A couple weeks ago I had the privilege of attending and presenting at the Pubcon Digital Marketing conference which is the only annual event every digital marketer absolutely should put on their calendar. Year after year Pubcon packs the agenda with an amazing cast of speaker sharing content that cannot be learned elsewhere, and this year didn’t disappoint. The organizers of the conference do a superb job of identifying rising trends in digital marketing and include these as topics at the conference.
One of the topics that was new to this year was how to use Q&A networks like Quora and Reddit with their vast knowledgebase of content to develop writing ideas for content marketing. I was humbled to be asked to participate in this session and to share my experience with using crowd-sourced content to ideate on content.
Use what you have at your disposal
Alongside pertinent facts and tips on how to browse Quora and Reddit to find traffic ideas, I also discussed ways to use tools to find the keywords users are seeking while the search the web. Content marketers can use a competitive research tool like Ahrefs to see the kinds of content that is ranking on Google search for competitors.
Another tool that can be quite useful in this endeavor is AnswerThePublic which queries Google’s suggest repository for searches that begin with questions for a specific keyword. Similarly, one can also use a tool like keywordtool.io which just shows terms that real users are typing into search bars that contain a specific keyword.
However, these techniques require that one have a general sense of what they want to write. The best and most creative content ideas come from tapping into the curiosity of users within the entire genre of a topic. As I shared at Pubcon, Q&A platforms allow content marketers to download the minds of their target market.
Mind Meld with Users
Here are the most popular platforms for developing these ideas:
Founded in 2009, Quora is a collaborative site for questions and answers. Users can anonymously pose questions to be answered on just about any topic. Answers can be commented, edited and voted on so the most interesting responses bubble to the top. Questions asked on Quora provide unique food for thought on topics that can be expanded upon for onsite content marketing. Additionally, thoughtful answers to these questions can be researched and then become detailed articles.
The self-proclaimed front page of the Internet is a loose collection of links, images, videos, and stories on every topic from medical advice to current events. Drilling into the millions of topical Reddits, called subreddits, will uncover a wealth of ideas, opinions and images on that topic. In addition to the links and stories submitted, one can also find thoughtful comments and expand upon these for onsite content.
Directly asking users is one of the best ways to discover new ideas of what to write about. Marketers can ask users what they would like to read or just can ask users about themselves. The extent of what can be learned is only limited by curiosity. Everything can become relevant when tied together with other facts. For example, a survey can ask where they read a particular website, when they read the content and then layer on some basic demographic questions. Cross tabbing through these results will give responses like 15% of females read this content on a tablet while watching a show on TV. The internet is replete with examples of surveys turning into great content and I have had a lot of success in creating viral content out of surveys including this one on people’s bathroom technology habits.
Every Internet user is aware of the utility of Wikipedia, but Wikipedia can also be incredibly helpful in developing topics to write about. Wikipedia articles on random topics can be expanded into full articles or writers can explore the cross links at the bottom of an article for ideas on related topics worth writing about.
Yahoo had the Internet’s original question and answer platform at scale, but this product seems to have been neglected with not much changing in the past few years. There is very little in the way of moderation and filtering, so content and answer quality can be quite low. Regardless, the questions and answers are straight from the minds of millions of users and there are topics for everything under the sun. Digging into questions asked by users can be a firehose of content ideas.
AskMetaFilter is a Q&A platform part of Metafilter which was founded in 1999 as a community of bloggers. Users are allowed to ask one question per week and as a result there are some amazing questions and similarly valuable answers.
Before there was Facebook and even Myspace the Internet had forums. Niche forums are where car enthusiasts gathered to exchange gear head tips and new moms shared parenting advice. While forums are less popular and necessary as they were in the pre-social media days, there are still forums in existence for every topic. Reading through forums related to a topic exposes some great ideas for content expansion.
For any writer staring at their keyboard struggling with what to write for their website readers, the answer may be right in front of them. Using user generated content ideas allows writers to look over the shoulders of their users and plug right into their thought processes. Even if writers can’t find the greatest ideas that can be seeded into content, just seeing so many different actual user questions should be enough to help a writer break through writer’s block and the curse of boring content.
For more examples on how to use this data, see the full presentation here: