We were all there; we sat around a table with your colleagues and looked at next month’s content calendar. Somehow, surprisingly, the calendar is blank. “How did I let this happen again?” “Will the internet ever stop?” You may be thinking.
Finally, after a few moments of awkward silence, someone said, “So… any ideas?”
This is a nightmare scenario for me – an INFJ personality type who feels compelled to fill all the silences with my own mindless chatter. I’m sure it’s a nightmare scenario for you too. A blank content calendar can inspire panic at the thought of next month’s workload, as well as highlighting the insanely fast pace of time.
But that’s only if you’re doing it wrong. With the right strategies in hand, team (or even solo) brainstorms can be fun and productive activities. In fact, looking at a blank content calendar can inspire creativity and excitement.
Do not you believe me? Try one or more of these strategies in your next brainstorm and see what happens.
1. Review top performing posts or content
When you’re feeling uninspired, the best place to look for inspiration is the content you already have. What performed well? Ask your team if they have any ideas on how to replicate this success in the coming months.
Reviewing top-performing content also allows you to eliminate inefficiencies. In addition to seeing which posts are working, you can see which posts are not working and avoid similar posts in the future.
2. Research your competitors
The second best place for inspiration is your enemies’ feeds. What are they doing without you? What types of posts are successful for them? My personal favourite: What do they do that you could do better?
You could go so far as to do a thorough gap analysis. But even a quick scroll through the feeds of one or two of your major competitors is often enough to get your brain rolling.
3. Go seasonal
In the world of social media, there is a “holiday” with the hashtag for every day of the year. Find out which holidays are coming up on your content calendar and decide which ones make sense for your brand to “celebrate” online. Next, discuss interesting or unique ways to celebrate. Hint: There may be some existing content that can be used for the purpose (see point one).
For example, in March 2018 Moyens I/O decided to celebrate #nationalpuppyday by updating and sharing an old blog post called 8 Dogs Better Than You on Instagram. It took relatively little time and effort to publish, but remains a huge hit on our social feeds (although it’s no longer #nationaldogday). In a perfect world, every day would be #nationaldogday.
4. Review your goals
Does your team have a mission and/or vision statement? Now would be a good time to pull that off. Sometimes all it takes is remembering why you’re here to get the ball rolling.
Another great thing to look at are the formal goals you set when creating your social media strategy. Ask the team to consider what kind of content would help achieve these goals. It’s even helpful to keep ideas at the top when scattering them. That way, you can also reject ideas that don’t help you achieve those goals.
5. Keep an inspiration folder
See something you like on the web? Bookmark it or save it to a folder on your desktop so you can come back when inspiration runs low.
The items you save don’t have to be related in any way to your brand or audience. Maybe you like the framing of a particular headline, the mood of a particular photo, or the tone of the text on a particular article. Keep them all. Inspiration can come from anywhere. And if you like it, there’s probably a good reason for that.
6. Ask your audience
As the editor of the Moyens I/O blog, I’m very lucky to have the audience I’m trying to reach sitting right next to me. As we publish content for social media professionals, we care about inviting our own social team to our brainstorming sessions. Then we relentlessly question them about what kind of content they want to read next month.
Even if you don’t sit next to your target audience, you can reach them on social media. Ask them what they would like to see on your channel in the coming months. Or review the comments on your posts for tips.
7. Read the news
Maybe we’re just not the best at keeping up with industry news. After all, there are millions of things to do in a day. But if there’s time to catch up, it’s right before a brainstorming session.
Take this time to take note of news that impacts your brand or audience. Is there anything you can post to address this news? For example, when Facebook announced significant changes to its algorithm in 2018, we published a list of actions brands can take to mitigate the impact of the change.
8. Check out trending hashtags
This goes hand in hand with reading the news, but it’s also a matter of its own. Review trending hashtags to see if they are meaningful for your brand to engage with. Ask your team for input on how to get creative with the details. Just make sure you really understand what the hashtag is about and whether it fits the brand before you get to the point.
9. Play music
Some people do their best work in silence, but silence can be extremely uncomfortable for others. My introverted friends in the room may find it impossible to break the silence with an idea of their own at the beginning of their brainstorming session. So why not avoid silence all together by putting on some songs?
Keep the volume low – just loud enough to drive away any fear in the room.
“Sprinting” isn’t just for runners and software developers. We do it in the creative writing class, too! It’s a fun exercise that goes well with brainstorming because the goal is the same: warming up your brain.
Try writing a theme on a board in your meeting room. Set a timer (between three and five minutes, or longer if you think it will be helpful) and ask everyone to start writing down whatever comes to mind. We used the “spring” theme for the Moyens I/O Blog brainstorm last month and came up with a bunch of great ideas for seasonal blog posts, including this one.
11. Accept all ideas—at the beginning
One of the most important elements of a productive brainstorming is making it a safe space where everyone can talk and contribute. Depending on your team, this may mean leaving criticizing ideas for later.
There’s nothing more frightening than the immediate rejection of your idea in a group brainstorming session. And for what? Some of the best ideas come after a lot of unrealistic, terrible ideas have been thrown around.
My suggestion? Write down every idea – even the crazy ones – presented in the brainstorming, and then book a separate session with yourself or a few core team members to “fix” your list.
I’m not saying you’ll never have to worry about an awkward silence ever again. However, now that you’re equipped with 11 tried-and-true strategies for tackling social media brainstorming sessions, you’ll find it much easier to come up with new, high-quality ideas for your content calendar on a regular basis. In my books, it’s a win.
Use your great new ideas with Moyens I/O and easily manage all your social media channels from a single control panel. Grow your brand, engage with customers, keep up with your competitors and measure results. Try it for free today.