The best thing about creating your first course is that you don’t have to build it from scratch. You already have the content you need, right at your fingertips. All you have to do is go out and collect it.
We call this “content mining.”
Just like miners dig for diamonds, you have to do some digging to find your best content. Right now, your material is scattered in a bunch of different places: in emails, on your blog, on YouTube, on your podcast, etc. You might not even know what you have to work with.
But with a little bit of time and elbow grease, you’ll see that you have a wealth of material to make a great course.
Strap on your hard hat. Let’s do this!
1. Look high, look low…great content is hiding everywhere!
If you already sell eBooks, PDFs, or courses, that’s an obvious place to start looking for material. Gather up all of your current and previous products, and make sure they’re accounted for.
But don’t stop there.
Next, look through your social media channels. Do you share videos on YouTube? Do you post on Facebook? Are you an avid Twitter user? How about LinkedIn? This is all valuable content you can use.
Look at your marketing materials, too. Your email funnels, your sales pages and your newsletters are full of good stuff. Same with your website, your blog and your podcast.
Basically, anything you put out into the world can be used to populate your online course. Get creative, and leave no stone unturned. Do you text message your customers? Do you hold webinars? Everything—yes, everything—is content!
“I work closely with an entrepreneur who has a huge Facebook following and wanted to create an online course from his existing content. I started content mining for him, and the first thing I did was look in the Facebook Group to find his videos and posts. But I went even further, and scoured the page comments to find other pieces of wisdom he had written on the fly.”
2. Organize your content in one place
All of this content needs to be organized nicely in one spot. This is vital! You’re going to need to see exactly what you have before you can make any decisions about how to use it.
We recommend a Google doc or spreadsheet. You can access the information from anywhere that you have an Internet connection, and you can collaborate with your team for maximum efficiency.
At the top of your spreadsheet, make headings for:
- Content link: this is a URL that leads to live content. If the content is not live, copy and paste it into a Google Doc or invisible blog post, and include the link here.
- Date posted: so you know how old the content is!
- Title: if it’s a blog post, a video, etc., it will already have a title. If it’s a short blog comment or a tweet, you may want to include the full text.
- View count: for videos.
- Engagement: use this column to document the number of likes, shares, RTs, favorites, comments on social posts. Or, keep track of page views, open rates, click rates, or whatever statistic is available to you, depending on the kind of content.
- Comments: if you received any particularly interesting feedback on this content, copy and paste it here.
- Tags/Categories: choose keywords to identify the content, like “blog,” “nutrition,” “Vitamin D,” etc.
- Notes: so you can begin to think about where this material fits into the scheme of things.
“I loved making this spreadsheet for, but I understand it can be time-consuming and overwhelming. To make it easier, I suggest you don’t read any content or watch any videos at this point. Just focus on copying, pasting and collecting everything in one place. You can review it all later.”
3. Read, watch, transcribe, tag
With everything organized, you can dive in and review the material.
Skim through the text, watch the videos, and see what themes and ideas emerge. Then, tag or categorize each piece of content in your spreadsheet.
As you do this part, you’ll start to see how things might fit into your course syllabus. Write those notes down for later. Don’t get too sidetracked trying to come up with your course outline at this point. You’re still figuring things out, and getting a big picture view of your content.
When you’ve worked your way through everything, reorganize your spreadsheet by category. Put like things next to like things, and it’ll be much easier to put together your syllabus when it’s time.
“It took a lot of time, but I watched every one of his popular Facebook videos to see exactly what they were about. I suggest you have your video content transcribed, too, because it makes it so much easier to understand at a glance. It’s also helpful to see which videos are evergreen and which aren’t. You know, if you’re talking about a homework assignment that doesn’t exist anymore, that may not be the best video to include in your evergreen course.”
4. Figure out your best content, fast
You have all of your content in one place. You know what all of your content is about.
At this point, you might even have too much content. How do you figure out what to use in your course, and what to ditch?
In miner-speak, you want to make sure you’re picking out real gold, not fool’s gold.
Take a look at the “views,” “engagement,” and “comments” columns of your spreadsheet. You should be able to get a pretty good sense of what content resonates with your audience, and which content doesn’t. Do you have a video with a million views, and another video with only a few hundred? Go for the video with a million views. That’s the gold!
Another thing to consider is how applicable the material is to your audience. If you have a random blog post about saving money on pet grooming, but your audience is mostly concerned about living a zen life, you might want to ditch that grooming piece and go for something more relevant.
“Always look at the feedback you’ve gotten. If you have great content on multiple topics, look at what people like the most, share the most, ask questions about and leave comments about. That’s the type of stuff you should expand on. If the content is good, people will tell you.”
5. Prepare yourself for success
The #1 reason people don’t want to go content mining: they think it’s going to be hard.
Well, it’s going to be a little bit hard…but it doesn’t have to be horrible.
Here are some more tips for successful content mining:
“Break it up into manageable chunks. Don’t try to do it all at once. Give yourself an hour a day to start. It will take time, but accept that before you get started.”
“Get help from a fresh pair of eyes. I came to the project without any previous knowledge. Because of that, I was able to see things in a new way and identify themes and categories much easier. Get someone else to help you through the process, both to share the work and to give you fresh ideas.”
“Prepare yourself for some boring work by putting on some tunes! I have a hard time concentrating when I’m listening to music with lyrics I know, so I put on something with a good beat or melody that won’t distract me and will keep me motivated.”
“Don’t give up! If I can do it, so can you!”
That’s the key to a successful content mining journey: Don’t give up! Keep at it, and it will pay off in the long run. You won’t believe how good it feels to have all of your content in one place, and how frequently you’ll use your content spreadsheet to find the things you need.
(Plus, it’s a snap to figure out your course structure and syllabus with your handy spreadsheet in front of you.)