Attention spans are the new currency of the Internet. As a content creator, your effectiveness depends on how useful and valuable your assets are. But content ideation can be a challenge—choosing a topic that interests your audience is no small feat. With all the information that already exists, how do you develop resources that stand out and bring something new to the table? The answer to this question can be a challenge, especially if you’re in an office or have minimal contact with your anticipated readers.

One way to overcome this challenge is to put yourself in the shoes of your target audience. Learn how to see the world through their perspectives. There are a few simple processes that your team can set up to create content that your market cares about reading.

Here are a few steps that you can follow in your research:

1. Audit Blogs in Your Industry

Create a list of blogs in your industry that your audience is likely to read. Keep a close eye on this content across social media channels. Read these blogs daily.

As you build up this qualitative research practice, you’ll gain an understanding of trending discussion topics and audience responses. Others’ content is a testbed for you to develop your own.

As you audit these blogs, pay attention to the following:

Questions for content ideation

Social media discussions, in particular, will be valuable for surfacing trending discussion topics.

With the information that you gather, figure out gaps your company can bridge. As a goal, aim to bring a new angle to an established topic. Having a distinct perspective—and personality—will help you introduce a new vantage point. Always aim to introduce something new to your industry.

2. Connect with Readers on LinkedIn

When you’re in the midst of content ideation and development, you’re likely relying on analytics to guide your judgment call. Your go-to data sources may include a mix of Google Analytics, additional web analytics solutions, social media data, a content marketing platform, and a customer relationship management (CRM) system. While this aggregate-level data is valuable in uncovering trends, it won’t give you enough detail to answer a simple question: What is it, exactly, that readers find valuable about your content?

To explore this question, turn to LinkedIn. By connecting with individuals who are likely to be reading your content, you can learn more about their personalities and interests. Which discussion topics are they following? Do they chime into conversations? What types of content are they writing and sharing? Why?

In statistics, researchers often compare individual, person-level data to high-level trends. This perspective surfaces granular information that would be difficult to capture at a high-level. If you build enough of a rapport with your connections, consider reaching out. Ask a question: “What kind of content do you enjoy reading and why?”

3. Use Google Search Tools

As the world’s most visible and far-reaching search engine, Google has access to a wealth of data to help your content ideation. Through tools, the company makes it possible to research your customers’ interests.

There are three tools you’ll find valuable as part of your workflows:

  • Google Keyword Planner: Designed for pay-per-click advertising campaigns, this tool can help you research keywords to incorporate into your content. Google maintains data on search queries, and this tool makes it possible to see what audiences have on their minds—even if you don’t plan to run a PPC campaign. The data can help you craft articles in a way that they generate more organic reach.
  • Google Reach Planner: If you’re thinking of creating video content, use this tool to research what’s popular on YouTube. You can optimize your titles and descriptions to reach the widest possible audience of searchers.
  • Google Trends: As a content creator or marketer, your stories will have more impact when they tap into existing dialogue. Especially if you’re running content programs for a consumer-facing company, it will be important to understand what conversations are happening already, organically. Your brand can introduce a new perspective to a trending topic.

Search engines are powerful platforms. While it’s impossible to predict the exact search queries that lead people to your website, it’s valuable to cast your net wide. Make it easy for people to find your website by contributing valuable information. Search engine optimization can make the reach of your content infinite.

4. Follow News, Laws, and Legislation

What changes are happening in your industry? Are there new laws being passed? Especially if you’re in a changing industry, it will be valuable for your company to take on the role of educator.

As an example, take a look at Eversheds Sutherlands, a global law firm that works with business clients that do business in the United Kingdom. The firm has created a content hub covering the many moving, rapidly-changing parts of Brexit. The firm publishes new information regularly, as soon as new legislation passes. This approach to content differentiates Eversheds Sutherlands from other law firms which may be conducting this research privately.

As another example, take a look at Dun & Bradstreet’s Perspectives Blog. The company pays close attention to technology-related changes in several of its key markets: finance, telecommunications, and government. The goal is to connect audiences with behind-the-scenes information, to illuminate the value of D&B’s expertise. Over time, customers consistently rely on Dun & Bradstreet for information.

5. Talk to Your Customer Success Team

Questions, points of confusion, and/or conversations that stem from real life customers are an incredible source for content ideation. Let’s say your company creates personal finance software, as an example. Your customers may have questions related to their investment performance or trends in the market.

Work with your customer success teammates to maintain a list of these questions. Keep track of which tend to come up most often—or ones that spark the strongest emotional responses. Pay attention to how your customer success teammates answer these questions. These are starting points for developing blog topics, eBooks, webinars, and other types of content.

Final Thoughts on Content Ideation

The best way to differentiate your content—and to build an audience—is to keep a close ear to the ground.

For content to have value, it needs to be functional. Are you looking to educate your audiences? Or are you looking to tell them a captivating story? Always have a goal, and take a multifaceted approach to exploration.

When you put yourself out there, you expand your worldview beyond what you see in your day-to-day. Understand what your readers care about, so you can always be the most valuable and trusted source of information possible.

Ready to streamline your content operation, and go from chaos to calm? Get this guide.

Ritika Puri

About Ritika Puri

Ritika Puri is an entrepreneur who founded Storyhackers, a company that helps business create impactful and inspiring content programs. She enjoys writing about data, teaching others things that she’s learning, and helping other business owners succeed. In past lives, she built enterprise analytics programs and created revenue streams for an ad tech company. She is also an advisor to a mobile app startup, Sortly.