You’ve slaved away at your beloved content for what seems like weeks. Bleary eyed, exhausted, and borderline delusional, you finally publish your latest blog post with a trembling, caffeinated hand and breathe a ragged sigh of relief. It is done. You have breathed life into the world (kinda) and unleashed your labors upon the internet (sorta, I guess).
Except nobody reads your post. The social share count hovers just a little above zero, like a vulture hungrily eyeing its prey, waiting patiently for it to die. What kind of cruel god could allow such a tragedy to unfold? What went wrong? What unseen, malevolent hand caused your post to fail?
You didn’t amplify your content.
Content amplification is an amazingly powerful technique that, if done correctly, can deliver incredible results – and the kind of traffic that your web servers may struggle to cope with. It can expand your audience immensely, establish your brand firmly at top-of-mind among consumers in your industry, and create new opportunities to drive leads and sales.
In this post, we’re going to take an exhaustive look at content amplification. First, we’ll define what content amplification actually is, before taking a look at several reasons why it’s such an essential part of your wider digital marketing strategy. Finally, we’ll talk about how to actually do content amplification in a series of highly actionable strategies you can implement right away, as well as the tools you’ll need to get the job done. There’s a lot to cover, so let’s get started.
Content amplification is the process of helping your content reach a significantly wider audience – hence, “amplifying” the signal of your content. Another way to think of it is in the classic signal vs. noise metaphor often used in content marketing. Your content is the signal, and everything else is the noise. When you put it in these terms, the concept of content amplification becomes a lot clearer.
It’s important to note that content amplification isn’t a single strategy or technique. The practice of content amplification encompasses many individual techniques, strategies, and methods of amplifying the reach of your content, making “content amplification” an umbrella term for several unique strategies.
Using paid search to drive awareness of your latest white paper? You’re amplifying your content. Running Facebook ads to generate buzz about your latest eBook? You’re amplifying your content. Leveraging influencers and their large networks to get the word out about your latest infographic?
You got it – you’re amplifying your content.
Now that we know what content amplification actually is, let’s take a look at why it’s so crucial to the success of your content marketing strategy.
If you have even modest experience with the content marketing landscape, you’ll know it can be absolutely brutal out there. With almost three million blog posts published every single day (yes, really), there’s plenty of noise out there – and your signal is competing with all of it.
Granted, there aren’t almost three million blog posts published in your specific niche every single day, but the sheer, terrifying volume of worthless, poorly written garbage on the Web is absolutely amazing.
Aside from the nightmarish levels of competition and the intensity of maintaining daily (or even more frequent) publishing schedules, content amplification is crucial to today’s content marketing professionals because social media channels and, to a large extent, search giants like Google itself, are heavily prioritizing paid content over organic results.
This phenomenon has hit social media marketers particularly hard, with Facebook’s organic reach declining sharply over a relatively short period of time.
Image via social@Ogilvy
The figure above, originally published by Ogilvy, shows the shocking decline of organic content on Facebook between October 2013 and February 2014 – a period of just four months. Today, organic reach on Facebook is even lower, with some publishers’ fans seeing an average of just 2% of organic posts published in certain cases.
However, the bad news doesn’t stop there. Last year, BuzzSumo analyzed one million blog posts (yes, really) to see how people interacted with content online. The results showed just how competitive the content marketing landscape really is:
Image via BuzzSumo
These figures are a sobering reminder that, despite our best efforts, most content fails – hard. Other studies have yielded similarly depressing results. According to data from Trackmaven, 42% of professionally marketed blog posts receive fewer than 10 interactions. Despite the myriad benefits of content marketing, it’s getting harder and harder to make an impact.
If experienced professionals face these kind of odds, it may be tempting for small businesses and new blogs to think that the content ship has sailed; that you’re too late to the party, or can’t compete with larger companies and teams. Although solid organic traffic is certainly possible with patience, a commitment to publishing quality content, and a keen awareness of on-page SEO elements, relying upon organic traffic solely is a one-way ticket to crisis. In today’s digital media landscape, the reality is that you have to pay to play.
Of course, the better you know the game, the more likely you are to win – and that’s what makes content amplification so powerful.
Is your blog more like the scrappy (possibly crappy) indie band you’d expect to see droning on stage at your local dive bar, or more like the Rolling Stones? While it’s true that Mick and friends got their start at a humble pub – The Bricklayer’s Arms on Broadwick Street in London, a reputedly fine establishment which eventually became one of the greatest record stores in the world, Sounds of the Universe – they had lofty ambitions of rock stardom from the very beginning.
7 Broadwick Street, London, where The Rolling Stones played their first performance,
as it is today. Image via Rock & Roll London.
Don’t settle for a career spent gigging in pubs. Be like Jagger and aim for the crowd of 1.5 million people he and his bandmates played for in Rio in 2006 (but definitely not like the Stones’ infamous concert at the Altamont Speedway Free Festival in 1969). Identify bold, ambitious goals and implement actionable strategies to help you get there – strategies like the ones below.
The following content amplification strategies can help you reach a wider audience, get the right content to the right people at the right time, and firmly establish your blog as an authority in your niche. Follow these highly actionable strategies to amplify your content and reach a whole new level of readership and conversion opportunities.
Remember how we described the content creation process as a cruel, wicked mistress that seeks to chain us to our desks for all time and torture us with her mocking laughter? Well, after enduring a trial as arduous as writing an awesome blog post, it’s tempting to think of everything you produce as excellent – a unicorn, as Larry would say.
However, as even the youngest of children could tell you, unicorns are so prized because of their rarity. If every blog post or white paper were a unicorn, then we’d have to find another equally graceful and elusive mythological beast after which to chase.
The harsh reality is that, sadly, most content is more like a donkey than a unicorn. And, as Larry has warned us in the past, you shouldn’t send donkeys into space as, “They can’t withstand the rigors of space travel” (a limitation that unicorns presumably lack).
“WHAT NOW LARRY”
Paying to promote your content (a strategy sometimes referred to as content advertising) can be extraordinarily cost effective. However, with competitive pricing comes the temptation to promote everything. After all, the more people that see it, the more effectively you’re amplifying your content, right?
Content amplification is useless unless you’re promoting the very best content you have – the top 1-2% of your most exceptional content. Even paid social’s comparably competitive ROI doesn’t mean you should pay to promote all your content – only the very best.
Let me give you an example of what amplifying “unicorn” content looks like. A while back, we published a blog post about the slow, agonizing death of Google+, the search giant’s ailing social network. We were among the first to break the story – including even dedicated news teams at large media companies – and we paid to promote the post via Twitter.
Twitter.com screenshot of the Promoted Tweet shortly after publication
We knew this story was going to be huge, so we spent a little money to promote it – just $250, to be precise. That initial investment not only netted Larry almost 1,500 retweets, but earned the site more than 100,000 visitors in direct referral traffic – an absolutely insane (as Larry might say) ROI for such a meagre advertising spend.
This post remains one of WordStream’s most-shared and most-read articles, and smart content amplification helped this happen.
You already know that your content needs to be as good as it possibly can be if it’s to have any chance of succeeding. You also know that you should only be paying to amplify your very best content. But what about who should be reading – and sharing – it?
Getting influential people to help spread the word about your content (commonly known as influencer marketing) can be extraordinarily powerful, but it’s tricky to get right and there’s no exact science to it; more like a bit of planning and a little luck. Think of it like trying to get your mixtape into the hands of the right producer – it’s tough, but if you somehow pull it off, you might just have a shot at the big-time.
There are several ways to try and encourage influential people in your niche to share and amplify your content. Further below, in the Tools section, you’ll also find a software tool that will make influencer marketing a whole lot easier.
Send Influencers Brief Emails
One of the most straightforward ways to try and get influencers to share your content is by emailing them. However, email is a very real burden for many influencers, and as such it might not be suitable for time-sensitive content such as breaking news or industry-first infographics or original data.
It’s also worth considering that most influencers probably receive dozens, if not hundreds, of such emails every day. If you do decide to email an influencer, don’t be pushy, keep it short, and be polite. Oh, and don’t copy/paste the same email to everyone – there are few things more professionally damaging (and embarrassing) as forgetting to change someone’s name in an email. It’s a bad look.
Engage Influencers on Social Media
This approach can also be highly effective. Tweeting at an influencer to let them know about a new blog post or guide might result in them clicking, reading, and sharing your article. Sure, it’s a long shot, but all it takes is for one key influencer in your niche to share a post for it to potentially go viral, so be sure to regularly engage with influencers in your industry, and not merely in a self-promotional context.
However, when engaging with influencers on social media, it’s important to remember that influencers’ mentions are likely full of links to articles, news stories and the like. By all means be proactive on social media, but don’t overdo it and don’t spam people relentlessly with links to your stuff.
Use Influencers’ Content as a Starting Point
One of the most effective ways to leverage the power of influencer marketing is to use what influencers say as a starting point for a larger discussion. For example, you could use a blog post written by an influencer as either the basis for a post offering a counterargument (a potential use of contrarian content, if there is a valid counterargument), or as inspiration for a more detailed post.
This type of content is much more likely to pique influencers’ interest, as it responds directly to something that the influencer said. You can then frame this content in a more organic way i.e. “Hey, I loved your post about [topic], but I disagreed with some of your points” or something similar.
Before you ask, no, “super remarketing” is not a new AdWords or Facebook Ads feature, but rather a content amplification strategy masterminded by WordStream’s own unicorn hunter, Larry Kim.
Super remarketing is essentially using highly granular targeting parameters and combining these parameters with certain behaviors. Let’s see how this works in action.
Say you want to remarket your content more effectively. For the sake of example, let’s say you’re promoting an eBook about enterprise-level IT solutions. You’re already remarketing to everyone who has visited your site – the very essence of remarketing – but your conversion rates are still low.
Rather than throwing good money after bad, you rethink your remarketing strategy to cater more exclusively to your ideal customer. You accomplish this by only remarketing to users who share similar characteristics, such as:
If you’re new to remarketing (super or otherwise), this approach might seem counterintuitive. Isn’t it better to remarket to wider audience segments in the hope of improving conversion rates? Not necessarily. It’s pointless remarketing to people who don’t have any influence in the purchasing process, for example, or to people who are still too junior in their careers to make use of the information your content offers.
By being purposefully selective in your targeting parameters, you’re doing everything you can to ensure that your remarketing ads appear to the right people, at the right time, with the right offer. Also, don’t forget that this highly granular approach applies only to your remarketing strategy, not your initial PPC or paid social campaigns, so don’t be afraid to delve into the data and be “super” specific about your remarketing options.
It always makes me laugh seeing “guides” on how to market effectively on community sites like Reddit. Not because it’s impossible to market on Reddit and the like (though such communities are notoriously, vehemently anti-marketing), but because it reveals a fundamental misunderstanding of how Reddit and similar sites work.
Sure, Reddit has ads and sponsored links, but its real value isn’t as an ad platform, but rather because it’s a place where people can gather to share their passions, whether that be Libertarian politics or .gifs of startled cats.
Marketing on Reddit – it’s not impossible, it’s just really difficult.
Rather than focusing on “get rich quick” schemes and guides telling you how to really market on Reddit, focus on becoming a trusted, valued member of the niche communities that are relevant to your business. Don’t just post links to your content every day on Reddit (or Inbound.org, or Growth Hackers, or YCombinator, etc.), but instead get involved in the conversation.
Remember – Mick and the lads didn’t become rock gods overnight.
A typical day’s discussion at Inbound.org
Post relevant, useful links that people will genuinely find useful. Answer questions better than anyone else and start discussions. The more valued a community member you are, the more likely other members are to share your content organically, without resorting to the kind of sleazy tactics that will tarnish your reputation in the community.
So, now that we’ve covered several ways you can amplify your content, it’s time to take a look at the tools you’ll need to get the job done. Some are free, others are subscription-based, but I’ve tried to list the most cost-effective tools where possible.
BuzzSumo isn’t a promotional tool per se, but it’s absolutely invaluable for identifying what’s hot in your industry – a great place to start when producing content.
Image via BuzzSumo
Priced at $99 per month for the most affordable package, BuzzSumo analyzes all major social media channels to see which content is resonating with readers in real time. For example, you could enter “PPC” as a keyword or subject of interest, and BuzzSumo will display the most-shared content across all major networks. This allows you to see at-a-glance which topics are being shared the most and identify topic areas that are either timely or very popular.
This approach is perfect for using other content as a starting point (as in the influencer and contrarian marketing examples above) and for capitalizing on trending topics to kick-start your content amplification efforts. Essential.
It’s no secret that we’re all huge fans of Buffer at WordStream. Not only do the folks at Buffer run one of the best blogs in the business, they also make an awesome product of the same name trusted by social media managers everywhere.
Image via Buffer
At first glance, Buffer is just another social media scheduling tool. Although scheduling is a crucial part of Buffer’s functionality, there’s way more to it than that. For one, users have the option of scheduling tweets at optimal times depending on the social network in question. As Buffer’s own data shows, not every social network is similar in terms of when the most people are active at any given time.
Image via Buffer
Another excellent content amplification feature within Buffer is the ability for users to “re-Buffer” old content from their dashboard. This can be done manually or automatically, but however you choose to do it, being able to quickly and easily share old content again is a major boost to any content amplification project.
Buffer is free for individual use, with paid plans ranging from $10 to $399.
Remember how we talked about influencer marketing earlier? Wouldn’t it be nice if there was a sleek software tool that made influencer marketing easier? Well, there is, and it’s called Little Bird.
Image via TechCrunch
Little Bird is a software tool that makes identifying, connecting with, and sharing content with influencers easy. The software boasts an extensive feature set, including robust social media monitoring and graphing tools to help visualize connections between your business and influencers in your industry. It also features content monitoring and sharing tools (similar to those offered by BuzzSumo), making it easy to see what influential people are talking about.
Finally, Little Bird has a diverse advertising toolset, including social graph analysis functionality, relationship mapping tools, and contextual connection insights that can drive more effective content advertising and social campaigns.
Unfortunately, there is no current pricing information available anywhere on Little Bird’s website. Three years ago, Little Bird plans began at $50 for individuals (limited to five reports per month), ranging up to $250 per month for small businesses, $500 for mid-sized businesses, and bespoke pricing plans for enterprise-level clients. These figures may no longer be accurate, so be sure to thoroughly discuss Little Bird’s pricing plans with a company representative before making a commitment.
Many content amplification tools share much of the same functionality, which can make choosing between them a challenge. Fortunately, some tools distinguish themselves by offering functionality that few or no other tools can, which is why BuzzStream is definitely worth a look.
Image via BuzzStream
Describing BuzzStream in a few words is pretty difficult. The software boasts a wide range of features, from outreach tracking to team and project management. You can track every stage of your editorial, PR, and outreach workflows, assign stages of projects to specific individuals, and track everything from an intuitive centralized dashboard.
BuzzStream also offers several tools that similar software does not, such as link building and SEO tools. This diversity of functionality combined with the simple, cross-platform project management tools makes BuzzStream a potentially deadly weapon in your content amplification arsenal. BuzzStream plans range from $24 per month for the Starter level, up to $299 per month for the Professional plan. Custom pricing is also available for larger teams.
If you’ve made it this far (and you haven’t been deafened by the sound of all this awesomeness), you’ve learned everything you need to get started with content amplification. We’ve covered a lot of ground, so here’s a quick TL;DR (“too long; didn’t read” for those of you scratching your head) to recap the essentials:
Nigel Tufnel, living rock and roll legend
The tips, techniques, and tools mentioned in this post are far from the only such ways to approach and work with content amplification, but hopefully you’ve got a much better idea of how to start amplifying your content and expanding your reach. If you have any tips and tricks of your own when it comes to amplifying content, get at me in the comments.
Originally from the U.K., Dan Shewan is a journalist and web content specialist who now lives and writes in New England. Dan’s work has appeared in a wide range of publications in print and online, including The Guardian, The Daily Beast, Pacific Standard magazine, The Independent, McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, and many other outlets.
See other posts by Dan Shewan
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