Mind mapping is a content marketing productivity tool that involves both an approach and a specific category of software.
Mind mapping adds a visual dimension to words and ideas, helping content marketers handle today’s challenges of complexity, increased responsibilities, and information overload.
A recent study by Innovation Trend’s Chuck Frey, for example, revealed that not only did mind mapping immediately and significantly enhance most user’s productivity, the more they used mind mapping, the more productive they became.
Key mind mapping features
Regardless of the software you choose, mind mapping key features allow you to visually display information in ways that make it easy for you to gain a fresh perspective, sparking new ideas, encouraging collaboration, and breaking complex projects into manageable tasks. Mind mapping permits you to:
- View as much, or as little, information as desired: You can collapse a mind map to just display the main topics, or expand the map and zoom in to reveal subtopics containing more details. A plus sign (+) next to a topic indicates the presence of subtopics. Clicking a minus sign (-) collapses a topic or subtopic.
- Export your work: After organizing your content ideas for an article, mind map, or white paper, you export it to other software programs for editing, formatting, and sharing. These include word processors, spreadsheets, presentation programs, and project management programs.
What can you do with mind maps?
Here are some of the types of content marketing tasks that mind maps can help you efficiently execute on a day-to-day basis:
- Analyzing and tracking your competition
- Creating buyer personas
- Planning editorial calendars
- Delegating editorial responsibilities
- Brainstorming article and blog post topics
- Organizing complex projects (eBooks, reports, white papers, etc.)
Mind mapping best practices
Unfortunately, many mind mapping users fail to take advantage of the full capabilities built into their software. The following best practices, however, can take your mind mapping to the next level.
With few exceptions, you can use the majority of these tips with most of the mind mapping software programs on the market.
- 1 – Start with a sketch. Before starting to work on your computer, create a hand-drawn sketch showing the major topics you want to address in your map.
- 2 – Use templates to save time. It’s always tough to start a new mind mapping project when you are staring at a blank screen. Instead, start by developing templates for the types of projects you will likely be creating over and over again — like articles, blog posts, editorial calendars, personas, press releases, presentations, speeches, webinars, or white papers. This gives you a structure, or head start, to begin your work. Templates also foster consistency across all your content efforts.
- 3 – Brand your maps. Customize your mind maps using consistent backgrounds, borders, typefaces, line, fill, and typeface colors that are used throughout your firm’s corporate identity. You can also brand your maps by choosing different borders and by adding map titles, copyright information, or your firm’s name to the headers and footers of your map.
- 4 – Use Notes to reduce clutter. Avoid including too much detail in topics and subtopics by limiting them to just key words and phrases. To help you, you can use the Notes feature available in most mind mapping tools to add the more detailed information you’ll need in sentences, paragraphs, and lists. A small icon in your mind map will indicate the presence of a Note associated with a topic, and clicking the icon or running the mouse pointer over the icon reveals the Notes text. (The text will appear in the proper location when you export your map to Microsoft Word, or another software program.)
- 5 – Add comments for reminders. The Comments feature is similar to Notes. Use it to add reminders, prompts, or warnings to topics without adding clutter. Comments are especially important when sharing maps with others.
- 6 – Take advantage of keyboard shortcuts. Use keyboard shortcuts to navigate from topic to topic, show/hide subtopics, add new topics, add links, or edit and format text. Keyboard shortcuts eliminate the need to remove your hands from the keyboard to open menus and select commands or options. Though there might be a slight learning curve while getting used to your keyboard shortcuts, it should soon become second nature to you. (And if you want to create some customized shortcuts for your favorite tasks, consider using a tool like Alfred.)
- 7 – Explore View options. In addition to collapsing and expanding topics, the better mind mapping software programs allow you to temporarily display one topic at a time, along with the subtopics associated with it. This reduces distraction and focuses your attention on a particular topic or task by displaying it at a larger size.
- 8 – Make it visual! Most mind mapping programs include icons and simple graphics that you can insert to emphasize importance, delegate responsibilities, and display progress. You can also use boundaries and relationships to topics. Powerful mind mapping software programs, like MindManager 12 for Windows, allow you to add start dates and due dates to topics, to help organize your thought process and strategic planning.
- 9 – Filter your maps. Filtering permits many mind mapping programs to offer scheduling and project management capabilities. You can filter on the basis of keywords, dates, or icons. For example, you can hide all completed projects, or just display overdue projects, projects with upcoming deadlines, or only projects assigned to specific individuals.
- 10 – Take your mind maps with you. Mind mapping isn’t just for the desktop: Mobile versions of most mind mapping programs allow you to start projects and update them using your smartphones, iPads, and Android devices.
Sharing & collaborating — Mind mapping trends
Mind maps are intended to be shared. You can export mind maps as static documents or, in some cases, as interactive PDFs. Reader programs are generally available to allow you to share your mind maps with those not currently using a mind mapping program.
These services permit you to determine who has access to your stored maps and who can update them. You can also sync maps, so that the latest version of your project-planning templates or content marketing editorial calendar will always be available to your co-workers and clients.
Many mind mapping software programs permit you to track changes made by individual participants, and some even permit others to contribute to or update mind maps in real time. This allows remote participants in an online planning session to help you brainstorm new ideas. New topics and ideas are color-coded and tagged with the name, date, and time of the updates.
Getting started with mind mapping
Most mind mapping programs offer “try before you buy” options, allowing you to download and use a full-featured program for up to a month. (After that, you can read the maps you’ve created, though you wouldn’t be able to export or modify them.)
Many mind mapping software publishers, such as Mindjet, offer unlimited free versions of their software programs for iPhones, iPads, and Android devices.
Some powerful mind mapping programs, such as Mindo and iThoughts HD, are available for iPads for purchase at a fraction of the cost of equivalent desktop programs. These can create and export maps in formats that can be read by programs from other software publishers.
If you’re not already a mind mapping user, getting started has never been easier.
Do you use mind maps?
If you’re currently a mind map user, share some of your experiences. Tell us how you use mind maps, the programs you use, and the lessons you’ve learned. Let us know if you have any advice, shortcuts, or content marketing productivity tips you’d like to share with newcomers to mind mapping.
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