Are You Wasting Time on Content?
Before you create a single piece of content, it might be headed for failure. Why? The world’s most interesting content does no one any good if it never finds an audience, which is why content distribution isn’t just half the battle, it is the battle. And a battle it is, for at least these three reasons.
With at least 2 million blog posts published and nearly 1 million hours of video uploaded to YouTube everyday, less is more for consumers who just want the good stuff at their fingertips. As we’ll see later, audiences spend the vast majority of time doing anything but seeking out brands online, which makes the common filters they use for navigating and discovering content that much more important for brands trying to increase their visibility online.
Attention spans aren’t so much short as they are split, with audiences scattering their activity across smartphones, tablets, connected TVs, and soon-to-be “wearables.” Responsive design, native apps, mobile-optimized content are all improvements to the mobile user experience once the audience gets through the door, but they don’t make the door any easier to find. Brands need platforms that enable discovery of their content across channel and device.
When you combine social networking activity with checking e-mail and browsing content, consumers spend the vast majority of their time online with no intent outside of waiting to be entertained or informed of something interesting. Your brand probably isn’t their priority. But if you can enhance the reason they visit these platforms to begin with, you can become part of their regular discovery loop. The trick is cracking these platforms without interrupting them.
Planning For Discovery
Of the many filters audiences use for navigating content, including search engines and social networks, discovery platforms like Outbrain are becoming more ubiquitous — and thereby significant — for brands trying to reach audiences on any device at any time and at scale. How brands leverage these filters for their content is inextricable from how audiences use them, requiring brands to solve for distribution and intent before they’ve spent a dime creating content.
Matching Content with Intent
Let’s say I’m a CPG brand and I want to engage my target audience with Thanksgiving-themed content. Assuming they celebrate Thanksgiving, use search engines, check Facebook, email, and media sites regularly (seemingly safe assumptions), my content scheme might look something like this.
For each platform, I want to consider its main function for my audience (e.g. searching, discovering, etc) and how my content can fit that function for them — before I create it. My Facebook content, for example, will aim for an intimate extension of my brand that celebrates the holiday in an inherently social way because “sharing” what I’m thankful for isn’t just native to the platform, it’s authentic to the platform (there’s a difference).
The content I seed for discovery on media sites is going to be like a title in a bookstore — my audience isn’t necessarily looking for content about Thanksgiving, they’re just browsing, but as the holiday approaches, can I capture their curiosity with something interesting or irreverent about the holiday?
Looking at my scheme holistically, I now have a micro media mix that covers some of the most heavily-used information channels online, with some discernible overlap — like the recipe I want to optimize for search and distribute to my e-mail subscribers — for increasing the efficiency of my content before I’ve deployed a single resource to create it.
Content distribution isn’t so much divorced from content creation as it is integral to its planning and execution. They are means to the same end of strategically engaging audiences, reflexively informing each other in a cycle that might look something like this:
Distribution strategy → content creation → content distribution → measurement → distribution strategy revisited
Strategically releasing your content into the world is what allows you to gauge both its value to your audience and, by extension, to your brand. A limited view of distribution essentially robs you of the opportunity to learn as much as you can from audiences engaging with your content in multiple contexts — an opportunity your competition is almost certainly leveraging.