How old is content marketing?

According to Joe Pulizzi at the Content Marketing Institute, the world’s oldest “blog post” arguably dates back to 4200 BCE, when a cave painting was found that can be read as “6 ways a spear can save you from a wild boar.”

That painting probably offered life-saving information to the boar hunters of the day. Of course, a cave wall has a fraction of the reach today’s digital world does — yet too much content created today ends up in the Web equivalent of a cave because its publishers lack a content distribution plan.

According to Jodi Harris at CMI, 62 percent of the most successful content was backed by a content marketing plan, while only 16 percent of the least successful content had a marketing plan behind it.

“Without a content distribution strategy, even the most creative, innovative, and groundbreaking content may never be discovered,” Dawn Papandrea wrote in a 2016 article for NewsCred. This simple statement of fact is at the heart of the content distribution problem. It is also the reason a content distribution plan is essential.

Map the Territory

Papandrea recommends starting your content distribution planning process by asking the following questions:

  • Who is your audience?
  • Why do you want them to see your content?
  • How do they consume content?

One easy way to find answers to these questions is by building buyer personas, according to Marcia Riefer Johnston at CMI. Buyer personas help you get a sense of your target audience members as people, making it easier to predict the best ways to reach them.

This process can also help you identify previously unexplored channels for creating content. For instance, if your target audience spends a great deal of its time watching tutorials or TED Talks on YouTube, you’ll want to branch into video content, says Heidi Cohen.

Clare McDermott also recommends looking for ways to differentiate content early so that your message stands out. Differentiation is especially important when your product or service has a wide range of potential competitors.


Map Your Offerings

Just what are you distributing?

Content on scattershot topics will likely have a scattershot effect when it’s distributed. At a minimum, keeping track of its widely varying keywords and hashtags will dilute your focus and, ultimately, your brand.

Instead, Natasha Hoke, marketing manager at Upscope, recommends focusing content (both creation and distribution) around “topic clusters.” Topic clusters use a central page linked to several related content items, covering a single topic in depth with a set of closely related keywords, hashtags and similar organizational elements.

Betsy MacLeod at Blue Corona recommends an alternate strategy: Map the content you plan to distribute according to the “See, Think, Do, Care” model. Each work corresponds to a different stage in the buyer’s journey.

By targeting both the content and its distribution to the right stage for your audience, you can reach the right people in the right time at the right way for the results you seek.

Go Where the People Are

Your audience’s profile can help you narrow down the best types of content to develop and the best places to distribute it. But audience profiles won’t answer every question.

For instance: How should you balance paid and unpaid distribution channels?

Paid distribution channels include ad networks, paid social media and native advertising, all of which partner your company with a publisher to provide content for their audience, as Instapage notes.

Paid channels can be a good way to get a foot in the door when starting to distribute content, but it’s best to use money strategically while seeking to grow content in other ways, says Papandrea.

Otherwise, your numbers will drop dramatically every time a paid campaign ends.

Like paying other kids on the playground to be your friend, paying for content distribution can make you feel popular in the short term, but it doesn’t build relationships in the long term.

Fortunately, unpaid distribution options rule the Internet, with options abounding. Social media, genre-specific content platforms like YouTube and SlideShare, crowdsourcing audience participating, focusing on SEO, guest blogging and nurturing leads by distributing content directly to relevant business prospects are all ways to get noticed without spending cash on advertising, notes Stacy Jackson at ClearVoice.

These tactics can be remarkably easy. Consider one of our key distribution strategies: Targeting influencers. These are the people quoted by name in any piece of content. There are 14 such people in this post. When it goes live, we will reach out to them individually to let them know we have featured their thoughts in a piece of content. If they like what we’ve written, they are encouraged to share it. This type of PR-style outreach can be a very effective approach to reach and grow a broader audience.  

Further, consider distributing in-house first. James Haslam, content manager at Adjust, started distributing content within the young SaaS company by sending emails to everyone on the team. The result? Ten times more shares, on average, for each created piece. When content is in the hands of your staff, they can use it in highly targeted ways as they work with customers and contacts from day to day.


Social Media Distribution Plan: Why and How

Facebook’s ad page claims that the site hosts 900 million unique visitors each day. According to YouTube’s 2018 statistics, the site has 1.3 billion users, with 30 million visiting each day. Instagram’s blog boasts about its 500 million users, 300 million of whom check Instagram each day.

These major social channels are powerhouse places to distribute content — but what they offer in visibility, they lack in specificity. “The challenge for marketers is to understand how their audiences are viewing content on these platforms, and target them appropriately,” Thomas Barnes at Pixability tells us.

Once marketers find the right niche on the big sites, they “must also carefully monitor their campaigns and adjust throughout the flight toward the targeting parameters and creative assets that are resonating with their target audience,” he says.

It helps to get excited about branching out, too. “You can’t solely rely on Google or Facebook for all your traffic,” Sherry Bonelli writes at Search Engine Land. “You need to get traffic from a variety of sources: paid media, niche channels, online directories, user groups, social communities, forums, social media, and so on.”

Do More With Your Existing Content

Bonelli also recommends refreshing the content you already have. For instance, blog posts can be combined or converted into short ebooks, opening up distribution options and creating lead magnets for mailing lists and other distribution channels. Many blog posts also make great video scripts and infographic outlines.

Entrepreneur Myk Pono notes you can also recycle content without changing its genre. For instance, an article on the top three challenges faced by your customers’ companies in the coming year might contain two or three points that would each make their own article. With a bit of editing, the same article might thrive on multiple text-based channels.

When you do create new content, don’t hesitate to schedule multiple re-shares of the same or similar links, videos or images. “Given the fast-paced nature of our social feeds, hyping up your latest post multiple times is totally fair game,” Brent Barnhart writes at Sprout Social. “Simply switch up your captions, hashtags and imagery to keep from parroting yourself to your followers.”

Images by: rawpixel, Delfi de la Rua, Glenn Carstens-Peters

Casey Meehan