Stuck for content? Try these 20 suggestions

Ever looked at a competitor’s blog and wondered, “How does she come up with so many things to write about?” Here’s your answer.

I have two big frustrations.

The first is the content-marketing non-advice, “create great content.” This is equivalent to a financial analyst telling you to “buy low, sell high.”

The second is the struggle to create content that people notice. I’m thankful that content farms pushing out bad content find it harder to game Google’s algorithm, but this creates a new problem: Content quality has dramatically risen, forcing everyone to work harder.

If you have a hard time coming up with good subjects, consider these 20 content ideas:

1. Tell your story.

What’s your organization’s story? How often do customers ask why they should choose your business over a competitor? Use these answers to build content.

2. Challenge a common assumption.

One of my most popular newsletters, “Great News! Nobody Wants to Hear Your Story,” challenged the assumption that all brands must tell their stories. After all, I use and love plenty of products without knowing theie stories. This contradicted industry wisdom, and it was a success. Another example: “How to be Really Successful Producing a Crappy Video.”

What industry assumptions have you questioned? Write about them.

3. Share your experiences.

Advice articles (like this one) are common and easy to copy. No one can copy your experiences, however. Some of my most popular posts are about my personal experiences.

Your story of how you handled-or didn’t handle-a situation is advice. It’s just in a more compelling format.

For example, I told a story of how I was invited, and then uninvited, to a press event. It was a story that turned into advice about how the company that invited me should have handled the situation.

4. Jump on a trend.

To increase your discoverability, write a quick opinion piece or add insight to something that’s trending. This is called newsjacking. (Discover what people are talking about on Google Trends.)

Newsjacking is finding a hook to connect your business and industry to the trends people pay attention to and search for. To pull it off, you must move quickly. If you’re too slow, people will move to something else.

If you can’t churn out a post quickly, try adding celebrity names to your headlines and content to get a similar lift.

5. Teach others something you want to learn.

My friend wanted to learn AngularJS. Instead of taking a training course, he created one. Explaining AngularJS to others forced him to understand the material.

You truly understand a topic when you can teach it to others.

6. Detail your learning journey.

If teaching isn’t realistic, journal your learning a new skill. Write about why you wanted to learn a topic, where you started and how you applied what you learned.

Writing and explaining your experience will help you retain the information.

7. Ask industry peers for advice.

One of my favorite techniques for a great article is to ask friends and colleagues for advice.

Compile and maintain lists of industry professionals you can reach out to. Send them an email with a subject line such as, “I’d like to quote you,” or “I’m looking for your expertise on…”

These pieces usually end up as list articles.

To get a response, frame a fun, compelling question that asks for advice or a story. For example, check out “20 Great Sales Follow-Up Techniques.”

8. Provide a lot of advice.

If this article offered only five content ideas, would you have clicked it? If it offered 10 ideas?

It’s always better to offer more tips. People want you to overwhelm them. They may skim your article, but that’s fine. What’s important is that your article helps them.

I’ve created articles with 20, 30 and 50 stories or pieces of advice. Articles with lots of tips always do better.

9. Glean advice from popular Quora topics.

When I’m stuck for a blog, I turn to Quora to see what questions are trending in my industry. I pull a few quotes from Quora to launch my piece, and then research even more.

10. Be negative.

When I had a radio segment on Clear Channel, I produced a wrap-up of the best and worst tech holiday gifts. The worst-gifts list always got double the traffic of the best-gifts list.

11. Share ideas.

People worry that if they reveal company secrets, competitors will steal their ideas.

To quote my friend, Bill Biggar: “The only way someone will steal your idea is if you jam it down their throat.”

Our fear of people stealing our ideas far exceeds the number of ideas actually stolen.

By showing (ideally in a YouTube video) how you work, you build trust with audiences. When potential customers ask whether you’ve done something before, send them the YouTube video.

Here’s an example of an article I wrote explaining how I produce content.

12. Re-purpose a popular article.

I’m launching a new video series in which I consider which of my best articles to re-purpose. Consider whether you can turn your best print articles into videos.

You don’t have to re-purpose your own content. What has someone else done that you could do better, or provide a different angle on? Can you present the same information in a video or infographic?

13. Summarize an event.

More people should try this. Sure, people write blog posts and create videos about events, but few offer true summaries.

Immediately after an event, demand runs high for summaries. People don’t want hours of presentation videos; they want the takeaways.

You can skew the summary to issues important to your business. It’s impossible for you to see every presentation at a huge event, so your summary will only include what you saw.

Check out these examples: “The Cool and ‘Not So Cool’ of LeWeb” and “RSA Conference 2015: End of Show Report.”

14. Let your headline be your guide.

You wrote the world’s best article but gave it a tepid headline. No one read the article. Conversely, if you put the world’s best headline on a tepid article, tons of people will read it.

Brainstorm headlines, and then write articles for your most compelling ones.

15. Summarize a Reddit thread.

Reddit is a trove of valuable information, but not every discussion is easy to read. If you find a valuable thread, summarize the best responses. Here are some examples:

16. Publish collections.

Do you have great Pinterest boards, YouTube playlists or Twitter lists? Publish them. Add editorial context on why each item is on those lists.

17. Share your mistakes.

We all make mistakes that we know never to repeat. Tell others of your missteps. Example: “How I Recovered from Choosing a Bad Technology, and How to Protect Yourself.”

18. Share your favorite products.

We all have products we love. Write about how and why you use them.

I’ve written reviews of RoboForm and Microsoft’s OneNote. I use those programs every day. A few more examples: “Personal Productivity Tips I Actually Use Every Day” and “My 16 Favorite ‘Free to Cheap’ Cloud Services I Use to Run My Business.”

19. Write a reflection post.

This is an easy post that everyone should write. It’s similar to No. 17, but it’s more detailed and doesn’t have to be about one mistake.

Look back for insights into what you did right and wrong. It’s the classic, “If you could tell your younger self what you know today, what would you tell him?” Many of your readers are where you were in when you started.

Example: “27 of the Most Important Lessons I’ve Learned Since Starting My Own Business.”

20. Summarize a conversation.

Conversations, whether in email threads, phone calls or chats during a networking event, often spark great story ideas.

Rarely do people take a private conversation public (with good reason). However, unless it would upset your conversationalist, most private conversations don’t need to stay private. Share the insights, if it’s OK with the person you chat with. Or record a video of the conversation or use Facebook Live Video.

David Spark (@dspark) is the owner of Spark Media Solutions, a firm that specializes in content marketing for the B2B tech industry. He is also the author of “Three Feet from Seven Figures: One-on-One Engagement Techniques to Qualify More Leads at Trade Shows.” A version of this article originally appeared on Spark Minute.

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