I’ve seen plenty of articles on the “secrets” of content marketing, covering great topics such as conducting original research, incorporating multiple mediums, doing customer research to find appropriate subjects and forms, and other valuable best practices. The quality of your content is of critical importance, and it’s impossible to have a successful campaign without it. However, high-quality content simply isn’t enough to make your campaign a success. For that, you need something else, and for most brands and companies, that something else is networking.
The big problem here is akin to the old thought experiment—if a tree falls in the woods, and there’s no one around to hear it, does it make a sound? There’s no one definitive answer to this question, but a similar question regarding content marketing does have a definitive answer. If content is high-quality and well-written, but there’s no one around to read it, does it have an effect? The answer is no.
You can have the best-written content in your industry getting published on a regular basis, but it doesn’t matter if there’s nobody there to read it. The key to getting an initial base of readers (and growing any base you currently enjoy) is by reaching out to new prospects through networking.
The first major function of networking for a content campaign is a kind of prequalification. Prequalifying leads is all about weeding out tire kickers and other types of people who don’t really have a chance of buying anything. Networking for content readers is a way of finding new readers who might actually read and appreciate your work. Instead of waiting for those highly interested readers to show up on their own, give your campaign a jumpstart by going out and finding them yourself.
Of course, networking also functions as a growth strategy. It’s most critical when you’re first starting out and you have no readers, but even as your campaign grows organically, it can greatly escalate your visibility and reach. Every new person you bring in as a reader has the potential to share that content with his/her own network of followers, giving you a new outlet to a new audience, every time.
When you think about networking for a content campaign, you can generally rely on five “tiers.” Lower tiers are easier to access and easier to recruit, but have less relevance and less potential in growing your campaign. Conversely, higher tiers are harder to access and recruit, but have much greater relevance and growth potential:
The first tier is the simplest, and most new content campaigns will have to start here. To give your content an early boost, try sharing it with your coworkers, friends, and family members. This is especially useful for small businesses who already have a dozen or more workers. Encourage everyone you know to check out your new blog and share it with their respective circles.
Next, you’ll be working with secondary connections, which you can think of as “friends of friends.” Ask your tier one contacts (coworkers, friends, and family) if they know of anybody specifically who could get good use out of your blog. This will serve as a kind of “prequalification,” giving you access to the most valuable potential readers in your second tier of connections. Those readers who find your content most valuable will have the highest likelihood of sharing your content, escalating your reach even further.
For the next circle, you’ll have to step outside the boundaries of people you already know. Specifically, you’ll be tracking down other professionals in your industry (or related to your industry) who might have an interest in your work. You can meet these professionals at networking events, conferences, tradeshows, and even in the general public. Every new connection you make is a potential new gateway to more prequalified readers (and brand new audiences).
The next circle is more difficult to go after, but you stand to benefit more by recruiting them. Competitors and industry leaders already carry some clout in your industry—getting them to read, share, and comment on your work will get you tons of new attention from their respective followers, and they likely have a lot of them. Choose your targets carefully, and be sure to offer something of value in exchange for getting a recommendation (or a spot as a guest blogger).
Finally, reach out to major publishers and influencers with huge followings and authority to match. Getting a piece of work featured on one of these high-profile publishers can instantly connect you with thousands of new readers, but be prepared for a challenge in doing so unless you have ample lower-tier connections vouching for you. Once you’ve reached this tier, there’s no more upward trajectory remaining, so spend the remainder of your networking time seeking and recruiting similar-level sources.
How you go about networking is up to you, but the more you network, the larger and more relevant an audience you’ll have to enjoy the content you put so much effort into. If your content is good enough, your audience will grow naturally—people will willingly, sometimes enthusiastically, share your material with others on their own. Until that happens, and even after it happens, use networking as a way to expand your circle of readership. With quality content and an ever-expanding audience in place, there’s nothing that can stop you from reaching your readership and traffic goals.
Want more information on content marketing? Head over to our comprehensive guide on content marketing here: The All-in-One Guide to Planning and Launching a Content Marketing Strategy.