Why Content Distribution Does Not Make a Content Marketing Strategy (and what does)

February 15, 2013

We hear a lot about content marketing these days, and rightfully so, if you are in the publishing world, content marketing is a key strategy for success. According to a study by the Content Marketing Institute, 91% of Business-to-Business (B2B) and 86% of Business-to-Consumer (B2C) marketers are using content marketing. A similar study from Outbrain supports these stats as well. Content Marketing is a primary method for effective audience engagement and lead generation.

We also hear terms like content distribution and content curation.  And what we find is that sometimes these three terms related to content get treated like the same thing. But they aren’t.

What is Content Marketing?

It might help to remind us of what it isn’t.  It’s not direct advertising or even a sales pitch.

Content marketing’s purpose is to attract customers and convert prospects, but it takes a more subtle approach—by creating and sharing branded content that interests customers and fosters a relationship of trust through education and entertainment that relates to what you sell.

The idea is that you provide useful content that keeps you in front of your customers and prospective customers; they are enticed not only to visit your website, but return again and again, to view and purchase what you have to offer. You want to meet your audience’s needs to create lead generation opportunities.

Sounds Easy, Right?

By now, you know that content marketing is not that easy. You have to create quality content that sets you apart from the myriad of content out there—and it has to be optimized, appropriately. Google continuously works to surface the best content, so you have to understand and abide by the rules, if you want to give yourself a fighting chance.  It’s not just about writing meaningful, relevant content targeted to your audience (user analysis and context awareness), it’s also about optimizing for organic, endemic and paid distribution. Oh yeah, and it’s about creating A LOT of quality content, too.

Content Curation

Content curation is taking content from one place and adding it to your website, then enriching it with your own opinions or insights. Forbes shares some great tips on curation as a marketing tool.  Curation has its place in building your brand and your online community, but it isn’t content marketing.

Content Distribution

Content distribution, on the other hand, is a key part of content marketing, but it isn’t the whole potato. Content Distribution is getting that quality, optimized, original content to the masses. And you use a variety of methods to do so, like social sharing tools and platforms, email, RSS, subscriptions and organic and paid search optimization.

It’s possible that people blur the lines between content distribution and content marketing because social media has become such a forceful presence for distributing content, and content distribution is part of content marketing. 

Let’s look at Superbowl 2013 as an illustration. 11.5 million comments were shared during the course of the game over social media. In the final three minutes of the game, there was an average of 10,000 Tweets (alone) per second.

Statistics like these make you pay attention, but it’s also important to put them in context. The Realtime Report recently shared some information from a study by Optify:

When looking at the top three social media platforms (Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn) Twitter is by far (9-1), more effective in lead generation for BtoB marketers. Yet, “social media still generates less than 5% of overall traffic and leads to B2B websites.”

That’s pretty interesting, but there are also statistics that point to the potential of social media: 96% of marketers utilize these platforms to distribute their content. We can recognize the potential of social media for content distribution, but this is a good reminder that it should be a part of your distribution plan, not the whole thing—and you have to have the content to begin with.

4 Things that Make a Content Marketing Strategy

First and foremost, strong content. We can’t emphasize this enough.  Strong content has a few key characteristics.

  • Relevant and targeted to your audience
  • Tied to current events and news
  • Frequent and fresh
  • Visual (video leads in this realm)
  • Optimized
  • Innovative

Diverse Delivery and Distribution. Yes, you must create quality content first, but you must activate it and amplify it (in the words of Mashable), if you want to fully      execute your content marketing. We talked about how, above.

Design: Your content must incorporate intuitive, eye-catching and responsive design in delivery as well as on your site.

  • Utilize new ad formats and sponsored posts
  • Make multimedia a consistent part of your structure.

Know the rules. It’s not just about knowing rules for SEO and following Google’s guidelines. It’s also about knowing the rules of content engagement: When is sharing stealing? How are the nuances of copyright law playing out online?

These are not all the elements of a successful marketing strategy, but they are a few of the key components. It’s a good place to start if you’re considering ramping up your content marketing strategy to meet the demands of today’s publishing world.