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The question has become predictable: how do I continue to generate quality content?

Yes, sir. When a marketing authority conducts a survey regarding today’s toughest challenges, you can expect to see a bar or pie chart indicating the need to create content is the marketing pain point of the year, decade, millennium.

After we identify who needs to learn what, we’re obliged to answer the questions our customers have. This is what makes content marketing strategic.

So you’re on that road chugging along hoping to be valuable, but the gas gauge tank points to E. Now what?

I propose you think outside the Chevron. Here are 12 sources of alternative energy that has helped fuel my trek in 2012.

Ask a question and put down your pen

Creating interesting content doesn’t get any easier than this. Pose a question pertinent to your market and post that sucker on Q&A sites such as Yahoo! Answers, LinkedIn Answers, and Quora. If you have a well-trafficked blog or a responsive audience anywhere online, try it there. When the answers come in you’ll find a variety of opinions and different points of view that add up to a juicy piece of content—even if your only contribution was the question.

Nice example here: Should Your Home Page Contain a Form? 

Polish a turd

Sometimes, often, I should say, the best-intentioned content marketers have strong ideas, but weak writing, design or storytelling skills. It’d take me about one minute to find several examples of what I mean. So, with the assumption being you agree with the opinion of the original author,  spiff that smelly puppy up and publish it. 

I do this often, but will refrain from pointing out a specific example, so as to not call any of my colleagues’ work crap. That’d be mean.

Color commentary

I could really vamp on this one because I dig the approach so much I felt the need to give it a name. Simple, compelling, thought-provoking stuff here… Publish an article by another author, but chime in with your opinion. Add color, much like the color commentator does on sportscasts. You can even roundup additional commentary to refute or endorse an opinion. This approach has implications far beyond blog posts too. It can become all kinds of content that creates all kinds of buzz.

Have a look at how did this recently: Maybe You’re Not Wasting Enough Time with Social Media. 

Storify

Do you know the site/service? It’s very cool and free. With Storify, you simply collect updates from social networks and build a story—with photos, A/V media, graphics, tweets, and whatever—and then build your own story with an easy point-and-click interface.

Social Media Today asked me to cover Content Marketing World and I chose this approach to produce stories nightly throughout the event. Event hosts Content Marketing Institute picked up on the stories and re-ran them on their site. 

Here’s one of them: Content Marketing World Was a Serious Zoo Yesterday.

Infographicize

Pardon me for taking the liberty to create my own dictionary, but this is what my name for creating content based on interesting data or insights you find in an infographic.

See how simple this strategy is: Clueless for Content?

 

Go list crazy

I want to be clear on this one. I’m not actually proposing the old “3 Common Mistakes” or “7 Effective Strategies for [blank]” a new and exciting idea. It’s an old and predictable ploy and I could happily read feeds for rest of my life without ever clicking on another list of how to get more “Likes” or “Followers” or whatever.

I’m saying go list crazy. Brainstorm buddy. I attended a mini-seminar where the social media speaker guy gave presented an interesting challenge. He said if you are an expert in something go home tonight and make a list of 100 tips. I couldn’t resist. I immediately banged out “101 Persuasion Pointers.”

With them, I created a graphic a day for each pointer and used Tout.com to make my points in the form of 15-second videos. The videos run on my home page at FeldmanCreative.com and the images are on display on my Facebook profile, Google+ and an appropriately title pinboard on my Pinterest site.

 

Persuasion pointers on Pinterest

Persuasion Pointers: free of charge on one my Pinterest boards.

 

Slide it on over

SlideShare is the bee’s knees for distributing content serious researchers and prospects devour millions of times each month. It takes just a little effort and some design prowess (I suggest customizing a slide show template) to repurpose an article, infographic, eBook, paper, interview or anything really into a slide deck. Of course, I’m not talking about those dreary table-happy PowerPoints that lull you to sleep in meetings and webinarzzzzzz. I’m talking about putting on a little show that tells a story without a speaker present.

Let me show you what I mean: Magnetic Content: Strategies to transform your website into a customer attraction force field. 

Disagree

My man Marcus Sheridan, The Sales Lion, who presents the world’s most engaging content marketing lessons, says “have a dang opinion.” Find a piece you disagree with and be a little devil.

Check out Jason Falls and Kat French going at it like Dan Aykroyd and Jane Curtain used to on Saturday Night Live. Debate: Facebook is Blackmailing Brands. And “Not." 

Vamp on a book

The best writers are big readers. Crack open a book you think is worthy of your audience’s time, lift and idea or two from it, and craft a piece of content. This approach is good for a story when you’re stuck, but with good source material, it can keep you unstuck for eons. 

I do this often. I did it here with Michael Stelzner’s great book “Influence.” Read The Power of Influencers: Rockets Don’t Fly Themselves 

Write a black paper

We’re back to me inventing names for marketing tactics again. Much like the book idea above, you can do the same with white papers. White papers appear to be declining and I suspect I know why. They’re mostly too boring to read.

But seek and ye shall find some winners. I propose what you then do is extract the good stuff. Make a 24-page snooze fest into a one-page thriller featuring the best of the white paper. Seems to me this should be called a “black paper.” Save people time and they’ll love you forever.

Cliff Notes: Seagate whitepaper on cloud computing is an effective version of this approach.

Interview someone smart

If you don’t do interviews, you should. From doing them, you get more than great content. You build authority in your own right by leveraging your guest’s expertise. You get access to your guest’s audience. And you’re likely to get a new comrade in your sphere or domain or whatever you want to call it.

I love when I get asked for interviews. I interview accomplished marketers in my podcast series “Content Marketing Minds.” And I find stuff like this to be killer content:

No BS Social Media: Expert Interview with Jason Falls

Talking Content Marketing with C.C. Chapman: Expert Interview Video 

Tell a story

I don’t want this to be a no-duh throw-away tip. Of course, you’ll aim to tell stories. But here I’m talking about unusual stories… Talk about a screw-up you made… A day in the life of you doing your job… A surprjsing event. How about this? Take a seemingly irrelevant sequence of events and make it relevant.

I adopted a dog that wanted to kill me and felt compelled to talk about lessons learned from the little bitch in Unknown, Unliked, and Untrusted: Why? 

Try some of these approaches. Mileage will vary depending on road conditions, but with some alternative thinking and experimentation, you’re bound to see the needle move.

Perhaps you already have? Then, if believe adding to the conversation is also a part of the content marketer’s charter, add your thoughts this one. Marketing is a two-way street.