Having a smart distribution model is just as important as developing good content in the first place — it’s how you bring in more business. So I’ve put together a distribution strategy refresher. Here are the critical steps for getting your content where it needs to go.
Optimize for search and for mobile. This step is essential. According to one study, search contributes about a third of the traffic that websites receive. The principles of good search-engine optimization (SEO) must be applied to every piece of content as you create it, not just after-the-fact, in the metadata. Who is your audience? What answers are people looking for? What keywords will they use to find those answers? That’s what you need to know on the front end. You can certainly extend your reach by crafting sharp headlines, managing the on-page SEO, and building a diverse but relevant link portfolio — but you extend it all the more when the content itself follows best SEO practices. Also create content with mobile in mind. Think carefully about how the length of your message, the formatting, visual elements, and links will shape user experience. The better the experience, the more likely customers are to stick around and absorb the message.
Design a modular but cohesive content plan. You can increase your impact by creating “content modules” — small bits of content, each with a targeted purpose, that can be used in a variety of ways. For example, a blog post can be excerpted to provide social media status updates, included in your e-mail newsletter, syndicated on LinkedIn, and more. But each module should also plug into a clear narrative arc. In a screenplay or a novel, that arc follows the hero’s journey; in content marketing, you use it to guide the buyer’s journey. The typical arc goes from broad (for instance, who we are and why our brands can help solve people’s most urgent problems) to narrow (the differences that define a superior product or service). To build a cohesive user experience, map out how you’ll use these modules to tell your story from beginning to end.
Segment your audience. Use customer data to personalize your message. Is your email newsletter a blast to everyone who signed up for your list? Or do you tailor your distribution? The latter approach will yield much better results. You can send existing customers exclusive information about an upcoming feature release, for instance, and leads can receive content that’s designed to move them toward a purchase. Personalization — whether it’s based on interests, demographics, or where customers are in their journey — gets you noticed and persuades people to take action. The more relevant your content is to them, the more effective it will be. And by targeting certain outlets or platforms, such as Facebook for B2C sales and LinkedIn for B2B sales, you’ll increase your relevance even more.
Create relationships with branded publications and sites. The term “brand journalism” is a controversial one, but it nicely encapsulates where content creation has gone: using good writing and storytelling techniques to create high-quality marketing messages. As customers are exposed to your content — particularly through publications and websites they respect — they’ll learn more about your brand and begin to trust your authority in whatever space you’re playing in. To build relationships with other sites, try writing guest posts for niche or industry sites, again with a clear focus on relevance. These often have a relatively open contributor policy, in that you apply and are able to blog there, but each piece undergoes editorial vetting.
Blogging for sites that allow contributors to run columns on a case-by-case basis requires more persistence and even stronger writing, but such outlets generally have more engaged, more targeted, and often larger audiences, as well as more credibility. You can also connect with journalists and other bloggers, in hopes that they’ll link to your content in their own columns and posts. Sharing original research or creating an infographic that they can write about is a great example of this approach in action.
Pay for distribution. Paid distribution can work well for a variety of formats, including entire stories (newswire-style), headlines, videos, links, and social media updates. Tools such as Outbrain enable you to get your content onto major platforms in the form of “suggested posts” that appear below the site’s own content. Sponsored posts and status updates are also gaining in popularity. They’re essentially ads that allow you to exploit the extensive data that websites and social networks collect about their users.
Share with relevant communities. After publishing your content, share it in communities where it’s likely to be of interest. For example, if you’re writing about inbound marketing techniques, you might reach out to BizSugar.com, Inbound.org, and relevant subreddits on Reddit.com. Make choices based on relevance and value so you can generate interest and discussion in communities where your ideas will matter. You don’t want to spam any community.
Reach out to influencers in your market. The idea here is simple: you create content that’s potentially interesting to leading figures in your market and their audiences. As you’re compiling your list of influencers, think about the opportunities that you’re seeking. For instance, do you want them to review a book you’ve written? Be clear about how you’d like to benefit and what you can offer in return, such as a review of one of their books or a plug on your company blog. Once you’ve established these important connections, strengthen them by sharing influencers’ content through your channels and commenting on their blog posts and social updates. Focus on building relationships rather than conducting one-time transactions.
While a successful content strategy starts with publishing exceptional content, the strategic distribution of that content is the real key to positive ROI. Broaden your distribution capabilities by building relationships with media, understanding your audience, and tailoring your social media activities to humanize your content and reach your audience in a way that’s relevant to their interests.
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