As a content marketer, are you able to easily access all the relevant your brand has created over the past few years?

If you answered “No”, don’t worry, you’re not alone!

Few brands actually implement the notion of a content library in their operations.

There are multiple ways to define and view what a content library is from a content marketing point of view, but at Toast, through our experience, we’ve settled on a definition and ways of working with such a great tool.

What does the term “content library” mean in a content marketing context?

In content marketing, the term “content library” refers to a repository or collection of various types of content that a business or organization has created. This can include blog posts, articles, videos, infographics, white papers, case studies, social media posts and any other form of content that is used for marketing purposes.

Is it a centralized tool? A folder on the network drive? A spreadsheet that points to digital assets spread on multiple platforms?

It can be all this.

What we are defining here is a concept, a notion of having a way to search, find, explore and discover content that a brand has produced over time. Marketing asset management is something that is often discussed from a branding standpoint (brand assets, logos, etc.), but not often enough from the perspective of content marketing.

The content library serves as a central hub where marketers can easily access and manage all their content assets. It allows them to organize and categorize the content based on different criteria such as the topic, format, target audience, or stage in the buyer’s journey.

Having a content library is beneficial for content marketers as it helps them streamline their content creation and distribution efforts.

No more content duplication!

We have seen so many clients that come to us with a situation where the same piece of content is being created over and over every year because no one has taken the time (or no one is actually able) to search to see if a specific digital asset on a specific topic already existed.

A content library enables content users in an organization (not just the content team, it can be sales, client success, etc.) to easily repurpose and reuse existing content to reach different channels and audiences, saving time and resources. It also helps in maintaining consistency in brand messaging and ensures that the content is aligned with the overall content marketing strategy.

Additionally, a content library allows marketers to have a holistic view of their content inventory, making it easier to identify content gaps and plan future content creation initiatives.

As mentioned, it also provides a valuable resource for sales and customer service teams, as they can refer to the library to find relevant content that can be shared with leads or customers to address their specific needs or questions. And this is key in creating content adoption throughout the organization, activating content with stakeholders beyond the marketing team, creating wider value.

A content library is a strategic asset in any organization.

One thing that is often overlooked is how having a content library can actually become a strategic asset for an organization.

We all know how marketing is so often seen as an expense that generates demand, but that oftentimes does not have actual tangible value.

Enter the content library.

Being able to demonstrate the inventory of content an organization has, coupled with the investment that was required to create this library, any C-level executive will be able to view this as a tangible asset that the company owns.

Content marketing, by definition, is often the poor child that has a hard time proving actual revenue or results behind its efforts. It is in a way very similar to investments in branding.

So when you start sharing the existence of a content library that contains evergreen content assets different departments can use, this is actual value created that demonstrates how having invested in content production earlier can save money down the road through reuse, repurposing, etc.

With a content library, a content team owns an important asset of the organization.

How can we build a content marketing library?

Building a content library requires a content strategy.

It is this strategy defines what the library should contain.

A well-defined content strategy addresses the questions of:

  • What are the objectives we aim for with our content?
  • Who are we creating content for?
  • What are their needs and expectations?
  • On which platforms, in which content types and in which formats should we create content?
  • What is the overall tone & manner that we will use?

These are a few examples of the questions that content strategists will want to answer as they document your brand’s content strategy.

As these questions are answered, the needs for content will arise. Some of it might already exist and some of it will need to be produced.

And this is where the strength of a content library takes shape.

As you document your content strategy, you will start seeing and auditing what you have (its quality, its relevance, etc.). This will in turn inform you on what the gaps are, where content is missing. Going through this process will build the foundation of your new content library: a place where content assets can be found and used.

Here are 5 main steps you will have to go through to build your content library:

  1. Establish what you will document for each piece of content that will be part of your library (its location, format, type its target audience, how relevant it still is, if it can be updated to make it relevant in today’s market, which internal stakeholder might find this content useful, etc.).
  2. Audit the content you already have produced in the past, make sure to request information from all stakeholders who might have produced and used content over the last few years (you will want to go back a few years as a lot of content published back then might still be relevant to your organization).
  3. Document this content and the data you want to attach to it using a tool that will allow you to search and use this content in the future (although you might consider using a Digital Asset Management platform, in many cases a simple database or spreadsheet might do the job).
  4. Socialize this content library with internal stakeholders and make sure they know how to use it and what they will find in it so that they will use the content that exists in your organization and not request, from the marketing team, production of yet another content asset that already existed.
  5. Document in your library (spreadsheet, database, DAM, etc.) all relevant new content that is produced so that it can be used as much as possible.

But work is never really done. A content library needs to be maintained and updated through time. Not all pieces of content can live for years, most of them will eventually need to be updated, and that is an example of where you can start seeing cost reduction: it costs much less to update existing content than to start from scratch again (and leave the old blog posts on your blog!).

The challenges of managing a content library.

The definition of a content library might be simple, but there are challenges in implementing and managing such a tool in the content marketer’s toolbox.

Here are a few examples of challenges that we’ve seen at Toast when working with clients on content libraries:

  1. Finding the right tool to document and manage the library: While many might think that having a content library requires the use of a Digital Asset Management platform, this is not necessary. Smaller structures can perfectly do the job, as long as content assets are centralized and documented.
  2. Activating the library with stakeholders: Many content teams do document the assets they’ve produced, but many do not take the time to activate this library in the organization so that other departments (sales, client success, service, etc.) also use these assets without having to recreate them from scratch.
  3. Maximizing content marketing budgets with proper use of the library: Even though a content library might exist, we’ve seen teams where it almost sounds easier to produce new content rather than doing a quick search first to see if a similar piece already exist that could be upgraded or repurposed.
  4. The library keeps growing with very little pruning: A healthy content library is a repository that lists usable content. It is easily searchable and it spits out relevant content resources that can be used. Just having a list of assets is one thing, but also taking the time to evaluate these assets in terms of relevancy is also key in making sure that your content library will be used and enjoyed by as many people as possible in your organization.
  5. What to document – metadata: Listing content assets is the basic nature of a content library. One other thing to consider is what extra metadata is also stored with each unique piece of content. As mentioned above, it can be relevant to also document what audience is this content for, what stage of the buyer journey it targets, what format and platform it was originally produced for, etc.

As you have seen from the challenges above, and how a content library can be deployed in your organization, there are clear value and ROI on spending time to audit, document, list and use the content you already have, while at the same time discovering clear content gaps and content initiatives where investment is needed.

It requires the proper processes and operations ethic, but you can reap great results from it.

We’ve seen all sorts of scenarios at Toast over the past two decades and we’ve seen content teams have great success once they’ve implemented the notion of the content library.