Waiting for the perfect content idea to strike like lightning? We’ve all had our “Eureka!” moments, but those are usually the exception, not the rule. A better approach to content ideation is to make time for it, usually in the form of a brainstorming session.
Brainstorming lets you control where lightning strikes (and how often). You can do solo sessions or get your entire content marketing strategy team involved. By the end, you should have a sizable cloud of content ideas ready to rain wisdom and insights on your readers.
Here’s how you can transform your content ideation brainstorming into a monsoon of success.
1) Fill the Gap Between Where You Are and Where You Want to Be
Content ideation starts a lot like planning a trip. Before you can figure out a route, you need to understand where you are and where you’re going.
In this analogy, the “route” is your collection of ideas. In a content marketing strategy, your content helps you to reach specific goals. For instance, do you aim to build brand awareness and industry authority? Do you want to solve specific problems for your customers? Do you want to appear higher in search rankings for certain terms?
No matter your goals, it’s helpful to take a closer look at your content strategy’s current reality and compare it to your goals. Then, use brainstorming to help you fill the gap between the two.
For example, let’s say your makeup company is currently selling 10,000 units of waterproof mascara each month. You want to increase sales to 20,000 units per month. In that case, you can brainstorm different content ideas to help you drive sales and brand loyalty. The results might be:
- Running a social media ad campaign
- Partnering with influencers
- Connecting with beauty bloggers to get featured in round-up articles
From there, you can dial deeper into each of these ideas to figure out the specifics for each piece of content.
2) Turn Brainstorming into a Weeklong Team Sprint
As the old saying goes, two heads are better than one. And lots of heads can be better than two. That’s why brainstorming can be more effective when you make it a group activity.
Turn brainstorming into a multi-day session. This idea works well for remote teams, but any content marketing team can use it. Create a document and invite each person to collaborate. Have your team add their ideas to the doc as they think of them.
To ensure your brainstorming exercise becomes a priority, make sure you set a deadline. You might also consider setting a minimum contribution from each team member. At the end of the sprint, set a real-time meeting for everyone to discuss the ideas and select the best ones.
3) Look Back at Your Top-Performing Content
Content ideation doesn’t always mean reinventing the wheel. If you have lots of content that has generated positive results, your next content idea might be closer than you think.
Look back at how your content has performed over time, then pluck a few of your top-performing pieces. Explore the traffic, keywords, clicks, conversions, and other metrics that show why your content is top-notch.
Your next step is to find ways to build on your successes. Your top-performing content can serve as a blueprint to create your next best piece. Try to find some common denominators to show you exactly what earned you the most success:
- Was the topic popular?
- Was the piece better optimized compared to other content?
- Did you use more images?
- Did it contain videos?
- Did you use a different content format or layout?
- Did you promote the content differently?
- Was the call-to-action stronger?
When you know what great content looks like, you’re more likely to consistently produce content that stands out.
4) Capture Every Idea, Then Explore Them in More Detail
When you’re brainstorming for content ideas, no idea is too crazy, outrageous, irrelevant, or boring to make the list. If you start shooting down ideas in the middle of your process, you risk losing your train of thought. Better ideas might never find their way onto your paper. Plus, bad ideas can often lead to good ideas!
Your only goal when brainstorming is to capture ideas. That’s it. There will be plenty of time to laugh at (and shake your head at) the ridiculous, terrible, risky, or completely off-topic ideas your team comes up with. But every idea deserves to be heard, even if your gut instinct first tells you no.
5) Start with One Idea and Branch Out
Some call this the mind-mapping method. Others refer to it as a waterfall. However you say it, you can generate lots of ideas when you start with a single topic.
Just like in our roadmap analogy, you need a starting point to figure out your next step. One great idea often begets another, so pick a topic and start branching out.
Make this process visual. Write your main topic in large letters on a whiteboard or sheet of paper. Then, like spokes on a wheel, add your supporting ideas and link them to the main topic. You can take it a level deeper and turn your newly brainstormed ideas into main topics, too. Keep repeating this process until you have lots of ideas to choose from.
6) Keep Asking the 5 W’s
As you come up with new content ideas, you need a way to unlock their full potential and choose which ones to include in your content marketing strategy. One way to do this is to keep asking questions, like the 5 W’s: Who, What, When, Where, and Why?
- Who is most likely to care about this idea?
- What do they want to know?
- When will they most likely want to read about this topic (e.g., is it seasonal, is it timely, etc.)?
- Where should you share this content (e.g., social media, email marketing, your blog, etc.)?
- Why should people read/watch it?
As you answer these questions, keep asking more questions to uncover as many details as possible. This process will help guide the content creation process and pack as much value as possible into every piece.
This approach works best in a group setting where everyone can chime in their ideas. Assign a moderator to record responses and keep the group focused.
7) See What Your Competitors Are Creating
Got a fierce competitor in your industry? Inspire your content ideation by seeing what they’re creating. Competitors that are acing their content marketing usually put lots of research, time, and resources behind their strategy. Turn their efforts into your advantage simply by scoping out their topics and some behind-the-scenes work.
For instance, you can use Ahrefs to plug in the URL of a blog post and see what keywords it’s ranking for. Or, use AI tools like Linkfluence social media monitoring to see which of your competitor’s posts are getting the most engagement.
Validating a competitor’s content is your shortcut to success. Take a topic and make it your own with better examples, images, videos, links, and information.
8) Validate Content Ideation with Keyword Research
Speaking of content validation, you can take a similar approach with your own content ideas. Keyword tools like SEM Rush, UberSuggest, and Ahrefs can help you see the monthly search volume for keywords. If a term has a high search volume (about 100 monthly searches or more), you’ll know it’s a topic people are interested in.
You can also view the difficulty level for keywords. Difficulty gives you an idea of how much better your content needs to be than other terms ranking for the same keyword. Terms that have a high difficulty rating are highly competitive, which can lead you to search for alternative keywords that will help you get noticed. The sweet spot is a keyword that has high search volume and low difficulty (30 or less on a scale of 0-100).
9) Learn What Your Audience Is Talking About with Linkfluence
Social media monitoring plays a key role in your content marketing strategy. By learning what people are discussing on social media, you’ll have a ready-made list of content ideas that takes almost no time to create. It’s like getting inside the minds of your audience without having to ask the hard questions or spend hours on brainstorming sessions.
Linkfluence uses artificial intelligence (AI) to monitor millions of topics on social media in real time. Track conversations and topics over time to uncover rising trends, then create content in a timely manner to become a leading voice on those topics. Discover the problems your audience wants to solve, the questions they’re asking, and the characteristics that make your audience unique.
When you know more about your audience and what they care about, you can create engaging content that connects. As you create and publish content, you can track its engagement in real time to see how you’re hitting the mark. Use these insights to keep building on your content marketing strategy so you can keep delivering value.
Get a demo and discover how Linkfluence adds a boost to your next brainstorming session.