It’s no secret—one of the things every content marketer struggles with—and how you, my friend, ended up here—is getting the answer to the misleadingly simple question, ”how do I get my content shared?”
How DO you get your content shared?
First caveat, I don’t get any money for sharing the following. In fact, I won’t even include a link to the book—it’s a google click away. Second caveat, totally stealing this (and hopefully adding some value) from @markwschaefer. I discovered his book, The Content Code, a few months ago on Audible. And frankly I can’t stop listening. Over and over. Why? because he does what few other social media or marketing experts do: he tackles the issue of too much content head on, and provides real value in the way of how to get your content distributed—or in his words—ignited.
If this sounds easier said than done, don’t worry: you’re not alone. In late 2015, 55 percent of business-to-business (B2B) marketers said that it is “unclear within their organization what an effective or successful content marketing program looks like.” What’s worse, in a more recent report, only 30 percent of B2B marketers believe their content is effective. In other words, 70 percent of B2B content marketers are creating content they don’t think is going to work!
According to the Content Marketing Institute (CMI), 88 percent of B2B businesses have budgeted for strategic content marketing in 2016. These specialized marketers are responsible for three things: 1) creating engaging content; 2) using content for lead generation; and 3) converting leads into sales. These core responsibilities are straightforward yet elusive—even the best of us are unable to answer simple questions about our own marketing efforts. Your mission is to get your content back on track and in position so it’s more likely to be shared—ignited—using the keys, takeaways, and tips outlined in this article.
But first, let’s identify the content-related challenges we’re facing.
Research from CMI/Marketing Profs predicts that by the year 2020, online information will increase by 500 percent. This issue has forced many marketers to adopt alternative strategies like paying for content views, using new distribution methods, and avoiding popular channels on social media. All of these things avoid the problem—they don’t solve it. The question is for how long.
In a blog post, Mark Schaefer explains the difference between “information overload” and “information density.” According to Schaefer, the terms are used interchangeably among marketers, often to their own demise.
“More information (overload) is actually great news for consumers,” says Schaefer. “The competition for attention will force better content and more choice… But unless the amount of content saturation is low in your market, trying to cut through this information tsunami (density – the business side of the trend) is going to be a significant challenge for many businesses.”
Your content doesn’t have to compete with every bit of noise circulating the web; it just has to beat out similar content in your shared market.
The trouble with this scenario is best expressed by Brent Leary: “The attention economy is not growing, which means we have to grab the attention that someone else has today.” In other words, you’re not trying to grab people’s attention; you’re trying to steal it away from your competition.
The only way you can effectively do that in 2016 is to understand how and why people consume content; create long-form interactive content; improve link sharing; and leverage relationships that can take your message to the farthest reaches of the online space. We’ll touch on a few of content marketing’s best practices below.
Let’s break these tasks down.
How Do People Consume Content?
There are a thousand ways to answer this question. Not only are consumers more likely to view your content on a mobile device (we’ve reached the tipping point), but they’re also 70 percent more likely to review products online. They share content on social media that appeals to them personally and as an individual, and that’s all before they even make a purchase.
The way consumers share, like, tweet, blog, repost, review, and engage with content is infinitely complex. Anyone who says they’ve got it ALL figured out very well might be blowing hot air. Even bad content can enjoy high engagement—there’s simply no magic formula to creating what people like.
So let’s focus on engagement as a process, not as a primary means to an end.
Target marketing breaks down how consumers interact with content marketing into four steps: Awareness, Consideration, Decision-Making/Purchase, and Post-Purchase. Throughout each step, your audience grows a bit smaller, preempting your content to be more focused and more relevant as a prospective customer moves through the cycle.
If you’re paying attention, this four-step process includes the entire lifespan of a customer’s journey (and then some)—yet the average proportion of total marketing budget spent on content marketing is only anticipated to be 28 percent in 2016.
This means that weighing each step of the customer’s cycle is critically important to creating effective marketing, if for no other reason than dealing with limited resources. If you feel like asking for a bigger budget (and by all means, do it!), there have been correlations shared by CMI, which determine the most effective B2B marketers spend more money on content: 42 percent on average.
However, if you can’t spend more money on your content endeavors, the next best thing is to make the most of what you’ve got.
Effective Long-Form Content
Unlike short blog posts and social media posts, long-form content is an effective way to impart knowledge to people in a favorable medium for online distribution. In addition to sharing information, long-form content like 2,000+ word blog posts, white papers, manuals, and eBooks, can be optimized for the Web, and generate those coveted backlinks, shares, likes, and reposts.
But that’s not all.
According to this article by Kissmetrics, a 2012 study by serpIQ found that the average length of content in the top 10 results of searches was more than 2,000 words. That was FOUR years ago. So, in addition to sharing your content on social media, utilize long-form content to rank higher for searches in your area of expertise.
Long-form content also increases time on site, which will further help your Google rating and provide insight into how users are interacting with your site and content.
To create long-form content that converts, Crazy Egg breaks the process down into six easy steps: 1) define your conversion goals, 2) decide on gated vs. non-gated content, 3) pick a relevant topic, 4) get writing, 5) choose your design features, and 6) promote your content.
Your long-form content goals—the number of leads generated, new subscribers, social media shares—will influence other aspects of prediction like the topic, design, and setting you choose to promote your content. The more specific you are, the better.
Here’s some helpful advice from Kissmetrics about gated vs. non-gated content:
“… promoting a piece of long-form content is loads more powerful than a blog post, as long as it’s not gated (since promoting something that requires a “key” isn’t particularly altruistic or brand building).”
This is ultimately up to you; your goals may warrant gated content for various reasons, and if it makes sense you should follow through. However, in most cases you’re going to want as many eyes on your content as possible, so keeping it free and not protected is best.
Picking a topic means doing your research. Neil Patel suggests choosing a subject that’s evergreen and using Google Trends to spot trending topics.
“There’s little use of writing in-depth content with limited shelf-life,” says Patel. “It will attract readers, shares, and links for a short time.”
When you’re ready to write, Patel suggests using an inverted pyramid structure to organize your ideas. Make sure the writing is adding value with every new paragraph. Edit your content vigorously until it satisfies your goals and imparts information effectively to the reader. Lastly, check your article’s SEO and ensure it’s optimized for your target keywords. While SEO for content marketing has become a tangled mess for some of us, in 2015 and now in 2016, we expect that to clear up quickly.
Design features are a huge part of creating content that converts. According to Crazy Egg, you will need to consider how to make it easy for people to get more content, make sharing as effortless as possible, and create a path for the reader to follow when they’re done. These design elements can make or break your content. Don’t spend all your time writing and not enough time designing. Strike a balance to achieve the best results.
Finally, promote your content using channels that fit the content. This includes social media and email marketing, but it might also include paid ads, events, contests, or giveaways.
All the time you spend developing long-form content will be for naught if you don’t put effort into distribution. Kissmetrics has a great list of advanced methods for promoting your content, including asking an influencer for a quote; using snippets to create a comprehensive social media campaign; mentioning expert sources when sharing; contacting people who have shared similar content; and submitting your stuff to content communities.
Creating Effective Interactive Content
Before we move on to interactive content, let’s take a moment to refresh our memories on what the term actually means. Jayson Demers puts it like this: “Interactive content marketing is a strategy that uses the personal information of your users to generate a unique, customized experience.”
User engagement is also considered interactive; quizzes, surveys, and contests are popular forms of interactive content. In fact, 20 percent of B2B companies utilized interactive assessments to make purchase decisions in 2015. Moreover, 91 percent of buyers prefer visual and interactive content when compared to traditional formats.
Interactive content is aggregated user data used to supply and predict behavior so that marketers know what to provide to customers and when to make the offer.
Julie Wingerter puts this topic into perspective: “Interactive content also enables you to measure and quantify engagement at a very detailed level. The data points allow you to refine and tailor your content to make it even more effective. If something isn’t performing, it is easy to identify where the fall-off is and make adjustments.”
If this sounds time consuming and expensive, it is! According to this Demand Gen article, B2B businesses are wasting an estimated $950 million on ineffective content marketing.
“According to Gleanster…video and interactive content typically require more resources to develop than traditional formats.” That’s why it’s important to be efficient where you can and repurpose material, which will help you save time with content marketing.
Amanda Maksymiw, of Lattice Engines says, “We’ve done a lot of work to understand our ideal buyers and accounts with predictive [analytics] that goes beyond your typical buyer persona that many effective content strategies are built on. This allows us to create and deliver more targeted content.” This practice is also called personalization.
Knowing your audience is the key to success. And in order to create effective interactive content you must study, analyze, and make predictions that best serve your audience’s interests, goals, and beliefs.
Some interactive content is quite interactive (like quizzes and assessments), but most of it relies on your ability to extract insight about an audience based on its behavior with that content.
The Content Marketing Institute has a great guide that walks through the process of understanding an audience’s desires. The group suggests talking to customers about their frustrations, filtering keyword research, and split testing everything you possibly can.
How to Increase Content Sharing
Sharing requires that content appeals to the customer on several emotional fronts.
Rachel Strella reminds us that, “People form relationships—and relationships are built on trust. Customer loyalty, especially for technology businesses, is often tied to the people who work in the business—the people who give that product or service its staying power.”
Therefore, it’s when you’re looking at ways to get your content shared, important that you not rush your relationship with consumers; build it slowly, and over time, especially when it comes to social media.
“Social media is a marathon,” says Strealla, “not a sprint.”
Here are some useful ways to start guiding this relationship to a place where your customers will feel confident sharing your content:
Social proof is a vital source of information for perspective customers. According to Influitive, “Having customers advocate on your brand’s behalf on forums, review websites and social media can help your product make the initial cut.”
However, you shouldn’t sit around waiting for your happy customers to advocate your products. Instead, you should create advocate marketing programs than incentivize customers to act on your behalf. Reward them for doing so, and you’re on your way.
Another way to improve sharing is to supply user-generated content. Incorporate user quotes, photos, videos, and more into your advocate marketing.
Neil Patel suggests you find your best advocates on social media by engaging them with comments, replies, shares, and even email. Learn as much as your can about them and “give them plenty of freedom to talk about you and your brand any way they like.”
Advocates can come from anywhere, so it’s smart to think beyond Facebook and Twitter. In Fact, LinkedIn is one of the best media channels for B2B content sharing—94 percent use LinkedIn.
TREW Marketing offers some great insights about when to post your content on LinkedIn:
“Though preferences vary based on industry, audience, and reader personality, content sharing on LinkedIn is more frequent at certain times of day and days of the week. Interestingly, while 87 percent of posts were published to social media platforms during the workweek—specifically Tuesdays and Wednesdays—content that was published on the weekends was shared more frequently.”
Think beyond traditional media channels and look for niche areas you can conquer. Also, be sure to optimize your efforts on one channel to improve the reach of others.
Optimizing tips from Heidi Cohen include the use hashtags on all media channels (Bill’s note: except LinkedIn—where it’s generally frowned upon—and sometimes openly mocked), photo captions on all shared images, and spend time to create great working headlines, as well as specific formatting for different channels. You should also get your employees involved and consider using an automated system to deliver content simulations across several platforms.
Finally, to truly ignite your content in 2016, you should leverage your relationship with industry influencers.
So, who are these influencers, and how do you leverage them?
I like this definition by Hire Influence: “Influencers are people just like the rest of us, but are those who have the power to shape and mold the thoughts of many. And for any modern business, identifying key influencers and falling into their good graces is an almost necessary step towards success.”
In some ways, influencers are no different from celebrity endorsements on cereal boxes. However, an influencer’s job is not to sell people your product; it’s to teach them why your product is better than the competition.
Finding the right influencer for your product is the key to success. Influencers can be people you have on your team, popular bloggers, or YouTube personalities. Whatever the case, according to this article, “One of the easiest ways to locate and identify key influencers in marketing is by measuring their presence on social media.”
Once you figure out who the influencers are, it’s time to reach out to them. Do so with respect for their individual personality, interests, and beliefs. This requires carefully crafted correspondence with unique points appealing to the individual. It’s not a one-size-fits-all process—nothing in marketing ever is.
Your goal is to build a relationship with influencers, which then incites them to act on your behalf—to share, engage, and connect with your company’s content in a public space, which helps your content reach a massive audience on the web.
Leveraging Your Time to Make It All Happen
The rest is really up to you. Your mission is no small task, but with a few tools and the right attitude, you can implement these strategies to build successful B2B content marketing campaigns in 2016.
To help get you motivated and help you further answer the question of how to get your content shared, here are some tips from industry experts on how they manage their time successfully:
1. Plan Your Week in Advance — Pam Didner
“What works for me is to plan out my week on Sunday nights. I’ll sit with a cup of tea and a small plate of dessert and review (aka, stare at) the next two weeks in my calendar. I fill time slots by identifying key tasks that I want to accomplish and set aside time to prepare for upcoming meetings.”
2. Put Your Internal Experts Front And Center — Carlos Abler
“A key habit for B2B content marketers is to manage internal experts as corporate assets. Your experts are treasure troves of knowledge and potential content. When you amplify their knowledge, they will not only be recognized as thought leaders but also as life savers by your customers.”
3. Learn Something New Every Day — Alan Porter
“I dedicate time each day to stay fresh and keep learning. I arrive at the office early – usually around 7 a.m. – grab a coffee and spend my first 30 minutes checking out the latest industry websites, blogs, and social media feeds. From these, I formulate a Content Marketing Tip of the Day.”
4. Start With the ‘Why’— Drew Neisser
“Start with the ‘why,’ that is, why the company exists. Once you have a well-defined purpose, then content marketing programs flow directly from that.”
5. Get Creative — Steven Handmaker
“Where creativity is concerned from a B2B standpoint, differentiation—more so than anything—plays a huge role. One of our strategies has been to infuse humor, energy, and our people into our content — things that our competitors really aren’t doing.”
Your mission is clear—should you choose to accept it—create great content, and get it seen. This requires that you optimize it for search—and make it appeal to and shareable by the humans you’re helping.
What are you doing to get your content ignited this year? Did you make any content marketing new year’s resolutions in 2016? If you’ve created great content, and are struggling to get it distributed, contact us today to discuss your particular challenges.