Do you ever get stuck for a blog post topic? When writer's block hits me, I often look to my old friend Twitter, which can be a great resource for coming up with new things to writ about. Here are a few ways to use Twitter (in conjunction with HootSuite) for topic generation:
- Check out your streams and see what posts are hot (i.e., getting a lot of retweets). Read these posts carefully and see if you can add anything to the topic -- a new spin, a deep insight, elaboration of one or two key points.
- Set up keyword tracking streams to follow Twitter-wide commentary on themes you like to write about. From time to time people will share content you'd never find in your follower streams that will inspire a post idea. You'll also see conversation from fresh perspectives, which also helps you develop fresh ideas.
- Take part in Twitter chats. These forums are spectacular opportunities to share ideas with experts. Sometimes 10 or 15 questions will come up in a single chat that would each make for a tremendous post topic.
- Ask your followers! Let people know you're stuck for a topic -- you may be surprised at how many good ideas people will serve up.
- Scrutinize the streams of your favorite thought leaders. How often do you go back and read someone's entire day's or week's worth of tweets? Most of us think of Twitter as a "now" medium, but the archives are chock-full of topic ideas ... just waiting for enterprising bloggers to find.
To make Twitter work really well for topic generation, it's exceedingly helpful to optimize your Twitter presence, so here are a few Twitter tuneup techniques:
- Get rid of your spam followers. The cleaner your stream, the easier it is to pinpoint quality tweets that lend themselves to fresh topics for your blog. If you're looking for a good tool to take care of this job quickly and efficiently, try Twit Cleaner.
- Set up separate streams based on a follow's area of expertise. Ideally, you can organize streams based on your own blog topics. Twitter Lists can also be used efficiently in this way, or use both: create Lists and view them as streams in HootSuite. The key is to organize Twitter content in a way that produces a constant flow of new post ideas.
- Favorite tweets to archive great ideas you don't have time to ponder at the moment. Again, getting caught up in the immediacy of Twitter can sometimes blind us to the long-term value of its content. If you run across a Tweet with a brilliant idea or link, save it as a Favorite, and study it at your leisure, perhaps in front of a fire as you sip a fine brandy. The chances are good a new post topic or two will emerge!
Over to You
- Have you ever used Twitter for generating blog post ideas?
- If so, what techniques have worked well?
Brad Shorr is Director of Content & Social Media for Straight North, a Web development firm in Chicago. They work with firms in specialized B2B niches, from physical therapy website design to contract food packaging manufacturers. Brad has been blogging since 2005 and active on Twitter since 2008.
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