What’s your content ideation process?

The process of organizing a skeleton of a future content is a basic element of any project and content campaign. Formulating the idea is by the highest standards a creative work. And, like all of them, it requires severe preparation and hard work.

Content ideation is a term used to define process of seeking for the most relevant topics that will be helpful and interesting for your target audience. If you have ever tried to create any type of post, report, article, summary, review, etc., you know what we are talking about. Content ideation takes a lot of time and strength, and the key question here is how and where to start. We know how hard it is as we ourselves constantly face the problem of creating a 10x content that will meet all the necessities of our readers and help us in reaching our goals. This process has been numerously researched and categorized by many content strategists, and in the current post I want to go through the main points of this complex, but though so interesting process. That is why we decided to conduct a research and collect all techniques, methods and approaches that are used by successful content managers, copywriters, promoters and journalists that have already found their formula of a perfect content ideation.

1. Techniques

Even an experienced content marketer knows how complicated it is to manage marketing and content even if your team is full with specialists. To succeed in organizing an effective workflow, it is important to elaborate the number of specific techniques that will guide you in the right direction.

1.1. Questions

When trying to elaborate a good content idea, one of the most effective and also easy techniques is asking yourself questions therefore trying to put yourself in your reader’s position. Such questions can be really different depending on the audience and the desired response you want to reach. However, I want to underline the key questions that will be helpful for any writer and content marketer:

  • “What would I want to read?”—this question serves the main idea of this technique—to get closer to the reader and see what content is really useful, interesting and relevant for the audience. Moreover, the more experienced you become, the more precise and outstanding the answers will be;
  • “Will this go the distance?”—here, you have to be strategic and think forward for the content’s ability to survive as a tweet, a facebook post or a link in the newsletter. Its relevance has to be universal.
  • “ Is someone doing it better?”—yes, it happens. A good expert cannot evolve without a good competitive struggle as it is the best motivation for personal development. That is why serious preparation work is so important: read ALL of the relevant topical materials and do prior research—without it you will be just wasting both your time turning over mediocre ideas and your reader’s time looking through irrelevant content. In this case, you are facing the prospect of losing reliability and reputation in the eyes of your target audience.
  • “Is it us?”—don’t choose topics just because they are trendy. Don't put yourself in the line full of identical pale losing staff that has already been done by someone else. Don’t feel like you need to highlight every single piece of news in your sphere because what's’ the point? The ability not to say “yes” to everything improves your prioritizing.
  • “What’s the most accessible format?”—different types of content can be best performed in different format types. Don’t do infographics just to check the box. If you see that you can do it better doing up the list - do it. If you want to implement imagery - turn up your creativity. This question is in some way similar to the one above as it drives you from doing somethings just to keep the facade.
  • “Have we done our homework?”—this question separately highlights the key role of preparation for creating a good content.
  • “Is it useful?”—usefulness of your content is an extremely important aspect as it is all about providing your clients with helpful information that meets their needs. They don’t care about you, your company or your targets. But they do care about how you can ease their lot and how you reward them for their time spent on you and your content. The only thing that will keep them reading despite the multiple ads is a good content. The content that speaks to them directly.

1.2 Elaborating post

Ideas are all around us. It is possible to find one for a good content while reading a morning newspaper, listening to the radio program while driving to work, talking to the customers or even within the ordinary everyday chat in the shop. However, a good content marketer has to be able to find them anytime and anywhere. To reach this, you have to be able to organize your workflow in such a way that ideas will just come to you:

  • challenge existing assumptions, reverse them and then make them real;
  • collect unrelated posts, link them in pairs, find ways in which they can work (connecting the unexpected);
  • use semantic intuition to form lists and link unrelated ideas.

1.3. Know your audience

You have to get to know your audience as well as you possibly can. To reach the maximum possible understanding, ask yourself and your clients a few questions to stimulate the ideas flow:

  • What questions are you tired of answering over and over again for your prospects (asking our managers over and over again)?
  • What questions do you wish your prospects would ask (our managers to answer)?
  • What common misconceptions exist about your agency or industry?
  • What questions are our personas likely to have at each stage of the buying process?

1.4. Goal-based system

When working with ideas, it is important to be able to choose which idea or content will be the best for gaining your desired target. We propose you to try a goal-based system for prioritizing which content has to be published ahead or instead of the others. Goals can vary greatly for the different types of content. For example, to catch the attention of an important influencer, you would have better written an article that connects to them directly instead of publishing more general posts like “10 Ways to Improve Your SEO” that will appeal to the other type of audience. To make the optimal decision on the content ideas if a particular goal arises, we propose you to get acquainted with the following tips:

  • Seek for inspiration within your own community. For example, find or launch a small forum for startuppers, small business owners or entrepreneurs to ask questions about marketing, business development, etc. These questions will be the best indicator of the most interesting, popular and trendy issues to be covered in the article;
  • Use your own experience. For sure, your company has once gone through all the boundaries while developing your online venture and you are still getting new experience within the sphere. Share it with the audience in your new posts;
  • Follow the influencers within your niche to see what topics they choose to cover. They usually present all the newest ideas, but can also have some gaps that you can easily fill in and present a different approach to the issue and highlight the new opportunities that emerged or make a deeper analysis of some of the aspects.

2. Tools

Many writers are still being too conservative when it comes to content ideation tools. They tend to read magazines, copy the most interesting parts, process it all for a week and then turn all the collected knowledge into the final topic. However, the digitized workflow is step-by-step coming into the current process and despite of lowering creativity, it made it possible to work with much bigger amounts of content. To make your creativity work harmoniously with automation, try to apply such tool to your ideation process:

  • Use Twitter lists for better ideation. Create a special niche with your industry experts;
  • Try using UberSuggest or similar tools used for finding new ideas. Although this variant is good for beginners and those who are looking for all sources to nourish their creative mind, it is important to remember that not all of the ideas there are interesting or guaranteed to perform well;
  • Keyword research. Some content strategists work with a combination of Google AdWords and SEMRush to come up with ideas on the topic and choose one with the best power scores that are at the same time the most relevant and interesting to your target audience. Then, you can choose the ones that will bring you higher ranking and work with this list. But although it sounds great, such process takes time and you have to be ready for it;
  • Save your ideas in categories using Trello or similar tools that can also manage your workflow. Moreover, you can use Evernote to save your researches in specific idea buckets;
  • You can locate your content and get real-time feedback with Google Drive;
  • Management of the content creation project can be launched through ASANA;
  • Try HubSpot for scheduling the content once it's been created.

3. Data sources

A good content that will increase your traffic rates and make readers remember you has to include relevant and reliable data that will be the best proof of your high professional level and reliability. Data is used everywhere, and you can barely find a post,report or case study without a serious number of topical data. Therefore, it is important to have a list of good data sources that can always help you:

  • Google Keyword Planner—good source for working with relevant keywords for your content;
  • Other articles when you need stats—when you want to seek for any stats, you can always find your competitors’ articles and analyse the received information.

4. Teamwork vs Individual work

Teamwork and individualism are two different approaches to content ideation process that are both effective and valuable. Their suitability relates on the type of work, people that have to complete the task and team managers, although both these techniques are successfully used to motivate people and reach the desired targets. Teamwork requires close interaction of people that work on the project. Here, the interests of the individual are secondary to the team unanimity and its effectiveness when developing the final result and its ability to meet the main aim. To increase the team’s productivity and make the collective working process stable and harmonious, keep in mind the following guidelines:

  • Call for pitches. Make notes and share them with your team. These notes have to return as articles on the certain topics or posts answering certain questions.
  • Insist on a good pitch and brief format. Here’s a good example from Oz Head of Content Catrinel Bartolomeu. Ask your writers to pitch you in the same way you brief them.
  • Throw editorial meetings and try to crowdsource from the internal teams. Such process goes above standard content and marketing, but it gives more creative ideas and stimulates out-of-frame thinking.

5. Frameworks

When talking about content ideation, frameworks used within the process vary from company to company and depend on the human factor. However, it is possible to highlight some general schemes that can be useful in case you do not know where to start when organising your working process and start generating content ideas:

  • Analyse recent posts of the competitors, find the top trends and create your own post specifically for your niche;
  • Analyse recent posts and see what topics haven’t been highlighted for a serious period of time and need an update;
  • Get inspired by the powerful content and use this inspiration to write a content for your audience on a similar topic;
  • Look through the comments on the blogs and news sites that work within your niche and use them to create relevant content;

5.1. Deep dive

Although the majority of content managers are closely connected with the specific niche of their company and they usually know everything about the newest updates, interesting events and recent concepts, sometimes they have to write texts about the industry they are not quite familiar with. Such challenges require all your professional skills and attention. To help you successfully overcome this obstacle, we propose you to look though the current framework that is used by many content managers:

  • Keyword research. Every industry has its own number of the most used keywords. Launch a research to find out what people are searching for and reading about most.
  • Industry news. Seek for all recent events that might impact the industry. It can be any type of new regulations, new product presentations, some economic or political conversations that are directly or indirectly connected to the industry. You can ask your company experts about the meaning and possible outcomes of the issues or search for the public opinion in the comments on different forums, news sites and social media.
  • Twitter/Facebook/Instagram hashtags. Searching for the topical posts. Comments or links on social media can also be really inspiring.
  • Interviews within the company. You can talk to your colleagues in the client or sales departments and use received information to get a deeper understanding of the issue or an alternative approach to some old problem as these people constantly communicate with the clients and therefore they know what they need and how to catch their attention.
  • Interviews outside the company. You can get a lot of new interesting information though launching the interview with some of the company’s best clients to understand the main questions, problems and issues they face.

As you can see, all this information, sources, techniques and approaches are used for one common aim: to generate ideas for a perfect content that will be relevant, trendy, unique, interesting and will fit your actual targets. Different companies use different systems and all of them appear to be useful. Therefore, we advise you to look through this manual, choose several tips that you find the most promising and check whether they will work for your specific business target. We are sure that you will find at least several features that will take your content ideation process to the new level. Do you know any other techniques, tools or resources that are effective and helpful when working with content ideas? Do you use other tools or data resources that appeared to be really effective? Share your experience in the commentaries below as this theme is endless and we are interested in all alternative views and unexpected approaches.

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