Repurposing content: What is it and how do you do it?

Recycling symbol

Do you think of yourself as a content creator? Nowadays, in the world of online media, creation is only part of the story. From now on, you might like to think of yourself as more of a 'content manager' instead.

Why is this? ‘Content creator’ implies just that: you create something, you polish it, you publish it, and you send it out into the world via your preferred medium such as social media, a podcast, or a newsletter. Then you sit back to watch the readers or listeners come in. And then, in an instant, it’s time to start researching and planning the next article or podcast.

In my opinion this is a hangover from the mindset of the print world. For so long, newspaper staff would write a story, print it and send it out to be read, essentially never to be seen again after that day. But times have changed! The term ‘content manager’ implies a little more strategic thinking, which has become possible with the advent of the internet.

It implies that content is not just created but given multiple uses, in perhaps multiple channels, thus maximizing the amount of value it brings to the creator (or manager!). After all, there are so many digital formats and media platforms out there that one brilliant piece of content deserves to get as much exposure as possible. In addition, it lets your audience enjoy the content no matter the channel they follow you on.

How do you make one piece of content work across multiple audiences and/or multiple formats? You ‘repurpose’ it.

What is repurposing? How does it work for content?

Repurposing means taking something with a valuable use case (for some people) and changing its delivery method or format to create a new — but still valuable — use case (for other people). Last month, I took an old wooden tabletop that had been gathering dust in a garage and restored it to become a new coffee table.

When it comes to content, repurposing means changing the channel, format or media, such as transcribing a video tutorial on YouTube to become a blog post for readers.

When is repurposing content beneficial?

Managing your content well means you can spread your message farther and wider with less time and effort than creating another piece of content from scratch. If you can reach another thousand people with a post on social media by repurposing a quote from a blog post, why not take advantage?

However, not all content lends itself to repurposing — just as in the earlier real-world example, the tabletop I repurposed wouldn’t work as a kitchen counter, but it absolutely works well as a coffee table. In the world of digital content, a video that’s hugely reliant on imagery won’t work as a podcast because listeners won’t be able to see the visuals. The trick is to think about which pieces of content will work when repurposed and how they might look in their new format.

How to decide when to repurpose content

Here are some questions to help you decide, and some tips to avoid problems:

What is the goal of repurposing it?

A good starting point is to think about existing content assets that performed well in their existing format, such as one of your top-performing blog posts. Use Google Analytics to rank your posts and pages.

Think about how you can take a well-established piece of content and expand its readership/reach — perhaps a TikTok video of some of your favourite quotes from the post.

What value will come from repurposing it?

The answer shouldn’t be: “To get more reach for a piece of content that didn’t perform as well as I hoped.” There’s absolutely a need to post the right content to the right channel but for the purpose of this article, we’ll assume you are repurposing successful content, not saving less successful content.

The answer should be: “To make sure my TikTok followers are aware of the latest article in my newsletter,” or “To improve interlinking between my blog posts,” or similar.

How long will it take to repurpose?

Transcribing a 45-minute video interview into a blog post takes hours — even with fantastic software such as Otter.ai. Instead of transcribing parts of an interview you may never use, listen back to the podcast, choose a specific segment that is interesting and perhaps less than 20 minutes long and use that as one post. You can always come back to other interview segments for other blog posts.

Is it time-sensitive?

A photo of an incredible sunset with little or no text might work well for Instagram but will need much more information to be repurposed into, say, a blog post. You need to make sure that longer-form content is “evergreen” — as in, always relevant — and always has context so that it works as a standalone item.

For example, if you witnessed the sunset at the end of a day of travelling or after a walk with friends, add some text to repurpose the standalone images into a blog post about what you saw and where you went that day.

How to repurpose content

Here are some ideas for ways to repurpose content and the software you could use to do so. Of course, there are many more than this shortlist, but hopefully this gives you a good understanding of approaches you might take:

Change the format

  • Take text from a post and lay it out as an infographic (Canva)
  • Turn an embedded video into a presentation (KeyNote)
  • Readout a blog post and record it to create an educational video (Loom)

Change the channel

  • Post an online photo gallery as a carousel of images on Instagram
  • Transcribe a podcast into a blog post (Otter.ai)
  • Record paragraphs of a blog post as TikTok videos

Change the length

  • Separate a long-form, in-depth guide into a series of email blasts (MailChimp)
  • Trim a 30-minute interview into a number of 15-second Instagram Stories (Clideo)
  • Expand one bullet point from a listicle into a full article

Conclusion: Are you ready to start repurposing content?

Repurposing content should be a key element of any content strategy. It allows content creators — or, perhaps more accurately, content managers — to ensure more of their content is seen by their audience in a format and style that best suits them. It’s also a time-effective way to keep a steady output of content across the channels you operate in without requiring starting from scratch every time you post.

So, next time you finish that podcast, consider transcribing some of it into a blog or editing some audio snippets to be used on social media. Your audience — and your time schedule — will appreciate it!

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