Sometimes I wish I had a fairy godmother for content ideas. How nice would it be if someone was around to relieve the stress of brainstorming by pulling brilliant ideas out of thin air?
In reality, marketers don't need magical entities to help generate content ideas. Content ideas can (and should be) driven by data.
Using data to generate content ideas is a surefire way to know what will resonate with your audience and be more likely to make your content marketing a success.
Fortunately, there are a number of tools you can use to help you determine what's working with your audience and within your industry.
Your Own Performance Data
You've probably heard the popular digital marketing phrase, "If it isn't worth measuring, it isn't worth doing." This absolutely applies to content marketing.
Measuring the performance of your specific pieces of content won't only give you insight as to what's bringing in leads, it will also tell you what specifically is and isn't working with your audience.
Consuming content is sort of like consuming food: Your audience will eat more of what they like and leave what they don't. Think of a plate of beautiful nachos. If the crowd indulging doesn't like spicy food, they'll pick off the jalapenos. If they really like guacamole, they'll be willing to pay extra for it.
Where this analogy falls flat is that your audience can't order your content off a menu and so you don't know what your audience wants... or do you??
Measuring the following will help you figure out which ideas to pursue and which to abandon.
Views: Views should be used as more of a benchmark for measuring the engagement and conversion rate of a piece of content. However, there's usually a correlation between the number of views and the success of a piece of content.
Leads/Conversions: Has your content driven or assisted any conversions? We measure this using our Hub Metrics, which measure leads through our marketing automation integrations. This is especially important for measuring bottom-of-the-funnel performance.
Time on Page: Thousands of people might view your content, but is your content really resonating if they bounce too soon? Google Analytics can help you determine if people are actually reading your content.
Comments: Tracking (and responding to) comments will not only allow you to see if your content compelled people to react, it will also help you further the conversation by seeing what types of questions people have and turning them into content opportunities.
Or, gather all these metrics and more by performing a content audit to really see how your individual pieces of content are measuring up against each other.
Once you know what works, you can create more content of the same format or similar topic to feed to your audience. According to the data, they'll eat it up.
Social Media data
Social shares are like Shakira's hips: they don't lie.
Measuring shares on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and the rest of your social platforms is a good way of knowing that people liked your content enough to redistribute it, which usually means they want more of it.
Don't just gather this information from your own content, though-also consider the performance of your curated content. Let's say you share a post from another blog that gets a lot of likes, retweets, or even sparks an interesting conversation. Don't sit on that pile of gold-turn it into a shiny new piece of content!
Track metrics on a regular basis to stay on top of topics that do well on social media. Buffer andSharedCount are great tools to help measure the performance of your individual social posts, but you can also gather post-level data from Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.
Data from popular industry topics or websites
Continuing industry conversations is a great way to insert your brand into a conversation through content. But how can you tell what's actually popular with your audience?
BuzzSumo is an awesome tool that analyzes the content that's performing well for specific topics or websites. All you have to do is type in a topic or domain, and faster than you can say Accio, you get a results page with the top content for your search.
The results page includes a breakdown of how each piece of content performed across all major social channels, which gives you an idea as to where your audience lives and what topics are resonating with them. You can also filter the content by date and type, which will help you determine how recent a topic is and which formats are doing well.
By determining the top topics in a particular subject area, you easily know what kind of content your audience is enjoying. The challenging part comes when trying to figure out how you can offer a different perspective on a particular topic.
For instance, finding out that a post called "10 Ways to Win at Content Marketing" is doing well doesn't mean that your audience is anticipating "11 Ways to Win at Content Marketing" like the eighth Harry Potter book. Approach the topic in a new and exciting way that will add value to your readers' lives and help resolve their pain points.
Data from Trends
Guys, I just signed up for this cool social network called MySpace!
...There's nothing worse than being late to a trend. Google Trends can help to identify trends for specific keywords and topics. It can also allow you to compare search terms and forecast how they'll continue to trend for the short term.
Research keywords and popular topics to ensure they're on the upswing. Chances are, if you create content that's surrounding a topic on the rise, you'll reap the rewards.
Talk to your team
Unfortunately, in many companies, teams are siloed. The content team works separately from the demand generation, sales and customer success teams. This setup isn't only lonely-it could also be killing some amazing content opportunities.
Your sales and success teams are usually the ones on the front lines, interacting with your potential customers on a daily basis and experiencing their issues and pain points first-hand. Combining your data and theirs could be the winning formula for creating content for your audience. Not talking to your team would be like burning the map that reveals the destination of the only known money tree on earth.
At Uberflip, we set aside time each week to put our sales, success and marketing teams together. When you talk to your team, ask obvious questions: "What non-product related questions do you hear on a regular basis?" or "What are the biggest pain points you hear about?"
Use their answers to create content that will fill all stages of the funnel.
Talk to your customers
Don't just interact on social or email your customers-actually talk to them. There's only so much you can gather from emails or social media interactions. Set up a call or an in-person meeting, if possible.
Why does this work? As Ann Handley writes, your content should be "useful, inspired, and pathologically empathetic to the needs of the people you are trying to reach." What better way to figure out what people want than by asking them?
Find out what they need, what they want to learn, and where they are online. And imagine the delight your customers will feel when you create an eBook dedicated to resolving a particular pain point they're experiencing-10,000 bonus points for you!
Even the best ideas are backed by some sort of data. If you're going to be investing time and resources into creating content, you should want to make sure that it's going to resonate with your audience and help you achieve your content marketing goals.
Go forth and turn your data into ideas!