Blog Post Brainstorming Made Easier

Putting out a steady stream of blog posts can be challenge.

Some of us run into the challenge of not having time to write, or getting nervous about publishing, or getting in fights with technology (why does technology usually win the fight?). But another common obstacles is that sometimes just run out of good ideas of what to post about. Or that there are so many idea swirling around in our heads that we aren’t sure what to start with.

Here are some techniques to help you identify what you can write about and what your readers will connect with.

1. MindMapping

One of the great exercises in Darren Rowse’s best-selling 31 Days to Build a Better Blog ebook is a mind-mapping one.  Here’s how it works in detail: http://www.problogger.net/archives/2009/04/16/come-up-with-10-post-ideas/

I use FreeMind for mind-mapping if I want to brainstorm on the computer screen.  It’s a free program you can download here: http://freemind.sourceforge.net/wiki/index.php/Download

I’ve found mind-mapping posts out around a topic or question works really well for developing a series of posts.

For example, I did a series about a year ago on Twitter that I came up with by mind-mapping:

One post idea — to write about Twitter — turned into 5 connected posts.  Later I used the topic of finding connections on Twitter into several more posts, step by step instruction sheets, and YouTube videos.

2. Think Like a Reader

Get inside the head of your readers and answer the questions they’re asking.  One thing that’s constantly talked about in marketing is knowing your ideal customer.  Bloggers need to know their ideal reader.

Need help identifying your ideal reader?  Try writing a “personal ad” for your blog!  Follow the tips I offered here in how to write a “personal ad” for your business.

Once you’ve got that picture in your head of who you’re writing for, you can start to figure out what they want to know and deliver the information they’re seeking.  What challenges is  your reader running into?  What questions does he/she have about your topic?

3. Ask Your Readers

If you aren’t sure who your ideal reader is, or you have trouble thinking like them, why not just ask your current readers what they want to know?

You could simply post a status update on Facebook or Twitter, send out an email to your list, or write a blog post.  Or you could get fancy and use a tool like SurveyMonkey or Google Docs to create a survey and ask people to respond that way.

4. Mine Your Comments

Another great way to come up with blog post ideas is to look through the comments section on your own blog.  Let’s work through an example of that.  Using a post from earlier this week: Smile With Your Comments

This comment from Lisa could spark a post about when to use your photo and when to use your business logo, or the bigger picture of personality as a business asset, the idea of personal vs. business (this makes me think of Meg Ryan’s line in You’ve Got Mail, “whatever else business is, it’s got to begin by being personal” – or something like that).

From Jeff‘s comment my mind jumps to several ideas: what causes us to connect with people (smiling faces), hiding out in life (not showing ourselves, being anonymous), how to decide which generic icon to use as the default on your blog (did you know you can choose? monster, mystery man, patterns), or a step by step tutorial about how to customize that default icon to make it unique and branded to your blog.  From there of course my mind tends to wander of into thoughts of branding – what else can be branded on a blog besides the mystery man for comments?

And Ryan‘s comment brings up the great topic of trust — how do you build trust online?  What can you do besides adding your photo to your comments to help people trust you?  Or on the topic of simplicity (see, one single word in a comment can trigger ideas) there’s a whole lot of blog posts that could be written: When is simple best?  Should we ever avoid simplicity in favor of mastery?  Why do we like step by step directions?  What else can I write step by step directions about?

That’s more than a dozen blog post ideas from just three comments on one blog post.  And that’s not considering that your blog comments are a great place to find potential guest bloggers and people to interview for blog posts!

5. Go Read Comments Elsewhere

For blogs that don’t have too many comments yet, take a field trip over to a more popular blog and look at their comments.  Something is sure to spark ideas for you.

Bonus Tips

Your Challenge

Choose one or two of these strategies, grab a piece of paper and a pen, and spend the next 15 minutes coming up with blog ideas.  Just 15 minutes.  Write everything that sparks in your mind without worrying about whether it’s a good idea, good fit, or anything else.  You can go back later and choose the best ideas to write about.  For now, just write it down.

Photo Credit: leedsn/StockFresh

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9 Comments

  1. Oh dear, I may have to save your challenge for tomorrow, when hopefully, my mind will be more fresh. It’s raining here today and my brain has gone foggy!

    Love your suggestions, though! I have done both mind-mapping and letting blog comments inspire me and they both have worked well.
    Jeanine Byers Hoag recently posted… The Beauty of Different: My Insights from The Beauty of Different, Part OneMy Profile

    1. Rainy days do seem to cause brain fog, don’t they? Good thing the sun always comes back out eventually. :)
      Michelle Shaeffer recently posted… Weekend Inspiration: What’s Your Spark?My Profile

  2. Great ideas. Since I’ve joined the ultimate blog challenge, I’ve gotten tons of ideas from reading other blogs. I’ve started writing them all down. I tend to get lots of ideas and then go on overload. But I’ll do the mind mapping on these and see if there is a theme in some of these, where it can be a series of blogs on a subject.
    Nancy Rose recently posted… Frog EnergyMy Profile

    1. That’s great, Nancy. Reading blogs can really get our brains going. :)
      Michelle Shaeffer recently posted… 10 Ways to Blog Better, FasterMy Profile

  3. This is all thought provoking. Lisa’s idea is great for the pseudo, alter ego pen name. It brings to mind that some people are just more comfortable in their writting with that. Both Jeff and Ryan have great thoughts. I see how you would conclude your thoughts also.

    Personally, I have to say, I remember when you wrote and published your article How to Write a “Personal Ad” For Your Business. I studied that and as myself could not accomplish it. Under a pseudo, it was much easier. I guess that is a little quirk I have.

    I have found that additional information is in the spam folder. Great mining content there.

    Another great ebook of Darren’s is his book, Guide to Your First Week of Blogging. You can find it here http://www.problogger.net/first-week/ Umm, no I am not an affiliate, I do have the book however and I love his style of teaching.

    Now, I have to admit, when it comes to the blogs, I develope ADHD. Just kidding.

  4. Thinking up content ideas is our opportunity to express our creativity and ourselves. We all have things we are dying to tell other people about, and this is our chace. We are planning a holiday for a week during the challenge so the mind mapping tips will come in handy for us to brain storm posts for our content plan, and schedule them to be posted while we are away.
    Danny & Maggie recently posted… Ultimate Blog Challenge Content PlanMy Profile

  5. I remember when I started my life coaching practice more than ten years ago now… wow,… that long? Mindmapping was brand new to me and I used it all the time. My clients grew really quickly as a result.

    Great ideas and thank you, Michelle, for being an inspiration.
    Julie Jordan Scott recently posted… Success, Satisfaction and the Joy of Profound Love. UBC 3/31 #blogboostMy Profile

  6. You are so smart and creative! I must teach my brain to think like yours! Fabulous post Michelle!!! I’ll take on your challenge!
    Rhonda Neely recently posted… Kiss & Tell June 2011My Profile

  7. Wow Michelle, after reading your post and wishing I could teach my brain to look for blog ideas, the very next blog I went to had the answer to how I was going to get my next idea out! That was so easy!!!
    Rhonda Neely recently posted… Kiss & Tell June 2011My Profile

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