One of the most common questions I’m asked by someone new to blogging is:
But what will I write about?
The short answer is that you should write about the things you know about and have experience with. Yet, even that answer can leave you scratching your head trying to come up with content ideas.
So, here are just 9 of the ways that I jump-start my writing process. There are plenty more where these came from…
1. Responses to Daily Reading
I don’t know about you, but it seems that my inbox is full every morning with the thoughts, opinions and ideas of people I know, like and trust. Taking a few minutes to read through the best of that content often sparks my own thoughts.
So, why not write about them?
It doesn’t matter what your area of expertise is. If your content is well thought out and contains valuable information, people will read it! (For an example of how I do it, check out last week’s post in response to content from Kurt Shaver.) My inbox isn’t my only source of inspiration though. If I have a topic I want to write about, but no specific source to play off of, I visit my favorite reader (currently, Zite, but I’ve also used Feedly in the past) and start reading related articles until it sparks something unique that I want to share.
2. Create a Regular Feature
My friend, Dale Irvin, The Professional Summarizer, has a Friday Funnies feature that his readers love. The fact is, his followers would notice if he didn’t post a Friday Funnies clip one Friday. They’ve come to expect it of him and look forward to checking it out each week.
The benefit of any regular feature is that, if you’re consistent with it, it creates anticipation in your followers. Once a month, I have a Featured Author Interview that I publish. I only started it in December, so it’s too soon to say that people have come to rely upon it, but as the word gets out, more people will be looking for it, and coming back to my site each month to see the latest installment.
My Featured Author series was inspired by something that Jim Stovall wrote in The Millionaire Map, where he stated that you should never accept a map from someone who hasn’t been where you want to go. Although I’ve written 2 books and contributed to 3 others, I am not as successful and author as I hope to be one day. My readers look to me to guide and direct them along their own publishing, marketing and promoting journeys. However, I know that I’m only in the midway point of my journey. So in reaching out to more successful people than I am, and sharing what I learn with my readers, we all have the opportunity to learn and grow.
So, how can you do something similar for your following? What regular feature can you share that gives them with what they’re looking for from you? It doesn’t matter if it’s a regular interview, podcast, video or webinar. Consistency and quality matter most.
3. LinkedIn Discussion
Sometimes, I know I want to write about a topic, but I don’t just want it to be my opinion. So I’ll plant what I call a “seed discussion” in a relevant LinkedIn group, and use the responses to create some of my content.
This is a technique I used when I wrote “7 Tips for Successfully Finding Volunteer Book Reviewers.”
I asked a question in a LinkedIn group, encouraged and engaged in the conversation until it was complete, and then wrote a summarized post of the best content from the discussion. The resulting post was better than I could have come up with alone, because I was exposed to some new ideas I’d never seen before, and that I’ve found to be very helpful in my own book marketing activities.
4. Quora and Other Forums
Quora is a site that allows users to ask and answer questions (much like LinkedIn Answers used to do, R.I.P.). You don’t have to be connected to each other, but you do have the option of following people whom you know and like to keep up on the questions they are asking and answering.
There are plenty of other forums you can find as well that will allow you to look through and find commonly asked questions that you might want to answer on your blog. To find relevant forums to participate in, I use a search engine that’s designs specifically for them called BoardReader.
Whatever resource you use, forums are a great way to find questions that are being asked that affect your readers. Use them to stir up your own ideas of answers you might want to give, and write about it!
5. Hubspot Idea Tool
If you’re really at a loss, you can use Hubspot’s Blog Topic Generator tool. Give the tool 3 nouns related to what you’re interested in (ideally your keywords), and click the Give Me Blog Topics button. When you do, the tool suggests 5 blog post topics (titles) that may or may not generate some ideas for you. If none of them do it for you, go back and try again. It rarely takes more than a try to two for me to find something that gets the creative juices flowing!
6. Using Lists
Many social networks allow you to generate and subscribe to lists, that group a set of accounts together by a topic you define.
For instance, my Literary list on Twitter is a collection of publishers, writers, agents and other people in the know that I like to interact with. People can subscribe to my list to get their content as well. The only downside to Twitter lists is, you can’t add your own account to the list. So, the list that I have that represents all of my co-authors for The Character-Based Leader has all of us, except me. That’s fine for when I’m looking at the list. (I don’t need to see my own tweets.) But for anyone who subscribes to the list, they’re getting most, but not all, of our content.
Facebook also allows you to create two different kinds of lists. The first is where you can add friends to lists, and then view your newsfeed filtered upon just their content (or post your status updates so that it’s visible to just those people).
The second is an interest list, and works much like Twitter lists. You can create one yourself or follow one that someone else has created. Either way, it allows you to filter content based on topics or accounts you’re interested in, to find ideas that spark new content for you. For instances, I follow the Social Media News list to keep up on changes in the industry.
7. Reposting and Discussing Infographics and Presentations
Visual content is always great. It’s quick and easy for visitors to understand, and is highly shareable.
For that reason, many infographic developers actually encourage their readers to share the infographics on their blogs by giving you the code that you need to copy and paste to your own site. Add your own commentary or introduction, and voila la! You have a new blog post!
You can also check out the top presentations on Slideshare for the week to see if any of them spark an idea for you or are relevant to your readers. You can use the embed code that Slideshare provides to embed a copy of the presentation on your site, while you add commentary to it.
8. Blog Carnivals
Some bloggers will do a regular feature called a “blog carnival.” This is when you summarize the top x posts on a given topic for the past week/month/year. Essentially, the post is a set of links and short descriptions that summarize all the great content you’ve read from others recently.
You can also provide reviews of products or services that you know, like and trust.
If you’ve read a great book that will resonate with your audience, write a review! Tell them what you liked and didn’t like about it, and then link to where they can get their hands on it themselves or learn more about it.
If you’re interested in monetizing your blog, consider using affiliate links for the reviews you post. It doesn’t cost the reader anything, yet will generate some income should they buy that product or service because of your review efforts
Hopefully, these tips for generating content ideas will give you a good starting point to get going with your own blogging. Since you’ll be coming up with more ideas than you know what to do with now, I’ll write later this week on how to put together an editorial calendar, so you don’t miss out on any of the great ideas that are coming to you.
Written by Tara R. Alemany. Tara is the owner and founder of Aleweb Social Marketing, a consulting company that helps creative types (authors, speakers, performers, musicians and entrepreneurs) build a comprehensive online platform. Visit Business2Community for the first version of this excerpt.