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Content Marketers: Why Aren't You Citing?

For content marketers, citing to external sources in your company blog may initially seem like an act of self-sabotage. The company has designated you, after all, to act as its voice and showcase its value. Why reference an outsider, shine the spotlight on someone else, and potentially redirect traffic away from your site?

A number of reasons! The counter-intuitive reality is that going Rambo with your content marketing is a misguided strategic maneuver and surefire way to handicap your blog’s growth and effectiveness. Here are three compelling reasons to cite smartly and frequently in your company blog, and how you can these citations to amplify and empower your content.

1.  Establish Credibility

For starters, the underlying purpose of the blog is to add value to your readers and thus show that your company can add value to its customers. When you cite to a highly credible source (a Business Review, Academic Journal, study by a major research group, etc.) you’re actually establishing your own credibility as well.

Content marketing is a long-term game that requires time and consistency. For startups, time is a luxury you may be struggling to afford, so you need to streamline this process as much as you possibly can -- citing to third-parties is your ideal solution. It’s swift, it’s effective, and it doesn’t cost a dime.

While your content generator’s path to credibility may be at the mercy of Father Time, citing to reputable sources is a great way to expedite the process and give credibility where it truly matters anyways, your company. For example, you sell enterprise software that measures how well a company optimizes a given process. Citing to quality sources like this and this in posts relating to each topic will not only help further your credibility, performing the research itself will lead to better ideas, a more refined understanding of consumer interests, and in turn, more effective blog posts.

2. Compound Exposure

Second, and probably most important, is the ability to use citations as a tool for cross-promotion. One of the most challenging aspects of maintaining a blog is figuring out how to optimize the distribution of your content across the various social media channels.

Last week, I wrote a blog post on how Millenials and Technology are impacting the American workplace. I cited heavily to a major industry study by the MIT Sloan Management Review.

Over the weekend, I tweeted out a link to the post from our company twitter account, and within hours, MIT Sloan had retweeted it. Our company has 375 twitter followers. MIT Sloan has 46,0000. Now, I’m no data scientist, but I’m pretty sure that this single retweet just created an exponential increase in exposure for our post.

3. Find New Allies

The business world is a competitive jungle your company traverses daily. References to articles, other company blogs, and business and industry leaders vastly expands your ecosystem, offering opportunities to acquire critical new allies that can jumpstart your oganization.

Put simply, citations open up your content to a much larger world than that of your customers.  Citing to journalists, professional organizations, businesses and other blogs gives you an “in” to begin building a relationship with not only the entities themselves, but their readership and customer bases.  

The ways that these citations can manifest powerful new distribution channels and means of exposure are as varied as they are numerous.

  • Cite to a major Forbes, Wall Street Journal, or Business Insider article and establish a point of contact with that journalist.

  • Cite to an expert blogger in your industry and increase the potential that he or she promotes, references, or profiles your post and your company.

  • Cite to a major organization within your industry and publish the post in the organization’s LinkedIn group. (Ambition’s favorite: American Assoc. of Inside Sales Professionals)

The list goes on. The bottom line is: Your chances of survival in the jungle will improve dramatically if you use citations to build powerful new allies in your industry.

Cite Early. Cite Often.

How frequently should a company use citations in its posts? I would advise content marketers to incorporate at least one or two citations in every post that discusses an industry topic. It’s also important not to overdo third-party citations, for two reasons.

  • Your content should primarily consist of your original thoughts; citations merely act as supplements to these thoughts.

  • Incorporate too many external links in your post, and you run the risk of appearing to direct the reader to leave the site.

In my experience, finding the right balance here is pretty intuitive. Focus on the quality, not quantity, of the citations you are integrating into your content.

Ultimately, content marketers who start incorporating citations will come to find that citing in your content will not only provide these aforementioned benefits, it will increase the efficiency of the writing process itself. That alone makes adding citations to your content a worthwhile exercise.

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