How Anyone Can Mind Map to Brainstorm for Content Creation

Let’s use Mind Mapping to Brainstorm and Organize Ideas for Content Creation

Blog Mind Map exampleI said in an earlier post this winter that I’d talk about using mind maps to help with generating ideas on a topic to write about, do a podcast on, or create videos for your audience. Mind maps can help you organize your information as well as think creatively. If you haven’t tried mind mapping, it’s worth a shot the next time you need to figure out what to post on your blog, on Facebook, Twitter or your next webinar or program.

Why Mind Map For Content Creation?

Mind maps have distinctive characteristics that them better and more useful than traditional organizational tools. They are great for visual thinkers and learners (and we all tend to pick up info quicker visually vs. all text), for creative thinking and getting out of your ‘normal’ routines. Lots of people don’t think in a linear way, so the graphic, relational method of a mind map works better for them. Mind maps can be used for organizing information, creating plans, goal setting, or certainly for idea generation for writing and research.

Brainstorming via a mind map encourages free association and a judgment-free zone. All ideas are valid, put them on the map and decide later if they fit or are good for your project. If you come up with a lot of ideas unrelated to your original creative session or theme, start a new, separate mind map and work on it later. Or if your map starts getting complicated and unruly, cut one or more sections of the map out and save them as new maps.

How to Mind Map – the basics

basic demo mind map Start from the Center – Mind maps explore a central theme, idea, topic or question – something that’s fodder to build off of – and branch or build out from the center. Put the central idea in the literal center of your map (on paper, whiteboard, an app, XMind, PowerPoint, etc). Put other ideas and thoughts as spokes or sub-circles off the main, and each of those can spring new links, spokes, circles – whatever is related to the idea you’re noodling on.

Emphasis on Relationships – You can see at a glance how elements of the map (or central theme) are related. The links or relationships don’t have to be exact or strong, just what comes to you.

Keep It Simple – single words or concepts are better than complex or bundled items; use as little text as possible; use colors, symbols, pictures, doodles (most of the software tools will let you add images, graphs, other files, color coding). Just don’t go overboard with your color-coding. It still needs to make sense at a glance. If you don’t know where to put an idea, let it ‘float’ until you see its connections.

Ask Questions – use the classic 5-W’s (who, what, where, when, why + how) to stimulate your brainstorming. Or you could map out Pros vs Cons, of a tool, app, product or service. The Question approach is especially good for mapping articles, blog posts, how-to instructions, or research-driven content pieces. You could mind map your next webinar or video as well! For example, think about Who it’s for, Where you will film it, What are you teaching, and Why it’s important for your audience.

Mind Maps Are Fluid – they can easily be changed, edited, added to. Don’t stop, don’t think, just do. Just keep adding, spiking out. If you do get hung up on 1 word or idea, leave it and move to something else. If one branch starts to get a little long or veers off target from the central theme – no problem, snip it and turn it into a new map.

Collaborative Tool – mind maps can be generated as part of a team or group exercise (physically or virtually, in real time or with members contributing as they can). It’s easy for every member to add an idea or relationship and contribute to the whole.

Using Mind Maps in Blogging

From Darren Rowse of ProBlogger is this good, if somewhat older, post on using mind mapping for writing and blogging.  His main points –

  • Don’t get hung up on technology or technique – just write or draw and let ideas circulate and flow. You can use paper, a whiteboard, or a cool app, but use what’s easiest to get ideas going and keep them going.
  • Use it to extend your existing ideas and writing – take your most recent posts (or videos, articles, podcasts – whatever your content format fave is) and spend just a few minutes (seriously, set a timer for 5 min) on each one, thinking of ways to take that idea further. Questions you didn’t answer, questions that came later, the opposing view, a commentary on the topic, more details on ‘how-to’, a case study or example, a link round-up, a visual way to describe X, etc.
    blog series sequence map
  • Expand again – Take one of the good ideas you came up, circle it, set the timer for 5 more minutes and think about how to expand all over again! Start creating more little ‘child’ circles, bubbles, boxes or whatever. You’ve got the creative juices flowing, so use them!

Tools For Mind Mapping

There are many other free and paid mind mapping apps or software offerings to download. The ones above are the most popular. Do some searching, check out the interfaces, look at other options and try a few to see which ones are intuitive for you to use.  If you can’t or won’t use it, it’s not a very useful tool!

Demo MindMapMore Resources and Examples on Using Mind Maps for Idea Generation

Producing effective ideas with mind maps –

Using Mind maps for brainstorming –

How to brainstorm using mind mapping-

16 powerful ways to brainstorm with mind maps-

Mapping your mind to create ideas-

Brainstorming the brainstorm – workflows and ideas-

Brainstorming art ideas using a mind map-

Mind mapping and brainstorming-

Idea Brainstorming ExampleTest out some mind mapping tools, starting with pen and paper, and see if it helps you the next time you’re feeling a bit stuck. Use one to map out your whole blog, or your posts for the next quarter. Create a mind map for your next course, program, seminar or webinar. Try mapping out your marketing and promotion strategy for the next quarter too.  See where this creative, visual technique takes you and your content creation this year!  Hopefully I’ll share some of my own mind maps for content projects here at The!

Where Do You Research For Content Creation

Where Do You Research for Content Creation Help?

We covered brainstorming and coming up with new ideas to write, blog, or create videos on for your audience. But now you’re really working on the actual writing, creating work.  You’re looking for things to add, examples or data or just new ways to approach those topics. Where do you usually head first?

Yeah, probably Google.

Ok. Google is a good starting point. But you can’t stop there!

Use Google to find sources of reliable info and other sites to check rather than just accepting the first result that comes up. But you know that already, right? You’re not new to the search game! So consider this a friendly reminder.

So where might that Google search lead? What is your content research plan beyond Google?

How about some national associations? – professional groups, trade groups, educational orgs – all with a focus on a specific topic and often with a research mandate. Often some of THE most authoritative sites for original research on a niche topic. Do keep in mind that some of the trade associations and such are pushing their industry’s agenda, but many may partner with educational institutions and such to create more open, unbiased research so they are taken seriously.

What about online communities? Forums? Discussion groups? Email lists? Facebook Groups, LinkedIn Groups, G+ Circles and even Reddit. Try and its Trendy tool, OMGILI or Comment Sniper to search forums, message boards and more.

Where are your people hanging out, talking to each other, asking questions? Go there! Now!

Ok, you’re back from checking out a few? Found great fodder and inspiration I bet! They have questions, they ask the community and sometimes they get good answers.

FB Group LibSM exampleBut what if you can provide even better answers? Wouldn’t that be really helpful? Wouldn’t your audience probably love you for that? So go write up some of those answers and give them tools and resources for the specific question you saw popping up a lot. Then go back to the community and post a link to your post, ebook, report or video with the awesome answer you crafted.

Social Media – it’s not just for talking about Game of Thrones or your friends’ kid pictures!

Do research on SM platforms where your audience hangs out. What are the trending topics, most used hashtags, most RT’d accounts or posts? Who are the influencers that you follow – or should be.

Check out social media monitoring tools or sites such as:

BuzzSumo – specifically a ‘content’ analysis tool – so it monitors websites, blogs and beyond social media

Bottlenose – mostly a paid tool for ‘social intelligence’ because you can create a dashboard and one-stop-shop for monitoring, tracking, analyzing

Google Alerts – still exists, although there have been rumors of its demise

IceRocket – may win the coolest name for a tool! A ‘brand monitoring’ tool with easy-to-read results

Topsy – limited free searching of real time and archival Twitter, G+ searching; search on KWs, hashtags; filter to only tweets, photos, videos, etc; paid ‘pro’ accounts – Want to see who is Tweeting on any topic, location or skill set? Try using Tweepz. You can get inspiration if you’re lacking sufficient information about any topic. It’s also a great way to find movers and shakers to follow on Twitter.

Social Mention– Use this tool to find out who is mentioning you on social media (or your competitors, industry trends, keywords or products). Nicely broad coverage of social platforms and good metrics on strengths, reach, sentiment. You can follow the buzz about any topic which can also help you come up with content for your niche. – free and paid versions; mostly for monitoring brands or larger companies – ‘real time alerts via email when brand names, keywords or hashtags are mentioned’

Issuu – free and paid plans; more a publishing or content aggregating tool than a monitoring tool

There are so many tools for social monitoring or listening I can’t keep track or list them all – but thankfully sites like Social Media Today , KissMetrics (itself a monitoring and analytics tool) and Social Media Examiner have already created lists. Go read their lists and find a few tools you like and will use regularly.

Ask your own questions of your audience on social media – a quick poll or quiz or just a ‘pulse check’. But, don’t give them too many choices. It should be more like when you get your child ready for school – give them two choices: this or that? Give your audience a choice between two different videos you can create or webinars that you will host. Then, ask them to vote or decide.


Content Aggregators –aka RSS feed readers or ezine collectors. Try tools such as Feedly to collect blog posts and RSS feeds on topics you’re interested in, or AllTop and select from their lists of blogs or topics to follow. Use apps like Pulse, Zite, Prismatic, Longreads or FlipBoard to collect articles from multiple news sources all in one place on a variety of topics. You can curate or share that content as-is, or use it to dig a little deeper on topics and find additional info sources.

There are so many tools available that there’s no reason not to do a little more research and monitoring so you can find the current topics, trends and news that is affecting your audience. Be a hero and share that with them and show them how to make sense of it all.

Info Pro + Marketer = Strategy First | Smarter Marketing