It is the most common question I get when speaking about email marketing, social media or small business in general... "What should I write about?"
In this world of short attention spans, mobile devices and text messages, engagement is the new word of mouth: that public yet meaningful back and forth you get with clients and customers by sending out a great email to your list or posting something insightful or shareable on social media.
So, what should you write about? The short answer is two-fold. You write about what you know that they don't know. That just means you share your knowledge and experience for free. And, you write about what you have access to that they don't have access to; and you have more access than you might think -- early access to a special event or offer, backstage passes, autographed copies, white papers, an extra hour of your time. Give what you have to give and don't charge for it. Charge for your services, yes. But on social and in emails you want to give it away for free, setting yourself up as the go-to in your industry. Share it and they will call. Or email. Or text when they are ready to have you do it for them.
Here are 25 quick content ideas you can use to build on your reputation as an expert or hub of information and access. Try one or two of them this week. Save the list for later so you can avoid that drawing-a-blank moment when it's time to send out an email blast or post something interesting on social media. You're not alone. Most people stop and stare at the screen when faced with a blank page or a social post to fill in. Even if you do nothing on this list, I hope it will spark your own ideas. This is just a start.
1. Q & A
Chances are that you have been getting calls or emails lately that ask the same question. Changes in weather, special holidays or events and other out-of-your-control factors will bring up a lot of the same questions for your customers. Think about the most common questions you get on a regular basis, just this week or even just this morning and write about it. Provide the answer. Anticipate the need and push out the information. Easy to do.
2. Ask for Feedback
Create a simple survey: 1, 2 or 3 questions and push it out. You'll get a lot of great information, and this one should really count as two ideas because you can also push out the results of your survey along with your plans to address requests, needs or questions.
3. Talk About A Great Partner
Share the spotlight with one of your best strategic partners. Give them a shameless plug. Talk 'em up. It costs you nothing to tell the world how great they have been for your organization and chances are pretty good that they might return the favor one day - but don't do it with that in mind. Say what is true, focus on the positive and be real.
4. Before & After Anything
Everyone loves to witness transformation. We are inspired by visible change. No matter what your business model, think about a way to visually show a before and after transformation. This is not just about helping a client lose weight or organizing a messy closet - although you cannot miss with either of those. But maybe it's a graph showing the difference in your financial client's Debt-To-income ratio. Maybe it's a new menu design, fresh flowers in the lobby or seeing the difference in a neighborhood with satellite photos. Get creative and make it visual.
5. Write a Review
Talk about a great book you read or a class you attended. Share in your own words what made it so good, where you got the most impact. How you changed your own way of doing things as a result of the experience. This is a chance to really connect with your readers and to offer some free press to the writer or instructor that did something worth writing about.
6. Share Milestones
You can keep this very simple or get fancy with a nice infographic, but take a moment to reflect on some of the big milestones in your organization and share it. First employee hired, first hundred or million in sales, first office expansion, first coffee maker in the kitchen - celebrate the big stuff and the little stuff alike. Have some fun with this. And it can be ongoing, you don't have to share everything at once. Do one a week or every month and make it a series.
7. Quick, Timely Tips
Keep these very, very simple. And show me, don't just tell me. Example - if you're a swimming pool or landscape maintenance service and you know there is a big freeze coming, remind people to wrap their outdoor pipes and SHOW them how to do it with a photo or video. Nothing high end or expensive, just a quick how to that might help them from needing to call you with a broken pipe. Help them save now and they'll call you when a bigger issue comes up.
8. Choose One Thing
You may be doing a lot of great work with enormous impact for your clients or your community, but your readers don't have time to take it all in at once, not on social media or in an email. Decide on one single, bite-sized piece of impact and share that. Just one at a time. Save the rest for another day and you will be able to see which types of story get more response. Truth be told, I got this idea from a great partner group in Dallas, CSW Corp. Their "One Idea Newsletter" is a huge hit - and it's always short.
9. Offer A Choice
Set up a poll or just post a question with two options for an answer. You will pull in responses and get some good feedback as well as engagement. You'll be surprised by how many people will take the time to respond when there is just one seemingly simple question. Example: I prefer to have 1. Dessert or 2. An Appetizer when I go out to eat. If you ask it on social media you'll get more open ended answers - all responses are good engagement.
10. Give Away the Farm
Tell them what you know and why it matters. Well, not everything you know but refer to #8 and choose one. But don't hold back. Tell them exactly how to make that famous coconut cake in your café or what paint brand and colors you used in that room makeover. Nothing you write in an email or on social media will eliminate the need for you and what you do. Tell them how to do it. Some will try. Most will call you. Or start, get to step 3 in your instructions and then call you. Set yourself up as the go-to in your field and they will call.
11. Showcase Your Team
With permission, share photos of your staff in the office, doing good deeds or working the tradeshow floor. Thank them, in public, for being who they are. Explain what they do for the company. Announce a change, an accomplishment or a birthday. You can do this all together as long as you don't leave anyone out. Or, you can go one-by-one and get a lot more content out of the opportunity.
12. Pictures with Quotes Get Shared
This is just a fact. I cannot fully understand or explain this phenomenon but it is a fact. Photos with a famous or inspirational quote are some of the most shared content on the web. Especially if relevant to a holiday or big event. You may need to use an app like Pic Stitch or Word Swag on your phone to bring photo and text together into one image. It's easy and it's free. I know this seems really simple but if you put one out once a week among your other content, you'll see what I mean. It will often get more shares and likes than other content. Pro tip: Make sure you add your Twitter handle or website address in text on the image as well so that as people share it, they are also sharing your information. You're welcome.
13. Do A Simple Good Deed
This only works if you mean it. Don't fake it - people will see through that. But wouldn't it be nice to do a good deed? For a customer or for your own team - maybe even have a good deed of the week or month and just quietly share it. You don't have to scream "look what I did!" but you can inspire others or challenge others to continue the good vibes. Example: Tell them you woke up in a generous mood and decided that any employees that came in early would get a surprise $5 Starbucks card just for being awesome. Share it and challenge other small businesses to do the same.
14. Highlight A Bad Review
You can link to all the good ones, don't worry. But some of the best content can come from a bad review. It's not your job to change it or try and reverse it. Embrace it and leverage it. Celebrate the menu item they hated. Proclaim that all feedback is a gift and tell your readers what you're doing to make sure everyone has a great experience. The bad review and your acknowledgement of it will serve to validate all the great reviews you're getting. And taking this tack with a good sense of humor without ignoring legitimate gripes will go a long way in diffusing the situation. I could write and entire article about this one idea.
15. Bust A Myth
Take a common misconception about your industry or profession and debunk it. Try to do it in a very short format. In fact, that applies to all of these ideas. Short and sweet.
16. Say It With Video
Whatever you want to say, add a video. Nothing high dollar is needed unless you are a video professional, and even then. Thanks to reality TV (the real and first culprit was MTV's Real World) we are now willing as a society to watch poor quality video as long as we can understand what is being said and can generally see it on the screen. Unscripted is best. Or just make a PowerPoint and record your voice delivering it with software like Camtasia or Joomla. Videos get more play. Facebook will tell you how many people watched it. You can easily add video to an email blast too. Can't hurt.
17. Play A Game
Post a trivia question, offer a reward for getting the answer right. This works with anyone. Take it as far as you like. Host a game of champions or shout out to participants. People like to play games. And they like to win.
18. Take A Moment To Really Be Yourself
Tell your audience who you really are, outside of the office. Do you play in a band? Have a killer vinyl collection? Speak more than one language? Share what makes you different/special/unique and just put it out there. You'll be surprised by how many people will not just like but identify with you. Don't over share. This is not the venue for your ugly divorce settlement or grandmother's illness. Unless you are an attorney or a doctor. Then, maybe. OK, still no.
19. Remind Them Of Something They Already Know
Is there advice you give your clients and customers regularly but they forget or just ignore? Restate it once more. Especially if it's something they know they should do - like their taxes or exercise or submitting a form on time. This is content. It feels like nagging but if you say it right it will nurture the relationship. Just like regular life.
20. Embrace Life Hacks
Not sure what I mean? A life hack is an extremely simple idea that makes something easier, more efficient or more fun. They usually involve items most people have around the house or office and by using it in a different way, you make some other activity easier or better.. Google "life hack" and you'll find a lot of them. Once you get the concept, think of one for your own clients or share some you find when you do that Google search. Remember, it's not your job to come up with all the content. Not all the time. Sometimes you can just serve as the hub of good content. That's enough in most cases to keep the relationship going another day. Pro tip: add your product or industry to the Google search. So if you sell office supplies and have a surplus of rubber bands on hand, Google "rubber band life hacks" and then send out a link to the top 10 rubber-band life hacks you find with a discount to buy your rubber bands. Now you're marketing.
21. Link to an Event you Will Attend
This can be an official work event like a conference or seminar but it can also be a great music concert or festival that lines up well with #18, pulling back the kimono and showing them who you really are. Encourage others to attend. Make sure the event host is able to see that you shared it if you can. (Example - on Twitter include the event hashtag or @handle with your tweet.) This is a public invitation to engage. Try it.
22. Carry The Flag for A Local Nonprofit
Choose an organization you care about, make a donation or sign up to volunteer and then share that out there with an invite for others to do the same. This is similar to the "Do a good deed" idea but this one is a little more official and involves an actual organization that you want to help. Have a canned food drive or celebrate back-to-school with a school supply drive. Send people to the org's events or send your own team and post pictures. The more you carry the flag for others, the better you look (and feel). Again, this one only works if it's genuine. Be real.
23. Share Your Music Playlist
Cliché? Maybe. Honestly, this one is just for fun but it ends up getting a lot of play in the work world too. If you use Spotify or Pandora or whatever, create a playlist of your favorite music to do taxes to, or to walk a dog or train for a 5k (that's me right now) or for whatever you do for a living, make the list and then share access to it on social media and in an email. Music brings people together. You probably already have a playlist - send that one out. Nobody is going to judge you for secretly loving Olivia Newton John. They might point it out, but that's the essence of true engagement. You'll find out ONJ is on other people's lists too. Have you never been mellow?
24. Ask For Recommendations
Taking a client out for dinner, need new flooring in your kitchen or looking for a resource for printer ink? Ask your friends and followers for their recommendations. Ask your clients. Maybe one of them is a great resource for you, right under your nose. Maybe two. Do you remember to ask what your clients do and what your customers have to offer? This is a fun way to give them a soap box and to build real relationships without having to write a lot of content.
25. Make A List With Helpful Advice or Ideas
Like this one. When ideas are in a list, people can absorb it faster and are more likely to read all the way to the end. Number it if it's more than 7 items. Bullet lists are great too. If it's long like this one, put the whole list on your website or in a blog and then just post one item from the list every few hours online. Or share a short blurb in an email and link to the rest. Lists are easy and get shared. Share this one on Facebook or Twitter and watch how many others share it.
Overall, my best advice for what to write is simple. Share your knowledge and be who you really are. Write in first person as much as possible. Avoid industry terms unless the only people reading your stuff are industry-related. Keep it short. Make it practical, actionable and easy to read on a cell phone. If you keep at it, your clients and followers will see you as a resource. That can only be good for business. #YouCanDoThis