How Content Distribution Works

“If you build it, they will come.” 

This infamous quote from Disney’s 1989 hit “Field of Dreams” has been the battle cry of free-spirited creatives for almost 3 decades. For many, watching Kevin Costner questioning the validity of this mantra echoed by a disembodied voice whilst investing an absurd amount of time and money into the creation of a baseball field in the middle of nowhere just to watch it <spoilers> actually pay off in the end </spoilers> served as an inspiration to make their own dreams a reality regardless of how unrealistic they were.

Perhaps this message was delivered at the right place and time, as the 90s would serve as a revival for independent creatives. Technology’s rapidly increasing speed and social connectivity lead to huge gains for those who knew what to build. It was a decade that birthed billionaires Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos.

Three decades later, we find ourselves in a paradoxical state where it’s never been easier to tell people about what we’ve built with content, but it’s never been harder to keep their attention. Baseball isn’t doing that well, either, but I digress.

So how do we change with the times to make sure our content gets the recognition it deserves?

The answer is effective content distribution.

Now before we dive any deeper, I want to make it clear that this is STEP 3 of a greater process. Don’t put the cart before the horse. If you haven’t done an overall brand evaluation (discussed in our livestreams) or developed a solid content strategy (see our post here), please do not start your content marketing journey with content distribution strategy.

Ok, all caught up? Great! Let’s go…

Firstly, let’s discuss the different types of content distribution your brand will experience.

Earned Distribution 👥

Earned distribution is when a 3rd party either shares your content or creates independent content discussing or praising your brand. Whether your product and/or service is being reviewed by an industry relevant YouTube channel, or someone is boastfully sharing photos of what your brand does or provides on Instagram, you’re experiencing earned distribution.

This type of distribution is likely the most effective form but is also the hardest to come by. Typically, it’s a byproduct of content, a product, or a service that is designed to be easily shared. That said, like all “word of mouth” promotion, it’s the type of content distribution where you have the least amount of direct control. And while it’s great to optimize your content, products, and services to easily earn distribution, it’s unwise to rely on it.

Paid Distribution 

Paid distribution happens any time your content is shared in exchange for compensation. Basically, advertisement and sponsorship. Whether you’ve paid for a Google Ads campaign, boosted your Facebook post, or compensated a YouTube channel to feature your brand, you’re participating in paid distribution.

Paying for advertising can be a fantastic way to boost your brand message’s signal, but it can also be expensive. If you haven’t refined your content’s targetting (both in its development and its demographic delivery), you could easily end up tossing your money into a void. We want to be sure to avoid that, which is why we should probably start out content marketing efforts by focusing on…

Owned Distribution 

Owned content distribution takes place on all platforms under the direct control of your brand. Whenever you post on your website, send out a tweet, or upload a video to YouTube, you’re participating in owned distribution.

This form of distribution provides us with the greatest ratio of cost versus control. In other words, we can use this method to create and share content most affordably and with the greatest potential for an intentionally designed end product that creates an emotional impact on the audience. For this reason, it’s the most logical place to start when it comes to distributing your content.

Which platform should I use? 🤔

It’s a good question, but finding a good answer can be very difficult. Let’s start by categorizing platforms to get a better idea of which ones do what.

One quick note: Platforms are not beholden to any one category, but generally focus on one more than another. Instagram, for example, has a primary focus on photography but also offers limited video services.

One more quick note: Your website is capable of distributing all forms of content. Websites are a fantastic tool that all businesses should utilize, but that’s a different topic for another day.

Text 

Examples: Medium, Blogspot

These platforms offer services focused on distributing written articles or blog posts.

Image 

Examples: Instagram, Pinterest

These platforms offer services focused on distributing photography and other still images.

Video 🎥

Examples: YouTube, Vimeo

These platforms offer services focused on video content.

Audio 🔊

Examples: Soundcloud, iTunes

These platforms offer services focused on audio content such as podcasts and music.

Live Broadcast 

Examples: Twitch, Mixer

These platforms offer services focused on broadcasting live video feeds.

Multimedia 

Examples: Facebook, Twitter

These platforms offer services that offer to distribute all of the previous types of media.

As you reflect on this list, realize that my intent in drafting it was more inspirational than explanatory. If you’ve taken the appropriate steps to define your brand and content strategies, this list should start to make it abundantly clear which platforms will suit your content best. That’s fantastic!

Now let’s consider one more important factor…

Time.

Each platform establishes a different rate of turnover for the content distributed on it. This somewhat predestined lifespan will directly impact a brand’s ability to impact its audience. The design of not just our content, but the process that creates our content, must take this timeframe into consideration.

High Turnover Rate 

Examples: Twitter, Instagram

These platforms demand a much higher volume of content than others. Twitter is exceptionally notorious, with a feed that easily washes away a tweet that doesn’t inspire a retweet or two…hundred. Content distributed here can’t be low effort, but must not require an extensive amount of time to keep content flowing regularly.

Medium Turnover Rate 

Examples: Facebook, YouTube

These platforms allow content to survive almost indefinitely as long as people continue to share it, or their search engines place it prominently behind a search term with extended relevancy. Content that survives longer on these platforms tends to be both high quality and high effort. It must be noted, though, that your brand must continuously post content here to remain relevant to the platform’s distribution algorithm.

Low Turnover Rate 

Examples: Just kidding!

That’s right, low turnover rate platforms simply don’t exist. Sure, it’s possible to create a video on YouTube that maintains a high search ranking related to something that will always remain relevant, such as getting the number one search result for “baked chicken recipe” with your cooking tutorial. The problem is that new competition is constantly flocking to every major content platform. Unless your channel is continuously pumping out tutorials that elicit a positive response from YouTube’s users, YouTube’s algorithm will eventually lower rank.

What I’m trying to say is that consistency is what really unlocks the doors of content marketing. With that in mind, it’s important to understand your brand’s bandwidth with regards to content output. Reference your content strategy to ensure that whichever platform you choose aligns with your desired content schedule.

It’s also important not to try and dominate too many platforms at once. Only choose a number of platforms you think you can handle (2-3 is a good place to start for many brands), and try to choose two that have an appropriate synergy. If you like to livestream and then edit those videos into compilations, consider getting on Twitch for the live broadcasts, YouTube for the edited videos, and Twitter to update your audience when you go live or have uploaded a new video.

Platform Hacks 🛠

Once you’ve chosen your platforms, it’s important to try to discover any special tips or tricks each one has that you can leverage to gain your content greater distribution. These are typical features of the platform such as user tags, search engine optimization (SEO), or hashtags.

Hashtags (#) link your content to a list of other people’s content using the same hashtag. Platform users take advantage of these lists to find new content that’s relevant to their specific interests.

These technical bits of platform-specific info all tie into a much greater (and more abstract) concept…

Content Optimization 

This is basically the principle of using every tweak and tactic available to us in order to squeeze every last drop of value we can out of our content without putting in an amount of effort that actually decreases its value. It’s a tenuous tightrope walk that requires a level of expertise or guidance in order to be pulled off perfectly. That said, a working knowledge of content optimization doesn’t require you to be a master in order for it to be effective.

Generally, content optimization draws on knowledge tied to either the craftsmanship behind the creation of the content itself or an understanding of human psychological behavior and response. Some examples might include tips like…

Asking questions of your audience is a great way to build engagement.
People engage more with photos featuring human faces.
Bad video quality is forgiven by the audience much easier than bad audio quality.

There are lots of resources for learning about how to get your audience to respond the way you want them to your content, but to attempt to list a bunch of tips/tricks here would defeat the purpose of the article. Content optimization has much more to do with content production than distribution, but you should be aware of it before you start uploading frequently.

What platforms are you currently using and to what effect? How often do you post and what are you posting? Share in the comments below

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Author: Jacob Campbell

Jacob Campbell is the owner of Aetoric Design, an agency specializing in brand identity and strategy. With over 12 years of experience designing & leading entrepreneurial creative efforts, he has reached global audiences with his work for The Futur, Anime Expo, & many others.

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