Have you ever thought you nailed a piece of writing?
But no one seemed to care.
No one shared it.
No one commented on it.
And you wonder why.
If you write enough content, some of it won’t hit the mark—that’s just the way it is.
But how can we minimize the risk of this happening?
What can we do before we write that will make our writing connect with our audience?
The word ‘before’ is the key.
Ideation and research are essential to writing compelling content. They help you pack a punch with facts, figures and examples—but more importantly, they help you validate your idea before the world ever sees it.
I use social proof to decide what to write about (typically blog posts, but you can apply it to any writing exercise).
Social proof means discovering proven topics, already written about by others, to validate your own ideas.
Let’s dive straight in.
How to decide what to write about
What are you going to write about?
If you write regularly, you understand the importance of ideas.[message_box_yellow] Join the FREE online workshop, 5 Powerful Writing Strategies for More Shares, More Subscribers, and More success. CLICK HERE [/message_box_yellow] But what makes for a good idea?
You may think something is helpful, but do your readers agree?
The quickest way to find out is to ask the world’s biggest search engine: Google.
While it isn’t perfect for all types of writing, if Google attracts many search queries about a topic, this usually means it is popular.
First, type your topic into Google Trends. (I have used the phrase ‘social proof’ as an example in the screenshot below.)
The graph shows the number of times people have searched for the phrase ‘social proof’ on Google since 2005. As you can see, interest has increased each year.
Use your intuition to decide whether or not a topic is on the right trajectory, and worth writing about.
This works both ways. Below is a search for ‘Blackberry’ which peaked in 2011, but has since plummeted.
To reinforce the insights you get from Google Trends, you can check the search volume for your topic—and the words associated with it.
Type your topic into the KWFinder.com search tool. Here you will find all the information you need about search volumes, the competitiveness of keywords, and a list of related keywords linking to your topic.
This can help you decide whether or not a topic is worth writing about.
About 4,400 people search for the phrase ‘social proof’ each month. This is a significant number, so you can safely assume that the term is popular, and worth writing about.
You can use other phrases that show up in the search in your writing, for instance, ‘social proof examples’ and ‘social proof marketing.’ They may even be interesting enough for you to write an entire piece on them!
Using social proof to validate your idea
Now it’s time to validate your idea using social proof.
You need to consider 3 things for ‘social proof’:
1. Your competitors’ content
Have your competitors written about this topic? Do you see an opportunity to improve on what they’ve written?
If you’re unsure of who your competitors are, use SEMrush to find them. Your will learn about your top 5 keyword competitors free of charge. If you invest in SEMrush software, you can discover hundreds more competitors.
Here are the top 5 competitors for Razor Social, a leading blog focused on social media tools.
What do you do with this information?
Go back to Google and check whether these competitors have written about the topic you have in mind.
Search for “Your Competitor” + “Your Topic”. See the example below for Razor Social as a competitor.
For each competitor, you can check:
- Whether they have written about this topic before.
- If yes, whether they got a lot of engagement in the form of comments or social shares.
You certainly don’t want to copy your competitors, but they are often a good place to check which topics are doing well and which aren’t.
2. Relevant social media conversations
Are your readers talking about this topic on social media? Here’s how to find out.
1. Twitter advanced search is a good starting point for discovering these conversations. Once again, I searched for the phrase ‘social proof’.
It’s easy to over-complicate your search with this function, so my advice would be to keep it simple. Don’t use too many variables, or you won’t get the best results.
Instead, start with broad terms and only a few variables, and slowly become more targeted as you deepen your search.
Here is what the search results look like:
Ask yourself these questions:
- How recent are the conversations on this topic?
- Are there many Tweets related to this topic, or only a few?
- Are key people regularly sharing on this topic? (If you include these people in your writing, there’s a good chance they might share it!)
2. The next place to look for social conversations is to use the search function in Google+. Below, I searched for ‘social proof’ in the general search tab.
You can segment your search into ‘People and pages,’ ‘Communities,’ ‘Google+ posts,’ ‘Photos’ and more. This segmentation feature allows you to precisely target what you’re looking for.
Just as you did with your Twitter search, ask yourself questions such as:
- How recent is the content on this topic?
- Are there dedicated communities based on this topic?
- What is the engagement (number of social media shares) for posts on this topic?
If there aren’t many conversations on the topic, it may not be worth your time.
Don’t be afraid to take a step back to the idea generation stage, and start again. The last thing you want is to put lots of work into content creation, only to have no one care about what you’re writing.
Bonus Tip: As you read through these relevant conversations, capture the language your readers are using to describe their challenges. This can be an effective way of connecting with them the next time you sit down to write.
3. Number of social shares
BuzzSumo is custom-made for idea validation. It is a search engine like Google, but has a different way of ranking things. While Google ranks searches based on a number of complex factors that no one really knows, BuzzSumo makes it easy.
On BuzzSumo, you choose the type of content you are searching for, and BuzzSumo ranks all the content it can find, based on how many people have shared that content on social media.
Enter your topic or keywords into BuzzSumo, and it will produce search results like this:
For a given topic, you can clearly see how many social media shares each piece of content has attracted. It also provides information about who specifically has shared the articles, and which sites have linked back to them. (This information is helpful when you are promoting your content or looking for back links to boost your search engine ranking.)
Simply put, the more shares, the more valid your idea is.
There is no perfect way to validate an idea.
Using social proof to decide what to write about saves you both time and energy, helping you create better, more compelling content.
By looking in the right places, and listening intently to what your readers are saying, you can eliminate the guesswork often associated with writing.
But if you pick a proven topic and validate it with social proof, your chances of success increase significantly.
How do you decide what to write about? Share in the comments!
And please share this post with your friends on social media. 🙂