How to Identify Pain Points You Could Tackle With Your Content

How to Identify Pain Points You Could Tackle With Your Content

This is part 3 of my blog post series about developing concepts for content marketing. Read part 1 and part 2.

Over the past 5 years of creating content, we have found that practical content ideas perform really well – even if they only make someone’s life 0.01% better.

It’s not just our experience that tells us this. In his 2011 book, Contagious, Jonah Berger identifies practical value as one the key factors behind ideas that get shared. He explains that it’s to do with the natural desire within all of us to help others. By sharing practical value content, you know that the person you are sharing it with will get some value and that in turn makes you feel good.

Based on our experience, and evidence from studies like Berger’s, we have built a whole process for identifying problems of our audience so that we can develop ideas that provide solutions.

[clickToTweet tweet=”Identify problems your audience suffers from and develop content that provides solutions” quote=”Identify problems your audience suffers from and develop content that provides solutions.”]

If you know your audience well, then you may be able to brainstorm lots of problems that preoccupy them right off the bat. However, even if you’re an expert, this process is still useful as you may miss some problems that many people overlook (this is known as the ‘curse of knowledge’). This means missing great opportunities for you to provide your target audience with a solution.  


Quora is a popular Q&A website that offers a lot more detail in the answers compared to sites like Yahoo Answers. This is partly due to the fact that Quora has a far more technical audience than Yahoo Answers, which is more broadly suited for lifestyle/personal issue.

Let’s do a basic search for “small business.”

QuoraImmediately you’ll see the potential problems that your audience is suffering from.

  • Choosing CRM
  • Choosing eCommerce solution

If any of you reading this run a small-to-medium sized business, you will know from your own experience that this is a problem that will most of us encounter at some point.

But would you have thought of that straight away?

Often we are clouded by our own opinion and what is important to us right now. These biases can cloud our judgment and (more importantly) we will miss potential content opportunities around topics that our audience is already discussing online.

As with the content dossier, build a spreadsheet with the issue/URL/upvotes – it’s important to use these sites to get an idea on how important/popular an idea is.

Whilst the CRM solution question has 59 upvotes, the e-Commerce question only has 8, so we want to be able to quickly see this at a glance.

Topic question search in Quora:

Popular topics will usually have their own category.

However, be sure to go beyond the Top Stories as there is often not much value to be gleaned from these (Quora’s Top Stories ranking is based on how hot that topic has been in the past 24-hour period).

You will want to click “All Questions” in the left sidebar and then filter by “Best Questions.”

Quora small business

Now you will be provided with an overview of the most popular questions that are made for this particular topic. We are looking at a number of people who want answers as a metric of its popularity.

Update 11.11.15

It seems that has changed so that it’s now a lot harder to find the top questions.

Thank you to Matt Fielding @ Bring Digital for bringing this to my attention and also providing a fix by using basic search operators in Google.

You will just need to search for small business on  and swap out “small business” for your target audience.

You will see a few category pages at first but then you will find the top relevant questions.

If anything it’s actually faster than the old method.

Quora basic search operator

Once again, feel free to ignore questions that are not relevant to your audience – our job is to harvest the fruit, not the whole tree.

Results Example:


Want Answers URL
How does one create a business plan? 484
What can businesses learn from the military? 56
How does one create a business plan? 14
What are some ways to improve a small business office waiting room? 6

2. Forums

An old fashioned approach, I grant you, but forums still have active and loyal communities using them. For this reason, they can often be a great way of garnering ideas, especially when there are not many publishers on that topic.

Let’s use the “small business” example.

A quick search provides a number of forums in the UK (our target country.)

When looking at forums, be sure to choose one or two that are used fairly regularly. Otherwise, you might end up creating content around an issue that people did care about, but that was 5 years ago.

In this instance, the largest UK forum looks to be, so let’s take a look at how you can pull out specific problems from these communities.

UK business forum

The first thing to do with any forum is to look for a way to organise the threads by the amount of views/replies that have received. Just like any open community, forums are full of uninteresting content that no one cares about, so you need a way to filter this out.

Once the filtering has been done, you can identify the problems that this particular community of UK small business owners care about (again, depending on your target audience, this could be perfect).

Problems and issues: 


The great thing about forums is that you can actually look into what exactly real people are talking about in relation to these issues. Unlike articles in the media, there is no spin or mediation – it’s just a forum poster candidly saying what they think, and that’s why it’s extremely useful to a content creator.

As with the Quora process, add the issues/URL/replies into a spreadsheet of your main idea dossier.

3. Reddit

The self-proclaimed “front page of the Internet”, Reddit has built the largest community of people online – last month it had 168 million unique visitors.

While the frontpage is full of viral content, it’s actually far more useful to check out the specific subreddits that relevant to your target audience. is a great tool for finding sub-reddits relevant to your audience.

Screen Shot 2015-10-22 at 10.44.04

The important thing to look out for is the number of subscribers. Fewer active users means there won’t be enough people voting to provide any meaningful data.

Let’s start with r/smallbusiness as it seems most on target with our audience.

Reddit search

The first thing you will want to do is to choose “Top” – this will rank the content by number of votes, and then you can and also filter by time-frame. I like to use the the “past month” as a time frame, as this ensures the issues are timely, but also feel free to choose all and see what results you get.

As before, we include all the details when we make our notes so that we can review the popularity at a glance and dig deeper if needed. 

Reddit can also be used in a similar way to Buzzsumo by providing general search terms from which you can then select only certain subreddits, if you prefer.

Issue Upvotes URL
Yelp ripping off small businesses 151
Merchant account problems 45
Invoices not being paid 34
Dealing with negative reviews online 27
Project management software 20
Client problems 14

Example a general search for “small business.”

Reddit search results

From using this search term we can see that there are a number of other subreddits that might make sense to check out we can then see the type of content that people are interested in.

A great example is /r/AskReddit which, while being a fairly large community, is one that fields questions from a wide array of different subjects.

Reddit search results

The great thing about Reddit is the activity that happens in the comments section. Just look at the second question on that list – 992 comments of people giving out business advice to a small business owner.

With Reddit, I always recommend checking out the comments sections as they can often provide insights and potential inspiration for ideas.

Let’s take a look at that Reddit comment thread with 992 comments.


The great thing is that Reddit automatically brings the best comments (i.e. with the most upvotes) to the top so that you don’t have to sift through all of those comments to find the gems (unlike forums, where you’re really going to have to dig).

This discussion around the benefits of traditional marketing vs. online marketing seems really powerful, and if I was doing ideas I would take a note of the specific issue,  the comment thread URL and the amount of points the comment had (486).

The only issue with Reddit is that it requires investing quite a bit of time, so be aware of questions veering off on tangents and keep asking yourself, ‘Is this important to my audience?’. It’s the reason I have put together a very strict process, as it’s very easy to say “I know! I’ll check Reddit!” and then come back three hours later – eye glazed over and struggling to recall why you were on there in the first place.

[clickToTweet tweet=”How to use @Quora, @Reddit and forums for content ideation” quote=”How to use @Quora @Reddit and forums for content ideation”]

Final dossier

You will now have a spreadsheet filled with content from each process stage. You can see an overview document with the examples used in this article and part 2 here:

Make sure to catch my next post in this series, where I will be looking at how to use these insights from our brainstorming process to create content ideas that will achieve big media placements.


The final post in this series is now available: How to Brainstorm Content Marketing Ideas.

Image credit: Todd