Check out your content’s legs and learn how to use them!

Remember “top and tail”? It’s a British expression that means changing the introduction and conclusion of an article to place it in different journals. Topping and tailing an article meant you could re-purpose it several times in different vertically-focused media, such as monthly magazines targeting design engineers in different markets. Back then (like a decade ago), if content had legs, it meant you could top and tail it a few times without needing to extract new information from engineers or others who are tough to pin down.

Sometimes it’s hard to know which piece of content has legs. Let the audience tell you!

A decade later, many daily, weekly and monthly publications have folded or turned into thinly edited online portals for content. In some ways placing content has become easier, and topping and tailing requires less skill and creativity than it used to when reporters and editors had the time to report and edit. The other side of that coin, though, is that audiences are paying less attention, and what attention they do offer comes in short bursts between other things.

“Having legs” no longer means that the content can be re-purposed in similar media outlets. Now it means that the content can be easily translated into different form factors for a wide range of media types.


For example, some content might lend itself only to a long-form article. It has legs if you can translate it into tweets, a Facebook post, a video presentation or animation, etc. Yet knowing that your content could work across a range of media is not enough to justify the effort. The next job is to see if the audience responds.

In an age of rapid-fire content production and dissemination, audience response should not only be measured but also used as a guide for what to do next. Based on how your communities respond to your content on a regular basis, you can judge if a particular piece of content merits more attention. If you notice an increase in audience engagement, even down to a few passionate audience comments, it may be time to use those legs. Just don’t set the bar too high: if we all waited for our content to go viral, most of us would get dentures before we get satisfaction.

So how do you gauge audience response? Suppose your tweets get 1 or 2 re-tweets on a regular basis, and then one of them gets 10. Or your blog posts usually gets 3 shares and a couple of likes. Then you write one that garners 20 shares. Or you notice that the by-lined article you wrote ignited some passion in the comments section: some angry comments, some supportive, and some individuals embarking on their own discussions about your topic.

Those kinds of responses — none of which approach “viral” — can indicate it’s time to use those legs. If it was a tweet, then write a blog post about the topic, or put an image up on Instagram. If your blog post got 20 shares, re-purpose the content into a video, a SlideShare presentation or a by-lined article. Get creative with how you do it and focus on those parts of your content that ignited interest in the first place.

Example: check out this blog post by Mark O’Toole, giving young graduates some tough love about interviewing. We noticed that even though it never went viral, it got more tweets, likes, shares and comments than our blog posts usually generated. So we re-purposed it into this SlideShare presentation. It has become the 15th most popular English language SlideShare presentation, with 1.6 million views, and shares, comments, likes and downloads that any marketer could be proud of!

Most marketers focus on constantly developing new content, just as they should. But they often forget to invest time understanding how existing content performed. Sometimes, instead of wracking your brain for new ideas, look for the legs that might be right in front of you. Then make them run!


About Mower Boston

Boston's Mower office is a full-service technology marketing, PR and branding agency. Our B2B stories illustrate projects and campaigns in a variety of markets and media that range from local impact in Boston and New England to global proportions.

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