14 1 / 2013

The Content Spectrum: The Basics of Content Distribution

In an earlier post, I introduced the Content Spectrum: four simple phases in your content operations that can help you make sense of the loose, frightening project of owning “content” for your business. Its goals are simple: be efficient, be thoughtful, and keep your and your company’s goals in mind the entire time.

Details on the first two steps, Planning and Production, can be found in separate posts here and here, respectively. 

In this post, I’m introducing the basics of Distribution, which is such an enormous topic (you can basically call it marketing). Therefore, I’ll tee up just a few of the must-know concepts that I’ve seen firsthand, and I encourage you to explore other marketing- and content-focused blogs for more details, as well as future posts here.

THE PURPOSE OF CONTENT IS NOT *PRODUCING* CONTENT

As I mentioned in the post prior to this one, the stage of the Content Spectrum known as Production is the stage that receives 99.9% of all attention and emotional energy, which is not at all surprising. After all, creating content requires creative people who love - um - creating. But regardless of our personal preferences and my abuse of the prior sentence, content creators hired to work under a brand must realize something rather intuitive but perhaps a little harsh:

The purpose of content used in business is to get the right content in front of the right people, at the right time. Yes, it needs to be great content that focuses on the consumer, and yes, we’re about to enter an era full of crappy content thanks to this field gaining buzz (ugh). But the end goal of most of our companies, as much as we all don’t like to admit it, is to make money, and so there’s more to using branded content than simply producing it.

(Side note #1: Please don’t twist my words here. You don’t want to go about creating low-quality content in high quantity, as that’s what contributes to the aforementioned crap. You should be thoughtful and focus on the user first, because ultimately this is all about getting a consumer to think highly of your brand and attach themselves emotionally. So don’t create tons of crappy content. We’re all counting on each other to create high quality stuff.)

(Side note #2: Just because the work you do includes the need to distribute content doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t also create for the sake of creating. You should absolutely produce media on the side just to exercise your brain, improve, and feel fulfilled. Making is a muscle, so creating content can be the perfect exercise regardless of reaching people afterwards. Need an outlet or ideas? Join Boston Content!)

CONTENT DISTRIBUTION 101

Again, your marketing counterparts will be heavily tasked with distributing your content, but there are some terms that everyone should know and keep in mind:

Content hub: All content needs to live somewhere, so be sure you establish a hub that you own and operate. A social outpost (more on that below) is totally fine to replicate that blog feel, but ultimately, your blog doesn’t fall under the Ts and Cs of a third party. You need a home base that you own.

Social outposts: Once you’ve got your home base set up, syndicate your content across your social channels. Start with one (e.g. LinkedIn) and get really good at it before stressing yourself out and spreading yourself too thin. There are dozens if not hundreds of social networks where your prospects/consumers live. Be great at one and build an effective community there, because social is more than just posting TO people, it’s interacting and listening. So: one social network to start.

Community building: Social outposts are great places to PUSH content. They’re even better to pull in consumers by being relevant, conversant, and human. Let’s say you select Twitter as your main social outpost. This means that, in addition to sending tweets linking to your content hub proactively, you should be searching for key terms using twitter.com/search and diving into that conversation. If I sold rugged, outdoor apparel, I’m searching for terms like “hiking” and “camping” and interacting like I would at a cocktail party, not at a pulpit. I’d put down the marketing bullhorn and instead mingle and offer others drinks, stories, and jokes…so to speak. 

"@MyCustomer Enjoy your hike in Maine! DEFINITELY check out #4 on our Top 10 Places to Hike in New England list: [link to my hub]"

Partnerships: Establishing partnerships with other blogs for guest posts and cross-posting, as well as collaborating with others on content production, can help you both grow reach and be more prolific.

Scheduling: Rolling up under both social outposts and partnerships is scheduling. Be sure you establish timelines for everything, similar to how you schedule your content production. Map resources and deadlines carefully: How many tweets per post? What times will they go out? When will your partner guest post each month? And so on…

GETTING STARTED

To get started, ask yourself one simple question: Can I/we create content every single day? If the answer is an emphatic YES, then get aggressive and establish your own hub like a blog, as well as  several social channels to start distributing content and interacting. But more often, your answer will be a NO, and so I’d encourage you to pick your spots. Create content when you can, and spend the rest of the time establishing partnerships with bigger reach than you. For most companies starting out, the goal is to produce content to distribute through high-impact channels, since you don’t have the production power to build an audience bit by bit just yet.

DISTRIBUTION DECISION TIME!

Creating is an act of self expression, so we’re all very tempted to create content all day, every day, without thinking about distribution. It’s less than fun for some creators, after all, to think of their projects as a vehicle to promote a business. But if we stick to our roots and realize that we can promote our brands with content that’s plain old awesome for consumers, then we’ll be in a great place in our own careers: a content creator who also understands how to effectively USE what you’ve created.

Good luck!