Producing engaging content is the #1 challenge for content marketers. Getting it right often requires a whole team of people, from data analysts and content strategists to the actual content creators – the subject experts, writers, designers and editors that produce the final product.
None of that comes cheap. And when you consider how many content marketing departments are made up of one sole marketer, content creation looks like even more of a high-wire act.
The good news here is that while good content does take work and time and skill, it’s not a magic act. And you don’t have to keep creating content that gets used only once. The smartest content marketers have systems set up to reuse or “repurpose” their content. Everything they publish gets reformatted or split it up into smaller content chunks.
So if you’ve been struggling to create enough content, maybe it’s time to give yourself a break. Start thinking of your content as more modular, and less fixed.
Let go of thinking of each content piece as if it was made of marble – permanent, unbreakable, fixed. Start thinking of them more like they were made of Legos – larger works made up of smaller components, capable of being re-assembled into endless forms. Start doing that, and you just might overcome the #1 challenge your competing content marketers face.
What I hope you’ll get from this post
By the end of this post, you’ll have lots of ideas for how to repurpose your own content. You’ll also have seen several examples for how other companies have repurposed theirs.
We’ll look at who’s recommended repurposing and what their suggestions are for it. Then we’ll review some interesting case studies of radical content repurposing. Finally, I’ll knock off some ideas for how you can start thinking more like a Lego builder with your content.
Who’s repurposing their content?
Repurposing content has been going on for a while. Like most things, it works best when there’s a specific system set up for it. The marketers that make repurposing a habit tend to do it more often, and more effectively, as Curata discovered when they did research for the graph below:
Curata’s content marketing leaders aren’t the only ones who benefit from repurposing. Content marketing experts like Jay Baer, Ann Handley, Lee Odden, and Joe Pulizzi all praise reformatting on a regular basis. They encourage content marketers to do more of it.
Joe Pulizzi of The Content Marketing Institute likes to think of each piece of content as a story. As he says in his book, Content Inc, “Every content idea involves a story you are trying to tell. If you remember that the story can and should always be told in many different ways, you’ll have a leg up on the competition.”
Whatever you call it, this idea of breaking content down into its fundamental elements is a core principle of good content reformatting. And if I’m going to mention elements, I should probably bring in this chart:
Seeing that hopefully gives you an idea of all the formats and containers content can fit into. As you can see, there’s no reason to think of content in a fixed state. It clearly wants to be fluid and changing. That’s just good chemistry.
One blog post into 21 content pieces
Consider what could be done with one list-based blog post. It could be recycled into:
- A section of an ebook.
- A few pages of a full-length book.
- A SlideShare deck.
- A LinkedIn post.
- A post on Medium.
- A post on Business to Community.
- An infographic.
- A short video on Facebook.
- A short video on YouTube.
- A short video on your site.
- The feature article of an email newsletter.
- A short podcast episode.
- A section of a white paper.
- 20 Tweets.
- A Pinterest pin.
- Three LinkedIn updates.
- Three Google+ updates.
- A few minutes of a webinar.
- A quiz.
- Part of a Flipboard magazine.
- A decision map / flowchart.
And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. I bet you can think of more.
Buffer’s repurposing experiment
To give you an example of what this level of reformatting and repurposing might look like, consider Buffer’s experiment from earlier this year. They went on a one-month content creation fast, redirecting all their energies to repurposing and refreshing existing content.
Here’s what happened:
- They created several email autoresponder courses based on old Buffer content. The results were “amazing, amazing, amazing”… “The first course has had 17,817 signups”.
- They “saw only a 4 percent dip in traffic compared to the previous month.”
- Their referral traffic dipped by 6.24%.
- Their social traffic dipped by 11.43%
- Updating older posts with new information, graphics and specifically embedded SlideShares worked particularly well.
- The three of the new SlideShares they created got 199,000 total views.
- The two questions they answered on Quora did not really gain any traffic, and were basically “a wash”.
- One of the posts they republished made Medium’s Top 20 for a day, which resulted in 2,888 page views.
How Jay Baer repurposes content
Three times a week, Jay records a five-minute video for his “Jay Today” show. He doesn’t write a script for this video. He doesn’t rehearse. The video is just a short talk from Jay about a marketing idea that’s on his mind. But that one video is systematically reformatted into 11 different content components.
Here’s how Jay describes it:
“I spend five minutes recording a video that becomes:
- A video on YouTube
- A video on my Facebook page
- An iTunes episode
- A video iTunes episode
- An episode of my own video site, JayToday.TV
- A blog post (once per week)
- A post on LinkedIn
- A post on Medium
- A G+ post
- 2-3 tweets
- 2 LinkedIn shares”
He goes on to mention they haven’t even started making SlideShares from those videos. And that they have not maxed out the possible audio publishing platforms. So even Jay Baer could do more reformatting. But 11 pieces of content from a five-minute video is a pretty smokin’ start.
Bricks and feathers
Jay has recently started using another thought framework for his repurposing work. It’s based on the idea of some content being like bricks, and other types of content being like feathers. Bricks, as you might guess, are more substantial pieces of content – the ebooks, webinars and presentations and such. Feathers might be curated social media posts, small infographics, and short-form blog posts.
Here’s how those bricks and feathers are used:
Rewrite the content to focus on a specific persona or audience sub-set
Content doesn’t just have to shift formats, either. You can repurpose content by shifting who it’s for just a bit.
Say you’ve written an epic post on “The 10 Best WordPress Plugins”. How about spinning that a bit as a rewrite?
Your primary audience is solopreneurs, but there’s a specific group of web designers in there. They have more advanced needs for their plugins. So spin #1 is “The 10 Best WordPress Plugins for Web Designers”. You might add one or two new plugins for that group. So there is a bit of new research, but not much.
Republish your blog posts
This is yet another twist on recycling content: Publish it on more than one platform. You saw Jay Baer publish his videos on Facebook, YouTube and his own site. You can do something like that, too.
You can also republish old blog posts on your site. Yup – publish the same post twice. (Don’t change the URL.) Or publish an updated version of the old post. Econsultancy tried this just a few months back.
The republished version of the blog post (seen on the right of the chart below) didn’t do quite as well as when it was first published. But it got significant views and almost three dozen new backlinks. Econsultancy considered the test a success.
Republishing blog posts can lead to duplicate content issues. Google’s goal is to give searchers what they look for, as quickly and accurately as possible, and it tries hard to show pages with distinct information. If a searcher sees substantially the same content repeated within a set of search results (as could happen with the same blog post published on two different sites), that’s a poor user experience. Google will generally pick the higher-authority site to display, if it has to make a choice between two virtually identical pages. And it *may* perceive a double posting as an attempt to manipulate search engine results and/or readership. That would be a bad thing:
KISSmetrics was in the habit of publishing on its own site, then pushing the same content out on Enterepreneur.com and other sites. This drove a lot of traffic for them, until Google did a Panda update that (among other things) penalized duplicate content, and traffic from Google plummeted. (Read the whole story).
The fix? If you republish your blog posts on other sites, make sure the publisher uses a rel=”canonical” meta tag that points to your original URL. (Read all about rel=”canonical”links).
There are almost endless ways to reformat, re-target, and recycle content. If you’ve been publishing each piece of new content in only one place, in only one format, you’re definitely doing more content creation work than necessary.
Start small with repurposing if you want. Aim to repurpose maybe only your top 10% best performing content. But definitely begin to build simple processes for reformatting your content. Once a system is in place, you’re more likely to do it.
How about you?
Are you reformatting or repurposing any of your content? Got any tricks you’d like to share, or want to put in an opinion about how it really works? Leave a comment!