A Guide to Content Ideation & Development

A Guide to Content Ideation & Development

There comes a time in any marketer’s career when you’re running out of ideas. Everything you think about has been done or does not fit your brand. Your content is empty and it’s time to replenish it.

The good news is that if you set up and enforce an idea generation and generation process, this is avoidable. The generation of ideas can be continuous or planned. The goal is never to have a content pipeline that dries up.

Content idea phase

Content ideation in the marketing industry is the process of creating or sourcing topics to be used in future marketing content. The topics are meant to be relevant to your company, hoping to be part of your content marketing strategy.

Here are some ways to work on your content idea. Remember that in all cases of ideas you need to have a place to collect your ideas.

Identify content gaps

See all of your content from an eagle’s perspective. Do you see anything that could be more covered or is missing? Are there any products or services that you offer that don’t have a lot of content? Finding the gaps in your existing content is an easy way to come up with new ideas.

Address the customer’s weaknesses

At some point during the product development process there was a point where the company considered whether the product would solve the problems of its current or target customers. Most companies don’t create a solution to a problem that doesn’t exist. The first part of this is knowing what pain points you are solving for new customers. Come up with ideas that describe how you are addressing your weaknesses and why yours is the best solution.

And then for existing customers, determine what their current pain points are. This doesn’t have to be related to your product, but relevant to your customers. When thinking about the lifestyle and interests of your current customers, what kind of content can you create in order to solve an issue they are dealing with?

Beautyblender was developed out of the need to find an affordable, simple and portable way to seamlessly combine foundation and makeup. A content-related idea for new customers could therefore be to demonstrate the user-friendliness of the sponge in comparison to other products on the market. A pain point based content idea for a current client could be this blog post about face mask makeup. It’s related to their products so customers can learn how to use them, but there are also actionable tips available for any problem they might have.

Another way to find pain points is to simply ask. Use social media, your newsletter, or your focus groups to ask what problems your customers are currently facing. This is a great time to start using these Instagram question stickers too.

Connect with other departments

For fresh ideas, don’t go further than your own company. The customer service and sales departments that talk to customers frequently and are great sources of new content ideas.

Here are a few ways to set this up:

  • Schedule recurring one-on-one meetings with department heads or select department representatives to generate new ideas.
  • Schedule a recurring meeting with all department representatives at the same time to generate ideas.
  • Design a form or email address to collect ideas. Let all relevant people know it’s there and regularly look for ideas.

Other departments connect with your customers on a different part of the buyer journey and provide valuable insight into people’s situation. The information can also flow both ways, as the marketing team shouldn’t be working in a silo.

Use social listening

Another way to find ideas for content is through social listening. If you pay attention to your competitors, industry trends, and brand sentiment, you will find plenty of sparks that generate new ideas.
Social listening can provide insights into the trends.  These trends can be used for brainstorming content on your website and social platforms.
You can sort through the noise by using a hearing tool like the feature provided by Sprout Social. You might want to see what type of product your customers are talking about the most on Twitter. In the example above, social listening generates data for each product to show which is the most popular at the time.

Do team brainstorming sessions

Sometimes more heads are better than one, and that’s certainly the case when it comes to generating content ideas. Schedule recurring brainstorming sessions or one-time meetings when you run out of ideas.

Brainstorming sessions should still have some loose guidelines. While it’s true that no idea is a bad idea, you also don’t want irrelevant ideas. At the beginning of the session, identify the scribe who will write down the ideas, the length of the brainstorming session, any starting questions, and how you can contribute. Perhaps you are only concerned with a few topics. Hopefully, by announcing the questions at the beginning, you will root out the irrelevant ideas. You don’t want people to talk about each other. Use raised hands or a round robin discussion.

Content development phase

After you’ve generated lots of ideas, it’s time to go through them and identify the ones that are best for your marketing team. Content development is when you take your ideas and filter which ones are relevant and work out the ones that are relevant. It’s okay to discard or tabulate ideas that are not currently relevant. Some ideas never make it past the development phase for a variety of reasons. Just like the Idea phase, content development can be a recurring meeting or a one-time meeting.

There are many ways to develop your content ideas. Here are just a few.

Identify a campaign or topic

Is there any current trend you see or can you create a marketing campaign for some ideas? Chances are your ideas will be linked together in one way or another to create a series. Some examples of this are employee roles and planned Instagram acquisitions.

Artifact Uprising is a company that specializes in photo products. They created a branded hashtag #TellOn to showcase the stories in photo form that their customers are taking in. This is a recurring content topic that, as long as the company has customers, won’t dry up in the source material.

Hyperfocus on a topic

It can be difficult to rank high in search results on a common topic. Opt for a specialized approach rather than a generalist approach. Maybe not that many people are looking for it, but those who do are more likely to get into the subject.

Sweetgreen serves healthy meals and is all about local sourcing and sustainability. For this video, the company could have chosen to talk about the general bread category. Instead, they chose to focus on the rosemary focaccia that they serve in their LA stores.

Check for relevance and execution

One of the most important parts of content development is sorting out the ideas. Some companies use a rating system while others prefer to go through it informally. Unlike a brainstorming session, this part is done by those who would be involved in creating and promoting content.

For any idea, talk about what the content would be like, what it would take to reach it, additional budget or time constraints, and its ties to your business.
Graphic depicting the five stages of a social media marketing funnel
Using your marketing funnel and personas, adjust where the idea would rest. Maybe an idea is great, but you already have too much content in the awareness phase. In this case, you would keep the idea but not continue with it.

Content scheduling & promotion

Some content types are blocked due to holidays or dates. In these cases, ideas are sourced and developed taking into account the date. Using a social media calendar can help you keep track of important dates so that you are supported in your idea and development phase.

Data can also limit what content you want to focus on. Retail marketing for the holiday season is ramping up in the fourth quarter, and a lot of content is focused in this area. This is obviously not the time to talk about the best summer outfits.

Content creation takes time and part of that content process should take that into account. You may have the best vacation ideas, but they won’t get implemented unless you plan how much time it will take to run and promote them.


Don’t let a blank whiteboard discourage you. With an established brainstorming and development process, you will never run out of ideas. From conversations with other departments to a formal form to evaluate ideas, brainstorming for content doesn’t have to be like pulling teeth. There are plenty of new content ideas for you to explore. To learn more about what consumers are looking for in a brand, check out our latest Sprout Social Index report.