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Case Study | Jul 8
Kiera Abbamonte on June 18, 2019 (last modified on June 20, 2019) • 23 minute read
Think about the last blog post you published: You probably spent a handful of hours writing, hit publish, maybe shared it on Twitter and LinkedIn, and called it a day.
That strategy may have worked back when content marketing was new and search engines were primitive. But today, the competition for eyeballs and attention is fierce—meaning it takes a lot more promotion to get the same mileage out of your content.
The change is shifting the way many of today’s content marketers approach content production and promotion. They’re creating fewer, but higher-quality pieces of content and investing a lot more in driving people to that content.
As Nicole Jackson of Foundation Marketing put it, “There’s so much content vying for the attention of your target audience, that it takes a lot more time, effort, and strategy to get your content seen than it once did.”
With the new emphasis on promotion, we were curious about how marketers distributing their content for maximum splash. To quell that curiosity, we talked to 73 content marketers to get their tips for distributing content.
While we heard a lot of different answers, a large portion of them were in agreement, ranking email and social media as their number one channel for content distribution. Here’s what else they had to say.
When it comes to distributing and promoting your content, some of the tips on our list take time and effort to accomplish. This isn’t one of them. Gareth O’Sullivan of Revealing Britain shared this incredibly easy tip with us: link to new content in your email signature.
“After publishing content, I include new trend-worthy content in my email signature and update it regularly with a tracking link,” O’Sullivan said. “Since I use my email every day and reply to emails constantly, this helps bring in additional traffic for free—especially since the content included is suitable to the topic of the emails.”
There are some communities in the marketing world where the general rule of thumb is that paid ads are for revenue-driving products and services. We heard from several marketers who’ve thrown that guidance out the window.
“If you’ve got the budget, the fastest way to drive traffic is through paid social media,” said Morgan Lathaen of Thumbprint.
As HealthJoy’s Rick Ramos pointed out, you spend a lot of time and money creating great content—so it makes sense to invest in that content’s success. “Running a content marketing strategy takes a lot of time and money,” Ramos explained. “Don’t be afraid to spend a bit to support your content. Using targeted ads to boost your distribution on social or a content distribution network can be well spent.”
Andrew Schutt of Schutt Media says they’ve seen success promoting content through Facebook Ads. “Take the best, most juicy snippet from your content, create an engaging image, and use a Facebook Ad to get it in front of your target audience,” Schutt advised. “If you’ve clearly and concisely conveyed the value of your content in the Facebook ad, then you’ll get plenty of clicks to your content.”
Editor’s note: Need a simplified way to see how different social media channels drive traffic to your website or blog? Download this free HubSpot (Social Media Tracking) dashboard to see sessions and contacts arising from each social network.
In addition to promoting content via social media ads, a few marketers recommended taking it a step further and nurturing retargeted audiences with content.
“Just like email marketing allows you to distribute new content to existing audience bases, promoting new content to remarketing audiences is a great way to nurture warm leads, keep your brand top of mind, and help get engagement rolling on newly published content,” said James Bowen of Ripen Digital.
“If you already have a Facebook pixel added to your website,” added Jackie Tihanyi of Fisher Unitech, “you can create audiences that include past blog and website visitors.” So your ad budget is spent building a deeper relationship with your existing audience.
On most of the social media and communication channels we use to promote content, algorithms judge organic content based on signals like likes, comments, and social shares. An easy way to get your content off to a good start on that front (even in a small way), is to call on your own personal network.
“Create easy ways for colleagues and friends to engage with your content to give it an initial boost,” recommended Perry Nalevka of Penguin Strategies. “You can even email or send them ready-made social media posts they can copy and paste to promote on their networks.”
On top of leveraging your personal network, the marketers we heard from suggested proactively building a network designed to promote each other’s content.
“You likely have ancillary partners, co-members of business councils, vendors, and business customers who are facing the same pain point as you: not enough eyeballs on their advertising,” said Nextiva’s Yaniv Masjedi.
“Approach these companies honestly, asking if they could use help with their marketing—just like you. Then propose that you each promote each other’s content.”
Alex Birkett of HubSpot relies on this promotion tactic, too. “When it comes to content distribution, the only thing I really worry about is building relationships with other prolific and excellent content creators and working with them.”
“I’m talking guest posts, quotes, citing their research and articles, etc.—giving value,” Birkett added. “Do this a lot, with good people, and when it comes to sharing your own content, you’ll have built a little crew that you can bank on.”
“Influencers have a large following. If they think your content’s great and share it, you’ll get a lot of eyes on your work,” said Alice Stevens of Best Company.
Influencer marketing has a bit of a mixed reputation in the marketing community, but we aren’t talking about capital-I influencers. For our purposes, influencers are just prominent figures in your industry or niche. They’re people who you and your colleagues admire, people who’ve built up authority, and people a considerable number of others look to for thought leadership.
While it can be an uphill battle to get in touch with influencers, Stevens recommends starting small. “Reaching out to ask a question or requesting a quote for an article you’re working on are great ways to get started.”
Adam Connell of Blogging Wizard even recommends bringing influencers in from the start, by collaborating on the ideation and creation phases, in addition to promotion.
“Influencers have direct access to your target audience,” Connell pointed out, “and when you involve them in the creation of your content, they’re more likely to share it with their audience.”
You can even take it a step further by teaming up with influencers on content production, too. “One way to maximize that exposure is to make content with an influencer in your industry,” said Casey Hill of Hill Gaming Company. “That content will not only be promoted by you, but also by the other person.”
In a similar vein, we heard from a lot of the marketers we spoke with about partnering up with other brands to both collaborate on content creation and cross-promote to each other’s audiences.
“Find like-minded brands targeting the same audience,” advised Paige Arnof-Fenn of Mavens & Moguls. “You can share existing content through newsletters, websites, social media, joint promotions, and more to expand your reach.”
Luke Wester of Miva told us they’ve created an entire network of brands related to their industry, that help them promote relevant content.
“To attract visitors that are most likely to become customers,” The Good’s David Hoos explained, “you have to go where your audience already hangs out. One of the best ways to do that is by partnering with non-competing brands that serve the same audience as you.”
Best Company’s Claire Shaner recommends collaborating on content creation, too. “When you collaborate with others, they’re likely to help you distribute that content on their social media, on their own site, and by sharing with their network.” Shaner said you can pitch low-stake collaborations by:
“Identify relevant groups to share your content with,” advised Jered Martin of OnePitch.
When we think about promotion, it’s easy to get caught up in trying to get as many eyes on your content as possible—so caught up that we forget about getting the right eyes.
“The best thing you can do is to research and target those niche communities where your content is most likely to thrive,” said Nicole Jackson of Foundation Marketing. “Rather than sharing your content on every single platform, choose a few that you know, whether from observance or experience or trial and error, will work.”
Mrs. Daaku Studio’s Chhavi Agarwal agreed, saying, “I love to share content on niche communities and forums like Quora, Reddit and Facebook groups. When I post it to a specific query, I tend to get followers and a few sales (not just traffic)—which is amazing!”
“Provide a few takeaways of what the reader can expect,” Martin suggested, “and link to the long form content.”
“The best trick I’ve found to get more eyeballs on your content is to convert it to different formats,” said Blogcast’s Miguel Piedrafita. “For example, a great blog post might make a great webinar or podcast episode. You’re producing three pieces of content with the work of one, and you’ll get 3x more engagement.”
Repurposing content for multiple formats and channels was one of the most common tips we heard. “Social media is so packed with posts that if you only share content once, most of your audience is going to miss your post,” explained Henri Pallonen of Avidly.
“Repurpose content into different formats (videos, images, graphs, infographics, tutorials, ebooks, whitepapers, etc.) and for multiple distribution channels (social media, email newsletter, Medium, LinkedIn, Quora, etc),” advised Samuel David of Smart Home Vault. “That way, your content enjoys increased reach and visibility.”
As for which channels to focus on, Persist Communications’ Grace Montealegre says it’s all about how your content performs across channels. “Create evergreen content for channels that have the highest engagement rates,” Montealegre said.
Bradley Thompson of Living the Canadian Dream shared their process for repurposing content:
“Share these different components on social media, and you’ll grow your reach because these are more shareable, diverse, and easier to consume,” Thompson explained.
Eric Melillo of COFORGE shared a similar process, saying, “We’ll take an existing blog post and break out every important topic into separate social media postings. So, a single 1200-word article can yield 30-40 social posts per social media channel.”
For Nex Gen Dynamics, Laura Wigodner takes a novel approach by turning blog posts into a Twitter thread. “Instead of simply resharing the link to social media, we repurpose a blog by incorporating all the main points into a Twitter thread, and include the link for people to read the full article,” Wigodner explained.
“This keeps people engaged and connected, and they’re more likely to click the link to read more.”
Editor’s note: Looking for a holistic view of your content’s performance across social media platforms? Download this free Social Networks Overview dashboard to see data from Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram in one simple dashboard.
“When producing content, be conscious of how easily it can be modified to fit and distributed across platforms. You don’t want to waste time and resources on content that can only be shared once,” said Kelsey Davis of Medicare Plan Finder.
In addition to repurposing content for different distribution channels, a few of the marketers we talked to emphasized creating content that’s inherently versatile—so it’s easy to repurpose across different formats.
Dan Christensen of Pest Rank recommends using visual content, and video in particular. “Visual media, in particular, causes high engagement. From there, you can promote it on YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, and embedded within your blog posts. One excellent piece of content can be amplified and effectively convert your audience across channels.”
Host Sorter’s Lewis Thomas agreed, noting, “Whenever we release a new blog post or article, we always create an accompanying YouTube video to support the article.”
“It’s all about making your customer feel like they’re the only one for you,” said Cristina Maria of Commusoft.
The key is to take advantage of everything modern email marketing solutions have to offer—including segmentation, triggered campaigns, and automated personalization.
“Although we’re an ecommerce store, we avoid using our email lists to promote sales and products,” said Jeff Neal of The Critter Depot. “Instead, we use our email lists to let previous customers know about useful pet care guides we recently published.”
Neal and team have seen some counterintuitive results from this strategy. “Our content gets more interaction from our email lists than any social media network. Plus, this strategy helps sustain the quality of our email list, because we’re using it to offer valuable information.”
One of the more common refranes we heard centered around doing some of the more un-scaleable promotion tactics—because the added effort can have an outsized effect on the success of your content.
Too often we think about distribution as a direct link or sharing of your content,” explained Bill Rice of Kaleidico. “But in a world where Google’s bots and AI are getting better, a mention of you or your brand is sufficient.”
“Search for keywords on LinkedIn, Facebook, or Instagram, and chime in on conversations that you’ve published relevant content on,” suggested Andrea Moxham of Horseshoe + Co.
“Visit question and answer sites,” B-SeenOnTop’s Donna Duncan recommended. “Look for people who are asking questions about the content you’ve just written. If your content will help shed some light on the issue they’re grappling with or, better yet, provide answers, then respond with a helpful suggestion and point them to your blog post for more details.”
Robert Baillieul of Lombardi Publishing explained why engaging in digital conversations can be such an effective promotional strategy:
“Providing in-depth answers while citing your blog posts increases the visibility of your blog and positions you as an authority in your industry. Q&A sites like Quora also help you understand the problems that trouble your audience, providing great fodder for future blog posts.”
G2’s Lauren Pope shared the phenomenal results they’ve seen from chiming in on Twitter chats, saying, “I was able to grow my Twitter following by 30.82% and my link click-throughs to content by 66.3%—just by building a community around my content through Twitter chats. It’s the perfect way to build your brand authority, your follower count, and your readership in one simple step.”
“If you’re not already syndicating your content,” said Madeline Osman of The Blogsmith, “consider this your call to action.”
“Websites with a built-in community can help your existing content reach a wider audience,” Osman added.
MARION Digital Marketing’s Tony Mastri says they’ve seen similar benefits from cross-posting their content on Medium. “We cross-publish using Medium’s ‘Import a story’ functionality, which creates a canonical link back to our site.”
“By distributing content on Medium,” Mastri explained, “we can tap into an entirely new audience that Medium has already worked hard to build. The more engagement our post receives within Medium, the more potential it has to reach people’s timelines or even make it into Medium’s email blasts.
At Databox, we can personally vouch for this strategy—and we have a lot of back-up from the marketers we heard from, too. “Link to experts in your article, then reach out to those experts on Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, or anywhere you share the article,” recommended Branko Kral of B King Digital.
Bernard May of National Positions added, “If you’re writing content that requires evidence or data points, you can use this to your advantage by linking to non-competitive, trusted, high authority sources.”
“We have a series that spotlights MarTech tools or marketers we respect,” said Penguin Strategies’ Nili Zaharony. “Once we hit publish, simply sharing with the featured marketer or company will grant us access to their networks.”
Tagging companies or individuals that you reference in content is a key part of making this distribution strategy work. After all, people need to know you’ve mentioned them and where—otherwise they can’t help your promote.
“Be sure to mention or tag any businesses you’ve mentioned in your content on social media,” noted Megan Mosley of Referral Rock. “This usually encourages people to share your content with their followers and audience, too. Meaning you can be seen by a larger crowd, gain brand awareness, and develop some trust among other audiences.”
While link building can be a more arduous process, marketers can’t deny that it works.
Julien Raby of Best Outdoor Items said they do manual link outreach for all of their solid, pillar content. “We will typically make a list of the top 200 pages and sites we’d like to get a link from. Then we manually contact each of them and present our new piece of content.”
Raby admits that link building doesn’t always have the highest rate of return percentage-wise, but it still makes a huge difference for search rankings. “We typically get 3% to 5% of the people we contact to link to us, which seriously helps with SEO,” Raby added.
“Make sure your content speaks to your niche audience,” said Ian Cogswell of Superior Honda. That effort doesn’t end when you hit publish.
“This involves more than solving a problem or answering a question for your prospective customers. It also means making sure your content is published on the correct mediums.”
“You want qualified traffic,” explained Talar Malakian of Salted Stone. “Where do your personas want to find the content you’ve produced? In what format? You can distribute in a million places, but if you’re not keeping your audience’s digital hang-outs in mind, your efforts won’t go very far.”
Kirky Galt of Creative Real Estate Copy recommends asking more questions about your audience, to help you determine where to find them online. Questions like:
As marketers, we sometimes forget the power of a simple ask. As Flow SEO’s Angela Ash puts it, “Sometimes, all it takes is a quick ‘Share with anyone you think might find this beneficial’ to nudge readers to click that Share button.”
“Don’t underestimate the power of just asking,” Ash added.
The key, when you make that ask, it to also make it radically easy for your audience to do what you’re asking for—to share your content. As a consumer of lots of web content myself, I’m always shocked when a blog post doesn’t include social sharing buttons, for example. But it isn’t as uncommon as it should be.
“The best thing you can do is to make sure that sharing your content is a hassle-free process, and that you’ve taken care to implement the systems and mechanisms that will facilitate new users entering into the discussion,” said Andrew McLoughlin of Colibri Digital Marketing.
One tip that Mark Armstrong of Mark Armstrong Illustration recently picked up is to use a tool like Click to Tweet. “Start by finding a catchy one-liner in your blog post—something ‘tweetable.’ A quote, perhaps, or a bit of advice.” Type that in on their website and Click to Tweet will generate a custom link for the tweet.
“Use the generated link to hyperlink the text in your blog post. When readers click on the link, the tweet is automatically added to their Twitter status box—all they have to do is click ‘Tweet,’” Armstrong explained.
Janice Wald of Mostly Blogging gave it to us straight, saying simply, “If you keep promoting on sites that don’t send you traffic, you’re wasting your time.”
Greg Schaff of Digetry shared that sentiment, adding that, “Of all the possible digital channels and options at your disposal, it’s critical that you identify and utilize the marketing channel that best reaches and resonates with your customer.”
“I have found that everyone who struggles to get more visits and leads from the content they produce is missing the required degree of channel focus,” Schaff said.
As for determining which distribution channels are carrying the load for your content, Wald suggests a familiar friend: Google Analytics. “Google Analytics is the best place to determine where your content distribution efforts are succeeding. I’m often surprised by what I see there, and if I don’t check, I don’t know where to boost or reduce my efforts.”
It turns out, getting the most out of your content distribution efforts is as much about when you share as it is about where you share. “Depending on your audience and the social media platform you’re using,” explained Alex Membrillo of Cardinal Healthcare Marketing, “certain days of the week and times of the day may garner the best engagement.”
Membrillo recommended schedule your content distribution on social media based on when your audience is most active on each platform. “For example, we always avoid Monday morning posts across the board. For LinkedIn, we’ve found that organic content performs best mid-week, either in the early morning or between 5-7pm in the evening.”
Oxygen Inbound’s Katya Lo added that it’s important to share content more than just once, too. “By distributing your content multiple times over time,” Lo said, “you boost the chances of it being seen and read.”
Lo cautioned that marketers also need to focus on changing up captions, hashtags, and images to avoid fatiguing audience members who see multiple posts. “You might even discover something new about your audience that way.”
Every member of your team and the broader organization has their own personal network. If you aren’t leveraging their sway within that network, you’re leaving as many as thousands of eyeballs on the table.
Shaye Smith of LeadG2 said it comes down to a 3-step process for leveraging your team’s collective network:
“Personal recommendations carry a lot more weight, so think of it like running a micro employee advocacy program,” advised Massive Kontent’s Jason Thibault. “Write your LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter updates announcing the new blog post, and distribute them via personal profiles rather than the company page.”
“To get more visits and leads with the content you produce, I recommend you spend 80% of your time promoting your content,” Jonathan Auffray of Growth Hackers told us.
Does that sound crazy? It shouldn’t. We’ve already talked about how fierce the competition for clicks and attention is these days. The best blog post in the world can be buried on Google’s page 22 if it isn’t promoted effectively.
To find success with content marketing then, more of your time needs to shift to promoting and distributing the content you create.
Auffray says they use the 80/20 rule—spending 20% of their time creating content, and 80% promoting it. “To promote your content, make sure you distribute it in all the channels where your target audience is. Start by sharing it on social media and with your email list. Then, find other channels where your audience is.”
Content distribution is as much about how targeted your audience is as it is about how big the audience is. One sure-fire way to get your content in front of a hyper-engaged audience is to weave it into the customer journey.
“Many SaaS websites have a demo page, for example, that collects potential customers’ contact information,” explained Samantha Kohn of AutoVerify. “Once the customer completes the lead form, there’s a fantastic opportunity for content marketers to assist the sales process and showcase subject-matter expertise and product value—before the customer even speaks with the sales team.”
If your customers reach a confirmation or thank you page after submitting their info, for example, Kohn recommends including a link to product-based content like a how-to or best practices for using the product guide.
“The audience is captive, and they’ve already told you they’re interested,” Kohn said. “Take the opportunity to show them your company’s expertise. You’ll get more eyeballs on the content, and add value to the lead.”
“You can create the most amazing content on the internet, but if you aren’t pitching it to the right people at the right time, it’s a wasted effort,” said Portent’s Hilary Thompson. “Relevance is the key.”
Thompson suggested a few ways to ensure your content is relevant when and where you aim to promote it:
“This is all key to a successful content promotion campaign,” Thompson said.
“Not to mention, any link that you earn from this coverage will be more relevant from an SEO perspective, too. Not only are you earning brand awareness and authority, but you’re driving the most engaged referral traffic, too, sending the right signals to search engines.”
The days of pushing out great content and watching the traffic fly in are behind us—but diving deeper into content distribution and promotion enables you to get more mileage out of the content you work so hard to bring to life.
It takes a little elbow grease at times, but with the tips we gathered from dozens of marketers, getting more eyes on your content is 100% within reach.
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