Content is the commerce of social media. But relevant content--the stuff your customers and prospects actually want to know--is the gold. Constantly cranking out this gold can sometimes present creative challenges.
So how do you know what you should write about on your site or blog? How do you keep the ideas flowing and the content relevant and popular? There are a number of ways to address these important questions, not the least of which is simply paying attention to what your prospects and customers ask for on a daily basis. The growing number of free online tools can also provide a wealth of great ideas.
I'm certainly not advocating that you copy and paste content from these sites. While some do give you permission to reprint with credit, I encourage you to use these sites for inspiration and education in creating your own content. Here are a few to get you started:
delicious: Delicious is a social bookmarking site. Members bookmark sites or content they visit, then tag or categorize it based on how they want to remember it. This is a great research tool that you can use to track sites you want to revisit, and it's a good way to see which sites others have bookmarked on the same subject. By paying attention to the sites that make the "hot-list," you can also easily spot rising trends.
Digg: Members of Digg submit websites and other content to the site, and the most popular--as voted for by other members--rise to the top. While this site is particularly heavy on technology, you can get a quick view of what's popular and find sites that you may never have discovered otherwise.
Google Alerts: By setting up custom searches with Google Alerts on the Google News homepage, you can receive daily e-mail updates on any subject, industry, company or other search criteria. This can be a great way to stay informed on a topic on a daily basis.
StumbleUpon: Create a free account and install the StumbleUpon Toolbar, and you can simply click on a button and be sent to sites that match your preferences. For example, I surf to sites related to marketing and hit about 10 a day to see if I "stumble upon" any nuggets.
Yahoo Answers: Millions of people go here to get answers to questions on just about every topic known to man. Yahoo members are free to ask and answer these questions. If a number of people are asking the same question--and they are--maybe the market is ripe for your blog post addressing that question.
John Jantsch is a veteran marketing coach, an award-winning blogger and the author of Duct Tape Marketing: The World's Most Practical Small Business Marketing Guide. Find out more at ducttapemarketing.com.