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Capture, Categorize, Create: A System for Capturing Your Ideas and Using Them To Create Content

Apr 26, 2023 5 min readSocial Media Marketing
Photo of Hailley Griffis
Hailley Griffis

Head of Communications & Content @ Buffer

We’re in an era where if you are trying to create a personal brand online or share your work, you do that by creating content — and creating content is a fantastic way to build your brand, make new connections, and level up your knowledge. When you add it all up, though, it can be a lot of content to create, even with the right tools in place. If you don’t have the right systems, it can be easy to fall off the content creation tracks.

I’ve dealt with this myself at Buffer — I work at a company that builds tools to help people build their brand online — and I was still struggling to post content consistently. I never had trouble coming up with ideas, but I would either post those ideas sporadically or rely on taking the time to schedule my posts “eventually.” Neither of those options are long-term, solid plans, and neither of them can truly help with creating consistent content that lead to achieving success online.

For several years, I’ve been working on refining a system for capturing ideas for content and turning those ideas into posts I actually publish. Here is that system.

Art is not about thinking something up. It is about the opposite—getting something down. ― Julia Cameron, The Artist's Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity

Capture: Use one place to keep ideas

I once purchased shower markers because I kept having all of my best ideas in the shower. Instead of grabbing my phone, or a notebook, I started writing all my ideas on my shower wall. I would then take a picture of the shower ideas, later put them somewhere on my computer, and potentially eventually put them into an Evernote file. At the same time, I kept an ongoing Apple Note with different ideas I had for social posts, and I would sometimes start a post directly on a social network and then save it as a draft.

When I write it all down like that, it’s pretty clear that this is an inefficient system, but in the moment, it seemed like I was doing the right thing — jotting down my ideas when I had them.The piece of the puzzle I was missing was that it wasn’t only the act of writing ideas down but also where those ideas were captured. Crucially, if you, like me, are trying to create a long-term and scalable system for creating content, then ideas need to be captured in only one place.

Tiago Forte, who wrote the book Building a Second Brain about organizing your digital life, shares similar advice when it comes to capturing information, knowledge, or insight. In a summary of the concepts in his book, he also expressed the need for just one place for storing information, “we just need to keep it in a single, centralized place.”

What place you choose to use to capture ideas is entirely up to you — I would recommend somewhere you can access quickly at anytime (not shower markers) and somewhere digital because that’s where this content will be shared in its end state. A few good options for capturing ideas for content include:

Regardless of the place you choose, it’s important to stick with that one location so that all your ideas are centralized. By keeping all your ideas in one place, you can easily access them when you're ready to turn them into content.

Categorize: Organize ideas by topic and social network

Capturing your ideas in one place is only the beginning; the next step to make sure those ideas don’t become an overwhelming pile that is difficult to comb through is to categorize them.The simplest way I’ve found to categorize is by content pillar, content type, and social network.

  • Content Pillar: Your content pillars are the main topics or themes that your content revolves around. For example, if you're a food blogger, your content pillars might include recipes, meal planning, and cooking tips.
  • Content Type: Is your content text-based, audio, or video? Knowing the content type for each idea can help you plan out your content calendar and ensure that you're creating a variety of content types.
  • Social Network: Finally, you'll want to categorize each idea by the social network where you plan to share it. Each social network has a unique audience and specific requirements, so it's important to customize your content for each one.

You can use tags or shorthand to indicate the content pillar, content type, and social network for each idea. For example, you might use the tags #recipes, #video, and #Instagram to indicate that an idea is a recipe video to be shared on Instagram.

Categorizing your ideas is a key step in the content creation process. By sorting your thoughts into distinct categories, you can ensure that you don't forget any important ideas and can easily access them when creating content.

Organizing your ideas might also help you identify patterns or connections between seemingly unrelated topics, leading to even more creative ideas and a more cohesive overall social media strategy. This holds true for Phill Agnew, one of our Product Marketing Managers at Buffer.

In addition to his work at Buffer, Phill runs a podcast called Nudge and is great at consistently posting to social media. When talking about his system for brainstorming, Phill shared “Once I have every idea in front of me it makes it much easier to brainstorm new things to come up with. I find my best ideas come from piecing different things together and finding patterns.”

Create: Turn ideas into content

I’ve long wanted to post more on social media and create more content in general, but then I also had a note on my phone with ideas I never got around to posting. The problem wasn’t a lack of ideas — it was a lack of reminders and action. Having a big, beautiful list of content ideas won’t get you anywhere if you don’t go back and turn those ideas into content.

You need to create systems so that you are intentionally checking your ideas and turning them into content. How often you choose to check your ideas and create content depends on your content calendar, your current goals, and the strategy you have in place.

For me, I’m using social media to continue building a personal brand. I try to post daily to Twitter and several times a week to LinkedIn. I have a recurring reminder in my to-do list app to go through my content tab in Buffer every Friday to review the ideas I’ve captured throughout the week and schedule them for the upcoming week.

By organizing your ideas into categories, you can plan out your content calendar in advance and see at a glance if you are creating a variety of content types across your social networks. You can also use your categorized ideas to batch-create content; for example, you could film several TikTok videos in a row.

Do it all again

Once you have set up a system for capturing your ideas in one place, categorizing them quickly, and checking them later when you create content — do it all over again. Your system should be easily repeatable for you so that you can stay consistent and make the most of all of the ideas you have.

I hope this can help anyone who, like me, has struggled with posting consistently on social media and with turning ideas into social posts.

I’ll leave you with a quote from one of my favorite authors, Julia Cameron, who wrote in The Artist’s Way, “We must trust our process, look beyond “results.”

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