The Path to Successful Content Promotion Is All About Relationships

As if creating high-quality content wasn’t already hard enough, content marketing doesn’t work anymore without a plan for relationshipspromotion. There’s simply too much content out there for you to trust that people will find yours if you don’t put some real effort into making their discovery of it easy.

Content promotion has become one of the most important components in content marketing success. But figuring out how to do it well is tricky.

You’ve got a few obvious places you can start:

  • You can make sure your blog posts are optimized for SEO.
  • You can push out your content on social media.
  • You can send your new content to people on your email list
  • You can pay for ads on social media or Google to get your content in front of new people.

All of those are useful and important tactics to help guide people to your content, but a lot of the most effective long-term methods for content promotion have one thing in common: they’re about building and leveraging relationships.

People who know and trust you are more likely to share your content.

In content, as in life, strangers are far less likely to care about or believe what you have to say than people that have had some past, positive experience with you. If anything, gaining trust is harder for a brand than a human stranger, since people know you have a (not so ulterior) motive: you want to sell something.

One of the most powerful ways to cut through that initial trust barrier is social proof. Your potential customers will always believe what a third party has to say about you before they’ll take your brand’s word on the subject. And that’s not just true when it comes to buying from you, it also influences how likely they are to click through to your content or care about what you have to say within it.

Think about it: if someone you follow on social media shares content by a brand you’ve never heard of with a resounding recommendation to check it out, how much more likely are you to click than if you see the same link in an ad?

For those people to share your content to begin with, they already have to have some relationship with your brand. Maybe they saw another friend share it, maybe they’re already a customer, or maybe they’ve been following your blog for a while – whatever the reason, their decision to share shows a level of trust that immediately makes others more likely to check your content out and consider your brand trustworthy.

Promoting others helps them self-promote.

The value of relationships in content marketing is behind the growth in influencer marketing. Mentioning relevant influencers in your content provides a reciprocal benefit. It makes them look good to be identified as an expert and it strengthens your content to have the insights of an influencer included.

More important, in terms of the theme of this post, when you include a quote or reference to an influencer in a way that makes them look good, the chances of them sharing your post with their network increases. It’s not guaranteed they will, but when promoting your content also means promoting themselves as well, a lot of people do.

If the person you highlight has a large audience of people that trust them, seeing that you have a relationship with them makes that large audience more prone to check you out and trust you.

How to Build Connections

As long as you’re a stranger, attempts to get an influencer or anyone else to pay attention to your content – even if it mentions them – will be an uphill battle. You have to put in the work of building those connections first.

While there are loads of ways to connect with people in the internet age, a few you might consider taking advantage of are:

  • Attend industry conferences. Conferences aren’t just good for checking out vendors and attending educational sessions, they’re one of the best opportunities out there for meeting other people working in your space. Go. Strike up conversations. Introduce yourself to anyone whose presentation impresses you. You’ll come away from the conferences with the beginnings of lots of new relationships.
  • Start doing more local networking. You can’t be at conferences all the time, but you can tap into the local community through networking events. Look into the relevant organizations and meetups available in your city, and get out there and start meeting people.
  • Conduct interviews. Interviews often strengthen content because you’re able to use the insights of other experts to lend weight to what you’re saying. Many people are willing to set up expert interviews because it gives them a chance to show their knowledge and reach a new audience as well. Once you’ve interviewed someone and used the knowledge they provided in your content, they now have a relationship to your brand.
  • Interact on social media. Reply to people’s tweets or Facebook posts. Share their content. Participate in Twitter chats or LinkedIn groups. Social media has vastly simplified the process of making connections with people in your industry. Use it.
  • Leave comments. A lot of people and businesses with blogs actually read and reply to comments. Leaving a thoughtful comment is a good way to get on their radar, especially if you do it more than once and interact with them in other ways on this list in the mean time.
  • Pitch guest posts. Guest posts can both be a way to promote your own brand (although not too directly, usually) and a way to create or solidify a relationship with another person or brand. If you do pitch a guest post, make sure you pay attention to any guidelines the blog has and pitch an idea that’s relevant to the blog’s audience. If you send a tone deaf pitch that shows you didn’t do basic research first, it will backfire.

How to Use Connections for Content Promotion

Once you’ve made enough of a connection, you’ll have a much easier time asking  people to help you out without crossing any lines.

As much as possible, look for opportunities to suggest mutually beneficial modes of promotion. That could mean hosting a webinar together, partnering to complete a research study with both your audiences combined, or featuring them as an expert in your blog posts.

Even once a relationship is established, aim to help them with promotion and engagement at least as much as you ask them to do the same for you.   It’s gotta go both ways or they’ll have little reason to continue the relationship and view it fondly.

 

Making connections has a tendency to pay off in ways beyond boosting your brand. You might make some real friends in the process. You’ll meet people you can learn from who have real insights to add to your life and your marketing efforts. Building relationships shouldn’t be all about content promotion, but it’s one of the best paths you can take to get there.

 

Why Your Content is Facing an Uphill Battle

Content marketing is no longer optional for businesses – at least not if you care about being mountainvisible and reaching customers on the web. But a lot of people doing it are struggling to see the kind of results they want.

If you feel like you’ve been putting so much time, money, and energy into content marketing without seeing much response, it’s not just you. For anyone starting content marketing now, and even most of those who got started in the in past year or two, you’re facing a challenge on par with scaling a mountain.

Moz research found that the vast majority of content businesses are publishing never gets shared or linked to at all. In a lot of cases, that’s probably because the content’s not all that good to begin with. But that’s not necessarily the case across the board. In our era of content saturation, good content gets ignored too.

The odds really are stacked against the average joe business trying to get noticed on the web with content.

That’s because, right now, content marketing success primarily falls to two categories of businesses:

  • The early adopters

    These are the guys that started content marketing over five years ago, sometimes over ten. They were the first in their space (or close to it) and created some of the cornerstone, established content that people in their industry have been looking to for years.

    Other influencers in the industry (and Google) all see them as an authority already. They can keep doing what they’ve been doing and it will keep working for them, but if you try to do the same, you’re starting out much further behind.

  • The businesses with the most money to invest

    ViperChill recently published an eye-opening post on the companies that dominate search. They found that just 16 companies – behemoths like Hearst and Time – own the vast majority of websites that rank for a wide range of lucrative keywords. From software to food to health and pretty much everything else you can think of, these companies claim most of the top spots in Google.

Why It’s So Hard to Outrank These Guys

The initial thought that inspired this post came from working on a recent post on how writers choose what websites to link to, which gave me cause to really think about my own research process when working on a post.

When I go looking for examples, data, relevant extra info to back my points up – I go to Google. The stuff that’s already showing up on page one and two is the stuff I’m most likely to click on and read, and therefore the stuff I’m most likely to link to within a post of my own. Is it fair? No. But how much work would I have to do to find your awesome post – even if it’s better than the stuff on page one – if it’s sitting on page 13?

That creates a cycle. The content that’s already doing well in search is the stuff I’m most likely to find and link to, which keeps it high up in the search. And as the ViperChill article makes clear, since many companies are using their high-authority websites to link to their new websites, the new sites with the best chance of breaking that cycle are those that already have an unfair advantage.

What Can You About It?

It’s good to know what you’re up against to keep your expectations realistic, but that’s no reason to revel in doom and gloom. Plenty of adventurous people actually do manage to scale mountains – but only with the proper preparation and plan.

Content marketing is hard, much harder than it used to be. But that doesn’t mean your case is hopeless and it’s better not to try.

Commit, all the way.

First off, you can’t just throw up a blog, put together some haphazard content once a week, tweet here and there and think that’ll work for you. If you’re going to get anything out of content marketing you have to make a real commitment to doing it right.

That means:

  • Taking the time to understand your audience and develop a strategy based on what they care about and need.
  • Being consistent with your content production. Don’t overdo it in the beginning, get burned out, and let it dwindle to almost nothing. Figure out what you can do realistically and stick with that.
  • Don’t just produce content. That’s not all content marketing is. Do the work to get your content in front of people and stay connected with those people once they find you.

Promote.

Publishing relevant content was once enough for those early adopters, but if you don’t fall into that category, it’s not enough for you. You need to do the extra work of promoting your content to help get it in front of people.

At this point in the game, a lot of your best promotion options will mean spending some money or committing some serious time. That could mean buying social media ads, trying paid distribution platforms, or putting in the work (or hiring someone) to help you land some big guest posts that will get you attention.

You’ll have to do some testing to figure out what types of promotion work best for your content and audience. Whatever form it takes, promotion needs to be an important part of your content strategy.

Target and interact with influencers.

When you look at those early adopters, you shouldn’t just see the people that were lucky to get on the bandwagon early, you should see potential contacts that may be able to help you. Work to get on their radar.

Interact with them on social media. Comment on their blog. Go to conferences or networking events they may be at. Share their content.

One of the best ways to make the kinds of valuable connections online that lead to a larger reach and more links is to actually make connections with the people behind those websites and links. Don’t be creepy or demanding. But do let them know you’re paying attention to their work and appreciate it.

Over time, those interactions could lead to an actual relationship, a guest post on their blog that drives traffic to your website, or a tendency to share your stuff (now that they know it exists).

Expect to play the long game.

Even if you do everything right, it takes time to build up authority. Don’t expect any one thing you do to be the magic bullet that launches you to visibility online. You have to do a lot of different little things and keep doing them for a while.

Pay attention to what’s working as you go so you can tweak your strategy over time. And don’t get discouraged and drop everything when you don’t see results right away. You’ll just end up that much further behind when you decide in a year or five that actually you should have stuck with this content marketing thing after all. Better to stay on top of it now.

Don’t set all your store on Google.

Google matters in online visibility. Of course it does. But it shouldn’t be the end all be all of your marketing plans, if for no other reason than that, right now, it’s out of reach for a lot of businesses – at least if you’re interested in keywords that are at all competitive.

Focus on reaching people through whatever other channels you can find. As more people find and trust you through other places, over time you may find your authority in Google growing. But by then you won’t be dependent on Google anyway.

Content Marketing Challenges in 2015 (And a Few Solutions)

Since the term started kicking around a few years back, content marketing has grown in popularity every year. For those of us in the industry, that’s good news in the sense of ensuring our work is in demand. But with popularity comes increased competition, and doing content marketing well means facing new and increasingly sophisticated challenges from year to year.

Each year a few different sources release information on the top challenges marketing firms and businesses say they face when it comes to content marketing. A lot of what comes up in these surveys comes down to the five challenges listed below, each of which can be solved with the right approach.

Challenge: Being strategic in your content marketing.

One of the most obvious findings in the Content Marketing Institute’s surveys each year is that businesses with a strategy get more out of their content marketing than those just trying to figure it out as they go.

A strategy helps you connect the dots between the different channels and types of content you’re creating and make sure the work you put into content marketing actually pays off. Without one, you’re more likely to put a lot of effort into putting content out there that no one sees or engages with.

Solution: Stop everything else you’re doing and work on your strategy.

If you don’t have a content strategy yet, get on that right now. If you do, the beginning of the year is a good time to re-visit and evaluate it to see if you can make it better. If this isn’t something you know how to tackle on your own, hire someone who does. It’s too important to skip entirely.

So Many Things To Do ListChallenge: Scaling your content strategy to your resources.

This is arguably harder than creating the strategy. It’s often easier to think of a long list of things you should be doing than it is to actually, you know, do those things. A lot of content marketing is harder and more time consuming than people expect at first and if you overshoot, you’re more likely not to follow through on your plans or to be sloppy with them.

Solution: Build in some flexibility.

A content strategy isn’t a one and done deal. You may find you need to shift your expectations based on what your team can pull off or your budget can handle.

That’s ok. Better to slow down your content production and create the kind of stuff that will really shine than rush it and put out a lot of stuff no one will care about.

Challenge: Creating content that people care about.

I personally think this challenge and the next one are the two most difficult on the list. Everything I said in the introduction about competition is working against you here. How do you make your emails the ones that people open and your business blog the one that people click through to?

Your content doesn’t just have to be good it has to be relevant to what your audience needs and wants to know.

Solution: Talk to your audience and measure results.

You’ve got to go to the source. Talk to your customers or anyone you know that falls into the profile of what your target networkingofflinecustomers look like and find out:

  • What they’re thinking about
  • What they’re worried about
  • What questions and challenges they have
  • What other blogs and media outlets they regularly check out
  • How they find the content they consume
  • How and where they read it (Are they on their phone on the go? Sitting in their office at a desktop?)
  • What kind of topics they find the most interesting and valuable
  • Anything else you can get them to tell. The more you know the better.

For introverts like me, this part can be kind of awkward. But you know who’s probably talking to your audience every day? Sales people and customer service representatives. See if you can’t get them in on it to help you out with this step.

This gives you your start, but part two of tackling this challenge is paying attention to your analytics. What content pieces are getting read the most, shared the most, and commented on the most? Which are driving people to take further action on your site or inspiring return visits? Which are bringing new, relevant traffic to the site?

Track that information, check it regularly, and use it to refine your content strategy as you go.

Challenge: Promoting your content.

You can’t just put content out there and assume people will find it. Sometimes you’ll hear people suggest that works – “if it’s good enough, they will come!” I don’t buy it.

There’s too much stuff out there competing for their attention. You’ve got to put some effort into making sure your work gets in front of the people you want to see it and that they deem it worth their time.

Solution: Make this a crucial part of your strategy.

You’ve got to start thinking about this at the strategy stage. It takes time and it takes a plan. Identify the influencers and top blogs in your industry. Make a presence on social media (not every social media platform in existence, just the ones you know your people are at). Interact with people in your target audience and influencer list and become regular about it.

Creating the right relationships is a huge part of content promotion.

You should also consider paying for content promotion on social media channels and Google. If you’re paying for your content (and you are, even if only in time), it might be worth it to make sure your content is actually being seen. Paid promotion also usually comes with some good analytics that give you a better feel for what’s working and what people are interested in.

Challenge: Finding good people who get content marketing.

While this challenge wasn’t super high on the list, it’s one that’s growing for marketers. As content needs increase, so does the challenge of finding good people to help you meet those needs.

Solution: Talk to me!

Ok, I’m half joking. I’m a pretty great content writer, but by no means skilled at the many other things needed to be good at content marketing. That said, I do try to know as many people good at those other things as possible so I can point businesses in the right direction for what they need. And if I don’t already know someone skilled at the type of work you’re looking for, I don’t mind having an excuse to find that someone so I know them for future reference.

There are some other solutions that might come in handy for this one though:

  • Referrals and networking ­– keep up with any local marketing and content groups and don’t hesitate to ask the people you meet there for recommendations.
  • LinkedIn and Google searches – seems pretty obvious, but the people who rise to the top in searches on these networks are probably pretty good at what they do (although that means they likely don’t come cheap).
  • Invest in training for your staff – help the people you already have become more skilled at content marketing. Saves you a search and improves the employee relationship at the same time since it shows you care about investing in their career.

2015 looks likely to be a good year in the evolution of content marketing. Marketers just keep getting better at figuring out what works and exploring new creative ideas. As content marketing gets more sophisticated, you have to keep up if you want it to pay off for you. A lot of that just comes down to being thoughtful about how you approach it and putting in the work.

Why You Should Be Promoting Your Content (Not Just Your Products)

By this point, most businesses know they should be creating content. The advice is everywhere. Talk of content content promotionmarketing and business blogging is all over business magazines like Inc and Entrepreneur. You’re much less likely to encounter a business owner today who has never heard of content marketing than you are to encounter one who has thrown up her hands and agreed to go along with the tide and start a blog or YouTube channel for her brand.

You’re probably thinking: well what possible downside could a freelance copywriter whose job it is to create content see in this?

That more businesses are embracing content marketing is mostly a good thing, but many are taking an incomplete approach to it. Every business that starts a blog, publishes once a week, and doesn’t get results tarnishes the idea of content marketing a little bit.

For your content to gain traction, you can’t just create it. You need to promote it.

This message has made its way into the realm of common knowledge for those who specialize in content marketing or content strategy. Nonetheless, for many businesses who have just done cursory research into content marketing, the idea isn’t as familiar.

Jay Baer popularized the concept that you should make content so good that people would pay for it. Making content that’s good enough to be a product is step one. Step two is promoting it in the same way you do your products.

Well, not exactly the same way. The process of promoting good content is a little different than product promotion (although there’s plenty of overlap).

We’ll get more into the hows of promoting content in future posts, since it’s too big of a topic to cover in one blog post. In the meantime, there’s a lot of good information on the subject already out there. Here are a number of articles that touch on both the value of content promotion and techniques for getting started:

There’s some overlap in those posts, but that just lets you know that the stuff that comes up multiple times is the stuff you really need to know about content promotion.

Lest you read this and think, “Of course she says this is important, she just wants us to buy more of her services,” content promotion isn’t actually a specialty of mine. I can provide some consulting to help you generate ideas for a content promotion plan, but I’d rather help you find someone else to execute it.

I do benefit from more people understanding the value of content promotion though. Blog posts, reports, whitepapers, ebooks–all those things I do specialize in–are all worth more to a company that has a plan to promote them. I’d rather make great content for businesses that people actually see and appreciate, than great content that goes unnoticed by all but a few people outside of the company.

Content Marketing in 2014: Predictions and Plans

In the internet age, everything seems to move fast, and marketing is no exception. Even just the term “content marketing,” which has taken over to describe and shape a certain segment of the marketing world, only came into regular use in the past few years.

In a constantly shifting landscape, with new tools and trends often seeming to come out of nowhere, predictions are tricky business. Nonetheless, Content Marketing Institute found 50 content marketing professionals prepared to make their guesses for the coming year.

My own prediction made the cut, putting me in some pretty fantastic company, here it is:

I think the main trend will be towards more. I don’t mean that in terms of quantity, but rather more formats, posts that pack in more useful information, and an acceptance that content marketing requires more time and effort than some previously realized.

If you think I’ve got it all wrong, tell me what you think in the comments. What’s your prediction for the next year?

I can only offer conjectures for the general state of content marketing in 2014, but I have absolute power over the goals and plans for Austin Copywriter’s content marketing in 2014.

If I publish it where everyone can see it, there’s no going back. So, without further ado:

1) Commit to publishing on this blog with more regularity.

My modest, but realistic goal for this is at least one post a month. I recognize more would be ideal, but as one person balancing my own marketing with client work, understand the importance of making sustainable commitments.

I’ll be the first to tell clients: less content of better quality will always beat out a higher quantity of content that’s sloppy and lazy.

2) Experiment with new content formats and channels.

I’ve already delved a bit into the world of content development that falls outside of my writing comfort zone. Part 1 in my new content marketing for small businesses video series is already out, and the rest of the series will be released in early 2014.

You can also check out my new SlideShare presentation on the Basics of SEO (Search Engine Optimization) for Small Businesses.

I aim to do even more with video, SlideShare, and images throughout 2014.

3) Develop and execute a content promotion strategy.

By seeking out more guest posting opportunities and building up relationships on social media, I plan to draw more attention and new subscriptions to the blog.

Like many people, I’ve learned the hard way that just creating good content and putting it out there isn’t enough. You have to develop a larger strategy that includes plans for promotion to get attention in an already overcrowded space.

4) Make regular, genuine contact with readers and others in the content marketing community a higher priority.

Relationships are hugely important in just about every aspect of life. This has only become more obvious to me in my years as a freelancer.

My goal is to build up a larger professional network of contacts that includes: readers of this blog, other marketers in Austin and online, other freelancers in a variety of industries, and small business owners excited about building their businesses with content marketing.

5) Attend local networking events and conferences to build a network and community of professional contacts of various skills and specialties.

Related to #4, I’ve found there’s no real substitute for meeting with other professionals in person, and attending live educational events. I’ve gotten a lot out of these experiences in the past year, and expect 2014 to be no different on that front.

Some of these are continuations of the business plan and content strategy I put together in 2013, but still of tantamount importance to my goals for the business.

What about you? Do you have a plan and strategy for the next year yet? Are there any questions or obstacles getting in the way of putting one together? Let me know, I’ll do my best to help.