We’ve all been there: you read a blog or check out some content and you’re just like, « Dude, this is clever. Where did the author find this from ?? «
Well, that’s a question writers deal with on a daily basis. How can you come up with an idea that will set your content apart, grab the attention of readers, and generate engagement until the end of the article?
To be competitive you need to approach important topics and trends in an interesting way and answer this very important question: « So what? »
While there are sure to be different traits for different people, we’ve polled and done some research to find out which strategies work well for our own Brafton experts, as well as content creators in general. Let’s take a look at the origins of some of the coolest and most creative ideas:
Consider your audience
Before coming up with a topic, it is extremely important to think through the needs and preferences of your target audience. The readers you write for will likely be have specific questions about a certain topic, and thinking about these questions ahead of time while seeking to answer them in the content can help you find a creative approach that fits all of those demands.
Asking certain questions can be helpful in getting your creative engine going when considering your audience. Think of things like:
- Who, exactly, am I writing for? What kinds of people are in my audience and what kinds of roles do these people have?
- What is the purpose of my writing for this audience? What message am I trying to convey to them?
- How am I going to get this message out in a way that engages the audience? How can I meet their needs for valuable and entertaining content while supporting my writing goal?
We also recommend that you think about the types of things your audience could do in their spare time and incorporate them into the writing to stimulate interest.
For example, if your audience is information technology decision makers, think about the types of hobbies they might have, the types of books or magazines they might read, or the movies that appeal to them. Drawing inspiration from these interests can be a big help in stimulating your creativity.
Choose the right links
When you’re looking for inspiration, sometimes just one glance at the calendar can get your brain cells working. Keep an eye out for vacations, annual events, and seasonal changes and then plan around them, creating great content that will match the moods and interests of your audience.
Thinking about the future is not only a great way to spark your creative thinking, it also helps you make sure the content is well thought out and carefully designed. Rather than just considering what you’re going to post next week, you can brainstorm ideas for the months ahead and put them in a content calendar. This will give stakeholders time to prepare, which will be greatly appreciated whether you go for written or visual content.
A content calendar is best when it comes to something you visit often. Hootsuite recommends that you closely monitor the performance of your scheduled posts, and then use that information to modify the dates, times, and content of your upcoming posts for maximum impact.
Whenever an idea hits you, put it in an appropriate place in the content calendar, and don’t forget to check back regularly to see what’s going on in the pipeline. You can discover an idea that you sketched out months ago in a burst of inspiration and which you have forgotten. When that happens, you’ll be glad you saved the concept for posterity instead of letting it be forgotten.
Another great area for creative content ideas is competition.
Competitive research is a valid approach, but it’s important to keep originality in mind. When assessing the competition, you shouldn’t just look to borrow their ideas, but to take them a little further. This improvement over the original can – and should – lean towards your own organization’s goals and result in content that works well for your audience and advances your mission.
In competitive research, there is some main aspects to consider who can help guide your efforts:
- What ideas or types of content are trending? If you see multiple competitors signing up for time-lapse videos, for example, it might be worth creating one for your organization.
- What keywords stand out from your search? SEO should always be built in and ensure that you are creating content that is what your audience is looking for.
- Who follows who on social media? Take a look at who is following your competition can provide a creative spark to your ideation. For example, if your competition is followed by people using certain phrases in their Twitter bio, creating content that appeals to that audience can be beneficial in expanding the reach of your business.
Don’t be afraid to draw inspiration from others in your industry, but remember to keep a spirit of one-upmanship: it can take your content to the next level.
Don’t be afraid of models
When it comes to content, the phrase « If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, » surely applies. In other words, if you find a formula, a certain layout for the content, or a template that works well for your audience, don’t hesitate to reuse it.
Psychologically, people like repetition and things that seem familiar to them, even if they don’t realize it at first. Drew Boyd noted for Psychology Today that many highly successful creatives have earned their status through the use of templates – The Beatles did it, author Agatha Christie did it, and there are sure to be many more in these ranks. Boyd call it Systematic inventive thinking, an approach that allows you to repeatedly apply a certain pattern to a product, service, or process in a way that regulates thought without stifling creativity.
Sophisticated terms aside, it’s important to understand that you can leverage and reuse a creative idea more than once. If you’ve been successful with some type of infographic, for example, don’t assume that lightning won’t strike twice if you use the same approach for a similar topic.
Adapt the message to the medium
As a variation of the template concept, you can think about the limits and standards of your chosen content delivery channel and use them to guide your thinking. Boxing yourself in this way may seem counterintuitive, but it can actually focus your ideas and set you on the path to compelling content creation.
You will benefit from having a channel in mind early on in the content creation process. To give an example of what this looks like, imagine this scenario: you create a short video content to explain your offerings to your target audience. By selecting which social media platform will be the primary way to distribute the content, you will help yourself to imagine the finished clip more clearly.
An ideal duration for a promotional YouTube video falls about two minutes, while one-minute videos do best on Facebook and those designed for Instagram and Twitter should be even shorter. If you think of it in terms like « How do I complete two minutes? » rather than a « How can I describe this product? » you may find that interesting ideas are much easier to come by.
Selecting a preferred social media platform early in the content creation process can also help you research competitors, basing your deliverable on similar items on that same service. Making sure your storytelling strategy fits the medium is a good way to get started on topic ideation and improves your chances of ending up with engaging content when done.
A classic: brainstorming
When all else fails – or even as a starting point – brainstorming can provide the spark that can take you from a blank slate to original and engaging content. Whether you are brainstorming alone or in a group, remember to keep a sacred space in which no idea is a bad idea – any hesitation or questioning can stifle your intuitive creativity.
It can be useful to bounce the ideas of those who are not affected by the project.
Grabbing Jan of Accounting can provide you with the fresh outlook you need to see things from a stranger’s perspective, while avoiding being drawn into your own preconceived feelings.
Also, be sure to include participants from other departments. A designer, for example, may be able to shape the writer’s idea in a way that will match a specific visual layout, thus helping to grab attention while supporting an important message.
Put it all together
When you decide to create your next piece of compelling content, there’s a good chance that you are using more than one of the methods described above and the combination feels perfectly natural to you. For example, you can brainstorm with members of the design team to create an infographic template that can be reused on multiple key dates in your content calendar. The end result will not be just one deliverable but several, each convincing in its own way.
Audience research, competition emulation, content design tailored to a particular social media platform – all of these can fuel a fertile creative process, individually or together. And remember, if you’re going for it, you don’t have to use any academic strategy at all. If the ideas come naturally, let them flow – these tactics will be there to help when you get stuck.
Everyone has their own process when it comes to ideas for creative content. How did you find your best ideas? Tell us below!
Editor’s Note: Updated January 2021.