Creating effective and highly engaging content takes both time and money. However, I believe it to be completely necessary to make this investment as I see it as one of the biggest contributors to a company getting their digital marketing right.
The challenge is to maximise the impact of the content that has been created. You see, money was most likely spent to create a piece of content, so success is often judged by how much engagement or sales revenue was generated as a result of that content.
This is where we can actually take a lesson from trees: One of the most efficient ways I’ve found to get the most out of your content is through content splintering. Once you’ve used a piece of content, it’s not the end of its life. There is more to be had and what was a piece of content failure could actually be turned into an amazing success.
This article will define what content splintering actually is and how you can use it to get the most out of your efforts.
Content Splintering Defined
I mentioned us learning from trees earlier and you’re probably still wondering what the hell I’m talking about with that, so I’ll start by explaining the correlation.
On my eighth birthday, I was moved from my hometown of Southend-on-Sea in Essex to Boston, Lincolnshire. I was in the official middle-of-nowhere, so this city boy suddenly had to learn the ways of country life. One thing this new house had was a fireplace, which meant chopping wood.
When you cut down a tree, it’s been splintered into separate pieces. The fallen timber gets splintered further into logs, then it was my job to splinter those logs into sticks of wood for the fire.
When you chop a piece of wood, it splinters to create smaller pieces from the same log. You may now have two sticks of wood for the fire, but they still came from the same log, and all the other logs you’ve just chopped up still all come from the same tree.
Content splintering works the same way: You start with a single topic or idea for your content. That’s your tree. You then chop that singular asset into multiple content assets. These can be used across a number of different channels, using different types of content and strategies. They are your logs. You can then repurpose those specific pieces of content in different ways on different or even the same channels again to make sure the message reaches your entire audience on that channel. They are your sticks of wood for the fire that is your business.
When you’re undertaking content splintering, it is important to ensure that each splinter is unique enough that you can tell one from another. Whilst each piece of content will originate from the same core topic and the similarities are noticeable, everything needs to feel new and fresh.
Think of it this way: If you chop a log into two pieces of wood with an axe, they will never be identical. You will be able to tell them apart. Your content splintering needs to be like this.
The Difference Between Content Splintering and Reposting
In the digital marketing world, there’s a bit of stigma around the idea of reposting content. Personally, I’m more for splintering. There’s a distinctive difference between content splintering and simply reposting something:
Reposting a piece of content means you are just sending the exact same thing out again. But similarly to trying to use a piece of already burned wood on a fire, it won’t do much. Some argue that it’s done to make sure the full audience sees your message, but ultimately you’re just going to annoy the people who have already seen that piece of content.
Content splintering, on the other hand, is about repurposing something to make it fresh. Let’s say you’ve posted a blog on your website. Reposting that content would be to just share a link to that post on your Facebook page. Content splintering would mean taking the basic message of that blog post and using it to create a video for Facebook.
Content splintering can come in many different forms because there are a lot of unique channels out there with their own means of delivering content to people. This gives you many different ways to repackage your content assets or topic ideas: Image, text, video, animations and more.
The Importance of Content Splintering
As said before, content splintering is a way to get the most out of a piece of content and boost your ROI. On top of that, there are some smaller benefits that come from it.
If you are running a small business, you’re probably limited in money, time and resources. Therefore, the money-saving aspect of content splintering is probably the most important factor to you. This is great as you actually can create a strong editorial calendar for the new year on a limited budget.
On the flip side, larger organisations will generally have a bigger budget and, therefore, be more able to utilise a greater number of channels. The challenge with using a large number of channels is keeping a cohesive brand message.
With content splintering, your core topic and content assets will ensure that the tone, voice and general message will stay the same. As a result, this improves the cohesion of your brand message. Your basic message is preserved and your audience can smoothly move between each of your channels.
How To Do Content Splintering
At the end of it all, content splintering comes down to three sequential, yet continuous steps:
The reason why I say continuous is because you must always keep your mind open to new ideas which can then be used to produce new content that you can splinter.
Step 1: The Idea
As previously said, forming new ideas is a continuous process for marketers. If you’re like me, then you’re constantly generating new content ideas because an idea is comparable to a seed: You need the seed to grow the plant, and you need the idea to grow the content. Once you have an idea, you can move onto production.
As a tip here, you should always keep your phone or a notepad nearby in case you have a lightbulb moment. As a musician, I have an entire drawer full of notebooks that are filled to the brim with song ideas, whether they be chord progressions or little pieces of lyrics. As a digital marketer, my phone has note after note featuring saved links, article titles and general ideas for content.
There can be times, especially in the early days, where you can potentially run out of original ideas. At this point, it can be easy to feel overwhelmed. If you find yourself at this roadblock, there are a few things you can do to spark inspiration:
- Use an SEO keyword tool, such as Moz’s Keyword Explorer to find questions that searchers are often asking. It’s good to aim for longtail ones, as they’ll be easier to rank for. You can then adapt those questions into content assets.
- Take a look at a social media channels, such as Facebook or Reddit in order to find out what your audiences are talking about. You can even try looking at forums related to your industry to see if there’s a question everybody seems to keep asking.
- Stalk your competitors and take a look at their content efforts. Sometimes you can repurpose their content for your own campaigns!
- Consider what holiday seasons or major events are coming up. I would recommend steering away from anything too controversial (9/11 and Grenfell Tower spring to mind), but distant historical events are an option.
- Go through your previously successful content and consider how you could update or repackage that information.
If you want more guidance on coming up with ideas for content, be sure to check out my previous blog on questions to ask your customers.
Step 2: The Production
Having some kind of plan or editorial calendar in place is vital to keeping on top of your content marketing campaigns. It’s a visual way of seeing deadlines and strategically planning your campaigns ahead of time. This means the correct content assets are created and published at the right times. No more missed deadlines!
Most of your time and money will be used at this stage, but I wanted to also share my top tips with you on how you can progress smoothly through this stage:
- Start with just one idea, which should be nothing more than a basic concept or overview. Then you can spread it out over several blogs or video that grow increasingly more in-depth. This then allows you to highlight and recycle sections from previous pieces of content (within that same basic concept, of course), which will save you time. These smaller chunks of content are also useful for website copy, landing pages and other materials.
- You can actually go completely 180 on this and start with something much larger before breaking it down into smaller pieces. Perhaps you could start with a long guide that provides an in-depth explanation of your topic, and then you can break it down into smaller chunks. I often use this approach when it comes to video content. Rather than shooting a short 2-minute, I will capture 20-30 minutes of content that can be broken down into several pieces. This saves a lot of time and money as you’re creating all of your content (which will need editing, of course) in a single effort, rather than individually.
- Mix things up and keep everybody guessing. This is an especially great approach for the pages on your website. The content that once worked for an old, outdated landing page could be incredibly useful to include on a home or service page on your website. This will help to keep your site feeling fresh and the regular updates to your content can improve your rankings on Google. Furthermore, it doesn’t cost much in time, effort or money to simply rearrange your content assets.
When producing content, you should also consider who will actually be handling the creation. Below, I present you with three options that possess their own respective pros and cons. Let’s take a look:
- In-house: For many smaller companies, this may be the only option due to a lack of funds. The positive part about this route is that you have complete control over what you create, but also requires a lot of time and effort. On top of that, you may not possess the skills necessary to create truly professional-looking content. In which case, it may be worth considering the other choices below.
- Freelancer: Hiring a freelance practitioner is cheaper than a whole agency, but you’re pinning all of your trust onto a single person. It can be hard to find a good freelancer, as there are a lot of unprofessional practitioners out there who will produce work of poor quality. For all the time you may spend finding and securing a freelancer, you may have been able to produce content of similar quality in the same amount of time. Out of the three choices available, this is very much the middle option.
- Agency: This is the most expensive option, but you generally get what you pay for. Agencies will have access to the best equipment, software, resources and knowledge for producing amazing content. If you can afford it, use an agency, as you’ll also have a whole team working for you, rather than just a single person.
Step 3: The Content Splintering
After deciding on your ideas and converting them into content assets, you can now start splintering the content. This is the most enjoyable part (trust me, searching for the right freelancer or agency can be a nightmare!) as you’re going to start seeing your logs split into sticks of wood that’ll feed the fire. You’re going to have a calendar full of engaging content.
When it comes to splintering content, the trick is to be able to identify key assets within larger pieces of content that can be used in other places. A simple example of this is pulling a short quote from a blog article and using it to create content for a landing page or even a social media post.
Remember how I said that when you chop wood, not every stick will be the same? Well, your splintered content will all be different and you can end up with larger splinters. As an example, you could take an existing blog post and turn the concept into a video. Or perhaps you could cut down a long webinar recording into small pieces that you can use across multiple platforms.
Don’t forget to consider SEO when splintering your content. You can repackage existing content assets to target new keywords.
As previously said, all of the steps mentioned above need to happen both sequentially and continuously. It’s not just a matter of constantly recording new ideas for content. You also need to find ways to splinter current and future content.
In short, put the same amount of effort into repurposing your old content as you are into coming up with new ideas. This is how you maximise your ROI.