Marketing teams invest significant time and budget into content creation. But those efforts go to waste if your target audience misses or ignores it.
Building a smart content distribution strategy is the key to maximizing your content reach and impact. From amplifying your original pieces to ramping up content production and raising engagement, content distribution is powerful.
In this article, I’ll guide you through the importance of creating a robust distribution plan and how to construct a winning strategy across earned, paid, and owned channels.
What is content distribution?
Content distribution is the act of sharing content across various channels. These channels can be split into three categories: paid, earned, and owned.
The goal behind content distribution is to amplify the visibility and reach of your content, but you shouldn’t blindly share your creations everywhere. Be strategic with your channels, choosing the ones that will reach your target audience, persuade them to take your desired action, and reflect well on your brand.
Why you need a content distribution plan
An effective content distribution plan ensures your content reaches the right people at the right time and achieves its objectives. It encourages integrated content sharing across targeted channels, which expands your reach while staying in line with your goals.
A well-crafted strategy also supports consistent content creation and distribution, in turn keeping your content marketing team on track. This boosts audience engagement by increasing your content output and setting expectations for where they can find your content.
Further, nailing your content distribution plan can give your business a competitive edge. You’ll gain measurable insights into your content’s performance so you can fine-tune it and make data-driven changes to your distribution plan.
Owned vs. earned vs. paid content distribution
Owned, earned, and paid content distribution are the three options businesses have to share content online:
- Owned content distribution – This encompasses the channels that belong to you, such as your email newsletter, blog articles, or social media pages.
- Earned content distribution – This refers to third-party channels where others disseminate your content, such as guest articles, press coverage, or guest communities.
- Paid content distribution – This involves channels where you pay for people to see your content, like Google Ads, paid social media content, or sponsored content in media publications.
Owned and earned content distribution channels come into play in organic acquisition marketing, where you don’t have to pay a fee to post your content; paid channels will cost you, so take your budget into account when reviewing your available options.
Rather than picking one content type and sticking with it, the key to a successful content distribution plan lies in crafting a cross-channel strategy that encompasses owned, earned, and paid portals. This will broaden your reach and help your content connect deeply with your target audience at various touch points.
Create your content distribution plan in three simple steps
Below is my proven three-step process for creating a winning content distribution plan. It explains how to identify your target audience, choose relevant topics, and decide where to share your content. You’ll also find examples of content you can create across various owned, earned, and paid channels.
1) Know your audience
Before you start pumping out content, you first need to define and understand your target audience. Everything you produce should keep their needs as the focal point. In turn, the audience will shape the channels you leverage to publish your content.
If you haven’t done so already, define your ideal customer profile (ICP) and develop detailed buyer personas for your target audience. The ICP is crucial for attracting the right customers and will include key qualities of your ideal customer such as their industry, maturity, pain points, and purchase process.
Buyer personas and user personas build upon your ICP by honing in on specific characteristics such as individual job roles, challenges, and goals. Together, these audience profiling tools give you a deep understanding of who your audience is, what type of content they’ll enjoy and respond to, and where to distribute it.
2) Choose the content you want to distribute
Publishing content across as many channels as possible may seem like the easiest route to expand reach, engagement, and conversions, but not all channels will serve those purposes. Instead, pinpoint what type of content resonates with your target audience to determine which channels you should use.
Your audience’s interests and needs, your brand goals, and your industry will inform the type of content you focus on. You can run a content audit to make data-driven decisions about which types perform best.
Then, establish standard operating procedures (SOPs) for content distribution to maintain consistency and efficiency. An SOP outlines the exact process for sharing content across different channels. This serves as a guide for the initial piece and any created off the back of it, so make sure you have SOPs for every type of content you plan to publish.
In addition to auditing your content performance, analyze the different topics that do well (and not so much). Determine the subject matter that’s relevant to your audience, both in the long and short term. You might find old content pieces that you can revive and bring back to the forefront, or uncover content gaps where you can create and distribute new, highly targeted content.
3) Choose your content distribution channels
Adopt the “less is more” philosophy when selecting your content distribution channels; not every portal will be relevant or necessary for your intended audience or goals.
Further, trying to publish on every viable channel will cost too much time, effort, and budget to be worthwhile. All those resources are better spent creating high-quality content for the channels that matter most.
Remember the trifecta of paid, earned, and owned when selecting your channels, as each plays a critical role in your content strategy:
- Paid channels offer immediate visibility while increasing brand awareness in front of a wider audience.
- Earned channels leverage your expanded network to elevate your positioning and increase reach.
- Owned channels give you a platform where you have full creative control over the content and can nurture customer relationships.
Use historical data as well to see which channels worked well for your brand in the past. Similarly, analyze your ICP and buyer personas to determine which channels they use and where they actively engage with content. You should also revisit your business and marketing goals to make sure your choice of channels aligns with your objectives.
As a starting point, I’ve next listed some channels for each of the types of content distribution that you can leverage to publicize your content to the right people at the right time. This isn’t an exhaustive list though, and your unique needs should guide your content distribution strategy. Remember, quality is better than quantity.
5 Owned content distribution channels
The following distribution channels are “owned,” meaning your company has ownership over what you share through those channels. This provides more control but potentially limits your audience reach.
1) Email marketing
Email marketing offers a unique route to cultivate close relationships directly with your audience and share exclusive content. Through this channel, you can curate and distribute content with a personalized touch.
Types of content you can distribute via email marketing include regular newsletters, launch alerts to promote new products or services, and other behavior-based drip campaigns. Find topics that align with your overall content strategy.
Experiment with the email design as well to find what earns the highest open and response rates from your audience. You could measure the performance of plain-text communications versus visual-heavy ones, or you may want to test specific elements in your emails, such as subject line verbiage, use of white space, number of images, etc. Tailor your content to enhance engagement and action.
Email marketing can act as a central hub to collate and showcase content you’ve published on other channels. This cross-channel alignment will produce a consistent, unified brand message that amplifies the impact of your content distribution plan.
2) Mobile and desktop apps
From lifestyle and utility apps to eCommerce, games, and social media, brands can build desktop and mobile apps for almost anything. If your business has its own app, this can serve as a unique channel for content distribution.
Capitalize on your app to connect with existing customers and make sure they’re the first to see new content or updates from your brand. You can send push notifications to notify app users instantly about new contents, updates, or special offers and keep them engaged.
Also, consider building distribution into your onboarding experience for key information. For example, you could conclude onboarding with free online courses on how to leverage your tool beyond its base functions.
You can also refresh your app content by creating new sections or updating the look of your app. This ensures users see your latest content within the app to maximize its content distribution power.
3) Social media platforms
Establishing a presence on social media can help you amplify owned content, interact with customers for user-generated content (UGC), and collaborate with other brands.
Create pages and publish posts on social media platforms where your target audience is most active. The main channels to consider are Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, TikTok, and X (formerly Twitter). Having your own pages gives you control over the type of content you distribute on these platforms.
You can also reshare content you create on other channels through your social media pages. Whether you’ve written a blog post, released an eBook, or recorded a podcast, you can repurpose your original content to create enticing social media posts.
Additionally, you can (and should) craft content specifically for social media. Develop a strategy that takes into consideration your subject matter, target audience, and the types of content you plan to share.
To elevate your social media content, optimize the captions and incorporate media such as photos, videos, or graphics. Tagging other accounts or collaborating with others on social media can increase the reach of your social media content as well.
Tip: Incentivize your audience to create and share UGC on your behalf, building more brand recognition and chances to be discovered by your target audience.
You can conduct webinars live or on demand, which opens up a variety of distribution avenues for your business. Webinars are a highly interactive channel for content dissemination and give you a chance to build trust and form strong bonds with your audience.
To add webinars to your content distribution strategy, first decide whether on-demand or live sessions will better suit your content and audience. The former offer greater flexibility, while the latter provide a space for immediate interaction and activity.
I recommend live webinars, since they give you a unique space for nurturing real-time engagement as you interact with your audience on topics of interest. Outside the event itself, you can promote your webinar across social media as an alternative channel of engagement for your followers.
One of my favorite webinar content distribution tactics, regardless of the type you choose, is partnering with industry experts. Collaborative webinars are a fruitful partnership marketing strategy that can expand your reach, position you as an expert, and bring diverse perspectives to your audience.
5) Podcasts and videos
Building podcasts and videos into your content distribution plan can add a personal touch to your brand, and reach audiences who prefer to watch or listen to content rather than read. They offer a refreshing take on content dissemination that helps you stand out in the sea of text- and image-based content.
By leveraging visual or audio content, you quickly capture your audience’s attention and keep them engaged. Podcasts, in particular, can add authenticity to your brand. Their conversational nature fosters a familiarity with the people behind the brand, which cultivates a deeper connection and trust among listeners.
Incorporating podcasts and videos into your content distribution plan also produces rich content that you can repurpose for other channels: Transcripts can become blog posts; video clips can be shared on social media; and audio segments can transform into promotional snippets. Capitalize on podcasts and videos to unearth a trove of repurposable content for your distribution strategy.
4 Earned content distribution channels
The following are earned content distribution channels, which means you need to invest to gather attention for your content on these channels. You can’t control what’s shared or favorited, only what you submit.
1) Guest posting
Writing content for other websites can grow your audience, boost your authority, and increase visibility for your brand. Adding guest posts to your content distribution plan gives you a platform to showcase your expertise across multiple outlets.
Look for guest posting opportunities that are relevant to your business, audience, and industry so you target websites that’ll have the greatest impact on your marketing goals. Write on topics that align with your brand and resonate with your intended demographic to ensure the content offers clear value to readers.
When guest posting, be sure to include backlinks to your business’s website where appropriate. This drives traffic to your site and, as a bonus, contributes to SEO performance.
You can use collaborations to increase your reach and align your brand with trusted businesses and creators. Content collaborations can take the form of influencer partnerships on social media, brand cooperatives to create new marketing campaigns or products, and more. That wide variety makes this tactic a powerful addition to your content distribution strategy.
When deciding the type of collaboration you want to pursue, search for partners whose values, audience, and vision align with yours. Once you’ve chosen a partner, you need to develop a plan for content creation and dissemination. The strategy should also be mutually beneficial for both parties involved.
For instance, if you decide to pursue influencer marketing collaborations, some things to consider include the type of content you want them to produce, the channels where the content will be published, the frequency of content production, and how much creative freedom the influencer will have.
Communities are everywhere online, covering practically every niche. Members connect over a shared interest or goal, which builds strong bonds among them. By capitalizing on that communal nature, you can foster your own close connections with your target audience and drive authentic engagement.
Look for relevant groups on platforms such as Facebook, Slack, or Discord. Focus on collaborating with relevant community owners and engaging in groups where your target audience resides. This form of content distribution could look like co-hosting webinars, crafting exclusive resources for their community or engaging in community-wide discussions.
Be sure to respect and follow the group’s guidelines and don’t spam members with links or self-promotion. Instead, focus on showcasing your value through your content.
Distributing content across communities lets you build genuine relationships and become an integral part of the conversations that matter most to your target audience.
Forums are a hotbed of communication, making them the perfect channel for getting personal with your target audience. Platforms like Reddit and Quora can be great for strategically distributing content that your target audience will find interesting.
Seek out forums and channels where your audience is most active. Then, form connections with your target audience by engaging in discussions, answering questions, and sharing content that aligns with their interests. Make sure the content you publish offers valuable insights for forum members.
Just like with communities, respect the rules of the forum by avoiding excessive self-promotion, spamming, or sharing links without permission or context.
4 Paid content distribution channels
The distribution channels below are pay-to-play, which gives you some control over the content and reception (since you pay for it and are technically a client of the advertiser).
1) Pay-per-click (PPC) ads
As the name suggests, PPC is an advertising model where the advertiser (you) only pays the publisher when someone clicks on their ad. You can run PPC ads in a variety of places, including search engines like Google and Bing, social media platforms like Facebook and LinkedIn, or website banners.
PPC ads can expand the reach of existing content, helping increase visibility and conversions. Alternatively, you could craft content specifically for PPC use, such as landing pages or downloadable resources optimized for PPC.
The ads you create will depend on which ad platform you intend to use, your audience, and your goals (e.g., brand awareness, lead generation, driving specific actions). Most PPC platforms will let you define your audience parameters for precise targeting.
From there, you can focus on crafting ad copy and creatives that resonate with your market segment and communicate the value of your content. Be sure to feature a compelling call to action (CTA) at the end. Then, align your ad duration and budget with your overall strategy and desired outcomes.
Once they’re live, periodically check ad performance and make strategic improvements as necessary. That should entail tailoring your ad landing pages; aligning them with the ad content can enhance overall performance and conversions by creating a seamless user experience.
2) Sponsored content
Sponsored content means you pay to distribute content on platforms you don’t own to reach new audiences. Examples include sponsoring online media publications, newsletters, and podcasts. This avenue expands your reach and authority among your target audience.
Choose media publications that align with your audience and industry while tailoring your content to match the interests of that publication’s readership. For example, an accounting software company could disperse sponsored content on a popular entrepreneurship podcast to boost its lead acquisition.
Focus on creating content that’s relevant to your business and provides value to the publisher’s audience. This alignment will enhance their interest and engagement.
Further, look beyond online media publications for sponsored content opportunities. Newsletter sponsorships, for instance, can be a great way to attract a highly engaged audience.
3) Paid posts on forums
Some online forums like Reddit allow users to post paid content, so you may want to explore this option to connect and engage with your target audience directly.
Paid forum posts provide a direct link to niche groups that share obvious interests. Aim to produce content that strikes a chord with users and contribute valuable insights to ongoing discussions.
To gain the most from paid content distribution on forums, pair it with an engagement strategy. Participate in discussions, respond to comments, and build relationships within the forum community to strengthen your presence.
4) Paid social media content
Paid social media content involves publishing adverts on social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, or TikTok. It’s excellent for showcasing content to your target audience while they browse social networks. Build paid social media content into your distribution plan to maximize visibility and engagement while controlling your messaging.
This tactic lets you direct your content’s audience targeting, ad content, and calls to action. Amplify its performance by tailoring the content to your segment’s specific interests, needs, and behaviors. Doing so will drive the action you want them to take.
You can also use paid social media to extend the reach and performance of organic social media posts. This is an effective strategy for increasing visibility among your existing followers while attracting the attention of new people in your target demographic.
Monitor, analyze, and optimize your content distribution plan
Your distribution journey doesn’t stop at sharing content. It requires continuous monitoring, analysis, and optimization for sustained success.
Regularly monitor the performance of your content across various distribution channels. This first requires you to decide which KPIs to track for each platform. Clarifying your KPIs will ensure your content analysis is accurate and returns actionable insights.
Your chosen metrics should align with your marketing goals so you uncover what content resonates with your audience, what drives action, and what needs improvement. Depending on your goals, some metrics you may want to track include:
- Engagement rate
- Click-through rate
- Social shares
- Conversion rate
- Audience growth over time
These are helpful indicators of how well your content is performing and its impact on your target segment.
Analyze the data
When analyzing your content performance, keep a close eye on any content trends or patterns. Look for patterns in the wider market as well so you can adjust your content accordingly. This oversight helps you catch shifts in engagement early so you can pivot your content distribution plan and secure optimal results while avoiding engagement slumps.
Take time to fully understand the drivers behind your content performance (or lack thereof) by diving into your data. It could, for instance, be a result of audience demographic targeting, distributing content at peak times, or publishing specific content types that resonate with your audience.
Analysis will help you uncover this as well as strategies for refining your content. Adjust the timing of content, refine your messaging, and shake up your channels and formats to enhance your future quality and performance.
Wrapping up — Boost ROI with a comprehensive content distribution plan
A robust content distribution plan will set you apart from your industry competitors. Develop a well-crafted strategy to maximize the impact of your content across various channels. This entails understanding the needs of your audience, choosing the right channels, and tailoring your approach to each platform. Embrace diverse platforms and ensure you cover a mix of paid, owned, and earned channels in your content distribution plan.
By combining thoughtful planning with strategic analysis and a flexible strategy, you’ll be able to build a content distribution plan that drives visibility, engagement, and action.