By Ann Smarty published September 16, 2015

9 Free Tools to Co-Create Content

tools-cocreate-content-cover

Most brands actively produce content. Even with a solid SEO strategy and amazing content, you stand a good chance of getting lost in the crowd.

Content partnership may be an answer. By joining forces with industry experts to create content for your site, you can achieve many great goals:

  • Create more diverse and in-depth content (easier to find more angles and discover more marketing channels)
  • Produce more content (collaboration improves your productivity)
  • Build more exposure (co-writers and co-editors more willing to promote the piece since they participated)

These free platforms allow you to effectively collaborate with writers and editors to co-create content:

Co-write

  1. Google Drive

google-drive-screenshot-image 1

Real-time editing: Yes

One of the pioneers of real-time editing, Google Drive is a great tool to collaborate on any draft with as many contributors and editors as you see fit. While it may not be an original in the market, it has quickly become a stalwart that is considered the best, especially for teams who need to collaborate on a small or nonexistent budget.

The ability to see article versions (and go back to any), add notes and comments, and use the multitude of free collaboration apps makes it one of the best writing tools out there.

In addition to basic documents, you can make spreadsheets, upload files or folders, and use additional plug-ins to create advanced presentations that will wow anyone.

  1. Medium

medium-screenshot-image 2

Real-time editing: No

Medium launched with the slogan, “Don’t write alone,” which was innovative for the time. Never before had a social media network allowed its users to co-create updates.

Medium lets you share your draft with anyone and then approve or disapprove the changes. Editors of all approved content are added to the piece in the thanks section.

The benefits of sharing content this way go beyond just finding an editor for a piece. You are able to put out an idea into a community and gain insight from other perspectives. If you read many of the sensitive topics covered by others on the platform, it becomes obvious just how much third-party outlooks are needed in many instances.

I like how CEO of Medium Ev Williams put it:

…when it comes to publishing ideas and stories online, for most individuals, it’s a solitary venture. As I wrote in my first Welcome to Medium post, ‘It’s great that you can be a one-person media outlet, but it’d be even better if there were more ways you could work with others.’

  1. MyBlogU

myblogu-screenshot-image 3

Real-time editing: No

What is MyBlogU? It is a website that allows you to crowdsource your content. Go through available content for snippets, find others who would be willing to contribute to your site, or ask questions to get inside-industry expertise to add to your blog posts. These are only some of the features at your disposal. (Disclaimer: I am MyBlogU founder.)

MyBlogU recently added an articles feature that lets you upload your draft and invite an unlimited number of collaborators to add their input, comments, examples, links, etc.

You can invite MyBlogU members or your own friends (using the generated link). Collaborators can add snippets, new paragraphs, or comments. The author can approve or remove anything then grab a clean HTML code to publish the article. All the approved editors are notified of all statuses of the article (this way they are able to go ahead and help promote it).

Co-create presentations

  1. Prezi

prezi-screenshot-image 4Real-time editing: Yes

Sometimes only a visual will do in place of dry words. Presentations can get tricky, and you need to be able to really capture your audience’s attention while using the right visuals to convey your message.

Prezi is a cool presentation and storytelling software that uses motion, zoom, and spatial relationships to bring your ideas to life. Prezi presentations have a three-dimensional effect, and they visualize concepts and steps effectively. It’s freemium (basic service is free, advanced features require payment). The free version is pretty enough.

The free version comes with the ability to invite editors. Prezi Collaborate is an online collaboration feature that allows up to 10 people to co-edit one presentation in real time. I have found Prezi a great brainstorming tool, especially in discussing and visualizing the steps for a how-to piece. It’s also great for creating timelines and explaining concepts.

Co-curate

  1. Flipboard


flipboard-screenshot-image 5

Real-time editing: No

Content curation is a curiously ignored element to overall content marketing strategies. Having the right tool in your corner can make a big difference to your success.

Flipboard is one of the coolest curation tools of which I am aware. I love the concept of creating your own “magazines” based on one specific topic.

A good example of the type of awesome magazines you can co-curate is Online Civility, curated by Amy Vernon, Kami Huyse, Mickey Gomez, Tinu Abayomi-Paul, and Shireen Mitchell.

flipboard-example-image 6

Co-teach

  1. Udemy

udemy-screenshot-image 7

Real-time editing: No

A couple of years ago, prognosticators said online education was the way of the future. It is amazing to see just how true that prediction came to be.

Udemy is my favorite content repurposing platform. It lets me repackage my video tutorials and presentations into an online course (and thus consolidate my marketing material in one piece).

If you are looking for a platform to help you create something solid and evergreen, Udemy is the way to go. Plus, if you collaborate with the industry experts on a course, you could achieve more exposure by cross-promoting your common course once it goes live.

Bonus collaboration tools

  1. On-site: Chatwoo

Communication is crucial when building a trusting team that works best together. But with so many chat and collaboration tools out there, which one do you choose?

I have gone with Chatwoo.

While it’s not exactly a co-editing tool, Chatwoo is an awesome way to talk to your site readers (and let them talk to each other). I’ve been using it for collecting feedback and ideas from my readers.

chatwoo-screenshot-image 8

It’s the only chat software that I know comes absolutely free, and it has a huge community-building potential. I am using it to collaborate with my team (we’ve installed it to our private corporate blog). It’s one of the fastest and easiest ways to keep in touch with the group with whom you are co-creating content.

  1. Co-monitoring: Cyfe

cyfe-screenshot-image 9

Cyfe is a multipurpose freemium collaboration and project management platform that I use a lot. Each time a new article is live, I add a widget to monitor its shares within my Cyfe dashboard. I can add my team members so they are able to monitor, exchange notes, and be notified when anything needs our attention.

You can also import your editorial calendar into Cyfe and let your editors work with it from within a single Cyfe dashboard.

  1. Editorial: Trello

It’s amazing that such a great functionality can come for free. Trello is the team collaboration tool of my choice: It’s visual and can add as many collaborators as you need.

I use Trello a lot for working on the editorial calendar with my contributors. It’s great for maintaining a list of content ideas, setting deadlines, and reminding authors.

trello-screenshot-image 10

Do you feel inspired? Let’s collaborate to create something awesome.

Want to join the online education movement for content marketing? Start with two free e-courses as part of CMI’s collaborative, comprehensive Online Training & Certification Program, which contains over 19 hours of must-know strategies, tactics, and best practices, delivered by leading experts. Sign up today.

Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute

Please note: All tools included in our blog posts are suggested by authors, not the CMI editorial team. No one post can provide all relevant tools in the space. Feel free to include additional tools in the comments (from your company or ones that you have used).

Author: Ann Smarty

Ann Smarty is the brand and community manager at Internet Marketing Ninjas, founder of MyBlogU.com and co-founder of Viral Content Buzz . Ann is the regular contributor at Entrepreneur, Small Biz Trends, and other huge publications. Ann blogs about search and social media industry trends and content marketing tools. Please follow Ann on Twitter @seosmarty.

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  • Roxana Nasoi

    Medium was pretty amazing until they limited the submission to Collections, which I think killed it in a way. GoogleDrive still remains one of those tools that are amazing when you coordinate an entire team of writers. It’s just, so easy. And combined with Trello, somehow turns into the best system of content marketing execution.

    MyBlogU will always be the place where you can get that real feeling of people’s minds working together for the greater purpose. As well as a practical writer’s block solution, tehehe. 😀

    Thanks for the great article, Ann.

    • http://myblogguest.com/blog/ Ann Smarty

      Thanks for your kind words about MyBlogU, Roxana! We really love having you member of our community!

  • Elke Aronson Stein

    Hi Ann, how are you? I truly appreciated your post, thank you.
    I see lots of content professionals valuing content creation nowadays. How would you put content curation and repurposing at the same level of creation inside content strategy?

  • http://www.compukol.com/ Michael Cohn

    Hi Ann. We also heavily use Evernote as a collaboration and curation tool for our blog research, writing and planning. On the WordPress side we use the Edit Flow plugin for editorial calendar and workflow.

    • http://myblogguest.com/blog/ Ann Smarty

      Good tips! Thanks for stopping by to comment, Michael!

  • PeterJ42

    For me this fell article apart with the recommendation of Prezi. Flash has no place in any modern marketers armoury, being unreadable on many mobile and now even desktop devices. A sign of a company behind the times.
    I’ve also found Trello to be a work creator rather than remover. Much loved by those who love to write lists and force people to stick to rigid “not on the list” workflows and agendas.

    • http://myblogguest.com/blog/ Ann Smarty

      I actually use Prezi export function that creates a PDF version I can use elsewhere…

      As for Trello, it’s the matter of personal taste. I love it and it makes working with teams much easier…

    • http://GrowMap.com Gail Gardner

      I suspect you haven’t ever seen Trello used the way we use it to manage blog outreach, brand strategies, keyword research, teams of writers, etc. My clients love it because I can instantly give them copies of template boards full of resources that prompt them to collect all their media and assets.

      Instead of taking time away from accomplishing tasks to keep clients up to date, they can see in real time where every task is in the process. It also ensures that we’re all on the same page and nothing was lost in translation.

  • http://jurnid.com Jurnid

    Hi Ann, Jurnid is a tool also used for collaborative publishing and free portfolio blogs. Used by brands and freelancer writers alike.

    • http://myblogguest.com/blog/ Ann Smarty

      Thanks! This one is new to me! I’ll check it out!

      • http://jurnid.com Jurnid

        Thank you! I’m the founder, let me know if you have any questions.

  • http://www.seobooklab.com/ Ram Babu

    Nice share Smarty

  • http://kristihines.com/ Kristi Hines

    Great selection of tools Ann! :)

    • http://myblogguest.com/blog/ Ann Smarty

      Thanks for stopping by to comment, Kristi!

  • http://www.rightmixmarketing.com Tom Treanor

    Ann – great post and interesting ideas. We use flipboard for our magazines but great idea about co-curating.

    • http://myblogguest.com/blog/ Ann Smarty

      Yes! I liked that idea myself (didn’t think about the previously). It makes sense to team co-curation too! Group effort!

  • Sarah Hudson

    Hi Ann! What are your thoughts on Microsoft Sway? It is a free web based application that sounds similar to co-create. Also, I was wondering about the benefits of using Chatwoo over Skype. I am anxious to try out MyBlogU!

    • http://myblogguest.com/blog/ Ann Smarty

      I haven’t tried Microsoft Sway yet – I will, thanks, Sarah!
      Chatwoo is more open (no invites needed: Everyone can start a conversation at any time.

      Would love to see you join MyBlogU!!!

  • http://GrowMap.com Gail Gardner

    I didn’t know that Medium had draft links and had not heard of Chatwoo as far as I can remember. I use a plugin that allows me to show drafts of posts in my blog to anyone, but they can’t interact with the content.

    Trello is my favorite tool of all (but that’s no secret). Someday I’ll find the time to check out some of these others. Flipboard seems interesting and so does Chatwoo.

    • http://myblogguest.com/blog/ Ann Smarty

      I know, Gail! You are one inspiring Trello geek!

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  • https://www.cloudwok.com cloudwok

    We have created a service that you can use for facilitating crowdsourced content creation by collecting files from anyone directly into your Dropbox, Google Drive, etc. With https://www.cloudwok.com you can generate an upload website and share the link or embed the file-upload form into your own website (we have created two widgets that you can integrate into your website: https://github.com/cloudwok/file-upload-embed/ and https://wordpress.org/plugins/cloudwok-file-upload/). Files that are uploaded by your readers are directly transferred into your preferred cloud storage.

    Thereby, you can collect content from your community and work it into new articles, videos, etc. We have seen our users create YouTube videos from video clip submissions that they collected through our service, flower shops that let their customers send flower arrangement pictures through CloudWok, etc.

    Let me know what you think about using CloudWok for content marketing.

    • http://myblogguest.com/blog/ Ann Smarty

      Interesting! I’ll definitely look into your service!

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  • http://www.guestcrew.com/blog/ Uttoran Sen

    Hi Ann,

    Am a big fan of Trello, so far I have got my entire design and coding team on Trello and we collaborate all of our work via. Trello. Thanks to Gail, Trello has so many important boards for internet marketers – crowd sourcing and collaborating has become so much easier.

    I have used medium as a publishing platform but haven’t used the other features. I haven’t got started with MyBlogU yet, but will join it soon. I do roundup posts and interviews on my blogs and seems like MyBlogU can help me in the process.

    Interesting mention about Flipboard – it has been sending me traffic and I thought to look into it further but haven’t managed the time to do so yet.

    thanks,
    Uttoran Sen,

    • http://myblogguest.com/blog/ Ann Smarty

      Thanks for the comment, Uttoran! Flipboard is on my to-do list as well! I am definitely trying to find time to utilize it better… Looks like it can be a great team effort!

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  • http://www.farhanonline.com Farhan Fawzer

    Hi Anne,
    Additionally, I’d suggest to keep updated on the trending topics around when creating content.

    • http://myblogguest.com/blog/ Ann Smarty

      Exactly, trending content is a great way to get noticed!

  • Sabrina Kizzie

    Great tools! Thank you for sharing.

    • http://myblogguest.com/blog/ Ann Smarty

      Glad to know you liked the list, Sabrina!

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  • Hanna Cutts

    Great collection of tools. For our content creation I use combination of proofhub and google drive. Proofhub is helping me a lot to manage my team and share ideas with them thus this combination has increased my productivity by 4 folds.
    In my opinion this is the must try combination. 😉

    • http://myblogguest.com/blog/ Ann Smarty

      I haven’t tried Proofhub yet, Hanna! thanks for sharing! I’ll definitely check it out!

  • Ania

    Really useful tools. Content is the key to all. Thanks for sharing!

    • http://myblogguest.com/blog/ Ann Smarty

      That is very true, Ania!

  • http://smallwoodconsultingllc.com Andrew Smallwood

    Great list, I’ve used quite a few of those, but there are definitely some I need to try out. I’d actually never really heard of co-created content. I’d like to know your opinion on spun content.

    • http://myblogguest.com/blog/ Ann Smarty

      Hey Andrew, thanks! Glad to hear you found some new tools! My opinion on spun content is highly negative: I firmly believe that every piece of content should bring something new to the web. Spinning content is basically littering the web!

  • http://myblogguest.com/blog/ Ann Smarty

    Exactly! Co-creating brings more shares and hence more traffic and exposure! Thanks for the comment, Darren!