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4 Secrets To Building Social Momentum

There’s a sickness in social media content marketing, and Andrew Davis is committed to finding a cure.

In his keynote presentation at Content Marketing World, Andrew – a best-selling author and the founder of Monumental Shift, the world’s first talent agency for marketing thought leaders – asserted that social media content success has little to do with where you distribute content, and everything to do with when you distribute content on each channel.

He suggests that, rather than “vomiting your content on every possible channel,” smart marketers should leverage the strategic concept of social momentum to master social content distribution – one channel at a time.

As Andrew sees it, you will be more effective overall if you focus on small actions that make your content’s performance more predictable, consistent, and sustainable instead of constantly trying to best the results of your biggest content successes. He also believes that you shouldn’t consider expanding your offerings to a new platform until your content’s growth has slowed on your primary channel.

Essentially, by tracking the dynamics of your audience’s content consumption and using this data to guide your distribution strategy, you will be better able to find the sweet spot for success – i.e., the point at which you can create less content, yet achieve better business results.

Building blocks of social momentum

Social momentum is based on two interrelated principles: social proof and the loyalty loop.

Social proof: People will assume the actions they see others taking to ensure that they are exhibiting the correct behavior for a given situation.

Loyalty loop: Loyalty is a cyclical process that leverages an existing audience to identify the right point to expand your audience in a new direction, or through a new effort. There are three phases to the loop:

  • Grow: Your audience grows as more people receive the social proof that proves the value of your content.
  • Plateau: Your content reaches its peak saturation point with the audience on that given channel.
  • Slow: Your growth rate on the channel begins to decline, at which point it’s time to offer the audience something new with which to engage.

The more you can do to increase the level of social proof for your content — e.g., by driving increased views, shares, comments, and influencer attention — the greater the potential that all your content efforts will benefit from your higher social profile, gain traction, and help you achieve your desired results.

Social momentum process at work

Start making social momentum work for you by gaining an understanding of what content is moving the needle with your audience. From there, it’s a matter of taking some small, yet powerful actions that can help you sustain and increase that impact over time.

Here are the six critical steps involved in enacting a social momentum-based content marketing strategy:

  1. Understand the nuances of your current audience’s content consumption habits 

Look for data to reveal insights like:

  • Is my content being consumed? What pieces have resonated the best with my audience?
  • Where exactly is my content gaining traction? What distribution channels provide lift for the content I create and how long does it last on each channel?
  • What is Google Trends telling me about content topics, formats, and issues popular in my industry?
  • When is my content being consumed most? As soon as I publish it? When I post it on Facebook a few days later? After an influencer tweets about it?
  • How is it being consumed? Are more people reading articles or looking at images and videos? Are they viewing it online or on a mobile device?
  1. Distribute your content socially, starting with the one channel that drives the best traffic to your website and/or where you have the greatest audience engagement.

Bonus tip: Learn to identify your strongest channel using a Google Analytics channel report.

  1. Leverage paid advertising opportunities to spread awareness of your content on that channel.
  2. When momentum starts to build, use PR techniques to build social proof.
  3. Look for signs of plateau and slowed growth on the platform, which signals that it’s time to diversify your channel plan and take distribution to the next level.
  4. Expand your distribution to the new channel, seeding consumption by your existing audience.

4 keys of growth through social momentum

As mentioned, the social momentum process has less to do with where you are distributing your content as it does with when you start to expand your distribution. Move too quickly and you risk diluting your audience before you’ve captured their loyalty. Wait too long, though, and you risk follower fatigue that might dull their interest in any newer content offerings you produce.

Once you’ve established your primary delivery channel and have a plan for capitalizing on any momentum your content achieves, how do you know when it’s the right time to take your distribution to the next level?

Here are four tips, along with examples of businesses that used social momentum to achieve success:

  1. Leverage your content’s half-life, one channel at a time.

Half-life is the time it takes for an audience’s interest in your content to fall to half of its peak value.

Put another way, when your content hits the “slow” phase of the loyalty loop, it is time to push it to the next level – i.e., add a new channel or expand your use of the channel.

Example: Lolly Wolly Doodle

In 2010, Brandi Temple of Lexington, North Carolina, started making children’s clothing from remnant fabric. After posting photos on her Facebook page, she received offers from friends who wanted to buy her designs. Capitalizing on this unexpected business opportunity, Brandi began fulfilling orders through Facebook.


Her dresses became so popular that she had to expand her sewing operations, first to her garage, and eventually to a dedicated warehouse. She also migrated her shop from her personal Facebook page to a Facebook business page. When orders began to slow, she then expanded her shop to Instagram. By learning the dynamics of each channel, one at a time, Brandi used social momentum to constantly expand her business – doubling her revenue each year.

Content Marketing: Forget About the 5%
  1. Harness the waterfall effect.

The phenomenon that all mainstream media stories can be traced upstream to smaller, more accessible sources is a predictable pattern. If you build a relationship with your influencer’s influencers, you may uncover hidden opportunities to increase your content’s audience.

Example: Say you want to get your new product featured by the Today Show’s digital lifestyle expert Mario Armstrong. He’s a high-visibility influencer; but since Mario receives hundreds of pitches a month (and has admitted that he listens to virtually none of them), leveraging a casual relationship you may have built with him as an influencer online (i.e., through your social channels) isn’t likely to get his attention.

Instead of trying to engage him directly, try going upstream to learn who influences his stories. For example, in a segment he did on the BlackBerry, Mario linked to an article by Will Connors on The Wall Street Journal. A little digging reveals that a likely source for Connors’ story was an article on Mashable written by Karissa Bell. Compared to the more mainstream media authors, Karissa’s following is considerably smaller, making it worth reaching out to engage her personally as an “upstream” influencer.

upstream influencers
  1. Remove friction for the content consumer.

Social media content often loses momentum when marketers plan their efforts around driving short-sighted metrics like click-through rates. Instead, think about content consumption from your audience’s perspective, focusing on ways to make it easier – and more worthwhile – for them to engage with your business and derive value.

For example, if the content you post on your social channels is merely a headline and a link to your website or blog, the user has to jump through a lot of hoops (i.e., clicking, scrolling, opening multiple windows or apps) just to figure out what you are publishing and whether it’s something they want –  particularly those who engage on mobile devices.

Instead of disrupting their experience and giving them barriers to cross, consider how you can use the particular characteristics of your chosen social channel to your best advantage. Help your consumers build a relationship with the content itself over time, then get out of their way and let their passion create the social momentum you need.

Example: Missouri Star Quilt Co.

Jenny Doan was a quilt maker from Hamilton, Missouri, who was looking to make some extra money. Though her original handcrafted quilts were labor intensive, she came up with a way to make one quick quilt each day, and decided to build a customer base on this design model.

Instead of building a typical web-based commerce presence, Jenny and her son decided to start a YouTube channel. Publishing one quick-quilting tutorial a day, Jenny focused her content on making it easier for aspiring quilt makers and potential customers to indulge in their passion for the hobby, grow their appreciation for the artistry involved, and hone their skills.


Soon, Missouri Star Quilt Co. grew its subscribers to over 240,000 viewers – and her tiny home business in the middle of nowhere was built into a multimillion-dollar empire. Today, Jenny is the largest employer in her county. She owns 17 buildings, including a hotel and two restaurants, and her five quilt shops bring in over 3,000 online orders every day.

  1. Buy ads

Social media had long been thought of as a bit of a marketing free-for-all, with the audience’s attention just waiting for the taking. But with social channels increasingly adjusting their newsfeed algorithms to favor the most popular content creators, paid promotion has become more of a necessity – particularly for smaller brands that want to ensure that their content is getting in front of the right consumers.

Today, advertising opportunities abound on social platforms – from text ads and multimedia Canvas spots on Facebook, to promoted posts, search engine ads, YouTube Red partnerships, and more. In fact, social ad usage has increased among B2C marketers from 60% to 75% in the last year alone. Supporting your social media content with even a modest budget can increase its social momentum significantly, enabling you to create less content, yet see bigger results.

Example: Orabrush

Dr. Bob Wagstaff invented a tongue brush to help eliminate bad breath. Though he had created an infomercial and bought TV time to advertise Orabrush, he had few sales and was unable to convince large chain stores to carry his product.

After he took a marketing class at Brigham Young University, a fellow student advised him to create a video that encouraged people to use Orabrush by giving them a reason to want to use it. For a $540 investment, Dr. Bob created his first YouTube video, How to Tell When Your Breath Stinks, and bought ads for the relevant key phrase, “Smell your own breath.” The strategy worked: Over 10,000 Orabrush units were sold in five weeks after the video launched.

Later, a second video and ad campaign, targeting Walmart employees, got the attention of the retail chain. Though the company requested that the ad be taken down, the $528 campaign did its job: Walmart sent in an email order for 735,000 units.

Bonus Tip: “For every dollar spent creating content, spend $2 distributing and promoting it.” –Rob Sheard, former brand director, Breville


Content marketers often assume that they need to continually chase their next “high” in terms of their content’s performance – i.e., find a way to make lightning strike again and again – to achieve long-term success. However, the more you focus on producing increasingly unrealistic gains, the less you will be able to build the kind of reliable, sustainable growth that successful businesses depend on.

In Andrew’s words, it’s time for marketers to break this endless cycle of addiction and start building the social momentum their content needs to achieve its maximum potential.

And if you are not sure which social networks will help bring you closer to your content marketing goals? Find the answers you need in our Social Media Survival Guide, below.

Register to attend Content Marketing World in San Diego. Use the code BLOG100 to save $100. Can't attend in person this year? Check out the Digital Pass for access to on-demand session recordings from the live event through the end of the year.

Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute