How to Actually Have a Productive Social Media Brainstorming Session

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productive_brainstorming_sessionIn the intensely competitive arena of social media marketing, new ideas are the lifeblood of content generation. Unfortunately, many marketers can find it difficult to strike out in a new creative direction, especially under the pressure of looming deadlines. A brainstorming session would be great, but as most of us know from experience, these types of meetings often walk a very fine line between accomplishing the objective and being a complete waste of time. So what can you do to ensure that you and your marketing team will have a productive meeting? Below are some useful tips for brainstorming social media content during a focused and fruitful brainstorming session.

1. Send out an agenda in advance of the meeting.

Agendas are vitally important because they give the meeting a context and a general framework. Many times when people hear the phrase “brainstorming session,” they unconsciously approach it with a laissez-faire attitude because they assume the meeting will be loosely structured, if structured at all. Although creativity can be stifled by excessive structure, you do need to establish a clear-cut objective for the meeting. Give your team an overall idea of the content you plan to produce from the meeting (e.g., an infographic, a series of blog posts, a video, a set of resource articles, etc.), but bear in mind that this should mainly serve as a jumping off point for more ideas.

2. Lay out the ground rules.

This may seem to run counter to a free-flowing brainstorming session, but you’d be surprised how a creative atmosphere can be squelched by a lack of basic ground rules to help keep things in order. Here are some time-tested ground rules for your next brainstorming session:

  • Encourage the process of free thinking. Remove any boundaries or limitations on what people can share. Your team should feel free to throw out some of the zaniest, most ridiculous ideas without hesitation. In “Alice in Wonderland,” Alice tumbles down the rabbit hole into a world where all normal logic is suspended. Don’t be afraid to adopt a “rabbit hole” mentality in your meetings; it’s often when you look at an idea from a completely different (or even opposite) perspective that new ideas emerge.
  • No idea should be criticized or dismissed. The point is not to scrutinize or closely examine the pros and cons of every single suggestion; that part comes later down the line. The important part is to just get everything out in the open and on paper (or however it will be recorded).
  • Keep the meeting moving; be careful not to get lost in just one idea or suggestion.
  • Bring enthusiasm and energy to the table. This creates fertile ground for unique and impactful ideas to grow. It’s difficult to be creative in a negative or indifferent atmosphere.

3. Create a mind map.

Mind maps are great mental association tools that can really help you flesh out an idea. They’re designed to help you view a concept from every possible angle, and to help you stimulate new connections between ideas. Here are the basic steps to create a mind map:

  • Write down a topic or idea that you want to develop for your social media efforts, and circle it. This initial idea should be positioned in the center of your page (or whiteboard, etc.).
  • Begin to add words, in no particular order, that are related to or associated with the idea. These nodes should be circled and positioned around the main idea. Draw lines to link each node to the central idea, to symbolize that they’re branches of the main concept. This is also the time to include the “rabbit hole” ideas mentioned earlier.
  • Group similar thoughts or ideas together by color, or some other type of coding system.
  • For each concept, ask the five “W” questions (i.e., who, what, when, where, why) to prompt further insight or ideas.
  • Take good notes of what’s being discussed, so you can be sure that no important points are forgotten.

4. Define and assign action items to each team member.

This is where many marketing teams fail; they get together and toss around awesome ideas, but then leave the meeting without a clear plan of action. Each team member should know what he/she is expected to do once the meeting adjourns. Expected turnaround times should also be established so you can keep up the momentum created in the meeting.

While brainstorming is a free-flowing exercise, it should be approached with intentionality. Using the tips above will help you follow a solid course of action so that your next social media brainstorming session will be successful and productive.

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