How much time does content prep take you?
If you’re anything like me, you spend something like 3-5 hours before writing a single word in your blog draft. I’m talking from the point of view of a blog writer, but it’s the same story, no matter if you’re creating videos, podcasts, or something different.
As content creators, we need to strive for a “return on effort” – making the most out of our content research and preparation time. But how do you do that?
Well, I have two answers: first, make sure your content takes the spotlight by investing time in distribution. Second, create as many content pieces as possible from a single source by repurposing content. This is what I want to talk about today.
What is repurposing content?
Repurposing content is the practice of creating many separate pieces of content from a single source piece to populate your content calendar and expand the reach of your idea. This usually involves either recreating the content in a new format, sharing the content in a different channel, or splitting a more significant piece of content into discrete parts. It is also known as “reusing”, “recycling”, or “atomization”.
Here are a few examples of content repurposing:
- Creating an infographic summary out of a blog post (reformatting);
- Posting a podcast episode on Soundcloud and sharing the video from the recording on YouTube (same content in different channels);
- Splitting an ebook’s content into a series of blog posts (splintering).
Repurposing vs. distribution
Whenever I talk to clients or students and mention the terms “repurposing” and “distribution” within the same discussion, I see a lot of confusion. To make things easier, here’s the split between the two practices. Content repurposing’s primary focus is to extend the impact of your original content creation and to provide more pieces for your content calendar in different channels. Content distribution’s primary focus is to engage people and bring them back to your original content piece. Here’s a more in-depth look:
Having said all of that, it’s wrong to think about repurposing and distribution as entirely separate things. I prefer to present things as a spectrum. You have repurposing on one end and distribution on the other. Some content tactics are pure repurposing or pure distribution. Others just fall closer to one end or the other but are a mix of both.
In any case, don’t get bogged down in semantics – focus on actually doing stuff.
Why repurpose content?
Before we dive into the details, let’s look at the reasons why you might want to repurpose your content.
I love to talk about “return on content” – that’s the benefit your business gets from a single content creation effort. And repurposing content improves that ROC by a considerable margin.
Traditionally, you’d produce a single piece of content, and you’d have a single piece of content. But by leveraging repurposing, you’d create a single piece of content and get 20 content pieces out. Yes, there’s a bit more effort in repurposing itself. But it’s only a marginal additional cost that yields a great return.
Reaching new audiences
No matter how great your content is, audiences have habitual behaviors that they won’t change. Even if you have a great podcast, no power on earth will get people who don’t like podcasts to give it a go.
By repurposing your content in different channels and formats, you’ll get new people to experience the value – and get to know your brand as the provider of that value.
Expanding key ideas
We don’t enjoy repeating ourselves. And, as people in charge of brand communications, we feel that our target audiences are as invested in our content as we are. So surely rehashing the same idea can’t go unnoticed?!
It not only can. It surely will!
So the best way to present the same idea without repeating yourself word-for-word is to reformat your message. This will give your thoughts new life, and it will make a stronger impression on your audience. So don’t worry – it really pays to repeat yourself.
Extending content’s longevity
The more related content you can create, the longer you’ll keep that content topic alive. I’ve made microcontent off original pieces that got published weeks and even a month or two after our initial launch. This also means that new people who might not have been active online at the start of your content campaign will still be able to see that content. And that’s always great.
Which content should you repurpose?
By now, you’re probably itching to start repurposing. But don’t go too fast! Some pieces of content won’t yield great results with repurposing:
- evergreen topics: it doesn’t make sense to repurpose pieces with a short shelf life. So make sure the content you repurpose will be valuable long after you create your content derivatives.
- traffic sprinters: content pieces that quickly draw attention are a great candidate for repurposing. Track how many eyeballs your new content gets, especially during the first day or two of launching. If you see promising results, continue your offense with a few repurposed elements.
- high engagers: some pieces don’t amass a ton of attention, but they make people stop and stare. Look for the blog posts that get read all the way through with deep scroll depth and long time on page. Or the YouTube videos and podcast episodes that get high retention. The chances are that if the initial content piece is engaging, you’ll be able to create derivative works that are just as potent.
- conversion engines: finally, the content that supports your conversion goals is also a prime repurposing target. This will help you drive attention to pieces that are very persuasive and effective at getting visitors to perform key actions – be it an e-commerce sale or a newsletter subscription. The ideal option is to link back the repurposed content piece back to your side and shorten the distance to the conversion event.
Choosing between all these options can be tricky, but you’ll learn to prioritize with practice, depending on the current goals you have.
How to repurpose content for maximum results: 6 methods for success
There are so many ways to repurpose your content, and I didn’t really want to give you a laundry list of static options. So here’s a more robust framework for you – hopefully, it’ll help you generate a ton of specific and valuable repurposing ideas.
Essentially there are six methods of content repurposing you can use. Here’s how to repurpose your content:
- Change the format your content is in.
- Change the channel where your content lives.
- Change the owner of the content by working with other creators.
- Change the scope of the content by splitting it up or combining shorter pieces.
- Change the audience by publishing pieces that were restricted to a niche audience in a more mass access channel.
- Change the team working on your content by bringing in collaborators.
Let’s look at each one in turn.
Change the format
The most common method is to reformat your content piece in a new way. That change can be more or less dramatic. You can stay within the same “content modality”:
- Use a visual format like a presentation and create an infographic recapping the key ideas;
- Create a PDF version out of your blog post and allow users to download that if they don’t have time to read your whole piece;
- Use a webinar recording and create a recap video showing key elements from the presentation.
The other option is to go way different and completely change the content format:
- Take a blog post (text) and create an infographic (visual);
- Record yourself reading your blog post and put that on SoundCloud as a podcast piece (text to audio);
- Create a short animated video with a tool like Lumen5 from your latest blog post (text to video) or your live presentation (visual to video).
Changing the format is probably the most obvious way to repurpose your piece, resulting in the most dramatic change.
Change the channel
As you’ll see down the line, these six methods to content repurposing can be mixed together, too. When you decide to reformat your content, more often than not, you’ll also change its channel:
- The video recap of your blog post goes on Facebook;
- The audio recording of your webinar goes on Soundcloud;
- The write-up from the latest event you spoke at goes on your blog, while the video recording goes on YouTube.
But you can also use the same content across channels:
- A short video might be suitable for Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn;
- You can distribute an audio recording on a variety of podcast platforms to reach different users;
- You can use parts of your blog posts in an email to subscribers or as an answer to a question on Quora.
Changing your channel usually means extending your content to new audiences, which increases your return on content dramatically.
Change the owner
Frankly, this is a variation of the previous principle, but it’s also so much more than that. So far, we’ve been talking about channels you already own. But expanding to new web properties (and thus audiences) owned by somebody else drives an even more significant impact.
So how do you do that? You collaborate with other content creators. You provide pieces of content that will be incredibly valuable to their audience, and in exchange, you have access to this new platform.
The most traditional way of repurposing content that way is through guest blog posts. This great piece from Orbit Media Studios outlines how you can repurpose your original content on other sites. In the graphic, you see the final version of the repurposing efforts. The yellow circles are all pieces published on other sites that are repurposed variations (reformatted or shorter pieces) of the original.
You can also think about collaborations with other creators in formats other than blog posts. Say, creating video interviews on your YouTube channel with other video creators. Or jumping on another podcaster’s series. The principle is the same – you’ve published something exciting, and now you’re ready to talk about it to other people’s audiences.
Change the scope
The second most common principle in repurposing content after reformatting is the so-called “content atomization”. It essentially means you create a bunch of smaller pieces of content out of one big source material.
This method usually works for your long-form content like in-depth blog posts, webinars, or ebooks. These pieces have enough meat in them, so even posting a smaller portion of the original brings value to customers. You could:
- Split a long ebook into several blog posts;
- Create a short outtake from a longer video interview and post it on social media;
- Distill a long valuable concept into a series of emails and package that as an email course you to get free subscribers.
This is usually the go-to method for getting social media content out of a single big piece posted elsewhere. And it’s easy enough to also mention your original work that contains more information. This makes content atomization a hybrid tactic – part repurposing, part distribution.
An important note here is that the small pieces don’t just spark curiosity about the original. They need to be valuable on their own. This principle, known as content decentralization, is pretty vital in today’s online world. People want to consume content in the channel they’re currently in – don’t coerce them into clicking through to your site to get any value.
There’s also the alternative method – rather than splitting up a big piece of content, you can combine a few smaller ones. The most common example of this is combining a series of themed blog posts into an ebook. But it can also be the case that your how-to videos have grown in number, and you want to create a dedicated page that shows users how to get the most of your product.
Change the audience
The following method may sound a bit esoteric at first. After all, if we’re reformatting content and posting it on new channels, we’re surely changing the audience?
That’s true, but you can be even more deliberate in reaching new audiences – even once you already control. This usually means you’ll take a piece of content available to a limited audience and promote it to a bigger one. Here are two examples:
- You write a great email piece for your newsletter subscribers. They engage so strongly with the topic that you decide to post the same thing (or maybe expand on it a bit, as well) and share it as a blog post.
- You do a talk at a conference, meetup, or informal event. You record the session just in case. Then you post it on your YouTube channel and promote it to your core audiences.
In both cases, you’ve taken a piece of content intended for a limited number of live participants and extended its reach substantially.
Change the team of contributors
This final one is a multi-step method. And I admit I cheated a bit with the title to fit the structure of the blog post. But you’ll forgive me, I’m sure.
It’s something Gary Vaynerchuk talks about in his now-famous Content Model presentation. He calls it community-driven microcontent:
Gary’s concept is simple. You create a piece of content and atomize it in a bunch of microcontent pieces. But in the meantime, you pay close attention to what elements of the original piece resonate with people. And you create a second series of microcontent that uses these insights – these will be the most impactful outtakes of your video or audio piece or the most highlighted phrases in a Medium article.
Here, the community members become “passive contributors” to your content creation process. They tell you what they like – either explicitly through comments or their consumption of the original content.
But there’s a way to extend this tactic. While working on the piece, ask questions in relevant interest groups or among your social circle. It might be:
- an open question you post on your account;
- a quick poll on Twitter or LinkedIn;
- an email to some close contacts;
- a discussion in a relevant subreddit or another online community.
The “repurposing” here happens when you add these external opinions to your piece. It’s a way to enrich the content with external views. And it’s also a way to involve more people in the content creation process – because people who feel involved are more likely to share your piece. If you created a public discussion, post the link to the final work there, as well. People will be curious to see the whole story.
Bringing it all together
Here’s a quick example of content repurposing in action. I run a content series for a client of mine where we do 30-minute interviews with industry experts. We record the sessions over Zoom, do some light editing and publish that in a video library accessible with free registration. This is our primary lead magnet. The up-front time investment is probably about an hour and a half per piece to secure the guest, prep for the interview, etc.
For every single interview we:
- Publish a blog post with the key insights of the interview;
- Create a few short video outtakes with the most exciting ideas and post them on our social media channels;
- Get key quotes from the discussion and create social media images with them;
- Write up a Tweetstorm with some of the key takeaways from the interview;
- Take the audio stream of the interview and post it on Soundcloud a few weeks after the original launch;
In total, we get about a dozen different content pieces out of a single source. And down the line, when we have interviews on overlapping topics, we can create roundup pieces that showcase diverse points of view guests made during their interviews on similar issues.
As always, when it comes to content marketing, experimentation is critical. Try different approaches, mix them up and see which repurposed content pieces bring in the best results. And don’t forget to have fun!