You’re on top of your content marketing strategy, compiling e-books and white papers, writing blog posts, producing updated, optimized static Web copy, and even guest blogging. But all that writing takes a lot of your valuable time. You’re constantly on the lookout for new ideas, trending topics and other opportunities. Everyone hits a roadblock from time to time.
Don’t take our word for it. Even Forbes is talking about the importance of content marketing—as well as the need to take a structured approach. This article suggests a four-step plan for turning content into brand equity:
- Define – What’s the purpose? Are you educating your audience or providing entertainment? Knowing the method to your madness is the first step to a successful piece of content.
- Format – What form will this content piece take? A white paper, case study, infographic, blog post?
- Create – Capitalize on your existing content to generate new formats and new perspectives. Curate content from around the Web, or start with a fresh idea to create from scratch.
- Variety – Don’t stick to the same formats all the time. Change it up to keep your audience engaged. If your content is primarily text-based, throw in an infographic from time to time. Use as many different formats as possible to reach a broader portion of your audience.
Lucky for you, there are plenty of tools, resources and apps on the Web to help you generate ideas, find out what’s trending among your audience and get maximum exposure for every piece of content you create.
Ideation Tools: Where to Get Ideas
One of the best ways to generate content ideas is via your social networks. What’s trending on Twitter? What topics are getting the most re-Tweets? What questions are your followers asking on your Facebook page? Your audience holds the key to figuring out what types of content will resonate with them and what information they want to know. So use your social networks to your advantage—that means Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Google+ and LinkedIn. Here are a few more idea-generating tools to add to your arsenal.
- Yutongo – Youtongo is a Web-based tool to help you create powerful content ideas. It’s free to use, and there’s also a pro version if you want to utilize the more advanced features. Use Yutongo to set up an Idea Challenge and get inspired by your own ideas and ideas of other users.
- Bottlenose – Bottlenose gives you deeper insights into your social sphere through visual analytics. Find out what trends are emerging online, keyword discovery and opportunity detection.
- The Idea Swap – Simply type in an idea and click “Swap” to start seeing ideas from other users. This is an excellent brainstorming tool when you’re fresh out of ideas.
- Omgili – Your customers have questions, but they may not be asking you. Omgili is a simple search engine to help you identify the questions that are being asked around the Web on discussion boards.
- Quora – A social network of-sorts designed as a question-and-answer platform, Quora is probably most often compared to LinkedIn Answers. Not only can you discover commonly-asked questions in your industry, but you can connect with thought leaders and even find valuable sources to provide insights for your content.
- AllTop – AllTop curates the top content on the Web in a multitude of topic areas. If you’re looking for inspiration or articles from thought leaders you can spin into your own content by offering commentary, AllTop is the place to go.
- Google Trends – It really is as simple as it sounds. Enter your keywords and find out what topics are trending on Google. Google Trends instantly provides you with historical data—great information to use for timeline-style blog posts.
- Points of Pain – Not an app, Points of Pain is a concept you can use at any time to help generate content ideas. Martha Spelman suggests using a quick email or phone call to your clients to find out what their biggest challenges are. Shape your content around these challenges, offering solutions to common problems. When you take this approach, you’re guaranteed to hit a hot button with your audience.
Curation and Aggregation Tools: Discover Share-Worthy Content
Content curation and aggregation are important parts of your content marketing strategy. After all, your social marketing plan should include more than just your own content. Use these tools to find great content—both to share and for inspiration.
- Storify – Storify is a great tool used by many journalists. How does it work? Storify filters content, guided by you, to identify the most important voices online in a niche content area. Journalists use Storify to craft stories based on what’s being discussed around the Web.
- Scoop.it – Scoop.it helps you cut through the noise on social media to uncover what matters. Create topics, share content, develop your community and discover the most popular topics online.
- Paper.li – An automated digital newspaper tool, Paper.li automatically curates content daily or weekly based on users and keywords that you specify. It’s useful for quickly rounding up niche content related to your industry. Share it with your followers each day, or use it for personal inspiration to generate your own content ideas.
- Pearltrees – Pearltrees can be described as kind of a digital mind map based on niche content that you curate. Collaborate with other users to expand your branches and richen your topics.
- Bundlr – Bundlr lets you create topic-oriented pages curating Tweets, videos, images and articles on a single page. Useful for sharing with your audience or collecting resources for your next content project.
Media Tools: Enhance Your Content
If you’re familiar with content marketing, you know that content isn’t just text anymore. Today’s content includes rich media, such as images and videos. In fact, it’s media-rich content that gets shared the most across the social Web. Here are some cool tools to add to your arsenal to help you liven up your content without hiring a technical genius.
- Jing – Jing is a free screen-capture tool. Use it to record screencasts when you’re walking a customer through your platform or to demonstrate a specific strategy online. Embed it into your content pieces.
- InstaGrok – InstaGrok could also fit into the curation category, but we’ve listed it as a media tool simply because it’s a tool that generates research-based graphical representations of data meant to be shared. It’s almost like creating an insta-infographic, but not quite as visually appealing and complex as some of the better infographics out there.
- ZanRan – ZanRan is similar to InstaGrok, but the primary difference is you’re not generating your own graphic. Instead, you’re finding visual data representations that already exist online. Make sure you get permission before embedding someone else’s graphics into your content, though.
- Flipboard – Flipboard is a powerful application available for both iOS and Android devices, which literally enables you to use your own or curated content to generate what looks similar to a glossy digital magazine. If you want to turn the visual appeal up a notch, Flipboard is one to try.
- Easel.ly – Beyond having a cool name, Easel.ly is a valuable tool for your content marketing arsenal. Use this app to generate visuals to embed in your blog posts, white papers, e-books and more. You can also make them public on Easel.ly for other users to discover—all resulting in more exposure for your content. Brilliant, we say. Just brilliant.
Content Marketing Tools: Outreach and More
When it comes to content marketing, it takes more than just producing content and sitting back waiting for the visitors to start rolling in. Nowadays, you gotta get out there and get ‘em! Here’ are a few tools to help you reach out to your audience.
- BuzzStream – Use blogrolls to find niche bloggers. Easy as pie. Great for generating outreach lists.
- Pinterest – Okay, we know we already mentioned Pinterest, and of course, all social media is useful for content marketing. But Pinterest gets a special shout-out in the outreach category because it ties in so well with the idea that images are vitally important for content today. Use Pinterest to gain exposure based on those amazing graphics we know you’re including in every piece of content your produce.
- GroupHigh – This one isn’t free, but if you do a lot of outreach and need a system for discovering and managing blogger outreach and connections, it’s worth checking out a free trial.
- List.ly – List.ly helps you discover the Web’s best social lists. Easily compile thought leaders for any industry or those who focus in on a niche topic area. Another easy and fast way to generate an outreach list.
- Premise – Premise is just one example of a contact management tool, but it’s a good one. With Premise, you can generate contact forms and membership areas of your site. After you’ve made use of these tools to start producing more exceptional content, you can maximize your content marketing strategy by using it to enhance your email contact list. Premise also functions as a shopping cart, if you’re selling digital products.
We know, we’re totally tool-happy. Our goal is to help our readers master every aspect of inbound marketing, so we consider it a win-win: We get to review dozens of awesome tools and apps, and you get a ready-made list of resources to put to use for your business. There are dozens more tools useful for enhancing your content marketing strategy—which tools do you use? How do you generate ideas? Let us know in the comments below!