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.


Examples: Medium, Blogspot

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


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.


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…


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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Tools Don’t Make the Brand. You Do.


We’ve all likely heard similar pitches from countless sources praising the benefits of the prominent social media platforms. Facebook alone boasts over 2 billion users. Instagram’s growth has been insane. Twitter allows you to strike up conversations with like-minded people across the globe. The claims of these social media gurus are factually correct. You can, feasibly, reach these people more easily than ever before in human history.

For some, a crash course in any given social media platform’s fundamentals and advanced tactics can be a fantastic value with the potential to ignite a brand’s earning potential. For others, buying into a course like this can be a classic example of putting the cart before the horse. 🛒↔️🐎

Don’t get me wrong: you NEED avenues to share your message. The more that you can handle effectively, the better (emphasis on EFFECTIVELY). The issue comes when brands that haven’t fully conceived their message and/or refined their targeting invest lots of time (and sometimes money) into promoting a product or service that doesn’t land with the audience.

Even worse, sometimes your social media efforts can set you back! An embarrassing miscommunication can lead to people sharing your content for all the wrong reasons. Need proof? Just search for “funny infomercials” on YouTube. Remember when we discussed how not all publicity is good publicity? 

Sure, the Shake Weight made tens of millions of dollars, but the BRAND is primarily a joke at this point, with the product’s effectiveness being questionable at best. The lack of SINCERITY in Shake Weight’s “success” directly contributes to their lack of staying power in the market. After the gag gift effect wears off, their brand can be summarized best as a flash in the pan.

Is that the legacy you want to leave behind? 

If you’re wondering how you can get it right, Tactical has a bunch of great articles and livestream archives available to help you learn how to best develop your brand’s messaging and targetting. Aetoric Design also offers brand identity and strategy services. Comment below if you’re interested in a free initial consultation!

What social media platforms are you working on currently? Have you laid the appropriate groundwork beforehand? Are you second-guessing your efforts as we speak, or are you ready to go? Let us know in the comments below.

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How I Quit Freelancing and Day Jobs to Start My Agency

I learned at 16 that I was a hustler.

My family bought our first computer in the early 2000s and within a few years I discovered my passion for graphic design. I took to the internet and started selling those services.

Aetoric Design by HandsomeJake
This qualified as a logo to me when I got out of high school. Things have changed.

But my rise as a seller of creativity has been less than meteoric. There are a lot of possible reasons for that. It’s possible that my “natural talent” has always been insufficient, or that my independent practice wasn’t intense enough to compensate for the tremors that hindered my drawing abilities. It’s possible that my design education at community college didn’t give me a satisfactory foundation to build upon. It’s possible that I got in my own way by wasting time resenting a world that expected me to get a job at the local manufacturing plant and to be happy I had anything.

In reality, it’s most likely that I had no idea that I needed brand strategy.

While stuck in the limbo of working day jobs and doing freelance gigs on the side, I spent what little free time I had struggling with the dramas of playing in punk bands. In high school, I worked tirelessly to bring people out to my band’s shows. When we started getting booked, the promoter would tell us that people didn’t show up for openers as to temper our expectations.

Instead, I raised mine.

A photo of me (far left) and my highschool band posing for an interesting photo.

I made some money as a teenager by spamming ads for my design work to Myspace band pages. You probably remember; those online profiles for musicians whose soon-to-be chart topper started blaring the second it finished taking 3 minutes to load. Promoting shows, I took a similar approach to informing every person in the tri-county area that my band was going on first and to get there early. The promoter couldn’t believe the turnout – an opener that actually packed the venue. He continued to book my band and our relationship was long and successful. It was from that moment that I realized I was onto something. I could build attract customers.

As my musical muscles grew, I fell in love with math rock, a niche blend of punk’s raw energy mixed with the high brow compositions with odd time signatures of jazz. I approached it with virtually no musical theory background, counting on my fingers to decode the off-kilter riffs of my drunken virtuoso bandmates so that our drummer could recognize when the next bar began or how to properly transition from one movement to the next. Unfortunately, the tedium of this decryption usually made me seem more like a hindrance to creativity than a facilitator. The people I was playing with just wanted to have fun.

A photo of a young me struggling to play my instrument.

I wanted to be a success.

The punk rock scene, which prided itself on community and tolerance, transformed into a drunken hellscape of pretenders before my very eyes. Here I was, writing, performing, and releasing music in an attempt to support myself while most of my peers believed that the end goal was to play and not to grow. Fun or not, there was no way to stay chill living off of less than a thousand bucks a month. I needed something more.

I lashed out. I screamed at the top of my lungs, but not into a microphone. This time I was yelling at the people I loved. It was confusing why it was so hard for them to meet deadlines or show up on time for practice. I forgot that they had problems and motivations all their own. And after a series of terrible, hurtful decisions, I was exiled and lost everything. No more band, no more friends, and no more math rock.

In a lot of ways, it was the best thing that had ever happened to me. I realized that unless I was the perfect drinking buddy, I would never succeed in that world. I was ostracized but I was finally able to see things clearly. The melancholy and intricate tunes died down and the rap jams started bumping. Instead of crooning along to weepy tales of unrequited love, I started screaming, “We gon’ be alright!,” with Kendrick Lamar. It was an admittedly bitter beginning to my eventual shift in mindset, but at least it was a start.

Improvisation is the most important skill of any creative. Laptop overheating? Not anymore.

It didn’t help that my family wasn’t supportive, either. Up until this point, my mother could only point out that she hated hearing me yell, as I had “such a pretty voice.” My father, who may or may not have liked my music, was abusive to the entire family and passed by the time I was 20 from a brain tumor he battled for 7 years. My sister, unbeknownst to us, was struggling with addiction and resented my decision to move from Podunk to Pittsburgh in order to establish some sort of creative career. Little did she know I dreamt of creating a living where I could become our broken family’s financial savior. I wanted success and had to move on to a better playing field, but when I got there, I found that I was essentially damaged goods. My temperament more or less prevented me from sustaining any sort of gainful employment in a traditional workplace. Someone from an older generation might put it more simply by calling me “a fucking millennial.” In my experience, though, most millennials are great at disguising their motives in both the workplace and in their relationships. Doing well at a job isn’t just about doing a good job. In reality, employees are beholden to the whims and infrastructure set in place by the employer, regardless of how inane they may be. Punk rock and emotional trauma had lead me to express myself whether it benefited me financially or not.

Since my music career was essentially over, I decided to double down on my design work. I had been working at a t-shirt shop through during college, and I wanted to help it thrive instead of stagnate. The owner resisted any change, though. He had been in financial trouble for a long time, with multiple bouts against the IRS to his record. He was not in a position to fix what he didn’t see as broken. Like the band members I had played with, this guy couldn’t take himself seriously enough to be better than just okay and I was getting to a point where I couldn’t work with people like that.

After 5 years, I walked out.

One of the last jobs/designs I helped create at the t-shirt shop I worked at.

For a moment shortly after, I thought I had found my stride with freelancing. With some luck, I landed a magazine gig that paid me two grand – a fortune at the time. A lot of lottery winners later realize that the money ultimately ruined their life and that there was some unknown curse attached to it. Such was the case here. The company was unclear about their wants, their needs, and their expectations. After working through Christmas and New Years, it became too much to bear and I was mentally worse off after the gig ended. Cut and paste this experience with the next gig. And the next. And the next.

After a year of stops and starts, I found myself once more needing a day job. My past experience as a telefundraiser lead me to a position with the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra. As a musician, it seemed like a great fit and they agreed. Unfortunately, on my second day of training, the PSO went on strike. I was laid off in a position where I couldn’t market my creative services, nor could I land the kind of job it seemed that society expected of me.

pittsburgh symphony orchestra strike
This image pretty much sums up the PSO strike perfectly.

It was during this time that I discovered an educational YouTube channel that preached something that I had known all along but had never acted on: designers are problem solvers. We are the ones who craft solutions to problems that clients don’t even realize they have. All we had to do was connect that no one ever just needs a graphic – they need customers. I knew I could attract customers, and here I was being presented with the perfect framework to sell it.

The YouTube channel’s Black Friday sale approached and they announced they would be giving away fifteen-hundred dollars worth of educational materials that could jumpstart a career selling design and strategy. At the same time, the Pittsburgh Symphony ended their strike. They asked me to come back on the same day as the giveaway. Steady work. Steady hours. Security.

I had a decision to make.

The YouTube channel was smallish, with less than a hundred thousand subscribers. As a gambling man, I knew I had decent odds of winning. With what some might call reckless abandon, I called the Symphony and informed them I wouldn’t be returning.

And so, with a fateful retweet, I heard my company’s name, “Aetoric Design,” read aloud on stream. I won.

Fuck a job. I dove headlong into my winnings and started learning from the pros on how to market myself as someone who fixed problems.

I told all of my regular design clients that I would no longer be taking on the odd freelance jobs, instead offering this newfound consultative approach. I would no longer just design logos, build websites, or rewrite their copy. I said “If you want to work with me, it’s not for a quick buck. We’re going to figure out what your business is and we’re going to build it. Together.” And so working with the clients who have trusted my approach, we have tripled social media engagement and added thousands of dollars to yearly revenue. These brands have finally come to realize who their customers are, what they stand for, and how they can turn their mountains into molehills. No company has to fail if they understand what they’re doing.

I took a chance. I stopped fucking around with bands that didn’t work, family that wasn’t supportive, and friends who didn’t get why working a day job just wasn’t for me.

And wouldn’t you know it?I’ve been self-sufficient ever since.

This has changed the lives of my clients, too. Working in these partnerships, I’ve tripled engagement and added thousands of dollars to yearly revenue of the brands who have entrusted their identity to me. The sense of satisfaction in both my clients and my work has increased exponentially.

I believe that every designer who recognizes that their ability to problem-solve is the most powerful weapon in their creative arsenal is capable of the same kind of change if they also recognize that their prowess is being dulled by allowing those who haven’t to facilitate their income or, more importantly, their happiness. Once you take that leap, the opportunities you require to move forward will present themselves to you. You’ll only need recognize them when the time comes.

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