If a tree falls in the forest, and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?
Sure, that little diddy has been around for centuries, and it's a bit trite. But how about the 2014 version:
If a blog post is published, but no one knows about it, is it really there?
As Gary Vaynerchuk famously said, “Content is King, but Distribution is Queen – and she runs the house.”
Creating incredible content is a vital piece of the inbound marketing puzzle, but no matter how awesome your content is, it has to be effectively distributed to make an impact. And this is an area where many content marketers fall short.
Fortunately, here are five tips for maximizing the reach of your content!
Create something shareable to begin with.
Of course, the definition of “shareable” is pretty ambiguous, and it's going to depend to a large extent on your target audience, the amount of content saturation in your industry or niche, and the channel(s) you're using for distribution.
But, generally speaking, shareable content is visually appealing and emotive.
Kevan Lee provided some great advice regarding content distribution on social media in his recent post, “How to Create a Social Media Marketing Plan From Scratch”:
“Image posts get more views, clicks, reshares, and likes than any other type of post. And it’s not even close. On Facebook, photos get 53% more likes, 104% more comments and 84% more clickthroughs on links than text-based posts.”
While social media is clearly the most popular and most powerful form of distribution for digital content, it's not the only possible channel. But even through other channels, such as print or live presentations, visuals and an effort to spark emotions in the audience are key to making your content memorable and shareable.
The more shareable your content is, the farther it's going to spread. Period.
Care for and feed your audience ahead of time.
It's too late to fire up an audience to help you spread your content after the content is already out there in their Twitter stream or Facebook timeline. If they don't know, like, or trust you when they see your post, they're going to pass it right by because it's just part of the noise.
On the other hand, if your audience are already raving fans of who you are and what you do, your content is going to jump out at them and almost force them to pass it along, therefore expanding your reach.
But this doesn't happen overnight. And it doesn't happen as a result of clever automation and “robot engagement”.
Building a community of fans who are eager to help you distribute your content far and wide takes a lot of time and effort. If you're just starting out, it's going to feel like an uphill battle, and you're going to get tired.
But it's so worth it when you succeed.
Again, whether you're distributing strictly via social media or you're using real-world channels like direct mail, concerts, seminars, or advertising, the basic rules of audience building apply:
- Be genuine
- Be unique
- Give more than you take
- Engage with humans beings, not numbers
Choose your distribution channels wisely.
Facebook may have over a billion people worldwide logging in on a regular basis. But that doesn't mean it's automatically the best distribution channel for your content. It may not be right for you at all.
Choosing channels for distribution – much like creating exceptional content to begin with – depends on your unique target audience.
If you're distributing content via social media, ask yourself:
- Which platforms do my audience members use most often?
- What do they expect when they're there?
- What might annoy them if they saw it on that site?
Facebook is a perfect example. While there are hundreds of millions of people accessing it worldwide, it's been notoriously difficult for most brands to get a really solid foothold and see a return on investment from their Facebook activity. So if you're distributing content for the purpose of eventually converting leads into customers, Facebook might be a tough channel. (Although you should keep your eyes on the new Facebook “Buy Button” - this could all change in a hurry!)
On the other hand, if your purpose in distributing your content is simply to entertain, to build support for a worthy cause, or to gain momentum behind an event, Facebook can be a hugely powerful part of your distribution strategy.
Take advantage of automation, but stay human.
Especially in reference to the distribution of digital content online, taking advantage of the apps and platforms available out there to automate the process just makes sense.
For example, blogging and content management platforms like HubSpot or WordPress have integrated options (or plugins) that will automatically generate tweets and status updates when you publish a blog post. If you're going to do this anyway, you may as well let the machine do it for you.
Other apps like Hootsuite and Buffer offer additional options for scheduling out social media messages to various platforms, and reviewing the resulting analytics so you can continue to improve your efforts.
Taking advantage of these kinds of automated options will improve your effectiveness and efficiency so you can effectively balance creating and distributing content along with any other responsibilities you have.
However, relying solely on social media automation as the end-all and be-all of your content distribution strategy is a big mistake. You see, the word “social” is in social media for a reason. While your audience has likely come to expect and accept a minimal amount of automation in the process, they'll be able to tell pretty quickly if everything you publish is robotic. They'll also be able to tell if you never bother to respond to questions, interact with other users, or share anything that doesn't filter through IFTTT.
Just be human. You're talking to other humans, not profiles, not avatars. So just be human.
No, firing off an automated tweet every hour on the hour is not the kind of consistent we're talking about.
Rather, be consistent in your tone, your unique voice, your overall messaging. Your audience will appreciate it because they'll get to know you and they'll know what to expect when they see one of your messages floating along in the stream. They'll also feel more comfortable passing your stuff along and recommending you to their friends, since they know what to expect.
Consistency also indicates it's going to take some time. And that's worth pointing out again.
A powerful content distribution strategy – whether online or offline – is going to take time to build and carry out effectively. So give it the time it deserves, and keep at it even when it's tough.
Eventually, you'll see the value of maximizing the reach of your content.
Lots of the suggestions here, such as "be human", are part of SPROUT Content's strategy to get brands to do business on a P2P level (person-to-person). Learn more in our latest ebook.