Be On Alert for Better Idea Generation

The Idea Generation Course continues with this lesson which is all about being on alert in order to get better at content generation.

You already have the proper sets of tools, right?

By now, you should have an Editorial Calendar that you are using, as well as Trello Boards on which you can place ideas that you generate.

You should also have a way of filtering which ideas are worth turning into content that you’ll share with your audience.

Oh, and you also learned a few productivity tips to help you out in dealing with all the new ideas and key activities you have to perform in order to generate more AND better ideas.

Keeping up with the News in Your Industry

In order to generate more ideas you, as a content writer, have to read a lot. Well, that’s great, but it can also wear you out real fast.

You’ve probably noticed that when you first started creating content for your WordPress site it was simple to come up with brand new ideas and things you wanted to share with the world, so idea generation wasn’t a real issue for you.

Back then, it was so simple for you to tell stories because you basically had a huge amount of stories inside of you just waiting to burst out and see the light of a WordPress blog page. Great times!

Then, as time went by, and your scheduled articles got published, you realized that it was starting to get harder and harder to keep up with everything that you needed to get done in order to take your site to the next level.

So it became even harder to keep up with creating new content for your website.

Now let’s say that you did manage to perfectly do all that (even though we both know it hasn’t been a walk in the park).

Even if you somehow managed to juggle with everything and keep all your balls in the air, even if you’ve managed to keep your readers happy and satisfied with brand new content, there’s one thing still missing: getting a much-needed break.

So that you can refresh your brain and revamp your ideas.

Burnout is a real thing, and it applies to the process of generating new ideas as well. That’s why you need Refreshments.

Feeding Your Intellect

If you keep giving and never getting anything back into your brain, you will become drained.

Yes, this is the main reason behind the course I’m teaching you right now. Idea Generation will help with this refreshment part. But you need more than just Headlines and general ideas.

When you keep losing track of all that’s new in your field, you won’t just get a drained brain, you’ll also have a hard time getting back in the game.

So you end up jeopardizing your whole content writing activity by not keeping up with the news and feeding your intellect with the latest things happening in your world and your readers’ world.

Be on Alert for Better Idea Generation! More like, Google Alert really

I’ve got some great news for you. In this lesson, you will find some really cool ways to help you stay on top of all that’s new in your industry.

For today, you’ll learn about Google News and how to set it all up to work awesome for your idea generation process.

 

1) How Will This Help?

By setting up Google Alerts on certain topics that you usually cover regarding your industry, you will get daily (or weekly) alerts regarding the best things that have been written about that topic and ended up being crawled by Google.

What’s important here is that all the stuff you’ll be getting is current, so it will spare you of having to manually research what’s been written lately. Google Alerts will do that for you.

What I’m teaching you right now is an efficient method of reducing the time you spend coming up with new content ideas. It’s always important to find new ways to reduce the production time so that you don’t get overwhelmed.

2) Setting up your own Google Alerts to feed your intellect.

  •  Go to google.com
  • Make sure you’re logged in with your Google Account
  • Type in google.com: “Google Alerts”
  • Click on the result from google.com/alerts

 

In the text field just below “Monitor the web for interesting new content,” you will type in one of the topics that you generally write about.

Let’s say you usually write about “cooking recipes for dinner”. Type that topic into the text field (as shown below).

If you go to Show Options, you’ll see some cool settings that you can apply. They can help you decide how you want the alerts to be sent to you.

The last step is to click on Create Alert.

You’re all done. You’ve just set up your first ever Google Alert.

3) Now set up alerts for all the other special topics that you cover.

The more precise the topic, the better and more targeted results you will get (and also more relevant articles will be made available for your reading).

Next lesson: more ideas on how to keep up with the news and the latest posts from your industry

Hope you enjoyed this lesson and all the tips within.

You’ll get some more great tips in the next lesson on how to rock your idea generation and forget about ever feeling drained and helpless in the face of new content that you have to create.

Creating an Infrastructure for Idea Generation Part 2

Welcome to the second part of creating an infrastructure for Idea Generation.

In the first part (lesson 1), we went through the reasons why this is important and how it can help you manage all the ideas that you will be generating from now on.

Remember: it’s more than a way to manage your ideas, it’s a way to create more from just one idea and it’s an infrastructure that will help you gain more from any one idea.

Okay then, let’s begin with this second part of the lesson.

Stephen King once said that a good writer is a person who reads a lot. Writers need to read a lot more than other people, because it’s what gets their “juice” flowing and helps them generate more and also BETTER content.

An important ingredient of idea generation is getting inspired by ideas that you read about, by story angles you never thought of before. That’s why the following part of this lesson is extremely important.

3) Building an Inspiration-Driving Mechanism to Sustain Idea Generation

You may feel like you do not have time to read a lot. Well, no problem there, because there is an amazing thing called YouTube, where you can watch and listen to a lot of inspiring videos.

Find what inspires you.

In your case, it can be something as small as a walk in the park, or perhaps a good book. Your source of inspiration might even be a modern-arts magazine. Whatever, you name it.

But it’s important to start identifying those things which get you inspired. Start Today! Find one thing that inspires you. Write it down on a sticky note.

Tomorrow, you’ll have to find a new thing that inspires you.

What you should try to get to is having 3 or 5 things that inspire you.

Remember, this is the perfect chance to start being inspired more often, which in turn will make you feel better about your day and generate some nice income.

Here’s an example to help you out:

I personally feel inspired when watching and listening to smart people I admire talk about interesting stuff. That’s why I try to find cool talks on UpWorthy.com, or TED or YouTube.

I also feel inspired when browsing retro game design magazines.

Something about them just makes me want to create stuff that’s different, weird and quite uncommon.

What else? Oh yes, there’s also archery. Whenever I go out shooting arrows, I just come back a lot more inspired and ready for new challenges with idea generation.

Turn it into a well-defined Process

After you manage to identify the things that inspire you, you can start building a well-defined process for getting inspired more often.

You can do it the boring way, and just make a plan for yourself to engage in those activities that inspire you every day, for at least 15 minutes or 45 minutes.

Or, you can do it the gamified way, and start building a small game for yourself, that rewards you points according to each activity.

By the end of each week, you will win if you have an established number of points.

Example: let’s assume that you’ve identified that you are inspired by TED talks and interior design images from Pinterest.

A TED talk is somewhere at about 20 minutes of video. Assign +20 points if you watch a TED talk.

It’s much easier to just browse the interior design sections of Pinterest. SO let’s make it interesting:

For each like you give to any picture: +5 Points

For each picture that you collect (re-pin to a relevant board): +10 points.

At the end of the week, you will want to have: +240 points. That means you’ve managed to engage in inspiring activities. Otherwise, it means that you did not try enough to be inspired during that week.

I know it sounds like a silly little game, but if you start being persistent about it, you’ll soon get to observe amazing results.

Rinse and Repeat

What I showed you above with the points is just an example I thought of.

You should identify your own activities and then assign points to them based on various criteria.

It could be related to how hard it is to do it;  how much impact does it have on your inspiration; or how long it takes to complete the task.

The purpose of the game is to create habits, which means you’ll keep doing these things week after week.

If you want to make it even better, you can re-adjust the points you need to make at the end of one week, so that there will be a sense of progression. Either way, it’s a great thing to try out for at least 3 weeks.

What should you see 3 weeks after doing this?

After three weeks you should start seeing an improvement in the way you write, in the information you present in your articles, and in the new way you think about writing.

You’ll also begin to realize that this is a fun-to-do activity that gets you inspired and pushes you to do things that you like anyway.

All of this will help to make idea generation become a daily routine. Of course, you’ll also feel more inspired, on a personal level. Two great wins for you! :-)

4) Making Your Content Repeatable, Predictable

One of the most important things to learn when creating a lot of content and trying to constantly come up with many new ideas is to have a clear structure. A structure that allows you to just change a few things, related to a fixed point. Okay, that was awfully abstract.

You can think of creating repeatable events. Here are two examples:


1) On Thursdays, you can have a “VIDEO Content Thursday”, and you’ll know that for each Thursday from now on you’ll start showing video content on your WordPress site’s blog, on your social profiles.


2) On Saturdays, you can have an: “Interview Discovery Saturday”, where you find interviews on the web with interesting individuals from your industry.


You become the scout for such interviews and announce them to your audience. Simple curation task, for which your audience will love spending Saturdays on your site.

Repeatable:

You can see that Thursdays and Saturdays will now be planned out, at least by 50%.

WHY?

Because you no longer have to think about what you will post in those days.

You already have a structure.  You don’t have to spend time searching for a new topic. You only have to find content that fits that structure you started. Which is about 50% of the work you used to employ before starting to make your content repeatable.

In the long run, this will help you a lot with saving time. Especially because by constantly searching for stuff that fits into what you’ve defined for your days, you’ll get better at finding sources from which you can come up with that kind of content.

Reducing your time like this will help you stay sane and will provide a huge boost for your idea generation process, week by week.

Predictable:

Is it good to have predictable things?

Think of this: Is it good for you to know that Wednesday at 8 PM, each week, they play your favorite TV Show? (it’s an example)

The answer is Yes. Us humans love to know what’s going to happen, and not have to always be surprised by un-wanted, un-predictable changes.

Your audience will love it if you start having such events, as I mentioned above because they’ll get the feeling that if they go to your site on a Saturday, they can find a new interesting interview that you found for them. Which is perfect for them!

Try this as soon as possible. 

There’s no point in delaying this. If you already started using the editorial calendar, you can already establish some times in that calendar in which you will post certain kinds of content on certain days.

Using Trello to make your new ideas RICH

Brace yourself for this will get visual :-) (yup, lots of screenshots, to prove my point)

Trello.com is free to use, and it’s one of my favorite online tools that was ever built.

In the following part of this lesson, I will show you many screenshots of how you can use Trello to organize the ideas for your content.

While taking this class, you’ll do a lot of idea generation, so you’ll get a lot of new ideas.

It will be great to have a way to capture each idea somewhere, add content to it, videos, pictures, infographics, places where you can promote the piece of content after you publish it, etc.

This way, you’ll make a RICH infrastructure to hold each of your ideas, and it will become a piece of cake for you to stay organized and break apart each of your ideas.

Enough talk! Let’s see the pictures :-)

We’ve published a really long article, about characters in inbound marketing. Here’s an example that will show you how we used Trello to implement that idea into a media-rich article.

As you can see, we have an entire section dedicated to Promotion.

We also have a section where we document the videos and visual assets that we want to include (and the necessary planning for acquiring those assets).

Using Trello, you can attach files from your computer, which makes it easier to keep everything related to an article idea in one place.

As you can see below, we’ve attached an image of our mascot that we could use in the article.

After attaching the image, we made sure to update the Trello Card so that we can easily keep track of the progress we made.

You can create a separate column on Trello where you’ll place your ideas for Content that you want to create.

This was just an example of how you can use Trello to organize your ideas for new content.

As I said, the purpose of the Infrastructure is to help you capture new ideas that you’ll come up with and make the most out of them, so that NO new idea will go to waste.

Mooc-Style Content

Here’s to the MOOCs, for they have taught us well.

What is a MOOC?

Massive Open Online Course.

They are amazing classes held by some top-notch universities and open to the world wide web, which is awesome, because you can learn about amazing topics, such as:

  • writing,
  • finance,
  • gamification,
  • business strategy,
  • and more.

Where can you find great MOOCs?

You can find them on Coursera.org and other sites. MIT and Stanford have MOOCs on their own sites as well. There’s also AcademicEarth.org, Udacity.com, Udemy.com

What do they teach us, besides their obvious teachings?

Other than the obvious subject of the course you choose to study, they teach us that we, as content writers, can actually group our article in more mini-articles.

You’ll see that they have modules. Each module has smaller video lessons of about 3 to 20 minutes. That’s an awesome insight.

Because we can apply the same thing to the content marketing that we do. Here’s how:

Hacking content marketing, Mooc-Style.

If you write a 2000-words article, you can do two things with it:


1) publish it like that, as a long-form article, because it will help your SEO, but the downside is that it will probably not be read in full by a good chunk of your audience.


2) publish it in 400-word articles, because it will help you generate about 10 new articles for your site. I know, right? A whole lot of new articles, instead of just one.

Look, it all depends on your strategy. If you want to focus on SEO, you need to publish long-form content. But if you want to make sure your audience won’t get overwhelmed, you can also alternate it with shorter articles.

But just think of the possibility of adopting this Mooc-style content creation. You make one big article, then break it down into shorter articles.

Make it: “Part 1”, “Part 2”, and so on.

That way:

– you won’t bomb your audience with articles that are too huge;

– there will be continuity;

– you’ll have more updates on your site;

– less time you have to spend with idea generation because you turn ONE idea into several new articles.

End of Lesson 2

Wow, there was a lot of stuff in this lesson. I hope you’ll find it useful and start applying some of these teachings right away.

 

 

How Creating an Infrastructure for Idea Generation Makes You Harvest More Ideas

There are 6 main areas that you need to look at when you study the success of your WordPress site and 4 of those are heavily impacted by your idea generation skills!

And I’m not talking about being able to generate great ideas once, because that won’t cut it.

Idea generation is something that must happen constantly. As a blog owner, you will have to keep on providing great articles for your readers. So, it’s best to have some serious planning in place for all the new content that you will write in the next month. Maybe even in the next few months.

What I was referring to earlier, when I talked about the 6 main areas of your WordPress sites was:

  • Blogging,
  • Traffic,
  • Social Media,
  • SEO,
  • Links,
  • Authority.

Your ability to come up with fresh ideas for the new content that you will publish will affect 4 of those main areas. Yes, four main areas, out of six. Now that’s a lot, which means that idea generation as a subject deserves a lot of credit, wouldn’t you agree?

Blogging is affected by idea generation because, without it, you won’t be able to update your blog, and readers will think something bad might have happened there. This will probably reduce their engagement with your products, as they will slowly feel disconnected.

Social Media: you’ll need new ideas in order to keep your audiences across social media happy and waiting for more.

SEO is of course impacted by your ability to come up with new content. An updated site will always (90% of the times, really) out-perform the sites that aren’t constantly updated. Especially true if you optimize your content both for search and for Humans.

Links to your site: yup, even this is a place where idea generation comes in handy, because if you come up with new ideas that are cool, you may just hit some lucky spots and get other marketers to link to your articles because they are interested in what you’ve got to say.

What we’ll be doing in this first lesson is to try to build an infrastructure for idea generation.

You can start building something in this sense right away. The best part is that as you go along, you can find new ways to adapt the infrastructure to your personal business and to the way you create content.

Why would you need an infrastructure for generating new ideas for content marketing?

In the next few lessons, we will go through a lot of idea generation techniques, PRO tips, and some edgy advice that will make you write an amazing amount of new ideas for fresh content.

You’ll want to make sure that any idea you generate can be integrated into your general content strategy. That’s why it’s very important to have a clear, planned way of gathering and organizing all of these ideas.

The important thing is to start. Right now. So let’s begin:

Here’s what you will need for building up your own idea generation infrastructure.

1) An Editorial Calendar.

What is an editorial calendar?

An editorial calendar is a great tool that helps you keep track of all the content that you (and maybe also your other content writers, if you have more) plan to post on your blogs, WordPress sites, YouTube channel, etc.

Of course, its base function is to help you prepare content for your main WordPress site, which is what we’ll focus on in this lesson.

What does an Editorial Calendar look like?

To see an example, Copy/Paste the link below in a new Tab:

docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1WUOAwB5Wh5YJsH3Sd1z05lQkKFmSAwfUXsYPd2smatU/edit#gid=0

According to your needs, you may want to change some of the columns in the near future.

Following, are some screenshots of how an editorial calendar looks like at Squirrly.

 

Build your own calendar. Use Google Drive

The best idea is to build your Editorial Calendar on Google Drive. Take the example that I linked to before and copy all the information to a new spreadsheet built with Google Drive.

Here is the link again:

docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1WUOAwB5Wh5YJsH3Sd1z05lQkKFmSAwfUXsYPd2smatU/edit#gid=0

Great!

Once you’ve created your Editorial and you’re always able to easily access it from the web browser, make sure you Bookmark it. If you’re using Chrome, you can place the bookmark in the top bar of the browser, so that you can always click it.

Here’s an example of how my Chrome looks like. You can see that I’ve made a folder called “Content Marketing” that I use for content marketing activities.

It’s very important to keep the editorial calendar within easy reach because it will help you capture some very important ideas in it.

As soon as you get an idea, click on the spreadsheet and instantly write it down. It’s automatically saved in the spreadsheet. B-A-M! No more idea losses. Ever.

Collecting the ideas that you will keep generating after having gone through this whole course will be very important.

This was all about the editorial calendar.

Now let’s move on with the lesson.

2) The MIX of Media Types

How can you harvest more ideas and also create more kinds of engaging content for your audience?

Well, let us ask this question differently.

How can we make One idea turn into Two ideas? How does that sound? Make 1 a 2 :-)

The answer is simple: multiply your idea by new content type.

Make it a habit that every time you come across a new idea, you try and turn it into at least 2 separate things. You can then connect those multiple mediums.

Divide and Conquer made different.

Most likely, your audience doesn’t just follow your activity on your WordPress site. You may also have a YouTube account, a Pinterest account, a SlideShare account.

You’ll use this course to generate a lot of ideas, but let’s say that you’re getting an idea. Right now. Right at this very moment.

You go and write it down in your editorial calendar. That’s great!

But what should you do now that you’ve documented your idea? Should you just begin writing about that, or should you do a bit more with that very SAME idea?

Divide it. And conquer your audience on two different channels.

You can make a YouTube video first. Awesome!

Now you’ll go ahead and also make a blog post with that same idea. In which, you will also include the video. See? A media mix on your WordPress site: both blog and Video!

Some people will prefer to watch a quick video or read some slides from Slideshare, others will just go ahead and read the whole article. Using this divide and conquer approach, you’ll be able to satisfy the expectations and needs of all these different types of audiences.

Practice makes perfect.

Go ahead and begin thinking about all of your ideas like this. From now on, each new idea that you’ll have should be passed through the filter of: “can I also make some slides to support this article? A video? An infographic? An eBook? A downloadable file?”

In Lesson 2, we’ll continue to build on the ideas presented in Lesson 1, and provide even more insight into how you can build an efficient idea generation process.

Until then, work on your editorial calendar and have it prepared.

In the second part of this module, we’ll cover:

building an inspiration-driving mechanism to help idea generation become a daily routine;

creating a list of go-to content formats and ideas that you can use repeatedly (this will provide a lot of value for you because it will lower the time you require to come up with new stuff and make your editorial calendar become even more useful)

using Trello to make your new ideas Rich and easier to turn into different media types;

Mooc-Style content, for creating more with the same idea.