As content developers, we all know by now that it’s high quality content that drives the Internet. It’s what people consume, engage with, and share to other people. Because it’s what people want, it’s also what search engines rank highly in their results pages.
We also know that actually making high quality content is not easy. Even one of the most basic types of content, the blog post, requires a lot of effort to turn into something that people will find interesting and useful enough to become a highly shared and viewed resource.
- We have to come up with attention-grabbing headlines.
- We have to back up our statements with accurate information that is correctly sourced and cited.
- We have to show the right examples.
- We have to consider using rich media to supplement the post.
- We have to think about the length of everything from the entire post to the sections to the paragraphs and down to the sentences.
- We have to make it actionable.
- We have to make it funny, inspiring, gripping, thought-provoking, etc.
We have to factor in all these elements, perfectly balancing each one to produce one awesome article. However, we can only do so much with these elements before the produced article hits a ceiling of how many people it can reach and compel to take action.
The one thing that makes an article, or any sort of content for that matter, break through such a limit is the idea behind it. It’s the content that is birthed from great ideas that truly resonates with audiences. It’s what moves them to laugh, cry, think – and act.
Originality is a key ingredient in great ideas. There is no substitute for the feeling of experiencing something entirely novel for the very first time.
We become excited or anxious or hopeful or fearful when we encounter something they’ve never felt before, and we are stimulated to react. We often do so by telling others about the experience so that there is a communal bond that allows us to share our feelings, as demonstrated time and time again in social media. High quality content accomplishes just that.
Don’t be mistaken though, because the ideas themselves don’t have to be wholly original. The majority of human history was built on people iterating on innovations of the exceptional few, and we have all been better off for it. Originality in an idea can be achieved through the novelty of its form and approach. It’s how we tackle an old idea that makes it fresh.
Generating Content Ideas
Here are some tips you can apply to help your content ideation process.
Consume other high quality relevant content
There are genuinely few instances when you can think up of something that has never been done before in your industry. What you can do is absorb as much information as possible from what has been done, and then take what you have learned from those content to arrive at something new.
Whether it’s finding a gap in the content space, analyzing the trends in the content, or combining the ideas from different content, you will find innovation through studying what is already in place.
Start brainstorming sessions
Sometimes the obstacle that is keeping us from creating high quality content is our egos. We want to be the ones come up with the great ideas so we can take sole credit for its creation. We can be simply too proud to ask for help.
That is a self-defeating attitude that only serves to put more pressure on ourselves. When we “fail”, it becomes all the more crippling for us in the future.
Get in touch with your co-workers who you believe have the creative and/or analytical mindset to be able to contribute to the process. You might be stuck thinking in one narrow viewpoint, so free yourself by allowing multiple perspectives to enter the picture.
Be open to their ideas, but also remember to have everyone come into the session with a critical mind to filter the ideas that lead nowhere and to polish the ones that have direction.
Interview industry influencers and colleagues
Even with the different set of brains that your co-workers bring to the discussion, there still might be a limit to what all of you can come up in terms of originality. This can be due to still having the same mission and vision that guides the business. That is why it helps to reach out beyond your own company.
Industry influencers already have the knowledge and the wisdom that moves everyone, so mining them for insights to inspire your content ideation is an obvious path. You can also set up interviews with your peers who may have just as important things to say about the industry you’re in.
Talk to your audience
Once you’ve opened up discussions with your co-workers, colleagues and thought leaders, the logical extension to this path of communicating with others is talking with the very people you want to reach.
Although you think you are coming from a more enlightened position – being part of the process that creates what they consume – you’d be surprised at what you can pick up from starting a dialog with the ordinary consumer.
Not all of them will be articulate enough to clearly express what they want or what problems they are having, but their opinions and demands will all come from a genuine place. It’s up to you to guide the conversation with the right questions so that you discover what it is they really want to consume and engage with.
To be clear, this is not advice to merely start controversy for controversy’s sake. It is taking a more critical approach to the prevailing notions in your industry to see if they really hold up to scrutiny. The goal is to challenge people’s way of thinking, and in doing so open up new and possibly better ways of doing things.
If the concepts and practices don’t crumble to your questioning and testing, then you can spin that off into an original piece of content that shows exactly how those principles and practices are true and why they should still be applied.
To reiterate, it’s not just the idea itself that has to be original. If you can present an idea that has already been covered in a way that’s unique, you bring that great idea to a whole new audience that will find it interesting and engaging all over again.
Do a case study
I mentioned earlier that dissecting tried-and-true principles and practices can be a source of inspiration for a new idea. You can also put that line of thinking to use in producing new content through case studies. By closely following a company or a website that applies particular principles and practices, you either reinforce their usefulness or expose their inadequacy through showing their effects on the company or website you used as examples.
Curate high quality content
There is a lot of content to parse through on the Internet, and search engines for all their complexity are still limited in how they display the content in their results pages. Because of these circumstances, there are always people who want to have the best of the best collected and organized in an accessible format.
Compile what you believe to be must-see content into one post – or a series of posts – and include bite-sized copy telling the readers why they need to check out the content you’ve listed. Be overt about why you have curated this particular content, and you have created new content yourself.
When you already have great content on your website, you can still take advantage of its value by translating its information into a different format. An example would be condensing the highlights of a long article and adding visuals that connect each part to make an infographic. Another would be to gather a series of related blog posts then fill in the gaps in between to write an e-book about the overall subject matter.
Repurposing your own content lets you reach more people, as not everyone prefers just one type of content. You cater to in-depth readers, the content skimmers, the watchers, the listeners, etc. It also allows those who missed the original publication of your content to discover it, increasing its longevity.
Content ideation is a process that takes a lot of time and effort, but it is absolutely necessary to generate the kind of content that people look for online. To make the process more productive, we need to immerse ourselves in the content we aspire to create, confer with the professionals who understand content and engage with the people who consume the content. With that as your basic philosophy, you’re well on the way to producing the kind of quality content that gets the results you want.