The Ultimate Guide to Content Distribution
Year after year, hundreds of marketers report increased efforts and spending on content marketing — or the intention to do so.
But great content is wasted if your audience doesn’t know it exists.
Content distribution is integral to your content strategy, if not the most essential part.
This guide will equip you with the tools you need to distribute the content you create. By the end, you’ll be able to build a content distribution strategy that gets your content in front of — and consumed by — your audience.
Today, social media plays a huge role in content distribution — let’s take a moment to review what this entails.
What is social media content distribution?
Social media content distribution is the process of sharing, publishing, and promoting content on various social media platforms. This content may be created strictly for social, or it might be re-formatted and used on social.
No matter which type of content distribution you focus on, the distribution process will happen after you create your content.
However, you should know where and how you’re going to publish and promote your content before you put the proverbial pen to paper. Otherwise, your time and resources could go to waste.
Take a look at these content distribution statistics:
As you can see, in recent years, we’ve seen a rapid influx of content met with dwindling demand. With almost 4.5 million blog posts published daily, we can consume only so much content. Marketing influencer Mark Schaefer argues that because of this “content shock,” content marketing may not be a sustainable strategy for every business.
While I won’t agree or disagree with this theory, I will outline everything you need to know to distribute your marketing content successfully.
Various content distribution channels through which you can share your content include:
Content Distribution Channels
Content distribution channels are the channels through which you share and promote the content you create. The channels you use to distribute your content will vary based on your audience and resources.
Three overarching content distribution channels cover several more specific distribution channels: owned, earned, and paid.
The following diagram illustrates how these three content distribution channels overlap and how you can combine them to enhance their impact and reach.
Owned Content Distribution
Owned channels are the content properties your company owns. You can control when and how content is published on your owned channels. These include your website, blog, social media profiles, email newsletter, or mobile publishing app.
Earned Content Distribution
Earned channels (also known as “shared” channels) are when third parties promote or share your content. These third parties could include customers, journalists, bloggers, and anyone who shares your content for free — hence the name “earned.”
These channels include public relations, social shares and mentions, guest articles and roundups, and product reviews. They also have forums and communities like Reddit or Quora — while posting on these sites is free, the content is owned by these third parties and therefore falls under earned channels.
Paid Content Distribution
Paid channels are when your company pays to distribute your content on specific channels. This includes pay-per-click (PPC), paid social advertisements, and paid influencer content.
Pay-Per-Click (PPC) Ads
With PPC, an advertiser pays when people interact with their ad through impressions or clicks. PPC falls under search engine marketing (SEM) and, when done right, helps you earn quality leads.
PPC ads are most common in search engine results pages (SERPs) but are also used on social channels. When paired with an SEO strategy, PPC can be integral to your inbound marketing efforts. One of the top platforms for PPC is Google Ads.
Sponsored content is promotional media paid for by an advertiser, created and shared by another person, brand, influencer, or publisher.
Sponsored content is most effective when it includes a person or brand that already targets your audience and buyer personas and already aligns well with your brand.
As a result, sponsored content feels natural rather than invasive or disruptive. You can use sponsored content in various ways, including images, videos, podcasts, social media, and any influencer content.
Paid Influencer Content
Paid influencer marketing requires you to employ leading content creators in your business’ niche to help you improve your brand awareness, traffic, and conversions among your shared target audience to your target audience.
Influencer marketing is effective because it taps into powerful strategies such as word-of-mouth marketing and social proof, which — for today’s buyers — may feel more trustworthy and believable than the marketing a company does for itself. Brands are expected to spend up to $15 billion on influencer marketing by 2022.
Paid Social Ads
Paid social ads can include PPC, sponsored, or influencer content. Paid social media ads share your marketing messages and campaigns on social media platforms such as Facebook, LinkedIn, and Instagram, while targeting a specific sub-audience on those platforms.
PPC advertising, branded or influencer-generated content, and display ads are all examples of paid social media. A paid social media strategy will likely incorporate tools native to specific social media channels, like Facebook Ads or Instagram Ads, to create, schedule, and share ads to reach your target audience.
Next, let’s review what a content distribution strategy is and why it’s so important.
How to Build a Content Distribution Strategy
- Research your target audience
- Audit your content
- Choose your content distribution channels
- Decide on your content types
- Set your content distribution KPIs and goals
- Build an editorial calendar
- Create your content
- Distribute and market your content
- Measure and analyze your results
A content distribution strategy is important for a few reasons:
- It boosts your content impact past curation and creation. As I said above, great content is useless if nobody reads it. A content distribution strategy gets your gorgeous content in front of the right eyes.
- It aligns your team and the teams you collaborate to create and share the content. Depending on the size of your company, you may have several cooks in the content marketing kitchen. (I know we do at HubSpot.) A content distribution strategy aligns all these parties and ensures you collaborate efficiently.
- It sets goal benchmarks against which you can measure your distribution performance. Content distribution can be vague — a simple press of the “Publish” button, and you’re done. A content distribution strategy helps you set benchmarks and challenging goals to chase while publishing and promoting your work.
Here’s how to build a content distribution strategy for yourself.
1. Research your target audience.
Content distribution is about getting your content in front of your audience — not just any audience. You can’t do this properly if you don’t know where they are and what they like to read. Before you build your strategy any further, research your target audience to know precisely who will consume your content.
Start by collecting demographic data from your website visitors, email subscribers, social media followers, and customers. Look at your audience’s gender, age, income, location, education, and related categories. You can pull this information from Google Analytics or your social media analytics tools.
Next, collect feedback directly from your customers, email subscribers, and social media followers. Ask them about their pain points and needs, as well as how they feel about your current content and distribution efforts.
Use these two data points to create your buyer persona. Your buyer persona(s) act as models of your ideal customers and content consumers and represent their pain points, information preferences, and motivations as you build out the rest of your content distribution strategy.
2. Audit your content.
You may already have some published content, such as blog posts, videos, social media content, and more. While your new content distribution strategy doesn’t involve removing that content, you should audit it to understand if it’s helping or hurting your distribution efforts.
Auditing your current content will also remind you which topics you’ve already written about and which ones you can expand on.
A thorough content audit is comprised of three main parts:
- Logging your content. Logging your content can be done manually or with a tool. (We recommend the latter, especially if you’ve been publishing content on multiple properties and channels.) Tools like Screaming Frog can help you crawl and collect your content, listing each URL, title, and description in a spreadsheet. The free version crawls up to 500 URLs. If you opt for a manual content audit, follow the steps in our blog post here.
- Assessing your content impact. If you crawl your content with SEMRush, the tool will also list content length, social shares, and backlinks. This information can help you assess the impact of each piece of content, alerting you to anything that needs to be updated, rewritten, or erased.
- Identifying your content gaps. You can also identify gaps in your content using the Ahrefs Content Gap tool or by performing keyword research to discover new keywords or phrases to add to your content, thus helping it rank higher and for more terms.
Check out this blog post for 30+ more content auditing tools.
3. Choose your content distribution channels.
Your content distribution channels are arguably more important than your content itself, hence why this step comes before content creation and after target audience research. Once you know your target audience, you’ll have a better idea of getting your content in front of your followers and customers.
Depending on your analysis, you may post on forums and communities like Reddit or Quora — and pay to promote your content on those sites, too. Alternatively, you may choose to share content on social media channels exclusively, or perhaps you find that traditional PR is your best route.
Regardless of your content distribution channels, ensure they align with your audience’s preferences and behaviors.
Also, optimize your owned distribution channels — your blog, email newsletter, and social media profiles — as these are relatively inexpensive and in your control. Even if research shows that your audience prefers forums to social media or news sites to company blogs, never neglect your owned properties, as these reflect on your brand and product.
As you work through this step, set aside time to optimize your blog-to-gain readership, brush up on how to send email newsletters (or start sending them), and learn about organic social media marketing.
4. Decide on your content types.
After determining your distribution channels, consider what types of content you’d like (and have the resources) to create.
Many companies choose to publish all of their content on their blog and then repurpose and re-publish it. Blog posts are universally consumed, easy to repurpose and localize (i.e., translate into other languages), and simple to share — not to mention that almost 50% of buyers read a company’s blog while making purchase decisions.
For these reasons, we recommend building a business blog and then expanding your content types to share on other channels.
Consider the content types we discussed at the beginning of this guide, and think about how you’ll repurpose and distribute them.
5. Set your content distribution KPIs and goals.
Goals help us recognize where we’re going and what success might look like when we get there. Your content distribution strategy should involve setting goals for your content key performance indicators (KPIs) and their subsequent metrics:
|KPIs related||related metrics|
|Traffic/each unique||Unique page views by channel and source|
|Engagement||Bounce rate, average time on page|
|Top content (and falling content)||Top page views, top exits|
|Impact||Click-throughs, conversions, backlinks|
|Sentiment||Comments, social shares|
These metrics may vary based on your distribution channel (i.e., you can’t track comments on your email newsletter or top exists on your social media ads), so be sure to choose the metrics that correspond best to each channel. Establishing a baseline for each channel might take a few months, especially if you haven’t used it before.
Set SMART goals for your content using these metrics. Here’s an example:
- Specific: I want to increase our blog’s organic traffic by boosting backlinks from other reputable websites and blogs. This will increase our search engine ranking, thus bringing in more organic traffic.
- Measurable: I’d like 30 new backlinks to our blog.
- Attainable: We’re already generating 10 new backlinks each month without an intentional strategy, so I believe 30 new backlinks with our approach is feasible this month.
- Relevant: This goal aligns with our broader organic content marketing strategy and could boost our earned media as we get mentions from press outlets and third-party bloggers.
- Time-bound: I’d like to receive these backlinks within the next month.
6. Build an editorial calendar (and include distribution).
Content marketing and distribution require lots of planning to be successful. This is where an editorial content calendar can come in handy. You can create one in Excel or Google Sheet, or even use Google Calendar. Tools like CoSchedule, Asana, and Trello are helpful, too.
Your editorial calendar, like your content distribution strategy, helps your team stay aligned and work towards common goals. It also gives your writers and editors a roadmap for what they’ll be working on in the coming weeks and months.
Here’s what your editorial calendar may look like (using this post as an example):
Your editorial calendar is the perfect place to include your content distribution plans and goals. Here’s what that may look like on your editorial calendar:
See how the right-hand columns now include categories like “Publish Destinations” and “Repurposing Plans”? Your editorial calendar shouldbes your hub for all content creation and distribution plans.
Manage and plan your social media content with a free Social Media Content Calendar Template.
7. Create your content.
After you research your audience, audit your content, decide on your distribution channels and content types, and build your editorial calendar … it’s time to create your content.
Content creation will vary based on your resources, team size, industry, and brand, so to get the most pointed, applicable advice, check out our Guide to Content Creation.
As you work on your new content, check out these tools:
- AnswerthePublic, which can help you flesh out topics and understand what your audience is searching for
- Canva, which can help you build gorgeous infographics and images
- Vidyard, which is a video hosting and publishing platform made for marketers
- Anchor, which is a free podcasting tool for beginners
We’ll talk more about content distribution tools in the next section.
8. Distribute and market your content.
You’ve created your content … now it’s time to put it out in the world. Following your editorial calendar and chosen distribution channels, publish and market your new content. As for any marketing channel, follow rules to optimize your posts on each channel.
For example, our HubSpot team paid for Reddit ads and found that it was helpful to organically engage with Redditors and found that it was useful to organically engage with Redditors as well as pay for ad space. Alternatively, if you’re posting on (or paying for) social media, follow the guidelines for the best times to post and share content — the same goes for sending emails.
9. Measure and analyze your results.
As always, keep an eye on your content distribution results. Remember those KPIs, metrics, and SMART goals you established in step five? Time to pull those out.
After you’ve published your content, look at Google Analytics, your social media analytics dashboards, and your blog performance — depending on where and how you distributed the content. Make sure you set a routine time to measure and analyze (weekly, monthly, or quarterly) to establish a baseline and know which numbers you can beat the following week or month.
Whew! So, that’s what it takes to build a content distribution strategy. Be sure to iterate on this process; these guidelines may change as you expand your content efforts and scale your team.
Now, let’s discuss the tools you need to get it done.
Content Distribution Tools
- PR Newswire
Content distribution can be an arduous process, but thankfully there are many content distribution tools out there to help you get your work discovered and consumed.
These tools help you publish your content on additional networks and forums to reach broader audiences.
HubSpot is an all-in-one CRM for small to enterprise companies. It includes a Marketing Hub, meaning its useful for email marketing, analytics, content creation, social amplification, and more.
You can monitor, schedule, and post content to your social networks. You can also access information from your email marketing campaigns so you have the big picture of your readers and customers.
Price: Free and paid
Medium is a content platform that individuals and businesses alike use to publish content. You can use Medium in addition to or in lieu of your traditional blog. (We recommend this in addition to your blog as this will give your content the broadest reach.)
Medium is where thousands of readers consume content. It’s a one-stop-shop platform for all kinds of content … kind of like Amazon is for products. For that reason, consider publishing to Medium to increase the number of people who see your content.
Price: Free and paid
3. PR Newswire
PR Newswire is a press release distribution network. The platform helps you target and contact journalists and outlets by specific industries, geographic areas, and topics. It offers packages for state and local, regional, and national press.
HARO stands for Help a Reporter Out, an online platform connecting journalists and sources. In this case, you’d be the source.
When you sign up for HARO, you’re sent daily emails with journalist queries. Respond to these queries to be potentially featured in an article. This is a reactive content distribution tool that helps get press mentions and backlinks.
Price: Free and paid
ClickToTweet is a tool that equips your readers to share soundbites of your content on Twitter with a single click. You create your content soundbites, and ClickToTweet provides a link. When readers click that link, the tool opens their Twitter with the content soundbite already ready to post.
It also links to your Twitter account and content — allowing your readers to distribute your content for you.
GaggleAMP is a social amplification tool that allows you to aggregate your employee’s social networks and post company content directly to them.
Employees can review and improve content before its posted or allow it to go through automatically. This is a great alternative to constantly bugging your staff to post about your business.
You can also use this tool to link to social networks from partners, customers, brand advocates, and more.
Price: Free and paid
AddThis is an on-page social sharing tool. It allows your readers to share your content without bouncing from your page (and potentially getting distracted). You can also integrate AddThis share buttons into your email newsletter and other assets.
These tools help you measure and analyze the impact of your social posts and other distribution efforts.
Mention is a social media monitoring tool that provides social media listening, publishing, crisis management, and more. You can use Mention to monitor any mentions of your brand name, content, or social networks and respond accordingly.
This is an excellent tool for measuring the impact of and engagement around your content and seeing who is promoting it for you.
Price: Free and paid
SharedCount is a tool that helps you measure the engagement of your social media posts. Simply input a URL, and SharedCount will report its likes, shares, comments, and other engagement measures.
While it can’t help you distribute your content, it can alert you to which pieces are performing well and which components may need to be updated or scrapped.
Price: Free and paid
Outbrain is a paid amplification tool aggregates your content at the bottom of other articles. You can set up content campaigns with an RSS feed or specific URL(s), and Outbrain will place them under related content, encouraging readers to click and read yours.
Outbrain works with an impressive network, including digital publications like NYT and Mashable.
WiseStamp is an email tool that allows you (and your employees) to share your latest content in your email signature. Your email signature is often a forgotten but essential piece of digital real estate that practically everyone who opens your emails will see. WiseStamp helps you make the most of that space.
Distribute Your Content to Grow Better
Amazing content is a waste if no one is consuming it. Content distribution is a critical piece of the content marketing puzzle. It’s is also the key to boosting your brand awareness, collecting loyal followers, and encouraging your readers to click, act, and become customers.
Put these content distribution tips and tools to get your content in front of your audience.
Editor’s note: This post was originally published in July 2019 and has been updated for comprehensiveness.