9 Ways to Generate Content Ideas

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.

9. Reviews

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.


Stop Trying to Get Your Blog Posts Shared and Do This Instead

So the key to social media is content marketing, right? And content marketing is all about blog posts, right? So, if you want to dominate social networks, the key is to get your blog posts shared on social networks, right?

Well…not necessarily.

Okay. Yes. You should put some social sharing buttons somewhere obvious on your blog, preferably where visitors can easily click them after reading the blog post. And yes, this can unmistakably expand your reach.

But it’s not actually the best way to take advantage of social media.

Here’s the problem. Blog posts just aren’t very shareable. Take a minute and scroll through your Facebook feed right now. Keep scrolling until you find a blog post in there. Yeah, it’s going to be a while.

Meanwhile, average organic reach has dropped from 16 percent in 2012 all the way down to 6.51 percent this year. (Oh how I long for the days when we complained about 16 percent organic reach.)

I’m going to say something a bit heretical. I don’t think you should focus on getting your blog posts shared.

I think you should start asking what does get shared instead.

Look at What’s Actually in Your Facebook Feed

This isn’t rocket surgery.

If you want to know what kind of content actually gets shared on Facebook, you should stop looking at Coca-Cola’s or Rihanna’s ridiculously high number of page likes. You should stop reading how-to guides explaining what you need to do in order to get more likes (except this one). You shouldn’t bother browsing the Social Bakers leaderboard.

Instead, you should look at what your friends are sharing on Facebook.

Social Bakers tells me that the brand with the best engagement rate on Facebook in February was Evolution Fresh. They had a whopping 7.05 percent of their fans engaged.

Well, that’s interesting to me, because as of April 6, 2014, George Takei has an engagement rate of

George Takei on Facebook

…let’s see, carry the 2…oh, just 85 percent.

And taking a look at some of the other things people are sharing in my feed, I see that the Intergallactic Geek Alliance is currently sitting pretty at 33 percent, 9Gag is at 68 percent, Creepypasta is at 40 percent, and some page I’ve never heard of calledSpiritual Networks is at 27 percent.

And what are these pages sharing that’s giving them such high engagement rates? Stuff like this:

Spiritual Networks

George Takei Facebook post

9GAG Facebook post

But you know that already, because you use Facebook, right?

And yet, for some reason, most of us are content to just share our blog post on Facebook, hoping that it will pick up some traction. And it might, a little bit. Done properly, it’ll even be profitable. I’m certainly not going to argue that all of these well-known tactics aren’t helpful. But you’re not going to be seeing George Takei’s 85 percent engagement rate any time soon on that alone.

So here’s a suggestion.

The next time you put up a blog post, browse through it and find your most quotable, shareable insight. Turn that into an image macro, link back to the blog post from the text field, and post the image to Facebook.

Then embed that Facebook post right into your blog post, so that your regulars can share it without ever having to leave your site.

Watch your numbers soar.

It couldn’t hurt, right? And I’m willing to bet that the embed will do a lot better than those practically invisible share buttons.

Use Social Platforms for Their Intended Purpose

Social networks aren’t for blog posts. They’re for bite-size pieces of visual content that contain:

    • Some piece of wisdom that can be conveyed in a short number of words
    • Something people can relate to
    • Something that takes people by surprise
    • Something that will make them laugh
    • Something motivational or inspirational
    • Something cute

Just post those to social networks, then embed them in your blog posts, and you have yourself a winning formula.

Give it a try and let us know how it goes.

Thanks for reading.

Written by Francisco Rosales, founder of SocialMouths and author of the online course Email Marketing [not so] 101. Visit SocialMouth, where the first version of this story is originally appeared.

Why I Don’t Read Your Corporate Blog (And How You Can Fix That)

Dear Corporate Blogger,

I’m going to go out on a limb here and say just about every corporate blog, including yours,sucks. Let me tell you a story that proves it and explains why.

The Blogs You Read

How many blogs do you think people read on a regular basis? I regularly read 34 blogs. Yes, 34. And by read, I mean skim to find articles I might want to read. These blogs are on topics I’m interested in like productivity, marketing, copywriting, music, and video games. I actively subscribe to four blogs (via email subscription). I read every post those four people send me. That’s because those posts help me succeed. Oh, and I run two blogs. Yes, I’m a blogger.

Chances are, you read fewer blogs than me. Seeing that there are well over 150 million blogs, it is reasonable to conclude that the average person reads less than .00002% of all blogs out there.

What Does This Have To Do With My Corporate Blog?

I’m glad you asked. How many corporate blogs do I read? Zero. How many corporate blogs do you read (other than your own)? Zero or one (if we are being generous)?

Why Is This?

Let me speak for myself. And forgive my bluntness. It’s because I don’t care what your firm is doing.
You completed this great new project. I don’t care. You helped the community. Congratulations, I don’t care. You just announced a new service. I don’t care. You won this great award. I don’t care. You landed a new contract, you want to share your thoughts on an inspirational book, an organization you’re involved in is celebrating an anniversary, your firm ran a 5K, Martin Scorsese is doing a documentary on your firm…I could give a rat’s butt (i.e. I don’t care). Even when you write about someone who has had success using your service or product, I really don’t care to read it. I can see right through that.
And your writing, it is like reading a high school English paper. And let me tell you, even less people read those…for good reason. They are boring, just like your corporate blog.

Dropping Some Truth

I consider myself a pretty busy guy. I only have time for important things like doing my job well, caring for my family, making my life easier, watching reality TV, playing games, and keeping up with those crazy celebrities. I honestly don’t care about you or your firm. I only care about me and my interests. Whether they admit it or not, everybody else is just as horribly self-centered as I am. While this might seem like a challenge, it’s actually an opportunity for you.

How To Get Me To Read Your Corporate Blog

There is only one way you are going to get me to read your corporate blog.

 Give me valuable information that:

  1. Solves a problem I have
  2. Teaches me something I want to know
  3. Entertains me in the process

Your corporate blog only needs these traits, these three little things, and I will read it. If it just has one of these, sorry, I won’t read it. I need all three. Identify who your audience is and write posts that solve his/her problems, teaches them things they want to know, and entertains them in the process. Then, if we fit into that definition, we’ll read it. It’s that simple.

 Until then, you are wasting your time on that corporate blog because we won’t read it.

Yours Truly,

The Internet

Matt Handal is a Business Development and Marketing Manager, concern in proposal writing, sales, social media, copywriting , training, and PR. For more of Matt Handal’s rants, check out Help Everybody Everyday. LinkedIn is where this excerpt originally appeared.

13 Terrific Tips on How to Start a Blog and Keep It Going

Back in 2010, I dipped my toe into the world of blogging. Actually, I pretty much waded into it—without a life preserver. A lost job prospect made me realize that not being adept at blogging was hampering my career. So, like millions of other Americans, I entered the vast blogosphere.

Right off the bat, one of the challenges I faced was this: What am I going to blog about? As a longtime business journalist in Austin, TX, I came up with the answer pretty easily: Write about what you know and what you’re passionate about. In my case, that was the business scene in the Austin area. A blog was born.

How did blogging benefit me? It helped me learn even more about the Austin business community, it taught me a valuable skill, it gave me an edge in obtaining my next job and it even landed me a TV news interview. Most importantly, the blog informed hundreds and hundreds of readers about job opportunities and other goings-on at Austin businesses.

At first, blogging seemed like climbing Mount Kilimanjaro—a nearly impossible undertaking. But it proved to be rewarding and stimulating (and doable).

“I think people have this mistaken idea that successful blogging is some 
mystical voodoo or secret sauce. It’s not,” entrepreneurism blogger Daniel DiPiazza said.

Just what is the “secret sauce” when it comes to launching and maintaining a successful blog for your business, whether you’re in self-storage or another industry? Blogging experts give these 13 tips.


1. Work With WordPress.
WordPress is the most popular, most versatile blogging platform available. Plus, it’s pretty easy to use, and it can be added fairly easily to your existing website. Some experts recommend against using Blogspot or Blogger, as they’re not as user-friendly as WordPress is.

“When adding a blog to your company’s static website, it’s imperative that
 the site is professional, clean and easy to read,” media strategist, journalist and blogger Lynn Daue said.

2. Include an “About Me” or “About Us” Page.
“Talk a bit about your company’s history and the services you offer. You’d be surprised how many people will stumble on your 
blog through this page,” said Jackie Chu, a marketing professional and beauty blogger.

3. Brainstorm Ideas.
Lisa Parkin, president of social media consulting firm Social Climber, said you should set aside time to come up with, say, 15 or 20 ideas for blog posts. Write several posts in advance, and then plan on trickling those out over time so that you’re not overwhelmed at the outset.

“Blog posts should be a mix of
 keyword-driven posts aimed at increasing visibility in search engines and
fun posts that drive engagement,” Parkin said.

Entrepreneur, investor and blogger Mike Fishbein said his inspiration for blog posts includes fascinating conversations he’s had, interesting articles he’s read and current events he’s following.

“Many people want to blog,” Fishbein said, “but don’t because they can’t think of what to write about.”

4. Concentrate on High-Quality Content.
“Strive to provide readers with tips and advice that can’t be found anywhere else on the Internet,” said Andrew Schrage, co-owner of personal finance blog MoneyCrashers.com. “Draw upon your past business experiences to provide readers with unique and insightful commentary, and focus on quality over quantity, as one well-crafted article posted every few days tops several mundane posts.”


5. Use Photos.
Rely on inexpensive, royalty-free stock photos to dress up your blog.

“High-quality photos add interest and an element of professionalism,” said Karen Catlin, a career strategist for women in the tech industry.

Catlin recommended BigStockPhoto, but several online stores sell images at reasonable prices.

6. Read Other Blogs.
“Spend time every day on other blogs that speak to the same
 audience. Follow them and comment on them,” style blogger, freelance writer and journalism teacher Pam Lutrell suggested.

7. Post Several Times a Week.
If you don’t publish regularly, you risk suffering from “Dead Blog Syndrome,” speaker, author and marketing consultant Thom Singer said. Google and other search engines highly value fresh content.

“When someone finds your blog and your most recent post is weeks, months or years old, they do not assume you are committed to your projects,” Singer said.

8. Market Your Blog.
“Nobody is going to find out about your blog, even if 
it has awesome content, if you don’t advertise it,” financial blogger Anton Ivanov said.

Among Ivanov’s marketing suggestions: Spread the word through social media, comment on other blogs, participate in online forums, write guest posts for other blogs and join blogging networks.


9. Make a List.
List-oriented blog posts—like “10 Tips for Storing Clothes”—always are always a hit, according to Schrage.

“Using specific examples to back up your points always helps, and citing statistics lends credibility to these articles,” Schrage said.

10. Stray Away From “All Business, All the Time.”
Singer said several of his off-the-topic-of-business posts—dealing with matters like family and hobbies—have been among his most popular ones.

“Keep a mostly positive tone, as people do not come to a blog to hear you whine about things,” Singer said.

11. Avoid Politics.
If your business isn’t related to politics, then don’t go down that path, Singer advised.

“The problem with politics—or any subject that is polarizing—is that it can turn people off,” Singer said. “There is no need to share every belief you hold if it will cost you clients.”

12. Share the Workload.
Particularly if you hate to write, blogging can be a real chore and a real bore. If that’s the case, enlist others in your business to pick up the slack, Singer said, “but make it a priority assignment, or others will just not do it.”

13. Don’t Chase the Money.
“Everybody wants to monetize their blog, but that 
shouldn’t be your top priority. Sticking banner ads all over your website
 will turn your readers off,” Ivanov said. “Establish yourself as an expert, build a
 following, and then begin worrying about advertising.”


Written by John Egan. Selfstorage.com is where this excerpt originally appeared.