Master the rule of 5 to 7: make your content stick
The 7 must-know tips and essentials for repeating your content effectively
The biggest lie in the content industry is that you need new content. Did you know you need to see something five to seven times before remembering something? It's perfectly fine to repeat your content a few times.
Rule of thumb: when you become annoyed by it, only then will others start to see it and remember it, and your content will stick.
In other words, you need to repeat yourself over and over and over again, feel like a parrot, and only then will the other slightly grasp your message.
The good news is that knowing this, you can re-use, re-publish, and re-purpose your content. Expanding the lifespan of the content production efforts and getting more bang for your buck as you can use it multiple times.
Why 5 to 7 is the magic number for memory
Research (see sources) suggests that we need to see information between five to seven times for it to transition from short-term to long-term memory. This originates in advertising and educational psychology, yet it’s not a very hard rule and definitive; it can vary per topic and person based on their interest, associations, and emotional state.
It’s good to know that it’s not only about repetition; it’s also the interaction or engagement with the information.
How repetition enhances memory:
- Every time we see information, our brain strengthens the neural pathway connected to that data. More exposure means a stronger pathway.
- It's also about repetition over time that creates effectiveness. There needs to be an interval between the exposures to allow our brain to refresh and reinforce the memory.
- To boost effectiveness, it’s recommended to engage with the information actively. For content, that means you need to provoke, stand out, and be noticeable. Don’t blend in and become vanilla.
- The more emotional connection, the better the information is remembered.
→ And remember, not everyone has seen your content the first time you publish—the more reason to repeat yourself.
The art of repeating your content
There are a two ways in which you can repeat the information in your content.
1. Republish: extend your content's lifespan
We know creating good content is f*cking expensive, so why not re-use what you already have?
The first step is to audit your existing content and identify what resonates and can be repeated. Next, you refresh and update the content before you republish and repost on social. More about the 4 step process and workflow to republish your content.
2. Repurposing: a creative new edit
You can create a new edit of the same topic. You can do this in a different format. For example, creating a video or infographic out of a blog post or an infographic. Combine multiple blogs into a whitepaper. Or you can create a blog post out of an interview.
You can also use the same content and create a new edit in the same format. Not every piece of content is usable for this strategy, yet if you have one, use it.
For example, see these three pages
- Improve your prompts with these 4 free AI courses. The best AI and ChatGPT training for marketing and content (publication 31 October)
- The 4 best free AI courses for marketing and content. My selection so you can cut some corners and benefit from ChatGPT (publication beginning of November)
- The 15 best tips to master prompt engineering for marketing and content. All you need to know, plus the 4 best free AI courses for you (publication mid of November)
All three have the same content blocks: the list of my recommended four best and free AI courses with the details, an overview of how to master your prompt tips and tricks, and how I came to this selection. Plus, intro and recap in the outro.
By playing with the order, adjusting the copy where needed, plus writing a new header and subheader, each page has its own key message and learning while I use the same content.
|Improve your prompts with these 4 free AI courses||The 4 best free AI courses for marketing and content||The 15 best tips to master prompt engineering for marketing and content|
|The best AI and ChatGPT training for marketing and content||My selection so you can cut some corners and benefit from ChatGPT||All you need to know, plus the 4 best free AI courses for you|
|→ Improve your prompts by completing these four courses||→ Check out these four courses||→ 15 Tips on how to improve your prompts|
|• Four best and free AI courses with the details||• My selection process||• How to master your prompt|
|• How to master your prompt||• Four best and free AI courses with the details||• Four best and free AI courses with the details|
|• My selection process||• How to master your prompt||• My selection process|
The essentials for content repetition
These are the unwritten rules to follow if you want to repeat your content over and over again.
- Time in between. Make sure you have some time in between the publications, no matter if it’s republishing or repurposing. Rule of thumb for republishing: I would say about three months for repurposing; if the difference is significant enough, it takes about two to three weeks if you publish frequently and have some new content in between.
- New story and structure: different key message. For repurposing, always create a new storyline, play with the structure, and add a new header and subheader. Use the ‘content LEGO bricks’ and reshuffle to create something new. And make it look like new.
- Reshuffle and rewrite, make an effort. This is in line with the previous point. Make an effort to show that you care. And you just don’t lazily hit the copy-paste-republish button. Reshuffle the content, rewrite, and adjust the copy where needed.
- New visuals. Maybe the most important thing is the first impression—the visual. Always check and adjust whether it’s republished or reposted. Nothing looks as new as a new visual.
- Add a disclaimer if needed. No matter if you republish or you’re repurposing and reshuffling the LEGO content bricks, it doesn’t hurt to mention you published this content before. Just to give clarity and be honest about what you’re doing. Nothing is as annoying as a brand that presents content as brand new, and you’re very sure you’ve seen the content before.
In short, you don’t always need new content. It’s totally acceptable and actually pretty smart to republish and repurpose your content.
There are a few things to take into consideration…
- Never assume everyone has seen your content the first time
- It takes 5 to 7 exposures before content sinks in and moves to the long-term memory
- You can republish or repurpose
- Some time in between
- Create something new with what you already got
- Make an effort
- Get some new visuals
- Be honest and add a disclaimer
Now, it’s up to you to audit and identify for which content you can expand the lifetime and get more out of your time and budget investment.
All my research is done via ChatGPT-4; I don’t read or double-check these sources myself.
Krugman, Herbert E. "Why Three Exposures May Be Enough." Journal of Advertising Research 12.6 (1972).
Pimsleur, Paul. "A Memory Schedule." The Modern Language Journal 51.2 (1967): 73-75.
Ebbinghaus, Hermann. "Memory: A contribution to experimental psychology." Annals of neurosciences 20.4 (2013): 155.
Kumaran, D., & Maguire, E. A. (2016). An unexpected sequence of events: Mismatch detection in the human hippocampus. PLOS Biology, 14(12), e1002588.
Smolen, P., Zhang, Y., & Byrne, J. H. (2018). The right time to learn: mechanisms and optimization of spaced learning. Nature Reviews Neuroscience, 17(2), 77-88.
Antony, J. W., Gobel, E. W., O’Hare, J. K., Reber, P. J., & Paller, K. A. (2015). Cued memory reactivation during sleep influences skill learning. Nature Neuroscience, 18(8), 1114-1116.
Roediger, H. L., & Butler, A. C. (2011). The critical role of retrieval practice in long-term retention. Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 15(1), 20-27.