“If you build it, they will come.” —Kevin Costner, Field of Dreams
This quote is often referenced when it comes to content marketing. But while it may have been true about a baseball diamond in a corn field, it’s not true of your content.
The better quote about B2B content distribution comes from as Michelle Tresemer, Marketing Execution Strategist at Foundations First Marketing:
“You've got to slice and dice and share the crap out of it so people other than your mom watch it.”
Content distribution should not be an afterthought once content is produced (at that point, you’re already behind the game). You need to decide up front, as part of your content marketing strategy, where and how you’ll repurpose and promote everything to get your content in front of the right people.
Planning for how to do that ahead of time is called a content distribution strategy.
What’s the difference between content and distribution?
It might sound like an obvious answer, but sometimes the line can get a little blurry.
Content refers to any materials you create to attract and engage prospects and customers. You know, all the types of content you’re familiar with in B2B.
Blog posts, ebooks and guides, white papers, webinars, videos, podcasts…you get the idea.
Content distribution is the process of getting that content in front of your audience. For example, you might distribute your content via social media (organic and paid), email, search (organic and paid), display ads, etc.
The squishy part is that often, the content you create to distribute and promote one piece of content has value on its own.
If you have a webinar to promote, for instance, you might create shorter video clips out of that webinar to share on social media. Those shorter videos are technically content, too, even though they’re being used for distribution.
Related content: Content Strategy Quickstart Course
An overview of B2B content distribution channels
There are lots of options when it comes to B2B content distribution—anywhere where you could put a marketing message, you can talk about your content. One of the easiest ways to break them down is into three categories:
Owned content distribution
Earned content distribution
Paid content distribution
Owned Distribution Channels
Earned Distribution Channels
Paid Distribution Channels
Channels you own and control
Channels in which you must earn coverage through someone else
Channels you need to pay for in order to get coverage
If you try to tackle all of these options at once, you’ll more than likely fall short. It’s easy to spread yourself too thin and quickly burn out when you attempt too much. Instead, it’s better to start small. Choose, optimize, and master a couple of distribution channels that your audience tunes into and that feel like a realistic fit for your capabilities.
3 channels most B2B brands should start with
When it comes to most B2B companies, especially B2B technology/SaaS, I suggest starting with:
Search engine optimization (SEO)
LinkedIn (organic, not paid)
Email (your own audience)
And when you nail those, you may consider:
Other social networks (Twitter may be a close second)
Influencers in your space
Communities (think Slack, Patreon, Facebook groups)
Anywhere else your audience hangs out
Lots of people search for solutions to their problems. They’ve got a challenge, and they’re looking for content that will help them fix it. This is called existing demand—and if you want to capture some of it (and earn a good placement in search results), you’ll have to convince Google your content is a solid fit for the search terms.
In other words, you need to optimize the content on your website for search.
Choosing appropriate keywords your audience is searching for
Choosing an angle that’s appropriate to your audience
Outlining and writing the content according to SEO best practices
Including your keywords in required places (e.g. H1, H2, URL, meta description, page title, body copy, image alt text, etc.)
Including links out to other relevant pages on your site
Linking into this content from other relevant pages on your site
Oh, and you need to get all of this SEO stuff in while also creating high quality content. Finding the right balance between optimizing for search and providing unique value can be challenging.
Just make your own copy and use away.
(And if you need a little more help with outlining for SEO, check out this Ercule piece: Outlining for content performance.)
Keep in mind, not all of your content has to rank for a keyword. Case studies, for example, are notoriously hard to optimize for search. There are also opportunities to generate demand (rather than capturing demand) by producing creative, thought-provoking content—but people aren’t necessarily searching for this stuff. In this case, you’ll need to focus on other distribution tactics.
When it comes to B2B, LinkedIn is one of your best options for social media platforms. The platform boasts “nearly 800 million members” and 57 million companies across 200 countries. And as long as you’re not practicing the connect-and-pitch (aka “pitch slap”), it’s a great place to engage customers and prospects across industries.
But contrary to popular belief, you do NOT want to link off to your blog post or eBook and call it a day.
The best way to share content on LinkedIn is by repurposing it into posts that can live on their own, on the platform. Think of these posts like micro blog posts—they’re shorter, but they still offer something concrete without having to click off elsewhere.
For each larger content piece, he recommends creating one summary LinkedIn post that sums up the full piece of content. Then, create another LinkedIn post for each of your H2s (subheads), focusing just on that section of the content.
LinkedIn Post Copy
This makes it easy to quickly come up with copy for three to five LinkedIn posts from a single blog post, for example. Thinking about your larger content this way allows you to promote each content piece numerous times while adding value for your audience—and without being overly repetitive.
I built out one of Justin’s templates a bit to create this distribution template that you should fill out for each content piece you want to promote on LinkedIn.
Consider taking Justin’s course for lots more details on giving your content alllll the legs: The Content Repurposing Roadmap.
Beyond text, you can also extend your content into other formats for LinkedIn. Consider experimenting with:
Images—make sure they add to the post (don’t bother with stock)
Videos—not too long, include a title bar and captions
Documents—you know, those slide-y things with a little content on each page or slide
Don’t forget: You also need to make sure you’re engaging with others on the platform. Social isn’t a one-way street.
This is true for personal accounts and business pages alike.
It felt a little weird, but I had an actual conversation with Metadata.io’s business page the other day. A real person responded to my comment—and even followed up with me about something personal. From the brand page.
You’ll be most successful on LinkedIn if you follow this kind of lead.
Again, there are B2B brands that have success with organic social on other platforms like Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, etc. If you know your audience uses these platforms, definitely check them out. But I recommend mastering LinkedIn first, then taking others one at a time.
Guess what? You can use email for more than following up with that event attendee list. It’s a great channel to use for content distribution.
And a lot of your peers agree. Jon Emminizer, VP of Business Development at Spear Marketing Group, recently polled 275 people as to whether email is an effective channel for B2B content distribution. The vast majority (79%) said yes.
Brian Andersen, B2B Marketing Partner at Kvadrant Consulting, goes so far as to say:
“‘E-mail is dead’ is one of the stupidest things written in marketing in the last decade. E-mail is thriving, and is basically one of the only channels you truly "own", while we're all renting LinkedIn, etc.”
To make email super easy, you can use content similar to those LinkedIn posts you wrote in the last section to fill up your email calendar. For example, create a weekly email cadence for your list that starts with a summary email, then dives into each H2 or subhead in subsequent weeks.
The big difference with email compared to LinkedIn?
You still want to provide plenty of the good stuff right in your email itself. But it’s also totally cool to include a call-to-action that invites your readers to check out the full resource somewhere else—or take some other related action outside of their inbox.
Read: Include a CTA.
This approach offers regular value to your email subscribers, while also encouraging them to visit the full content piece, or check out your website, or sign up for a webinar, etc.
Alternatively, or in addition to your email sequence, you can use an email newsletter that summarizes and links to multiple content pieces at once in a roundup format.
This distribution template will help you keep track of your email distribution, too. Fill it out for each content piece you plan to share via email.
No email list? No problem.
But you may want to start building one. Try adding a “sign up for our newsletter” CTA in a few spots, like:
On some of your popular web pages
In the sidebar of and/or at the end of your blog posts
In your email signature
Then promote your newsletter like any other content offer. Heck, you can even just email your colleagues/clients/grandma and ask them to opt in.
Of course, you must be careful with email if you live in a place that regulates it. Thomas Igou, Head of Content at GetAccept, reminded me:
“Being EU-based for example, you're much more limited with email marketing because of GDPR.”
Some unpopular distribution opinions
No, Twitter does not have to be in your initial plan.
Twitter can totally work for B2B marketers, too. But man, do things move fast over there. To show up and perform well on this platform, you probably need to dedicate more time to sharing content and conversing with other members than you do on LinkedIn—which is why I recommend LinkedIn first. Somewhat lower barrier to entry.
However, if you’ve got some data that tells you Twitter is in some way a better fit for your goals, feel free to swap it out for LinkedIn.
For example, Freelance Content Writer Amna Aslam told me:
“I have pinned my blog on Twitter, and Twitter traffic has the least bounce rate.”
Neither do influencers.
Influencer marketing is the pinnacle of earned media and is fabulous for getting the word out about your B2B content. If you build relationships with the influential people your customers listen to, they just may be willing to share some of your content for you.
This can be as simple as strategically quoting these influencers in the content you’re producing—and making sure they know about the quote once you publish. You can also tag them in your social updates promoting this content for extended reach.
I’ve actually incorporated this content distribution tactic into this blog post (meta, I know).
So, why aren’t I recommending influencers in your initial distribution plan? Because this is a harder and less reliable way of distributing your content. Start with the tried and true tactics, and graduate to influencers (if you want) once you’ve nailed those.
Don’t worry about Quora (or any of the other Quora-like platforms).
One of my friends at Ercule may or may not have referred to Quora as a “bombed out Reddit.” There’s a lot of talk about answering questions on Quora that are related to your content, then including a link back to your content piece. The idea is that you’ll drive interested readers over to your content for deeper information.
None of us has ever seen evidence of this actually being worth the time.
But, backlinks! Right? RIGHT?!
No, Quora puts a no-follow on links out of the platform, so the links you place there, so they don’t do squat for your site authority.
Again, if you know your target audience spends time there or have data that shows quality traffic coming from your Quora links, have at it. It’s just not the best bet for spending limited your limited distribution resources here without these insights.
No content strategy is complete with considering distribution. But don’t forget—if you’re just getting started, you should start slow. When you take on too much at once, it’s easy to get overwhelmed and quit altogether.
Justin Simon recommends:
“I'd suggest picking one of [these three options] to start. Each one is very different and has nuances worth figuring out. It took me years to nail down SEO. Then I started to figure out LinkedIn. And now I'm learning email marketing. If I tried to do all three at once I probably would have given up.”
This post started as a module in my B2B Content Strategy Quickstart course. Check it out and let me know what you think!