Your Greatest Source for Content Ideas
by Steve Shaw | March 23, 2011
"You don't get paid for the hour. You get paid for the value you bring to the hour." - Jim Rohn
Content makes the web go round. Think about it: emails, videos, articles, audio, ezines, newsletters, blog posts, tweets, web pages, and more. Every one of them led by content.
Without the ongoing delivery and production of content, it is difficult to exist in any meaningful way online. And without content, it's certainly difficult to market yourself. You attract traffic with it. You build relationships with it. Essentially, you build your whole online presence with it.
Despite all the benefits, what stumps most business owners is the 'A' word - 'About'. What do I write about? What do I create a video about? What do I tweet about? Sure, they may have the odd moment of inspiration. They may create some content ... on occasion. But then they're back at the A word again. The blank page staring at them. The pressure of being out of ideas. The knowledge that, without the content, they're losing online visibility they would otherwise have.
But fear not, it doesn't have to be like that. There is a never-ending source of inspiration. The best bit is, it's right under your nose!
Where? Your customers, your prospects, your visitors -- they contact you and ask for help, for information, for knowledge. They tell you exactly what they want you to produce content about: the information they are looking for you to provide. Sometimes, the incoming questions and dialog create the spark of an idea. Sometimes, several ideas. You just need to be aware and ready to record them. And sometimes, in providing an answer, you will have produced an almost complete piece of content. You can then use it in a myriad of different ways. Use it as the basis of a blog post or an article in next month's newsletter. You can distribute it to article directories, communicate it to your list, develop a vide or tweet it to your followers. And there's an interesting side benefit: the more content you produce, the more ideas it tends to generate for further content.
Blogs are a great example of this. Here is how it works:
- You publish a great piece of content as a blog post and attract comments.
- You start getting questions you can then answer with further content.
- You get comments that spark further ideas for content production.
- And so the cycle continues.
In effect, a blog can provide you with an idea generation machine!
The starting point is using a simple 'Idea Collection System'. And ensuring you get into the habit of using it.
For example, create a folder in your filing system where you can quickly drop ideas in. Here are some ideas on how it might be used in practice:
- You are speaking with a customer over the phone, and you get a content idea from your conversation. Scribble it down and drop it in the folder.
- A few paragraphs sent in reply to an email enquiry could be used as the basis of future content. Print it out and drop it in the folder.
- What if you're asked a great question at a networking event? Phone your own voicemail before you forget. Then when you're back in the office, pick the message up, note it down and drop it in.
- If you have people taking care of your customer support, train them to forward you questions that could form the basis of great content as they come up.
- If you notice a suitable comment on your blog that triggers a content idea, again print it out and drop it in.
It doesn't have to be a physical folder, although I find that works best for me.
You could use a folder on your computer. You could email ideas to yourself and set up a filter so they're easily retrievable in future. Or set up a separate email account. Even a pen and notepad can work well if that suits you and they're always close at hand.
Get into the habit of using your Idea Collection System as soon as you think of an idea.
Otherwise, two things happen.
- Firstly, you'll likely forget completely, and a great idea will be lost forever.
- Secondly, your subconscious mind will stop scanning for ideas. It will stop alerting your conscious mind when great content ideas arise.
When adding ideas to your Idea Collection System, make as many notes as you can at that time. When you go back to it in future, you will then know exactly what you were thinking at the time. It will also be easier and quicker to start creating the content right away. Otherwise, when you return to the idea later, you may find it obscure and discard what could have formed the basis of a great piece of content.
Once you are in the habit of collecting ideas like this, you will eradicate the 'A' word. You will start seeing ideas everywhere. The trickle of ideas at the beginning turns into a torrent. The 'About' question will never arise again!
So here is what you should do now:
- Decide what your Idea Collection System will be. A physical folder? A separate email account?
- Set it up, right now. Yes, right now.
- In the next hour, make sure you drop at least one idea in. This starts to get you into the habit. It's the start of the trickle that will turn into a torrent. If necessary, review customer communications over the past week or so. Find something you can use.
- Train your subconscious to bring you content ideas by adding a new idea every day. It will soon become part of your normal routine.
- Finally start using these ideas to create some content. Set up a regular schedule of content production by blocking out time on your calendar on a regular basis. Ensure there are no distractions, and focus 100% on content production. (If you are not comfortable with producing content yourself, forward your ideas to a writer or someone else in your business to produce the content for you).
Start using the ideas in this article, stick to a regular schedule of content production, and you will start to get all the benefits content can bring you. For example:
- Regular communication with your list: this allows you to start building better relationships and become more 'front of mind' in the minds of your prospects and customers
- Regular content syndication: this starts attracting targeted traffic to your site from other sites as well as from the search engines
- Regular publication of new posts on your blog: you will improve the position of your site in the search engines, attract new traffic, and allow your visitors to feel more connected with you
- Regular tweeting of updates: build up your followers and enjoy the benefits of Twitter through having something useful to tweet about
- A regular offline customer newsletter: improve your relationship with your customer base, your most important asset, through improved communication with them
And of course there are many other ways you can start putting your content to work. Give content production the priority it deserves, and feed the benefits back into your business.
Steve Shaw is the founder of SubmitYOURArticle.com, the web's leading article marketing service, used by thousands of small business owners worldwide to build traffic, leads and sales for their websites. You can grab a free report on how to attract sustainable, dirt-cheap, long-term, targeted traffic to your website at www.submityourarticle.com
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Chia-Li Chien, CFP®, CRPC, PMP; helps entrepreneurs to creating business value that transforms their world. She is the author of Show Me The Money and columnist for WomenEntrepreneur.com & Fox Business online. She is available for consulting, speaking engagements and workshops. She can be reached at http://www.chialichien.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.