17 Ways to Brainstorm Content Ideas in 2013

Consistently producing quality content is every blogger, community manager and social strategist’s biggest challenge. While it can be very satisfying to rely on one’s own internal creative processes to create home run content, sometimes the creative juices just aren’t flowing. Creating valuable content takes a plan and time.

Content creators should build content sourcing into their schedule and let it become part of their everyday routine to see consistent success. These 17 tips and tools can save you a bit of time along the way and inspire great social media content ideas.

1. Get Active on Social Q&A

Raising questions is one of the most basic ways to discover content of interest or usefulness to your followers. Yahoo Answers, LinkedIn, and sites like Quora or Formspring can provide very useful platforms to present questions and attract answers from a variety of people, including targeting influentials that might not otherwise respond to a content participation solicitation. Quora is a huge resource to just browse and see what topics get people conversing and debating.

2. Look Internally

Sometimes the best content comes from taking an internal look at your company or industry. Make a video about your company’s story, maybe even a parody, anything that gives your brand a voice. Involve your employees. They’ll gain a sense of contribution and recognition when asked to contribute to social media efforts. UPS (whether on purpose or not) benefited from an extra excited employee showing his love for his job.

3. Comments and Feedback

Comments on a company blog or YouTube video can lead to even more interesting content. Asking readers to participate in the conversation and comment on a particular topic can open doors to new content or help find brand evangelists.

Brands can even create more content from blog comments themselves, such as a “best comments” post or video continuing the discussion across social platforms.

4. Take Topsy for a Spin

Topsy is social media analytics software with a number of benefits for sourcing content and an awesome tool that can compare up to three keywords (or phrases) in order to discover trends and popular links shared on Twitter. Also, it has the ability to source tweets over the past month, fortnight, week or day useful for identifying influencers or experts in your field.

5. Search Smarter with Google Keyword Modifiers

You can use your keywords in many different ways to discover new content, from browsing the certain search tools mentioned here to structuring blog posts, educational videos and more around a specific long-tail keyword-theme. A good Google search and keyword combination can help identify specific content topics to cover or angles to pursue.

6. Dive Into Social Search Tools

Tools such as Bottlenose and now Facebook Search allow us to unearth the nuances of social trends. These social search engines produce results that are more relevant in terms of social, showing where the content is and which users it has touched throughout the social graph.

7. Stumble on StumbleUpon

StumbleUpon is a jack of all Internet trades – web browser plug-in, online social network, social bookmarking site and social search engine – that not only lets content creators share in hopes of increasing web traffic but also find relevant content through topic-orientated browsing or purposeful searching.

Two new-ish features include an activity stream and trending tab, which allow visitors to search from the the most popular web content within personal social circles and the StumbleUpon community.

8. Compare with Google Trends & Google Insights

A favorite among content and search marketers, Google Trends lets you check the search traffic trends to discover new or useful trends using your very own SEO or industry keywords. With Insights now integrated, you can compare up to 5 keywords by looking at search data over time stretching back to 2004. Based on the insights you’ll see seasonal, regional and popularity trends that can help shape content and campaigns.

9. Use Twitter Search and Chats

Twitter is a fantastic tool for keeping abreast of social and news issues, obviously, but Twitter Search and Twitter Chats can help you go beyond what you see in your personalized feed. Searching one topic can return a surplus of related, complimentary and different popular topics.

You can search specific hashtags to follow TweetChats, a semi-organized event where Twitter users with common interests use Twitter to discuss a specific event, topic, interest, brainstorm… you name it. And you can always reference trending topics in case you need of a bit more inspiration.

10. Keep up With Niche Community Sites

Niche community sites such as Inbound.org and BizSugar employ voting systems for content, similar to Reddit, but curated by and for a particular audience like small business or marketing. They are worth keeping an eye on for interesting content and monitoring what others are doing.

11. Run Contests That Generate Content

Crowd-sourcing contests are one the most effective ways to get your customers involved and have someone else create the content for your company. Ask your followers to submit photos, testimonials, or anything that will serve your content goals and in return create an incentive.

You can then transfer photos to a microsite, create blog posts recognizing participants, a video recapping the contest, etc. Additionally, the incentive itself can be a type of content, such as some exclusive content that would be of value to your audience. Lay’s Do Us a Flavor campaign asked users to submit their potato chip recipes for the chance to win $1 million. The result was an abundance of fun and quirky material.

12. Tap Social Influencers

Many of the tools mentioned above can also help identify strong voices relevant to your brand. They can provide content with guest posts or help fuel other content. Over the past year, many brands have turned to established Instagrammers to run their Instagram campaigns to drive campaign engagement and attention to the brand. Tiffany & Co. used fashion-blogger couple Scott Schuman and Garance Dore to propel their “What Makes Love True” campaign.

13. Reach Out to Industry Leaders

Interviewing or even just quoting industry thought leaders provides the brand’s audience with unique content and creates a positive association between the leading individual and the company. Accepting guest blogging submissions, for example, will also open up the opportunity for you to guest post on your guest bloggers’ blogs in return.

14. Think Visual

Sometimes all a brand needs is a unique photo that conveys a stonge message to generate conversation. Flickr, Instagram, Picsho, Google Image Search, Panoramio, Pinterest are all great sources, or brands can create their own graphics. As we all know by know, visual posts do wonders for social engagement, especially on Facebook.

15. Repurpose Older Content

Repurposing is a fantastic way to save some time and get the most mileage out of all your content. Maybe make a video from a popular blog post, create a chart of a recent case study or find an underperforming blog post to reuse as a Facebook survey. This is a great way to reach new audiences, as different audiences appreciate different forms and channels for personalized content. Try using a content planner to track your ideas in the brainstorming process.

16. Dig Deeper Into Social Intelligence

Dig into your analytics tools such as Facebook Insights and other social data to find trends and mold your content around your customer’s likes or dislikes. You can also see which of your previous content proves to be the most successful in order to expand on a topic or explore related topics. You may also find an opportunity to solve a problem in your community’s world.

17. Go Offline…

Enroll in seminars and attend like-minded networking events where you can meet people that may inspire a topic to write or share. It’s easy to forget how far “community” extends and what awaits us beyond the work computer screen. And remember, some of the best ideas can come from a whiteboard, some markers and a room filled with enthusiastic people.

After finding the tools that work for you and your company’s content plan, soon you’ll find the content comes to you and you can stop kicking yourself when content-creators-block strikes. What is your favorite source for great, shareable content ideas?

Ignite Social Media