How to Come Up With Compelling Content Ideas

Credit: Darius Bashar — found via Unsplash

What’s in a good content idea?

Often, it’s the alchemy of context, timing and care.

Let’s face it: our social feeds are flooded with noise. Our brains are tired. Are you tired? I’m tired. So much noise, so little time.

As marketers and brand builders, it’s our job to come up with content that respects people’s time and helps them in their everyday lives. Ideas are our greatest currency and understanding our customers is the fuel that moves us forward.

To keep things fresh, here are five exercises that help with coming up with better content ideas. Try them. See what feels best. I’m rooting for you.

Exercise #1: Spend an hour in your customer’s mind

So, you know your customer’s preferences when it comes to your products. Maybe you even know some of the things they’re currently struggling with. To create next-level content ideas, however, you need to go one step further — you need to spend an hour in their mind.

You need to think, see and read like your customers do.

Start a new Google doc and get comfy because we’re about to go on an adventure.

Your job, for one hour, is to go on the news sites, Instagram accounts and YouTube channels you can imagine your customers browsing. What trends are emerging again and again? What unanswered questions do you have? What words or topics or headlines are getting your attention?

Your content ideas need to play a part in your customer’s everyday life. Build on what they’re already engaging with in a meaningful way. Ask yourself: Why does my content deserve their time and attention?

Exercise #2: Browse Quora to spark conversation from your content

If Google creates a monologue of knowledge, Quora’s where the dialogue’s happening.

Say you’re a brand who sells organic pet food (stay with me here). Go to Quora and type in keywords that relate to what you do. (For the purpose of this exercise, let’s say it’s ‘organic pet food’. Nice and simple.) Within seconds, you’ll uncover a treasure trove of questions, comments and discussions people are having about exactly what you do. Content inspiration for days:

Google may show you what kinds of content already exists. Quora, on the other hand, shows you the kinds of topics that spark conversation. It’s that all-important conversation that’s the ultimate measure of good content: comments, shares, intrigue. Answer The Public is another tool you can use.

Exercise #3: Use the 5 Stories framework for content ideas

Every brand has a story. A smart way to find yours is to identify your
5 Stories: your Empathy, Purpose, Origin, Product and Vision stories.

The 5 Stories is a messaging framework we use on the regular at Make Us Care to give customers something to care about. It’s also ideal for content ideas and inspiration. Here’s how:

For your Origin Story, write a blog post about why you started and what you’ve learned since. For your Purpose Story, create an Instagram reel about what you stand for — and why it matters. Tired of writing your Product Story in the same-old way? Give your customers a behind-the-scenes look at how your product is made and why it’s interesting.

Every time you struggle with content ideation, go back to the 5 Stories: Empathy, Purpose, Origin, Product and Vision. It works wonders.

Exercise #4: Create community-led content from data

Your customers are your greatest source of content inspiration — your second greatest source is your data.

No matter how long you’ve been creating content, find the story in your data.

Blog post analytics, social media data, newsletter clicks… create an internal report of ‘wins’ and ‘losses’ that forms a foundation for new ways of thinking about your content.

For more imaginative thinking, review your analytics on your screen, take a pencil and quickly draft some ideas on paper. The more, the better. There’s no such thing as a bad idea backed by good data. Promise.

Exercise #5: Take your mind for a walk

Sometimes a break from your screen can be the most productive way to spend an hour.

If you’re in pursuit of content ideas, intentionally go for a wander and pay attention to what you pay attention to. Your brain is attracted to certain headlines, magazine covers or signs for the same neurological reasons your audience will be attracted to your content.

Pro tip: trashy tabloids can be a huge source of blog post ideas. TV adverts can be a masterclass in interesting social media content. Newspapers can be the ultimate mechanism for making topical content come to life. Seriously.

Inspiration often hides in unlikely places. Let it find you working and ready to create your next best content idea.

Thank you for being here. I hope you enjoyed reading this piece.

Here’s a little bit about me…

I’m the co-founder of Make Us Care — a strategic creative partner for businesses doing good in the world. I work closely with founders, leaders and marketing teams to build brands people care about. My magic sauce is a communications framework I created called the 5 Stories.

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Founder and creator of 5 Stories, a methodology I use to build brands people care about. I write about storytelling and being an entrepreneur 🙃