Everyone knows glass is recyclable. Until very recently no one realized just how far glass recycling could go in a digital environment. A video made for a Corning investor event  in early 2011 has (much to the surprise of Corning executives and its agency) gone mega-viral on YouTube. With upwards of eight million views in four short weeks, it’s the most-watched corporate video in YouTube history. Maybe even in all of corporate video history.
Every marketer with half a brain knows viral isn’t something you can buy in a bottle. And if it were, it wouldn’t come with a guarantee. But what smart marketers who invest time and dollars into content creation do know is that reusing and recycling that content can far extend the reach of their message and the ROI of their spend.
Users got their first. Take Sony’s breathtaking, award-winning Bravia ads from circa 2006-7. Users and fans – not Sony or their agency – uploaded them to YouTube where they live in perpetuity, garnering in toto some five million views.
Small wonder advertisers got in on the action. Chrysler’s ad from the most recent Super Bowl enjoyed an additional nine million-plus views on the company’s YouTube channel just two months after the big game. This extended their reach and audience, as well as helped justify that enormous spend on creative and production budgets.
Yet recycling content is hardly reserved for the big boys. Small construction firms and other small businesses, even individuals polishing their personal brands online are learning that if content marketing counts, extending the life and the reach of that content makes it count oh, so much more.
Simple, right? Only too few digital marketers make content recycling part of a content marketing strategy.
Slice ‘n’ Dice
The internet runs on content, and offers seemingly endless distribution options for all kinds media: text, images, video, audio, you name it. Yet content creation can be hard. It requires thought. Ideas. Strategy. Data. Production. Editing. Originality. Relevance. Targeting.
Once you’ve produced a strong piece of content, the goal should be to leverage it in different channels, different formats, and different media for maximum impact. Creative is hard. Recycling is relatively easy – and increasing reach is nothing to sneeze at.
Just as an example. Let’s say you (or a company executive) is speaking at an industry event. The speech? New content. That’s a lot of work. But look at it this way: in the run-up to the event, it lightens the load in other areas. You can blog and tweet about the upcoming talk. Not just promote it, mind you, but drip out tantalizing bits of information and perhaps data or finding that will encourage attendance.
The speech is done and delivered. You remembered to video tape the actual talk, didn’t you? In whole or in parts, it can go on your site, on your blog, on YouTube, you name it. Perhaps the audio recording is appropriate for a podcast. Transcribe the presentation both the boost the search engine rankings of the audio and video, and perhaps as a stand-alone text marketing piece (email newsletter, anyone?).
The presentation itself? Up onto Slideshare.com it goes. Extract charts, infographics and other nuggets of easy to digest visual data to build short-burst pieces of content users can “snack” on.
Can the talk be turned into – or incorporated into – a white paper? An eBook? Is there something newsworthy in it that’s press-releasable? Perhaps it’s webinar material, with just the right amount of tweaking.
Note this approach doesn’t just apply to a one-off event such as a speech. When a content marketing editorial calendar is mapped, part of the process is to determine how to tweet each blog post, and once a post goes up how to recycle its essence into other content marketing channels such as articles, video, newsletters, etc.
As You Listen, So Shall You Create Content

Customers and prospects are likely shoving all kinds of content in your direction. You could use it – if only you were listening.
What questions and topics of discussion arise most frequently in user forums and in discussion around your brand – or product category – in social media channels? Taking a cue from consumer issues, questions and resolutions enables you to create how-to content, useful FAQs, user manuals. Listening could even result in content that funnels in to product development.
It’s Doubtful You’ll Be Repeating Yourself
Post-Thanksgiving eating is an analogy that could apply to content recycling. Think turkey. There’s roast turkey on the big day, followed by turkey hash, turkey sandwiches, the on to cold turkey sliced in salad. Perhaps someone whips up a pot of turkey chili.

Different segments of content in different channels are likely to feed different audiences. Your own web analytics will bear this out, but it’s improbable there’s terribly significant overlap between your newsletter subscribers, Facebook and Twitter followers, and the people who read your blog. Different segments have different content appetites: the form, the length, the medium and the channel. And in case you haven’t noticed, there’s a lot of content out there. Brand impressions and engagement count.
So do learnings about format, channels, style, and the relative length or brevity of your content.

Recycling not only frees you from the burden of being a virtual new-idea factory, it’s also a sandbox in which you can experiment with what’s working - and with whom – so content can be continually refined to become even more effective.