How to Craft a Content Distribution Strategy in 6 Steps

by Katy French

Content is only one part of a successful content marketing operation. Getting that content in front of people is the other part, but how do you do that effectively? With a strong content distribution strategy.

Too many brands think of content distribution as an afterthought—only considered once content is complete. But distribution is a crucial part of the content ecosystem. In many ways, it can make or break you, so it’s important to employ best practices and strengthen your content distribution strategy as much as possible before you launch your next campaign.

We’ve been in the content game for a decade, and in that time we’ve seen brands make the same distribution strategy mistakes over and over again. Luckily, we know how to help you avoid those traps. All you need is a simple roadmap (and a few insider tips) to come up with a distribution plan that will make the most impact.

How to Craft Your Content Distribution Strategy 

We know it’s easy to get overwhelmed when crafting a content distribution strategy. That’s why we’re all about starting with the basics, then expanding and tweaking as you go. Every content campaign helps you learn something new, so don’t get too stuck in the weeds. These are the core steps to take and things to know to start off on the right foot.

1) Know Your Goals

Content distribution strategy is an extension of your content strategy, executed in service of your larger brand goals. That means that you should:

  1. Know why you’re creating each piece of content.
  2. Know what you’re trying to achieve by creating it.

Understanding your goals influences the way you craft and execute your content distribution strategy at every level.

For example, if your goal is views on a new video, you want to think about the most cost-effective and quality ways to get those views. Is it on YouTube? Facebook? A native ad service like Tout or Outbrain? Everything will depend on what you’re trying to achieve.

2) Know Your KPIs

Once you know your goals you can identify your KPIs, which will tell you if your content distribution strategy is working. As you choose your KPIs, ensure that you have the infrastructure and planning in place:

  • Know how frequently you’re going to measure your content.
  • Set up Google Analytics and UTM codes to measure the results of your content distribution strategy.
  • Make sure pixels are set up correctly on landing pages and content.
  • Understand how you are tracking or scoring leads through your content marketing automation software.
  • Know your keywords and SEO strategy for owned content.

With your KPIs outlined, you can then identify related metrics. Check out our guide to choose the right metrics for your content distribution strategy, which breaks down metrics for every stage of the buyer’s journey. You can also see our breakdown of the social metrics you’ll probably want to use, too.

3) Know Who You’re Trying to Reach 

If you want to reach the right people, you need an intimate understanding of who they are, how they behave, and what they’re interested in. With this info, you can better tailor your content distribution strategy to reach more people on the right channels and at the right time.

If you don’t have a grasp on who you’re targeting, use our handy guide to create marketing personas that detail your ideal customers’ demographic, psychographic, and behavioral attributes.

4) Know Your Channels

In addition to knowing who you’re trying to reach, you need to know the best way to reach them. Consider the best channels. Where are your personas most likely to consume information? Where do they spend the most time? What publications garner their trust? Whether it’s targeting industry experts, a job group on LinkedIn, or teens on Snapchat, knowing these channels will give you the best chance of being seen.

A note: Some channels are better suited for certain types of content (e.g., video, interactive, motion graphics, infographics)—something to consider during the ideation phase.

Content distribution strategy share infographic

5) Make Your Distribution Plan

The most successful distribution plan integrates a healthy mix of owned, earned, and paid strategies, each of which serve a specific purpose. As you prepare your content distribution strategy, remember to consider your larger goals, as well as:

  • Budget: How much can you allocate for each channel? How can you make the most impact with your designated spend?
  • Timeline: How long is your content lifecycle? How quickly do you need to spend?

Once you have that locked, you can approach each channel strategically.

Tips for Owned Distribution

Your owned properties include everything that belongs to you: your site, blog, email newsletter, social media, etc. Owned distribution is great because it’s free and entirely under your control.

Tips to improve your owned promotion:

  • Publish content on your platforms first. All of your distribution efforts should point back to your owned properties to give you the most traffic. (According to a Nielsen study, consumers who were exposed to a brand’s website bought almost 3X more than consumers who only saw a brand’s digital ad.)
  • Time your publishing. Month, day, hour, minute, and device—all these factors come into play when publishing and promoting your work. 
    • Twitter: Tweet your core piece of content 3-4 times the first day.
    • Facebook: Post once on the first day of distribution.
    • Blog: According to the Science of Social Timing and our own data, the optimal time to publish a post is Monday and Thursday at 9:30 a.m. EST, with most blogs being read at around 11 a.m EST. If you’re able to produce high-quality content more frequently, experiment with different posting times.
    • Email subscribers: Notify them once by email after a blog post has gone live, a day or so after the piece has gone live. (This gives some lead time to get the social share numbers up, which increases the chances that others will share.)
  • Optimize content for SEO. Everything from image names, to headlines, to meta descriptions should be optimized for SEO keywords, as well as social sharing. Here’s a quick primer on optimizing your blog for content distribution.
  • Use microcontent to expand content lifespan. With a divisible content strategy, you can create multiple assets from one core piece of content. Whether these are juicy stats from an article or minigraphics from a larger infographic, this microcontent will act as a teaser to keep your larger story front and center. 

How-to-create-a-divisible-content-distribution-strategyFind out more about how microcontent can benefit you.

Tips for Earned Distribution

Earned media is content that is picked up, featured, republished, or shared by another party (think publications, journalists, social media influencers, etc.). This is great because it increases your credibility, expands your reach, and validates your message. It’s also free.

Tips to increase earned media exposure:

  • Make friends before you need them. The day or week before you want media coverage is not the time to accost journalists or influencers. That approach will often backfire. Build your network before you need it. Read your preferred journalist’s content, follow influencers, and engage in a sincere way to show you care about the quality content they are creating.
  • Do your homework. Not every story will resonate with every journalist or publication. Before pitching, read a dozen articles written by the journalist to make sure your story is the right fit. This will save you—and your contact—valuable time and energy.
  • Sell a story, not your brand. Journalists and influencers don’t care about your product or service; they care about educating and engaging their followers. Learn how to communicate why the content you are sharing with them is relevant or ties into an existing story. For influencers, try a soft pitch; send a few bullet points and ask if they’d like to hear more.
  • Offer an exclusive. Publishers want content their competitors don’t have. Offering an exclusive will give them a fresh story, while increasing the likelihood they’ll feature your content in the future.
  • Consider custom content. Tailoring a specific piece of content for a specific group greatly increases your chance of placement. Reach out to publishers in advance to pitch a unique topic or visual content idea. This shows you care about what they want (because you should) and helps nurture your relationship. We call this strategy Publication-Tailored Content. (Here’s a detailed breakdown of how we do it.)

For more ideas, take a look at these tips on how to promote content like a content agency.

Tips for Paid Distribution

Paid media is purchased, guaranteed placement across a number of platforms. Paid allows you to highly target people and increase your reach. Depending on your particular goals and budget, there are a few types of paid placement you can pursue:

  1. Social ads (FB, Instagram, Twitter, etc.): As social sites continue to figure out how to monetize their business, your organic company posts are seen by less and less people. Boosting a post on social can greatly increase your chances of visibility, and almost all social sites now have paid amplification options (think sponsored tweets, promoted pins, etc.).Just make sure you are prioritizing sites that will help you target the right people. Tip: If you already have a solid social following (1,000+ followers), try promoted content (sponsored tweets, Facebook post boosts, etc.). If you still need to grow your following, start out by boosting your page to get more visibility.
  2. Native ads and sponsored posts: Native ads are a way to connect with a built-in audience by providing quality content that could already be on a site, making it feel like a “native” or natural experience. Most large publications have some level of sponsored post or native ad offerings. (Vox Media and Forbes do these well.)Note: There are also some great platforms, such as Nativo and Sharethrough, that can help automate and scale these efforts, as well as report on results. Experiment with both platforms and single-publisher media buys to see what works best for you.
  3. Content discovery and traffic builders: In the past few years, companies such as Outbrain, Tout, and Taboola have gained popularity due to their ability to help you recommend your own content on top sites. They’re similar to suggested posts, but they feature your content on more established sites or networks.

Regardless of the paid options you pursue, there are a few things to keep in mind.

  • Consider ad copy and content: Depending on the type of content you’re sharing and where you plan to share it, there is a good chance that you will need to create additional ad copy and creative. Make sure you have a plan to develop this additional content, and are aware of the specs needed for different channels.  
  • Test ads before you spend everything. Use a small portion of your budget to test ads. This will help you see what ad copy/creative works on different channels before you go all in. Know how much budget you will allocate into testing periods before you start.

While paid is more costly, the good thing is that you have some control (as opposed to earned media) and can see whether or not things are working quickly.

6) Refine Your Strategy

No content distribution strategy is set in stone. There are always ways to refine, improve, and upgrade. Naturally, metrics play a huge role in giving you the right insights.

  • Revisit your metrics every 6 months. You want to make sure you’re tracking the right things, so take a look at not just what your metrics are saying but if they’re telling you what you really need to know.
  • Experiment more. Try reaching out to new publications, producing new content formats, and trying different ways to engage people. Not everything will work, but fortune favors the bold.

Make Sure Your Content Is Up to Par

Even if you’re securing great placement, you’ll hit a wall if your content isn’t resonating with people. Make sure your team is creating the best content possible to make your job easier. A few ways to do that:

Above all, don’t get overwhelmed. If you need a little extra perspective, just holler at us.

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