1. Group Brainstorming
Brainstorming 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.
2. Thought Dumping
Thought 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 Mapping
Content 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 Stalking
We 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 Sites
Fringe 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!