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It's vital to nurture meaningful relationships with people who are ready and willing to support your projects. One of the most difficult things you will ever have to do online is reaching out to relevant audiences. This can only be achieved through trial and error, continuous experimentation, and, ultimately, by taking a chance and putting yourself out there. In the end, the road to building a strong community is also a road to self-discovery.
This is also why creating relevant content is one of the best ways to engage with people online - content that educates and speaks to them, helps you uncover the voice of your brand, and also asserts your position as an influencer. But how exactly are you supposed to promote this content to the right people? This is what we want to find out.
In the following guide, we take a look at several unusual content marketing strategies and tools, which can help you connect with relevant audiences.
1. Fuel Engagement through Content Diversity
Blog posting isn't only about writing a few hundred words and slapping some photos on top to make them look pretty. With so much content going around, it has become clear that writers have to go the extra mile. The good news is that there are so many ways for you to make content more engaging.
First of all, there are alternative forms of content that can be added to the mix, such as videos, podcasts, infographics, content visualizations, presentations and so on. Secondly, you can use page elements that act as powerful calls-to-action. One of the reasons I love reading HubPages is its extremely diverse content. Most articles are complimented by interactive, thought-provoking modules. With these things in mind, here are a few ideas you can try:
- Insert polls into articles: When readers see a poll they simply can't help themselves. They have to vote! Depending on the length of your article, you should consider adding 1 or 2 relevant polls. This will give you a better idea of your readers' preferences, fear, or desires. A while back, I wrote an article about solo-traveling, and added a poll about the fears of traveling alone to it. The responses I received prompted me to create a second article that was extremely well received.
- Use embedded social media: Embedded tweets or Facebook posts will help you break up the text, while also encouraging readers to share your content. Simply add interesting facts, statistics or quotes from your article to make it irresistible.
- Experiment with comics: Everybody loves comics. If what you have to say can be presented under the form of a comic-strip, why not give it a go? You don't have to be extremely talented at drawing to make this work. Make sure you check out Oatmeal for inspiration.
- Make content downloadable: You can add discrete download links for your content in eBook or PDF format.
- Frame it as a quiz: There are two great ways in which you can use quizzes. The first one is to add a short quiz at the end of the article which summarizes the information presented and helps the reader test his newly-achieved knowledge. The second, and probably more enticing one, is to conceive your content as a quiz that defines the visitor's needs. This will also help you segment your audience into specific groups.
- Organize Contests: Cracked periodically runs photo contests under the form of articles. Readers are welcome to submit their own images, and as a reward, they get the chance to win a nice prize (of 100 dollars). Needless to say, photo-based articles have the tendency of spreading like wildfire, and when you also get the community involved, it's impossible to go wrong.
2. Aggregate Awesomeness for your Community
One of the best ways to attract more followers, while also promoting your content, is by aggregating, or better yet, curating relevant articles from other sources.
Note: As mentioned by Tom George on Poynter.org, the main distinction between aggregation & curation, is the fact that the latter also puts content into context and has a distinctive, human touch to it.
There's just too damn much information circulating the internet right now, and very few of it is actually worth reading. Imagine how thankful your followers will be if you discover, summarize and organize the most interesting things on the internet for them. There are several tools you can use for this purpose. Julia McCoy already covered 17 of the Best Content Curation Tools of 2015, so I will only present some lesser known tools:
Snip.ly is not a curation tool in the exact sense of the word (it's actually more of a link shortener), but the fact that it allows the user to add a call-to-action to every link shared makes it extremely effective in attracting relevant traffic to your website & capturing leads. Simply sign up for the free plans, paste the URL you want to share on Snip.ly, create the custom message and the message for the button URL.
You can use your website's link for the button and share it across different social networks and blogs. It may not work with certain sites, but this shouldn't be a reason not to use it. Oh, did I mention that Michael Stelzner of Social Media Examiner also uses it?
FrontPageit promises to offer 100% relevant content and 0% noise. I have to admit, I was sceptical at first. Nevertheless, I signed up for an account and found the dashboard quite charming. The newsfeed reminds me of Facebook, but instead of the endless stream of selfies, cat videos and emotional status updates I got an interesting list of newsworthy articles from authority sites like Mashable, TheVerge, and The Guardian, among others.
Curators are selected manually to avoid content 'overdose', so being accepted as one in a relevant niche will definitely help. Because FrontPageit focuses solely on 'content discovery', each curated piece is accompanied by a short summary (also referred to as 'the gist of it'). Now, in order to promote your own content on this type of platform, you should follow the unwritten rules of Pinterest: a healthy balance between content you find online, and your own (the 80:20 rule should work wonders).
If you're looking for a click-and-forget-it tool, then Zemanta is what you need. To start using this small and extremely useful content curation tool you will have to download and install the extension. As you write blog-posts in your Blogger, TypePad or Wordpress dashboard, Zemanta will automatically pull out relevant content from across the web.
But the best thing about it is the fact that, if you sign-up for the service, it will pull your content on other blogs. This means that your valuable content will appear on the blogs of influencers in your niche, thus increasing your chances of being mentioned by them.
Image Source: S.w.org
3. Apply the Principles of Social Media 4-1-1
Although marketers are aware of the power of social media, most fail to harness it simply because they are inconsistent and overly-promotional. Andrew Davis, the author of Brandscaping, came up with the concept of Social Media 4-1-1 sharing. Granted, you don't have to respect the numbers exactly, but the point of this strategy is to get noticed, and ultimately, to be acknowledged. Let's say you have 6 pieces of content that you're planning on sharing on your social channel this week.
Four out of the six should be content from other influencers in the industry, one should be a promotional piece, discount, press-release or anything related to your business, and the last one should be an original article that you created. By consistently sharing content from other influencers, without asking for anything in return, you will be able to reach out to them. Maybe, someday, they will also share your piece, thus, exposing it to a whole new audience.
4. Leverage the Links you Use
Any sensible writer credits his/her sources. But are you truly leveraging the power of your links? Whenever you want to add value to your post, you should link to content that is relevant to it. As a rule of thumb, you should always link to articles from active individuals or websites.
Are the authors of your source content in the habit of engaging with their audience on social media? Good. That means people are actually listening to them. Once your article is published, make sure to reach out to the people that you linked to. A short message and thank you should be enough. Some of them will probably not answer, but those who will might mention you on their social channels. Either way, it's a win-win situation.
5. Amplify your Reach through Content Discovery Platforms
Sometimes, reaching out through social media or email simply doesn't help. Have you ever wondered why, no matter how hard you try, your leads and traffic fail to live up to your expectations? That's because you have to extend your reach even further. I am positive that you are already familiar with content discovery platforms like Taboola or OutBrain - you have probably seen the 'Suggested content' or 'recommended posts' at the end of articles on major websites.
What you didn't know is that you can use them to propel your own content on huge sites such as CNN or Inc.com. Here's a list of questions that you should answers before attempting to use discovery platforms for content amplification:
- What is your objective? Before investing in anything, you should define your goals. Is it brand exposure, targeted traffic or leads that you want? Based on this you can monitor important metrics.
- What content are you going to promote? Conduct a thorough check of your website to identify the best-written and most-successful articles. The idea is to create a lasting impression and encourage visitors to explore more of your site. I recommend that you focus on valuable blog-posts instead of promotional pages, eBooks or downloadable content.
- Is your content ready to be showcased? Before you begin the discovery campaign you might want to improve the design and content on your page. Include call-to-actions, interesting visuals and format the text in an interesting way.
Most content discovery tools are self-serving, so you will want to take advantage of their features. You can choose multiple variations of your headlines and run A/B tests with them. Make sure to include your tracking tokens if you want to monitor the performance of your posts (which you absolutely should).
Image Source: OutBrain
These are five extremely effective methods of promoting content and reaching out to relevant audiences. Alex Manthei mentioned a few others, as well as some interesting tools, in his comprehensive article on the Buffer blog. You should definitely check it out if you're on the hunt for more ideas.
Image Sources: depositphotos.com