Content promotion comes with a lot of pressure. What do those two words mean to you? Amplification? Distribution? Virality?
These are words that promote scarcity around the job. Sometimes coming directly from a CMO.
For the solo content marketer, I’d like to reframe it as “promotion opportunity overwhelm”.
Think about how many platforms there are Medium, LinkedIn, SlideShare, Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, etc. Now, add a consideration of how you might adapt one piece of content to each of these platforms. Overwhelming right? That’s because resources are already strapped for content teams leading to two repetitive pain points in promoting content:
- The adaptation process can be almost as intensive as creating a new piece from scratch (think blog post to YouTube video). If you’re working on your own, you’re already working on your next piece to fill a calendar commitment. Where do you find the time?
- The pressure of “getting it right” can lead to indecision on which site to target first. Research shows that the option of more choices leads to indecision over action.
Add on the fact that you are meant to be reaching out to influencers, and asking for backlinks with each piece of content that rolls out on the blog each week.
This is a lot of expectation for a single content marketer. Luckily, CMO’s are beginning to know this is, which is why we’re seeing a trend for content marketing roles to be split into writers and promoters (more popular in saturated content industries).
How can a marketer be effective at content promotion?
Often, content writers don’t do themselves any favors. They spend hours on writing a piece, click publish, and often think “how do I promote this?”
I encourage you to think of every piece of content as a strategic puzzle—that’s bigger than the sum of its parts—to get more views.
The trick is to bake it into your editorial calendar through content archetypes. Content archetypes are powerful because not only do you create a system for creativity, you build promotion into a post by default.
When I’m briefing writers with requirements of how I want content created, I generally already know where I’m going to promote the piece. One piece of content will typically hit at least one of these outlets, but sometimes many of them:
- Promoting content in aggregating forums
- Promoting content to encourage or engage discussion in relevant communities
- Promoting content with influencers
(use these sub-heads to navigate this post.)
Here’s a quick review of the two years I’ve been at Kayako covering my biggest successes with content promotion. Before we move on I think we should be on level terms with what content promotion actually is—or at least this is what it means to me.
Sidenote: I now realize that the efforts I took to promote and distribute were probably ripples of success in the ocean of organic (SEO) success I created for the business. But that’s a post for another. Sign up below and I’ll promise I’ll send it to you when it’s written up.
What is content promotion?
Content promotion is a strategy to get more views to a marketing resource (blog post in most cases) in the hope they’ll become a subscriber or regular reader. And there’s two forms of content promotion:
- Organic: A reader naturally stumbles across your content because it’s appeared somewhere they frequent online or a friend has recommended it to them. This is normally at the effort of a ton of outreach efforts like hustling newsletter curators.
- Paid: This means you’re paying to place your content where your ideal audience exists. Think social media (Facebook, Twitter), email newsletters, and the ads at the top of search engines.
Essentially, the idea is that if you get more eyes on a blog post, there’s a higher chance it’s going to connect with the right person. It’s basically a numbers game, really. You put enough effort (or cash) behind a piece and put it in relevant places, then eventually someone will click through.
Great. Now we’ve cleared that up, let me tell you about my organic content promotion strategy at Kayako.
Kayako’s content promotion strategy
To familiarize you with Kayako and my efforts promoting the content. Kayako is customer service software that puts conversations across live chat, email, and social into a single view for a team of support agents.
The perks of this single view allow support agents to have context across conversations that are happening across those other channels, without switching windows or apps to get relevant details to help their customer.
From that description, you might have guessed Kayako’s audience is Customer Support Managers and Leaders. This isn’t to be confused by the Call Center audience. Yes, our audience might wear headsets, but the key difference is generally people in customer support love their work. Call them customer advocates—because that’s what we call our agents at Kayako, Customer Support Advocates.
I outline this because it’s essential for understanding that our audience isn’t huge. And this is a good thing because it sets realistic expectations for promoting content.
Have you got 1,000 true fans?
In his post, Wired Founder, Kevin Kelly, explains that catering to a small audience is a way “an artist, musician, photographer, craftsperson, performer, animator, designer, videomaker, or author – in other words, anyone producing works of art needs to acquire only 1,000 True Fans to make a living.”
You should take this methodology forward with your content promotion strategy.
Rarely will you ever be able to produce a piece of content that’s going to be a huge success on the biggest content aggregators, social channels, and communities.
And that’s ok!
If you’re producing content that can hit promotion or distribution like that, then you’re either a) dealing with a unicorn piece of content or b) your content is so generic and it’s not really relevant to anyone. Remember 1,000 true fans. This methodology is essential to your promotion strategy as well as your content strategy.
Promoting content in aggregating forums
Content promotional success in an aggregating forum is tough. There’s a certain tipping point you need to hit in order to get your post trending.
Promoting content on GrowthHackers
Promoting content on GrowthHackers is ideal for the SaaS B2B marketer. That’s the core audience. Anything about growth, revenue, and entrepreneurship tends to perform very well. You need to get 5 upvotes before you’ll be classified as trending on GrowthHackers.
Knowing this I pushed this piece on the best startup books for entrepreneurs and founders onto their forum. Kayako’s co-founder and COO, Jamie Edwards, put all of his collective knowledge from interviews with investors into a post and shared it with the world.
And the traffic from this piece was insane, 3K+ in one week.
Part of my content strategy included getting strong backlinks to Kayako. Naturally I pursued getting something published on content marketing giants, Hubspot.
I had a personal story on tips and tricks on productive writing—that I knew wouldn’t fit the Kayako blog’s audience—so I worked my contacts and pitched it to them.
From the outset, it looks like promoting content on GrowthHackers has been nothing but notches of success on my belt. It’s true, I’ve had my successes, but they’re also surrounded by a hub of failures. Feel free to check my profile and see how many times it hasn’t worked out for me.
But that is simply the luck of the draw. It’s easier to take the risk than to bypass the opportunity and leave it as a regret.
And don’t let negative feedback discourage you from doing it. A tactic I was using to get a ton of upvotes and build promotional momentum stopped working—I got called out on it, hard:
This tactic still works (I happened upon one person who didn’t like this form of marketing). Here’s how you do it:
- Compile a listicle post, expert roundup, or ask an expert for a quote.
- When the post goes live, ask them to share on social.
- A week later post on GrowthHackers, Inbound, or both, then “encourage” them to upvote.
Why does this work? In Psychology this is called the ladder of compliance. It works well because you get them invested with a quote, low compliance request = social share, higher compliance request = upvote. There’s your next article promotion strategy. You’re welcome.
Promoting content on Inbound.org
Everything I’ve learned about content promotion on Inbound has come down to the headline. The algorithm to push you content on Inbound is based around comments, replies, and upvotes. To get those, you either need to be a hit in the community (think Neil Patel, Sujan Patel, Noah Kagan, etc.) or have a snappy headline.
Since I’m not the former, I’ve been aiming for the latter. On occasions I’d strike gold, when one day I was freaked out when I was recommended to engage and comment on my own article on the daily digest.
Promoting content to encourage or engage discussion in relevant communities
If you’re lucky, you have a devoted community where you can hang out and get your content ideas. On the flip side, this also means you can drop relevant blog posts or resources when you get the opportunity. For Kayako’s audience these people hangout on Quora, Slack, and occasionally LinkedIn groups (yeah, really I’m surprised too).
Promoting content in communities is one of the hardest aspect of marketing as you need to know the clientele well, otherwise you risk a slapped wrist or a ban. I’ve experienced both, but you learn through your errors.
Promoting content on Quora
Promoting content on Quora is easy because you’re able to repurpose your content and then link back to it as further reading or a source.
Also you can ask for upvotes from your colleagues, friends, or family. I’ve searched low and high found Quora stating this is not against their rules.
But upvotes aren’t the only thing that makes your answer rank. It was the Jason Lemkin approach to Quora that was working for me.
Quantity on Quora translates into being rewarded with top answer positions on threads. That’s the Quora algorithm that makes you feel rewarded and encourages you to keep contributing.
Promoting in Slack communities is hard. No one wants a marketer to come and ruin their community experience. If you drop in just to promote a piece of content, it doesn’t go down well. So how do you get around this?
Write up consistent questions or discussions into a blog post and post it.
If the community guidelines are strict on promotion:
- Grab an archive link of someone asking or discussing the subject. And frame it as a response.
- Contact the moderator and tell them the question/discussion keeps being asked over and over. And see if they mind you dropping a link or dropping it themselves.
I did this with one of the biggest pain-points for customer support agents, reducing back and forth. And when the discussion came up again, I used their language and dropped a link to the blog.
And a few hours later, it turned into a thread with more praise and achieved the goal I wanted, more shares. [Sidenote: Someone actually scrolled back up through a Slack community, can you believe that?]
LinkedIn has been trying to make its comeback as a content platform ever since they took down influencers. It was no surprise that LinkedIn groups also became saturated with content, no discussions, and the occasional member banned for being to spammy (that includes me, I’ve tried posting links to enter competitions directly into groups).
However, the other day I did come across a group that isn’t any of the above. There is discussion and valued over content sharing (which is discouraged).
Taking the rules onboard (this time) I decided to try the repurposing content route. Brief the content into starting a discussion and then use the first comment to post a link to what I was referencing and where readers could find out more.
Promoting content with influencers
Influencer marketing has been a hot topic for years, and according to Orbit Media’s latest blogger survey, its “strong results” for content promotion is probably why it’s the topic that will never die.
It’s better to think of influencer marketing as building online relationships. This has been written about so much, but essentially just don’t be a dick and give first before you ask. It’s why you got into content marketing in the first place isn’t it—to add value?
Building relationships with your idols
I’ll start with a personal one. This is probably the piece of content promotion I hold in highest regard—one that harnesses a comment from Seth Godin.
I’ve spent a lot of hours reading Seth’s work. Writing a detailed account on how his work and many others, like Steven Pressfield, helped me become a better writer felt like the right way to say thank you.
When the post went live I made sure I reached out to both Seth Godin and Steven Pressfield. I heard back from both of them, but it was Seth’s—no matter how small—comment on my post, that made this post feel like a success.
Building relationships with customer support influencers
I built a relationship with Zappos founder, Tony Hsieh’s, side project, Delivering Happiness. I put together a list of all the best TED talk videos on customer service, and knew they must have one with Tony speaking. I browsed the archives of YouTube, but I couldn’t find one. I reached out to double check I wasn’t missing something.
The talk wasn’t by Tony, they pointed me towards co-founder, Jenn Lim’s.
I added it to my post, and felt as if this gave me permission to follow up when the post went live. I asked for a tweet and inclusion in their newsletter. In the end I was lucky and got both.
And that led to an increase in content sharing without asking. They started tweeting out our own industry research on bad customer service.
In fact, if you haven’t already I highly recommend you do your own industry research as this has been a gold mine for permission to reach out to influencers and get them involved.
The advertising group Ogilvy, has a dedicated consumer research department, Ogilvy and Change. I saw Jez Groom speak at conference in 2015 and decided to reach out. It was very close to being a collaboration, but in the end we didn’t get to partner with them to expand our research. We did get to visit their very impressive London HQ.
Chase Clements is Head of Support at Basecamp. He also runs the SupportOps website and podcast. He is both familiar with myself and Kayako, so firing off an email about our latest live chat research and asking if he’d share it was well received.
And he made up on his promise and included it right into the next newsletter and podcast announcement email.
Now I’ve written all this, unless the content your pitching is absolutely ground-breaking, then influencer marketing is best produced in collaboration with them, you shouldn’t be focused only sharing it.
Your turn: Start promoting your content
The idea of content promotion can take many forms social shares, backlinks, etc. I still hold the idea that every piece content is part of a strategic puzzle to get more views, and truly believe it is not about mass, but more pushing content in the right places.
Sometimes you might have to write a blog post where the purpose is answering a few repetitive questions on Quora and linking back to your piece. Or maybe it’s a frequent discussion in a community that keeps cropping up. Either way, embrace the smallness of that audience, because it matters for your brand. If you truly put the effort in to help people whether on site or off, that’s how they’ll remember you and build your base of 1,000 raving fans.