Library marketers don’t have time for long, elaborate content marketing pieces. Our staff is small (or one person, in many cases) and the demand on our time is huge. I believe this is one of the main reasons that many libraries don’t have a documented content marketing strategy and why many library marketers feel stuck, unable to fully commit to content marketing.
But I have an idea.
Let me introduce you to the idea of serialized content. It is also sometimes called episodic content. Serial or episodic content lets you take one piece of content and turn it into many pieces, released on a consistent basis over a longer period of time. You’re probably most familiar with serialized content in fiction. Writers like Charles Dickens, George Eliot, Thomas Hardy, and Henry James all released their most-lauded novels not as one long book, but in sections published in magazines and newspapers over a long time. In the past few years, marketers have started to pick up on this idea again as an effective way to release their content marketing pieces. What was old has become new.
Serialized content has nine major advantages for libraries. In the age of binge-watching, serialized content feels different and fresh. You can gather a bigger audience for your work because serialized content builds suspense. Your audience will come back for more information on a great subject that is well-written, thoughtful, and provides them with new content. It’s also perfect for viewing or reading on mobile devices–shorter pieces of content are easier to digest on a small screen than larger pieces.
Serialized content gives your readers more time to digest and grasp concepts. It helps you take a big idea and break it down into smaller segments in which you can do a deeper dive into the topic. Serialized content gives you more flexibility in your marketing schedule because you can break up the writing and distribution of the content in smaller pieces. It’s easier to set aside a short time in your schedule to write and distribute a blog post than it is to set aside three days for a longer piece (just speaking from experience here!)
Serialized content can also help you get an idea of the topics your audience is really interested in. If your audience spikes week after week on a topic, you know there’s a demand for more information on that subject. And, in terms of website optimization, creating several posts on one subject and linking them to each other is a great way to increase your search ranking–Google loves internal links! And finally, serialized content can help fill out your editorial calendar without taxing you or your staff. It quickens the approval process.
I’ve used serialized content several times in this blog, like the time I turned my conference presentation for the Indiana Federation of Libraries on marketing to teenagers into a series of blog posts. The major marketing firm Ceros ran a series of episodic content pieces on serialized content (now that’s Meta!). And Coca-Cola created a series of video marketing pieces titled “Crossroads” about LBGTQ bullying and acceptance. But to be honest, there aren’t many other examples of serialized or episodic content to be found. That makes this is a huge opportunity for libraries.
You’ll know whether a topic is a good candidate for serialized content by asking yourself a series of questions:
Is the topic something my audience needs to know but is difficult to understand?
Can I build suspense with a series of pieces on this topic?
Would this topic make a great book?
Can I commit to a regular schedule of content releases?
If you answered yes, you’ve got a topic that’s ripe for serialization.
There are many ways you can create serialized content. You can break a long blog post into several smaller segments and publish them in your newsletter or on your website. You can also take one piece of content–say the same blog post–and repurpose it into a different format, like a series of short videos, a series of infographics, a Slideshare, or daily tip-sharing Tweets! The possibilities are endless. Serialized content is a creative exercise. The point is to build suspense and to publish your short segments so your audience looks forward to the next piece of content you’ll share.
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