avatar_joshpigford_002One of the hardest things about maintaining an effective digital strategy is being able to stay inspired and come up with content ideas. This is an area that many bloggers and community managers struggle with, which isn’t really surprising. The amount of content you need to produce in order to stay relevant online is huge.

Let’s take the example of a small- to medium-sized business. There may only be one or two people responsible for managing that business’ digital strategy and they’ll be expected to come up with fresh ideas for blog posts two or three times a week, daily updates for Facebook and hourly updates for Twitter … and that’s not even mentioning LinkedIn, YouTube or Instagram.

If you’re in this position, you’ll know just how difficult it can be. Even the most creative of people often face idea burnout, and trying to keep things exciting in these cases can be seriously tough.

Luckily, there is a solution, and it’s a really simple one. Why not get your customers to tell you what content they want?

Doing this has two main benefits;

  1. It takes the pressure off you and your team to constantly come up with new ideas
  2. It ensures that the content you spend time creating will be of interest to your audience

At this point, you may be asking yourself why you haven’t thought of this before. If that’s the case, this might be the answer: getting your customers to tell you want content they want probably isn’t as easy as it sounds. If you want to make this tactic work, you’ll have to come up with bright and engaging ways to get that information out of your audience.

Below, you’ll find six suggestions to get you started.

1) Ask them in person

This one is an obvious one. What better way to get a good answer out of your customers than by asking them in person? This will be easier For some businesses than others. If you’re involved in an industry where you come into contact with customers every day, then step out of your comfort zone and ask them face-to-face what kind of things they’re interested in learning about your business and the wider industry.

Alternatively, get your customer representatives to ask the question when they make customer phone-calls, or add it to any customer surveys or feedback cards you use regularly.

2) Ask them online

If you’re in a line of business where you don’t come into face-to-face contact with your customers very often, it might be easier to ask those same questions online. There are a number of different ways you could do this. Try asking for suggestions on Twitter and Facebook, along with any other social media platforms you use regularly.

If you want to give your customers a chance to respond in more detail, or even anonymously, you could put together a market research survey to send out via email or create a “suggestion box” form on your website.

3) Look at what they’re already asking you for

Every business has a couple of questions that they’re asked over and over again. Set aside some time to take a look at those frequently asked questions (whether they’re received by phone, by e-mail, via social media or in person). If you work as part of a team, you might want to ask around to find out what questions other people are getting asked, too.

Once you have a list of your FAQs, think about creative ways to turn the answers to these questions into content.

4) Look at what they’re asking the rest of the Internet

There are many ways that people can ask questions online. Spend a bit of time browsing blogs in your industry and reading the comments, searching Twitter for mentions of relevant key words and checking discussions within LinkedIn groups.

This research will help you find recurring questions and queries that are relevant to your business, which could lead to the creation of valuable digital content.

5) Host a live chat

Hosting a live chat online is a dynamic way of communicating with your customers. It can also be a great way to encourage them to tell you what kind of content they’d like to see online. Using Facebook, Twitter or Google Hangouts to organise a live chat and invite your customers to get involved.

During the chat, make the most of the opportunity to interact with your customers. Ensure you answer any questions that come up, and keep things as friendly and positive as possible. Later on, take a look back at the transcript of the chat and use it to inspire more in-depth content ideas.

6) Track their searches on your website

There is one key way that your customers might already be trying to tell you what content they want from you, and that’s by searching for it on your site. If you’re not tracking and monitoring those searches within you site, you’re missing out on the chance to find out just what that content is!

To use this technique you’ll need to install a search function on your site, if you don’t already have one, and start tracking what your customers are using it to look for. This data will give you great insight into what your customers want to know.

Further Thoughts

Getting your customers to tell you what content they want may not be as simple as it sounds, but it doesn’t have to be complicated. In fact, you may find that your customers are already giving you this information and you’re just not seeing it.

To make the most of your customers as a source for content ideas, make sure you keep your eyes and ears open, and take as many opportunities as possible to engage with them.

Josh Pigford is the founder of Temper, which lets you measure and track how your customers feel about your product at any given time. Connect with him on Twitter at @Shpigford.

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