It was 2012, and Erika Jolly Brookes, the Vice President of Marketing for social media firm Vitrue Inc., needed to make a splash. She and her team had designed an incredible roll out for Vitrue’s new “Like can never replace love” campaign, which stressed the importance of building meaningful relationships rather than concentrating on “clicks.” But, before they could get anyone else excited, Erika knew she needed Vitrue’s employees to be excited about the campaign first.
Whatever Erika and her team decided to do, it would be new to employees. The entire campaign had been kept a secret within the marketing department. Team Vitrue decided to go big and hire a marching band to come to the company’s offices and start the roll out with a bang. The idea worked. The employees were pumped. And in one day, Vitrue hit all the bases. They distributed their roll out content across social; they ran ads in big-name publications; they did outreach to board members, shareholders, the media, and key influences – including analysts and customers. Erika’s team even sent fortune cookies to their influencers and got popsicle company King of Pops to make a special flavor for the roll out – which got people sharing the news about the campaign across their social media channels.
It took the Vitrue team 120 days to pull off the entire project, which also included an entire rebrand of the company, complete with a new logo and website. Erika’s team was clear on what their objective was; they were clear about their budget; and, they were clear about the channels they needed to hit. But, the team remained agile throughout the process, remaining open-minded about how to execute the roll out as they went along. In fact, the marching band idea didn’t come about until about a month before the launch! After the roll out, Vitrue caught the eye of Oracle, which bought them out later that year.
No matter the size and scope of the marketing project for Erika and her team, they typically look at four key channels for content marketing distribution:
1) Employee Engagement: Employees are big ambassadors for them. The team always puts together an employee-sharing program. Since the team is now part of a major corporation, there are now multiple departments that can be leveraged to encourage employee sharing.
2) Partners: Erika’s team has a fair number of partners, including people on Linkedin and other social channels, as well as paid advertising partners. These people are typically savvy and understand the power of sharing and influence-building.
3) Key influencers: The team incorporates key influencers, including thought leaders, into content to incentivize them to share. They also reach out to their pool of key influencers before the content is distributed to get them onboard with sharing it.
4) Customers: These strategies usually involve using a customer angle or customer story of some sort, like trying to illustrate how a customer solved a problem using Oracle’s services. This approach makes the customer interested in sharing the content, and it opens up the content to a broad new group that becomes an audience segment.
The difference between Erika’s team and a lot of other companies out there is her team’s emphasis on a great content marketing distribution strategy. According to SiriusDecisions, up to 70% of B2B marketing content goes unused Tweet this! . It doesn’t have to be this way. Content alone is not enough to have a great content marketing program – a business needs both great content and a solid distribution strategy. Here’s how you create content distribution that shows off that great content you’ve invested in.
Step 1: Content Marketing Distribution Channels
There are four types of distribution channels available to all content marketers.
Four Types of Content Marketing Distribution
1) Social Media Distribution: This is a big category. It includes Facebook, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Twitter, and Instagram–and more new platforms every day. It starts free, and you can “buy up” through sponsoring.
2) Traditional Media: Or, as we like to call it, kicking it old school. Traditional media include trade journals, television networks like CNN or Fox News, newspapers, and magazines. This is often also free–and particularly good if you are a thought leader or have client stories you can share.
3) Private Events & Newsletters: These events or opportunities within your industry include private newsletters, privately circulated media such as your own seminar, and webinars–all great places to distribute your content.
4) Conferences: These are public events where anyone can buy a ticket and go. The Consumer Electronics Show is a good example of a distribution channel within this category.
Based on your company and industry, you can figure out which of these strategies best applies to your business.
The first step in creating a distribution strategy for content marketing is to pick the distribution channels that make sense. Think about things like how social media or traditional media could play into your business. Start big picture, and progress from there. Within these different distribution streams in mind, there are three big buckets you can also pick from:
- unpaid, and
- owned distribution.
One isn’t necessarily better than the others, but they do yield different results and have different ROIs.
Paid distribution of content marketing helps a business be seen in its market and by its competition. It can also sometimes work faster than unpaid. Examples of paid distribution include advertorials, press releases, native newsletter, native social media, and native advertising. According to the Content Marketing Institute, “ on average, B2B marketers are using three paid advertising methods, with 80 percent using at least one Tweet this! . Search engine marketing (SEM) tops the list as the most used (and most effective).”
Meanwhile, unpaid content marketing has earned its way into the media and into social sharing, which can be even more exciting and worthwhile. Examples of unpaid distribution are media relations, influencer outreach, byline articles, and syndication.
Owned media is simply that: content your company owns. Owned media is comprised of email blasts that your business sends out to its email list and unpaid social media posts to your social media accounts. According to Chief Content Officer Magazine, “social content is the most powerful because (a.) research shows messages from peers are more impactful than messages directly from brands, and (b.) sharing increases reach while decreasing cost-per-impression.”
Ok, let’s get to work building your plan!
Step 2: Developing Your Plan of Attack
Your distribution strategy should be a plan that each quarter addresses the following action items:
· Understanding where is the company regarding its thought leadership within its industry
· Identifying how much money the company has to spend on distribution
· Determining how much a reader is worth: If you are very targeted and specific with your content marketing, a single reader might be worth a lot.
Your next question is likely, “how do I figure out the value of a reader?”
The Value of a Reader Tweet this!
Here’s how to start: Pick five or six keywords for your business or industry and look to see what a click is worth in Google.
That will give you a frame of reference as to the value of a single reader. Understanding this number will help to create a content marketing program with real impact, value, and return on investment.
According to the Content Marketing Institute’s 2015 report on budgets, benchmarks, and trends, only 21% of responding companies said they are successful in tracking their ROI from content marketing Tweet this! ; however, the number goes up to 35% for marketers who have a documented strategy. If a business can’t understand how much a reader is worth, it cannot have a good content marketing program Tweet this! or a good understanding of how to create and distribute content that resonates with identified targets.
Understanding the value of a reader then allows you to start analyzing the value of paid versus unpaid content marketing.
For example, let’s say you’ve identified a keyword that costs $16 per click, and your business knows it’s able to offer compelling content marketing on this word. Every click your business gets on this word without paying for it creates value, right? You can take the analysis one step further.
Imagine that your business hired a sharp industry writer who fully understands your industry and how to message on it, and she charges $75 per hour. Simple math tells us that if she works ten hours, she has created $750 in content. If her content can get you to the top of Google’s first page, the value is real. You can then compare the value of paying for the word versus paying the writer for the right content. If you have good content and insights, your business can be very competitive in terms of search, even if you aren’t paying top dollar.
Step 3: Finding the Balance between Developing Content & Buying Ads
Balancing between how much content to create versus how much to spend in ads is one of the biggest questions facing companies today. Most companies have leaned towards buying ads because it’s easy, and it can be managed. But for niche firms, startups, and small firms, buying ads can top out pretty quickly because there are only so many relevant eyeballs on the screen that can be purchased. Diminishing returns kicks in, and a business can’t continue to grow.
Here are some strategies around paid content distribution:
1) Buying social media posts: It’s certainly an option to purchase social media posts. Whether it’s boosting a post on Facebook or buying tweets on Twitter, this tactic will get your name in front of more people. But the key question is whether this tactic is right for your business? This is a question only you can answer.
For example, buying tweets on Twitter works well for some companies and not for others. Purchasing celebrity tweets rather than unaffiliated tweets can also be effective for some companies. Keep in mind that social media platforms are making it increasingly difficult for businesses to reach potential customers without paying for the opportunity. For example, Facebook announced in January 2015 that if marketers wanted to reach consumers on their platform, they needed to buy an ad.
Facebook wasn’t joking; by March, Valleywag reported organic reach on Facebook will be reduced to 1-2%. Proper metrics will tell you if this is a good tactic for your business, as metrics will provide insight into what’s working and what’s not working with both your content marketing and distribution strategy.
2) Distribution Testing: This tactic allows you to see what pages resonate. To engage in distribution testing, take a single page of content marketing and buy Google Adwords, a tweet, a Facebook post, send it out through email, put it in a newsletter–try the message in all your active channels. Track how the content got the most engagement. Invest in that method of engagement until the growth curve starts to flatten out.
3) Using Aggregator Sites: This is a big fad right now. Aggregator sites like Slideshare or YouTube provide a platform to post your content (like webinars, ebooks, and white papers) and get access to the aggregator’s audience.
Some companies will charge for this service and some don’t, so be very careful about approaching this type of site. Typically, your content will get a short-term bang–but will lose long-term pull because the aggregator is never going to promote your site and does not offer backlinks. These sites ultimately take eyes away from your pages. If you are going to use this type of site, you’ve got to make sure you’ve got the most compelling content on the page to make it worthwhile, since you are also competing against all the other content on the site for eyeballs – a very big bet to make, especially when up against companies that may have more resources. It’s usually the wrong bet to make if you are a startup or a small company, but get the answer for yourself: test it.
In summary, no matter which distribution strategies you use, your distribution strategy should be decoupled from your content development process. That way, you can understand where you’re getting ROI and know where to invest more–in content, distribution, or both. The processes that create success in content development are not the processes that create success in distribution. Great content fails because of distribution. Great distribution fails because of poor content. Uncoupling these two factors gives your content marketing program the best opportunity for full success and high ROI.