Most marketing managers don't truly "get" the value of content distribution.
Here’s the reason. Becoming great at creating content is less stressful than excelling at strategic distribution, which requires a great deal of invisible work.
The creation process is usually based on “how much” gets done rather than the “actual results” you generate. Producing lots of content seems to be the easy way out.
Such a mindset leads to a perception that creating top-notch content is all you have to do to hit your goals. But what you end up with is a never-ending hamster wheel of content creation that keeps spinning.
Without a clear distribution strategy, most content will underperform.
A weak content distribution strategy is an overlooked threat
If your content is not placed in front of the right audience, it doesn’t get used because people can’t find it. Given that your potential for success often lives or dies by your distribution choices, you need to maximize your chances by making your content work harder.
Every potent content distribution strategy is supported and defined by three building blocks. These are core pillars that will help you build, not just hope for, a consistent audience-centric content distribution operation. Each pillar focuses on one crucial aspect of the puzzle.
Taken together, these building blocks will help you craft a high-level content distribution strategy, saving you the years of guesswork that beginners have to endure to see success. In the rest of this article, we explore how to put these pillars to good use (with a real-life example in the last section.) So, let’s take a closer look.
1. Audience - who you are trying to reach
Whoa - we said "distribution" in the headline of this post. But the reality is that if your content is not aligned with your audience interest, intent, or needs, your hard distribution work will go nowhere.
So before you start to think about creating content, crafting funnels, disrupting channels, and use fancy promotion tactics, spend some time researching your audience.
Without knowing their needs and beliefs, you risk developing content that gets in front of them for a second before they quickly scroll past.
Start with scanning popular social channels and gain a feel for what people are concerned about. The idea is to meet these people where they are with your content.
You could also collect stories that appeal to their sensitivities which will help you create marketing assets that are not dull or impersonal.
Focus on “audience intent”
Before evaluating your content distribution options, pay close attention to your audience and their intent. This should ideally happen before you start producing any content.
Most online audiences consume content with three goals:
They are researching
They are interested in your offering
They want to make a purchase
The “type of intent” plays a significant role in how they will consume the content. Someone who’s only researching might not consider a purchase. But then, if they are exploring to purchase, the intent and context are entirely different.
Avoid a "spray and pray" approach to content distribution.
If you want to avoid the spray-and-pray approach to content distribution, you have to reach the audience with the “right intent” who welcomes your content and is ready to move forward.
2. Distribute across multiple channels - but do it in the right way
And now for the star of the show - distribution!
If you’re only using the big four distribution channels - LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, and your newsletter - and sharing your posts organically, you’re missing out on tons of opportunities. That’s because you are starting from the assumption that your audience has made the effort to follow you on social media or subscribe to your newsletter.
In reality, you should start from almost the opposite assumption; that no one cares about your content until you put it under their nose in a channel, at a moment, and in a manner that makes them want to click and engage.
Let's take a look at what that means for different channels.
LinkedIn is the 800-pound gorilla of a B2B tech content distribution strategy. Here you can reach your target in their professional space, where they are already thinking about work and engaging with content related to work topics. But it is incredibly noisy. So to make sure your content is delivered to your target, there are a number of optimizations you can think about in addition to your organic posts.
You can multiply reach by informing your colleagues of your posts and ask them to share with a personal comment.
You can share in groups.
You can take advantage of sponsored posts to make sure your content is seen by the exact audience you want, right down to their location, language, and skills.
If you are doing a lead generation campaign, you can capture leads in LinkedIn without even asking people to click through to your website, therefore increasing your conversion rate.
On Twitter, you have limited space to write content, but you can add a .gif to expand on your point a little, make use of key hashtags, and highlight different points in your content over a series of tweets. Even better, you can summarize your key points by writing engaging story over a number of tweets, and linking back to your original content several times. And of course, you can experiment with sponsoring tweets. These do not offer the same granular targeting possibilities as LinkedIn, but can be effective for some businesses.
On Facebook, you may assume your target audience is less willing to engage with work-related content. However, Facebook is used for different things in different places. In Southeast Asia, for example, the line between LinkedIn for work and Facebook for leisure is not so clear-cut. Also, Facebook is a cost-effective platform to push content to a targeted audience. Though Facebook does not always deliver the quality of leads that LinkedIn offers, it is a mistake to underestimate its potential.
People go to Quora to as Questions or look for answers - hence the name. As most B2B tech companies operate in fairly specific, knowledge-intensive niches, Quora can be a rich source of targeted traffic. Also if offers a number of ways to reach your targeted audiences:
Through answering questions (pro tip: look for relevant questions with lots of people following and add value without being salesy)
Create a Quora Session with an executive to talk about trends and insights
Quora Spaces - to share content or even create one on your topic.
Reddit can be a fantastic platform to share content, but needs to be handled with the utmost care. The best thing is to build your own profile around topics you have a personal interest in, and very sparingly share work-related content where it is relevant. The nature of the platform and the way most sub-reddits have been set up mean there is very low tolerance for promotion and spam - which leads to high quality conversations around niche topics.
Beyond these topics, there are many other niche channels and platforms you can look at. If your product or its benefits can be shown in a visual way, Intagram and/or Pinterest could be effective. Perhaps an influential blogger in your niche who aggregates blog posts, trade publications, or link-sharing platforms such as Hacker News.
IMPORTANT: Avoid channel abuse
In a quest to enhance your reach, multiple touchpoints can prove to be counterproductive. User-generated content platforms like Quora and Reddit can help you reach the most niche audiences. So respect their guidelines for distributing your content (before you get ostracised.)
3. Get maximum mileage from repurposing content
So far we have looked at two pillars of successful content distribution; understanding your audience, and how to meet them across different channels.
But there is another massive, and mostly overlooked opportunity, to increase distribution reach for your content - repurposing.
Repurposing is the unofficial secret to getting mileage out of your content. The idea is simple. You create a core piece of content and reformat it so it can be used in multiple ways.
This probably is the best way to amplify your distribution efforts. For instance, you could easily repurpose your long-form blog post into a:
3-part email campaign
Repurposing content is the best way to maximize your content’s potential and entice your audience to learn more with a link to the original source. Most experienced marketers use this technique by creating content that distills multiple impactful ideas. When you create content with that ethos, it’s easy to relaunch the critical concepts differently.
A few practical examples
With strategic distribution as the end goal, you can improve the ROI and impact of your existing content.
Any piece of content that offers snippets of value, original research, and a fresh take on a complex topic is a great candidate. Here are a few more practical examples to get you started:
Expand on a point made in the blog post and reuse it with a new angle.
Plan a blog post series (part 1, part 2, e.g.) rather than creating single posts.
Can you describe the core idea in a different format?
Supplement your content with audio as appropriate.
Merge multiple content items into either an ebook, white paper, or both.
Experiment with previously successful content on new channels.
Follow these recycling techniques and extend the value of your existing assets. That’s how you make your best information even more useful. You will see a significant boost in your content distribution efforts if your content can be consumed in various ways.
Let’s put the three pillars to good use
Here’s how you can put these three pillars to good use. Imagine an experienced director or product, John, (audience), who works for a B2B tech firm, and wants to understand more about regulations and consumer attitudes in the knowledge-intensive niche you work in.
He starts by Googling and scanning social platforms (channels). Because you have an effective distribution strategy in place, your chances of popping up in his feed across Reddit, LinkedIn, Quora, Twitter, or even email have increased exponentially. Perhaps he clicks on a link through Twitter, reads your blog post, and then downloads your original key content on the topic - a white paper (repurposing).
Here’s a real-world example to draw inspiration from
Consider STR software, a company that develops B2B efficiency solutions. Most of their content marketing efforts revolve around creating and distributing educational content. The BI Publisher University is one such attempt to distribute the company’s insights and thought leadership on Oracle’s BI Publisher.
To attract organizations with big budgets and complex sales cycles, STR created BI Publisher University to collect leads and interest. BI Publisher University is gated to capture emails.
Once those emails were captured, STR began to use a standard email automation system to send leads back to their central resource. As the DMI blog noted, STR Software increased the quality of their leads and a 54% increase in web traffic—a great example of using an owned distribution channel like an email newsletter to attract high-quality leads.
Content distribution can be an arduous task, especially for smaller teams. Keep a balance between creating content and timely promotion—no point in producing loads of high-quality content that you can’t put in front of an audience. As they say, success is less about size than strategy.
When you’re competing against ad space and more featured snippets, you can’t just assume that traffic will come naturally. On the contrary, it’s strongly advised to be strategic and spend your time wisely, so you reach the right people on the right channel at the right time. Think through each of these pillars and build a solid support structure for your content distribution efforts.
Looking to brainstorm and build a B2B content distribution strategy that yields results?