Lean Writing Method: How To Expand Short-Form Content Into Longer-Form Assets

Dickie Bush & Nicolas Cole

Ultimate Guide Table of Contents

Today, we're going to introduce you to the lean writing method that allows you to expand upon content topics that have performed well - over and over again. This prevents you from having to constantly come up with new content ideas.

And, perhaps most importantly, it allows you to become an expert on one given thing - and own the audience that comes with it.

Let's face it. The hardest part about writing online is getting started.

But once you start writing, and building your library, you start to build momentum.

You write...

Which creates data points...

Which reveals patterns (what works/what doesn’t)...

Which shows you where there are opportunities to double-down...

Which makes it easy to write the next thing...

And the next thing...

And so on...

That’s the game of Digital Writing in a nutshell.

And what most people don’t understand is that being a prolific writer/creator really isn’t about being “brilliant” day after day after day. It’s about testing ideas in small ways, and then doubling-down and expanding those ideas when you see an opportunity to do so.

So today, we’re going to give you an easy framework that will help you do that.

Let’s dive in!

The Lean Writing Method Explained

We call this Lean Writing.

Lean content writing is where you take a piece of short-form content and expand it into a longer-form asset.

Ideally, this would be something that gained a bit of traction/showed you that readers were interested in this sort of topic. But you can learn how to make viral content in our blog if you haven't accomplished this yet.

And if that longer-form asset works, you can use the Lean Writing framework again and expand it into an even longer-form asset. This is how you go from...

Here’s how it works:

Step 1: Start Small

Small is relative.

For some ideas, you can test them with something as small as a Tweet.

For other ideas, “small” might be an Atomic Essay or a LinkedIn post.

Or even a Twitter Thread.

The idea is to test your idea in a small, highly actionable way—IN PUBLIC—before over-investing in it. The mistake writers make is setting out to write a long-form Ultimate Guide, or even an entire book, before gathering data and validating whether readers are even interested in that idea, to begin with.

Here’s an example of a short tweet to validate a very simple idea:

Step 2: Expand “What Works”

When you publish something that “works” (even if it’s a small amount of data), the next-best thing you can do is expand that piece of content into something longer.

Because you already know this IDEA resonates with readers.

Now, you just need to give them more of it!

  • A Tweet can become an Atomic Essay
  • An Atomic Essay can become a Twitter Thread
  • A Twitter Thread can become a long-form LinkedIn post
  • A long-form LinkedIn post can become an Ultimate Guide
  • An Ultimate Guide can become a 7-day free email course
  • A 7-day free email course can become a paid eBook
  • A paid eBook can become an online course
  • An online course can become a business

Here’s an example of the exact same IDEA (from the original Tweet above) expanded into an Atomic Essay:

Step 3: Expand “What Works” Again & Again

You can repeat this process as many times as you’d like.

The point is: you do not want to over-invest time, energy, and resources into ideas you haven’t validated first. So, before you set out to write a 60,000-word book, see if you can test some of your core ideas in a few 50-word Tweets. Or before you set out to build an entire online course, wouldn’t it be great to know which one of your “course module” ideas people really resonated with vs which ones they completely ignore?

This is Lean Writing 101.

And the more you can use data to inform your writing decisions, the more successful you’ll be, the faster you’ll grow, and the less likely you are to ever experience this thing other writers call “Writer’s Block.”

Because there’s no such thing as Writer’s Block when data is telling you what’s worth writing next. But if you don't have a starting point, you can check out our article on how to generate content ideas on autopilot.

Parting Thoughts on Lean Writing

We recommend you leverage the power of lean content marketing yourself and see what you've been missing out on. Your writing process is about to get a whole lot easier now that you know about lean writing!

If you want to educate yourself further on how to get better at your craft, we have more in-depth resources for you in our blog. You can learn how to write a Twitter thread to expand your one tweet into something more long-form for your target audience. We also encourage you to learn about how to write a Twitter bio to help you along your journey to building an audience.

And while lean content marketing works great on Twitter, you can really use this writing framework anywhere. Learn about other ways to get paid to freelance write online - like Quora monetization, writing on Medium, how to use Substack, or even how to write an ebook and make money!

Otherwise, there's only one thing left to do - start using the lean content marketing technique yourself to make the most of your writing skills! Creating content on a consistent basis is about to get much easier for you. 

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