The most direct way to make sure that your research has impact is to communicate it through social media, because this is the cheapest way to attract attention. While companies must often look for single pieces of content, universities and research organizations have one major advantage. They are content gold mines (Link to gold mines blogpost). One can literally find content gold nuggets in every single researcher’s office, since most researchers work on topics that will eventually shape the future of our societies. Now, while there is so much content potential available in research organizations, how do you create systems that allow you to create content gold nuggets at scale, aka. a content creation machine? This is the question that this blog post will answer.
Why is it key to create content at scale?
To answer that question, we have to first determine a little more thoroughly why content is actually important when it comes to science communication and brand building. Whatever you want to accomplish in life, you will first need to have the attention of the group of people that will help you doing so. For example, if you want to sell sneakers, you need the attention of people who are interested in sneakers. If you want to run for office or if you want to be a well booked public speaker you need the attention of your potential voters and clients for public speaking, respectively. The same goes for scientific results. If you do not have the attention of people who might be interested in the research topics done at your institute, then they will not know that you exist. They will neither learn from your nor reach out if they have a challenge that you could potentially help them with. So, the first key question that needs to be answered when creating a content machine is: Where is the attention of your target group?
Over the last years, internet penetration has gone up by the day. Today almost everyone – at least in Western countries – has access to the internet and collectively the hours that we spend online is increasing daily. This is where the attention is. Yes, people still do other things, such as taking care of their children, going out for dinner or to the gym, but these are hard places to get people to interact with you. However, since most of us spend more and more time online, the easiest and most efficient way of reaching out to your target group is to create and distribute content at scale that provides your target group with value. If you manage that, then they will come back for more content that helps them. This process builds relationship and with them and overtime they are also likely to tell their friends and colleagues about you, which will grow your audience. This idea to create content at scale that delivers value to your target group is called a content marketing strategy. It was first adopted by businesses, but when adapted to the academic sphere, it can also be of use for universities and research organizations.
Why repurposing is the key to content creation at scale
Creating content at scale is a challenge. It can be quite stressful and unfulfilling, when you come to the office every morning, and you need to create content every day from scratch. Instead, I want to give you the key to create content at scale. It is called repurposing. Repurposing means that content is created in one format and then reused in a different format somewhere else. For example, you have a researcher talking about a new finding on video. You can post-produce the video alone and that’s it. Or you enter the repurposing game. For example, once you posted it, you can merge it with other short videos to make a review video about all major findings at your institute in the last year, or you could be inspired by that one video and have a copy writer also produce a blog post about the topic covered in the video. If you repurpose content, you don’t have to think about new content every day, but you make use of what is already there.
To be complete there are two different types of repurposing – direct and indirect. Direct repurposing means that content is created in one format and repurposed in the same format. Take the example that we just had of the video. The short video of a research result is repurposed into another video. That is direct repurposing. For indirect repurposing take the second example. Here the initial video piece of content is repurposed into a written piece of content. The beauty of repurposing is that you only have to create a limited amount of initial content that will allow you to create content at scale. So, after introducing you to the idea of repurposing, let us now explore how repurposing helps you to create a content machine.
Setting up the content creation machine
So far, the idea of content and repurposed content was introduced. From now on, the initial content will be called pillar content and the content derived from that initial content will be called repurposed content. Other words for pillar content are primary content or hero content.
The key for setting up a content machine is to create a limited number of pillar content formats and later analyze, chop up and redistribute repurposed pieces of the initial pillar content piece. To do so, one first needs a rich pillar content format. These can be a recorded talk, a podcast, a fireside chat or a press conference of a researcher at your university. Let us take a podcast that is video recorded. Remember, the aim is to create as many derived pieces of content as possible that create value for your target group. In the following, you will see how the content machine unfolds (the accumulated number of pieces of content created will be noted in brackets).
First, you post-produce the video file and you turn it into a YouTube video (1). Then you take the audio track from the pillar video and turn it into a podcast (2). Now you analyze the video for when the researcher colleague has said something smart. You chop up the video and create – let’s say – 15 short videos out of it. You post-produce them, and share 10 of them on Twitter (12), seven of them on LinkedIN (19), five on Instagram (24), and three of them on TikTok (27). Remember these short form videos need to fit to the platform in format, style, and pace. Now you have a copy writer in your department create two blog posts out of the initial podcast episode and you post them on your university’s blog and on LinkedIN (31). You have your team tweet and post on LinkedIN about the YouTube video, the podcast episode and the two blog posts twice each promoting it from different angles (47). And just like that you have turned one piece of content into 47 pieces of content. Do this for a piece of pillar content per week and you have your content machine running. Do this for two years and good things will happen.
Why you will be successful
Yes, I know, thinking about the content machine is way easier than actually putting it into action – and yes the number 47 can be overwhelming. And even though I want you to create as many opportunities for curious people to find you, I am aware that creating 47 pieces of content per week is quite some work. But let me share two thoughts with you that may make it easier to get into the game.
First, you are not alone. Seldomly, there is only one person at the communication department. So even if 47 pieces of content can be an overwhelming number, be sure to get help and support to do it and to share it amongst several sets of shoulders. And second, 47 pieces is just an orientation. You can already be proud if you manage 15 or 20 pieces of content. More is always better, but it is also important to not feel overwhelmed and to keep a good minimal level of quality so that a piece of content is not counterproductive to nurture your audience and build brand. Furthermore, I do not really mind if you create 17, 21, 35 or 100 pieces of content per week. What I care about is that you know how to do it and that you are empowered to do so, once you have the resources needed. Good luck, and let me know how it is going 😊.
With our blog articles we aim to give you the knowledge needed to become a better social media science communicator. Do you have topics that you are struggling with? If yes, then drop a line to Julius and we will create educational content around it to support you and the community. Here comes his email: email@example.com.