shows you the different questions that crop up around a keyword. Here’s what it came up with in the “How” section for the keyword “photography”:

  • How photography changed art
  • How photography changed the world
  • How photography helps mental health
  • How photography changed advertising
  • How photography saved my life

Honestly, those are some pretty sweet topics we’d love to hear from some photographers out there.

Revisit your existing content

Our final tip? Look to the past for future inspiration.

No, really. Revisit content you’ve already written or published. See if there’s anything that can be expanded upon or updated. Read through old content and try to mine fresh bits of content from them.

Say you write monthly email newsletters for your subscribers. In the fall of 2020, you sent out a newsletter giving your readers an update on how your biz was doing with the COVID-19 pandemic: how you adapted, what you expected to change in the months to come, and how you were personally handling everything. It got a lot of great feedback from your audience.

Welp, it’s just over a year later since our world changed. Why not write a new but similar newsletter? We’re betting that things are different again—uncertain times and all that—and your readers would be interested in another update.

Use an editorial calendar and start planning

Hooray, you did it! You’ve come up with some content ideas that you don’t hate. Now it’s time to put that list of ideas you made to action.

Schitts Creek What GIF by CBC

Try not to panic. It’s easier than it sounds. Use an editorial calendar like our free Content Planning Spreadsheet so that you can start scheduling and writing that content. And if you need a bit more help on doing that, we have even more advice on content planning for you on the blog.

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