High-quality web content can take a lot of time and energy to produce, but no matter how much work you put into creating it, online content tends to have a very short shelf life. Social media content is even more fleeting; the average tweet’s prime of life only lasts about 18 minutes. How can you give your content a longer lifespan? If you only have the resources to produce a few pieces of content, what should those pieces be? By developing a sustainable content strategy, you can focus your energy on creating content that will have a longer lifespan, without overextending your resources.
1. Focus on Creating Evergreen Content
Some types of content have inherently short lifespans. Posts that are seasonal or focus on trends tend to have a flash-in-the-pan lifecycle (remember the great #blueandblack v. #whiteandgold dress debate of spring 2015?). These pieces can be great additions to your overall content strategy, and help show that your brand is approachable and trend-savvy. However, maintaining a content calendar full of trendy pieces takes a lot of work, and requires your content to be refreshed quickly and continuously.
Instead of trying to constantly churn out new and up-to-the-minute blog posts, think about how long your piece will be viable for before you start developing it. Focusing on evergreen content — content that is always relevant, regardless of fleeting trends and passing dates — helps ensure that you always have something interesting and useful available to readers. Here at TINT we try to create content with staying power, like how-to guides with advice that holds true long after we first publish it. For example, one of our most popular posts to this day was written in early 2013 by one of our founders, on How to use Trello Effectively.
2. Repurpose Old Content
Companies inevitably go through changes that may make old content feel outdated. But there’s no need to write those pieces off as a lost cause. If you’ve already invested time and energy in a piece of content and are worried that it has lost its relevance, try to pick out what aspect of the piece is holding it back. Does it reference now-defunct products and stale statistics? Has your organization’s style or message evolved, leaving your early content feeling a little off-brand? Pinpointing what doesn’t work and making minor changes can help you extend the life of existing pieces.
While you’re building out a content strategy, it’s a good idea to consider the expected lifespan of bigger pieces of content, and what you plan to do with them after they’ve stopped being relevant. Some kinds of content aren’t quite evergreen, but are easy to refresh every year — annual pieces akin to “Best Practices for 2015” can often be repurposed and rewritten every year, using the previous year’s edition as a foundation for the next. You can use this type of content to your advantage. Current best practices for SEO maintain that search engines prefer new content to old content. Slightly altering and republishing some of your pieces can be an effective strategy for improving your content’s search ranking.
3. Repackage Good Ideas
Changing the format of a piece of content can help you reach a wider audience. Your most popular blog posts might be good starting points for a Youtube video, infographic, or eBook. Copyblogger has done very well with this approach. They feature an extensive spread of high-quality articles on copywriting and marketing topics on their blog, but understand that even great content can get lost in the shuffle overtime. To combat content fatigue, they repackage their blog posts in topically-organized sets, perfect for readers who want to dive deeper into a specific subject without having to dig through the archives.
Another method for getting more mileage out of your content is republishing it on content platforms like Medium. Social media management app Buffer has leveraged Medium very effectively to increase the lifespan of their content. They’ve repackaged some of their successful longform pieces as multiple shorter posts on Medium, giving these popular pieces increased exposure by breaking them into bite-sized chunks.
4. Keep the Conversation Going Longer
Many companies do a great job of promoting their content on social media right after they publish it, but rely too heavily on that first wave of tweets and posts to promote their content. Social software platform Hootsuite ran an interesting experiment in which they tweeted about the same high-quality piece of content over and over again to see if their followers would stay interested, or if they would get fed up with the repetition. The result? “Even on the 150th Tweet of the same piece of outstanding content, we have found that users are still clicking the link to read the post and sharing it with friends,” they wrote in a follow-up blogpost. The bottom line is that high quality content stays relevant longer — you just have to make sure people are still seeing it.
At TINT, we’ve seen companies using our platform to give social-media specific content a longer life by pulling their own social posts onto their website, or by displaying the social media activity of their readers, whenever they mention their content (just like we do on Social Studies below all our articles). Rather than disappearing into the social media ether after a brief 18 minutes, these posts live on for days or weeks. Integrating social media into your website more effectively works in your favor in two ways — it gives the initial tweets and posts a longer lifespan, and can encourage repeated or more frequent social sharing from readers.
When it comes to social promotion, be liberal; don’t be afraid to use social media to remind people of your best content long after its debut.
Ultimately, the best way to make sure your content has a long shelf life is to develop a solid content marketing strategy. Not every piece you write needs to be geared towards longevity, but the more pieces you write that are evergreen, the better. If you are very resource-constrained, be sure to invest your efforts in these evergreen pieces, as they tend give the best returns in the long run. If you’re able to publish daily or more frequently than that, you can diversify your content strategy to include trendy and topical pieces. As long as you’re consistently creating high-quality content and promoting it effectively on social channels, you can make each piece you write work a lot harder (and a lot smarter) for your brand.