Running out of fresh content ideas is among the biggest fears that haunt content creators. And most of us will have this fear realized at some point in time. I'm talking about those days when our ideas list is running dry and we just can't come up with new content topics that excite even us, let alone our audience.
This episode is about five ways you can come up with fresh content ideas when those days arrive. It's based on the process I went through this summer when I was struggling to come up with fresh content ideas myself. As I discovered, different sources were helpful in different ways. But to get the best ideas, I had to dig a little deeper than what I tried at first.
Eventually, I got there. And my hope is that this combination of sources will be useful to you as well. Check it out!
Music and effects are licensed under StoryBlocks. Opening track: Energy Intro, by Danail Draganov; closing track: Disco Danger, by John Presstone.
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[00:00:00] Tim: As a content creator, it's important to keep your content fresh, not only for your audience but for your own sake too. If you're excited about the ideas you've come up with for your content, then that's gonna help you stay motivated to create more content, do more innovative things to improve your content and share more content out there with your audience on more platforms.
[00:00:19] But what happens when the opposite is true and your content starts to feel stale? Well, I can tell you because this very thing happened to me this past Summer. You see, I was already getting to a point where I felt like I'd exhausted many of the best ideas I'd come up with around my current content topics. Then it was around this time when Instagram changed its recommendation algorithm to provide less reach to photos and carousel posts, which at that point were my main forms of content on my main platform.
[00:00:47] Seemingly overnight, my engagement levels dropped and my account growth, which had been on a good track, was now pretty much dead its tracks. And in the larger scheme of things, we can agree this is not really a big deal. However, the fact is it still didn't help my motivation to come up with new ideas and create more content.
[00:01:06] But the bigger problem was I didn't know exactly what to do next in order to get things going again. For a time, it just seemed like the proverbial idea well had pretty much run dry. So if you faced this challenge before, you're not alone. In fact, I think all content creators go through periods like this where we're not feeling as motivated or as creative as we have been at different times in the past.
[00:01:28] And in today's episode, I'm gonna share with you five things I did to work through this period and get myself back on track to creating content that I was actually excited to create and share again.
[00:01:43] Okay, so let's get into this. When I first started struggling with content ideas, I went over to one of the most obvious sources for new ideas, and that is online idea generators. If you've done content ideation before, you're probably familiar with these websites and services. Examples include websites like Tweak Your Biz or HubSpot's Blog Post Idea Generator.
[00:02:03] What you do on these sites is enter a general content category and the website comes back with a list of ideas built around common post idea types. So for example, you put in video content as a general idea, and the generator comes back with topics such as "three tips to make better video content" or "bust a common myth about video content."
[00:02:24] And while these types of ideas have been useful for coming up with quick content ideas once in a while, I found they weren't really helping me in this case. And the issue was these kinds of ideas were all fairly standard and generic. In essence, idea generators were mostly giving me ideas that I already knew about, and therefore this didn't really help to do much to replenish my idea bank. In fact, it made me start to wonder if there were any other ideas out there.
[00:02:50] That's when I went over to another favorite source I'd used quite a bit in the past, which is idea aggregators. Now, an idea aggregator is a website or service that pulls together (or aggregates) topic ideas from a range of different sources and typically allows you to organize those ideas around topics and themes.
[00:03:08] My favorite tool of this type is called Feedly, which is a web service that literally feeds you news items, articles, and blog posts from sources you select. It then allows you to organize and save anything of interest to an idea board categorized according to however you might like to set that up.
[00:03:24] The nice thing about a tool like Feedly is that the ideas are a lot more specific than you will find in an idea generator. And that's because they're not just generic ideas, they're actual news items or articles that contain content about specific topics. What's more, these sources can give you a sense of what types of topics and content ideas are trending among other content creators.
[00:03:45] Therein lies the rub to some extent, because these are ideas that already have been done by other content creators and you don't wanna replicate what the other creator has already produced. That means you've gotta be able to put your own spin on the topic somehow, and ideally also combine it with different things from multiple sources so you're making your own original contribution to the topic. And I've found that may or may not be possible to do right away, depending on your own knowledge and experience with that topic and your own ability to produce that type of content.
[00:04:13] The other thing is that what's trending in an industry at a given time may or may not line up with something that's gonna make us get excited about creating content around that specific. So much like idea generators, I'd say idea aggregators helped me come up with a few new ideas, but nothing really game-changing in terms of new material.
[00:04:33] And we can say the same thing applies to surfing the trending posts on social media platforms. Yes, these give you ideas that are getting good engagement with other content creators. And if you like the topic or concept, and you can put your own spin on it, then sure, these are another potential source for ideas that can be used some of the time.
[00:04:51] But for me at that time, this just seemed more like coattail riding on someone else's concept. So even if you do make some changes to do a trend on your own, it's still not terribly exciting to create that and put it out there as a content creator. That's why I think these kinds of posts work best as filler content in between your more original stuff.
[00:05:10] However, they're not something that's really gonna help you to become more original yourself.. And because they're not very original, these kinds of ideas are, I think, less interesting and motivating to produce.
[00:05:22] The good news is that discerning all of this is what finally helped me arrive at the conclusion that I would need to try some different things if I was gonna change the track that I was on, get my engagement levels back up, and get excited about producing new content again.
[00:05:34] And for me, one of the best ways to do that was in experimenting with new tools and new content formats. If you've seen my posts, you know that new software and hardware tools are a couple of the things that I love learning about and applying. So it was only natural that I look towards these types of topics for new content ideas.
[00:05:52] One of the tools that I landed on at this time is called VideoLeap. It's a video editing tool that also includes video templates, which were promoted as making it easier and faster to create video content. For me, this was a perfect fit. It was a new tool that had the potential to make creating video content, which was, and still is, growing in popularity, more efficient to produce. And therefore it seemed like a real win-win in terms of being a source of content ideas and a boost for my account reach at the same time. And I would say it's worked out reasonably well. It did get me excited about doing more video content and that in turn did help my account reach and engagement.
[00:06:29] The other thing I did early this summer was to launch this podcast, and that turned out to be a great way to get new ideas and get excited about creating something new.
[00:06:37] For one thing, it offered a whole new area to learn and create content around and for. That in itself was pretty exciting.
[00:06:44] At that time, I was also recognizing that relying too much on any one platform was not a good long-term strategy. In the world of social media, things can change quickly-- something that was brought home to me in a stark way with the changes Instagram had instituted that very summer.
[00:07:01] But if you have multiple platforms on which you're creating a social media presence, then you're not going to have as much concern about changes that might be happening on any individual platform. Furthermore, being engaged with different platforms gives you a much wider base for both content creation and inspiration. Plus you can repurpose content from one platform to another, allowing you to get more mileage out of any piece of content that you create. So if you find yourself getting stuck for motivation or ideas, I would recommend trying to experiment a little more with different content tools and formats as one strategy to get things going again.
[00:07:35] Along with experimentation with tools and formats, I also tried stepping outta my comfort zone a bit more in creating content. Specifically, I've been trying to come up with more ideas with short-form video content that would include me in the video, as opposed to creating what's called faceless videos where the content creator doesn't appear in the video.
[00:07:53] And I think that stepping outta your comfort zone can work as a creative motivator with the right set of conditions. Those conditions being that, number one, the opportunity that you try this with should raise the stakes for you somewhat, but not too much. I mean, I think if you're trying to do this with something you're totally not comfortable with, then you're just likely to be put off by it or become frustrated as you encounter those obstacles that are inherent with trying something new. But since I already had some experience with short-form, on-camera video, this idea worked for me. From that perspective, it would just mean that I was going to do more of something I'd already started doing, and maybe try to add some more movement and motion graphics to make the videos more interesting and hopefully more successful.
[00:08:37] That brings us to the second condition for success, which is that the thing you're going to try should have some potential reward that you perceive outweighs the risk of trying. In this case, I knew that more video content was likely to help generate more reach for my accounts and build a skill that I figured would have good long-term benefits for me as a content creator, regardless of what happened with any specific video.
[00:08:58] So I think because these conditions were met, this approach of pushing myself outside my comfort zone was also successful in getting me more creative ideas and generating more motivation with my creative process. And I think this is another approach that can work well for you too, if you come up with the right way to try something new that stretches your capabilities as well.
[00:09:19] A couple of other things I did to refill my ideas pipeline and get more inspired was to engage and collaborate with other content creators. One of the great things about building an online community is the opportunity it provides to connect with other creators with similar interests, struggles, and aspirations.
[00:09:35] This is actually a great way for content creators to discuss ideas and support one another. And I'd say over the last couple of months, I've done more of that too, which has been really helpful. This exposure to other people's content and ideas has given me new ideas to build on, which in turn has helped me to come up with new content for Twitter, Instagram, and other platforms.
[00:09:55] And because these ideas organically grow from conversations, they tended to be different than the kinds of posts that I was already seeing out there. In fact, many of these ideas were based around elaborating further on a topic by incorporating my own reaction or experience with that particular concept or topic. So it kind of naturally flowed into an ideal way for creating more original content.
[00:10:18] Along the same lines, collaborating directly with other content creators was another great way for generating ideas and inspiration. When you're working together with another creator, you're bound to come up with more and better ideas as you work together and play off of one another.
[00:10:32] Of course, the downside of collaboration is that it certainly is more challenging and time-consuming than working on your own. When you work with other creators, you're not gonna always have the same ideas. And while that may lead to better ideas in time, in the short run, it takes more time to work through that gain consensus, work out all the logistics, and uh, just get it done, more so than going it alone.
[00:10:56] And in a way, that's why podcasting is an excellent vehicle for collaboration. In the type of interview format shows that I do, the approach is more or less set and it creates a space in which you can share different ideas without needing prior consensus worked out about what the resolution of those things are. And in fact, it's probably better if you don't know exactly what the other person is going to say in these cases, so things don't seem overly scripted.
[00:11:22] So there's a way you might try a low-stakes form of collaboration in the form of a podcast or an Instagram Live, which can be very rewarding. After all, when you collaborate, it can be fun to build something with another content creator, and you're both helping each other broaden your audience at the same time.
[00:11:39] I can also say that I always learn a lot from working with other content creators, not just from the content we create, but from getting that inside look at how they like to work, and from the discussions we have preparing for each show and then promoting the show together afterwards.
[00:11:56] The last thing I did that helped was to take some breaks and slow down the production pace a little. I know that when I find my content is getting stale, even for me, it's often because I'm trying to force things in producing content rather than just enjoying the process. And that's my signal that I need to take a break.
[00:12:13] And though it may feel like you want to keep working at it, if it's not working, then in my experience you're far better to just step back a bit for a while. Do some research or do something completely different, and just give yourself and your ideas some room to breathe. It doesn't even have to be a long break. I find that even stepping away for a couple of days helps me to refocus and come back with renewed excitement about creating something new.
[00:12:39] So those are my top five tips for keeping your content fresh as a content creator. And if I could sum it up, it's really about using a combination of all the approaches I've talked about in this episode. Different idea sources are good for different things. Some are good for quick filler content. Some are best for catching the wave of a trend, and others are ideal for creating more original content that's admittedly harder to create, but also tends to be higher converting and ultimately more rewarding to produce.
[00:13:08] One bonus tip that I didn't mention here is finding your why, which is always a good thing to figure out and come back to if you feel like you're stuck. And if you'd like to hear my take on that, you can go back to the first episode of this season, entitled "To Be Or Not To Be a Content Creator." Check it out and let me know if you have any other tips on how you keep your own content creation efforts fresh.
[00:13:30] You can leave your thoughts in a review or find me out there on Twitter, Instagram and YouTube under the username mytogblog. I hope to see you around.