The trend toward using the Web to grow your business continues.
Email grows exponentially: Trillions are sent every year. Facebook went from university students only in 2004 to more than a billion users eight years later. Pinterest became one of the fastest-growing social networks ever. Billions of videos are streamed on YouTube each day.
But the most alarming stat is the number of blogs created only to be abandoned in favor of Facebook, Tumblr, Twitter, or the newest shiny toy.
This is a very bad idea!
It’s not easy to write consistently fresh blog content that people want to read and share and shout about from the rooftops. That’s why a blog content development process is essential.
People ask all the time, “How do you get your blog content ideas? What is your process?”
The truth is, when you blog consistently, you begin to see ideas in everything: In what you read, on television, in the wild, and even in discussions with your peers, your clients, or your friends.
My friends know when the blog notebook comes out, parts of our dinner conversation are probably going to be published (I always ask permission so there are no surprises).
But you can also give your idea generation or inspiration a jumpstart with these 25 tips.
1. Subscribe to SmartBrief
The SmartBrief newsletters aggregate blog content every day (at least 10 articles) around one topic, such as entrepreneurship, leadership, or social media that is applicable to something you care about.
2. Subscribe to Talkwalker Alerts
A replacement for Google Alerts, Talkwalker Alerts are even better, provide more relevant results, and are free. You’ll get plenty of good story ideas just from scanning these alerts daily.
3. Read the comments
If you have an active community on your blog or on one of the social networks, read the comments! You will get story ideas just from what people say—things you hadn’t yet considered or different perspectives. If no one is commenting on your blog content, read the comments on other blogs within the industry. Read Twitter streams. Read the comments on Facebook updates. Read the comments in Google+.
4. Pay attention to current events
There is almost always something happening in the news that you can comment on for your industry. You can think about how Livestrong is pulling away from its founder and what that means for other nonprofit organizations. Or it could be how Yahoo requires employees to work in an office and what that means for human resources or culture or leadership. When you begin to read, watch, or listen to current events, you’ll find ways to relate it back to your expertise. The more you do it, the more natural it becomes.
5. Go through your sent mail
This is a tip from Andy Crestodina, the co-founder of Web development firm, Orbit Media. He suggests you go through your sent mail to see what you’ve sent to customers, prospects, and vendors that could be used for blog content. Most of us write emails to explain a sales process, a feature or benefit, or our thinking. Use those emails to publish non-proprietary information online.
6. The trends manifesto
You’ll find this happening in the blogosphere every year. It begins in October and runs through January. It’ll either be the trends you are expecting to hit your industry in the next year or the three words people will use to drive their success. The trends manifesto provides you with an opportunity to shine as a leader in your industry. The three words, on the other hand, give people a sneak peek into you as a person and as a leader.
7. The pop-culture tie-in
Lots of really successful content creators take something that is happening with the Kardashians, or “Dancing with the Stars,” or the latest reality show and provide lessons related to their field.
8. The debate
We often disagree with other voices on the Web, but we don’t feel “safe” voicing our opinions. That’s why you often hear “echo chamber” and “yes men” when bloggers are discussed. Paul Sutton, a communications professional in the United Kingdom, creates the opportunity for debate a couple of times each year. He takes one side of an issue and another blogger takes the other. They debate it and create a poll to let readers decide who wins. Giving people an opportunity to see two sides of something works incredibly well.
9. The good
While people love good train wrecks, we also want to know how companies in our industry do things well. Interview organizations in your industry and highlight the good things they’re doing in your blog content.
10. The bad
It’s no surprise bad case studies get shared over and over and over again. When Chick-fil-A had a train-wreck issue because its CEO came out against the gay and lesbian community, the best blog content was about why politics and religion in business are a bad idea and not about how the author felt personally about the company’s leadership or the issues being dissected.
11. The ugly
If you can figure out how to write about an industry train wreck without attacking a person, it’s going to be pretty popular. Ragan does a nice job of this quite often by using terms such as “most hated” in a headline. It grabs attention and makes people want to read and share.
12. The lists
People love lists. We have so much information coming at us these days, and lists make it easier to scan and read quickly. If you integrate lists into your blog content, you’ll find it’s easily some of the most shared content on your site.
Give stuff away! It might be a book a friend has written, a collection of free eBooks available from other bloggers, or your own eBook. Doing this helps you qualify prospects.
14. Ranked lists
The organization Run, Walk, Ride puts together a list of the charities that raise the most money every year. They highlight the ones you’d expect, but also show how well some of the up-and-comers are doing. In 2013, they added an easily shared infographic for bloggers and journalists. It’s a win because they’re highlighting their peers (and competitors) and driving significant top-of-the-funnel traffic to their site.
15. Something of the year
Just like People produces its “sexiest man alive” issue, you can do the same for your niche. It may be an app of the month or a productivity tool.
16. Book reviews
If a book is a must-read in your industry, something as simple as summing up the key points or doing a review can easily give you 500-700 words.
17. The rant
A rant can get people riled up about something and give them something to rally behind.
Interviews work well because you give people access to someone they wouldn’t otherwise meet. It may be the big keynote speaker at your industry’s annual conference, or someone you respect or admire for the movement they’re making. This works with audio, video, and written text.
19. Question of the week
Let people ask you a question they don’t know the answer to, can’t find on the web, or are simply too lazy to do the research for on their own.
When the Internet and social media didn’t exist, we had to rely solely on our education and experience. Now you can make comparisons to business today and 10, 20, or 30 years ago. Show your audience the similarities, or differences, and suggest strategies to capitalize on them.
21. The parable
Tell a story to make a point in a post. It may be a difficult but incredibly interesting post to write. The Paris Review does a great job with this when it interviews authors. It only comes out quarterly so it’s worth your time investment to subscribe and read. Its writers will teach you how to tell a parable in a business setting.
22. The latest trends
While the latest trends may feel overdone to you, your audience is unique. They may not have seen what’s happening in your industry and count on you to tell them.
23. The sales questions
Sit down with your sales team (or just by yourself if you’re the rainmaker) and ask what kinds of questions come up in meetings with prospects. That may include pricing, delivery, referrals, and point of differentiation. Create blog content around these things because if something is coming up in sales meetings, people are searching for it too. Be found for those questions.
24. Roundup of voices
There are some bloggers who do this very well. They’ll ask the same question of five industry experts and create blog content around their answers. For Valentine’s Day one year, Hubspot asked experts why businesses should create marketing that people love and want to share. They created a short ebook that included the quotes and fun images and let people download it for free.
25. The smarty pants
Ike Pigott, a spokesman for Alabama Power, wrote, “Eleven Words Guaranteed to Generate Killer Search Engine Traffic and Clicks.” When you go to the page, all you find are those 11 words. His point? People are dying for the big secret on how to game the system. It’s a get-rich-quick scheme, and it works for Pigott in this instance because the other content he offers is extremely intelligent and very valuable. You can’t get away with this a lot, but adding humor to prove a point can work occasionally
A version of this article first appeared on Spin Sucks.