It seems that as time passes, costs increase and profits decrease. Content marketing is no exception, with costs for services increasing and subsequent profits being affected.
Granted, even if that were not the case, I’m not sure how many of us would say “No” to some method of increasing time or money in our personal and/or business lives. Nor are we likely to say “No” to getting more in return for the time and money that we do spend.
In other words, I’m all for a better return on investment (ROI). How about you?
That said, what is the solution? How do we go about getting a better ROI?
We want (and maybe need) to be able to get more for less if we want to manage the situation. That includes accomplishing more with less time and/or less money, which is the essence of increased productivity.
Part One: Borrowing from the Geeks – For Productivity in Content Marketing
I confess. I have an information technology background (experience and education). As a result, I sometimes say (write) geeky things. Fortunately, I can avoid some of that tendency and spare you… to a certain level.
Seriously, though, I am only going to mention something that is common to us geeks from the aspect that the concept itself may help you in various aspects of productivity, which is the original point of what I am about to share, yes, even from an IT point of view.
Garbled yet? Ok, let’s just jump in and then I will walk you through the quick definition and we will set aside all the geekiness for the more interesting aspect of the application to content marketing, ok? Here we go…
A Quickie Definition of Database Normalization
Don’t worry. I’m not expecting you to become I.T. experts. My husband’s eyes already rolled back when I mentioned this phrase. I think that is a clue.
And, if you are an I.T. expert, beware… I’m not going to dig deep into this topic, out of respect for our readers. So, if you are not reading about all of the levels of database normalization, that is to be expected. Let’s hit a happy medium and only discuss what is necessary for the concept related to content marketing, eh?
A couple of the reasons (loosely put) for the use of database normalization, in the I.T. world, is to reduce the unnecessary redundancy (or repetition that has no use) and a more logical structure of data (think “easy to locate”).
Oh, but wait, what about the definition? The definition has to do with removing the redundant unused data and in so doing, it is called normalizing the data (database normalization).
I know, that made about as much sense as it did to my husband when he rolled his eyes back and told me I had to be kidding to write about it. So, let’s use some examples, instead. I think that will help it to make a bit more sense so that we can move on to what I have termed the Streamlining Strategy which is database normalization in action but without all this weirdness. (In other words, it should make more sense to content marketing.)
Example 1: The Misuse of Space (Unnecessary Redundancy)
Picture this. If you have a file that is even 150 megabytes and it is uploaded 15 times to a website running WordPress, you are using 2250 megabytes of space on the database that WordPress uses to run the site.
Note: Uploaded is loosely put because it is more than likely that you would have to use an FTP program to upload a file of that size. Also, it is not necessary that this be a WordPress site for this example to make sense but many of us use WordPress and hence we are using that example.
Back to our example…
Why use 2250 megabytes (the total amount of space used for the 150 meg file times 15 occurrences) when you could get by with the original 150 megabytes? (Granted, maybe some optimization may allow you to get by with less space than the 150 megabytes, but that is a topic for another time and out of scope for this example.)
Maybe 2250 megabytes doesn’t sound like that much, especially if you are used to terabytes of space on your desktop computer, but it adds up over time. And, when talking about web hosting, that is actually quite a bit of space! When using quite a bit of hosting space, it can add up, money-wise. And why would you want to pay for 2100 megabytes of space that you don’t need? Remember, the file size is 150 meg and it has been uploaded 15 times but wouldn’t it be safe to say that it may only be needed one time in which case there is a 150 meg file that has been uploaded 14 times more than it needs to be uploaded and using 2100 meg of space that doesn’t necessarily need to be used? And, do you even have 2100 meg of space, total, in your hosting plan?
The idea behind database normalization is to only use what is needed. So, in our example, we may be able to upload the file once and then link to it in the other 14 cases, saving 2100 meg of space (or I should say not unnecessarily using 2100 meg of space).
In our world of streamlining, we are streamlining the use of the file to ONE time and accessing it a total of fifteen times. Therefore, we are increasing our productivity out of that one file upload, by using it fifteen times with only one upload.
Example 2: WordPress Optimization (Structure, Loading, and Resultant Efficiency)
For those of you who love and use WordPress, you may have heard of plugins that help you to optimize your database, or simply optimize WordPress. Even if you do not know what a database is or what a plugin is, if you use WordPress it is not unlikely (double negative intended) that you have heard of a task such as WordPress optimization. It is also not unlikely that you have heard of WordPress post revisions. Now, to explain what both of those phrases have to do with our topic.
Note: Similar to Example 1, the purpose for the mention and use of WordPress examples is because it is a common platform and there is a better chance that you have heard of aspects of what we are using for our example.
One of the aspects covered in the WordPress optimization task(s) or any plugins that perform something called anything like the optimizing of WordPress is that of the removal of post revisions. Before understanding that specific task, it is helpful to understand what a WordPress post revision is. It is also helpful to understand that when a plugin performs the task of optimizing WordPress that that may be a bundle of tasks or actions and that the removal of the post revisions is only (or may be only) one task in that bundle.
If this example is too geeky, please feel free to skip ahead to the more relevant part of this article… the part(s) that addresses content marketing. 😉
So, on the topic of WordPress revisions, what are we talking about and why does it matter?
Depending on how you have your WordPress set up, you may have it saving revisions of your posts (a.k.a. post revisions). Personally, I find it helpful because that way, if you make changes to your post and later wish you hadn’t made those changes (or you are curious about earlier versions, or your cat walked across the keyboard making undesired changes, or a myriad of other possibilities), you can review what was written previously. By being able to review the earlier revisions you can make the desired changes to your WordPress post, or even revert to an earlier version (revision) in its entirety.
Believe me, if you find yourself writing in the middle of the night when you should be sleeping, only to wake up and ask yourself what you were thinking (or not thinking) when you wrote what you wrote… Well, those revisions come in handy!
Let’s jump ahead to the point where you have published your post (the post we are discussing in our example, that is)…
At the point where you have decided what you are going to publish enough to publish it, you are pretty much done with the revisions, aren’t you? I mean, unless the revisions are basically another post in and of themselves, what good are they? If you published one of those post revisions, you are publishing a slight variation of what you just published, as in duplicate content. So, it is likely safe to say that you are done with those post revisions, eh?
I am not saying you are done with all post revisions ever invented, just the post revisions connected to the post you just published. Quite simply, you don’t need them anymore and all they are doing is taking up space.
This is why your wonderful WordPress optimization plugin may offer to delete the post revisions for you when it goes through the process of optimizing WordPress. This (optimization) not only cleans up the space usage but by doing so it also helps the database to run more efficiently, which helps your WordPress to run better (and hopefully faster). Think of it as similar to removing the trash in your car off the floor of your car. I know, you don’t have trash there, right? Well, if you did, removing it may help you to get into the car faster and more safely because you would not be tripping over the trash in your car. Similarly, for our purposes, removing the post revisions not only helps with space but also helps your WordPress to not “trip” over itself so to speak, in loading. Please don’t quote me on that, as that is a stretch but we are using it as a sort of loose example to help illustrate the importance and how helpful these tasks are.
Whew! Time for a quick sip of water or your favorite drink or afternoon snack and let’s get to the real meat of this post! We’ll talk about how all of this applies and hopefully helps us in content marketing!
Part Two: The Streamlining Strategy as a Way of Thinking
Now it is time for my Streamlining Strategy. You are probably thankful that we are past the geeky part, eh? But, I wanted to give credit where credit was due, that the concept for this strategy originated out of that geek world (database normalization) and also explain some of the purposes so that we could understand how to apply that to our content marketing. Interestingly, it can also apply to life in general, which is where we will start.
In review (using what we learned about database normalization) we are looking at:
- Removing unnecessary redundancy (because of waste and potentially increased expense); and
- Structuring our world in a way that it runs more smoothly (i.e. logical enough that we can more easily and efficiently find our way).
As we mentioned, this is not limited to only content marketing. And, in fact, it is helpful if we understand how to apply it to life, as a way of thinking, because by doing so it is easier to apply it to content marketing.
Three Key Questions of the Streamlining Strategy
We are looking at streamlining by removing waste and being more efficient (to put it simply). In order to take a quick study of the process of streamlining, it is helpful if we create a procedure.
Let’s keep it simple, ok? We will do that by creating three questions that we can use when evaluating tasks/activities or even files/resources. Here they are:
- Has this task been done elsewhere or could it be done elsewhere? Does this file exist elsewhere?
- Does the duplicate existence of this task or file serve any purpose (or is it absolutely necessary to exist more than once)? Note: Existing more than once is not the same as being performed more than once, as in a daily task.
- Is there a way to utilize one task performance or one file to serve multiple purposes, even if it is by way of reference or aliasing? Example: Upload the file once and link to it for the other cases.
Benefits of the Streamlining Strategy as a Way of Thinking
Here are some examples of how practicing the thought and application of streamlining could help in other areas of life and business:
- Business organization.
- Home organization.
- Life organization.
- Business strategies beyond content marketing.
- Human resources and employee management.
- Project management.
- Meeting organization and presentation (as well as adhering to time constraints).
- Many more applications. Why? Because it is a process of streamlining!
The Streamlining Strategy as a way of thinking has to do with understanding the questions and asking oneself those questions when it is appropriate. It takes a bit of practice to learn how to adapt the questions to different situations and also to get to a point of it being as natural as breathing so that you do not have to think about it.
As with any habit, maybe it is helpful to tape a reminder to your wall, by way of a 3×5 index card. Or, maybe you want to put a sticky note on the edge of your monitor, to help remind yourself to ask how you can streamline a given situation (i.e. the questions to ask yourself).
Example 3: A Streamlining Example Using Your Computer’s Organization
Here is an example that can give you real-life assistance (possibly even today!). Remember how we talked about logic and structure? This example uses a computer and how it is organized, in understanding the streamlining of a structure.
When it comes to your computer, whether it is your personal computer, your laptop, your business computer, or even a computer at the office where you work, ask yourself whether a particular file is located in multiple places. So, if we start with that question, and follow it up with related questions inspired by that question, as well as the process of this streamlining strategy, we may come up with something like this list:
- Is a particular file located in multiple places on one computer hard drive (the exact same version of the exact same file until one of those versions is changed)?
- How about the idea of a reason for a particular file to be located in multiple places? And, if so, does that affect the versioning adversely (knowing which version is the most recent version of the file)?
- Is there a way to create shortcuts (Windows) or aliases (Mac) or symlinks (*nix) to access the original file from various places on the hard drive/computer?
- Is there a purpose that is better served (especially in light of potential confusion) by multiple versions of the exact same file than using the method described in #3?
- What process is used to find the correct copy of the exact same file, in cases of multiple copies of the exact version and how is versioning handled thereafter?
The streamlining (i.e. one version of the file and then linked from various folders or directories on the computer) could simply be called responsible organization. At the same time, it is a great way to illustrate what happens when the same file is uploaded to a website multiple times and we lose track of where the files are and which ones are supposed to be used. This can happen with a site, a blog, or Web 2.0 site like Medium.com.
Part Three: The Streamlining Strategy Applied to our Content Marketing Approach
Some of this streamlining is pretty obvious. In fact, I daresay you are likely already doing it or have done it more times than you can count.
But, unless we can identify it (and define it) we are not likely reaching our full potential when it comes to content marketing productivity. And, even if that is difficult to believe, what does it hurt to give it a try (improving that productivity)? I mean, learning the strategy and consciously applying it shouldn’t move us backward but may simply not move us forward as much as we would like, leaving room for improvement.
How-To: Streamline Content Marketing Tasks and Activities
Here is an idea for your next steps in content marketing and applying the Streamlining Strategy. Make a list of the tasks that you currently perform in your content marketing. That may be a matter of evaluating your official content marketing plan or strategy. If you have one, maybe you want to print it out, grab a highlighter, and make a note of some of the tasks that you perform. Specifically, you are looking for the tasks that are repetitious. Highlight them and come back to them after all the highlighting is done and see if there is a way that you can combine the tasks for that double duty effect (removing the unnecessary redundancy).
For example, if you are going to spend five minutes, do you want to spend it doing something that gives you a result of five social shares or would you rather spend time performing a task that results in one thousand shares? How can we streamline the task? Is there an opportunity for the use of such things as automation?
How-To: Streamline Content Marketing with Tools/Resources
Another streamlining aspect in the Streamlining Strategy is the particular tool or resource that is used. This can also include a tool that allows automation, as we mentioned in the previous section.
That selection (tool or resource) may make the difference between a result of say, five eyes on the content, and possibly one thousand eyeballs on the content. If you consider that the same amount of time was used in both example fictional scenarios, with drastic differences in outcomes, you are looking at productivity differences and since the amount of time is the same, it is a case of a streamlining that involves the selection of tool (or approach; resource access; etc.).
What is the difference between two How-To sections? Figure that the one mentioning the tasks specifically has to do with streamlining or combining the tasks whereas this how-to example is everything else, which is why it mentions tools and resources. There is a crossover between the two, as in our example of automation that may affect how tasks are accomplished and yet also be classified as a tool.
At the end of the day, we are only talking about a couple of examples and the real deal is getting the job done and getting it done in a way that maximizes our resources, no matter how you look at the definition of tasks and resources, right?
The only reason these are separated into two sections is to help make the point that there are no real limits in how we look at streamlining and to open the floodgates on possibilities for productivity and effectiveness enhancements in our content marketing.
In this second How-To, we can make a list of tools and resources that we may use or want to use. Then, use a similar process to the first How-To (tasks/activities) and see where we can combine (a.k.a. streamline).
An example of streamlining a tool would be a social sharing tool, such as Hootsuite. I use this example because so many people are already using it or have at least heard of it. Possibly, there is a content marketing tool that you can use where the social media message is the same and all you need to do is swap out the image for an image that is appropriately sized for the social networking site.
Doing it Manually
Granted, you could accomplish something similar by opening up Facebook in one tab of your browser, Pinterest in another tab of your browser, and Twitter in a third tab of your browser. Then, you could copy and paste the same social media message in all three sites, in their respective social sharing spots, and go back and add the relevant image, sized for the social network. But, if you can accomplish the same thing, only typing (pasting) the message one time, using one tool, you have streamlined using the tool (and likely the tasks, too).
There are even tools the help streamline the image selection for you so that you do not have to do that and can literally streamline task(s) and tool and allowing the automation portion to handle that social image size selection for you.
Your Streamlining Call-to-Action (CTA)
First, let’s breathe. Ok, got that? Next step…
I can keep this simple for you. Get more done with less effort (productivity) and identify ways to do that (streamlining).
I’m not going to promise that you will figure it out overnight, but give it some time (and maybe that sticky note on the side of your monitor) and I’m convinced that you will figure out how to get more productive with your effective content marketing and without killing yourself doing it!
What was the point of this article? Here it is:
- Understanding the basis of streamlining.
- Practicing the process of streamlining.
- Improving as we continue with our content marketing efforts.
- Rinse and repeat without forgetting to breathe.