Confession time: I’d never heard the term “content atomization” until I joined Convince & Convert. There. I said it. Now, once I learned the terminology, I realized I’d actually been practicing this method of content marketing best practices for years. Just, you know, unknowingly.
Now that I’ve got the lingo down, I can promise you: content atomization is one of the strongest tools you can incorporate into your organization’s content marketing strategy and executional processes.
Like me, you may already be doing it in bits and pieces or inconsistently. But as a 19+ year industry vet, I can also promise you: it works way better when you apply content atomization principles on purpose and on most—if not all—projects. Let’s dig into how and why.
What is Content Atomization?
Content atomization is the process of breaking down a piece of content into smaller, bite-sized elements and repurposing them across various marketing channels. Said another way, it’s when you take one substantial piece of content and break it down into more, strategically-sound, smaller pieces of content.
Another translation? Content atomization = maximizing to make the very most out of each content creation investment across various teams, tactics, and platforms.
As a marketer, you already know: content is not always easy (or inexpensive) to create. Even with AI, new technologies, apps, and other valuable content marketing shortcuts, it’s wise to create as many assets as possible for each activation you invest time, energy and budget into.
Convince & Convert always recommends keeping the 1:8 goal in mind: taking 1 big, tentpole piece of content and aiming for 8 additional pieces of content.
With….a little give and take, of course. Some projects may yield wayyyyy more than eight ideas. Other times, maybe only three ideas make sense.
The more you apply and practice weaving content atomization into your projects and processes, the more you’ll see that flexibility comes into play.
But for now, the bottom line is: Your goal should be to maximize content for the best possible experience and exposure, and for what makes the most sense for your brand to atomize for your audiences.
Convince & Convert Expert take:
“Content atomization is the definition of ‘work smarter, not harder’. Your pillar content is your box of hard work. Every smaller content piece you create from that is outside the box and a smart way to extend the hard work used for the pillar piece.”
~ Kelly Santina, President
Illustrating How Content Atomization Works
If you read the above and were like, “What the what?”, here’s a quick illustration of how content atomization works in a content marketing scenario:
In my last full-time role, I was charged with launching a brand-new resort in New Orleans across our digital ecosystem with a splash but also…with a limited time and budget.
One (of many) digital campaign efforts was the following tentpole video about NOLA beignets, top-of-funnel style since, who wouldn’t want to get fresh, hot beignets during their stay in New Orleans?! (It also happened to showcase the resort’s unique offering of full in-villa kitchens where you could – you guessed it – make your own beignets.)
To further support and broaden the reach / appeal of the primary content (the tentpole beignet video), my team atomized and distributed the following smaller, supporting assets:
- A long-format blog post about beignets, tying back to the proximity of the brand-new resort to various NOLA beignet cafes and (of course) embedding the tentpole video
- A downloadable recipe card
- An embedded video module with accompanying copy on the resort landing page
- An embedded “click to play video” module within promotional emails to qualified leads
- Facebook video post with unique caption
- Instagram video post with unique caption
- YouTube video post with unique caption
- Instagram Reel: vertical sneak peek with link to full video
- Instagram Reel: behind-the-scenes iPhone interview of video’s local beignet cafe manager
- Instagram Story Poll asking followers if they’ve ever enjoyed a beignet
- LinkedIn Corporate-centric post
- Pinterest pin, linking to the video
- Paid media boost with unique ad copy
And…boom. There you have it. One tentpole video became thirteen additional pieces of supporting content—each of which took very minimal effort to create—all of which cumulatively led to more views, engagement, and traction behind the “marquee” asset.
Why is Atomization an Important Content Marketing Best Practice?
At first blush, the concept of content atomization might seem like more work. In literal terms, it is. But in reality, you’re stretching the investments you already made into your primary piece of content and extending its reach, engagement, and impact by breaking it down into smaller, bite-sized elements.
So sure, in the moment, it might feel like “more.” But, by atomizing and repurposing your content, you’re actually minimizing the effort required to create new content from scratch. And, when done well, you’ll be making sure that primary tentpole content shines in front of way more eyeballs.
3 Benefits of Content Atomization
1) Content atomization is resource efficient: You’ll cover more ground with less effort than making big, brand-new executions each and every time you post / launch / publish. Plus, you’ll find your content calendar filling up much more easily by squeezing as much as possible out of each production.
2) Content atomization majorly helps with relevancy: Executing and distributing 8+ pieces of content across multiple platforms and in multiple ways gives you a better chance of producing content that’ll be hyper-relevant to specific segments of your target audience.
3) Content atomization includes built-in atomization: By taking your big idea and “spreading the word” in many, smaller ways, it’ll feel like you’re “everywhere” to your audiences. It’s basically an attention multiplier.
Convince & Convert Expert take:
“Atomizing your content is the single easiest and most reliable way to increase the discoverability of your content. When you spend just a little more time atomizing content and distributing for multiple channels and in multiple formats, the likelihood of breaking through channel noise and reaching your ideal audience increases exponentially.”
~ Sunny Hunt, Strategist
Examples of Content Atomization
You may be wondering how this is done “in the real world.” But once you’re aware of the concept, you’ll quickly notice that content atomization is all over the world wide web.
You know how when you learn a new word, you start hearing it immediately? Or when you start car shopping, you instantly see more of your short-listed vehicles everywhere you drive? I have a feeling you’re about to notice so many brands, competitors, and peers atomizing their hero efforts now that this best practice is on your radar.
In the meantime, a few examples to further illustrate content atomization include:
Moz’s Whiteboard Friday Videos
Moz, an SEO software provider, publishes a weekly video series called “Whiteboard Friday”, where industry experts discuss various topics. They atomize these videos into shorter clips, GIFs, and blog summaries, expanding their reach and catering to different audiences, preferences, and platforms.
University of Arizona
One of our C&C clients, the University of Arizona, created COVID Watch, a mobile app designed to help their campus community through the pandemic by providing free exposure notifications and positive exposure alerts. To support the (mega important) launch of COVID Watch, U of A created animated gifs, campus-wide illustrations, Instagram stories, sneak peek short videos, a Twitter announcement, a social app overview, emails, campus signage, and push notifications.
HubSpot’s Blog-to-Social Strategy
HubSpot, a major player in inbound marketing platforms, takes their blog content and atomizes it into social media snippets, creating visually appealing images with things like key quotes, stats, and tips. This approach drives traffic back to their blog, while simultaneously capturing attention on social media.
Convince & Convert Social Pros Podcast
Our very own award-winning podcast team always, always, always atomizes each and every Social Pros episode. For every 60 minute recording, our team pushes out at least 10 items of supporting assets. Think: tweets, stories, in-post visuals, full text transcripts, audiograms, LinkedIn carousels, blogs, and graphics featuring tips, quotes, and factoids. Seriously, pick any episode and you’ll see a full spectrum of supporting tactics “out there.”
Red Bull is also masterful with the art of content atomization. As you likely know, they often capture incredible footage at extreme sports events like Red Bull Air Race and Red Bull Rampage. They then repurpose the primary footage into multiple formats, extending their shelf life far beyond the events themselves with assets like YouTube videos, social media posts, podcasts, live-streamed event segments, and short video snippets.
Another beverage player, Starbucks, is also strong in this practice. With their deep budgets, you might think they wouldn’t bother with stretching each piece to its max. But Starbucks often produces blog articles on topics like coffee recipes, sustainability, employee spotlights, and community initiatives and then repurpose them into shorter-form posts for social. Think Instagram stories, reels, and even video tutorials on TikTok.
You may have seen this brand in your sponsored newsfeed. As an up-and-coming name in the underwear and loungewear segment, they effectively atomize their content to expand their audience engagement. Once again, they take longer-form blog posts that discuss topics related to comfort, fashion, and lifestyle and then atomize this content into shorter posts for their social platforms, incorporating relevant quotes, images, videos, and graphics while creating a cohesive brand “look” across multiple channels.
Each of these examples demonstrate how you can effectively atomize your content by creating different “off-shoot” formats that align with both your root content and your brand identity, audience preferences/interests, and distribution platforms.
How to Unleash the Power of Content Atomization in Your Organization
Like many other worthwhile endeavors, content atomization can take some practice. Until atomization becomes second nature, I recommend actively and overtly weaving the topic of content atomization into your formal content brainstorms and briefing processes.
Whenever you’re meeting to discuss ongoing content or an upcoming initiative, content atomization should not only be discussed, but assigned. Without a confirmed asset lead for each piece of content and firm timelines, atomization can easily fall to the wayside when things get busy. Especially when team members get so focused / rushed / excited about the primary tentpole piece of content.
A Few “Starter Pack” Tips for Infusing Atomization
Tack on an extra 10-15 minutes per meeting to ensure time for content atomization brainstorming.
Assign an atomization leader to connect the dots and opportunities in plans / programs to make sure conversations about atomizing are prioritized.
Make a checklist of your distribution channels and all of the tactics in your toolbox. Bring this checklist to each meeting / discussion and do a quick round-robin on which platforms / tactics make the most sense for your content. (e.g. “Does this make sense as an IG story?” “Is there an upcoming opportunity to integrate into an email send?”, etc.)
Compare your list / ideas to our list of 47 ways to atomize your content. It’s a great resource to brainstorm and supplement from.
Clearly align, confirm, and assign asset leads and timelines to each and every smaller piece of supporting content. Check in often to ensure all of the “spokes” are on track and ready to launch alongside the primary “hub” asset.
When primary content goes live, send out a Launch Alert email to all of the key stakeholders, contributors, and leaders, confirming what all went live, when, where, how, and why.
Share results out early and often. As soon as your organization starts seeing the fruits of your content atomization labors, the momentum will build into a well-oiled atomization machine.
Speak up! If you see an opportunity for a supporting tactic/asset, say something. Even if it’s not your team / department / wheelhouse, as you build up your content atomization muscles, adopt a “good ideas can come from anywhere” mentality. Pro tip: this is a great philosophy to value and enact, regardless!
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How many much time are you devoting to content atomization brainstorming?
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Not sure where to start or how to build this into your content marketing efforts? Contact us! Helping our Convince & Convert client partners through atomization processes, organizational transformations, and tangible toolkits is something we do all the time. And we kinda geek out about maximizing content efforts over here…
Convince & Convert Expert take:
“Some organizations refer to their large, marquee content assets as hero content. I see it quite differently: the real hero isn’t the big content thing. The real heroes are the dozens, if not hundreds, of hardworking small things that drip from the marquee content. It’s kind of like a fruit tree; of course you cannot have the fruit without the tree, but nobody talks about the apple tree. They talk about the pie.”
~ Daniel Lemin, Senior Strategist
Closing Thoughts on this Content Marketing Best Practice
Before you start thinking about creating your next big “thing”, take a step back and make sure that you’ve remixed, refreshed, and optimized your existing content.
Content atomization can take your next launch from good to great. It’s a powerful strategy that enables marketers to make the most out of their content investments. By breaking down and repurposing your content, you can extend its reach, engage with your audience across multiple channels, and increase your brand visibility. AND you’ll be way more efficient with your resources and time. Win, win, win!
Remember to plan your atomization strategy carefully, deeply understand your audience and platforms, build in a bit of extra time for brainstorming, discussion, and cross-departmental executions, and maintain consistency, purposefulness, and creativity throughout.
With these content marketing best practices, tips, tricks and inspiring examples in mind, you’re ready to unleash the full potential of content atomization in your marketing efforts!
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