Reduce, Reuse, Recycle: How to Give Your Content New Life
Learn to reduce your effort by reusing your ideas and recycling your content!
Content marketing is, hands down, one of the best ways to engage with potential customers and increase your brand recognition.
On the flipside, however, it’s time-consuming to produce. That’s why it’s so important to learn how to strategically repurpose existing content to extend its lifecycle and make producing it less of a chore.
A lot of small businesses start producing content, publishing an article here and there for a few months. Then, the posts will become fewer and farther between, until the blog is abandoned completely.
This happens often when people and businesses start creating content without sustainability in mind. They become frustrated with the seemingly small reward for a massive amount of effort.
But this doesn’t have to be the case.
A smart content strategy recycles existing content in clever ways to reduce the workload and increase the returns.
So how do we do that? Well, first we have to start with some content.
Evergreen, that is.
Evergreen content is that which remains relevant over time — alluding to the coniferous trees that remain green year-round. (So, think of it as the opposite of bell-bottoms, dabbing, and jazzercise.)
The goal of evergreen content is to attract web traffic consistently for years to come. FAQs, common mistakes, tools-of-the-trade lists, and how-to guides for confusing concepts within your industry are all examples of topics that retain their relevancy for years after they’re written, usually only requiring occasional updates.
Content that relies heavily on contemporary statistics, news articles, or trends, on the other hand, has a relatively short lifespan in which readers will be actively searching for the information.
If you’ve been in the content game for a while, you probably already have a few of these evergreen pieces. They’ll be the blogs or podcasts that consistently bring in new traffic and continue to grow steadily in views even after the initial “honeymoon period” when they were first published.
If you’re just embarking on a brand-new content strategy, however, you can start building a long-term growth path by producing evergreen content to get ahead of the curve.
One way to start is by beginning with a number of lengthy, detailed keystone pieces in the form of blog posts, videos, or podcasts that you can build upon for years to come.
Creating evergreen content is just the first (although crucial) step in your journey toward producing a completely “energy efficient” content strategy. The next step is learning how to successfully build upon, revise, and reuse this content over time.
Reduce, Reuse, Recycle
As promised, this post is all about how to produce the most content with the least effort. To do that, I’ve broken the next section down into 5 phases, with each phase building upon the previous one.
You’ll learn how to produce content in a way that lets you build upon and expand your presence without spending hours in front of the computer every day writing blog posts.
Now, one quick note: I’ve found that the best method is to start with podcasting as your keystone piece of content, but you don’t need to start from a podcast if public speaking isn’t your jam. If you’re a natural public speaker, podcasting is a fantastic option, but not everyone is comfortable in that role.
If you perform better typing away before the blue glow of your computer, go ahead and start from Phase 3. Or, if it helps you organize your thoughts, simply start from a private audio log of random thoughts and ideas rather than a public podcast. That way, you’ll have a good foundation to start from rather than a blank screen.
With that said, let’s dive in!
Phase One: Podcast → Instagram Story, YouTube Video, & Written Transcript
Podcasts are digital audio files that can be downloaded to a mobile device or desktop.
Podcasts are often published as part of a larger series that listeners subscribe to. Generally, podcast listeners are extremely loyal to their subscribed podcasts. In fact, according to Salesforce, only 3% of monthly podcast consumers listen to only the beginning of the podcast. 42% stick around for the entire episode. Considering the length of the average podcast is about 30 minutes, that’s an impressive level of dedication for modern attention spans.
Because podcasts are generally unscripted and only lightly edited, they don’t require a lot of effort to produce, unlike written content, which is more highly researched and revised. You should, of course, have an outline of the show’s format and key topics, but over-preparation can often result in an impersonal and stiff tone. In that way, it’s actually encouraged to not be too prepared!
With the rise of smart home speakers like Google Home and Amazon Echo, podcasts are steadily increasing in popularity. There’s really no better time to give it a go if you haven’t already dabbled in recording a podcast series for your business or personal brand. Not only is it a great content generation tool, but you’ll also have a new way to keep your audience engaged and connected to your brand.
Now, after the podcast has been created and published is the point where most content producers will stop and start over with a new topic.
That’s a mistake.
That keystone piece of content is like a Russian nesting doll. Contained within it are smaller pieces of content that are waiting to be uncovered. It’s your job to unpack that hidden potential and really put your content to work.
Sure, you can stop at audio content only. Simply upload your podcast to iTunes or SoundCloud, and leave it at that. But why would you when it’s so simple to take it a step further?
Because videos posted to Instagram should be shot vertically, all you need to do is prop up your phone and hit record before you start talking. It’s a super easy way to kill 2 birds with 1 stone.
Instagram stories are short, <1-minute videos that you can post to IG. So, after you record your video, take some time to pick out some short snippets that capture the tone and topic of your podcast, and post away.
Okay, let’s take this even further and kill 3 birds with 1 stone.
While it’s not recommended that you use the same video for YouTube that you do for Instagram (the vertical orientation is not ideal for other video streaming platforms), you can set up another camera to record your session.
By default, YouTube only allows video uploads of 15 minutes, but you can increase that limit by verifying your Google account. After that, you can upload up to 12 hours of video (although I obviously would not recommend it). Hubspot marketers report seeing the most engagement on videos that are about 2 minutes long. However, you shouldn’t feel constrained to this limit.
In fact, it isn’t uncommon for people to publish an entire podcast to YouTube in order to reach a new audience. So, while you’ll probably see more engagement on shorter videos, what you ultimately decide to do with your content is up to you.
Wanna break it down to several short videos? You can do that. Wanna just throw the whole podcast up on YouTube? You can do that too.
Just do some simple editing, and you’re good to go. Easy-peasy.
There are a number of options out there for transcribing audio and turning it into written word. While not always 100% accurate, it’s leagues better to simply edit an automatically generated transcript than trying to write it all out on your own.
YouTube has a built-in transcription tool that you can use to generate text, as does Google Docs. For more advanced options, you can give paid software like Dragon Naturally Speaking or Inqscribe a try, but it’s not necessary.
Now that’s done: Congrats!
You’ve used the wonders of modern technology to convert your audio to text. Now what? Read on because this is where it gets interesting.
Phase Two: Podcast Transcript → Tweets, Quote Cards, Instagram Captions, & Blog Posts
Your transcript will form the basis for your written content in this next step of your overall content strategy. Start by reading through the transcript and highlighting sections that are especially interesting and provide value to your audience.
Make sure that each highlighted section is relatively self-contained, meaning that if you were to give someone just that text to read, they would be able to comprehend it without the larger context of the entire podcast.
Twitter is a great place to publish short, pithy quotes. So, while you’re reading through your transcript, keep a lookout for those 1–2 sentence pieces that sum up the important points of your topic.
In order to give your content the best chance at success on Twitter, you’ll want to keep it short and sweet. As per Twitter’s guidelines for boosting engagement:
“Concise Tweet copy helps the main message cut through. Research shows that Tweet copy with fewer than 50 characters generates 56% more engagement than Tweet copy with 50–100 characters.”
The same content that works for a tweet will work for a quote card. The difference, however, lies in the format.
A quote card includes an image that is overlaid with text. You can post these images to a variety of different social media platforms, including Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest.
It’s a good idea to start building a bank of pictures of yourself, your work, things that inspire you, etc. to use not only for these quote cards but also for other social media and written content.
Here’s another place where pictures come in handy.
Instagram is a great place to share a behind-the-scenes look at your life, and, thanks to Instagram’s generous 2,200 character limits for captions, it’s also a great place to share pieces of written micro-content with your audience.
To optimize your content for Instagram, you’ll want to take a paragraph (3–6 sentences) from your transcript, and add emojis and hashtags.
Pair your caption with an image from your day, and you’re ready to post.
A blog post is the longest content format that you can create from a podcast transcript.
Say that the topic of your podcast was raising capital for a startup, and you spent about 10 minutes of your time talking about angel investors. Paste that portion of the transcript into a word document, edit for grammar and structure, and voila! Now you have “5 Things You Need to Know About Angel Investors” ready to post to your personal blog.
Although you will likely need to revise your transcript for a blog format (or hire an editor to do so for you), it is often much easier to work from an existing piece of content than to start from scratch.
Phase 3: Blog Post → Quora Answer, Social Media Post, Infographic, Slide Deck, & Blog Post
Now it’s time to take that long-form written content and recycle that content yet again! In this round we’re focusing on the blog posts you produced from the previous step.
I’ve sung the praises of Quora in the past, and I’ll do it again.
The popular Q&A site is a great place to repurpose older content, build your following, and drive traffic to your website. Users ask and answer questions on topics ranging from self-improvement to travel to home repair. If you have a question, Quora has an answer.
Find questions relevant to your field by subscribing to related topics and keeping your eyes open for new questions in your feed or just use the search bar to sift through older questions. Then, answer the question using previously written content as a basis for your answer.
However, remember that your main goal should be to provide value to your reader. Please, for the love of all things good, don’t just provide a link to your blog and call it a day. That’s considered spam, and it could result in a complete ban of your Quora profile (also it’s really annoying to those of us trying to find genuine answers). All the information needed to fully answer the question should be provided in the main text of your post. Additional links can be added to provide bonus info (and drive traffic to your blog) or to promote your social media, but no one is going to click on those links if you don’t first provide value in your answer.
Social Media Post
Much like in the previous stage when we used the transcript as a basis for social media posts, you can also use your newly published blog as inspiration to create Tweets, Instagram captions, and quote cards.
Just remember to optimize each post for the appropriate platform by considering text length, images, and tone.
An infographic is a visual representation of data and ideas that is a great way to grab viewers’ attention, especially on social media sites where text alone doesn’t always stop people from scrolling by.
Thankfully, a graphic design degree isn’t necessary to complete an infographic. You can simply use an online software to add images to key lists, statistics, and concepts from your blog post.
SlideShare is a slide hosting service that was acquired by LinkedIn in 2012.
Originally intended for businesses to share presentations among themselves, SlideShare is now home to a range of presentations on a variety of topics.
A presentation is an ideal format to share more in-depth, technical information that may not be suited to other social media platforms. It’s also a very visual medium that is well-suited for sharing charts, graphs, images, etc.
Why stop at just one blog post? Sometimes you may think of a way to expand one smaller idea into a whole new post. Look for questions and comments on an already published article. What are people saying? Where are the points of confusion? What sections were particularly engaging to your readers?
You can use this feedback to expand on ideas from your previous blog post and create new content that responds to questions raised by your previous post.
Although creating a whole new blog post may involve a bit more work than other steps in this list, remember that you don’t need to start from square one. Using comments you’ve written, some ideas from your previous article, plus the valuable feedback you’ve received makes the process of writing much easier.
Phase 4: Series of Blog Posts → Ebook, Webinar, & Online Course
It may take a while until you’re ready for Phase 4 because the next few steps will require a large backlog of content. You’ll want to keep creating blogs and podcasts that expand on your key topics, building outward until you get to the point where you feel as though you’ve covered all angles of a specific subject.
Once that’s done, you’re ready for Phase 4.
Now, writing a book sounds like a huge undertaking. Just thinking about it is enough to trigger flashbacks to high school term papers and struggling just to meet the 5-7-page requirement.
But, if you’ve been building a solid collection of content in the previous 3 phases, this step will be much easier than you think.
Choose one subject that you’ve been expanding upon in your long-form written content, and start gathering all the content you’ve created so far related to that topic. Then, work on arranging in a logical order and divide it into chapters. Edit and revise from here until all the pieces fit together.
eBooks are often seen as “extended essays,” so don’t stress if your finished work is on the shorter side. 20,000 words (40 pages) is typical considering that most eBooks are sold for a much cheaper price than their physical counterparts.
A webinar is a great way to showcase your brand or business, bring in new leads, and build relationships with your audience by teaching people something they want to know.
Your podcasts and blog posts are a great source of material to use as a basis for your online presentation. Also, if you’ve been keeping track of comments on your content, you’ll have a good idea of the types of questions your webinar audience will ask and be able to prepare in advance. Online webinar hosting sites make it easy to engage with your audience and host an informative, engaging webinar.
Despite the efforts we’ve made to streamline this content creation process and considering that webinars often involve bit of work for no direct monetary gain, you may be wondering, “Why bother?”
Well, a webinar can help further your reputation as a leader in the field and build trust with your audience that you can leverage to generate sales, grow your audience, and open up new opportunities.
Unlike the other types of content on this list, webinars are usually viewed as more reputable sources of information. Webinar hosts are positioned as experts, while bloggers and podcasters are often viewed more as hobbyists.
An online course is another option for boosting your reputation as an expert in your field while providing value to your audience.
An online course, however, is typically much longer than a webinar, more in-depth, and, unlike webinar presenters, course creators often charge for access to their information. Often, webinars are used as a sort of “teaser” for a longer online course.
In the same way you put together your eBook, you can gather all your previously created content that covers your chosen topic and divide it into modules.
The key to a useful (and profitable) course is making your topic specific enough to stand out, yet general enough to attract a large audience. Luckily, you should have a good idea of the type of content that draws interest by tracking engagement on podcasts, posts, and webinars you’ve created in the past.
Phase 5: Online Course → Presentation
Finally, once you’ve built a decent online following, it may be worthwhile to consider doing the same in the real world.
Look for speaking opportunities at events where you know your target audience tends to gather, and reach out to event organizers.
If you start to develop a sizable following and a solid reputation, you may even be able to make money from your speaking engagements. That, however, is not the only benefit of public speaking. Heck, it’s not even necessary to be directly paid for a presentation for you to make a profit from it.
Just mentioning your business, handing out your contact info, and building relationships with attendees are all great ways to generate leads through public speaking.
And, as a bonus, if you are able to record your talk, you can then turn that around and make even more content from it!
You’ll never struggle to think of a topic for your blog again.
Final Tips to Improve Your Energy Efficiency
Throughout this post, we’ve looked at the step-by-step process to maximize your efficiency throughout the content production process. However, we haven’t yet talked about how to tie all these threads together into one cohesive strategy.
As you go through this process, you’ll need to consider how you want your pieces of content to interact with one another. Ideally, each piece of content should be connected to a wider strategy and perfectly suited to the platform on which it’s published, which, I want to emphasize, means no more double-dipping (i.e. using the same post across all social media).
The next three steps deal with best practices for when it comes time to hit publish:
1. Link Up Your Content
Short-form content like Tweets, Facebook posts, etc. are ideal places to promote long-form content and drive traffic to your website. Make sure that you strategically release your micro-content in tandem with blogs and podcasts.
2. Schedule Your Content Publication
With that being said, don’t publish all your content at the same time!
If all of your social feeds display the same posts at the same time, there’s no reason for people to follow you across platforms. If you are planning to post a quote card to Instagram, wait a few months to post it to Facebook. Not only will it give people a reason to follow all of your social accounts to see different content, it will help extend the life of that content.
3. Tailor Your Content to Your Platform
Different things work for different platforms. You shouldn’t post the same video to Instagram as you would to YouTube or the same text for both Twitter and Facebook. Each platform has its own personality and culture, so take time to learn what works for each one. This will also help to keep all your social media feeds from looking too similar.
It’s common to hear people complain that content marketing is too much work or that it takes too long, and that may be true…if you’re doing it wrong.
The truth is that content production doesn’t need to be a constant struggle if you do it right. Just like recycling your plastic bags and soda cans can help preserve our precious natural resources, recycling your content can preserve your time and energy.