As freelance writers, it’s extremely difficult to distinguish ourselves from the rest of the pack. You can have perfect grammar/spelling and a very elegant writing style, but it won’t matter if your ideas aren’t creative.
Here are 3 ways to come up with something interesting:
1. Stop Thinking Like Everybody Else
Chances are whatever idea you have for writing, an article has already been covered elsewhere. Just a simple Google search will reveal that. How can you come up with something that’s interesting, but unique at the same time? It might seem impossible since there are so many articles out there, but it can be done quite easily if you know the trick to thinking outside the box.
At the core of 99.9999% of article ideas, the writer is trying to answer a question the audience might have. Examples are: ‘Top 10 Movies/Games/Whatever of All Time’ or ‘How to fix this’ or ‘How to save money doing that.’ In order for these articles to succeed, it needs to be objectively better than the other articles out there (usually written by experts) and the content needs to be marketed.
Alternatively, you can try writing something unique which has a greater chance of going viral. Here’s the trick: just do the opposite of everyone else and answer a question which the audience doesn’t need to know. Sounds weird? Well here’s an example:
Remember Drogon from Game of Thrones? He’s the largest one and most aggressive one, distinguishable by his red and black scales. Shade Station did an infographic about how much it would cost to feed Drogon. The content saw great success through various Game of Thrones related sub-reddits and forums.
Name one thing in the world which that knowledge would be useful for. How much does it cost to feed a fictional character? It’s completely useless knowledge, but yet, people are still interested in reading about it. This is the same reason why many articles on Buzzfeed go viral, despite containing useless knowledge. It’s a great place to go to, if you’re looking for examples.
2. Start Stealing Ideas
“Good artists copy; Great artists steal.” Read an article you really liked? Steal it, and add a twist to it to make it yours. This is a great way to come up with ideas which haven’t been covered before.
Here’s how to add the twist:
Let’s say you recently read an article about ‘3 ways on how to generate killer article ideas,’ and you thought it was an amazing read. Some twists you can do are:
- Take one aspect of it, and make it the opposite e.g. 3 ways to generate boring ideas
- Add in an element of ‘what if’ to it e.g. what if you’re on a tight deadline? 3 ways to come up with killer article ideas in just 5 minutes
- Exaggerate or supersize it: 57 ways to generate killer article ideas
These aren’t the only ways to do so, but they’re a great starting place.
3. Ask the Right Questions
In complex fields such as IT, insurance, health or technology, educating the readers is the top priority. That is why it’s extremely important to ask the right questions. What things do the readers need clarifying or understanding with?
In order to find out, your best option is to ask the audience directly, rather than try and ‘think in their shoes.’ Being an expert in your field, you will most certainly miss out important questions that need answering.
To demonstrate the effectiveness of this: Ryan Hanley, marketer of ‘The Murray Group’ did a video series called “100 questions answered in 100 days.” This is where he asks people to answer the question: ‘if you can ask one question related to insurance, what will the question be?’ After receiving 147 responses, he narrowed it down to 100 questions and made that video series.
The Murray Group was only receiving 70 hits per week, but during the video campaign, their traffic went up to 500 hits per week. A lot of this success was due to a lot of obscure questions which were not covered in the New York State Department of Insurance’s website.
This goes to show even authority sites will miss out on things which the public wants to know.. The audience will always have questions which are not covered on other sites. Survey them on social media, email, real life or even Survey Monkey to find out what you should write about.
Overall, I hope these 3 tips will help you write engaging articles that will go viral and/or educate the masses.