The blank page is a writer’s worst enemy. When blog post ideas are lacking, being confronted with an empty text document and a looming deadline increases the level of stress, which is completely counterproductive. We do everything in our power to escape the blank page during a writer’s block, and that often means aimlessly browsing your social feeds instead of writing.
But social media doesn’t have to be an escape route from work, which inevitably has to get done. You can turn this method of distraction into a source of inspiration—if you know where to look. Drawing inspiration from collective knowledge, relevant discussions, and other writers’ work can help you turn that empty doc into a canvas for a future masterpiece. Here are just a few social media wells we use to inspire our blog post ideas.
6 social media sources of inspiration for blog post ideas
Follow the right hashtags
Creative writers are probably familiar with this social media inspiration hack—many wordsmiths use hashtags such as #amwriting and #writingprompts to get help with their craft. Depending on your area of focus, your list of inspiration hashtags will be different, but the way to track them is the same across the board. If you’re using a social media management platform, you can set up a separate Inspiration tab with streams that monitor hashtags or keywords you’ve chosen.
You can also use hashtag-tracking tools such as Keyhole or Tagboard to sort social media message results by recent or most popular, as well as get suggestions for related hashtags. Whatever tools you use, test out what kind of hashtags bring you the most results.
For example, a general hashtag such as #socialmedia may not give me the kind of inspiration I’m looking for, but something like #socialmediamarketing will zero in on content that will be more useful for blog post ideas. My latest #socialmediamarketing hashtag search on Tagboard showed me a Facebook post with a Pinterest optimization fact.
If I was looking for blog post ideas, I could use this interesting stat to write about the strategies of using Pinterest for business. Or I can use it to aid further research, for example, by cross-referencing the numbers with other sources, such as this infographic that showed up when I plugged the numbers into Google. Whether it’s research or inspiration you’re after, monitoring hashtags will surely come in handy.
Subscribe to newsletters
There’s nothing quite like getting inspiration in one click of a button, and reading summaries of interesting stories from different fields does just that. Most of your favorite blogs or news outlets will have an option to receive a regular roundup of their best stories. Receiving these summaries accomplishes several tasks simultaneously: it helps you keep track of your competition, if these blogs discuss the same topics as you do; it keeps you updated on the latest stories in the field; and it can inspire you to write a blog post from a different angle.
For example, I subscribe to a number of editorial newsletters from tech and marketing news publications to stay in the know about everything that happens in the world of social media—in case there’s a Tweet or a trending topic I missed on my social channels.
If you’re worried about email overload, create a separate folder to store all the newsletters and read them at a convenient time. For best results, try to check them at least once a week, or whenever you need that extra bit of inspiration.
Make friends with inspiring writers
A few months ago, I’ve seen this quote image circulate my social feeds:
Its popularity reflects how common the sentiment is: we all want to be surrounded by inspiring individuals. What’s true in real life also translates into your online community, which is why it’s important to constantly curate who you’re following. If people you follow generally tend to fall into distinct categories, a helpful practice is sorting their accounts into Twitter lists. For example, I tend to follow data journalists and tech reporters, as well as bloggers who share my interests—I can sort their accounts into public or private lists, and browse through those users’ latest social messaging to come up with blog post ideas.
Twitter lists work as a source of inspiration in two different ways. First, as I previously discussed, they help you aggregate social content by category. Knowing what Twitter lists you belong to, however, also helps you determine the general topics for your blog posts or articles—seeing what lists others have included your account in can set an expectation for delivering a certain kind of content. You certainly don’t have to limit your blog post ideas to the subject of the Twitter list, but it helps to know that writing on a certain topic will guarantee an audience.
See what’s trending
Since our minds and computer mice tend to wander during writer’s block, we can harness this desire to see if any of the currently trending topics can be made into a solid blog post idea. There’s content of a certain level of virality that doesn’t take much to transform into an article, such as #TheDress, or Groupon’s notorious Banana Bunker. Not all trending topics are as immediately obvious, however. That’s why it helps to use tools such as Google Trends and Trendsmap to see what other users and media outlets are talking about.
Culture-jacking is easier when everyone is typing the same keywords into Google, but the best results come from tapping into a trend before others get to it. After a while, you will be able to spot the content that will resonate with your audience. For example, in October, we wrote an explainer post about Google Primer, an app that was released earlier that week. It fit our audience perfectly: we talked about online marketing, startups, apps and Google. Since we were one of the first publications to talk about it, the blog post received a lot of views in its first week.
Ask your followers
If you have branded your social accounts correctly, the vast majority of your followers will expect you to deliver a certain kind of content. So why not ask them what kind of blogs they would like to read? Sometimes, we get so caught up in finding the right topics for our audience, we forget that social media allows us to talk directly to the future readers of your blog and get feedback immediately. If your followers engage with you regularly, you can ask them for help by sending out a Tweet—as we used to do for our Question of the Week series.
However, not all of us can get these results on Twitter without spamming our followers with dozens of Tweet asks, which would defeat the purpose of requesting help. In order to guarantee your audience’s attention, you can ask for feedback by posting on subreddits or LinkedIn groups related to your area of expertise. The question can be as simple as “What advice in [your field, your level of expertise] you think would be important to receive?”
Put a Pin in it
Hundreds of people use Pinterest for inspiration, whether it’s for a dinner recipe or wedding decorations. Why not do the same for blog post ideas? Since Pinterest has a special type of Pins for articles, you can pin articles in a separate Board, and re-read your favorite writing when you’re feeling short on inspiration.
If curated content isn’t doing it for you and you’re looking for something new, you can use Pinterest’s guided search to help find ideas. For example, you can search for Pins containing keywords “social media blog,” and Pinterest will suggest related keywords, such as “SEO” and “Business” that may also yield the desired results.