Inbound marketing has exploded over the last several years, and with it has come an explosion of content across the web.
Since content is the driver of inbound’s success, it’s no surprise we’ve become swamped with it as companies rush to meet the highly informed customer on their own turf.
But inbound’s massive explosion has created a problem as ironic as it is uncomfortable for many content marketers to admit: As more content makes its way out there, it has become more difficult to get noticed amidst the noise.
The idea that you can simply create great content and wait for the right people to stumble upon it fails to take this problem into account.
Growing your audience now requires a promotional component that puts your headlines directly in front of readers who may be looking for answers all over the web.
“Posting to social” doesn’t cut it anymore
Once upon a time, “promoting your content” often amounted to publishing a few social posts with links to your new content pieces or offers.
The idea was, since your content is so good, your fans and followers will naturally share it within their social circles and grow your audience.
More often than not, however, the results are nothing to call home about. In reality, you might get a few "likes," and a retweet or two, but the needle doesn't move much when it comes to getting real reach.
Copyblogger came to terms with this problem itself and ended up shuttering their Facebook account altogether when they realized they were wasting time and money trying to connect with an audience that just wasn’t engaging.
Throwing something up on your company’s social pages and calling it day sets the bar too low on promotion efforts.
Imagine you’ve recorded a hit song and instead of contacting a record label to get it distributed to listeners, you simply record it on some CDs and hand it out to your friends.
Not the fastest way to fame and glory.
The point is, now that everyone is creating content, you have to work harder to get people to pay attention.
That means making your content visible in the places your target audience already goes to consume content—places they trust will give them the answers they’re looking for.
Integrating the three components of a successful content promotion strategy
So how do you actually promote your content these days?
In short, it’s about planning to get it out across the three major media categories brands have access to: owned, paid, and earned media.
Owned media are the channels for promotion you have total control over such as social media, email lists, your blog, and the company website itself.
I know I was kind of rough on social media a minute ago, but when done with some creativity as part of a larger promotion process, it can be a great way to leverage your fans and followers, so don’t go deleting your accounts, please.
The key here is to be unique and craft your messages around each platform separately.
Source: Search Engine Land
Trying to promote a new eBook? Cut it up and feed it to your social audience in more digestible snippets you can publish over a long period of time.
Similarly, make a list of the separate topics referenced in the eBook and plan out blog articles that dive deeper into the information your eBook only glosses over.
These are just a couple examples of ways to divide up a larger piece of content to entice followers who may only be interested in one specific subject or idea.
Want more ideas? Check out Jason Miller’s SlideShare presentation on all the ways to use “big rock” content pieces to fuel your campaigns.
More and more content marketers are starting to realize that the “if you build it, they will come” attitude toward marketing fails to hit the mark given the deafening level of noise on the web.
It’s easier than ever for people to find solutions to problems online these days, so naturally, readers aren’t working as hard to dig through pages of search engine results to find the content they’re looking for. Check the numbers if you don't believe me.
If you aren’t actively marketing your product or service, don’t assume your customers will pick up the slack and work harder to find it. It’s your job to get it in front of them.
How do you do that?
One way is to pay for smart exposure. Paid content promotion tools embed and feature your content alongside relevant articles found on trusted media sources and social feeds.
Social media promotion
Boosting Facebook posts with paid promotion or using Twitter’s promoted tweets tool can let you target a specific post to a specific audience even if they’ve never come across your brand before.
Traditional media promotion
When used right, Outbrain (and other tools like it) can be tremendously effective at delivering your content to an interested new audience.
It’s essentially an ad network built specifically to display your content as native advertisements on relevant blogs and media sites that already have a solid readership.
If your content is relevant and your offer is compelling, this can be an extremely effective top-of-funnel lead generation tool.
Okay, here’s the big one. Earned media is without a doubt the most valuable and unfortunately most difficult kind of exposure you can get.
In short, it’s the traffic you generate when a trusted third party source picks up your content and directs their audience to it as something they should check out themselves.
Readers are hesitant to trust what brands have to say because no matter how you spin it, savvy readers know there’s an intent to sell something, even if it’s thinly veiled behind an otherwise informational or educational piece of content.
However, when your content shows up to audiences through trusted voices on social media, blogs, or sites that aggregate and display noteworthy content, you can drive tremendous amounts of unique visitors with an active interest in what you have to say.
One of the best ways to achieve success here is to optimize your content so these trusted sources can easily pick it up and show their readers how cool it is.
That can be done in a few ways:
1. Optimize images for shareability
If your images are original, put a creative commons license on them and make them embeddable on other sites. This way bloggers, media sites and others are able to share slices of your content directly.
2. Integrate social media tools directly into the content itself
If your audience loves to spend time on Twitter, highlight short snippets of your content that stick out as particularly share-worthy and use Twitter Web Intents to make it extremely easy for readers to interact with the content directly via their social profiles.
3. Craft your content to resonate with a specific audience
If your paid promotional tools routinely make your content visible on a media site or blog you want to target specifically, start paying attention to what topics are typically covered there and create your content to reflect what a typical reader would like to read about on that website or blog.
It’s important to remember that these three essential media types aren’t separate from each other. Paid promotion tools can turn your owned media into earned media when your message resonates with the right audience. When you do achieve that cherished earned media, the other two can be used to boost that reach even higher.