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How to generate great content for content marketing

Scared off by that blank white page you’re supposed to fill with content again and again and again? Don’t be. Generating content ideas is easier than you think if you follow a few basic ideas and work your way up from easier to more demanding – but rewarding! – techniques.

If the idea of creating content for your content marketing efforts bring to mind pictures of a tortured artist, alone in a depressing, cold-water garret, begging the muse for inspiration, it’s time to relax a bit. Generating content isn’t like that at all. It doesn’t have to be a solitary pursuit, and there are ways to work effectively without having to write a grand opus. Let’s look at ways to generate content – and ideas for content – when you’re not Hemingway.

Intentionally blank pages at the end of a book.
Photo credit: Wikipedia

First, let’s assume you know your audience well enough to know what’s going to resonate with them: the first rule of content marketing is relevance. We discussed audience in last month’s post, which you may want to review now.

Armed with that knowledge, you can begin to aggregate content, using a variety of tools to help you track trending topics and gather links to content that’s already published and relevant. (We’ll cover those tools in a future post.)

Aggregating For Fun and Profit
For the “baby-est” of baby steps, you can simply repost links of relevant content as you find them. (Think Tweets along the lines of “Check this out: www.mylink.com” or “Cool new data shows industry growth: www.mylink.com” for example.

But with only a tiny bit more effort, you can generate much more value for your organization (in terms of the marketing part of content marketing) by adding editorial commentary to the links you’re gathering. This does two things:

  1. It provides information and context, and a reason for a reader to actually click the link.
  2. More importantly, it provides you with an opportunity to illustrate your expertise without overt selling. One post does not an expert make, but taken as a whole, a body of editorial comments with links to relevant information puts you in a very strong position.

Your audience has already granted you authority: you’ve become a guide by picking for them the valuable bits of information from the overwhelming torrent they’re faced with every day. Adding expertise strengthens that position and further burnishes your reputation. It’s an opportunity not to be ignored.

Curation
You can take this a step further by “curating” content. (I have to go on record as hating that term, but it is the term that’s most widely used, so …) By curating, we mean gathering content together into useful and relevant groups. So, a page full of links about how non-profits are using social media to engage their donors can be a great resource for development officers at non-profits and a great content marketing tool for you if your audience is those same development officers.

As with the aggregating example above, the presumed authority is part of the draw for you as a content marketer, and your role as editor and interpreter is what establishes your reputation. (At the risk of repeating myself, this only works if the information you’re gathering and recommending is relevant to your audience.)

Creation
As you gain more comfort generating content through curation and aggregation, you’re naturally going to become more comfortable with the idea of creating your own content. (Not coincidentally, as you aggregate and curate, you’ll be arming yourself with great raw material for developing original content.)

Creation original content still doesn’t bring us to that grand opus. It can be a 250 word blog-post that comments on an industry trend affecting your target audience. It can be a somewhat longer white paper. Or an eBook or the script for a seminar presentation or webinar. There’s a lot of ground you can cover before you have to worry about the muse shining her gifts on you.

Purpose and Repurpose
One last way to keep the task of content generation from becoming a burden: repurpose your content. Not everyone who reads your email newsletter will have subscribed to your blog feed. So you won’t necessarily be boring them if perhaps your monthly email newsletter consists entirely (or mostly) of “best of” blurbs from that month’s blog posts. As long as it’s relevant to the audience, it’s fair game in any media.

So stop staring at the blank white page in fear. Generating content can be done in a systematic way that has less to do with crazy notions of creativity and than with concrete ideas of relating to your audience and encouraging profitable responses to your efforts.

 

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Andrew Schulkind

Since 1996, Andrew Schulkind has asked clients one simple question: what does digital marketing success look like, and how can marketing progress be measured? A veteran content marketer, web developer, and digital strategist, Andrew founded Andigo New Media to help firms find a more strategic and productive mix of tools that genuinely support online brand goals over time. With a passion for true collaboration and meaningful consensus, his work touches social media, search-engine optimization, and email marketing, among other components. He views is primary goal as encouraging engagement. Getting an audience involved in your story requires solid information architecture, a great user experience, and compelling content. A dash of common sense doesn’t hurt, either. Andrew has presented at Social Media Week NY and WordCampNYC, among other events, on content marketing and web-development topics. His technology writing appears on the Andigo blog, in a monthly column on Biznology.com, and for print and online publications like The New York Enterprise Report, Social Media Today, and GSG Worldwide’s publications LinkedIn & Business, Facebook & Business, and Tweeting & Business. Andrew graduated with a B.A. in Philosophy from Bucknell University. He engages in a range of community volunteer work and is an avid fly fisherman and cyclist. He also loves collecting meaningless trivia. (Did you know the Lone Ranger made his mask from the cloth of his brother's vest after his brother was killed by "the bad guys?")

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