There is a myth that great content naturally rises to the top and “goes viral,” but like many myths, this one is not true. Viral hits are not just a function of extreme talent – in some cases, it doesn’t take any talent at all. You have to hit the right buttons and get in front of the correct audience in order to make a real impact.
Marketers already know this, but the data confirms it as well. In his book Contagious: Why Things Catch On, marketing professor Jonah Berger at the Wharton Business School explains the psychological dimensions of popular content and how it spreads. While there are certain tendencies that content producers need to keep in mind – a piece that elicits positive emotions goes viral more than that eliciting negative emotions, for instance – that’s only one part of the story.
If you’re a marketer using content to promote your business, you need to go beyond just writing copy and start thinking about how to ensure the right people see it.
Getting Noticed In a Segmented World
Of course, even the best content will be for naught if no one finds it. This is where strategic content distribution comes in.
Nowadays, the Web is a diverse and complex place with countless touch points that people access regularly. A user might wake up, check weather.com, look at Facebook, then browse The New York Times. At work, this same user might peruse LinkedIn and Slashdot, then after work sit on the couch and surf StumbleUpon or BuzzFeed or a dozen other sites for entertainment.
Audiences are more segmented than ever before, and there is no one place where you can always find your future customers. A sophisticated marketer understands how these touch points differ and how a variety of approaches are needed to reach that audience no matter where they engage online.
Get members of your target audience on the phone using a conference line. Record the interview, and transcribe your conversation into text so that you can analyze, synthesize and share your findings.
So how can a marketer actually communicate across this massive network to make sure their content is in front of the right eyeballs?
The Three Types of Channels
Rather than looking at each website or touch point individually, you can instead look at the different types of distribution channels, the vehicles that bring readers from wherever they are to your content.
1. Social Media
The amount of time that Americans spend on social media platforms is staggering, and they’re not just posting selfies or judging their so-called friends. Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn and Pinterest are the big names, but they are not the only social media channels increasingly used for promoting and consuming external content.
Traditionally marketers used social media to communicate directly with fans and customers, make announcements or build a following, but as more people go to these platforms for entertainment and information, marketers have a great opportunity to get in on the feed-ing frenzy themselves and throw their own content into the ring.
But no two social media channels are the same. Their user bases, purposes and targeting capabilities all differ greatly, and those differences need to be considered
2. Content Discovery
One way to think about today’s Web is that there’s social media, and then there’s everything else. People looking for information and entertainment are generally either on a social media platform or a publisher’s website.
Content discovery networks, like Outbrain or Taboola, present readers with other pieces of related content that might be of interest. Among other tactics, they do this through contextual targeting, which increases effectiveness by presenting your promoted piece of content to someone who is already reading about a similar topic on another site.
Content discovery channels are a great way to get in front on a huge and varied audience because of the unique publisher relationships each individual network offers. This means each provides different opportunities for presentation and strategy, to place your content in a variety of locations where your target audience will see it.
3. Native Advertising
The third distribution method is through native advertising channels, like Triplelift or Sharethrough.
Similar to content discovery, native ads present relevant content in ways that are much less intrusive and much more effective than traditional banner advertising. And each native ad channel has a unique set of publishers and different placement on publisher websites.
But unlike content discovery, native ads present relevant content within the feed, with the same look and feel of other materials on that publisher’s website.
A Holistic Approach to Paid Distribution
Even the best content creators need help to make sure their work is not only seen but also read and shared by the right audience. The first step is to understand the different types of channels available, which makes it possible to be more strategic about where and how you’re distributing content in such a segmented ecosystem. But to contact the right audience at scale, the key is to not put your eggs in one basket. Because people aren’t doggedly loyal to one publication or one social media platform, you need to have a diversified and flexible approach to paid distribution.
Using multiple types of channels – as well as multiple individual channels within each category – significantly amplifies your reach, enabling you to get in front of your audience everywhere. When you learn what opportunities are available to connect with users in all of the digital channels, you can see your results grow. Adding a diversified paid content distribution approach to your marketing strategy will invariably get your content noticed and help it spread like wildfire, by making sure it’s reaching the right audience at the right time in the right place.
Michael Foster is a full-time freelance writer and media analyst who has written on advertising and digital media for six years. He has worked for IAB, PulsePoint, Quantcast and several other major players in the marketing world.
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