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Use the Whole Buffalo

Use the Whole Buffalo

In the world of content marketing, the concept – that big idea – is the grain and gristle of our marketing diets. All of our content has to be sourced from our big ideas. And the bigger idea, the more content it provides.

There are two ways to go about it. First we can always be on the hunt for the next amazing idea so that there is always something fresh in the queue. Or we can set our sights on bigger game and, once we rustle up that big idea, be more economical with our strategies to get every little bit of intrigue out of them. I, for one, prefer the latter. Not just because we are doing more with less, but because we are doing more with less, than we would have done with more. Let me explain. Big, novel ideas are great, but the more ephemeral the ideas that make up our brand stories, the more ephemeral our brand. We can't expect to build depth in the relationship with our audience if every day there is something new they are expected to get on board with. People need continuity. Therefore, we need to give our audiences a chance to really get to know one buffalo rather than introducing them to an entire herd.

Good concepts are ideas with legs that have multiple edges that resonate with our audience. They are hard to come by, so we have to make them last.

One caveat on our way to being economical with our ideas - don’t misinterpret this blog as one encouraging the repurposing of content. Repurposing content has been a salient theme in content marketing, but what it has devolved down into is simply creating one thing one time and then putting it everywhere and sharing it with everyone. That’s not repurposing, that’s laziness. That’s how our brand grows stale almost immediately.

No, we're not talking about purposing something and then repurposing it. We're talking about creating something and then recreating something new and unique from it. Like taking a seed from an apple and growing a new tree, not graphing another branch onto an existing tree.

Back to the Buffalo

Consider our whole buffalo motif, and how the whole buffalo was actually used back in day on the plains. It wasn’t, "OK, we’re going to turn every part of this big fella into sweaters – leather sweaters, tail sweaters, this sweater’s going to be made out of hooves." (sorry, for some reason that analogy came off more graphic than intended). No, that would be forcing our circle idea into square content holes.

The whole buffalo provided food, clothing, weaponry, shelter and probably a whole bunch of other stuff that didn’t make it into our elementary school social studies books. Each part was used in the way that maximized its inherent benefits. That means, we don't create 20 short three-minute videos when what our audience would really benefit from is a nice long detailed and thoroughly sourced eBook. Similarly, we don't try to fill out 20 pages of text with mostly fluff when all we really have is enough content for a really good blog. 

Again, we’re not talking about repurposing, we’re talking about recreating.

So what does that look like?

Well first we have to find our buffalo. Our concept, our big idea with legs. That’s the hardest part, but once we have our big idea, it’s time to get to work.

How are we going to get the right meat from this thing? There are many ways to go about this, but the one I will delineate here is one of my favorites. Start with a SME (subject matter expert). We'll sit down with this person or persons and have a nice in-depth interview through which we will pull out all the tasty morsels of data, definitions, challenges, recent research, quotes and other industry/audience specific concepts that bolster our larger idea.

As you can see by “chat," we're talking about a pretty formal interview for which we're going to prepare quite a bit so that there are no regrets of missed opportunities we remember minutes after parting ways with our SME.

The best way to prepare is to draft five-to-10 broad questions that allow the SME to provide responses for a large swath of the big idea. This will result in our first piece of content: A “Q&A with an Expert on Big Idea.”

Along with our broad questions, we should have a series of specific, connecting questions stemming from each broad question. These will ensure we get details for each of the larger thoughts giving us the fodder we need to build out additional blogs, how-to guides, listicles or whatever else may come to the surface from the questions.

So let's review. After our conversation with our SME, we'll have several opportunities for long-form content. First, we'll have a clean-cut Q&A ready to go. From those questions and answers, we will also have potential off-shoot blogs that dig deeper into each question. Maybe we even compile an eBook or white paper from all the blogs and articles generated from our chat.

Now It's Time to Go Small

Next step is to whittle our big ideas into snackable chunks to be shared across social. There is a key to successful snackable social bits. To be effective, each post, tweet or gram has to contain a condensed version of our big idea - not a link back to our big idea but a complete representation of the idea that will resonate with people when they encounter it on social. “Read more” links are not what they used to be. And no one is going to retweet or share “read more.” People what the meat. So although the goal of our overarching social media strategy is to get people back to our site, our goal for each social post should be to give people something they can actually like and bite into while they are still on social. That’s how we build trust with our audience. Contribute to our communities.

So first we think big and write small. Then we think long, not short. We want our content to have a long tail so nothing we do is a flash in a pan.

For each blog or blog-like piece of long-form content that comes out of our SME interview, follow the social content web below. This will ensure our content pulls all the use out of our long-form content and gives our audiences the best chance at really feeling invested in our big idea.

The content web below is built to work into the concept of content triggers. That is, whenever we create a piece of content, we trigger a web of actions that we don’t have to recreate every time. For instance, every time we write a blog, we know we will also have two Facebook posts, two LinkedIn posts and 10 tweets. That allows us to focus all our creative energies on writing and creating the best posts possible rather than figuring out when we are going to actually post them.

In the content web, you'll notice something call "Goodwill" posts. These posts are simply posts that provide an immediate educational, informational or inspirational benefit to our audience. These show our goodwill as a brand to contributing unselfishly to our digital communities and are essential to the success of our of social media efforts. We definitely want people to come back and read our content on our website, but if all we do is beg people to come back to our site, we will lose any credibility we have as a brand while on a specific social channel.

Similar to the idea of goodwill posts, all our social posts should be valuable in and of themselves. Someone should be able to like and share our content even without coming back to our site to read the entire piece. This is where true talented content marketers distinguish themselves. This is a skill that separates brands that people delete as spam from the brands to which people have loyalty. This also means that the further out our posts get from the original date of publication of our content, we should lean more toward contributing to our community on social media rather than pulling them back to our site.

Take a look at the content web below and let me know if you have any good ideas on how to improve it.

Content Web


Facebook (if it fits with FB audience profile)

Post #1

  • Day of publication
  • Custom graphic
  • Link to content

Post #2

  • Two days after publication
  • Quote graphic
  • Link to content

Post #3

  • One week after publication
  • Custom graphic
  • Goodwill (no CTA)

LinkedIn (if it fits with LI audience profile)

Post #1

  • Day of publication
  • Link to content

Post #2

  • Two days after publication
  • Custom graphic
  • Link to content

Post #3

  • One week after publication
  • Goodwill (no CTA)

Twitter (if fits with Twitter Audience)

Day of Publication:

Post #1

  • Text post
  • Link to content

Post #2

  • Custom graphic
  • Goodwill post (no CTA)

Day after publication:

Post #3

  • Text post
  • Goodwill [no CTA]

Post #4

  • Custom graphic
  • Link to content

Two days after publication:

Post #5

  • Quote card
  • Link to content

Four days after publication:

Post #6

  • Text post
  • Goodwill (no CTA)

Week after publication:

Post #7

  • Custom graphic
  • Goodwill

Post #8

  • Text post
  • Link to content

Two weeks after publication

Post #9

  • Custom graphic
  • Goodwill post

Post #10

  • Text post
  • Link to content

Be Good. Do Better. Be Good.

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