Does it ever feel like all of your time creating content amounts to simply shouting into the void? Gone are the days when simply writing and publishing an astounding article attracted thousands clamoring to read it. (But really, was that ever a thing?)
In the cold, harsh reality of a content marketer, it’s never enough to just create amazing content. You also have to get that amazing content into the hands of the right people, at the right time, in a resource-efficient way. This is why a content marketing distribution plan is such a central piece of your strategy.
Every Strategy Has Its Limits
Before going any further, let’s quickly break down the two most common strategies in a content distribution plan: organic and paid.
Organic distribution is any distribution you’re not paying for. In my experience, it often ranges from the organic reach of guest posting content in online publications to search engine marketing to the social shares of people who love your content and can’t wait to pass it along.
Organic strategies do have their limits, though. Organic reach on social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram is getting tougher to achieve. Even if hundreds like and share your content, there’s still much more to be done to drive meaningful results.
Enter paid distribution. Like its organic counterpart, this strategy can include a lot of different tactics, but it frequently looks like Google AdWords spend and paid promotion on various social networks.
If organic distribution is the match that gets your content marketing fire going, paid distribution is the lighter fluid. And as with lighter fluid, you have to use it carefully. Without adequate direction or preparation, you could burn through your resources too quickly to keep the momentum going, and your whole strategy could suffer.
4 Steps to Building a Better Content Distribution Plan
Your content marketing program is only as valuable as its ability to influence positive action. Without a two-pronged distribution plan, your content is going to have a hard time reaching, let alone influencing, your audience. Here are four steps to building a distribution plan that works.
1. Know Your Audience Like the Back of Your Hand
It’s easy to fall into the trap of trying to reach as many people as humanly possible. This is especially true when social shares or article views are such low-hanging fruit, and you’re looking for something to quickly demonstrate ROI.
But imagine you’re physically mailing your content to potential customers. Are you going to pat yourself on the back just for sending out 1,000 mailers? Of course not.
Instead, focus on your target audience and what you know about them to determine where you distribute your content. Answer questions like, “Who are my clients?” “How did they learn about my company?” “What content did they interact with, and where did they discover and consume it?”
It sounds simple, but it’s critical: Distribute your content where your audience is and where they want to engage with your brand. My team has found success promoting content on LinkedIn because our audience of B2B marketers spends time on the platform and enjoys consuming our content there. Social media platforms are typically great about helping you dig deep into demographic data and target specific personas.
Distribution is about more than just reaching the right audience, though—it’s about reaching the right audience at the right time. For example, to get in front of our audience when they’re in the decision-making stage of their journey, we target specific keywords on AdWords.
Before you take another step in your plan, ensure you know exactly who your audience is, where they live online, and what they need to make their decisions.
2. Use Organic Distribution as a Litmus Test for Your Paid Promotion
Don’t jump headfirst into spending a ton of money on distributing or promoting every piece of content. For one thing, that approach will drain your budget in no time, and for another, it’s not effective.
Instead, distribute your content organically first. Track its performance for a couple of weeks, and then put some spend behind the pieces you’ve identified as high-performing. Determine what action you want people to take after reading your content, and promote the posts that drive the most people to take that action.
Similarly, monitor organic performance on social media, and pay to boost the posts with high engagement rates. Social networks like Facebook reward engagement, so promoting a post that is already doing well organically will save you money and keep your content working for you.
Think of your organic distribution as a test: It doesn’t really cost you anything extra, and you can gain insight into the topics and platforms that resonate most with your audience before you spend a dime on promotion.
Promoting a post that’s already doing well organically saves you money.
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3. But Promote Cornerstone Pieces Right Away
There is one exception to the organic-first rule. That’s when you’ve put in all the resources to develop a truly stellar piece of content. This piece of content is so highly valuable to your business and your audience that you’ll be building links to it and creating a lot of other content around it to offer even more value. We call this a cornerstone piece of content.
This cornerstone piece could be a comprehensive 2,000-word blog post on a topic in your industry. It could be a 20-page proprietary research report with data your audience would benefit from. Whatever shape it takes, you know when you’ve created a foundational asset. And when you have, put spend behind it right away.
This can help your content get some early traction, which can then catapult the organic distribution as well. And when the cornerstone piece performs well, the surrounding content that links to it can earn a performance boost, too.
4. Look Beyond Traditional Channels
Outside of go-to tactics like social and AdWords, you can test alternative methods such as paying a site to “host” content and contracting with a demand-generation service. My team has tried these tactics in the past, and they’ve worked well for promoting some of our whitepapers.
When a publication hosts a piece of your content, it promotes it on its site for a period of time and sends you a list of potential leads based on the readers who downloaded your content offer. Many online publications offer content-hosting services in their media kids, so identify the publications your audience visits and see if this service is an option.
You can also work with a demand-generation service to develop detailed targeting criteria. The service will then use those criteria to promote your cornerstone pieces of content to new audiences through outbound demand generation.
Take it all a step further by rethinking your organic tactics, too. Don’t rely on social shares alone to get content to your audience. Use your content for sales enablement, influencer outreach, and account-based marketing to get your work into the hands of the people you want to see it.
Don’t waste another minute shouting into the void. You can maximize the value of the amazing content you’re creating, improve the lives of your audience, and drive meaningful results for your company—and it all starts with a better content distribution plan.