When your private online customer or member community is in its early stages, you have to rely heavily on content as the driving force that brings people in. Your online community is not just competing against other communities and social spaces, but other priorities as well.
Essentially, you're competing for a space in your members' mind"”which means you're competing with all the other content online. There are only a finite number of hours in your target audience's day, so your online community needs to offer enough value to convince them to spend their time there.
The Role of Content in Online Community Engagement
That is where content comes in during the early phases of your online community's lifecycle. Useful, compelling, original content acts as a magnet to attract your target audience to your online customer or member community.
Eventually, your relationships and discussions become the foundation of the community's value. However, it is the exclusive and insightful content you offer that provides the initial draw to bring people into your community.
Your content has to not only be relevant, but also help your community members to thrive in their jobs and lives. However, generating ideas for exclusive, insightful, and relevant content is easier said than done. Many communities struggle early on with where to find ideas for such high quality content to increase engagement in their communities.
Generating compelling ideas for blog posts, videos, ebooks, webinar, podcasts, discussions, and newsletters isn't just a private online community issue"”it's a challenge for all types of organizations. According to content curation firm, Curata, creating original content was named the biggest challenge for 69% of marketers. However, content ideas don't have to be so difficult to find"”especially if you know where to look.
11 Not-So-Obvious Places to Get Original Content Ideas for Your Online Customer Community
The following basic inforgraphic outlines where to source ideas for the content that you need to draw people to your online customer or member community on a regular basis. Some of them may surprise you!
Place #1) Support Questions
Your industry has questions and a large part of the reasons your customers or members will visit your community is to find the answers.
By following and tracking your company's support tickets, you can gain insight into the types of issues with which your community members are struggling and then structure your content around providing the answers.
Place #2) Discussion Forums
Even if it isn't a question directly being asked of your support team, your community members might still seek help with challenges and concerns from your community in their forum discussions.
Go into your online community and find out what people are talking about and what issues have them worried. By knowing their biggest challenges, you can create relevant content that speaks to the concerns shared by large swaths of community members.
Place #3) Comments
The comment sections of blogs, videos, and documents can often become heated places of discussion"”and sometimes even criticism"”but that doesn't mean they can't also offer valuable insight into the questions your community members have.
Your audience's comments on blogs, videos, and files in your online customer community can also help you gauge their reactions to the content you've already produced and know how you should adapt moving forward.
Place #4) Conferences
You might not be able to attend every major conference in your field, but that doesn't mean you still can't bring the hot topics into your online community. Go through programs and session notes to see where emphasis is being placed and develop content topics from what you find.
For instance, if you see a session entitled "The Future of XYZ Software," then you might be inspired to create a blog post that lists "12 Things that IT Professionals Need to Know About XYZ Software This Year."
Place #5) Industry Content
Keep your community members up-to-date with what's going on in your industry by following industry blogs, magazines, or journals. Use articles that you find as the foundation to write your own opinion pieces or put a different spin on what's being reported to make it more applicable to your customers or members.
Place #6) Announcements
Take company news or standard press releases and rewrite them in a way that is applicable to your community. Include a FAQ section or seek to answer the question "What does this mean for me?" Drill down on the information surrounding company or industry news to make it more accessible to your target audience.
Place #7) Interviews
Your community members want to get insight into your company"”which plays a big role in building customer loyalty"”so don't be afraid to show a little transparency by providing access to personal interviews.
For example, you might run a series called "Coffee with the CEO," where your CEO answers five questions that tell your community members a little more about him or her, as well as the direction of the organization.
Place #8) Market Research
You can bet that there is some group within your organization that is regularly checking in with your market to understand their problems and priorities. Most companies do this to make sure that their current and future products and services continue to solve their market's biggest problems.
Pore through these interview notes and survey results to understand how your customers or members spend their days, the challenges they face, and the information that they would find most helpful.
Place #9) Personas
Developing personas for specific segments of your audience is a great way to gain insight into the challenges they're facing, which can help inform the type of content that would speak to their particular situation.
Have a conversation with a few key members of your online customer community's target personas; ask them about their current goals and roadblocks.
Place #10) Statistics
People love easy access to data because it gives them facts and information to support their various initiatives. When you see a particularly interesting new study, consider writing a data round-up that offers advice for how to put into place the strategies and processes behind the numbers.
For instance, you could write a blog post entitled, "Five Statistics that Every Head of Hospital Needs to Know" and then make it extra useful to your community members by including advice for how to increase revenue and patient satisfaction.
Place #11) Re-purposed Content
Just because you've written about a topic already doesn't mean you can't repurpose it to get the most out of your content. Use different formats—blog posts to ebooks, ebooks to videos, videos to blog posts, etc.—or turn a "How To" post into a list post.
Generating Content Ideas for Your Community Takeaway
It might seem intimidating, but coming up with original content that is relevant, helpful, and interesting to your online community members doesn't have to be a challenge.
In addition to the eleven tips listed above, you can also utilize various tools that make it easier to "keep an ear to the ground." Set up Google Alerts to notify you when certain industry terms are mentioned in the news or find relevant blogs to follow on Twitter or in your RSS feed.
Also, don't forget that by listening to your private online customer or member community, you already have a great window into what your customers or members are talking about and the kinds of information they need. Use the resources at your disposal to create the type of text, audio, visual, and video content that makes them want to keep coming back to your community.