Content Sources For Endless Topic Ideas
If you could describe your company’s content creation process in three words, what would you say? Flows with ease? Starts-and-stops? Just doesn’t happen? Somewhere in between?
When I talk to marketers about their approach to creating content, I hear a lot of “start-and-stop” stories. Content creation can often take on a “stop-and-start” nature, and even fall into the “just doesn’t happen” category. And it makes sense. As marketers, you have a lot on your plate. I get it. I’ve been in the start-and-stop loop too. Sure, content is in demand. But creating it takes a lot of work. Think Elle Woods typing on her iBook.
Furthermore, content marketing is a long-term strategy. One high-quality blog or free guide doesn’t necessarily lead to paying customers right away. When you have lead quotas to fill or other immediate money-making activities to support, it’s only natural to prioritize those over content creation.
Solving the Challenge of Producing Consistent Content
But here’s the thing. As soon as you deprioritize content, you lose momentum on the curiosity and engagement you created with your early content pieces. Other tasks continue to take over. Before you know it, you’re in “stop-and-start” land, which can make your company look unfocused, unprofessional and less trustworthy.
We’re going to put a stop to that cycle right now. Many marketers have told me that one of the biggest culprits to maintaining a consistent output of high-quality content is coming up with fresh topics.
Today’s blog provides several recommendations for content sources that offer endless topic ideas. When you scour these sources regularly, you’ll always have a pipeline full of topics that are perfect for engaging and converting your target audience.
#1 Old Content
One of the content sources that’s easiest for your marketing team to access immediately is your old or unpublished content. I always recommend that marketing teams start here when brainstorming content ideas. Why? Because your old content has already been written or at least outlined in some way. All you have to do is update it with new perspectives and data.
Additionally, looking at your old content can spark ideas for new content. Your old content reflects your focus, audience and the way you were positioning your company at the time. Has any of that changed since then? Are you serving additional or new consumers? Have the needs of your audience shifted over the years? Has your company hired anyone new, someone who could serve as an expert source? If so, use those new ideas, audience needs, company differentiators and staff as content sources for a fresh blog or free download.
#2: Online Forums
There’s a good chance you already belong to and read online forums that are specific to your industry. If you don’t, this is your reminder to get yourself a log-in and make a point to read them once a week. Not sure how to find a forum for your industry? Google “[Your Industry] + Forum” and explore the top five results. If the forum has a large number of members, new posts multiple times per week and few to zero spammy posts, consider it one of your valuable content sources.
Aside from industry forums, explore less professional online communities, such as Quora and Reddit. In my opinion, marketers (myself included at one point) tend to overlook Quora and Reddit because we associate them with very casual and even scandalous anonymous content. But if you use the right search terms, you can find actual conversations that your target audience is having. For example, let’s say you’re on the marketing team for a career coaching company serving jobseekers looking to change careers later in their professional life. In Quora or Reddit, you could search “How do you start a new career after the age of x?”
Since these forums are typically more casual and enable more anonymity than professional ones, members tend to be more honest. This is great news. That means you don’t have to dig as hard to identify pain points, struggles, goals, etc. Members are often very up front with their perspectives. You can use those perspectives and insights to create laser targeted content to support your own audience.
When speaking to marketing teams, I sometimes find that they overlook an important value that their interns can add. Think about it. Many interns are surrounded by college professors, researchers and all kinds of professionals and other students eager to speak about their work, support the work of students and get more exposure for their institution. Even interns who aren’t students anymore, or are older workers bring their own networks with them. In other words, interns who join your team bring with them a whole host of sought-after people who can help spark ideas for content topics. Additionally, they can serve as sources to quote in your content as experts, differing opinions, etc.
Even better, interns may have more success with securing interviews with those people than your full-time staff. Some industry experts and thought leaders tend to be more open to supporting interns working on their careers rather than writers or marketers who they think are going to present them with a sales pitch. Your interns can bring so much more value to your content efforts than just writing or creating marketing materials. When guided properly, interns can be an active, productive part of the content ideation process.
How to guide your interns to become great content sources for your team
- Identify interns who are particularly outgoing and comfortable/willing to speak with people over the phone, on virtual calls and via email. Consider adjusting your intern job description to include skills in conducting phone/email interviews and creating soft pitches so that you have a cohort full of interns ready to reach out and speak with all kinds of people.
- Involve your interns when brainstorming content topic ideas. Dedicate some judgment-free time for your interns to discuss potential ideas for blog posts, lead magnets, social media posts and emails. When your interns feel encouraged in their ideas, chances are they’ll be more willing to find and interview outside sources for that content.
- Be open about the need for interviews or input from outside experts, thought leaders, subject matter experts, etc. This might include people working on cutting-edge research in your company’s industry, dealing with specific industry problems/realities or people in a specific profession, age group, etc. Remember, your interns are typically around or have access to a lot of different kinds of people. Ask them if they know anyone/would be willing to ask anyone who could contribute to the content.
- Create a pitch email template and in-person script. Give your interns the tools that they need for success. Help them create an email template that they can use to contact sources or a helpful script they can say to their professors, fellow students or teaching assistants after class.
- Develop a structure and system for your internship program overall. Getting the most out of your interns content-wise depends on you giving them clear parameters, goals and feedback. In the video below, Lauren Berger explains exactly how to do that. The tips begin around 1:24.
Did you know Hey Sarah can identify and outline high-converting content topics for your company?
#4: Industry Events
Events–in person and virtual, internal and external–are such fruitful content sources that I wrote two blogs about them. What could be more valuable than your target audience gathering in one place to exchange real-time insights, perspectives and knowledge about your industry?
Every session you attend, meeting you have at your booth or conversation you have at the social hours can provide insight into your audience’s likes/dislikes, goals, pain points, gripes, desires. All of these are content sources that can be turned into a series of blogs, a high-value lead magnet, or a Q&A post on social media. Attending even just one or two great events can give you content ideas for months.
Additionally, events are full of people who can enrich your content. Speakers, fellow attendees, booth representatives–you can interview all of these people for their perspectives about a specific topic pertaining to your industry and target audience. You can turn those interviews into all kinds of content, such as an in-depth trends report lead magnet with expert perspectives and data. You could then take excerpts from that trends report and turn them into individual blog posts. Then take snippets of those blog posts and turn them into social media posts. The ideas are endless!
Tips on getting content sources from events
- When you attend sessions, pay close attention to the Q&A portion. The questions people ask can give you direct insight into your audience’s struggles, concerns, etc.
- Follow the event hashtags on social media. You’ll be able to easily read additional, real-time conversations attendees are having.
- Make a point to eat lunch with new people and attend the social gatherings. Every conversation you have is a chance to gain intel into your audience, and make contact with someone who could contribute to your content.
#5: Internal Thought Leaders
Similar to repurposing old content, harnessing the expertise of your internal team is a simple way to generate endless content ideas. Your colleagues from a variety of teams–particularly those who are enthusiastic about their work–can serve as subject matter experts and even thought leaders. Plus, using internal teams as content sources benefits your company as a whole. It’s a great way to highlight your colleagues’ work, boost morale and inspire other staff.
Once you begin positioning internal team members as subject matter experts and/or thought leaders in your content, it’s quite possible that more colleagues will want to contribute to content, as well. This could give you months’ worth of content ideas–without having to track down outside interview sources.
Examples of content ideas using internal teams
- Whitepaper about upcoming industry trends featuring insights from your product team.
- Compelling user guides of best practices and ways to get the most out of your products with insights your customer service team.
- Ebook on industry-specific data security practices with input from your IT team.
- Narrative-driven case studies featuring your account managers.
- Q&A blog posts about product benefits and potential results featuring insights from your sales reps.