In the 1980s classic Field of Dreams, Kevin Costner’s character hears the whisper of a voice saying, “If you build it, he will come.” And much like that mystical voice in the film there are many voices telling us to build content and await the results. While you won’t have the ghosts of baseball legends visiting anytime soon, you do have the starting point for more traffic. To really see the results, though, it takes a well-planned, well-executed content distribution strategy.
Getting your content into the hands of your well-defined audience takes effort. It also requires using the three pillars of content distribution strategy to succeed.
1. Owned media: All of the channels where you control the publishing. This includes your website, email, your social media feeds, publications you produce, your sales collateral, etc. Because of the number of channels available it’s important to tailor your communication on each. Make sure that you communicate in the way the recipient is expecting. For example, share images and 140 character Tweets on Twitter, but make sure you have more details when posting to LinkedIn.
2. Earned media: This is distribution across all channels that you “earn” through providing value. Many people think of traditional PR where you’ve provided a news outlet the material for a great story. This can be extended to social channels, other blogs and websites, third-party publications, third-party emails/newsletters, search engine traffic, etc.With every aspect of earned media the goal is to offer something of value to someone who would benefit from sharing it to their existing audience. A few points to consider in your earned media strategy are:
- SEO (Search Engine Optimization) is critical to getting exposure for your content on search engines.
- Audience activation refers to building ways to engage your audience to share and promote your content.
- Influencer marketing involves building relationships with people or companies that are already talking to the audience you want to reach. In doing so you’re able to introduce them to select content that they can share with their audience.
3. Paid media: this is traditional advertising, but it takes on a new twist with content promotion. Paid media can include traditional display advertisements on websites as well as social media ads, paid content placement, native advertising, and others. This will be covered in more detail below.
Set Goals and Establish a Baseline
Before you start creating content, identify what results you want to achieve. Are you looking for site visits, blog registrations, sales leads, or something else? When you know your goal you can work backward to figure out the reach you need for your content (or total audience size).
Next you will want to establish what your owned and earned media channels can provide in terms of audience. How many people will read an email if you send it? How many clicks will you get from social media? Do you have a partner that shares your content with their customers? Having a good estimate will let you know what to expect from the content you’ve worked hard to produce.
At the heart of setting the baseline is the key to digital advertising: effective analytics. If you’re missing information, or can’t measure against your goals, take the time to set up ways to track this information. If you’re not already using something like Google Analytics or one of the various paid analytics platforms, now is the time to look into adding this to the mix.
This will give you great information on where people are coming from when visiting your site, what they do once they’re on the site, and even some demographics and categories of interest. If you can’t measure your success, you won’t be able to prove the Return on Investment (ROI) of your efforts.
Use Paid Media to Reach Your Targets
Knowing your organic reach before you publish can help you decide on the paid channels you will need to meet your goals. If you need 100 blog registrations and you believe you can get 70 organically, now you need a plan to make up the other 30.
Paid media is a big topic and has many moving parts to consider, including whether this is something to embark on by yourself or if you need a partner to help develop and run effective campaigns. For content, there are a number of advertising platforms to consider. But it might be easiest to look at paid content distribution from companies like Outbrain and Taboola as well as social advertising platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
Social ads take a fair amount of work to plan, set up, and maintain, so make sure to plan a good amount of time for this effort. You’ll need ads, a targeting strategy, and someone to watch all of the numbers. With any paid media it’s easy to spend without getting a return. To avoid this, keep an eye on not just how many people see or click on your ad, but whether or not they take the action you’re intending.
With paid content distribution you pay for each click on your ad to get your content in front of your target audience. The platform then optimizes when, where, and to whom your ad presented. The great thing is that they take very little work to set up. But make sure you keep an eye on cost and performance, just as with other paid ads.
Measure and Adjust
Publishing new content is exciting. Quickly you’ll see if you get clicks from your Twitter audience or if that blogger you’ve been talking to for weeks is willing to share this piece. As you start to see traffic coming in, look for how everything is performing. Are you starting to reach the goal you set?
If something isn’t working, try to figure out what is causing it and identify steps to correct quickly. With something like SEO you won’t know for some time, but if you aren’t getting social shares can you add something that encourages sharing? If you’re looking for signups is your form in a good place and are you making that request clear to the user?
While we all want to generate as much traffic to our content with free tactics as possible, it’s usually not enough to meet aggressive goals. It often requires investing in reaching new audiences. As you build your owned channels, and expand your earned reach through new partnerships or more engaged followers, you can adjust your paid distribution accordingly. Having more organic traffic can help you scale back your investment, but if you have a strong ROI, it might be time to increase your paid reach to surpass your original goals. Either way, knowing how these three content distribution strategies work together provides you the tools to develop a strong distribution plan.
Great content can be very effective in building rapport with potential customers and moving them through a buying process as a part of their overall customer journey. Unfortunately, just developing the content is not enough. You will need an effective, well-planned strategy for getting your content in front of your target audience. Reaching that audience is just a matter of balancing the three pillars discussed here to meet your goals.