Freelance writers learn early in their careers to use social media for promotion. You’re told to build a following on Twitter and Facebook, share your posts liberally, make them visual for sharing on Pinterest and Instagram and add all sorts of bells and whistles to your blogs so your readers can share your golden words without breaking a sweat.
But very few people ever talk about the flip side of social media — that they’re a gold mine of inspiration with shiny nuggets of ideas just laying around loose for the taking. If you’ve never thought about sourcing ideas for content writing jobs from your public relations channels, consider these tips to help you mine your social media accounts for inspiration.
Follow Interesting People
The ideas you find in your timeline will only be as interesting as the people and organizations you choose to follow. Research the topics that most interest you and follow the people and organizations that make things happen in those spheres. Read the comments and conversations on posts by friends and follow/friend people who make interesting points. Over time, your timelines will become virtual idea files of story sources and inspiration.
Comment, Post and Interact
It’s popular to think of social media as time-sinks, but spending some time each day posting and interacting around topics that interest you helps build relationships. If you consistently express interest in specific subjects, people you’ve never met will start tagging you when they run across an unusual viewpoint or different take on the subject. File it all away as research material.
Catch Trending Topics Early
Nearly every social media platform now lists trending topics and hashtags in an easy-to-find spot. On Facebook, it’s in the upper right corner. On Twitter, it’s the lower left. Take advantage of those trends by clicking on them to dig deeper than the media coverage. On Google+, click explore in the top menu bar. You’ll often find different viewpoints and unusual angles when you get beyond the national stories.
Ask Direct Questions
Your followers have something to say about nearly everything, so give them an opportunity to sound off. Ask for opinions on current events, crowdsource a list of under-the-radar local attractions or throw out a question about the most unusual weight loss tips that really worked. If you’re really in a rut, just go all out and ask “What’s the most interesting thing you’ve heard this week?”
Get Some Klout
It’s become popular in some circles to bash Klout as useless vanity-ware, and there are plenty of reasons to doubt its use as a social media metric. It is, however, good at one thing — surfacing interesting content. The platform’s content-sharing tool, found under the “Create” tab in the sidebar, will pop up lots of articles, blog posts and press releases that don’t always make it out into the wild.
There’s one more important aspect to crowdsourcing your creative juice. As you dig into your various timelines and boards, you’re building yourself as a recognizable brand. It’s among the most effective types of social media promotion you can use. So don’t be shy — dig in and start unearthing great ideas.
Deb P was a social media early adopter. She still prizes her 5-digit ICQ handle and 5-year-old Facebook account. She’s never met a social media platform she doesn’t love, and loves to introduce new people to the joys of interaction.