Collaborative Content Marketing: 5 Powerful Ways to Upgrade Your Content

By Andy Crestodina

Question: What tactic improves the quality of your content, increases traffic and makes marketing way more fun?

Answer: Collaborative content marketing.

Think about it. It’s lonely to sit down, day after day, week after week, pumping out one article after another. It’s also boring. And a little sad.

Just think of all of the thousands of bloggers out there, sitting alone in a home office, fingers on the keyboard, tapping out words in 12-point Arial. Another day, another post.

Ok, I admit, that’s me right now.

But it’s not all I do. I also invite others into my writing and content. I reach out to people. I collaborate in my content marketing. And it’s my favorite part of the job.

I’m not just talking about collaborating with people inside the company (but yes, Amanda is a terrific editor and a key ingredient in all of our marketing). I’m talking about collaborating with people on the outside. Experts from around the world. Friends, influencers and allies.

Why it’s awesome to work with outside experts

Here are the benefits of getting other people involved in your content marketing process:

They make your content better.

Their wisdom, expertise and insights are gold. And a few of their nuggets can add serious value to your piece. It’s also a fresh voice that breaks up that monotonous thing you were about to publish.

“The connections you grow between others who are aligned around a common theme are internet gold too. You create a virtuous circle of support and grow a valuable network.”- Susan Noyes, Founder, Make It Better Media 

They can help drive traffic.

Your contributors have an audience too. And since they contributed to your piece, they are likely to share it. The technical term for this is ego bait. But it’s better to think of it this way.

[ctt template=”1″ link=”l9B3h” via=”yes” ]”An ally in creation is an ally in promotion.”[/ctt]

Sure, it might be ego bait, but when you start asking yourself ‘who has my NEXT customer as their CURRENT customer?’ you’ll find willing collaborators who have the power to grow your business,” – Andrew Davis,

They make marketing more fun.

And that’s important. Maybe the job hazards in our industry don’t involve forklift accidents. But there is a real risk of burnout. Let’s face it, it’s a lot of work to publish 2.5 million posts …every …single ….day!

So anything that adds fun is a good thing. And working with others keeps it interesting. That’s what friends are for.

Don’t forget to check the fun report in your Analytics!


So now we know the secret to loving our jobs while making better content with more traffic, let’s jump into the practical details.

“Collaboration gets you out from behind your computer to build relationships human-to-human. Don’t be shy. Remember what your mother taught you—Be polite, smile and mind your manners!”- Heidi Cohen,

Five ways to collaborate in content marketing

There are probably more than five, but here are the big ones that you’ll see most often. I’ll put these in order from the simple and quick to the full-on partnership.

1. The “Quote and Mention”

This one is more about content sharing than co-creation. And it’s very simple. While writing an article, you add a quote that was written by someone somewhere. The quote should strengthen the writing, adding insight or evidence.

Now when you publish the piece, you let them know that you quoted them with the hopes they will share it.

Often you let them know just by tagging them in a social post, so they’ll see it in their notifications.

“A good quote shares insight, anecdotes, instruction, or encouragement. Insight helps the reader understand something better. Anecdotes are personal stories or experiences. Instructions gives the reader next steps, and encouragement reassures the reader that they’ll be okay moving forward.”- Kadesha Smith, founder and CEO of CareContent

The downside is that they weren’t expecting to be mentioned, they aren’t really invested in the content, so they aren’t that likely to invest much effort into sharing it.

Still, you can make this more effective in a few ways.

  • Selecting people to quote based on the likelihood that they will share and the reach of their social followings
  • Being very gracious when mentioning them. Add a personal touch. Try email if appropriate.

“The Beatles knew it. So too did The Everly Brothers, Simon and Garfunkel and even Sonny and Cher. You make better music when you collaborate. Content marketers can apply the idea in so many ways to create more compelling content, expand their audience, and build meaningful relationships.” – Barry Feldman, Feldman Creative

2. The Contributor Quote

This one is my favorite. It’s a fast, friendly way to upgrade your content. As you write, watch for weak spots. Where did you make a claim that needs support? Where is your article boring?

These are where the quotes go. Next, you reach out to an expert and ask nicely for a contributor quote. It might be someone who is already in your network. That’s easy.

If the perfect contributor isn’t a friend yet, then you might want to let them get to know you a bit before asking for help. There are a lot of ways to connect to people online. If they’re a big time influencer, take it slow.

You’re a journalist. Contributors are your sources. If you can, add a contributor quote to every article. Make it one of your editorial guidelines.

Here are ways to upgrade the effectiveness of your contributor quotes:

  • Be specific and brief when reaching out. They’re busy! Tell them the ideal length and when you would need it.

“I know you’re a pro at interviews. I’m writing an article on that topic. Could you send me a few sentences with your top tip for interviewing? If you send it by Friday, I’ll work it into the piece. Thanks!”

  • Even better, share a draft of the article so they can see how and where their quote would fit in.
  • Add their face! It really brightens the place up.
  • Link back to them. Better yet, ask them where they would like you to link to. It helps give them a bit more value for their effort.

And how do you make it easy for them to share it once it’s live? We’ll get into that in just a minute.

“As a source, contributing to articles allows me to share my expertise and to expand my reach to new audiences. And for the article itself, the contributor quote adds a nice element of external perspective that might be missing otherwise.” – Kaleigh Moore, freelance writer

As with the “quote and mention” above, you can let your contributors know the post is live by tagging them in social media.

Here’s a screenshot of the content promotion champion, Jason Quey, using LinkedIn to mention the contributors to a collaborative piece of content.

3. The Expert Round Up

It’s a popular format for a good reason. Round ups work pretty well. They hit all three notes of quality, traffic and networking. They’re scannable like a list post and they’re filled with ego bait.

But there are two very different ways to do them.

  • Panel of Experts. A small group of experts answering a short set of questions on a common topic. The reader can see different but related points of view. The experts might agree, they might not. Since each is answering several questions, the reader goes deeper.
  • The Mega Roundup. Many people answering the same short question. Sometimes dozens or even a hundred people all contributing a short blurb.

As a reader, I’m biased. I prefer the expert panel. These mega roundups are getting so big, that I just scan through looking for familiar faces. I mean, this is a lot of people.

But the quality depends on the contributions and the curator’s ability to organize and add value. A good example is when we asked some of the top SEO experts to debunk the myth of duplicate content.

Here are ways to do better roundups:

  • Ask great questions: Try questions that others are unwilling to ask, or that elicit a personal story.
  • Pick real pros: A lot of “experts” give advice so common, it’s boring.
  • Edit down the contributions: If your expert sends you a great insight, but they start with 50 words of “throat clearing” language, cut it out.
  • Add your own insights: If you have a lot of contributions, combine them into groups, and add a paragraph summary with your your input.

Example: Robbie Richards ask 97 experts to list their top SEO tools. But he didn’t just post the list. He turned this mega-roundup into a survey. By ranking the top ten by the most “votes” he added value and insight.

4. The Deep Dive Interview

Here’s the opposite approach. Let’s pick one expert, slow down and really dig in…

Most podcasts and webinars are based on this format. So are TV talk shows and many live events. If you get the right expert, you’ll want to squeeze every drop of wisdom out of them.

Here are tips for better interviews:

  • Do your research up front. Are they a writer? Read their latest writing. Are they a podcaster? Give a listen. Be ready to jump into their passions. And if appropriate, congratulate them on something in their personal life.
  • Be quiet. It’s about them, not you. The interviewee should be doing 95% of the talking or writing.
  • Ask follow up questions. Q & A isn’t always a conversation. Real dialog means you listened to their answers and let things flow from there. Even if it’s an email interview, send a question, get an answer, then send a question based on their answer.

Example: Wine & Web is a monthly teaching event in our office here in Chicago. Each year, the last event is me interviewing Gini Dietrich in front of a digital fireplace. It’s an hour-long deep dive interview. Gini’s an expert on PR metrics, and we are lucky to get her insights!

5. The Guest Post

Think about it. Every guest post is a collaboration. It’s almost a transaction. The guest brings the content, and the blog brings the audience. But there’s more to it.

Note: If people often reach out to you to write for your blog, it’s likely that they are looking for another benefit. They want the SEO benefit of a link. They are using guest blogging to increase their domain authority. It’s not necessarily spammy or unethical, but it’s important to understand their motives.

“One of the biggest advantages to collaborating on content is gaining exposure and access to a new audience. It’s a great way to grow your own list of subscribers, gain new followers and promote high quality content you’ve used before on a new audience. In addition, collaborating with a new partner provides your own followers with high quality content you may not have been able to create yourself.” – Talia Wolf,

For better collaboration with your guest bloggers, try this:

  • Give them guidelines. If you have a guest blogger strategy, you’ll save time and confusion by documenting your requirements for guest contributors. Make your guest blogging guidelines a page on your site. Here’s ours.
  • Push for more value. I’m honored to say that I’ve been published on some of the best marketing blogs. They all have one thing in common. They all pushed me to make the content better. Add details. Add examples. Add value. The best blogs have relentless editors.
  • Help them share. Once it’s live you can send along an email with the following items to encourage and simplify their job in social promotion.
  • A shortened URL, using or another service. This allows you to track clicks and traffic, so you can see if they shared the article
  • A sample, pre-written tweet
  • …or better yet, a click-to-tweet link so they can share with one click
  • Links to any communities or groups where you are both active, with a suggestion to like or upvote the article there. (Reddit, Inbound, LinkedIn Groups, Facebook Groups, Google+ Communities, etc.)
  • Attach the featured image
  • A gentle nudge to share it on Facebook and LinkedIn from their personal accounts

There is no ‘I’ in Content Marketing

Well, actually there is. It’s at the end of the word marketing. But you get the idea.

Collaboration, and I sincerely believe this, is the biggest difference between good and great marketing. There’s just no substitute. We’ve shared a lot of advice on this blog over the last 10 years. This might be the best of it.

“Partnering in today’s marketing environment isn’t easy, but if you have the humility to believe that everyone’s audience is valuable and the confidence to share your audience with others, you’ll see the exponential benefits of content collaborating,” – Andrew Davis,

It’s a long road, content. This isn’t a sprint. So the old saying goes…

[ctt template=”1″ link=”G8e92″ via=”no” ]“If you want to go quickly, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”[/ctt]

If I knew who said that, I’d tag them when sharing this on social media.

There is more where this came from…

The best articles from this blog are available all in one place – our book. Now on it’s 6th edition.

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