This article by Joe Pulizzi is part of our Blogtober event, which features blog posts written by industry influencers in support of Breast Cancer Awareness Month.
According to the 2015 B2B Content Marketing Benchmark research, the average B2B company utilizes 13 different 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 different 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.
As Michael Hyatt said in his book and blog, both entitled 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:
As you can see from the examples above, you have two choices to make when building your platform:
Mathew 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 EntrepreneurOnFire (EOF) does a podcast every day; he distributes it mainly through iTunes, Stitcher, and SoundCloud and delivers show notes on a website.
According to the 2015 Content Marketing Institute/MarketingProfs Small Business Content Marketing Study, the most popular content types are as follows (in order of usage):
The majority of success stories fall into these following content types:
Companies utilizing a platform strategy diversify their content channels into other properties once they attract a large enough audience. In the beginning, it’s important to focus on creating amazing and relevant content with mostly one content channel (podcast, video, blog, etc.).
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:
FIGURE CAPTION: A blog like Copyblogger has more control but less reach than content programs like Game Theory and EntrepreneurOnFire.
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 since its website doesn’t reside within another ecosystem that can naturally bring it traffic.
On the other hand, EntrepreneurOnFire (podcast) and GameTheory (video) have a greater reach possibility than Copyblogger since they publish within an environment with a built-in audience. EOF publishes via iTunes, where there are millions of people who 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 5 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 publicize other content to Matthew Patrick’s audience, like Jimmy Fallon, instead of Game Theory.
Consider the example of the duo SMOSH, the YouTube sensations who 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 were always to their owned website, Smosh.com, where they could sign up people for an e-mail subscription program that they had control over. The point here is 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 the subscribers on that platform to your own subscribers.
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 current 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 all be solid considerations to build a platform depending on whom you are targeting, but it’s important to understand the dangers.
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 a traditional publisher like the New York Times or Time magazine. They are all very 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.
Openview Venture Partners invests in growth-oriented technology companies. Back in 2009, Openview launched a content platform called Openview Labs, which delivers regular article content to attract subscribers to an e-newsletter offering (which now boasts over 36,000 subscribers . . . not bad for a venture capital company).
Kraft Foods (now Kraft Heinz), one of the leading collections of food brands in the world, owns KraftRecipes.com. According to Julie Fleischer, Kraft Food’s senior director of Data + Content, KraftRecipes.com, Kraft employs 20 culinary professionals who work with Kraft products every day. There are currently 30,000 recipes on the company’s website, where Kraft actually generates direct revenue from advertising on the site, as well as print advertising in its magazine, Kraft Food & Family.
John Deere launched The Furrow magazine in 1895. It is still published today, produced in print and digital format in 14 different languages and distributed to 40 countries. The Furrow has always 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.
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 is to build a platform that attracts an audience over time. To do that, we need the following formula:
It’s an amazingly simple model that hardly any company uses, yet has proven to be successful over time. 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.
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, go to http://content-inc.com.
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