Twelve Terrible Content Ideas for 2016

2016 is here, and with it should come a host of fresh and exciting ideas. But even with the new year a few weeks old, the same old terrible ideas are beginning to rear their ugly heads. Don’t get sucked in to another year of boring, stale ideas. Instead, make sure you avoid these terrible ideas and replace them with something better.

Your readers will thank you for it.

12 Terrible Content Ideas to Avoid in 2016

As you plan your content for the calendar year, remember to avoid the following mistakes, clichés and terrible ideas. Your readers will thank you for it, and you might just enjoy 12 months of greater engagement and larger returns.

January – New Year, Old Cliché.

“New Year – New You!”

“New Year – New Website!”

“New Year – New Discount!”

Here’s a plan. New year, new ideas. Make 2016 the year that you ditch the tired and staid old content ideas and come up with something new and interesting. Something your clients haven’t seen a thousand times before. Because new is noticeable, and noticeable content means more engagement.

Oh, and please, whatever you do. Try and steer clear of tenuous David Bowie-themed content this week. The late, great genius may have been a master of re-invention, but don’t slap his face on a launch post for your ‘reinvented’ products. That goes double if it’s a “New Year, New Recipe!” piece.

February – Love Isn’t In The Air.

The call to emotion is a fantastically effective way to engage with your customers. But as the Valentine’s Day spirit fills your soul, it’s easy to overstate how invested your customers are in your brand, products and services.

On my desk, I’ve got loads of products – a phone, monitors, speakers, a mug, various books, business cards, notebooks and a bank statement.

I don’t have a huge emotional attachment to any of the brands behind these things, except for a slight affection for Moleskine notebooks. You’re probably just as indifferent to many of the things you use. So unless you know that you’re dear to your clients, make sure you don’t overdo the “love” this year.

Instead, focus on other emotions – accomplishment, joy, contentment. You’ll do better than those people screaming “you will love our new staplers!” into the ether.

March – Stop the March of the Pun-guins.

Here’s a story for you.

I got married in 2014 to the love of my life. I hated writing the speech – too much like a busman’s holiday for me. I had one crowning glory though. I was going to begin with a pun run – a set of jokes that’d bring the house down and set the scene for the rest of my speech:

“I wanted to do this speech entirely as a series of puns. The bridesmaid me promise not to. Laura bridal-ed at the idea and complained, so I had to usher…”

And on and on for sixteen toe-curling puns. You could’ve heard a pin drop. Because in the vast majority of circumstances, puns just don’t work. They don’t work in wedding speeches and they don’t work in marketing content. So as we March into 2016 (badum-tshh), steer clear of bad comedy.

While we’re at it, “spring into action” is well out too. Get a grip.

April – Piggybacking on Hashtags is a Shower of… You Know.

Hopefully 2016 is going to be the year that businesses finally stop putting their foot in it on social media. Because social missteps will leave you showered in opprobrium.

Especially if you start piggybacking on hashtags to get your message out there. Especially when you don’t understand the hashtags. And especially if you do something like this:

Oh dear, DiGiorno. Oh dear.

Don’t piggyback on hashtags, and don’t make light of serious subjects. Even if you’re well intentioned and funny, people are going to take it the wrong way. And social media loves a witch hunt.

May – [Technique] Isn’t Dead. Your Credibility May Well Be.

If we get to May without someone claiming that one of the following things is “dead,” I’ll show my backside on the town hall steps.

And so on, and so forth, forever.

It’s really easy to write an [X] is dead post. You take a popular, powerful and effective marketing technique, find a statistic that claims it’s been struggling in the last quarter, and extrapolate from that to ‘prove’ that nobody’s ever going to buy anything ever again and we all need to start hoarding gold/bitcoins/bottle caps.

You get loads of traffic, loads of shares on social media as people post rebuttals, and you lose your credibility.

Unless you know what you’re doing with rantbait, steer clear of proclamations of death. You may live to regret them.

June – Euro Fever Isn’t Always Applicable

I’m looking forward to June. People across the British Isles can’t wait to see their heroes step out onto the pitches of France to represent England, Wales Northern Ireland and the Republic at a major international football tournament.286px-UEFA_Euro_2016_Logo-20141204061749838

This doesn’t mean that you should be planning posts to explain how your new software platform is the “Gareth Bale of DevOps,” or putting together a “Best XI of SEO Experts” in which you compare famed SEO talking head Matt Cutts to famed England potato head Wayne Rooney. Because not everyone’s interested in football.

In fact, during the soccer-saturation of a tournament summer, some people can’t hide their hatred for the beautiful game. And if they make up a large proportion of your audience, you’re going to be met with sneers and tuts.

And it goes without saying. If you’re targeting a Scottish audience, just pretend football doesn’t exist this summer.

July – Stop Relying on Stale Old Ideas

By July, you’ll have stopped crossing out 2015 after accidentally jotting it down at the top of the pages of your notebook. But after half a year, you might feel the tug of safer ground. Ideas that worked so well in the dim and distant past might work again this year, surely?

They might. list posts are always good value, storytelling is going nowhere and emotion isn’t going to stop working overnight.

But recycling last year’s advice is going to make you look out of touch. Even if you’re not in a particularly fast-moving industry.

So take the time to prune back your evergreen content and focus on the freshest ideas. Blowing the dust off your stale old pieces is just going to get dust everywhere.

August – Stop Schooling Your Readers When you Teach Them

If you’re going to build some authority, you need to teach your audience. You need to share your ideas and experience (and then collate your best bits in a free ebook) to paint yourself as an expert in your field.

But please, please, please – don’t adopt the persona of a schoolteacher. You’re not taking readers back to school, you’re sharing your knowledge with professionals. Speaking down to people isn’t going to get you anywhere.

Your audience is a long time out of short trousers and pigtails. Treat them like adults.

September – Be Personable, Not Personal

It’s my birthday in September. I’ll be 31 years old. Hopefully the wife will take me to this lovely Italian round the corner. I might have the lobster taglione again.

You don’t care about any of that.

It’s one thing being personable and approachable in your writing and on social media. In fact, I highly recommend it. But remember that there’s a difference between being personable and sharing too much personal information.

Yes, it’s nice to have a personality and show clients that you’re a real person, but remember – they’re not your best friends. That means they don’t really care about the minutiae of your life.

October – Stop Bad Ideas Rising From the Dead

Remember that great idea you had last year? You spent ages on it, but for some reason it didn’t work. Maybe you timed it wrong, or just didn’t put it in front of the right audience. Maybe, if you have another crack in 2016, it’ll all work out right in the end.

It won’t.

Things fail for a reason. When your zombie idea lurches back into frame, do the humane thing. Destroy the brain or remove the head. And focus on newer, better ideas.

You can always take the best parts of your failure and use them to fortify this new product or campaign, but don’t doom yourself to repeated failure.

November – Don’t Complain. Embrace the Festive Buildup

In November, social media will be full of people complaining about tinsel, Christmas music and “how it gets earlier every year.”

By November, successful businesses will have planned and started to implement their Christmas strategies.

If you want to be successful, make sure your content in November is supporting the holiday push instead of lamenting the commercialism of it all.

So stop complaining and start preparing. Make Christmas 2016 your most successful one yet.

December – Leave Mawkishness to John Lewis

I’m already dreading the rigmarole around the landmark 2016 John Lewis “awful breathy cover song over a painfully twee story” advert. But what I’m dreading more is the dull rip-offs. Just leave the John Lewis method to John Lewis and strike out on your own. Make 2016 the year of the new idea, and branch out in unexpected directions.

Don’t even try and do a funny send up, because Goldie Lookin’ Chain have already beaten you to it:


What terrible ideas do you not want to see resurface in 2016? Are you dreading Euro 16 clickbait? Or do you wish people would stop complaining about Noël in November? Share your thoughts in the comments section below, and tell us what your content plans are for the new year.

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