Have you noticed how people are more inclined to read content that is written from the writer’s own business and life experiences? By sharing from your own perspective, you bring uniqueness and originality to your content that cannot be found anywhere else. This is what separates you from your competition, and this distinction is how you build a connected community that reads and shares your content.
Once you have identified internal sources of content inspiration, you may want to look outside of your business for other ideas, such as Review sites (think Consumer Reports, Yelp, and Amazon) and other business blogs. The goal is to jump in and participate in the conversations already happening in your market and show up as a solution to people’s problems or answer to their questions. If you’ve ever been stuck about what to blog about, what to share on social media, or even how to write about your products or services, here’s a great question to ask yourself: “What can I create that will help my customers today?”
Today’s post will give you 11 places to find content inspiration as you answer that question.
1. Your Customers
Who knows your product better than the people who have spent money on it for themselves? Your customers are the best source of honest feedback, testimonials and may even be willing to make a guest appearance on your blog as a Customer of the Month. Not only are your customers a great source of content, but they can also boost your credibility and provide proof of your awesomeness. It’s one thing for you to say how amazingly effective your company is, but it is far more believable when your customers say it.
2. Your Industry & Competition
When you’re keeping up with your industry, you’ll find a wealth of content ideas and inspiration. For instance, in the world of blogging, Google recently announced it will discontinue Google Reader – the web application that allows people to pull or aggregate multiple blog feeds into one and push the content to their email. So guess what bloggers are blogging about lately? You guessed it: We’re sharing other ways to increase your email subscribers and better yet, how to encourage more people to sign up for your email list so you don’t have to depend on a free tool that you have no control of (hint, hint).
Speaking of Google Reader, it was a great way to access industry blogs and stay in the loop, and it was especially useful for inspiring new content. For now, I’m using an app on my ipad, Flipboard to keep up with industry news. To be honest, I won’t miss Google Reader since I think I had gotten into blog feed overload, which became overwhelming at times. With the Flipboard app, I can choose what sources I want to show up on my boards and quickly remove the ones that no longer serve me.
By the way, have you found a replacement for Google Reader? What do you use? Anyone using the Feedly app? Will you switch to something else once Google reader goes away?
3. Your Life
The beauty of blogging for your business is you get to be more personable with your customers. Since customers like to do business with people they can relate to, you can feel free to be you. Looking into your life for content that relates to and connects with people keeps them engaged. Engagement leads to better business relationships, referrals and yes, more sales. Even with all this technology, people still want to get to know you because after all, it’s easy to do business with and tell others about someone you know. Don’t be afraid to let your customers get to know the real you.
For example, if you saw a movie you liked, share it. Did watching your baby learn to walk reveal to you a business or life lesson? Tell us about it. Found a great recipe because you like to cook? Tell your peeps. And then take it to the next level by doing the unthinkable: Ask them what they think in return. When you have this kind of interaction with your customers, your content will practically write itself, and attract other interested readers, connections and customers.
4. Your Desires and Goals
People love to connect with people who inspire them. One of the best ways to inspire others is by sharing with them your goals, dreams and desires. Allow your community to root for you when your company has been recognized in the community. Going for a major accolade or award? Let your readers know and share with them reasons why this will help you be of better service to them.
Let’s say one of your goals is to help as many people as you can become healthy and fit, so you decide to share practical health tips on your blog. A measurable goal as you start out may be to add at least 100 new email subscribers per month. Share your goals of increasing subscribers with your current readers. You can also encourage people to get involved by asking them to share your blog (and your mission) with others. From time to time, keep your readers updated with where you are along the path of accomplishing the goal. By sharing your goals, accomplishments, desires, mission or cause with other people, you open their eyes to what is possible for them as well.
5. Your Mistakes
I know it’s painful to admit, but we all make mistakes. No one is perfect and no one one likes people who pretend they never make mistakes. Through this blog, I hope to help others learn from my mistakes, so often I’ll share insight on things I’ve learned the “hard way,” and when I see something that could save people time, money or peace of mind as they’re setting up their website, blog, email or social media platforms, I’ll share that too.
6. Your “Aha” Moments
Have you ever been using something and all of a sudden you discover a new way to use it that changed your life forever? And you got so excited that you had to tell everybody? Share it on your blog. You never know who else you might be able to help and that person might be Googl-ing or Bing-ing that very thing and could find it on your blog. When Hoot Suite launched their Auto Schedule feature, I wrote a new blog post and recorded a quick tutorial. People searching for information about how to use the new feature found my blog post and a few joined my email list.
7. Your Experience
There’s a popular cliche’ that says experience is a good teacher. Not only do you learn from experience, but you can also help other people learn from your experience. People always look for helpful information to satisfy a problem, need or desire. When you are blogging and sharing content online, what better way to help others than by sharing your experience with them? It could be experiences you have had in dealing with certain problems and solutions you’ve found or your experience from homeschooling your children for the past 10 years. And the good thing about experience is it improves over time – the longer you’ve been in business, the better it becomes.
8. Social Media Comments
Social media platforms are full of content inspiration. As people like, share and comment on things of interest to them, you can use this public information/social intelligence to learn what questions people are asking, what things they prefer and how they interact with certain brands/companies. With this knowledge, you can come up with new blog posts around topics that your social media connections have already expressed their interest in.
9. Blog Comments (Yours and Other People’s)
I have a confession to make: I stalk – I mean follow – other people’s blog comments for common questions, issues, problems people have with WordPress and blogging for business. I really do. In fact, I wrote a whole 12-part series on the 12 things you should know about blogging just from comments and questions I noticed people sharing on the blogs that I follow. And as I continue to gather information and bookmark articles, I have a never ending source of things to write about. I love researching, reading and interpreting or breaking down information so people can easily understand and most importantly, apply that information to their business. You may not love research like I do, but you can certainly use this tip to help you get an idea of what people want to know. I have found the best way to engage people is by answering their questions or walking them through steps to solving their problems, and comment sections are the main places I look to find out what problems or questions business people have when it comes to using WordPress.
Your turn to confess: Are you a blog stalker? Have you been spying on people’s comments? Go ahead. Admit it. If not, give it a try. Don’t be surprised if you get hooked, but in a business blog-building kind of way – so it’s all good!
10. Review Sites
I have to give credit for this tip to business coach, Sandi Krakowski. In her book, Read Their Mind, she shares how to use sites like Amazon to read the reviews of books and products to get headline ideas and inspiration for writing copy for your marketing. Love this! You can even apply this to Consumer Reports, Yelp, FourSquare, Zagat reviews, Trip Advisor and Google Places. All of these review sites are full of content inspiration. Give yourself a little time to comb through sites like these for opinions, questions, comments on things people like and don’t like about products and services they use. It’s the best way to gather real time, real life content ideas. Go for it and watch your blog post views, likes and shares increase like crazy!
11. Q&A’s, FAQ’s & Forums
Sites that allow customers to ask questions are also great places to find things to blog about. Similar to review sites, Q&A or FAQ sections are sources of questions submitted by everyday people who are using the product or service and gives you insight into where there are gaps in information that people need to know. Forums are online discussion sites or a section of a site that allows customers to post questions that are answered either by the forum moderator (usually an employee of the company hosting the forum) or by other readers. For instance, the WordPress directory is a community-based forum that allows users to submit questions that other members are free to answer, and if the questions are related to core functions of WordPress, an official developer member will answer. To find forums related to your business, simply type in the name of your industry and the word “forum” in any search engine and you’ll find all kinds of great sites full of community-generated questions and answers.
Speaking of Q&A’s and stuff. Are you using Quora? I think of Quora as a forum that is socializing Q&A’s. As a member of Quora – it’s free – You can ask any question and anyone who has the answer will respond. Most of the time, you get some good responses, sometimes no response at all. But from a business perspective, you may use Quora to get answers to questions you may be having as well as use the Search bar to find out what others are asking as it relates to your market, go write a blog post that provides a good answer, then go back to the person’s question and post a genuine response to their question along with a link to your article for a detailed answer. Do you see how answering questions in a public forum can increase your blog readers? And if your website is done right, when people visit your blog, they will sign up for your emails, which you can use to generate interest in your products or services. How’s that for content inspiration?
Content inspiration is all around you. It is up to you to bring it to your audience in a way that makes sense for you and your customers. Enjoy the content-writing journey! It’s fun, and yes, it’s worth it!
Where do you look for content inspiration? Feel free to share in the comments below.