The term "content" encompasses a wide variety of ideas and subjects. It's difficult for marketers to know which ones will be most effective in achieving a business's goals, whether those goals are to convert viewers, raise engagement or increase online payments. Internet retailers can use A/B testing to choose one idea over another, but a cheaper, less time-intensive method is simply to listen to what your customers are currently saying. This indicates their interests and concerns, and a business that turns these topics into content is guaranteed to create something relevant and engaging.

Identify pain points and provide solutions
People often vent on social media, detailing their frustration in tweets and comments. Can your business or its content or product help solve these pain points? ClickZ advised using a combination of market research and consumer posts to choose areas to target. Companies should identify common customer complaints, then create content designed to instruct or direct consumers to solutions.

Market research takes the idea a step further, asking consumers directly about how they feel. Businesses should inquire about what customers like most and least about their products and brand. They can also see how customers feel about the competition.

Listen to them on their terms
Don't just observe how consumers interact with your brand, but listen to how they converse with each other and other companies. What do these customers talk about? Marketers know the importance of tracking their own mentions online, but they should also keep an eye on mentions about the competition and industry-related conversations. Even unrelated trending topics can provide inspiration – a creative marketer knows how to turn pop culture and news events into relevant content for a brand.

Promote user-generated content
The brand-related posts and pictures consumers share with each other are great assets for a business in two key ways. First, they serve as free marketing. Social media users are sharing your product and brand with their entire base of followers. Depending on the individual, this means hundreds or thousands of individuals encounter your company without costing your business any advertising money.

Secondly, user-generated content acts as a sort of independent review. People trust recommendations from their friends and family more than they trust traditional ads, and word-of-mouth marketing is often more powerful than anything a business creates. In addition, as Nielsen reported, 66 percent of users trust opinions they find online. When several users independently begin talking about a particular online store, other consumers take notice and investigate the business for themselves.

Businesses can promote user-generated content through contests and other campaigns. Have users post a photo of themselves with your product, compile a wish list of their favorite items from your store, or describe how they would use a new product. Perks for doing so could include prizes like discounts or free items, but sometimes users are content just seeing their posts compiled and displayed publicly.

Ask users directly
Of course, there's nothing wrong with approaching consumers and asking what they want to see. Asking such questions on social media is a great way to gather ideas and topics for relevant content.

Businesses can also provide a platform for users to post suggestions on their own time, Business2Community wrote. Salesforce, a provider of customer relationship management technology, did just that with its Idea Exchange platform. Viewers can suggest and vote on features they'd like to see added to the Salesforce product. Online retailers can use the same technique to see what sorts of content their audience wants.

There's no better provider of content ideas than your target market. Their online discussions point out relevant topics and pain points, and the content they create is beneficial for any business.