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content marketing

The Ultimate Guide to GIFs

Choosy marketers choose GIFs

It’s funny that a few years ago, people thought GIFs were a thing of the past. Today, you can’t scroll through any social feed without seeing one. Twitter is dripping with them, and Facebook is starting to let brands test 'em out.

Hell, even the House Judiciary Committee is using them in this listicle on immigration policies.

GIF repositories, like Giphy, make it easy for everyone to tweet them, attach them to emails and embed in presentations. It’s like the GIF never went out of style.

Essentially a GIF is just a short video that loops over and over and over. That said, I have a lot of people ask me why they shouldn’t just use videos instead. But, there are some benefits to using GIFs.


5 Reasons To Use GIFs in your Marketing Strategy

WHY you should be using GIFs in your social media marketing

Source: Inside Amy Schumer (Giphy)

Source: Inside Amy Schumer (Giphy)

Easy to Consume

First of all, GIFS can be consumed really, really quickly. They get the job done in seconds. Or, as Mike Isaac of the New York Times said, “GIFs have become a mainstream form of digital expression, a way to relay complex feelings and thoughts in ways beyond words and even photographs...” Well said.

They’re also great for social platforms that offer autoplay without sound (like, everyone), because GIFs don’t need (or even have) audio. They don’t need it to make a point.

Plus, unlike a photo, the motion within the GIF offers a natural way to focus viewers’ attention on your product or point.


Source: Reddit (Giphy)

Source: Reddit (Giphy)

Personality Packed

GIFs make it insanely easy to show off your sense of humor.

For example, anyone who sees the GIFs I use on Twitter will know that I’m a big fan of HIMYM, Harry Potter and classic teen movies.

For people who might have a harder time being authentic on social media, GIFs are a great way to show off your fun side.


Source: CultureNLifestyle.com (Giphy)

Source: CultureNLifestyle.com (Giphy)

Absolutely MESMERIZING!

Maybe it’s just me, but there are some GIFs I could watch for hours.

There's just something about the flow of the format that makes it possible to watch forever...Like this one of Vincent Van Gogh!

See what I mean?


Source: Reddit (Giphy)

Source: Reddit (Giphy)

Image File Format

Although I described GIFs earlier as a short looping video, technically speaking they’re just a series of still image frames coded into one single image file. That means they can be posted places where videos can’t. For example, before Pinterest allowed videos, you could still add GIFs.

One place GIF files still offer substantial benefits is via email, like in your newsletters and e-blasts. Adding videos to your emails makes it more likely they’ll get filtered out as spam for their size. In fact, most mail services, like Mailchimp, recommend just posting a thumbnail linking to your video.

Here’s a compelling argument from Wistia about why you should just link to the video.

But, maybe you want to capture attention with some motion in your newsletter? A thumbnail of a video isn’t going to do that. But a GIF can.


Source: Reddit (Giphy)

Source: Reddit (Giphy)

Easy to Use/Make

GIFs are also really, really easy to make. You can search GIF repositories, like Giphy Buffer Mood Board, Tumblr or Imgur, to use GIFs made by others. Though, I would recommend reading this post on Forbes on the legal use of animated GIFs.

Although there haven’t been any U.S. cases definitely stating whether creating a GIF from copyrighted material is or isn’t copyright infringement, it’s super easy to make your own GIFs.

Now that you know why GIFs are so amazing, let’s talk about making your own GIFs!


How do you say GIF?

There has been sofreakingmuch debate about how to say the word “GIF.” As someone who has to say it in front of large audiences over and over again, I’m sort of tired of seeing half my audience snicker because they think I’m saying it wrong. So, let’s put this to bed once and for all.

According to Steve Wilhite (the inventor of the GIF format), he named his new file type GIF with the JIF peanut butter brand slogan in mind. That is, with a soft G. His coworkers at CompuServe in the 1980s would often say, “Choosy developers choose GIFs.”

GIF. Say it with me…GIF.

6 Ways To Use GIFs in your Marketing Strategy

WHEN you should be using GIFs in your social media marketing strategy

Okay, so now you know why you should be using GIFs. Now you’re probably asking yourself when you should be using them. As Ash Read wrote in this post on the Buffer blog, “Anywhere there’s a message, there’s a chance for a GIF.”

Here are a few ideas to get you started…


1) Repurpose existing content into GIFs.

This option is insanely easy. There are tons of tools that can turn the videos you’ve posted to Instagram, Vine and YouTube, as well as raw video files, into GIFs. Gifs.com is one example, and Giphy offers an entire GIF-making suite of tools.

You can use Giphy’s GIF Maker tool to paste the URL of your YouTube videos and select the part of the clip to turn into a GIF. Then, your GIF is hosted on Giphy and can be easily shared to all your social platforms.

You can also use Giphy Slideshow to turn a series of still images into a GIF, and Giphy’s GIF Editor tool allows you to add stickers, filters and captions.


2) Use as a website background.

Because GIFs can be really subtle and are smaller files than videos, they can be used as a slight motion background to your website to add visual interest.


3) Amplify your customer responses.

Have you ever read a text and assumed the sender’s tone? I am so, so guilty of this nasty habit. Okay can simply mean “Okay, sounds good,” or it can mean, “Okay, asshole.” It’s all in the tone. And we miss that via text, email and on social media.

Adding a GIF to replies to customer questions and comments are a great way to show they’re heard and provide a bit of emotional context to your response, as well as show your personality and sense of humor.


4) Use GIFs in text tutorials.

You know the old adage, “Tell me, I’ll forget. Show me, I’ll remember. Involve me, I’ll understand”? It is so true! I can’t tell you how many times I’ve found detailed text tutorials that I had to supplement with less awesome tutorials on YouTube. Wouldn’t it be great if I could find both in one place? On your website, maybe?

I understand that not all brands have approached video yet. Even though I disagree with the idea that video is hard, time consuming, expensive, etc., it’s an unfortunate reality.

Even if you are really, super duper against video (why?), you can at least improve the text-based tutorials on your blog with GIFs.

CloudApp and RecordIt both allow you to easily record a portion of your screen and save the file as a GIF to later post to your blog. This is great for adding value to your blog’s tutorials, like we talked about earlier.

Since I record my own video tutorials, I’m no expert at this, but I really recommend you read the section of this blog post outlining tools to turn screencast videos into GIFs.


5) Illustrate a point.

One of my favorite ways people use GIFs is sort of like a visual, “Amen, sister” on blog posts. It’s like a quick visual that helps people understand where you’re coming from.


How to make a tabletop tripod out of cardboard

How to make a tabletop tripod out of cardboard

6) Show how to do something.

GIFs can also be a great way to show your audience how to do simple tasks. Here’s an example showing how to build a makeshift cardboard tripod for your iPhone.


7 TOOLS To Create GIFs for Social Media

HOW to make your own GIFs for your marketing strategy

In addition to Giphy, CloudApp and RecordIt, here are four more tools to create your own GIFs.

1) GifX

GifX is a versatile app that allows you to add motion overlays to any photo or video on your camera roll. If you buy the pro pack for $4, you’ll be able to export photos and videos as high-res GIFs without a watermark, and it unlocks all the designs available in the app.

2) Burstio

Burstio is an app that allows you to turn burst photos into GIFs. It also allows you to reverse them, retime them, and add a boomerang effect.

3) LiveGif or Lively

Both apps turn your live photos into gifs. LiveGif is $1.99, and Lively is free, but $2.99 to remove the watermark. I usually shoot either video or photo, but if you DO shoot a lot of live photos, this is a great tool for you.

4) GifBoom

GifBoom allows you to add text to videos, photos and gifs already on your phone, and save them as gifs. You can also add multiple photos into one gif using this app. However, you can’t change the font or color of the text.

By now you know exactly why you should be using more GIFs, when you can use them and how to create your own. If you’d like to see a tutorial of the apps I mention, as well as a bonus app (my personal favorite!!!), sign up to get the free video tutorial below.

Face it. GIFs are here to stay. And they are awesome



ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Hey, I'm Sarah!

I love teaching small businesses and solopreneurs to create better content and incorporate cool tech and tools into their content marketing machine so they can get better results in less time. After all, isn't that what content marketing is for?

Connect with me on TwitterInstagramPinterest andLinkedIn.


9 Ways To Generate Traffic Without Building More Content

Just because you're too busy to blog doesn't mean your blog has to lose momentum. Here are 9 ways to generate traffic to your website without building new content.

I’m not sure if I’ve ever been busier than I am right now...which is why I’ve only posted one blog in the past few weeks. I’m making an international move, speaking at MojoCon Ireland and am booked up with a handful of exciting training sessions.

So, it’s been difficult to sit down long enough to write a super useful post, but I have just recently been inspired by my own insanity. Sometimes life gets in the way of building new content, but it’s sucks to lose momentum as followers unfollow, website metrics go down and your brand starts fading into distant digital memories.

During these past couple of weeks, I’ve struggled to come up with content to share without making anything new. But, as the busyness subsides, my creativity is coming back to me! Next time life gets crazy, I’m absolutely going to do these 10 things to maintain traffic and top-of-mind.

Curate The Content Of Others

Although this doesn't brand YOU as well as original content would, it still allows you to provide value to your audience. From sharing helpful stuff on social media to curating newsletters and whitepapers, simply save stuff as you come across it.

My favorite method right now is saving content from Pinterest, Twitter, Reddit and Feedly to Buffer. When a post inspires action that I don’t have time to take immediately, I save it to Pocket and add it to my to-do list on Asana later.

It’s also a great way to establish good will and get on the radar of ideal audience members and your awesome idols, which brings me to…

Partnerships: Formal Or Otherwise

These days, everyone is talking about formal affiliate plans to cross promote products and services, but not every partnership needs to be formal. Sometimes a simple give-take relationship on social media can go really far. It’s also a wonderful starting point for guest posting opportunities or podcast appearances when things or a little less busy.

Multiply The Content You Already Have

Chances are, you already have some awesome content. Turn a tip into a shareable image with Pablo or Canva. Clip a quote out of a video to share on Instagram or Vine. Turn a top 10 list post into an infographic for Pinterest or a Slideshare. Take some of those outtakes and turn it into a behind-the-scenes video. There are plenty of ways to breathe new life into your older content.

Create An E-Book From A Series Of Blog Posts

Chances are you have a full series of helpful blogs already written. Turn them into a list overview blog post with a download link for your e-Book. You could even sell it on Amazon, BookBub, Book Gorilla and AppSumo.

Original Social Content

Just because you don’t have time to put pen to paper or fingers to keyboard doesn’t mean you don’t have tons of tips floating around in your head. Hop on Periscope of Facebook live to give a mini-webinar.

Take it a step further by giving your followers an exclusive link to one of your related content upgrades, too.

Guest Blog Posts

If you’ve invested some time into 1 or 2, you have some relationships you can rely on. Ask people you respect for guest blog posts, or solicit them on social media.

Just be sure you have a way to "add value" for them. Maybe choose people who are 1 or 2 steps behind you but have a brand that jives with yours (without competing directly) and ask them to share their insight.

Guest Interviews

In my opinion, this is perhaps even better than a guest blog post because it only takes 20 or 30 minutes to provide a lot of value—and it’s a smaller commitment for your guest, so you’re more likely to get the ‘yes.’ You can post it to SoundCloud as audio-only, or record the video and post it to YouTube, as well.

You even have an easy content upgrade—a transcript! And it might not even take you any of your own time to create it—the app, Rev, charges $1 a minute to do transcribe for you. You also have the bonus distribution from your guest. Easy peasy lemon squeezy!

Expert Round-Ups

Take to Twitter and ask 10 experts what their favorite app, tool, tip or quote is. Take 20 minutes to fill in the blanks, pull together bios from their Twitter profiles and post it to your blog. Not only was it exceptionally simple, but you’ll also have 10 more people to share your blog when it’s complete.

(And, you've established some new relationships for options 2, 6 and 7.)

Post To Communities & Forums

Take time to answer peoples’ questions on Facebook groups, Twitter chats, Reddit and Quora. You’ll help people by briefly sharing your knowledge, and (depending on the rules) you could even link to previous posts that are directly relevant.


About The Author

Hey, I'm Sarah!

I love teaching online business bosses to create better content and incorporate cool tech and tools into their content marketing machine so they can get better results (more traffic, more customers, more money) in less time. After all, isn't that what content marketing is for?

Connect with me on Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest and LinkedIn.


11 Steps To A Smarter Facebook Video Strategy

Are you sharing your videos on Facebook the right way?

Create less, promote more.

That phrase coined by content marketer Salma Jafri causes anyone with a commitment to good content to cringe--I completely understand that feeling. BUT, it also has a lot of wisdom to it.

Maybe it's not that you should be creating less, but instead that you need to realize for every piece of content you create, you have to commit a significant amount of time to get it into your audiences' hands.

You're producing this content for a reason, whether that be to ask for donations for a good cause, raise money for your business idea, or sell your product. If people aren't seeing it, they can't do what you want them to do, and video's super ridiculous awesome conversion power is wasted.

So let me ask you something...

Would you ever record someone reading an article on camera and post it as a video? Would you copy and paste article text into InDesign or Canva, add a background and a border and call it an infographic? Of course not!

Most content producers know that each medium has different benefits, best uses, and requirements.

For example, an infographic works best when you have lots of stats or a workflow to visualize. And video works best when you have compelling visuals, need to build trust with an audience, or want to interact live.

So, we produce our content right, only to make a big mistake that severely limits our reach, engagement and conversions. We post the video to our site and share that link on every single one of our social platforms, usually with the exact same text teaser and thumbnail.

But not all social platforms treat video the same way.

In fact, it’s almost stunning when you start drilling down how different each platform is! So, why would you treat each social platform the same way and waste the potential of your video?

So I give you my first post in a series of posts that will teach you how each social platform treats video, and how to make the most of it. This week? Facebook!


Facebook

In January 2016 alone, there were more than 9.1 million videos uploaded directly to Facebook by 1.7 million different creators, generating more than 212 billion views. More than a year ago, users were uploading more video hours to Facebook than YouTube.

All these stats are crazy impressive, especially if you consider that Facebook wasn’t even a destination for watching videos just a couple short years ago.

If you’re ready to post your videos directly to Facebook, or simply do it more effectively, be sure to follow these simple rules.

1. Upload your videos natively.

To get to where they are today, Facebook has made it posting original videos natively very worthwhile. Here are three reasons you should absolutely be posting your videos directly to Facebook (in addition to YouTube).  

Autoplay

Videos uploaded directly to Facebook will automatically start playing in your friends’ and followers’ newsfeeds (unless they’ve disabled it in “Settings”). For a platform that has become the place to post still photos, the extra activity can be extra-appealing by comparison.

Increased Organic Reach

Video has an organic reach of 8.7 percent, according to a study by Socialbakers, compared to 3.7 percent for photos. That means for every 100 fans, almost 9 of them will see a video post, while only 4 of them would see a photo post.

Source: http://www.socialbakers.com/blog/2367-native-facebook-videos-get-more-reach-than-any-other-type-of-post

Source: http://www.socialbakers.com/blog/2367-native-facebook-videos-get-more-reach-than-any-other-type-of-post

They Look Good

Sharing a YouTube link on Facebook isn't pretty.

These days, Facebook is making it straight up suck to post videos directly from YouTube. Say you share a link to a video hosted on YouTube. On your timeline, it will appear as a small thumbnail with a tiny “play” icon (which already sucks), but when that link shows up on your friends’ newsfeeds, it gets even worse—the play icon is gone entirely.

To combat this, some YouTube loyalists started uploading screenshots of the video and providing the link. But even then, you’re missing out on the autoplay benefit bestowed on native Facebook videos.

2. Post content people want

Like any other platform, there are specific types of people Facebook users are more inclined to watch. Of the most watched Facebook video creators, there are some trends in the types of videos being produced, liked and shared.

Three of the top 10 most watched Facebook video creators were Buzzfeed channels, which often feature “listicle” videos and short tutorials. Other popular creators focused on news, food and anything/everything funny.

3. Keep it short.

Even though Facebook will allow you to upload videos up to an hour long, that doesn’t mean you should. You want people to make it to the end, so they can take you up on your awesome call-to-action.

Most videos do NOT need to be longer than 2 minutes. If yours is, you’re probably trying to cover too much. Pick one thing. Take the second idea you’re trying to talk about and make another video, if you want. Do what you can to keep your video short.

4. Use an active and eye-catching clip first.

You might have static video shots or even still photos in your video, but that first shot should absolutely catch your viewers’ eyes so they realize it’s a video and are more likely to turn on the audio and engage with your content.

5. Add a descriptive title slide.  

Visuals can be extremely compelling and emotion, but audio drives your story forward. Even if you have an awesome intro clip, consider adding a short text slide with a description, or often, the first sentence of my video (which should usually be pretty illustrative of the video, anyway).

I do this first because I want people to have an idea of why they should want to watch my video and secondly, so they don’t miss out on important information from the start. 

6. Follow the rules.

Facebook is pretty generous in video types and lengths it will support, but here are the quick details:

  • File requirements: Facebook supports almost all video file types, but recommends mp4
  • Maximum length/size: 60 minutes, or 2.3 GB
  • Supported aspect ratios: horizontal, square and vertical videos

7. Don’t forget the text.

Just because you’re going visual means text goes out the window.

Be sure to include a text teaser with your video post to intrigue people to turn on the audio and engage with your video.

This is also a great place to tag people and brands who helped create your video, starred in it or are in some way relevant to it.

8. Choose a custom thumbnail.

Even though Facebook’s autoplay feature might seem to make thumbnails less important, thumbnails are still vital for reaching people who (for data-saving reasons) may have turned off the autoplay function, or people who want to look at ALL of the videos you’ve posted.

Facebook videos can also be embedded on sites now, so there you have it. Three reasons you still need to take the time to choose a custom thumbnail.

9. Utilize Facebook’s call-to-action feature

Seriously. You’d be crazy not to. Video is one of the highest converting mediums. People who watch a video are often looking for “what next?” So, what do you want them to do? Share? Visit? Donate? Buy?

To do this effectively, not only do you have to define your goals for your video from the outset, but you also have to anticipate the frame of mind your audience will be in after watching your video.

For example, if you post an emotional video about children who lack access to clean water, what will your audience be most likely to do? Buy a branded t-shirt for the campaign? Donate money to make a difference? Spread the word? Put yourself in their shoes when you’re choosing that call to action.

On this same page, also title your video using important keywords and relevant tags.

10. Choose a video to feature.

Despite space online being essentially free, prime real estate is still hard to come by. Facebook allows users to feature a video in the lefthand sidebar of their page, along with other vital business information.

Take advantage of this by featuring your most popular video, newest video, or “About Us” video. Regardless of what you want to promote, don’t let this space go to waste.

11) Pay attention to the right numbers.

Facebook considers a “view” when someone has the video on screen for at least 3 seconds, and does not require that the person turn on the audio. YouTube “views,” on the other hand, are estimated to count only after about 30 seconds.

With those numbers in mind, it’s important that you don’t see the difference in views and assume Facebook rules and YouTube drools. Beyond those views, calculate what percentage of “viewers” actually engaged with your content. That will be a much more valuable measurement! 

Facebook also offers some other valuable metrics, like 30-second views (how many people watched your video for 30 seconds—or to the end, if your video was less than 30 seconds long) and autoplay versus click-to-play comparisons to show you how many of those viewers actually clicked on your video to watch it.


The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. Maybe you're spending $3,000 for a professional to produce your video, only to get 200 views. Maybe you're putting your own heart and soul into your work to see it go nowhere.

Maybe it's your video, but maybe it's your promotion strategy.

You can't post the exact same link and teaser on every social platform and expect them to work equally in your favor. You have to do some of the hard work yourself. Your job doesn't end when you hit publish. In most cases, that's only the beginning.

sarahredohl.jpg

About The Author

Hey, I'm Sarah!

I love teaching online business bosses to create better content and incorporate cool tech and tools into their content marketing machine so they can get better results (more traffic, more customers, more money) in less time. After all, isn't that what content marketing is for?

Connect with me on Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest and LinkedIn.



The 7 Files I Always Keep On My Phone (For Content Marketing on the Go)

filesonyourphone.jpg

When you’re a solopreneur, you often get to see every detail of your business—from the innovation process, to selling your services or products, to watching your customers succeed. Every step of the way is a story.

I work with a lot of large companies that are implementing a more agile content marketing strategy—one that’s based more on the moment than ever before. For once in marketing, the big guys are trying to do what the little guys like us could do all along—be there for all the small details so they can share them to show their humanity AND their expertise online.

If you’ve been around the blog for awhile, you know that I love to turn every thing we do into an opportunity to create cool content, from videos to fun gifs to memes—and I love to do it all (or as much as I can) using just my iPhone.

But to do that, there are some consistent branding tools I like to have on my phone at all times so I can quickly check that everything I do fits my brand’s colors, fonts, message and goals. Here are the seven files I keep on my iPhone at all times to produce cool content really quickly on the go.

storylablogo.jpg

My Logo

This sounds like a no-brainer, but you’d be surprised how many solopreneurs don’t keep a copy of their logo readily available. And I know the frustration of not having one when I need it. Try having to cobble together a video intro with a 72 pixels-per-inch screenshot of your logo! Don’t be that person.

Instead, I like to keep a handful of high quality logos on my phone always.

  • One transparent PNG version in my signature dark gray
  • One transparent PNG version in white
  • One gray version on a white 16:9 background
  • One white version on a dark 16:9 background
  • One transparent PNG version of my brand icon (the colorful circle)

With these five versions of my logo, I’m ready for anything that comes my way. I can quickly add my icon to blog images, I can watermark my original photography, or I can add branded introductions to the videos I produce on my phone. Not to mention, if someone needs my logo in a pinch, I can air drop it to them in just a few seconds.

Calls To Action

I produce a lot of videos between meetings, on airplanes, or generally in inconvenient places.

For example, whenever I do a training session that requires travel, I find that the plane ride home is a great time to produce a testimonial video about the training. Depending on how far I’ve traveled, I can usually produce the testimonial video and handful of direct-to-social promotional videos.

No matter what video I’m producing, I always like to add a call to action at the end.

Videos have an exceptionally high conversion rate, compared to any other medium. For example, landing pages with video have up to 800 percent higher conversions than the same page without video. And people who watch videos are 85 percent more likely to buy, 144 percent more likely to add it to their card, and 52 percent more confident in their product purchase.

Landing pages with video have up to 800 percent higher conversions than the same page without video.

Once someone has invested their time into your video, they’re primed for the next step. Make the ask! What do you want them to do? Follow you on social media? Sign up for your newsletter? Make a purchase?

The most common calls to action I use are:

  • Share the video on social media
  • Follow us on social media
  • Join the newsletter
  • Buy a course
  • Book a training
  • Book me as a speaker

As my aunt always said, “Don’t Ask, Don’t Get.”

Brand Style Guide

Trying to guess your brand colors never works out. So, I always try to keep the things I expect to need close at hand, including my brand colors, fonts and patterns.

I also keep any style guides for sub-brands I’m working on, too. I always like to know what I’m going for so I can be sure everything on-brand.

royalty-free-music.jpg

Royalty-Free Music

Although many video apps come with stock music for you to use, it’s important to note that most of it isn’t licensed for commercial (i.e., your business) use. To play it safe, I always keep stock music I’ve purchased on my phone to quickly add to my videos.

Music can quicken the pace of your videos, it can make people feel specific emotions. Use it to your advantage! Here are a few places I like to look for stock music:

  • Audiojungle
  • Incompetech
  • ccMixter
  • Beatpick

Evernote

You never know when inspiration will strike. Some of my best blog posts were written in just a few minutes when inspiration hits me. It’s always easier to write when you’re in the right mood.

Use Evernote to never miss out on those moments. Keep track of blog ideas, blog outlines, anecdotes and more. 

Asana

This is a new addition for me, but I am quickly beginning to wonder what I ever did without it. It’s easy to track your projects and to do lists for a variety of big picture goals.

So, you want to update your site? Tick off each item as you accomplish it, and keep track of upcoming deadlines and recurring projects. You won’t regret it, I promise.

Calendar

I used to be a pen-and-paper person, but I’ve seen the other side and I like it. If you’re still clutching to your paper planner like it’s 1995, at least start scheduling your annual events, like birthdays, doctors appointments, domain renewals and more.

You’ll quickly realize how keeping this info on your phone and at your fingertips can save you time and keep you organized.

sarahredohl.jpg

About The Author

Hey, I'm Sarah! I love teaching online business bosses to create better content and incorporate cool tech and tools into their content marketing machine so they can get better results (more traffic, more customers, more money) in less time. After all, isn't that what content marketing is for? Connect with me on Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest and LinkedIn.

 

14 Ways to Generate Better Content Ideas

contentideas.jpg

Here are 14 tools to help you generate content ideas that are based on science, social proof and metrics, so you can deliver your audience the content they really want.

 Google “Creativity is like…” and you’ll get a lot of encouraging results.

“Creativity is like a muscle. The more you use it, the more it grows.”

“Creativity is like a flower. You can make it bloom by giving it positive affirmation.”

“Creativity is like a tap. The more you turn it on, the more it flows.”

For anyone who is under the constant pressure to be creative, that sounds like a bunch of crap. In my opinion, this quote is much, much better:

“Creativity is like washing a pig. It’s messy, it has no rules, no clear beginning, middle or end.”

In my own words, creativity is like a squatter. It arrives unannounced. It might stay for a minute or a month. And you can never seem to reach it once it’s gone.

storylabquote1.jpg

For people who constantly have to be creating original content, creativity can be mentally and emotionally draining. So, rather than approaching creativity like it’s a muscle, a flower, a tap, a pig or a squatter, I choose to approach creativity like a scientist—giving myself an outline to follow that will definitely give me some good ideas to get started with.

To approach creativity like a scientist, there are a few “laws” you should follow. You need to discover a problem, ask some questions, do your research, ask an expert, and measure your results.

Discover A Problem.

Being able to isolate and anticipate your audience’s pain points—the problems they’re facing—and provide solutions through your content is probably the most effective content strategy.

Reddit & Quora

See what sorts of questions people are asking about your industry on Reddit and Quora.

Look at the top questions on Quora and Reddit to see what people need help with. If you have a more specific idea, these are also great places to ask people about their problems. (What do you find most frustrating about _____?)

The only problem with Quora and Reddit is that they define your audience to a specific topic, not a demographic. For example, not EVERYONE who cares about video will be my ideal customer. For that, you have to go social.

quora screenshot.jpg

Facebook, LinkedIn & Twitter

Check out related Facebook groups, LinkedIn groups and Twitter chats. See what questions people are posing, and answer them in your own blog posts.

My favorite method is by using Twitter chats. I spend a great deal of time on Twitter Chats that my audience hangs out on, find people who are my ideal demographic, look at their profile and see what blog links they're sharing. From there, I have a running list of blogs that my niche follows and I look at the comments. What questions do they still have after they've read the post? Not only do I get ideas from their questions and comments during the chat, but I also get ideas from their comments on the blog itself.

Amazon

Visit Amazon and look at products similar to yours or books related to your services and read the reviews. Because there is SUCH a variety of books, you can really niche down.

You can look at the type of book--does its branding convey anything about its target demographic? Then, you can also look at who's commenting. Man or woman? Old or young? People often give some context of their own experiences in their reviews, too. Do they fit your ideal customer profile? If so, what complaints did they have about the book? People often talk about what they wish the author had included more about. Bingo, more ideas for you.

Ask Some Questions.

You don’t have to be an island. Oftentimes, the easiest way to generate content ideas is simply to ask your existing clients or customers a few questions.

Ask Your Customers

I’ve done this using surveys after providing one of my training sessions, informally over coffee, or sending out personal emails. Rarely has anyone turned me down cold. Most people answer at least one or two questions.

Plus, a secondary benefit of asking people you actually know is you can send them the link once your blog is posted. Not only did you produce a well-informed post for your readers, but you’ve also added value to someone who should be very valuable to you (a current customer).

Here are some questions I ask my clients (just replace content marketing with your own product or service):

  • What is the most frustrating thing about [content marketing] for you?
  • What was your main hesitation when deciding to hire someone to help you with your [content marketing]? What made you pull the trigger?
  • How does [content marketing] benefit you and your business?
  • What three things do you wish you knew more about [content marketing]?

Although the best blog posts are rooted in our customers’ pain points, we also have our own unique insight on what we do. So, it’s also important to ask ourselves some key questions. These questions can make excellent pillar content (content that provides a strong base for the rest of the content you’ll be producing).

Self-Reflection

Here are some questions you should ask yourself (just replace content marketing with your own product or service):

  • What questions do people always ask me about [content marketing]?
  • What are the top misconceptions about [content marketing]?
  • Why is what I do so important to my clients?
  • If people don’t do [content marketing], how might it hurt their business?
  • What are the biggest mistakes I’ve seen people make with their [content marketing]?
  • What often keeps people from taking action and hiring someone to help them with their [content marketing]?
  • What are some current trends in [content marketing] that I might have insight on?

Do Your Research.

Spend some time to discover what is already trending. With today’s analytics, it’s easy to find what content is already resonating with your audience. It’s important to add your own spin to each topic, but it’s a great place to seek some scientific inspiration.

BuzzSumo

Search your keywords on BuzzSumo to find the most popular blog posts on any topic.

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Google Trends

Use Google Trends to look for what people are searching for. Set your location, time period and category, or look for specific search topics.

Social Media

Look at trending content on the social media platforms your audience hands out on.

Ask An Expert.

Blog topic generation tools can also be useful. You will certainly get some duds, like this one, “How Nostradamus predicted GIFs. No, really,” (which I may yet find a use for), but you’ll also generate some attention-grabbing headlines.

HubSpot

HubSpot’s Blog Topic Generator is one of the best to find some topics that each blog should probably cover about their niche at some point or another.

Portent's

Portent’s Content Idea Generation Tool will give you a bunch of funny headlines that play off pop culture.

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Measure Your Results.

As you continue to produce and publish original content, it’s very important to measure your results to make sure you’re getting enough of a return for your investment of time.

To do this, you first of all have to isolate your goals. What are you hoping to achieve with your content? Try to dig deep on this. Your first instinct will likely be to get more followers or to build your list, but you need to get to the root of your motivation. For most of us, this means increasing our income. How will your content efforts increase your income? And how will you measure your success?

Be sure to tell me your favorite ways to come up with awesome content ideas in the comments!


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About the Author

Hey, I'm Sarah! I love teaching online business bosses to create better content and incorporate cool tech and tools into their content marketing machine so they can get better results (more traffic, more customers, more money) in less time. After all, isn't that what content marketing is for? Connect with me on Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest and LinkedIn.