Repurposing content starts with rethinking how you view content

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Don’t you love all those Pinterest pictures of people turning trash into treasure? I remember the first time I saw a coffee table made from a pallet. I was convinced I’d never want one. But they really can be made to be lovely and functional without giving you splinters. And repurposing means less trash!

For anyone trying to market their company through evergreen content that demonstrates expertise in their field, the same idea of giving new, and sometimes unexpected, life to older content can make it easier to maintain a flow of content for your business. Because no one likes to throw away hard work - even if it happened years ago.

Building a comprehensive web presence today means being able to answer questions that come up with your clients or customers before they ever talk to you. That’s one of the many ways a good content program for your business can help gain attention and attract the right people to check you out - by showing them you know what you’re talking about.

But the idea of writing regularly is often a barrier for businesses that lack confidence in their writing skills or the funds for staff or outsourcing content creation. And that can make you feel overwhelmed before you ever get started.

There’s good news, though. It doesn’t have to be that complicated and I bet you can start with content you’ve already created and repurpose it to suit your needs. And if you think you have no content, I’d say you probably do. You just might not think of it as content … yet. That’s a good place for us to start.

What is content?

Content can be just about anything spoken, written or drawn that pertains to your business. A lot of your content may not be polished, pretty and ready for the world to see, but a little tender loving care goes a long way. Here are just a few things you probably have in the way of content:

Emails - you communicate about your business to associates, prospects and customers all the time. There’s valuable information and expertise being shared in these pieces of communication.

Conversations - you talk about your business with everyone (I hope). There can be a gold mine of content in the words you use to talk with others about what you do.

Documentation - training manuals for employees, certain aspects of your business and/or product plan, and other internal documentation can be great fodder for external content.

Obviously, in all three of these, it’s important to filter out anything you need to keep confidential. That should never be part of your content program. But thinking about all types of content as possible fodder for marketing is a good way to make sure you aren’t reinventing the wheel. After all, repurposing is all about finding new and sometimes unexpected uses for things that aren’t working for you anymore.

What are the building blocks you need to develop great content?

If you already have regular content you’ve been creating, that means you can use that existing content to build ideas for new content. The trick to saving yourself time is to think about content like building blocks. A single block could be a tweet or other micro content. Multiple tweets that relate to each other can be stitched together to make a blog post. Multiple blog posts that relate to each other can be stitched together to make an ebook.

And the reverse is true as well. If you have an ebook that’s a little older, you can break it up to freshen it up. Piece by piece, refine and update the content and republish as videos or blog posts.

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This is repurposing at its finest here are the advantages for you and your content:

  • Spend less time thinking about and building content by repurposing.

  • Make old things new again with updates to relevant (but out-of-date) content.

  • Present new angles to past ideas and reiterate your message.

There are endless possibilities for content that’s valuable to your audience. It takes some planning and creative thinking to get there. Just don’t try to reinvent the wheel. There’s no reason you have to start every new piece with a blank page.

Now that we’ve build a good foundation for developing content, next week we can talk about the importance of planning and how spending more time planning will save time and reduce the stress of execution.

The dating game of web content

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Do you remember what it’s like to be mutually “in like” for the first time? You click with the person so well that you want to see and talk to each other all the time. The connection is so strong that you feel like you’ve found a kindred spirit, or maybe even THE ONE!

Fast forward a few months and things are still somewhat rosy, but you’re starting to see the not-so-perfect side of this human being, but it’s okay because they have so many positives you can overlook it. Besides, humans are imperfect.

Time moves on and things change. The tarnish really starts to show. Maybe they change. Maybe you change. Maybe you just get to know them better. Either way, you hit that stage where staying together becomes a conscious decision you have to make.

Content marketing tools evoke similar emotions in marketers and business owners who use them to grow their business. We’ve fallen for what they can do for us and somehow expect that the tools will never change. Then they do and we scream and cry and fight for things to go back to the way they were in the good ol’ days.

Raise your hand if this story sounds familiar: Facebook actually invited us to move in, gave us free room and board, and then cut us off when we they didn’t have the money to pay the rent and utilities. How dare they make us pay for the milk!? And after they gave it to us for free for so long – now what do we do?

This is where too many are getting it wrong. If your content isn’t reaching people anymore, there’s a good reason and it’s highly likely you won’t like the answer. (Your audience possibly just isn’t that into it.) Knowing this is the best possible thing that will happen to you, though. Because it will give you the freedom to experiment with new, different and better content thatwill reach your audience.

Break the co-dependency

Tools will come and go, but over-reliance on them is simply not healthy for your reach or your content. Focus on your content first and use the right tools for promotion and building relationships. The tools are where you make the pick-up. Now that your audience is interested, take them somewhere nice that has the right vibe they’re looking for - like your website.

Be realistic with your expectations

Not everyone’s going to see your “come hither” looks from across "The Twitter". Facebook probably feels like a meat market where no one is paying attention anymore. But if you don’t show up, you might miss your perfect match. Of course, you have to look your best once you’re there. Looking good online is about creating great content. When people see it and check you out even further, they’re going to be attracted to how useful your content is to them.

Content needs to be better than ever

If your content isn’t written for your audience, you won’t attract them. If the content isn’t valuable to your audience, you won’t engage them. Yes, they need to be able to see you, but first they have to want to. You’re competing with over a billion other people and many, many millions of pages on Facebook alone. The numbers across the social web are staggering. Why should anyone give their time and attention to you?

There are plenty of other networks in the sea

Some people like being in a crowded, noisy room filled with potential. Others like to go to a quiet café to find someone who likes obscure everything. It’s nice to be where everyone is, but sometimes you just want to go where everybody knows your name. That’s where smaller networks like Instagram or Pinterest may be more valuable. But don't let the bigness of Facebook and Twitter stop you from building a small, engaged community there. (Even big cities like Toronto have lovely small, tight-knit communities.)

Focus on quality, not quantity

Dating a bunch of different people at once is hard work. Eventually, it gets so overwhelming, you have to just break it off with most of them. Getting to know someone as friends makes it easier to know if you want to take that next step. By the same token, getting to know a network’s value through research first can keep you from getting spread too thin. That means you’ll have more time to create stellar content!

It’s time to let go of all the ways the tools are letting you down and focus on trying new ways to communicate and build content that will make the tools work for you.

Don’t be a complainer. Be creative. Be courageous. Be compelling. You can create brilliantly awesome content!

A version of this post originally appeared on Feedblitz.

Your website is home - don't rent space somewhere else

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I visited Canada for the first time in 1995, the summer after I graduated high school. I went on tour with a singing group and for three months, we toured and performed throughout the Northwest United States and Canada. For the first time, I got to experience Canadian retail. I went to Eaton's in a mall in Vancouver, and saw three Gaps, three Guess, three of everything it seemed, at West Edmonton Mall. (I spent most of our day and a half of downtime at the mall hanging out with friends in the amusement park being amused.)

Fast forward 5 years and I moved to Canada. Eaton's, which hadn't impressed me all that much in in Vancouver, was a brand trying to revitalize itself and become known as the premium mainstream department store. When they re-opened at the Rideau Centre in Ottawa, the store was gorgeous. I had portraits done at the photo studio with Matt right after our wedding in 2001. 

But ultimately, Eaton's went away. They couldn't survive for reasons that don't matter to this analogy. They were a tool for consumers to get things they wanted or needed and nothing more. When not enough consumers consumed, the stores closed. It's happening over and over in Canadian retail these days.

Aren't you glad you got your shopping done and took your purchases home?

It seems like a strange question, right? But think about it. What if you bought things and rented space in the store to keep them? What happens to your stuff when the store suddenly shuts down? 

Content is your digital clothing

A few years ago Facebook increased the maximum number of characters in posts to 60,000. Someone figured out that is equivalent to several of the first few books of the Bible - just to put it into context for you. One of the digital marketing service providers I followed at the time decided to shut down their website because they were moving everything onto Facebook.

I stopped following them, because that one decision made me distrust their advice in other areas.

Your website is your home online. You own it. You control it. You decide what goes in the closets. You get to put out the fun and funky accessories. You get to dress it to suit your brand. You get to decide whether to stay or leave. 

Your website is a home. Your social networks are rentals.

In personal finance, the decision to buy or rent is far from simple, but when it comes to your web presence, always BUY. Do not make the mistake of renting space on Facebook, Twitter, Google+ (a perfect example given recent changes), LinkedIn, Tumblr or anywhere else. Why?

Because, just like Eaton's, Target and others have shut down and left people without a tool to get what they need and want, so can any and every social network fall to the whims of change or shut down. Changes can temporarily short-circuit your efforts to reach and grow your audience. A shut-down means starting all over.

Social networks are tools

You share content to social networks to drive traffic back to your website. That's the goal. Here's why:

  1. Your website shows the real you with no interference from Facebook, Twitter, or other social network elements. It reflects your brand (or it should).

  2. Your website is usually where your service offerings live. It's the place that prospective clients can peek in your kitchen drawers to find the right tools or ingredients to cook up what they need. Or - at the very least - it's a starting point.

  3. Your website is owned by you. As long as you're paying the mortgage (hosting) and maintaining your site, it isn't going anywhere. Even when the power goes out, it will come back on because it's yours.

You don't own Facebook, Twitter or any of the other hundreds of networks you use as tools for promotion. Renting is fine when you need physical shelter, but it's only a tool when it comes to your web presence.