The trend toward using the web to grow your business continues. Email keeps growing exponentially, with trillions sent every year, Facebook went from university students only in 2004 to more than a billion users eight years later. Pinterest became one of the fastest-growing social networks ever, and billions of videos are streamed on YouTube each day.
But the most alarming stat that is the number of blogs created only to be abandoned in favor of Facebook, Tumblr, Twitter, or the newest shiny toy.
This is a very bad idea!
It’s not easy to have consistently fresh content that people want to read and share and shout from the rooftops. That’s why a content development process is essential.
1. Subscribe to SmartBrief.
The SmartBrief newsletters aggregate content every day (at least 10 articles) around one topic, such as entrepreneurship, leadership, or social media, that is applicable to something you care about.
2. Subscribe to Talkwalker Alerts.
A replacement to Google Alerts, Talkwalker Alerts are even better, provide more relevant results, and are free. This will give you plenty of really good story ideas just from scanning those every day.
3. Read the comments.
If you have an active community on your blog or on one of the social networks, read the comments! You will get story ideas just from what people say—things you hadn’t yet considered or different perspectives. If no one is commenting on the content you create, read the comments on other blogs within the industry. Read Twitter streams. Read the comments on Facebook updates. Read the comments in Google+.
4. Pay attention to current events.
There is almost always something happening in the news that you can comment on for your industry. You can think about how Livestrong is pulling away from its founder and what that means for other nonprofit organizations. Or it could be how Yahoo! is requiring employees to work in an office and what that means for human resources or culture or leadership. When you begin to read, watch, or listen to current events, you’ll find ways to relate it back to your expertise. The more you do it, the more natural it becomes.
5. Go through your sent mail.
This is a tip from Andy Crestodina, the co-founder of web development firm, Orbit Media. He suggests you go through your sent mail to see what types of things you’ve sent to customers, prospects, and vendors that could be used for content. Most of us write emails to explain a sales process, a feature or benefit, or our thinking. Use those emails to publish non-proprietary information online.
Now let’s say you’ve done all that and you’re still coming up empty. Or you’re sitting with your team, figuring out what your content is going to look like for the next 30 days. Below are 20 things you can include that people will not only read but share.
6. The Trends Manifesto.
You’ll find this happening in the blogosphere every year. It begins in October and runs through January. It’ll either be the trends you are expecting to hit your industry in the next year or the three words people will use to drive their success. The trends manifesto provides you with an opportunity to shine as a leader in your industry. The three words, on the other hand, give people a sneak peak into you as a person and as a leader.
7. The Pop Culture Tie-in.
Lots of really successful content creators take something that is happening with the Kardashians, or Dancing with the Stars, or the latest reality show and provide lessons related to their field.
8. The Debate.
We often disagree with other voices on the web, but we don’t feel “safe” to voice our differing opinions. That’s why you often hear things such as, “echo chamber” and “yes men” when bloggers are discussed. Paul Sutton, a communications professional in the United Kingdom, creates the opportunity for debate a couple of times each year. He takes one side of an issue and another blogger takes the other. They debate it and create a poll to let readers decide who wins. Giving people an opportunity to see two sides of something works incredibly well.
9. The Good.
While people love good train wrecks, we also want to know how companies in our industry are doing things well. Interview organizations in your industry and highlight the good things they’re doing through your content.
10. The Bad.
It’s no surprise the bad case studies are shared over and over and over again. When Chick-fil-A had their train wreck of an issue because their CEO came out against the gay and lesbian community, the best content was about why politics and religion in business are a bad idea and not about how the author felt personally about the company’s leadership or the issues being dissected.
11. The Ugly.
If you can figure out how to write about an industry train wreck without attacking a person, it’s going to be pretty popular. Ragan does a nice job of this quite often by using terms such as “most hated” in a headline. It grabs attention and makes people want to read and share.
12. The Lists.
People love lists. We have so much information coming at us these days, and lists make it easier to scan and read quickly. If you integrate lists into your content, you’ll find it’s easily some of the most shared on your site.
Give stuff away! It might be a book a friend has written, a collection of free eBooks available from other bloggers, or your own eBook. Doing this helps you begin to qualify prospects.
14. Ranked Lists.
The organization Run, Walk, Ride puts together a list of the charities that raise the most money every year. They highlight the ones you’d expect, but also show how well some of the up-and-comers are doing. In 2013, they added an easily shared infographic for bloggers and journalists. It’s a win because they’re highlighting their peers (and competitors) and driving significant top-of-the-funnel traffic to their site.
15. Something of the Year.
Just like People produces its “sexiest man alive” issue, you can do the same for your niche. It may be an app of the month or a productivity tool.
16. Book Reviews.
If a book is a must-read in your industry, doing something as simple as summing up the key points or doing a review can easily give you 500–700 words.
17. The Rant.
A rant can get people riled up about something and give them something to rally behind.
Interviews work well because you’re giving people access to someone they wouldn’t otherwise meet. It may be the big keynote speaker at your industry’s annual conference, or someone you respect or admire for the movement they’re making. This works with audio, video, and written text.
19. Question of the Week.
Let people ask you a question they don’t know the answer to, can’t find on the web, or are simply too lazy to do the research on their own.
When the Internet and social media didn’t exist, we had to rely solely on our education and experience. Now you can make comparisons as to how business today and 10, 20, or 30 years ago. Show your audience the similarities, or differences, and suggest strategies to capitalize on them.
21. The Parable.
Tell a story to make a point in a post. It may be a difficult but incredibly interesting post to write. The Paris Review does a great job with this when they interview authors. It only comes out quarterly so it’s worth your time investment to subscribe and read. Their writers will teach you how to tell a parable in a business setting.
22. The Latest Trends.
While the latest trends may feel overdone, your audience is unique. They may not have seen what’s happening in your industry and count on you to tell them.
23. The Sales Questions.
Sit down with your sales team (or just yourself if you’re the rainmaker) and ask what kinds of questions come up in meetings with prospects. That may include pricing, delivery, referrals, and point of differentiation. Create content around these things because if something is coming up in sales meetings people are searching for it too. Be found for those questions.
24. Roundup of Voices.
There are some bloggers who do this very well. They’ll ask the same question of five industry experts and create content around their answers. For Valentine’s Day one year, Hubspot asked experts why businesses should create marketing that people love and want to share. They created a short ebook that included the quotes and fun images and let people download it for free.
25. The Smarty Pants.
Ike Pigott, a spokesman for Alabama Power, wrote, “Eleven Words Guaranteed to Generate Killer Search Engine Traffic and Clicks.” When you go to the page, all you find are those 11 words. His point? People are dying for the big secret on how to game the system. It’s a get-rich-quick scheme, and it works for Ike in this instance because the other content he offers is extremely intelligent and very valuable. You can’t get away with this a lot, but adding in some humor to prove a point can work occasionally.