I had the great privilege to join blogging expert Ann Smarty on her Viral Content Buzz Twitter chat (#VCBuzz) this week to talk about content brainstorming. We had the opportunity to present together in October at PubCon Vegas, and this Twitter chat gave me the chance to share some of my content idea tips with more people.
Here are the questions asked during the chat and my answers:
1. How did you become digital marketer? Please share your career path!
Shortly after I bought my first computer, I bought a booked called Learn HTML in 24 Hours. I got half way through and built my first website. Feeling good about it, I offered to re-design my parent’s business website–complete with the latest in HTML technology: frames. I think I may be dating myself a bit there. Show of hands, who doesn’t know what frames are?
Shortly after that, my dad asked me to optimize his site for AltaVista, Excite and WebCrawler (Google was just a baby then), so he bought me an SEO program called Web Position. That launched my career as a web marketer!
Today I have a small boutique agency with almost a dozen marketing strategists. I like to tell people, “I started in my bedroom and quickly expanded into my living room!”
2. How to brainstorm a great content idea? What’s your process and tips?
Most of my brainstorming is situational. Rather than thinking up ideas out of the blue, I generate ideas through context and conversation. You hear writers talk about keeping a pen and notepad handy so if an idea strikes you can write it down. That’s pretty much me.
As a web marketer, a lot of my ideas come from interactions with clients and prospects. That offers a wealth of ideas right there. Only a couple of times have I been caught writing using such an interaction as the basis of a blog post. Luckily they didn’t mind!
Sometimes it’s just about thinking outside the box. Kind of a mashup of multiple ideas that have been done before. One idea I had for a company that sells vehicle batteries was to do a battery of the month calendar. We could picture a battery in various stages of undress for each month of the year. Heck, it’s even perfect for a nip-slip! So far I have been unable to convince the client (or my strategists) that it’s a good idea 🙂
3. Do you believe in our era of content overload there still exists truly original, un-written content ideas? How often do you see something really original being published online? Can you give some examples?
Is anything “original” anymore? Authors write original books, musicians sing original songs, comedians tell original jokes, but none of it is really original. I mean, how many songs can there be about sex before we realize that there is nothing original about it? How many movies have we seen with the same tired plotlines?
In my mind, original content isn’t necessary so long as the delivery of that content is original. Take my battery calendar idea. The idea of a calendar is not original. But has anybody done it with batteries? In bikinis? Probably not. So that would be a way to deliver unoriginal content in an original way. Chipotle did it by creating a TV show. TV isn’t original, but what made this work is because restaurants don’t typically create TV shows. They took two unoriginal ideas and made it original by virtue of who they were and how they did it.
Don’t worry so much about being original in what you say, but be original in how you say it. That’s what really matters.
4. Please share your favorite content brainstorming tools. We love tools!
I honestly don’t use tools a lot. However, we created a spreadsheet called the Mix It Up Content Planner https://www.polepositionmarketing.com/digital-marketing-learning-library/seo-tools/mix-it-up-content-planner/
We outlined 75 content ideas, and the tool helps you figure out which format each works for (written, video, audio, image, tool).
I’m also a sucker for going back and revisiting old content, taking key points out of them and expanding them into new posts of their own.
5. What are your favorite content marketing productivity tools? Which tools help you be an efficient writer?
Checklists and spreadsheets are my best friends. It also helps to be organized about how and when you write. I set aside certain days of the week for writing content. That helps eliminate distractions, as I won’t do any other work on those days. Writing has a tendency to be nudged out for important things. I deliberately force everything else to wait a day so I can say focused.
Be sure to check out the full conversation, including responses from the audience, on the Viral Content Buzz site.