content marketing

The Best Kept Secret in Content Marketing: Steal What Works

Content marketing can be difficult for entrepreneurs for a number of reasons. The basics usually seem simple, but when it comes to creating value, things can become more complicated. Often, the number one question that startups have about content marketing is how to come up with ideas. And how do you know if those ideas will resonate with your audience?

Many marketers feel like they need to develop some completely new and novel idea for content, but the truth is, there’s a lot of value in stealing what works. Of course, I’m not advocating for outright plagiarism, but rather than racking your brain for a completely “new” or unique idea for content, it pays to analyze what’s already out there.

Much like how scientific discovery is built on the findings of others, I implore more marketers and entrepreneurs to do the same. Why feel the need to reinvent the wheel every time?

Find content that works for achieving a specific goal, and then steal the parts of it that work. Put your own spin on the idea or take a different approach to a topic that’s already been covered by others.

Below, find some ways to do this effectively.

Related: Why Content Marketing is a Smart Investment

Finding ideas to steal

When it comes to analyzing the market, there are a number of strategies and approaches you can take.

Search community channels

One of my favorite ways to discover content ideas and inspiration is to analyze community channels for the kind of content that has previously been popular with a certain audience. There are many different channels to explore depending on your audience. One of my favorites is Reddit, because it comprises its own ecosystem of individual communities to research and explore.

For instance, if I wanted to get an idea of what kind of content was popular among moms on Reddit, I would use the search function within the subreddit /r/Mommit.

Using the search function, I can analyze the most popular content within that community over any period of time, and I can narrow down that content based on specific topics like breastfeeding, sleep training or homeschooling.

(Results via Reddit)

Based on this information, I can begin to compile a list of the types of topics and headlines that resonate most with Reddit’s mom community. Then, I can use that to inspire and drive my own creative process in order to create content that I know is already popular, contentious or interesting.

Use social media

Another way to identify popular content based on a specific topic is to use social media to search and sort through the content that is receiving the most shares. This is a pretty simple process.

Hop on Twitter or Facebook and start searching. Look for certain topics that you think might be interesting, mine groups and follow hashtags or discussions that are taking place.

If you discover certain articles that are already resonating on these channels, ask yourself what makes them popular. Is this a topic that people have a lot of questions about? Does the story or information reinforce an existing belief or narrative? Or is it just a really catchy headline that gets people clicking and sharing?

You can learn a lot just by looking at what is already successful and then dissecting it for clues and ideas about how to replicate that success.

Third-party tools

Lastly, some third-party tools may come in handy for identifying the types of content and topics that are most popular.

One such tool is BuzzSumo, which analyzes shares across multiple social media platforms to determine which content is broadly popular. Secondly, a tool like Ahrefs can help you identify content that has generated the most number of backlinks.

Depending on your goals, these types of tools may give you some critical insight that you need to develop your own content ideas based on what’s already working.

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Stealing with tact

While I am an outspoken advocate of stealing what works, I’m also in favor of a certain level of decorum when it comes to analyzing and building on the work of others.

In particular, it’s imperative to give credit where credit is due. The internet (and all of the content on it) is built on links.

If you’re inspired by or referencing work done by another person or company, be gratuitous in giving them credit for that work. It’s better to be overly complimentary to those that inspired your work than to withhold credit and risk seeming like you’re just blatantly ripping off someone else.

Of course, there is some value in a novel idea. Your content shouldn’t be an exact duplicate of what already exists, but, that doesn’t mean you can’t learn from and be inspired by the work of others. At the end of the day, these tactics can save you a lot of time and cut down on the trial and error that it takes to find content that works.

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