I've been hearing a lot of questions surrounding content creation recently. We all know the importance of good content so I'm not going to begin a preaching session around it, but what a lot of people will soon start to realise is that good content takes time.
Rome wasn't built overnight, but at the same time you don't always have that kind of time on your hands. Working within an agency has taught me some valuable lessons surrounding process efficiency and quality control.
With this in mind, I'm going to share with you some awesome productivity hacks (excuse the horrendous buzzword) that will help speed up your content creation process and actually improve it at the same time.
As well as this, I've spoken with a load of awesome content marketers to get their best tips.
1. Organise Your Reading Material
Thinking of ideas for new content can be very time consuming. I've spoken with a lot of people that really struggle to stay on top of the latest news from within their industry, but with a little organisation (and some handy tools) you can easily stay on top of everything.
Firstly, you'll want to make sure you're using an RSS reader. I use Feedly for this and have spent a good amount of time building a list of blogs that I follow and I've categorised them very well so that I can save time in filtering through them.
Each morning, I arrive in the office an hour before anyone gets in and spend 30 minutes of this time just going through new articles and making a few notes that I can later revisit in my brainstorming sessions. As well as this, I use IFTTT to enable me to auto-tweet out an article that I mark as 'Save for Later' within Feedly. You can use the IFTTT recipe I created to do this.
Bonus: Check out Matthew Woodward's full IFTTT tutorial.
2. Using a Secret Weapon
Matthew Woodward - http://www.matthewwoodward.co.uk/
Staying organised is essential to your success. Personally I use a free system called The Secret Weapon, which uses Evernote.
This means no matter what device I'm using or where I am - I can always stay organised and can make quick fire notes of things before I forget them.
If you don't currently used a GTD system, you are leaving money on the table every single day.
3. Don't Put Things Off
John Rampton - http://www.searchenginejournal.com/
Don’t put things off. Plan out a time everyday where you blog. That’s all you do. You’ll always find time to do other things unless you actually plan it out. During this time I read several different blog posts around the topic I’m about to write and then start writing. Sometimes you’ll end up junking what you have. That’s ok. Just keep those creative juices flowing.
4. Write About Something You Love
Marie Haynes - http://www.hiswebmarketing.com/
I love to write. My biggest tip for improving productivity is probably an obvious one and that is to write about something you love. When I write an article about the Penguin algorithm or the latest news in regards to unnatural links penalties, the words just flow quickly because those topics are a passion of mine. However, if you asked me to write an article about my experiences with running PPC campaigns it's going to take me a lot longer because that's not my area of expertise. If I start to write an article and the words just aren't flowing then I usually trash the article and move on to something else. My best articles have been the ones where words just flow freely as I write.
5. Use Evernote to Capture Your Ideas Everwhere
Peter Attia - http://pingboard.com/
It depends on how frequently your posting, but you can save a lot of time by generating several ideas before you start writing. That may sound obvious, but I often see people new to copywriting think of an idea and immediately start writing it. The problem is, if it doesn’t come together properly, they’ve wasted all their time. By generating lots of ideas and doing some quick research on each, you can surface the “most likely to work” candidates.
Something that’s always helped me is a mobile note keeping app, like Evernote. That way anytime I think of an idea or a way to extend on an idea, I can pop open my phone and take notes. Then when I’m ready to write something, I can go back and see all the notes I’ve taken over the past week to decide which route to take.
6. Crowd-Sourcing Content Production With Your Fans
James Norquay - http://prosperitymedia.com.au/
One content production tip which has been working effectively for our clients is where we crowd source new content ideas. Basically just reach out to your fans for the brand via social media and ask them questions or submit polls and then build the content around the responses the fans provide.
Once you have the fans all involved in the content production process they will be more than happy to help share the content on numerous social network as they feel like they are part of the wider process.
Here is an example of one client in the Education/ Fitness niche where we crowd sourced the content production with the fans via Facebook and the results for traffic and SEO wins were fantastic (see image below):
7. Write Down EVERYTHING
Steve Morgan - http://seono.co.uk/
When it comes to writing posts for my own blog, if I'm researching or discussing a topic more generally (e.g. for work purposes), I always think to myself: "would this make a good blog post?" Just the other day I was researching something for a talk I'm doing in a week's time and came across an example of a soft 404 page from a big, well-known website. When I found a few more, the light-bulb went off and I thought "hey, I could turn this into a blog post," which I've since written. What's important is that I didn't originally set out to write a blog post about it - it was inspired through discovery. But it could've been very easy for me to not put the two together and not carry across the one to the other.
I also recommend writing every idea down, as you never know what you might come back to at a later date, or you might stew on an idea for a while and then decide to write about it once you've thought about it some more.
8. Create a Framework for Your Ideas
Simon Penson - http://www.zazzlemedia.co.uk/
The critical part of content creation is the ability to consistently create new ideas that make the most of the opportunity and talk to your audience in the right way. Ideation is something I have worked hard on throughout my career in print and digital as I remember a prominent editor (and former boss) once telling me that "Ideas are the lifeblood of content strategy". That has stayed with me ever since and the result of lots of trial and error can be found in a recent post I penned for Moz.
The basic premise is that you turn a creative process into a structured one to ensure that you give your mind a simple framework from which to think of ideas. By sitting in a room and just being expected to come up with them consistently you will eventually fail but by creating themes and using data to spark innovation you can ensure that every session is a good one. We used to spend a whole day a month doing this when I edited print magazines and the process works just as well, if not better, for digital.
9. Use Speech Recognition Software
Giuseppe Pastore - http://www.giuseppepastore.com/
When it comes to write long content I suggest using Dragon Naturally Speaking (I don't know if alternatives exist, sorry). Dragon lets you speak and types on your behalf: it's a big win when it comes to writing very long pieces (think of ebooks or thousands-words posts). I started using it at the time I used writing fiction and I still use it even if I've not been writing very much recently. It needs to be trained at the very beginning, but your initial effort will be well paid in the long run.
10. Create an Editorial Calendar
Jayson DeMers - http://www.audiencebloom.com/
Create an editorial content calendar, and stick with it. Or, hire a director of editorial content =)
Either way, content is essential, and you must be disciplined (or hire someone who is) to execute a proper content marketing campaign.
11. Get Out of the Office Environment
Dana DiTomaso - http://kickpoint.ca/
When you're all tapped out of content ideas, then it's time to leave your office and cell phone behind. The last thing you need right now is the internet. Go to a public place, somewhere relatively crowded and noisy - a coffee shop, a mall, art gallery, public plaza, even the lobby of your main library branch. Hang out for a while with a notebook and eavesdrop (but please don't be creepy). Jot down the most interesting, funny, and weird things that you hear. Then, think about how you could build a piece of content around each of those notes.
And if that fails, have a drink. We call that the Sarah & Jen Method of content creation at Kick Point. Use tequila for best results.
I started a conversation earlier this week around this topic and there were some great responses. You can check it out here.