Trying to use the pandemic as a clickbait? You’re late to the party.
Shifting offline budgets to online, producing more webinars, and other forms of content? Everyone is doing it.
Taking a more empathetic tone in your marketing copy? That’s great, but it’s the status quo.
Let’s face it, content marketing just became much harder.
Digital consumption is up, but habits are changing
I don’t know about you, but my inbox and social feeds are full of companies pushing new content every day, desperate to help sales get back on track. I delete 99% of these emails just by screening the subject line. Only one in every 30–40 posts catches my attention, of those, 20% get my click.
Reports are clearly showing that people are spending more time online but they’re also becoming more selective with their attention. Producing more content doesn’t mean you are guaranteed more engagement, traffic, or leads.
Quantity will never beat quality because your quality inspectors aren’t the algorithms, but real people who could become your customer (or swipe quickly past you).
I just read in a new report that 68% of B2B marketers are not proud of their own content. I find this to be a very disheartening statistic. It helps explain why looking for valuable content online is like searching for a needle in a haystack. Of course, the responsibility is not solely on the content team, but there is a problematic trend here.
If you’re not writing great content, you are wasting your reader’s time. Readers won’t return to your content, they will start ignoring your posts, and even unfollow/unsubscribe.
Search engines and social media algorithms will start punishing you too…it’s a hole that is hard to dig yourself out of.
As Dhar Mann said,
Trust takes years to build, seconds to break and forever to repair.
But this is also an opportunity. If most of the content online was great, it would be much harder to stand out, right? ?
Once you have great content, you need a great distribution strategy
For today, I am not here to address the basics of content marketing — I’ll assume that you are among the 32% who are proud of what you are creating, and instead I will share a couple of ways to get more eyeballs on your content.
The approach I take is to invest 70% of my efforts on content distribution and only 30% on the production. That doesn’t mean you reduce resources dedicated to content production, it means you cut down the volume so you can focus on high quality and devote more time and energy to distributing each post.
One size does not fit all
Every marketing activity should start with setting KPIs, and then making sure you have the process and tools in place to track them.
You might be tempted to determine success in terms of attribution, lead conversions, or even deals won — but remember conversions and sales cycles can be a long process. Obviously, this depends on your product/service sales cycle, but it’s generally harder to attribute the success of this kind to a single activity.
I prefer to choose a KPI that looks at engaged traffic brought by my post. Always back quantity metrics with quality metrics.
- Quantity metric: Traffic. How many visitors landed on your blog from each activity?
- Quality metric: Average time on page.
If these are my KPIs, I will want to have a report showing me how many visitors came from each activity as well as the time they spent on my content. The channels where the number of visitors and time on page were above average are the winners. Don’t forget to look at the device your visitors use as this can have an impact on engagement for certain posts.
In the example below, I analyzed our latest blog using Google Data Studio. Looking at the heatmap, you can clearly see that the best channel was LinkedIn. On LinkedIn, desktop performed much better than mobile but mobile still drove decent engagement. Facebook, on the other hand, drove a bulk of the traffic from mobile but engagement was poor.
Never underestimate the power of images
Pictures have the power to grab our attention before the brain even processes language.
Attention is today’s most valuable resource. So why are so many companies using stock images, and not investing any resources into adjusting the designs or even creating their own illustrations?
Engagement starts with a great image — think of it like the eye contact with your prospect before you start a conversation. It also shows that you are confident about your content and willing to go the extra mile to deliver an engaging experience for your audience.
I currently use one of two methods for my images. For our company blog, I use an illustrator I found on Fiverr. On average, each custom illustration costs around $45. We work together to come up with a rough outline and once I approve it, he creates the final version.
I also have a Medium page called Marketing Insights. On Medium, I decided to step away from my brand and take a more personal tone. I love photography and use this as a chance to combine my passions. Many photographs include my family, giving readers an intimate glimpse into my life.
I post the same content both on our company blog and on Medium, but I replace the main image and sometimes the header too. This enables me to share the same content twice and gain more exposure. Worried that Google will mark it as duplicate content and impact my SEO? Don’t worry, Medium lets users set the content to be canonical (point to the original article which was posted on the company blog).
I made a connection between the event in this picture of my family (relatable for any parents) and the point I was trying to get across in my article.
Based on the reactions I got on the post, I concluded that this picture helped grab readers’ attention and connect with the topic on a deeper level.
Every heading and subheading is an opportunity
An article is only as good as it’s title — but that’s not enough. Any additional text on the post is an opportunity to drive engagement, be creative, add a personal touch that will make people wanna click.
There are three key areas where great copy can help you support your story — the header, the post description, and any text you add below the image. This sounds trivial, but you would be surprised by how many companies use boring or duplicated statements in these sections.
The above refers to a standard post. On Linkedin, you can also share your content using a video or static image and link to the article in the comments section. Each method requires a slightly different approach. For blogs, I usually write an engaging post that entices readers to click the article before they even know that is what I am sharing.
Not all channels are created equally
There are many social channels available, and different channels work best for different messages, mediums, and audiences. Not sure where your audience is? There is a great, new tool called SparkToro which you can use to help answer that question.
In order to drive engagement in each channel you select, you will need to invest time and effort. So it’s true that you can post in parallel on many channels, but getting engagement won’t magically happen even if you have many followers.
Drive real engagement on LinkedIn
For B2B, LinkedIn is an obvious choice. But if you look at your LinkedIn feed, you will see that majority of the posts have very low to no engagement, while a few do get high engagement. So how can you start building up LinkedIn to drive more engagement?
While LinkedIn doesn’t share the exact way their algorithms are built, they do explain the concepts. Pete Davies, Senior Director of Product Management at LinkedIn said that the way they think about the LinkedIn feed is based on
people you know, talking about things you care about.
First and foremost, you need to make sure that you only post valuable, authentic content that encourages a response. Once you do that, there are little tips to help boost your post, after all, we are dealing with a machine that has patterns and features that impacts its learning mechanism.
Make friends with the algorithm
There are many parameters that impact LinkedIn’s exposure algorithms, such as time posted, content format, type of profile, number of followers, clicks, comments, likes, frequency of engagement, etc. A few days ago, LinkedIn revealed more details about how their algorithms work and shared that they have added a new important variable called “dwell time” which is the time spent by a user lingering on the newsfeed while they decide whether or not to click your post. This signals to the algorithm that your post is worth the attention even if not everyone clicks. The addition to their algorithm was made to compensate for the shortcoming in the previous approach. For marketers, this underlines the importance of an engaging image and eye-catching header.
Using LinkedIn’s analytics and Google Analytics isn’t enough if you want to be able to easily track and analyze every post without spending endless time on manual work, that’s when you will need to start using more advanced social media management tools like Oktopost (my favorite), Hootsuite, Sprout Social and many others.
Start a real conversation
as a rule of thumb, the better conversations are authentic and have constructive back and forth.
Valuable comments will help both gain more exposure from LinkedIn and also drive more engagement from people who get exposed. Naturally, when people see a post with comments they want to see what’s the fuss about. If the comments are valuable they are more likely to join the conversation. To get the conversation started you can tag a few friends who could potentially respond.
I am not a fan of tagging people. I think you need to be very sensitive when doing so and tag only if you truly think that person will be happy to contribute. I prefer contacting colleagues through Whatsapp, FB, and other communication platforms, sharing the link hoping they will find it interesting, like the post, and make a meaningful comment.
Some people join Pods and even use Pod tools to scale this strategy. Pods are private groups (or message threads) of people who promise to regularly engage with each other’s content. I tried it a few times a while back and decided not to use this tactic.
Today I can fairly quickly identify a post that was boosted by a Pod. If you see a post that was published in the last 1 hour with tons of likes and comments, the owner probably used this strategy. Like any “hack,” LinkedIn will eventually find ways to block it and punish Pod users, probably by decreasing their reach.
Timing is everything
LinkedIn feeds aren’t as dynamic as FB and Twitter, yet every day more than a million posts are shared. Naturally content that doesn’t engage users will quickly get pushed out of feeds to make room for new content.
It is very important to drive initial engagement right after the post was shared. To do this authentically, timing is critical. The time you post needs to match the hours your close network is most likely to respond.
For example, I am based in Israel (GMT +2) but it is also important for me to target people from the US with my content (starting their day 7–10 hrs after). So the best time for me to post is anytime between 9 AM to 2 PM (GMT +2). This way my post can start gaining traction from my colleagues in Israel and Europe, and by the time people in the US wake up, it is ranked well and starts gaining “organic” exposure.
It takes a village, but use your employees with care
Employees could be a great resource to boost exposure if you do it right.
Starting with what not to do: Don’t use your employees as the first responders reacting and commenting. It’s obvious and tacky. I don’t know how employees’ engagement is calculated by LinkedIn and if they provide the same impact as when non-employees engage, but like the Pods, this lacks authenticity and doesn’t provide value.
Instead, leverage employees to share branded content and engage in conversations where they are subject matter experts on the topics being discussed. Social media managers should build a list of the experts in their company and encourage them to engage when relevant discussions arise and even help them build a thought leader status. In addition, use social media tools with employee advocacy programs to automate, analyze, and incentivize employees who want to take a more vocal role online.
What goes around comes around
Don’t be selfish. Remember, you aren’t the only one who is trying to promote your business or your personal brand. Speak up when you have something valuable to say. If you don’t, you can always react with a like or clap and even share, or adding something personal about the post you loved.
Interacting with other people’s content is important as it builds relationships, trust, and increases future exposure to your content. LinkedIn’s algorithm tries to identify the people in your network that you know or have mutual interests with. People you interact with are more likely to see your posts on their feed.
If you are looking to interact with influencers or high-profile people, there is a trick you can use.
By default, LinkedIn sorts the feed by “top posts” (those rank highest for you). These posts are usually not the newest ones, but you can manually sort by “most recent.” By doing so, you have better chances to spot fresh posts from high-profiles. Engaging in the early stage increases the chance you will get noticed.
Keep fine-tuning your strategy based on what works
Growing your engagement on social media is a lot of work. Once you start you will learn what works best and how to optimize to become more efficient. LinkedIn provides you with basic insights on the engagement and exposure you get. This is a good starting point to start analyzing and figuring out how to optimize your activities.
For example, I noticed my posts of an image get more exposure than videos. Of course, there may be many reasons why this is true, but it is worth testing this hypothesis to find what formats perform the best.
Seven steps to get your social channels buzzing
Social media is hard work. But once you start building data-based distribution routines, measure them and optimize — it gets easier.
Here is a short outline of the routine I try to follow for LinkedIn (the main social media channel I use for work):
- Go into Linkedin every 2–3 hours to find new and interesting posts worth engaging with.
- Post 1–2 times a week (assuming you have something valuable to share)
- When posting new articles, share the link to your LinkedIn post with your close colleagues through Whatsapp groups and friends, those that will find it useful will be your first responders.
- Post new articles to relevant LinkedIn groups (don’t expect much from LinkedIn groups but it can’t hurt).
- Connect with new people on a daily basis.
- Invite people from my network to follow my company’s page (yes, there is an easy way to do it)
- Once a week, measure the traffic and attribute it to specific content to find out what is gold
I would love to hear from you. Are there any killer social media practices I missed? What is your go-to tactic to drive engagement?