The best content in the world will be largely valueless if it isn’t read by the people who could, and should, be your customers. These are the people who pay the bills after all.
Distribution is perhaps the hardest piece of the content marketing puzzle, first because there’s a sea of noise to compete with and second because there is no 1-2-3 playbook that works every time.
Today’s marketers rely heavily on social media for content distribution. In B2B, this typically means LinkedIn and Google PPC (with some Facebook and Instagram for good measure).
And who can blame them? These are the microwave meals of marketing distribution: quick, easy, fuss-free and built for marketers to segment and reach audiences without hassle. Marketers are seduced by the promise of all the data these platforms have about their users (users are the real product after all) — from what we look at, to what we recommend, to how we vote.
The Point: Why This Matters
- Great work. Now distribute the thing. Content marketing requires distribution to be effective and reach the intended audience, which typically relies on social media.
- Test this, please. The use of personal data for advertising may become limited, creating an opportunity for marketers to test new methods and find more niche distribution channels. To determine new distribution channels, marketers can research their audience's online habits and preferences and explore options like advertorial opportunities, niche communities, and platforms like Reddit and Quora.
- Try a little common sense, too. Success in content distribution requires a combination of common sense, curiosity, and testing different media to determine what works best for a particular business.
Finding New Data Distribution Channels
But what happens when the data pipeline is switched off?
In December, Reuters reported that Meta (aka Facebook, Instagram, etc.), which has its European headquarters in Dublin, will only be able to run advertising based on personal data with users' consent, according to a confidential EU privacy watchdog decision.
What constitutes consent under General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and the UK’s Data Protection Act (DPA) will be a major bone of contention, of course. But, the direction of travel is increasingly looking like the data-farming-for-resale model might have a definite shelf-life. And this will apply to all the major platforms, not just Meta.
While plenty of marketers will be losing sleep over this, it doesn’t represent a marketing apocalypse. After all, marketers have always adapted and worked with the distribution channels available to them. We’re creative by nature.
In reality, this is a great opportunity to test new methods, get out of that distribution rut, and see what you might have been missing all along.
Without advertising based on personal data, distribution returns to what it has always been: a case of finding the media your audience consumes and putting your content there (whether through advertising, partnerships, PR, whatever).
Certainly, more detective work will be required to find the niche opportunities you’ve long overlooked. There isn’t a one-click programmatic fix. So let’s talk tactics.
Related Article: How to Develop a Content Creation Strategy
Start Where Your Audience Lives
Start by finding where your audience "lives" online. Of course there’s martech for that. Tools like SparkToro, an audience research tool flagging websites, social accounts and hashtags visited and used by your audience, can be helpful.
But it’s not the only way. You should also ask your existing customer base what content they enjoy and where they go to find it by creating a short, simple survey with a half decent incentive.
What podcasts do they listen to? What sites do they visit? What’s the go-to source of industry news among their team? Where do they go to ask questions and to network? Which groups do they engage with?
Armed with this knowledge, you can start finding and testing new routes to get in front of your target audience:
- Advertorial opportunities in (industry) publications is an obvious one.
- Industry media will also have paid ad opportunities in their newsletters and on their websites. It’s worth testing which are the most effective.
- Niche communities and associations will often have their own publishing arms that will be hungry for high-quality content.
- Platforms such as Reddit and Quora have engaged specialist groups (though be careful you understand how to approach them).
Related Article: Content Marketing: Develop Your Omnichannel Strategy in 9 Easy Steps
Marketers: Common Sense and Curiosity Will Take You Far
Going forward, marketers will need a healthy amount of common sense to lead them in the right direction but, mostly, bags of curiosity. Testing different media will be critical to success. And just because an "influencer" on LinkedIn says something, it doesn’t make it so.
For example, there’s a lot of talk doing the rounds that podcasts outperform blogs. But there is no real evidence for this. And the fact that we mainly hear this from podcasters should give us all cause to be skeptical.
When you stop to think about it, engaging with a 40-minute podcast requires far more effort than the three minutes it takes to devour a blog post.
You can’t feasibly listen to a podcast while working, many of us can’t hope to listen at home with families and pets requiring our undivided attention, and if you’re hoping to catch people on their commutes, good luck. Fewer people are commuting these days.
But, importantly, podcasts may absolutely outperform blogs and other content for your business. The only way to know for sure is to test them, review the results and do more of what works.
Content distribution is a science, and now is a great time to run experiments.
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