In a previous post, we discussed the importance of earning email subscribers, since no audience is more easy to reach.
But, of course, email marketing cannot be the entirety of your content marketing strategy.
Some of your potential customers will never be willing to give away their email address to anybody. Some people will only hear about your company if somebody else shares it on social media. Others may be perfectly willing to subscribe, but will never find themselves searching for your subscriber-focused keywords.
So today we’re going to talk about the other side of the coin, how to engage in content marketing that gives you access to a broader audience, how you can put yourself in front of the people who will never join your email list, and how you can use that exposure not just to capture demand, but to create it.
Here are the steps.
1. Be Aware of the Tradeoffs of Exposure-Focused Content
It’s important to understand what exposure-focused content can and cannot do, what its purpose is, and what simply is not possible.
Exposure-focused content is designed for one thing: to get shared.
Unlike subscriber-focused content, exposure-focused content is a mile wide and an inch deep. Its relationship with your products is based on psychographics and interests, and the connection is likely to be tangential.
There are very few cases where this tradeoff does not exist. What gets shared is what appeals to a massive audience. One person will not share something with all of their friends if they don’t expect most of their friends to take an interest in it. Even if they do, their friends won’t share it a second time if they don’t take an interest in it.
This is the long-winded way of saying that the niche topics and mass appeal are opposites.
Since niche topics are the ones most likely to connect directly to your unique selling proposition, and most likely to earn email subscriptions, this tradeoff is almost always present.
And for that reason, exposure-focused content marketing is not always worth it.
When is it worth it?
When the exposure is large enough that it reaches enough of your niche audience. What do I mean by “enough?” I mean approximately the same number of people within your niche audience that you would reach if you were doing subscriber-focused content marketing.
I don’t mean to imply that it’s possible to estimate this number beforehand with extensive precision, but it sets some boundaries on what is worth considering and what isn’t.
Now, if the goal is still to reach your niche audience, and it’s harder to estimate how many of them you will reach, why bother with exposure-focused content marketing at all?
Essentially, exposure-focused content marketing comes with some perks that subscriber-focused content does not. While it is likely to sacrifice some of your list growth, it is also more likely to earn you clout, social proof, respect from influencers, and a degree of self-sustaining visibility on social networks and search engines that isn’t otherwise possible.
So now that we understand the value of exposure and its limits, let’s talk about how to make it happen.
2. Identify Your Influencers
The first thing you need to understand is how sharing actually works on the web. A lot of people talk about a “viral coefficient” that you should be shooting for, and most of us think of things that “go viral” as if exposure was the result of things being shared with friends of friends of friends.
It turns out that things don’t really work that way.
According to a study by Sharad Goel and colleagues, which analyzed the sharing of tweets, nothing has a viral coefficient higher than one.
What that means is that when things get popular on Twitter, it’s not because when one person shares something, it continues to get shared exponentially.
Instead, things get popular because they get shared by popular people.
And that’s why the first thing you need to do when you’re developing content for exposure is identify who those influencers are going to be.
There are a few ways to approach this.
You can take a loose approach and think in general terms about what an audience of influencers looks like. They are a different type of audience because they will be more concerned with impressing their audience than most people, they will be more versed in the topic and more focused on things that haven’t been said before, they will be more interested in the “wow” factor than somebody who is rank-and-file in the industry, and so on.
You can also take a much tighter approach, identifying specific influencers, their specific interests, their specific needs, and writing content to address those directly, with the intent of reaching out to those influencers directly with the content.
As we discussed in the previous post on subscriber-focused content marketing, it’s also incredibly valuable to involve influencers in the creation of the content itself.
You can do this by making it a collaborative project, by asking them for feedback during the process, by making it into a survey, or even just by mentioning the influencers within your content.
Finally, you can also start some drama by calling out an influencer. This can earn a lot of attention, but for obvious reasons it will alienate some people and could earn you a reputation as somebody who isn’t the politest. If customers take this to mean that you may treat them the same way, this can obviously backfire.
So weigh the benefits of exposure against any impact it might have on your brand identity.
3. Choose a Novel Topic
Novelty is perhaps the most important factor that influences how shareable your content is.
People do not, for the most part, share something unless some fundamental aspect of it is new to them.
This isn’t to say that what you come up with needs to upset the foundations of everything people know about your industry or subject matter. But it should bring something new to the table: some new piece of hard data, a combination of two concepts that haven’t been combined before, a clever new way of saying something that’s already been said, a creative visualization of a concept, or even just something already established that would be surprising and novel to most people you are reaching out to.
A few ways to do this:
- Conduct original research
- Combine two random ideas with one another until you discover something useful
- Incorporate something established into a medium where it hasn’t been seen before
- Conduct research in the less obvious places: outside of your industry, outside of the internet, by speaking directly with experts, by doing some “investigative journalism” and so on.
- Write down a lot of ideas until something surprising and useful pops out
The rest of the process will run much more smoothly with far less effort if you spend some time dwelling on this part of the process.
4. Understand the Psychology of Shareability
In addition to novelty, several other psychological factors impact what gets shared:
- People share things to reaffirm their identity to others, which means that they don’t necessarily share everything that they find interesting
- Things that have practical application are more likely to get shared than things that don’t
- Content that elicits a strong emotional response is more likely to get shared, including things that elicit fear, anger, laughter, inspiration, and awe. Things that produce disaffecting emotions, like sadness and guilt, on the other hand, are not motivating, and as a result don’t usually lead to sharing.
- People tend to share things that make them look smart
- People tend to share things that reaffirm their social and ethical values, especially if they do so in a clever way
5. Understand Your Hook
If there is only one thing that most people reading this need to understand better, it’s that it’s not your long form content that gets shared, it’s your social media post that gets shared.
People don’t share blog posts, they share Facebook posts and tweets.
In fact, 59% of links shared on social media are shared by people who never clicked on the link.
While it’s the other 41% that we want to reach, we need those 59% of people to be impressed by the social media post enough to retweet or share it.
And that means you need to identify exactly what that incredibly short post is going to be about, what your hook is going to be.
6. Develop Your Shareable Asset
After identifying your hook, you need to develop your shareable asset.
And by shareable asset, I don’t mean blog post.
Your shareable asset is the actual image, tweet, snippet, video, or what have you that is going to be shared on the social media sites themselves. At PRmention, we have perfected this practice with our blog.
It’s not always necessary to produce your shareable asset before producing your long form content, since the research and effort that goes into your long form content is likely to influence the shareable asset.
Even so, I’m listing this first because it’s important to understand for priority’s sake.
It may sound superficial, but you should at the very least have a concept for your headline and shareable asset ready before you start developing the long form content, rather than working the other way around.
If you develop the long form content first, your headline and shareable asset won’t be optimized for shareability, and you won’t be creating exposure-focused content.
I feel like this is a good place to reiterate that not all content should be exposure-focused, and I also want to point out that this is no excuse to produce sub-par long-form content, as we discuss next.
7. Develop Your Content
Your long form content should be designed for two things: to blow away influencers and to generate demand.
Influencers see social media posts all day and most of them despise clickbait, so you need to make sure that your long form content absolutely blows them away in order for your exposure-focused content marketing to be effective.
As far as generating demand, your long form content should be actionable and impressive enough to create new fans, rather than just enough to lead to somebody sharing the post and forgetting about you.
That means the content should be branded enough to introduce some degree of scarcity. There needs to be a reason why it’s valuable for people to receive this information from you, rather than them seeing it as just an interesting piece of information that could have come from anywhere.
This is the extra step necessary in order to turn some of these visitors into subscribers, enough to justify producing an exposure-focused piece of content over a subscriber-focused one.
8. Publish and Promote
To publish and promote your content in a way that maximizes exposure, there are a few steps we recommend you take:
- Over time you will collect data on what times are most useful for you to share your content. Make sure to share at those times of the week and day. (I won’t name specific times because it’s different for every industry and topic.)
- Make sure to reach out to any influencers you had in mind when you produced the content, especially any that you collaborated with or mentioned within the content.
- Reach out to others who may find the content interesting as long as you can do so in a way that feels organic, and don’t limit yourself to people who high influencer scores.
- Embed shareable snippets and posts within your content. I’m talking about embeds from your social media feeds that allow people to simply click and share from right inside of the blog post. Most importantly, I’m not just talking about making it easy to share the post. I’m also talking about making little shareable assets to include in the post, and including them as individual little snippets that are easy to re-share.
- You may want to consider using paid promotions, but your mileage may vary and this is only worth it if it increases organic sharing.
- Leverage your existing subscribers in order to maximize the initial seed of people sharing your content.
I hope you’re feeling pumped to get out there and get shared. Put these ideas to use and see the results for yourself.