As marketers, we always have content on our minds: social media content, web content, video content, written content. We say the word “content” so often, we sometimes feel like we’ve got it all figured out… until we find ourselves running out of ideas. I know that I need to be creating and sharing high-quality and engaging content, but it’s not always easy.
We’ve learned over the years that when we encounter a challenge, there’s a pretty good chance you have too. (That’s the luxury of marketing to marketers.) So we tasked ourselves with creating concrete examples of content marketing ideas that work. In the past, we have discussed the advantages of collecting stories from your customers, as well as letting the customers themselves tell the story; this time, we’ll go over ways you can draw inspiration for content marketing from within the company, whether it’s taking a look at your product from the user’s perspective or repurposing an internal presentation.
5 content marketing ideas for businesses—drawn from your own business
Twitter chats and insight summaries
Twitter chats are a marketer’s hidden treasure. Without any complex maneuvering, hosting a Twitter chat can help you accomplish several goals. First, hosting a Twitter chat allows your brand to demonstrate expertise in your field by sharing advice with your followers and exchanging ideas with fellow professionals. These chats also increase your social reach, and help find new audience for your social channels.
Finally, valuable 140-character advice from the chat can be expounded on in a blog post to suit your content marketing needs. With this, once again you have two options: you can compile all Tweets from the chat into a Storify story; alternatively, you can pick the best questions or answers from the discussion, and use them as inspiration for a blog post.
Storify allows you to present a best-of summary of the chat. You can organize the Twitter chat in chronological order, and match the questions with the appropriate answers. However, try not to edit so much that you remove the tone or character from the discussion: if there were any funny or unexpected moments that contributed to the overall conversations, leave them in. For example, when our community team hosted a Social60 event with Tessa Barrera, they skipped question #8 and went straight to #9. One of the chat participants noticed the missing question, which prompted some friendly banter:
These kinds of remarks are normal in conversations mediated by computer (or smartphone) screens, so don’t leave them out of your Storify summary. Storify helps your readers feel like they were a part of the conversation, and the best way to achieve that is ensuring that the human element of the discussion is still present.
If you want to give more context for the Twitter chat discussion, you can use the expertise of your guests as inspiration for a blog post on the same topic. Pick your favourite advice or remark made in the course of the chat, and use it to frame a strategy post.
For example, one of our past Social60 video panels was based around the topic of social media for non profits. Our host of the panel Kristina then picked the most helpful tips, and compiled them into one blog post aimed to help marketing professionals in non profits optimize social media use to fit their unique goals. With a Twitter conversation, even less work is required on the part of the writer, since all the content is contained on the social network and can be freely embedded into most content management systems.
If you’re struggling to find external sources of inspiration, why not look in your own backyard? Within your own company, there are experts on a variety of subjects that can help you understand a topic better. Chances are, you already know those experts: they are the people organizing “lunch and learn” sessions, going over public-facing agendas for your product or service, or those rightfully chosen to be the go-to spokesperson for a certain team or department.
See if any of the internal presentations or learning materials can be adjusted and shared with the public. For example, a while back we had a training session on the basics of social business: what it is, how to include social media in your marketing strategy, and how a company can benefit from being a social business. Then, we had an idea: if we need to have this kind of presentation at our own company, which is all about social media, then perhaps other businesses can benefit from this brief summary as well. This insight lead us to publish a blog post on introducing your boss to social business, where we flesh out some of the ideas mentioned above, as well as provide a Slideshare file of the actual presentation.
Another content marketing idea that can be drawn from your own daily work life is innovative improvement. Businesses of any size try out different ideas on how to make their processes more efficient, and keep the employee morale high. If something proved to be effective for your workplace in the past, why not write about it? This motivated Noel Pullen, our senior director of product and engineering development, to share his impressions and advice on putting together an unconference. This article was first posted on Hootsuite’s engineering blog, and we liked it so much that we syndicated it to our main channel.
Lists, charts and templates
A surefire way to find content that resonates is asking yourself, “What makes my (work) life easier?” Once you find a few tools or processes that you think may help others to their job, too—write about it! This is the concept behind “lifehacking,” something that started out as just people sharing their personal tips and tricks on being smart—with time, with money, you name it—and grew into an entire career field.
We use a lot of spreadsheets and checklists to help us get things done: we work on the structure and the format of these documents constantly, trying to improve them to match workflow best. We realized that many social media professionals, whether they’re part of a big marketing department or owners of their own businesses, might find it useful to see how we organize our work. That’s how ideas such as the one for the social media templates post or game day preparation checklist are born: we take the spreadsheet templates we use for scheduling social media content or doing a social media audit, design them to look presentable for others, and shared it on the blog. Think about it as comparing lecture notes with your fellow students: you both benefit from the knowledge of the subject, but one of you may have come up with a way that others haven’t thought about.
By now, you probably already know about the importance of including video in your social media strategy. But you might be stumped for ideas that warrant a video production, especially if your budget doesn’t allow for car commercial-sized spending. A quick content marketing idea that can benefit the majority of brands, no matter what kind of product they’re selling, is video tutorials. For software, these can often be done with nothing more than a screensharing program, such as Jing, which often offer free versions for users on a budget. Alternatively, smartphone camera technology now can show high-definition videos at no cost to you—all you need to do is find a stable surface on which to prop the phone, and explain away!
Finally, don’t underestimate the advantages of user-generated content. Your customers often figure out ways to use your product that your marketing team hadn’t dreamt of; so keep an eye out for how-to videos about your product that you can highlight on your blog or website.
If your product or service just doesn’t lend itself to the video medium, don’t force it. Instead, think of a content marketing series you could do that highlights certain features or use cases of your product that may not be intuitive. This is particularly helpful if you offer multiple products or services catering to users with different levels of sophistication—how a beginner might interact with it will be totally different from a more advanced user’s experience.
Educational resources such as product-focused advice can be very helpful in improving your customer’s experience by helping people get the most out of your offer. I think about this as the “15-way dress phenomenon.” A few years ago, fashion retailer American Apparel designed a dress that could be worn in over 15 different ways: strapless, halter top, as a skirt, etc. The company also released a series of short videos explaining how to make each style. At first, this might seem like an odd move: why would you encourage people to recycle the same garment for multiple outfits, instead of getting them to buy a completely new one? In reality, however, it turned out to be a great marketing move: fashion bloggers were inspired to create new ways to wear the dress, they purchased the dress in different colours to make it even more versatile, and American Apparel received a lot of free advertisement from user-generated content.
We may not have a 15-way dress, but we do have a product you can use for multiple purposes. Thus, we show off cool Hootsuite features with our #HootTips blog series. Some of these tips explain how to perform basic tasks with Hootsuite, such as scheduling and drafting messages in the dashboard; others demonstrate how to accomplish different tasks such as geo-targeting or social media listening, or adding useful apps from the App Directory.