AprilIn any profession, some days are just more exciting and productive than others. Maybe you’re not busy (right…) or maybe you’re just putting off something you’re not looking forward to doing.

Next time you find yourself staring blankly at your computer screen and you know you’re likely not getting much done (let’s face it, it happens to the best of us), take some time to discover new content.

You may use it for your next blog post or that piece of research you’ve been working on, or for content curation to share on social media, which can lead to new followers.  At the very least, content hunting can be a productive way to spend rainy Saturday mornings.

I’ve been a victim of both procrastination and rainy Saturdays, so I’ve learned to ease that nagging voice and go looking for valuable content every time I’m feeling unmotivated. Along the way, I’ve discovered some ways to streamline this process and tools to help.

1. Make Twitter and Facebook Lists, Then Use Them
Both Twitter and Facebook allow you to organize people and companies into nicely categorized lists based on anything — their expertise, interests, the content they offer, etc. This makes it easy to focus on your search for specific content, rather than scrolling through the weeds.FB-Interest-Lists-Screenshot

For example, I’ve created Twitter lists for  “design inspiration” that I use when I’m embarking on a new project; “social folk” who keep me updated with social media information, and other lists for industry conferences, startups, and web design, and of course, my local friends and resources.

You can also find and follow public lists that other people have created by going to Facebook Add List. First, you’ll see lists created by your friends or lists on which they’re featured, then you’ll see lists based on your interests identified on Facebook. If none of those meet your needs, you can simply search lists for the topic of interest. You can also create a new list on this page.

FB-Interests-Lists

Remember, creating a list is one thing; using it is another. Your time is valuable, treat it that way.

2. Follow Your Influencers’ Influencers
After you’ve identified some key influencers on a topic of interest, take a look at who they follow and interact with in their daily conversations. This is a great way to discover the originators of some really valuable content — and by following someone new, they’re likely to follow you back, potentially building your network and expanding your audience.

3. Set Up Google Alerts
Visit google.com/alerts and create alerts for the keywords of topics you’re interested in. Make sure to put the exact word or phrase in quotes to avoid irrelevant results as much as possible. For example, try “content marketing” instead of content marketing. You can set the alerts to send to your inbox daily, weekly, or as they come. Unless you’re looking for time sensitive information, I suggest setting them to weekly so they don’t become a distraction.

4. Subscribe and Review News Aggregators
There’s a lot of content available on the web today. Use an aggregator or two to browse headlines on topics of interests from top news sites. You can customize your results based on topic or outlet.

Among my favorites are Alltop and Popurls. These sites also show you what’s trending on other popular aggregators such as Digg, and Del.icio.us, as well as the top news sites and blogs like LifeHacker, Mashable, New York Times, Wired, Gawker, and many more.

Alltop-Screenshot

5. See What’s Trending
Check out what stories are popular that day on LinkedIn Today or see what’s trending on Twitter. On your Twitter homepage, you can adjust your trending settings to show you what’s hot worldwide, by region, by interests, among your followers, etc.

Twitter-TrendsTwitter-Trends-2

I find it helpful to look at the comments of the day’s top stories and see what people are saying about them. It’s a great way to conjure ideas for blog posts and articles — “Why XX Product Launch Infuriated Its Fans” or “The Science Behind Why XX Story Went Viral,” for example. Same goes for the comments on your own blog and guest articles.

6. Crowdsource Your Content Ideas
I’m a huge fan of crowdsourcing, especially for content ideas. Who’s better to ask what they want to read or hear about than your actual audience? You could pose a very broad questions like, “What about digital marketing puzzles you?” or something more specific such as, “What’s your favorite RSS reader?” or “What’s your number one tip for staying on track?”

For the latter, you can combine the replies collected into a “master list” blog post and give each of them credit for their answers. Not only have you created a killer piece of useful content, but you’ve also recruited several people willing to share the article with their networks because they’re featured.

7. Create a Running List of FAQs
We tell this to every client:  Whenever a customer, friend, or business partner asks a question pertaining to your expertise, write it down! If they’re looking for the answer, there’s likely to be other people out there looking for it too. This way, you’re providing content that’s tailored to your target audience on a broader scale.

Remember, people love lists. Take the question that you’re asked most frequently and create a post that lists potential solutions. Kind of like the post you’re reading right now or “30 Things to Stop Doing to Yourself” (note the number of tweets).

8. Join Pinterest
Yes, it can be a huge distraction. A giant time warp of prettiness. But it can also be a fabulous (and fun) content creation and curation tool. Do a search for your key terms, find a few influential people or companies, and create an “inspiration board” for when you’re fresh out of content ideas. Peg Fitzpatrick does a great job of this.

<p”>Pinterest

9. Conduct an Interview
It’s nice to feature a fresh perspective on your blog. Take some time reaching out to some of your favorite writers to see if they would be interested in contributing or ask to interview someone of influence for a post. This is another effective way to tap an influencer’s network and build a broader (and relevant) audience.

10. Look at Your Analytics
Take a look at what’s working for your audience. Examine Facebook Insights and other social media analytics using HubSpot, SproutSocial, Simply Measured, or any number of other tools out there. See what posts are grabbing your audience’s attention and spurring creativity. Also look at your Google Analytics and see which links are seeing the most clicks, how much time visitors are spending on which posts, etc. Discover which topics interests them the most and build on them, find new ways to approach that subject with valuable solutions.

Of course, these aren’t the only places or ways to discover new and interesting content. There’s a ton of resources available on the web…which leads to bonus tip 11: Spend your day doing research! Do a search of how-tos: how to find valuable content, how to keep your audience engaged, etc. You may be surprised how many new ideas arise!

Do you have a favorite tip for finding content? Please share in the comments below!