Our 2015 B2B content marketing research showed that the average B2B company uses 13 content marketing tactics (i.e., blogs, in-person events, videos, etc.) That’s a lot.
Now, this is not necessarily a good or bad thing, but it is interesting. More than not, enterprises are sporadically distributing content over a number of platforms with a number of content types. Could there be a better way? Absolutely.
If we look at some of the greatest media and branded content marketing examples, a simpler, better model may actually exist.
Where to start?
As Michael Hyatt said in his book and blog, both titled Platform, your ideas and stories need a place to live if you are going to succeed. According to Michael, “Without a platform – something that enables you to get seen and heard – you don’t have a chance. Having an awesome product, an outstanding service, or a compelling cause is no longer enough.”
The greatest media entities of all time selected one primary channel in which to build their platform:
- The Wall Street Journal – print (newspaper)
- Time – print (magazine)
- TED Talks – in person (events)
- ESPN – cable television (programming)
- The Huffington Post – online (magazine)
- Rush Limbaugh – radio (program)
As you can see from these examples, you have two choices to make when building your platform:
- How will you tell your stories? Will it be through written word, video, audio, or in person?
- Where will you tell your stories? What channel will you choose to distribute your content?
Matthew Patrick from Game Theory decided to create consistent videos and distribute them on YouTube.
Darren Rowse from Digital Photography School uses mostly articles with images, leveraging a website developed in WordPress.
John Lee Dumas from Entrepreneur On Fire (EOF) does a podcast every day; he distributes it mainly through iTunes, Stitcher, and SoundCloud, and delivers show notes on a website.
The majority of success stories fall into these following content types:
- Articles or blogs (or content-based websites) – CMI’s main platform for building an audience is by distributing content via a blog. Blog post frequency started at three times per week and now a post runs every day.
- E-newsletter – Social Media Examiner delivers daily content via email to over 400,000 business owners and marketers.
- Videos- Every week, Game Theory’s Matthew Patrick distributes a fresh video via YouTube.
- Podcasts – Every day, Enterpreneur On Fire’s John Lee Dumas presents a new podcast interview.
Companies using a platform strategy diversify their content type onto other properties once they attract a large enough audience with the primary type. In the beginning, it’s important to focus on creating amazing and relevant content with mostly one content type (podcast, video, blog, etc).
For detailed information on the specific pros and cons of each content type, download CMI’s complimentary Content Marketing Playbook.
Now that you know how you are going to tell your story, you need to decide how you are going to deliver the content – the channel. Over the long term, you’ll be distributing your content through a number of channels, but right now you need to make a decision about the core channel.
You need to consider two major questions when making this decision:
- What channel offers the best opportunity to reach my target audience?
- What channel gives me the most control over presenting my content and building my audience?
A blog like Copyblogger has more control but less reach than content programs like Game Theory’s videos and Entrepreneur On Fire’s podcasts.
Brian Clark’s Copyblogger has almost infinite control over its channel, a WordPress site that it owns. At the same time, Copyblogger needs to build a system to attract people to its content because its website doesn’t reside within another ecosystem that can naturally bring it traffic.
On the other hand, Entrepreneur On Fire (podcast) and Game Theory (video) have a greater reach possibility than Copyblogger since they publish in an environment with a built-in audience. EOF publishes via iTunes, where millions of people search for new podcasts every day. Same thing for Game Theory. Its target audience of teenagers is already on YouTube every day. As long as Game Theory continues to create compelling content that YouTube will deliver, it should grow an audience there.
The problem with EOF and Game Theory is that they are leveraging platforms that they have little or no control over. Game Theory has over 4 million subscribers. That’s amazing, but technically Game Theory doesn’t control those subscriber relationships; YouTube does. YouTube could decide tomorrow that it doesn’t want Game Theory to have access to those people, or it might decide to promote other content, such as Jimmy Fallon, to Matthew Patrick’s audience instead of Game Theory.
Consider the example of the duo SMOSH: The YouTube sensations built an audience of 20 million subscribers on YouTube. Over the past couple of years, calls to action at the end of their video content always went to their owned website, where people could sign up for an email subscription program that SMOSH controlled. The point here is that if you choose a low-control channel as the main driver of your content distribution, be aware that at some point you’ll want to convert that platform’s subscribers to your own subscribers.
Beware of social channels
Although social channels, such as Facebook and LinkedIn, are great places to build your digital footprint and followers, you ultimately have no control over what those companies do with your connections. Sure, LinkedIn lets your connections see all the content you publish on LinkedIn, but LinkedIn could change its mind tomorrow. It has every right to do so as a private business, and you, a free member of the LinkedIn community, have no rights.
Social channels like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, and Instagram, and newer channels like Tumblr and Medium may be solid considerations for your platform choice depending on whom you are targeting, but it’s important to understand the dangers.
The safest best
Look at the fastest-growing media companies of today, such as BuzzFeed or Vice Media, or more mature new media platforms, such as The Huffington Post. You can even look at traditional publishers like The New York Times or Time magazine. They are all good at leveraging social channels and building an audience on those channels, but they don’t build their main platform on social channels.
In every case, they build websites or print properties (both with subscribers) that they can own and control, and they leverage other channels to drive people back to the sites they own so they can convert passersby into an audience they can monetize.
Platforms in action
OpenView Venture Partners invests in growth-oriented technology companies. Back in 2009, OpenView launched a content platform called OpenView Labs, which regularly delivers articles to attract subscribers to an e-newsletter offering (which now boasts over 36,000 subscribers … not bad for a venture capital company).
Kraft Heinz (formerly Kraft Foods), one of the leading collections of food brands in the world, owns KraftRecipes. According to Julie Fleischer, senior director of data + content, KraftRecipes employs 20 culinary professionals who work with Kraft products every day. There are 30,000 recipes on the company’s website, where Kraft generates direct revenue from advertising, as well as print advertising in its magazine, Kraft Food & Family.
John Deere launched The Furrow magazine in 1895. Still published, it now is produced in print and digital formats in 14 languages and distributed to 40 countries. The Furrow always has focused on how farmers can learn the latest technology to grow their farms and businesses.
Hollywood celebrity Gwyneth Paltrow recently launched her own Content Inc. strategy, called Goop. Originally conceived in 2008 as a weekly e-newsletter on travel recommendations and shopping tips, Goop has evolved into a fully functioning media site with over 1 million subscribers.
The big idea
Of course, enterprises and businesses of all sizes need to tell stories in different ways, leveraging different platforms, depending on the goal. But the real success comes with building a platform that attracts an audience over time. To do that, you need the following formula:
- One main content type
- One main content platform
- Consistent delivery of valuable content
- Delivery over a long period
It’s an amazingly simple model that hardly any company uses, yet it has proven to be successful. If you want to build an audience that knows, likes, and trusts you, and then see behavior change in that audience over time, this model may be your best bet.
A Super-Simple Formula to Build Your Audience
Portions of this article are from Joe Pulizzi’s new book, Content Inc.: How Entrepreneurs Use Content to Build Massive Audiences and Create Radically Successful Businesses, available now on Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble. For more information about the book, including a free chapter, visit Content Inc.
Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute