Book Chapter - Creating Your Content Factory (Issue #16)
Systems and processes will make your life easier
I talked about content marketing in the previous chapter. Writing, recording, publishing, and sharing your ideas and work will keep you visible to the people you're trying to reach. Great opportunities will come your way more often when people remember who you are and what you do.
However, generating all of that content is a lot of work! Some business owners I know say they spend 20% of their time delivering their services to customers and 80% of their time doing sales and marketing.
It's even more challenging if you feel like you must create original content for every platform you use.
Writing an article for Medium.
Creating a newsletter for Substack.
Recording a podcast episode.
Recording a video for YouTube.
Recording a reel for Instagram.
Years ago, I tried to become a content creation machine and generate new material every day for every platform. I couldn't keep up! I simply could not run my business and live my life if I had to create unique content every single day.
What's the point of creating an invincible life if you feel chained to your computer and phone? That's not freedom. That's not what I had in mind for my life, and I'm sure it's not what you've envisioned for your ideal life, either.
Luckily, there is a better way to feed the marketing and social media machine. My "factory model" will make the most of your creative bursts and give you back more free time to enjoy your life.
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Your invincible content factory
The fundamental foundation of your content factory is to create once, then share everywhere. You’re not a corporation with a dedicated social media team. You have work to do (besides marketing and promoting yourself). You have a personal life that needs your time and attention, too.
The heart of this model is intelligent content reuse. One way to think about this is to visualize breaking apart and recombining the “LEGO pieces” of your original content (i.e., the core components).
You choose what your starting piece of content will be. I recommend that you begin with what comes easiest and most naturally for you. Otherwise, the effort will drain you, and you’ll dread producing it every day or week. But, you should choose a rich piece of content that can be sliced and diced, and repurposed in different ways.
Your starting content could be:
A newsletter edition.
A blog post on your website.
An article on Medium or LinkedIn.
A video you post to your YouTube channel.
A podcast episode.
For example, my content factory starts with my original newsletter content. I tend to write fairly long editions that I can repurpose as articles and additional content on other services.
One of my newsletters flows through my “invincible content factory” like this:
The newsletter first goes out as an email to my subscribers.
That same newsletter is also published online as a permanent web page in my newsletter archives. I share a link to it using all of my social services (e.g., LinkedIn, Twitter, Mastodon, Quora, Flipboard, etc.).
Many of my newsletter editions then become podcast episodes when I do an expanded reading of the content.
Later, I will share that same content as a story on Medium.
Some of my newsletter editions feed into draft chapters for the book I’m writing.
A month or two later, the same content I shared in the newsletter and on Medium becomes a LinkedIn article.
I turn the audio from the podcast episode into a simple video to share on YouTube.
I also turn snippets, images, and illustrations into posts for Instagram.
Do your best to minimize additional work, so you’ll maximize the ROI from your original content. I use social media templates and tools like Keynote or Powerpoint to make it quick and easy to re-share standardized content snippets later. It’s also ok to re-share some of your “greatest hits” (i.e., posts that went viral and got good engagement). Remember, many of your followers probably never saw the first post, anyway!
Leveraging tools, creating streamlined processes, and developing a system will make your life easier.
The point is to help you get more attention and generate more inbound interest, so more amazing opportunities come your way. Don’t get sucked into spending too much time on this. I recommend scheduling a block of time each week to batch the work, which also depends a bit on the content you create and the channels you’ll use to share it.
Your production schedule
Your content production schedule depends on what you're producing, your audience, and where you intend to share things. Some content is just too labor-intensive to produce every day (e.g., podcast episodes). On the other hand, some platforms will “punish you” if you don’t share something once or twice a day (e.g., Instagram, Twitter).
It’s essential to track the performance of your posts and look at your analytics. You’ll want to know where to focus your time and energy when creating content that clicks.
What type of content seems to perform best (e.g., text-based articles, photographs, illustrations, memes, videos, audio)?
What post formats work best for you (e.g., asking open-ended questions, sharing text snippets, using polls, doing a live video, or sharing a link to an article)?
What tone of voice resonates with people (e.g., hopeful, educational, ambitious, controversial statements, raging against the machine)?
I tend to do a mix of production schedule styles. I like to batch some of my content production and get it all done in a couple of hours (e.g., writing and recording podcast content). But I also create some content fresh every day to help keep things relevant and timely (e.g., writing a quick text post in response to current events).
You can create much of your content ahead of time and have it ready to share later during the week. I use a combination of writing apps and spreadsheets to do that for much of my content.
You can also use various tools to capture and schedule your content, too. Some offer a free level of service but most only provide a free trial before you have to pay a monthly fee to continue using them. Luckily, many social media platforms provide ways to schedule posts right within the service or app. So you could create and schedule your content for the upcoming week.
Your distribution channels
Bias your content hosting and sharing to maximize SEO for the website you own and control. Of course, there will be times when you want to drive traffic to your content on other sites (e.g., an article on Medium, a video on YouTube, or a podcast episode on Spotify). But…
What happens if that service shuts down?
What happens if your account gets suspended?
Putting all of your eggs in one basket is always risky.
So, it’s even better to drive traffic to your website as much as possible. You can think of this as a hub and spoke model. At the heart is your website, where the original content lives.
You will share links to your content with social media services and other sites to market it and attract visitors back to your website. This also ensures that any content you create is safely stored under your control.
When you first create and publish your original piece of content, you'll want to share it with as many destinations as appropriate. Almost every social media service and web platform allows sharing of media and links.
For example, when I write a newsletter, it gets initially distributed via email. My newsletters on Substack also contain a podcast episode that I've recorded (e.g., my expanded reading of the newsletter with more details, a recorded interview with a guest, etc.). This is almost immediately available on various podcast services, such as Apple Podcasts and Spotify.
Then, I wait a few hours before sharing a link to the online version of that newsletter. I usually post this link to:
My Slack community
The next step is to schedule the new content snippets, so they are distributed throughout the rest of the week, a few times each day. For example:
A quote from the newsletter to Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, and Mastodon.
An image with a snippet of text to Instagram, Facebook, and Tumblr.
An audio snippet from the podcast episode to an Instagram story.
Essentially, whenever you create any new piece of content based on your original content, you’ll push it into your distribution channels. This ensures you’re extracting maximum value from your time investment in creating that first piece of content.
Yes, you could reshare a link repeatedly for weeks or months. But people will grow tired of seeing it and tune you out (or unfollow you). When you present the information and concepts in new and interesting ways, you’ll spark fresh engagement.
Your distribution schedule
Each platform has its unique quirks when it comes to distribution frequency and timing. Social media experts are always monitoring performance data and conducting research to understand what tends to work best. But these rules are always changing.
For example, most experts have said you shouldn’t bother posting on LinkedIn over the weekend. But I’ve noticed that I get engagement on my Saturday posts. Other professionals have also noted that they are sharing content on LinkedIn over the weekend, which works.
So, do your research to understand what the latest guidance is for each type of content and platform. Here are some recommendations from various social media experts.
Sprout Social - The best times to post on social media in 2022
It’s important to remember that all of these recommendations come from aggregated data across all kinds of people, businesses, and audiences. What works for you and your followers will be unique to who you are, what you do, what you share, and what your followers enjoy and find useful. So, it’s essential to track the performance of your posts and look at your analytics.
What days and times seem to work best for you?
Where are you getting the best engagement?
What type of engagement are you seeing on the different platforms?
What do you want most (e.g., likes, comments, re-shares, follows, conversion)?
Unless you have a dedicated team or expensive services, you’ll get the most out of your efforts by focusing on a few channels. I share my content in many places, but I focus my time and energy on only a few distribution channels.
Maintain a content calendar
A content calendar helps keep you on track if you plan on sharing a decent amount of posts to multiple services. If you’re like me, inspiration strikes, and your creativity flows better on some days than others. You can take advantage of this and capture all of your great content ideas in your upcoming calendar to distribute your posts over time instead of dumping a dozen thoughts into your social media streams in one day.
I’ve also found my calendar useful for ensuring that I focus my content around specific themes and topics. Otherwise, it can become a random hodgepodge of things that interest me at the moment but don’t do much to consistently build my professional brand.
For example, as a career coach and publisher of my Invincible Career newsletter, I focus my content on monthly themes and weekly topics:
The theme for January is: “Goals and Plans for the Year.”
January week 1 topic: Goals for the year.
January week 2 topic: Breaking big goals into subgoals.
January week 3 topic: Creating a plan to achieve your goals.
January week 4 topic: Leveraging your calendar to execute your plan.
There are some pretty sophisticated tools available for maintaining a content calendar and scheduling your social media posts. But, you can end up spending hundreds or thousands of dollars a year on a subscription (e.g., a standard plan on Sprout Social is almost $3,000/year).
It doesn’t make sense to spend that kind of money as an individual trying to build a stronger professional brand! Heck, it doesn’t even make sense for a solopreneur just starting out with a new business. Plus, the complexity can be a bit overwhelming, and I’ve found that many of the tools don’t support all of the platforms’ capabilities (e.g., creating a LinkedIn Carousel post or a Poll).
So, I created a basic content calendar to help me keep track of what I create and share. You can use it as your starting template and modify it for your needs. The first 200 readers can get the spreadsheet for free here.
Engage on the platform
I worked in tech for decades, so I’ve been part of the conversations inside the walls of corporations that provide the services most of us use. For example, I know that social media platforms want their users to stick around and engage vs. only dropping links to other websites.
You may have noticed this yourself. If you only share links on Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook, you won’t get much engagement with your followers and friends. You may also find it difficult to grow your followers using that strategy.
As I mentioned in Chapter 15, the platforms reward engagement. Sharing a link to your original content is only one way you should be leveraging your work to get attention and share what you know and how you think. You’ll encourage more people to like, comment, and share your content when you use the output from your content factory in clever and useful ways.
Answering someone’s question with information from one of your articles and letting them know there are more details if they’re interested (e.g., “Yes, you should tailor your resume for each unique job application. I share more details about how to do that in this article I wrote.”).
Creating a poll related to a topic from one of your content pieces (e.g., “Are you satisfied with how much you’ve saved for retirement?”).
Sharing quote snippets from your article (e.g., “I learned 10 valuable lessons about leadership this year. Here they are…”).
Creating a slideshow of snippets (e.g., “Here are 10 simple ways you can eat better this year.”).
Making a meme that captures a key message you want to share. Bonus points for saying something controversial that gets more attention and engagement (e.g., “Working for the same employer for more than 2 years lowers your lifetime earning potential”).
Engage with your followers
Producing and sharing content is only half of the equation if you want to create an invincible online presence. Most people don’t like to follow folks who just dump posts into the feed and run. They want to know you’re a real human being, which means they love it when you engage with them.
This is especially important when you’re just starting out or have a small following. The massive celebrity accounts can get away with dropping content and not engaging with fans. But we average folks cannot. Our friends and followers have an expectation of some reciprocity.
I do my best to:
Like and respond to every single comment my posts receive.
Thank people when they share my content on social media.
Follow people who engage with me in intelligent, thoughtful ways.
Return the favor to my most loyal followers by engaging with their content as well.
Some useful tools
I can’t even begin to list all the tools that you could potentially use to create, publish, share, and monitor your content. Also, by the time this book is published and in your hands, there will be new ones available that don’t even exist today.
That’s one reason I’m creating a companion webpage for this book. It will have the latest information about available tools, services, and the tech stack changes I’ve made for my businesses. I’m always adapting and evolving what I use, and you should too.
However, let me share some tools I’m currently using and a few of the services others have found to be useful for content creation and publishing.
Ulysses - My preferred writing app for mac, iPad, and iPhone.
Substack - Where I write and publish my newsletters and podcasts.
Medium - Where I publish stories.
Evernote - Great for quickly capturing notes and ideas on my phone.
Canva - A simple online design and publishing tool.
Unsplash - One of my favorite resources for free high-resolution photos.
GarageBand - I use this app to edit my podcast episodes.
Audacity - Free, open source, cross-platform audio software (great alternative to GarageBand).
Loom - Free screen recorder for Mac, Windows, Chrome, iOS, and Android.
Buffer - Social media management software (they have a really basic free version).
HypeFury - I like this social media tool’s inspiration feature (they also have a basic free version).
However, be careful about investing too much for the paid tools and services until you’re sure it’s worth it for your needs. Most people can get by with the free versions.
Maximize the return on your content
This chapter may have gone deeper than you expected into the world of content production and sharing. Obviously, all of this is definitely important for businesses, entrepreneurs, and solopreneurs.
But the world of work for employees has changed, too.
No one stays with one company for an entire career. You will need to “sell yourself” to new employers over and over again during the course of your working life.
The process of promoting yourself and attracting the right attention from the right potential employers gets easier when you learn from businesses that have been working hard to attract customers in competitive markets for decades and decades. Your professional life gets easier when great opportunities find you instead of you always hunting and fighting for them.
Learn how to create compelling content and get noticed online.
Find ways to stand out and attract more attention than your competitors (e.g., people who want the same opportunities you want).
Do all of this in a way that lets you get the most value out of what you create in the least amount of time.
I know you have better things to do than spend your days on social media. I hope this chapter will help you be more successful in building your professional brand while having more time for yourself, your friends, and your loved ones.
An invincible life should also be an enjoyable life!
Maximize the ROI of your time investment when you’re creating original content to share online.
My content factory motto is, “Create once, share everywhere.”
Slice and dice your original content to create multiple forms of other media and posts to drive more engagement with your followers across several platforms.
Don’t put all your marketing eggs in one social media basket.
You should host and keep a copy of your original content on your own website (It’s good for SEO, and it’s fully under your control).
Track your analytics to understand what is the best schedule and frequency for posting your content to your followers on the different platforms.
The platforms “punish” people who just drop links into the feed, so stick around and engage with friends and followers for maximum exposure (e.g., like their posts, leave a comment, and respond to the comments on your posts).
Using a content calendar will make it easier to track your ideas and follow the desired schedule you want to use for posting.
Content marketing isn’t just for businesses. In this modern world, you need to treat your career like a business and maximize the attention you receive online to improve the odds of great opportunities coming your way.
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Larry Cornett received his Ph.D. in Psychology from Rice University. He spent decades in the Silicon Valley tech industry as a designer, Design leader, Product executive, and startup founder. He eventually left the corporate world to start a coaching practice and now lives in Northern California near Lake Tahoe with his wife and a gigantic Great Dane. He does his best to share advice to help others create their own invincible lives. He's also on Mastodon.