How to Create a Content Distribution Strategy
Many businesses start a blog with the best intentions, pouring their time and energy into producing really great content, only to be discouraged when no one comes along to read it. The truth is, publishing content is only half the battle; you need a content distribution strategy to help you circulate it in front of your target audience.
When done right, a content distribution strategy will help you build awareness for your brand, grow a loyal following, and increase engagement across all of your channels. That’s right: Content distribution isn’t just for your blog content, it also applies to videos, podcasts, eBooks, and any other piece of content you publish online.
So, how do you go about creating a distribution plan for your brand that gets your content out in front of the right audience? Let’s dive into the discussion and I’ll give you a step-by-step walkthrough (complete with proven tips and helpful tools) to help you pull it off.
What is content distribution?
Content distribution is the process of sharing and circulating your content through various mediums. Most often, people associate content distribution with social media channels. For instance, you might share a short summary of your latest blog post on Facebook and include a link so that those interested can read it in its entirety. However, social media is just one small part of a content distribution plan.
Among other things, your content distribution strategy will involve:
Timing when and where you share your content based on your audience’s communication preferences and engagement habits.
Repurposing content across various mediums, like converting podcast highlights into a short YouTube video.
Creating highly sharable elements to accompany your content, like an infographic that sums up interesting points from your latest case study.
Developing a strategy that covers all of this might sound like a lot of work, but once you establish when, where, and how to share your content, you’ll begin to see just how much value distribution can bring to your content marketing strategy as a whole. So, let’s take a closer look.
Content Distribution vs Syndication
If you’re curious about the difference between content syndication and content distribution, here’s a quick breakdown:
Distribution means disseminating your content online, like by sharing a link on Facebook or sending a link in an email. Distribution usually means you’re only sharing a snippet or preview of the content in hopes someone will click your link to read or watch it in full.
Syndication means re-publishing your content. Press releases are often syndicated, meaning the same press release might be published by 200 different news sites. On a small scale, you can syndicate your own content by re-publishing on platforms like Medium.
In truth, content syndication is often part of a solid distribution strategy. In fact, you’re going to learn later on how I suggest using Medium (a content syndication platform) to help boost your distribution efforts. On another note, content syndication traditionally came at a cost, and that brings up another important topic: The three main types of content distribution channels.
What are the 3 types of content distribution channels?
You can easily multiply your content marketing efforts just by using a variety of channels to help get your content seen by your audience. Of course, not all distribution tactics are free to use. Here’s a look at the three types of distribution platforms available.
Owned distribution channels are those that your brand controls, meaning that you can easily publish, share, and edit your content however you see fit. Here are some examples:
• Your company’s website and blog
• Your company’s social media pages
• Your email newsletter
Without getting into semantics (e.g., the cost of hosting), you can generally publish on your owned channels at no charge and with no limits. For instance, you can post as often as you want on your Facebook page and you’re never going to have to pay a dime.
Given the low- to no-cost nature of owned channels and the sheer amount of control your brand has, owned channels tend to sit at the core of a distribution strategy. However, owned channels alone may not be enough to get your content out there to the masses, especially if your brand is just starting out and you have a limited following to work with.
Earned distribution channels are owned by another entity, but they give your brand the opportunity to reach a wider audience, so long as you can “earn” the opportunity. Here are some common examples:
• An industry publication
• A customer’s social media page
• A partner company’s blog
Earned distribution won’t cost you a cent because, just as the name implies, your brand has to earn it. However, you’ll need to be sure that your content adheres to the third-party’s guidelines and they may edit it for length, style, or format. In some cases, you’ll have no say in how your content is presented (as is the case when a customer talks about your brand).
The lack of control is certainly a downside when it comes to earned distribution. However, earning distribution from the right person can do wonders for brand authority and awareness. Plus, it’s free!
Paid distribution can rapidly eat away at your content budget, especially if you aren’t using the right targeting and segmenting tools. Still, paid distribution is a valuable part of your long-term strategy for building brand awareness and driving organic traffic to your new content. Some examples of paid distribution include:
• Social media ads
• Influencer marketing
• Sponsored articles
Paid distribution channels run the gamut from pay-per-click (PPC) advertising, which may not feel like content distribution at all, to native ads on news sites that blend in with the day’s unpaid stories. Sometimes the goal of paid distribution is to drive traffic, as with PPC advertising. Other times, the goal is to earn social shares and engagement, as with social ads.
Ultimately, your business goals and audience will determine if, when, and where you use paid distribution tactics. In order to make the most of your budget, you need to take a calculated approach to content promotion so that you can drive the results you want.
How do you develop an effective content distribution strategy?
Casually sharing content on social media or in your email newsletter does not add up to a distribution strategy (but it’s a start). In order to create a distribution strategy, you need to consider your audience, evaluate the channels available to you, and decide how you will optimize your presentation for each channel you decide to target.
Let’s break the process down step-by-step so you can develop a content strategy that will actually support your goals.
1. Review Buyer Personas
A buyer persona is modeled after your ideal customer and sums up critical data in the form of an easy-to-digest profile. Most businesses have 2-3 personas to represent the biggest segments of their target market. For instance, a home decor brand might target professional interior designers as one persona and DIYers as another persona.
As far as how you can use your buyer personas to develop a content distribution strategy, here are some tips:
Tailor your content: Remember that not all of your personas will love all of your content. Always have a persona in mind when you’re creating a piece of content.
Be in the right place: Once you know which persona your content is targeting, reference the persona to see which social media platforms and channels they prefer before sharing your content.
Watch for results: After choosing your channels, keep an eye on comments, engagement metrics, and other data sources to guide how you present content to each persona (i.e., video vs infographic).
Keep improving: Create a feedback loop to make sure that, as you learn about your persona’s content consumption habits over time, you are updating the persona accordingly.
Many hours of research go into creating reliable buyer personas, and I’ve created an extensive guide on the topic as part of my series on the content framework I use for my clients. I encourage you to read it if you don’t have buyer personas created yet or if it’s been awhile since you made them.
2. Consider Business Goals
You can’t pursue digital marketing for very long (at least, not very successfully) unless you start every project with a thorough review of your business, marketing, and content goals. Sure, most people can toss out positive outcomes like, “I’m aiming for lead generation,” or “I need more conversions,” but those aren’t very actionable.
Well-defined goals will make the difference between campaigns that sometimes work and campaigns that consistently produce repeatable results. Once you have solid goals in place, you can use them to inform your content distribution strategy by:
Helping you decide where to start: Guiding the content creation process, ensuring that the content pieces you’re distributing actually align with what your personas want and need to see. For example, you might start repurposing more content into video content if increasing reach and engagement on YouTube is a top priority.
Making you focus on results: Helping you set distribution KPIs that support your overall marketing and business goals. For example, your business goals might reveal that earning social shares is more important than driving traffic. In this case, you would focus more on native content and use questions, tags, and polls to drive engagement on social media platforms.
If you haven’t already established key performance indicators (KPIs) at the content, marketing, and business level, I’ve got you covered. As part of my new year’s resolution to divulge my entire content framework, I’ve written an extensive guide on the topic and it’s filled with tons of actionable advice. If you feel like you’re working backwards, I’ve compiled every guide and template over here.
3. Set Guidelines
Choosing where you’re going to distribute your content is a major undertaking, but once you have that weight off your shoulders, you’re going to feel a lot more confident next time you share your content. Now, you’re going to dip your toes into standard operating procedures (SOPs), or something vaguely similar, to make sure that content distribution never conflicts with your brand.
Setting guidelines for each channel you intend to use for content distribution means:
Stay consistent: Lay out how the tone of your brand voice should be altered based on a given channel, topic, and target persona. For instance, while your brand might be youthful and bubbly, how do you approach serious topics or negative customer feedback without coming across as self-absorbed or uncaring?
Get specific: Reiterate the persona(s) your content will reach on each channel and how each persona prefers to communicate. Do they want a quick snapshot of stats and figures or do they want to join a witty conversation?
Test and experiment: Determine how the types of content you create can be altered to best fit the guidelines and native format for each channel. For instance, content being adapted for LinkedIn looks very different from the content you’ll use in email marketing.
If you’re going to delegate or outsource content distribution, establishing these guidelines is crucial for consistency, but it’s something you should pursue even if you plan to handle content distribution on your own. By writing out guidelines, you can create a repeatable process, making it easier for you to improve your distribution tactics over time. Plus, repeatable processes open the doors to automation down the road.
4. Establish a Routine
Oftentimes, content distribution does not happen on a schedule. Even if you’re publishing content on a routine basis, distribution can happen at any time, like when a new trending hashtag calls to mind a blog post you published a few months ago. However, you should plan to establish a routine to make it easier to work around your editorial calendar.
Here are some tips to keep in mind when designing a distribution workflow:
Get organized: Maintain an inventory of your content assets so that you can quickly search for relevant content whenever a trending hashtag or other sharing opportunity comes along. Continuing to distribute older content is a highly profitable tactic for driving engagement, especially when your content budget is limited.
Stick to a plan: Create a plan for distributing each piece of content before you publish it as this will help you drive traffic to your new content right out of the gate. For example, early planning means you can publish landing pages for your white papers before you even finish writing them, which can give you an SEO boost, help you start earning backlinks, and start generating new leads for your email list.
Do what counts: Set aside time for engaging with your audience, especially on social media. As your company grows larger, you might reach the point where you need to hire a part-time or full-time social media manager in order to keep up with comments, messages, and mentions.
As you grow accustomed to the process, you’ll find that content distribution doesn’t have to take hours out of your day. Plus, the better you get at utilizing your buyer personas and business goals to drive your distribution decisions, the more results you’ll see with each piece you distribute. Of course, the very last step is keeping your eyes on the right metrics so that you can see the results of your efforts as they unfold.
5. Analyze Your Results
Reviewing your reports in-depth takes time, but it’s the only way you’ll be able to keep improving your distribution strategy. Fortunately, once you have KPIs in place, it shouldn’t be that much work to pop in and see the results that matter to you.
Here’s some advice to get you started:
Get comfy: Learn your way around the reporting tools that matter the most to your KPIs, whether that’s Google Analytics or Facebook Ads Manager. Once the interface no longer feels foreign, you’ll find that routinely using the tools at your disposal is a lot less daunting and a lot more valuable.
Set benchmarks: Establish baselines from week to week and month to month. These baselines will form the foundation for setting new performance targets so that your business can constantly strive to outperform itself.
Adapt with time: Don’t be afraid to change your KPIs over time. Your content distribution KPIs should align with your overall marketing and business goals, so you should evaluate them every so often to make sure they still support the direction you’re trying to take. For instance, once your audience grows to a certain point, you might shift your focus from social shares to backlinks.
If you find that the reporting side of content distribution makes you weary, I encourage you to spend time educating yourself on the tools and metrics you’re working with. Chances are, once you start seeing real results from your distribution efforts, checking in on your progress will become one of your favorite things.
The Best Content Distribution Tools
While no tool can save you from the heavy lifting of digging into your buyer personas or setting KPIs, there are plenty of platforms that will help make the day-to-day process of sharing your content across channels that much easier. Here’s a look at my favorite content distribution tools along with some tips for using them.
Buffer is a social media toolkit that will help you plan, schedule, and manage content across the most popular social networks. If you plan to delve into social media content distribution, you’ll want to use a tool like Buffer so you don’t have to manually log in to every social network each time you want to share something.
Here are my favorite tips and features:
Snapshot results: Get a lightweight report of your social media analytics at a glance. While it won’t replace more in-depth analytics tools, it’s a handy summary.
Stay organized: Use labels and hotkeys to find the most important comments on your latest posts and quickly respond to them without leaving your Buffer dashboard.
Work together: Invite your team to collaborate so that those in charge of your content distribution strategy can draft, review, and approve posts.
Medium is a content publishing and syndication platform that can help you build a loyal following without having to conquer search engine rankings or complex algorithms. Every time you login, you’ll see a content feed consisting of the latest posts from the accounts, publications, and tags you follow, allowing you to effortlessly discover content from people and brands you’ve never heard of before, which is where the magic lies.
Here are some tips and ideas for using Medium:
Take your time: Focus on producing long-form, well-thought-out content that’s unique to the platform. Medium is designed for your thought leadership pieces that share personal stories, unique insights, and lots of valuable information.
Choose wisely: Syndicate your favorite long-form articles or excerpts from your white papers by re-publishing them on Medium. Content syndication will not effect your website’s SEO, as long as you follow these best practices.
Get social: Remember that Medium is a community and make the most of it. That means following other industry brands and personalities and interacting with their content. Start thought-provoking conversations about important topics and you’ll see people organically trickle back to your page and content.
PR Newswire or the popular alternative known as EIN Presswire are perfect examples of paid content distribution tools and they’re more accurately classified as content syndication tools. The purpose of these platforms is to help brands quickly spread company announcements, product launches, and industry news in front of a large audience.
Here’s some advice:
Make it count: Use content syndication tools like PR Newswire when you have an important press release that you want to circulate to major news sites. The content should be relevant to a general audience since there are no targeting capabilities.
Brag about it: Build upon the authority that comes along with getting published on news sites like NBC and CNN by adding an “As Seen On” or “Featured On” logo bar to your website. Many companies do this when they first launch to instantly improve brand perception.
Analyze it: Measure the traffic and mentions that result from your PR syndication campaigns, but don’t expect these tools to drive a lot of traffic. While they offer exposure to your headline, interaction with press releases is generally quite low when you send them to the masses.
If I’ve piqued your interest about content distribution tools that you can add to your tech stack, here are a few more that I recommend:
Edgar: If the idea of manually digging through your old content sounds like a pain, Edgar will save the day by automatically re-sharing your evergreen content at a regular pace.
Social Locker: If you’re struggling with earned distribution, locking high-value content (i.e., white papers) behind a social share button can help you get some.
MAVRCK: If your strategy includes working with social media influencers to get sponsored content in front of new audiences, MACRCK can help you pull it off.
Distribution Ideas for Different Content Types
Learning how to effectively repurpose your content can help you stretch your time and budget that much farther. Here are some ideas for distributing different types of content across various channels so that you can start brainstorming how you can multiply one piece of high-quality content into many valuable assets.
Infographics are highly sharable and they’re also incredibly versatile. You can easily take all of the following types of content and turn them into infographics for easy sharing:
Listicles: Turn a listicle into an infographic by showing an icon and short summary of each item on a list. Here’s a great example from Hubspot.
Case studies: Turn a case study regarding a specific partnership into an infographic to show off real-world results like this one from Chronus.
Guides and reports: Take a long-form guide and sum up the most important facts and figures to generate an infographic like Outbrain did here.
Videos are an extremely engaging type of content and you can create them in so many ways, whether you just record a talking head or use a software to create a kinetic typography video in a snap. Here are some ideas to repurpose your content into videos.
Podcasts: Take snippets from your latest podcast and turn them into short-form videos for TikTok, Facebook, and Instagram or upload a few minutes of highlights to YouTube.
Webinars: Cut highlights out of your last webinar and add captions and graphics to create multiple full-length videos covering different topics and questions.
Articles: Write an engaging summary of your articles and turn them into 15- to 60-second kinetic typography videos to share on social media.
Quotes are great to tweet on their own or you can turn them into a beautiful branded graphic to accompany posts on LinkedIn, Facebook, and other platforms. However you use quotes, here are some places where you can find inspiration for creating them:
Case studies: Pull a unique insight from a case study to highlight the measurable results your product has produced for a customer or a common challenge that clients in your industry are facing.
Podcasts: Grab a hot take from your podcast and turn it into quote that opens the doors for jokes or debate. Sharing quotes that reveal the personality of your brand and team members is a great way to foster authenticity, too.
Comments: Tap into the power of user-generated content by visiting your comments section along with online forums and question sites (like Quora) to come up with quotes about your industry, brand, and product.
Follow My Content Framework
I hope this thorough overview of my favorite content distribution tools and tactics has helped spark some ideas on how you can implement your own distribution strategy for your brand. And, if it all sounds like too much for you to take on, sit back and take a deep breath.
I work with a lot of SMBs who already feel completely overwhelmed by the mere thought of writing a blog post, so I know that hearing all of these steps can be stress-inducing, to say the least. However, I want to offer you some reassurance: Getting started is the hardest part!
Creating a distribution strategy is one of the final foundational elements you need to take care of before you’re ready to move forward with a supercharged content marketing plan. If you want to take it from the top or figure out the next best step, I encourage you to check out my content framework where I lay out the exact actions I take when helping new brands establish themselves as authorities in their industry.
Interested in learning more? Read the next guide on finding engaging content ideas or take a step back and learn how to develop your buyer personas so you know where and how to best reach your target audience.