It’s 5:02 a.m. on Friday as I am writing this. The dog is on the floor licking…something (he likes to lick a lot!) and my wife is asleep beside me in bed.

The last 10 minutes have gone something like this:

• What’s happening on Twitter? Boring.

• How about Facebook? Someone else got engaged. Yay for them.

• Any new emails? Delete. Delete. Inbox Zero!

• Hmm…

Then I opened up the Buffer iPhone app (forgot I even had that installed).

When you are looking for mindless wastes of time, you get desperate.

That’s when I ran across the analytics section of the app and had a light bulb moment.

See, writing has been harder lately. I’ve still been ‘hitting publish’ twice a week but it’s been a struggle.

There have been two core issues:

  1. Coming up with topics that my audience is interested in
  2. Beating writers block and writing above a 3rd grade level

blog post ideas

1. Enter…The “Buffer Validation Method” 

After spending 15 minutes in the app, I realized I could see the exact topics that my readers are interested in by looking at what they interacted with on social media.

For example:

Most of the tweets on my personal account get 3-5 clicks. They might get a retweet or the occasional favorite or two.

While I was thumbing through the analytics in the app, I ran across several anomalies.

Some of my Tweets were 5-10x more popular than others.

While most tweets got 3 clicks others received 15-30.

Here is an example:

The lightbulb moment was this: These traffic engagement spikes validate that my audience is interested in reading about this topic.

So, if I write a post about this subject the chances of it getting traction are high.

Buffer analytics = Blog Post Ideas

Just schedule tweets in Buffer about topics that you THINK would be popular and measure the response.

The exact workflow to do that

I am playing around with the idea of doing an in-depth analysis post on Facebook Ads.

It would show you examples of 20 Facebook ads and break down the posts into a simple framework so you could create effective ads yourself.

It would also include a gigantic swipe file of 200+ Facebook ads as a giveaway.

Seems like a decent idea right?

But, what would it look like to validate that post before I spent all that time to write it?

  • Step 1: Goto Quora.com and find someone who has asked a question around that topic
  • Step 2: Buffer a link to that Quora post with their question as the body of the Tweet
  • Step 3: Wait a day and look at your analytics to see how many people interacted with it.

I put together a video showing you this process.

If there is above average interaction (2-3x normal), write the post.

If not, reform the question, pick a different headline and Buffer it again.

Do this 5-10 times until you find the right ‘hook’ to form the post around.

As soon as you see a spike in interactions, start writing.

2. Ok, great. But how do I write the freaking post?

Now you have a headline and are reasonably confident your audience will resonate with it.

But you still have a problem…writing the actual post.

As soon as you start to try to write, everything freezes up.

How can you fix this?

Don’t write.

Instead, answer questions.

Think about it like this:

If my wife asks me “Bryan, why do you think most people never act on their ideas?”

I would answer in less than 5 seconds with at least 3 minutes worth of dialogue.

No prep. No outline. No research.

However, If I were trying to write an article entitled “The 7 Reasons Your Idea Will Never Become A Business”

Gridlock. All dry. Words … are … hard.

There is something fundamentally different with writing about a TOPIC as opposed to answering someone’s specific QUESTION.

What if instead of writing ‘blog posts’ you just answered questions.

Then format those answers into blog posts.

(Seth Godin agrees.)

How do you turn a topic into a question?

Let’s use the tweets that I found in Buffer analytics and try spinning it into a question.

This was the original tweet.

Spinning that tweet into a question would give us something like this:

“What was the biggest influence in quitting your job and starting your own business?”

OR

“Is there a single thing you could identify that gave you the kick the butt to quit your day job?”

I can answer that!

To take it one step further I went to Quora to try to find an actual person with that exact problem.

Example question I found on Quora

Note: I’ve found that the more specific the person is and the more real they are in my head, the freer the words flow.

The absolute easiest way is to have an actual person ask you the question. However, answering peoples questions online can work just as well.

Now that I have a question how do I start writing?

Step 1: Don’t write, record

First, fire up your iPhone voice recorder app.

Next, have your wife or roommate ask you the question you came up with in the last step.

Last, press record and answer the question.

Just have a normal conversation about the topic. Give your answer, ask for questions and then answer those too.

Step 2: Transcribe your audio

Take all of the audio you just recorded and write it down word for word into a Google Doc.

It’ll take a few minutes, thats fine.

Step 3: Pretty it up

Edit out all of the “umm’s” and “ahh’s” and format it so it looks pretty (I’d suggest grabbing this $3 book to help you with that).

Include pictures to further describe the question.

Pro tip: If you don’t need pictures to describe what you are discussing in your post, go deeper until you do.

Step 4: Write 5 different headlines

Your headline is VERY important. Quality is huge but your headline is even more important.

Here is a simple process I use for coming up with headlines:

Step 5: Publish

You are done.

Proof it and hit publish.

I wanted to test this workflow on someone else

So, I enlisted Videofruit intern AJ and asked him to “answer a question” about a recent project he completed.

Instead of asking him to write about it, I flipped on my webcam and started recording.

Here is the raw footage:

Then he transcribed the video and cleaned it up. (see the transcription)

Next, he read this book and went through a short copywriting course.

He was able to go through the transcription and rearrange it to a blog-post-friendly format.

Then he brainstormed 5 headlines using the method I mentioned above.

  1. These 4 Easy Steps Will Have Your Logo Set In No Time
  2. How Logos Should Actually Be Created
  3. What Should Your Design Process Be?
  4. Creating What YOU Want: Cheap and Simple
  5. Steps Non-Creative People Take To Create A Design

He spent a total of 2 hours writing (and 3 hours on learning about copywriting).

This is the first draft: How to create a logo if you suck at design

Not bad for the first time to ever write a blog post.

Wrapping it all up into a pretty package

That’s a lot of stuff, so let’s review what we’ve learned:

  1. Use your Buffer account analytics to get post ideas by looking for engagement peaks.
  2. Don’t start your post by writing. That encourages writers block.
  3. Instead repurpose the ideas in Step 1 into a question then answer that question (record yourself).
  4. Transcribe your answer on paper and then reformat it and pretty it up.
  5. Press publish.

I have used the “record first” workflow for the past two weeks and it has been great.

It saves 1-2 hours per post and helps me to write even though I suck at writing.

PS: Do you have a writing hack that you use? Share it below. I need it!

This post originally appeared on Video Fruit. Check out the Video Fruit blog for tons of great articles on video, content, and marketing.

Image sources: The Noun Project, Blurgrounds, Death to the Stock Photo

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Written by Bryan Harris

Videofruit by day. Auburn fan by night. See the VideoFruit blog for my step-by-step formulas to help grow your business.

  • Kelli Russell

    Thank you for sharing the headline writing tips, and helping me to re-frame my subjects to answer questions. I feel like my writing just went up ten notches!

  • Thanks for this awesome article. I ve been struggling a bit with a writer’s block off late!

    – Chaitra | PinkPot

  • PJ Howland

    And Bryan hit’s it out of the park with this one!!! Awesome read Bryan, loved that this was more than just another headline hacks or how to beat writer block post. Very actionable and well written. Great job!

  • This is an amazing idea! I’ll definitely give this a try. I find when I sit, write and think about the content for too long my articles are very rigid and boring. This seems like the remedy. You sir, are a genius.

  • jireh

    This is the first post I have read since setting up my buffer account. Such simplicity! Thanks and keep ’em coming!

    • Hey, thanks for stopping by the Buffer Social blog! We’d love to have you back anytime 🙂

  • Gary-Yau Chan

    Great article, Bryan!

    Finding an awesome idea within your industry >> see if it relates to my audience >> doing further research >> organize thoughts >> coming up with headlines >> actually writing it up

    This whole process is definitely tedious! But thanks for breaking it down to little chunks and tips and also motivating us.

    You should check out OzContent.com – we actually mimic a very similar process flow.

  • Great suggestions here! This definitely gives me a lot of ideas for how to up my game on post preparation – and especially titles!

    Quick question for Bryan – how exactly does the KingSumo App work for you? Do you need a lot of social shares before it starts showing results?

  • Great article Bryan! We record our thoughts in an audio recording (using Evernote) and then listen and bang out the keywords in our WordPress editor.

    Since we review sauces (hot, bbq, salsas) a lot of our recording and transcription is made up of adjectives and other descriptors – and so the audio recording is a great way for us to gather our thoughts before we write.

    Thanks for the tips on SumoMe – I need to check out that suite of plugins.

  • Rob

    I’m not sure I agree with your Lightbulb moment. It seems you sued more of a clickbait type tweet in the one that had more engagement.

  • Rachel Daley

    Thanks for this post Bryan! So true that answering a question out loud doesn’t feel like a chore. What’s stopped me from doing this in the past is the chore of transcribing though – it can take foreverrrr and is tedious work especially when you have other things that need done for your biz.

    Oh hey, solution! If you have a small budget, you can hire freelancers from sites
    like https://www.odesk.com/ (I’ve used this site, it’s great!) by posting the
    job you need done. Freelancers will bid on the job and you can pick the person
    you want based on their fee (so you can keep it cheap).

    This way you don’t have to spend time transcribing your own words – you can focus on the epic ideas part!

  • Great post. Bookmarking it for future reference. I like the workflow.

    I also use Quora, not just to see what topics people are interested in but also to help inform my content as well.

    For example, I wanted to find out how LinkedIn got powerful influencers to create content for them. After digging around, Quora was the best place that I was able to get the right answers. Turned it into a post. If you’re interested, check it out: http://www.searchenginepeople.com/blog/15013083038-how-linkedin-influencer-content.html

    If people are answering the question on Quora or posting similar questions then there’s huge interest in that topic. I understand why you’d want to wait a day to see if your audience is interested, but I’d say skip that and just start writing if there’s already enough activity on Quora around that topic.

    Anyway, I didn’t do any validating prior to writing. I just went with what I saw. Validation came afterwards, as evident in the the amount of shares it gained. It’s not a crazy amount like buffer blog gets, but it definitely exceeded the typical number of shares we usually get.

  • TakeActionWAHM

    Lots of great tips here – People are looking for answers to their questions, if your blog post is providing those answers, you’re already ahead of the game. It only makes sense to use that to your advantage when it comes to creating your post.

  • Excellent post! I’ll be referencing this one for sure. Finding blog post topics can be tricky. I use AllTop, Content Gems and Buffer of course. 🙂

  • Hi Bryan, a really useful post for us in the position were in. We are so busy developing our product that it’s hard finding the time to find blog post ideas, we will be using this!

  • Advert Lines

    Hello.

    I find just letting the writing role off the tongue naturally is best.

    I think this way will let you and your fans build a stronger relationship. Infact you lot at buffer do a very good job at this. A*** I give you 100% credit.

    The amount of doughnuts I’ve met that give a complete different language online to real life amazes me.

    It’s like many newspaper journalists. They write like they know everything. Some newspaper journalists are the only people I dislike in the writing world. Stuck up phone hackers that think they got a cool job.

    I think the only thing you should change in your writing is the bullet point words and memorable quotes.

    Personally I think writing in bed on your own will show better results than writing next to your loved one thats sleeping.

    The mind ain’t as focused as your naturally going to be distracted when your looking at her ass thinking about 50 shades of grey as the dogs licking his ass. That’s not going to be a good mind set for writing.

    Hope this helps someone.

    Ps. You don’t have to approve this post if you think its too extreme. All views are my own.

  • Rosy Rose

    Thanks for bringing these fantastic tips for easy blogging, utilising the technology. Fast and easy!

  • Uggh.. disqus authentication wiped out my comment.. and it was brilliant! 😉

    Oh well.. basically, I was discussing how one of my team can create/write content. I told him to explain what he just worked on to a non-technical client of ours – a specific person. Then, your post showed up and confirmed what I was saying. So I sent it to him and said, “Don’t listen to me.. listen to this guy.”

    Thanks.

  • Awesome post! Refreshing take on blogging. I too know about writers block and the feeling that my neighbour’s 6-year old could write more engaging stuff.

  • Great post.
    For the validation element you might want to consider using snip.ly which adds a call to action link on any content you share and has an easy to use interface with buffer.

  • Bryan thanks! About Twitter. Did you try get more twitter followers by Twidium http://twidiumapp.com?

  • Carol Anne! Carol Anne!

    The relentless promotion of iPhone as a brand in your posts is annoying. Instead focus on “phones” or “smartphones” since there are many types, and the iPhone is just one of the many brands of “smartphone” available.

    • Hey there Carol Anne, thanks so much for this feedback! I agree, plenty of phones out there and no need to play favorites. We’ll try to be more conscious of that; thanks for bringing it to the forefront!

  • Paul Porras

    Great advice. Love the thought of asking yourself questions to help you with content. Will help with the ‘block’ for sure. Thanks. I find, when all else fails, sleep on it.

  • Wow, I love the ideas you put together here and how detailed this post is… nice extra that you add a lot of personal experiences in the pot as well. Keep up the great work!

  • armandoali

    great

  • stefanih

    Thank you for this awesome post! FANTASTIC tips in here!

  • These tips are exactly what I need! Thanks for sharing!

    Xx,

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