Nathan ElleringThis is a guest post by Nathan Ellering, head of content marketing for CoSchedule. He loves new ideas, strategy, and blogging. He’s based in Moorhead, MN. Say hi @njellering.

Is your biggest challenge creating awesome content people actually seek out and love?

Yeah, it’s tough. In fact, we just gathered data in the 2015 Better Blogger Survey at CoSchedule and discovered that about 16% of bloggers say this is their biggest professional challenge.

So the challenge is to find blog post ideas that you already know are going to connect with your audience. You can do that by discovering socially-inspired blog ideas, planning them in your editorial calendar, and writing to connect with your audience.

Enough babble. Here’s how to easily find the best blog ideas that will have people craving your content. 

What the heck are socially-inspired blog ideas?

There’s some new data available that suggests content marketers create way too much content that talks about themselves.

blog ideas shouldn't be company-centric (data from MarketingCharts)

That study from MarketingCharts suggests that 31% of us in the content marketing biz are creating pretty pompous content. I’m going to go ahead and say that no one wants to read that garbage.

In fact, I’d say that’s the exact opposite of socially-inspired content.

By socially-inspired content, I mean actually listening to your audience. These blog ideas are based on what your audience actually needs help with, then writing content to help them out.

To come with more and better content ideas, download our free cheat sheet with 47 suggestions!

What you’re looking for (& what you’re not)

You’re looking for questions, challenges, and problems. Your audience has these, and you can create content that becomes the go-to resource to help people overcome these obstacles.

The difference between socially-inspired blog ideas and your product’s benefits include:

  1. Content that focuses on benefits may cover the stuff your audience doesn’t care that much about.
  2. Socially-inspired content focuses more on your audience than your product because you actually know what questions, challenges, and problems they’re experiencing.
  3. With socially-inspired content, you can use your audience’s terminology to connect with them better because you actually know what words they’re using.

Figure out what questions they have. Find out what their biggest challenges are. Learn about the problems they work through every day. That’s not the features of how great your product is. That’s not the benefits of your product, either. 

How to find socially-inspired blog ideas

Blog ideas can come from anywhere. You just need to have your ear to the ground, listening for inspiration.

1. Ask your customers why they signed up

Consider taking on support for a day. OK, or maybe just look at your support email inbox for 10 minutes. There are a ton of things you can learn from your customers’ questions and comments.

At CoSchedule, when a new user signs up to use our content marketing editorial calendar, we send them a welcome email that asks them why they signed up. The responses vary, but there are always some awesome takeaways I use for content marketing.

Here are two actual examples of the information we get through support and how I would use this information to gather a few blog ideas.

Why did you sign up for CoSchedule?

I was referred to CoSchedule and I signed up hoping that it will help me post more to my social media accounts and my blog and in turn produce more traffic to my site. —Laura

  1. So this person believes in social referrals from outside sources. That’s great—I can write a post about the power of social referral that could possibly help Laura implement a program like CoSchedule’s in her own business.
  2. Laura also wants to schedule more social media messages. We have a bunch of content on this already, so we could either be helpful and provide that content back to Laura in our reply, or we can plan more of that content with a slightly different angle. Possibly the power of social referrals combined with social media?
  3. And Laura wants more traffic. That’s awesome! I could write a post about how to use a social media plan to generate more traffic to her blog.

There’s three new post ideas. Not to mention a whole slew of related content (there are probably a billion ways to increase traffic, right?).

Why did you sign up for CoSchedule?

Because I need to spend my time writing instead of scheduling. It’s that simple. Scheduling offers my readers no value. My content does.

Your product looks awesome. I’ve been reading Michael Hyatt for many years. I trust his judgement. —Don

  1. Don needs to save time. There are a ton of ways to save time, and since CoSchedule will help him save time planning, we could write a post about how to plan awesome content to save a ton of time and cover how we use post outlines at CoSchedule to stay on track and write a bit faster.
  2. Don also mentions that his content needs to provide valuable content to his readers. So another blog idea is how to write awesome content your audience will actually love.
  3. Like Laura, Don believes in the power of social referral from a trusted source. Since Michael Hyatt has a bajillion subscribers, maybe I could write a post about how to grow your audience like Michael Hyatt and reach to him for an interview.

So there’s another three blog ideas, making six total from only looking at two emails in our support inbox.

That’s a pretty good use of 10 minutes of your day to find six blog ideas two people should really love (and probably a bunch of other customers who signed up for similar reasons).

2. Check out blog post comments

A common trick many bloggers use to increase their engagement on their posts is to end with a question and ask for comments.

Instead of asking something commonplace like, “What do you think?” try something a bit more intriguing:

What is missing in this post that you use to find socially-inspired blog ideas?

Who knows, an answer could be really interesting and spur a cool blog idea.

But don’t forget to check out other related blogs’ comments. A discussion anywhere about content related to your product or service could spur some awesome ideas for your blog, too.

Here’s a real-life example of how this works

At CoSchedule, this post recently launched: How To Actually Plan Your Blog And Save A Ton Of Time.

And Ella had a great question for me:

socially-inspired blog ideas from comments

So I thought, “Um, yes. We should definitely write a post to help Ella start her blog successfully when she doesn’t have an audience yet.”

Then I thought, “Who knows a lot about audiences and listening… Shannon Byrne from Mention. She’d be awesome at writing that post.” (I really did think that!)

This is what came out of that: How To Start A Blog When You Have Absolutely No Audience.

And it’s also why I’m writing this post today.

3. Attend events with your blog idea book handy

CoSchedule Notebooks

Live blog a conference you’re at. I’ve done this from Content Marketing World as a way to just take notes for myself—I just made them public.

You could also live blog a webinar.

Take names of awesome presenters and interview them. Buy their books and write reviews. Plan posts that cover the points they missed that you would have liked to see.

But even more important than this, is listening to the questions people ask at the end of the presentations. I’ve missed doing this in the past, and I really wish I had written down every question people asked.

Every single question is a blog idea for you since even the best presenters missed something.

4. Pay attention to your social media

This is probably the one everyone thinks about first for socially-inspired blog ideas. There are a few different ways to do this:

  1. Check out what your audience is saying.
  2. Ask your audience if they’d dig a post on a certain topic before you write it.
  3. Look at your most-shared content to see what’s been most successful.
What does your audience talk about?

At CoSchedule, we recently started paying attention to Twitter Chats in our industry. Sometimes, even our company name comes up in these chats, so it’s just another reason to make sure we know what people are saying about CoSchedule in general.

We could probably learn something about our audience from the answers to this #inboundchat question:

A lot of times, people ask each other questions, give each other advice, talk through solutions to their challenges, etc. Listening to relevant Twitter Chats is an awesome way to learn about what your audience goes through on a daily basis.

Forums are also great for this same reason. People ask each other questions and provide their input on solutions.

LinkedIn Groups are similar to forums in that way, except sometimes the conversations spur from content.

All of these examples are ways you can gather blog ideas.

And, hey, is there no Twitter Chat, forum, or LinkedIn Group in your industry? Even better.

Be the first to market for your industry, do a bit of other research (from the other ways of listening), and start the conversation. It’ll probably go a little slow at first, but if you’re consistent and focus on building your audience, it’ll become an awesome resource for your customers and prospects.

Ask your audience a question

It’s called social media, right? Use it to start a conversation by asking your fans, followers, and friends a question.

If you have a blog idea you think might work, bounce it off your audience before you even write it. You can gauge if you should continue based on the engagement with your question.

Big confession here: I haven’t tried this yet, but it’s definitely on my radar. But Bryan Harris has:

5. Check out your content that’s been most successful already

You can get a ton of blog ideas from your most successful content.

Are list posts most successful? Try another one.

How about how-to posts? Try those again.

Was there a specific topic or value proposition that seemed to do really well? Why not try a different variation of that for a new blog idea?

share your best posts again on social media

CoSchedule actually has a handy and easy way to see which posts your audience has shared the most right from your calendar.

What’s the easiest way to crowdsource your blog ideas?

Listen.

You could try searching the exact question you’d like to answer to see what’s out there—and possibly even do some keyword research to find out what people are looking for.

But even better than that for validating your blog idea is to listen. At CoSchedule, we do that with Mention, and it’s been awesome.

So… here’s that question:

What’s missing in this post that you use to find socially-inspired blog ideas?

Download our free cheat sheet for 47 ways to come with ideas:

Download 47 Ways to Come Up with Better Content Ideas

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Guest Blogger @Mention

Nathan Ellering is the Content Marketing Lead at CoSchedule, the content marketing and social media editorial calendar for WordPress. He's a blogging and strategy nerd. Say hi @njellering on Twitter.