Distribution plays the pivotal role in audience growth not just the dogged pursuit of content creation.
There is a world beyond putting links on social media with the intention to direct back to your site.
This is not about being sceptical.
This is not something along the lines of Twitter is dead.
What I am looking to unearth is the core of why taking on board an approach that is so much more than tired persuasion. This is about small business delivering greater meaning.
This is the reason why I feel we have more opportunity than we have ever had. More so than any other moment in my professional career that started in the late 1990s.
It doesn’t just come down to the realisation of the freedom to create and provide utility within the framework of a content marketing mindset. It comes down to the promise that once you have an idea that means something to someone else you can put it out there at a fraction of the cost.
Explaining The Democratisation Of Distribution
The democratisation of distribution means that you can reach an audience that wasn’t in front of you before.
The biggest challenge we all face today is motivating them, to subscribe, to enquire and to interact.
When I started within the agency world in 1998 much was determined by the size of the wallet to generate exposure. A recruitment exercise normally meant spending money on column inches within Guardian Jobs on a Monday. Highlighting to others what was on at the cinema chain meant film times in the various daily/week local press titles.
When I started alone with my business in 2007, the promise of recognition meant an investment in getting the right creative for an advert in some form of local business press. Looking back, my self-centred approach meant that the audience was basically myself and not those I wanted to target (it was more about the creative execution than the message).
It was a world where I was in love with what was created and inhabited a place where I was more bothered with the competition and myself. Most people do not live in that world.
I guess this is marketing passed down from generation to generation (the onus on the company creating not the audience). This is not sustainable today.
What you have presented in front of you today is the ability to let others know that you are here and showcase what you believe in to make peoples lives better.
This is about creating the content for the consumer and not yourself. You can distribute in a way that motivates others. You owe it to your audience to become more valuable to them, more timely whilst they are becoming increasingly particular.
It Works When You Have Something To Distribute
“Creating content that is worthwhile is a necessary but not a sufficient condition for success, true, but it is the part of the equation that requires significantly more attention. “
“Make things that are really great, consistently put them out there and make friends with the people that talk about it, and word will get out.”
There has to be an incentive to change.
This represents a move from assurance that a piece of creative looks right to ensuring a message is distributed to the right people and more importantly it’s what you completely believe in and proud to be associated with.
The Birthday Cake Analogy
Lets look at this role of content distribution as your birthday cake.
The cake itself represents your overall message. It is the thing that you believe in, it is the thing that differentiates you from everyone else, it is the thing that represents you (and your business). Once the candles are blown out, each slice is for a different audience.
Some is consumed as soon as the candles are blown out with your family, maybe some are taken to work and the final slices are for friends who come round at the weekend.
The original cake has always been there, it’s just been broken down and consumed by different members of your audience.
The main point I am trying to highlight here is that there has to be a consideration for a number of audiences and how they receive is just as important as the original content created.
Proof That The Path Is Now Open
Distribution is here to enable not to dissuade. The roads are now open that have new tarmac, no potholes and the potential for a really smooth journey. For instance, British researchers have developed new fibre optic equipment that can send data faster than ever. It will be the equivalent of downloading a series of House Of Cards in one second.
Social spaces are now encouraging video, with Twitter only last week now able to capture and share videos in your direct messages.
If you are planning a podcast, Spotify have recently launched its first video and podcasting services. Distribution doesn’t necessarily mean putting a show up on audioBoom and then walking away with your fingers crossed.
You can even make your Google number one priority for your answers to be distributed to as many people who link you to what they are searching for. Google is certainly raising its bar through rich answers.
More than 31% of Google queries in 2015 yielded a rich answer within their results (this is up from 22% in 2014). Just to explain, rich answers are the way in which Google provides an answer directly. Have a look below.
Distribution via Owned Media Channels
We are seeing brands setting themselves up as media channels, none more so than Marriott International. I spoke to Vice President Creative & Content Marketing, David Beebe about the opportunity that the democratisation of distribution plays:
“I don’t understand why brands keep “renting” audiences rather than building their own media platforms. Everyone is a media company today, even all of us as individuals. Think about it: we all post content everyday on various social channels, we choose what to post when and where based on the audience, we build followers who engage, and it makes an emotional connection.”
“We don’t do it as individuals, but brands can do the same thing by taking it one step further and monetizing that audience. You still need other publishers as partners, but brands should be building owned platforms across all channels and collaborating in every way possible.”
This is where the opportunity and challenge lies. The ability to distribute and become recognised means that small businesses are going head to head with the big industry brands. The playing field is becoming a lot more even than it ever was.
The challenge is to make others take notice and engage. We can safely say today that creating great content DOES NOT win. According to Buzzsumo 50% of articles get 8 shares or less. Social referral is not as big as we thought it was.
In the words of Mark Schaefer with regards to creating quality content, “in today’s world that is simply the way to earn a seat at the table.”
This is why there has to be consideration not just towards creation but distribution as well. When you create something (written, audio, visual) consumption only works when you have something that is meaningful to a targeted audience.
Your greatest opportunity is the ability to be in a period of time where you can build an audience that connects when distributed. It is not just about creating content, you need to commit time to widening your message and increasing reach.
Whilst there is the current argument that the deepest pockets will win when it comes to distribution via a native advertising approach, distribution can also be controlled from within your own kingdom. Building an audience means that conversation can be directed from a particular channel, such as your email, newsletter, guides or creating a more participatory environment with events/workshops.
Starting To Round Up
The democratisation of distribution is about acknowledging that we are smothered by technology, but you can play a role in someone else’s world, rather than you being the centre of it. In the words of Cicero, “If you wish to persuade me, you must think my thoughts, feel my feelings and speak my words.” This was circa 54BC, not advice from the 21st century.
When it comes to creating your next piece of content that is going to make someone else think, attention to distribution and the person who will be consuming is key.
I am nowhere near reaching a place where distribution is a seamless achievement of reaction, conversation and connection, I know it takes time. However, if you can build community based around topics that you believe in and your role to support is seen by others, then distribution can become the crux of where your content universe revolves.