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Content Marketing

Published April 21st 2020

4 Tips for Finding New Content Ideas By Auditing Your Past Work

Content creators usually know a good idea when it hits. It’s often something relatable, authoritative, educational, evergreen, and emotionally provoking. It’s this kind of excitement that sustains an idea through its development and drives people to respond positively to your work.

But what happens when your team’s idea stream is running dry? How can you continue to develop brilliant content in a creative lull?

Good news! If you’ve been creating content for any reasonable amount of time, the hard work is already behind you.

I’m going to outline 4 ways you can refer back to your own work to inspire new content ideas:

  1. Remembering that what’s worked in the past will likely work again
  2. Pivoting ideas for trending news
  3. Diving into engagement metrics
  4. Referring to your audience’s opinions

Rely on “Social Proof of Concept”

Before allocating resources, money, and working hours to an idea, it would be comforting to confidently predict its success.

Of course, there are no guarantees. But at Fractl, we’ve coined the idea of “social proof of concept” to help gauge the promotional viability of a project.

This is the idea that if something (a topic, methodology, design style, etc.) has worked in the past, it will likely work again. By reusing the basic idea and execution behind a project, you can essentially recycle your own work to hopefully repeat its success.

In an example from BuzzFeed, Matthew Barby was able to land his article on the front page of the publication twice by repurposing content that was already successful. He used popular recipes online to create a listicle featuring high protein vegetarian recipes, and the content scored over 140,000 views.

Incorporate trending news

In the same vein as “social proof of concept,” you can use trending news, social media hits, and Reddit to inspire new pivots for old ideas.

It’s hard to come up with a completely new idea for every single piece of content, and that’s okay. Sometimes, you can educate and engage your audience by updating old information based on what’s trending in pop culture.

Remember in the mid-2010s when everyone was obsessed with talking about millennials and their crazy habits? Well, guess what? We have a new generation entering the workforce, disrupting social trends, voting, and messing with all the norms once again. Gen Z content is beginning to trend online, just as millennial content was a few years back.

If you created a project uncovering millennial workers in 2016, it may be interesting to compare those preferences to that of the Gen Z workforce. Do Gen Z-ers love ping pong tables and bean bag chairs as much as their predecessors? Are they saving up to buy their first home right out of college? What’s the median salary for new grads? What positions are they looking to fill when searching for a job? The questions are endless, and what’s more, people want to know the answers.

Recently, my team was interested in learning the search habits of each generation in order to optimize content for SEO and keywords. After conducting the research, we found that Gen Z searches are typically longer than those of other generations and they’re most interested in finding information on what’s “best.” Interestingly, after releasing the findings to the public, journalists picked up the story. What headline did they run with? “Younger and Wordier: How Gen Z’s Search Behavior Is Different.

A tip from me to you: it’s a good idea to capitalize on trending topics, even if it means pivoting the same research you’ve done in the past.

Metrics matter

If you’re a numbers person, the easiest way to inspire new ideas is by referring back to the hard data around past projects. Stats don’t lie.

When you’re looking for content that can be “rebooted,” look through your performance metrics to see what you can do to refresh your highest-performing content. It may be a good idea to keep a running list of the projects that were “home runs” within each vertical.

If you’re looking to increase social engagement, focus on your projects that took off on Twitter or Reddit. You can use BuzzSumo’s social media data to track and compare against competitors and schedule new posts similar to the ones that have performed well.

Conversely, if you’re chasing brand authority and trying to build an industry-targeted backlink portfolio, perform an audit of the projects that were shared on the highest number of desired publications.

When building your authority within a specific niche, your backlink targets are essential. In the case of one of our clients within the home renovation or contracting business, you may target realty-specific publications with your content. While this topic may not attract the likes of CNBC or Business Insider, it will land your content in the lap of the audience you’re looking to build.

Fractl’s Senior Creative Strategist, Corie Colliton, advises teams to “try exploring a new angle that you didn’t cover in the original. Do you have high-performing content that you could simply refresh with new data that’s been released since you initially published? Or, could you do a spin-off of one of your most popular pieces?”

Regardless of your goals, it’s essential that you keep the hard data in mind. If you have the numbers to support an idea, it can inspire endless pieces of content.

Refer to your audience

Your audience can be one of your greatest assets. The way they respond to your content and ideas can be an indicator to continue on the path you’re on or change directions dramatically.

A great place to start is on social media or in the comments of your posts. If you’ve gained coverage on a publication that facilitates comments, read through them and take note of the praise or criticism. Monitor the shares you’re receiving on social as well. Your audience may be looking for something you’re not giving them. If they desire additional information, listen!

Of course, trolls love to spread negativity throughout the web, and some criticism should be taken with a grain of salt. But if anyone in your audience doubts your methodology or results, this is something you can build on.

If you’re making bold claims with your content, make sure your sources and methods are airtight. People will begin to have doubts about your brand and authority if your methodology isn’t sound. Furthermore, if a journalist or publication notices controversial conversation about your research, they may be less inclined to work with your brand in the future.

Referring to comments and incorporating public feedback in your ideation process can improve your work by leaps and bounds.

Final thoughts

Take comfort in knowing that if you’ve produced a winning project in the past, it can be done again.

If inspiration is the problem, not to worry. You can rely on past creative projects to develop new, potentially successful ideas. It isn’t uncommon to hit a roadblock, and not all endeavors will be fruitful. But taking these tips into consideration the next time you have a lapse in imagination could lead to your next big content feat.

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