The Gist

  • Metadata magic. Utilizing metadata enables content creators to effectively repurpose existing assets, saving time and money.
  • Custom taxonomy. Developing brand-specific metadata categories and vocabulary enhances content organization and strategy.
  • Automation advantages. Properly tagged metadata can streamline workflows, improve targeting, and empower AI-driven content generation.

Facing economic uncertainty, marketing teams are under pressure to do more with less. Budgets are tight, hiring is frozen, and dollars are shifting from earned channels to organic and social media. Content creators need to be scrappy — and they’re probably overlooking a way to make great content at a lower cost.

The “old,” musty content stored in a digital asset management (DAM) system or content library is underutilized. Thousands if not millions of photos, graphics and videos — produced at a pretty penny — collect dust in these high-tech storage bins. So why not search them for reusable assets, proven concepts and performance insights? 

Well, a team’s ability to remix and emulate historical content comes down to metadata. At its best, metadata captures the who, what, when, where, why and how of content in a standardized way, enabling comparison and analysis. Metadata also enables marketing automation and artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) systems to personalize content for various audiences and contexts. Metadata can even help automate workflows by, for instance, routing finalized assets to the teams that publish them. 

So, if you’re a content creator or marketer under pressure to be scrappy, here’s how to get value out of old, used content. 

1. Audit Your Content

Though many content creators chose their career path specifically to avoid any task involving the word “audit,” hear me out. Let’s say you work for a beauty brand offering hair and skin products. (No, I’m not an expert on beauty, but I’ve used bicycles, gym shoes and standing desks in enough examples.) The content in your DAM relates to these products, your brand values, your target personas, and the various channels you use to generate awareness and sell products. Your goal is to recycle or recreate the best of that content. 

You first need to understand what you have and what you know about it. For example, if you search for “curly shampoo,” what content types come up — photos, videos, graphics? What channel was the content intended for — social, ecommerce listings, email blasts? Who was the intended audience — professional women ages 25 to 34? If the content has been used, what results did it achieve — click-throughs, social shares, attributable sales? 

Along the way, identify what information is missing. The next step is to plug the holes with metadata that is consistent, true to your brand and marketing strategy, and designed to help you differentiate between similar pieces of content.

Related Article: Data at Work: Metadata Matters

2. Tag Your Strategy 

Here’s the challenge with metadata: One size does not fit all. Beauty and beer brands, for instance, don’t talk about their content the same way (though you could search “foamy” in both DAM systems and probably find something). Essentially, every brand must develop its own categories of metadata and vocabulary for filling in those categories.  

For example, maybe your dry hair products sell best in places that are cold and arid. Weather can change throughout the year, so location and season are important metadata categories. For dry hair products, a winter image from here in Madison, Wisconsin, is going to work better than a humid summer shot from Florida. 

For the skincare products, you may need other categories like skin tone and eye color. You might even tag demographic data. Someone with light skin, blond hair and blue eyes will prefer different products from someone with darker skin, black hair and brown eyes. 

Learning Opportunities

Then, you might notice that some images bundle multiple products. That’s important to tag. On an ecommerce site, using an image of curly shampoo that also contains curly conditioner could lead to confusion. Is the customer getting both or just one?  

The choices are infinite. Tagging the depicted colors, SKUs, use cases (e.g., social vs. ecommerce), and the environment where an image was taken (studio, office, park?) all shape how content will be (re)used and the performance patterns you detect.

Related Article: How to Develop a Content Creation Strategy

3. New Insights and Tactics

Assuming your DAM or library has some performance analytics on the content (it should), now you have a precise way of determining what to recycle, reuse and emulate. Which social shots of curly shampoo performed best and why? You can compare the social shots based on location, season, demographics, colors and much more. You can save money on content creation by redeploying or commissioning content with the highest likelihood of achieving your goals.

Now that you’ve done some tedious metadata tagging, you can do some other cool things. For example, you can teach an image recognition AI to tag new images using your metadata schema. You can even feed metadata from winning content into generative AIs. Try telling OpenAI’s DALL·E 2 to generate an image of a 30-year-old woman with curly hair walking with her partner on a Florida beach (it might be terrible, but AIs will improve). Then, use that metadata to target a social ad to the intended audience.

Automated workflows, too, can benefit from the metadata. Why not route any final assets tagged with “ecommerce” to the ecommerce team before they fill your email inbox with image requests?  

Scrappy Ain’t Easy: All in Good Metadata

Sometimes, we take it for granted that the web is organized and searchable. We type keywords in search engines, click enter and receive links to relevant text, images and video. Inside our organizations and their content libraries, we can’t take that for granted. The content we find — and what we know or think we know about that content — is a reflection of the metadata we tag to it. 

While the process of surveying and tagging content may seem onerous, it can pay off when resources are scarce and expectations are high. So, don’t let tight budgets and hiring freezes slow your momentum. Think of them as creative constraints that push you to use what you already have in fresh, effective ways.

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