Give Your Content Life: How to Create a Longer Lifespan for Your Content
Creating content requires an investment of time, money and resources. Therefore, it is natural to aim for the biggest possible impact from every piece of content you publish. The rule of thumb is; the longer your content remains relevant to your target audience, the more opportunities it will have to perform and the greater return you will get from your investment.
So how do you extend the lifespan of your content and make it work harder, for longer? To do this, you have to understand the ‘content life-cycle’, the distinct phases a piece of content goes through, from conception through to publishing and analysis. With this insight comes the ability to extend the active parts of the life-cycle and to create content with greater longevity and higher relevance.
What is the content lifecycle?
Let’s start by looking at the content lifecycle itself. Different marketing authorities have varying ideas about what the lifecycle looks like. Several different models have emerged since 2003, giving between two and seven phases for the cycle. For instance, Susan McKeever’s Industrial Management and Data Systems (2003) gives a simple two phase lifecycle, the ‘content collection’ and ‘publication’ stages. Building on this, Bob Doyle’s 2005 article on Econtentmag.com, Seven Stages of the CM Lifecycle proposed seven distinct stages; Organisation, Creation, Storage, Workflow, Versioning, Publishing, and Archiving.
Other authors have had different ideas. Every model varies greatly in complexity and detail, but all cover the same core ideas. We have summarised the important principles of the lifecycle in our four stage model below. This in turn can be broken down into two larger phases; content management and content strategy:
Phase One: Content Management
The creation stage involves all the tasks required to assemble and develop your content. This is where most people spend the majority of their time, and rightly so. For the greatest impact and longevity, time should be spent researching the right sort of content for your target audience.
Next, the content needs to be acquired, written or developed. For this you need to ask yourself questions. If you are acquiring content for development, where will it be sourced and what customisation work is required? If you are writing new content yourself, what research materials and input you need. Giving careful consideration to these factors will help ensure your content remains relevant to your target market for as long as possible. There is then an editing and development stage before the content is ready for publication.
Creating relevant content involves having a firm strategy and planning process in place. As part of this process, your brand and tone of voice needs to be defined. In addition, staffing requirements have to be understood, and clear areas of ownership assigned for each aspect of the creation process.
Once your content is created to your satisfaction you can proceed to the important part – publication. This process is more involved than simply clicking a send button on an email campaign. For a start, most content campaigns now involve multichannel publishing, so you need to aggregate together all the different versions of your content for Facebook, email, blog, website and so on. You will need to decide on the most appropriate channel to use and the time of publication. Some businesses like to publish their content to a small test segment or focus group to gain feedback before the main publication. This opens the door to further revisions and transformations of the content before final publication goes ahead.
Phase Two: Content Strategy
Once your content is published, your work continues. The management stage involves keeping your content up-to-date, and removing older and less relevant content to make way for new material. Without active management and attention to detail, your newly published content will rapidly reach the end of its effective life. Smart management can extensively increase the impact of your content.
This involves an active schedule of planning and maintenance, and is where a CMS comes in handy. Through proactive monitoring of the responses you are getting, you will be in a position to adjust your marketing, migrate the content onto other channels if necessary, and make adjustments in response to customer comments and social feedback. The ongoing process of auditing and adjustment remains for as long as your content is visible online; i.e. until you choose to unpublish and archive the content. Here are a few examples of content marketing to help with awareness: 8 UK Content Marketing Examples
The process of analysis begins in the previous, management stage, but is a distinct process. This is an extremely important activity, as through analysis you can determine what parts of your content worked, which parts didn’t, and which parts could be improved. Analysis will give you a better understanding of your customers’ needs, which channels are most appropriate and what content you should be focusing on creating.
How do you effectively audit and analyse your content? Most CMS systems and automated marketing applications give you access to a range of metrics showing you the reach of your content. Pay close attention to this information and dissect it in as fine a detail as you can. Also, listen to what your customers have said. Has your content had many shares on Twitter, or comments on Facebook? If so, these comments should be taken on board and responded to. Even negative feedback is positive at this stage, as it helps you shape better content for when the cycle starts over…
How much time should you spend creating content?
Here is the million-dollar question, and unfortunately there isn’t a simple answer. Different content campaigns will take different amounts of time. The important thing is to spend as much time as is necessary to do the best possible job. There is no point cutting corners when creating content.
Skimping on any one of the life-cycle phases will reduce the impact of your content and lower your marketing ROI. There are no shortcuts to great content, which is why having a content management partner on board is such a great help when running regular campaigns.
In terms of time allocation a typical content campaign might look something like this:
- Creation stage: 40% of total time
- Publishing stage: 15%
- Management stage: 25% of total time, but stretched over a longer period.
- Analysis stage: 20%
How to create content that resonates with your target market.
Your content will only be effective if it directly addresses the needs of your target market. The more closely you are able to do this, the longer lived and more impactful your content will be. Before you put pen to paper with a blog, or start designing an infographic, take some time to understand your customers. A customer base is never usually homogenous, so it is usually helpful to break it down into a number of different buyer personas. This is where the content life-cycle meet other elements of inbound marketing, and we’ll cover this topic in further detail in a later article.
In short, a B2B buyer persona is a specific job role within a target industry. If you know who your content is designed to appeal to, you are empowered to make it tightly personalised, and therefore more likely to lead to a conversion. For instance, let’s say your business provides IT hardware support services for customer call centres. For greatest impact, you will want to create content that resonates with the decision-makers, so you might create a buyer persona for IT directors or procurement managers. This allows you to create content that pre-empts the questions they might ask about your business, such as how your support service addresses the specific IT problems they experience, and how it adds value to their business.
The key to a longer lifestyle for your content therefore comes back to understanding your customer base. The content life-cycle describes how content is created through a process of research, customer conversations and review, to strengthen the relationship between you and your target market.