In a very traditional sense content marketing is a bit of a time and money investment, at least in its early days. Custom magazines, glossy print publications, flash-heavy email newsletters, expensive websites, fancy microsites, 27-page whitepapers, highly produced webcasts and podcasts -- the list goes on. Recently, small businesses and start-ups have championed short-hand content marketing and it’s making a bit of a buzz.

It has viral value. This content marketing a la cheap doesn’t break the bank and doesn’t get the all-dreaded stare-down paired with foot-tap from the manager of agency timesheets.

Hundreds of these short-hand content marketing approaches exist online. Just log in to Twitter, Google+ or Facebook and your newsfeed is likely populated with a dusting of content marketing here and there.

In my case, it is more like a dump truck unloaded a cross country shipment of content into my ticking timeline of procrastination. But that’s the point exactly. This short-hand content marketing is quick to manufacture, engaging and most importantly it’s highly effective and viral. Did I mention it’s viral?

Below is a list of super-fast, super cheap short-hand content marketing projects conveniently organized from least time consuming to most time consuming. 

matt_brimer.jpg Project 1: Add On Project

Time to complete:  30-45 minutes

Description: The Add On Project is a content marketing project that is a result of a greater effort. For example, at SXSW in Austin this past March I participated in an innovation brainstorm lead by Matthew Brimer, Co-Founder of General Assembly @GA with PepsiCo. At the end of the brainstorm the group had created an amazing corporate planning template that an art director or graphic designer could easily turn into a nice piece of content marketing.

Project 2: The Datagraphic

Time to complete: 4-8 hours

Description: We see Datagraphics all the time. A lot of Internet marketing or web design companies will simply create an infographic sourced from data found in Google Insights, Google AdWords, Wikipedia or Seomoz among others.

While these infographics are fascinating, wouldn't it be even more fascinating to create one in less than a day? Besides, pulling your lead graphic designer off of billable projects for 8 hours is expensive enough, right? A Datagraphic is different. Use free software like Splunk or SocialBro to get a different kind of data, updated data, more specific data. Then instead of influencing the design of the data, you actually influence the source of the data, which is really intriguing.

Project 3: Slidecast

Time to complete:4-8 hours

Description: Slidecast is a label used by to refer to their MP3 audio upload capabilities that allow users to create a podcast from a simple PowerPoint document or presentation deck. Available under the Pro Plan for as little as US$ 19 per month, this is a great tool for creating low cost, high quality content. Of course, companies can create podcasts in a variety of ways, but few carry as low a price tag. To create the slidecast is simple: just create a presentation, upload the presentation document to, record your voice and distribute.

Project 4: Subway Art

Time to complete: 3-5 days (with printing)

Description: Subway Art is the online parallel to tagging or urban bridge murals. With a simple quote from the public domain and an art director with basic Adobe Illustrator skills, companies can create really nice looking posters and display collateral to use as premium items, office décor or viral content for the Web and social media.

Project 5: Online Survey

Time to complete: 3-5 days

Description: Following in the footsteps of the “Add On Project,” the Online Survey is a more substantial and intentional variation of data collection. Depending on resources, companies with access to a free survey program or a content management system with form building capabilities can whip up a survey in a matter of minutes. Allowing for a few days to collect content and then create a visual depiction of the findings creates great content to share with key stakeholders and potential customers.

And while it didn’t quite make the cut for the top 5 super fast and super cheap content marketing projects, I’d like to give a plug for the classic 5 item list. It hasn’t failed me yet.

Editor's Note: To read more from July's Content Marketing focus:

-- Content Marketing: Web Engagement, Evolved by @trobbins