How to Operate a Lean & Green Content Recycling Machine

It’s really important to be ROI-focused when it comes to startup content production. Content costs can easily spiral out of control, and many startups have been crippled by copywriting and freelance fees as they push to create more and more content. As a lean startup, you need a content framework that matches your lean ideology.

Here’s how to implement a content recycling  strategy that will enable you to do more with the content you already have, as well as create future content that’s better for your business bottom line.

Recycle others’ ideas before creating more landfill

Use the marketplace of ideas more, not just your team’s creativity.

Brands agonize over being thought leaders so much that they push their content teams to the breaking point by subjecting them to hours and hours of content ideation and brainstorming. (Both pointless and expensive). Creating content is about creating content for the marketplace, not an exercise in creativity. So why not start with what’s already out there?

Stop relying on the (brain) power of your content team and try these research hacks for slick content production:

  1. Start with the blindingly obvious.
    Open source content like Wikipedia covers pretty much anything you’d ever want to know about any given topic. When you are creating core content, start with delving through Wikipedia for quick and easy factoids and data. To really clean you, you’ll need to add a story and do some analysis, but starting with the facts is best (other places for facts and stats include government data).

  2. Collecting data will inspire lots of relevant content subtopics.
    Do a load of niche keyword research to help you prepare for complete content domination, and be prepared to tackle your subject from multiple different angles in order to address top user queries.

  3. Question and answer sites like Quora.
    These sites are a great place to find out who you need to be speaking to, as well as being a sneak peek into the questions that are on your future customers’ minds. Tap into the existing knowledge community, and scour around for content ideas and experts.

  4. Buzzsumo can help you.
    On the Buzzsumo site you find out the most shared and popular content in your niche fast. Just don’t become too reliant in this tool as it can lead you down the clickbait route pretty quickly

  5. In order to rock at content you need to understand.
    You'll want to understand the current content marketplace. Delve deep into those competitor blog archives. Read their online literature, download their brochures, follow them on social media. Look to find out how you can take their resources and stories to the next level. Do you want to beat all the competition? Find out what they’re doing first!

Don’t just sit there waiting for a good idea to hit you on the head. By all means: be original; but don’t neglect helpful tools and strategies that will help you compete in the content marketplace.

Find content targets using engagement metrics.

Not sure what kind of content works best for you?
Not sure where to invest next? Not likely. With every imaginable online platform spewing out data faster than you can process it, you have all the information that you need at your fingertips.

Start with Google Analytics.
What pages and posts are getting the most hits? What about time on page? Shares? Newsletter signups?

Social Media.
Which Tweet has got you the most engagement? What Facebook page or pic has got everyone all fired up? Which photo on Instagram has the most likes or regrams?

Think about it -- all you need to do is audit the content that you’ve already produced. See what’s getting picked up. Looking at this engagement data will show you which posts you should update for this year. Go ahead and recreate, or include these pieces in a curated list.

Keep recycling popular posts, images, and content formats from within your own organization, and always take the chance to update an old post that’s already driving organic traffic.

Perennial content and complete guides will always outperform ephemeral posts. So keep adding to your flagship content pieces to keep the fresh and updated look and feeling on your site.

Rotate seasonal content.

Every year you will probably find similar topics creeping into your editorial calendar. Why not rotate some of your seasonal content? You don’t have to start from scratch every Christmas, just delve into your content archives to see what great ideas you had last year. Then steal your best ones and put the suggestions out again. Gift guides, trends articles, and humorous seasonal posts can all be easily updated for the current year.

Seasonal content is a great chance to be a little bit more adventurous. Embrace the lax seasonal attitudes and be a little braver and creative with your content.

Adopt the promotional wheel methodology.

You might feel like you’re thrusting the same post over and over again into people’s faces, but with social media algorithms and time zones, that’s probably far from the truth. Startups need to share the same piece of content many, many times until they’ve made a return on their content investment.

Envision your content promotion strategy like a series of interconnecting wheels. Find where one idea can be broken down into tens of micro-ideas that are easily shared as individual entities. Keep sharing the same piece over and over again, but switch up the message and image to avoid content fatigue. Embrace automation to help you scale your content promotion, but keep the focus firmly on sharing stories and ideas.

Pro tip: Delve into your content archives every so often and share some gems from the past.

Round them up.

Roundup posts. You know you love them!

What better way to save money and time than by creating a fun roundup post? You can round up Reddit confessions, Tweets, survey responses, articles, ebooks, podcasts, songs, photos, image galleries, tumblr posts (thanks Buzzfeed), slideshares, LinkedIn posts, bloggers, writers, CEOs, influencers. You can be sure the list goes on and on.

The best thing about round up posts:

With round-up posts -- you create really engaging content that makes you look good. All you’re doing is bringing together things that are already out there. Content recycling at its best. (Make sure you accurately credit your sources.)

Recycling everywhere.

Your content strategy should not lurch around and stop and start. Remember to be consistent and dependable on whichever platforms, channels, or networks you decide to be on. You need content that can adapt from your landing page to your blog, and back to your social media channels again.

The best way to achieve this is to ensure that content production isn’t happening in silos and that every piece is created in a systematic and ordered way. Accurately tracking your content will help you use it better.

Content recycling is a strategy that can be rolled out across your organization. It can go from web development to business development and outreach and so forth. As an organization, get good at recycling ideas and concepts and spot opportunities by upgrading what others have started -- A.K.A using other people’s trash and making it beautiful. 

Growth hack for impatient founders: Buy up existing content and add your own finishing touches. Scour the web for websites that "almost made it" and now need new owners. You can find viable digital assets by contacting the owners directly or by using a vendor marketplace. Content flipping is a growing source of income for savvy founders who live by the rule “Recycle and upcycle, don’t start afresh.”


Great content doesn’t "just happen." Great content happens because someone makes a conscious decision to up their game and create something that’s going to stand the test of time. If you want to be more green with your content, adopt the "waste not, want not" mentality and squeeze every bit for all its worth, or turn other people’s trash into your goldmine.

What’s your favorite content strategy right now?