Group BrainstormingBrainstorming is probably the most well-known ideation exercise. However, most people brainstorm in the incorrect surrounding. Brainstorming should happen in a small, judgement-free group with a moderator. Each member of the group should share their thoughts around a concept, while the other should try to build off of the idea. While the actionable idea might not come right out, the discussion and banter around the topic usually brings some good stuff to the surface. Be sure to be respectful of your group members and let everyone finish their thoughts without being interrupted. Group Brainstorming is a fun way to get your team together and leverage the thoughts of everyone collectively. Here the goal is to walk away having an actionable idea for every member of the group.

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2. Thought DumpingThought dumping can be done in a few ways. If you are going to do this exercise alone, you will want to open a word processor (or take out a pad of paper if you are old school) and put the main concept you want to ideate on at the top. Then for the next minute, write down everything you can possibly think of for that topic. Don’t stop writing no matter what. This allows your brain to sift through thoughts outwardly and eventually those fragmented thoughts will come together, even if what you’re typing seems like gibberish.

If you are in a group scenario, have one member of the group talk for one solid minute about the concept you are generating ideas about while the team takes notes. When everyone has gone, discuss the notes as a group. What did you like? What didn’t you like? Anything useful? BOOM! There’s your idea!3. Content MappingContent mapping is the visual representation of how different concepts connect to an overarching theme. This is a very useful exercise when trying to come up with ideas and see how they relate to one another. Do you know that you can discover new content themes, which you never knew were connected to you and were helping you to create a swing of different ideas. And all this can be done by Content Mapping.

Let’s have a look at an example.When thinking about wine, I broke out 3 supporting concepts – varietals, food and lifestyle. From here, I thought about what goes into each of these three buckets and listed them out. Now that I have an overarching concept, content themes and content buckets, I can repeat this process until I build out an ever-growing map of different ideas. The only goal of content mapping is to constantly build out new ideas and to visualize how they all can get connected.

4. Competitor StalkingWe all have a set of competitors that we keep an eye on. Keep an eye on your competitors to see what kind of content they are creating. This by no chance means, that you should start copying them. However seeing a concept that they put into play could trigger some good thoughts at your end. How would you improve it? Do you agree with how they approached the content? Sometimes all you need is a little push and that can come from reviewing your competitors’ content!5.

Fringe Social SitesFringe social sites are a wonderful way to learn about what kind of content is being created in a more targeted way. If you stick to the bigger social sites, you must cut through a TON of static before you find anything useful. Content which is published on fringe social sites has been seen doing very well (which is for a reason). Here are a few of my favourites to turn to when I need content marketing ideas:• StumbleUpon – StumbleUpon is a discovery engine that finds and recommends web content to its users. You can select categories of interests and “Stumble” across different web pages. This is a fun way to see what’s out there!• Tumblr – Tumblr is a microblogging social network with a ton of multimedia content. Their audience skews a bit younger, however there are a lot of interesting perspectives on different topics. You never know what you might find that could trigger a great idea.

• Quora – Quora is a Q website where questions are asked, answered, edited and organized by the users of that community.This is one of the GREAT places to see what kind of questions are being asked by people about different topics. You can also take these questions and then start creating content around them, thus providing a lot of value!These small little things, can help you find innovative ways to put your content to work generating tangible business results. Keep in mind that your brain does a lot of processing in the background when you don’t even know it, so don’t get discouraged if that next great content marketing idea doesn’t pop into your head immediately.

Trust the process. It will surely come soon!