Lee Odden

6 Tips For Making Content Pop on the Social Web

content marketing social webWith the growing momentum of content marketing, a lot of companies get hung up on making investments in quality articles, white papers, videos and other media only to find they’re not getting much traction. I’ve heard it time and time again at conferences in discussions with brand marketers where they’ve invested in creating great content and digital assets but are frustrated at the lack of reach.

Over the past 6 1/2 years of blogging, followed by contributing articles, posting videos, photos, PowerPoint slides, reports in PDF format and other types of content publishing for our own agency and for clients, here are a few guidelines that stand out for helping content get better reach.

1. Purpose: What do you expect this content to accomplish?

The purpose for a content object can be complex and multi dimensional or it can be as simple as getting readers to click and visit a web page.  Either way, some real thought should be put into being specific about primary and possibly secondary objectives.

2. Message:  Compelling, Unique, Inspiring, Actionable

One of the biggest issues with content companies publish is that it tends not to be customer centric.  SEOs use keyword research to inspire their content recommendations. Keywords are a reflection of demand for topics customers are interested in. Same goes for social keyword research and using personas to guide editorial.

The message is obviously tied to the purpose for the content, so the degree to which it’s unique, inspiring or actionable will vary. You should be able to boil down the essence of the content into a single or two sentence summary.  Think elevator pitch. It should also be crystal clear what you want the reader (or watcher) to do after consuming it.

3. Packaging: Quality, Creativity, Usability & Design, Sharability

It used to be that typos, mis-spellings and lack of design were the norm with blogs but these days business blogs need to be as professional, albeit conversational, as company web sites.  In today’s short attention span world, crap content with snappy packaging will often win over quality content and normal appearance.

This doesn’t mean you need to adopt tabloid tactics, but it does mean that there should be a very strong motivation to employ creative resources to design a great experience for consumers.  Readers should be able to tell quickly what the top level concept is (as well as search engines), it should be easy to consume or scan and it should definitely be easy to share/save/post to social news and bookmarking sites.

Essentially, if the actual content is interesting then make sure the design is interesting too.

4. Distribution & Promotion – Push / Pull, Syndication

This is where I get to use the “Build it and they will come.” quote from Field of Dreams because this is the source of frustration for many marketers publishing new content with frustration over the effect.  First, make sure the publishing system offers automated distribution such as through Email subscription or RSS.  Cross posting updated content to a news roll on the home page or newsroom is also helpful

Building social channels is key for the “pop on the social web” part of this post.  Develop social networks on the channels where conversations are happening relevant to the people and companies you’re trying to reach. If they’re on Facebook for example, you might find it makes sense for your Fan page to accept posts from the blog and that the blog also posts to Twitter. Then have Twitter post to LinkedIn.

Pushing out content automatically must be designed carefully to avoid duplication and especially avoid a high ratio of self promotion.

“Pull” in this case means optimizing content with keywords people search for relevant to the content you are publishing. Make SEO part of the publishing process so content creators have keyword lists they can draw from and guidelines to follow when writing new text content or creating other types of media.

5. Call to Action

Give readers something to do next, whether it’s share, subscribe, join or even buy. The call to action is tied to the purpose of the content. Not all content needs to have an explicit outcome, but if you don’t ask or even tell readers what to do, it’s pretty much a certainty they won’t do what you want. The story of the content should guide the reader to a conclusion that involves a next step. This might be as passive as reading the next article in a series or proactively soliciting a visit to a landing page.

It’s also perfectly fine in many cases to offer more than one thing to do next. The additional options can be part of the design of the web page (White paper, Webinar, Newsletter, Consultation) or included in the copy of the article/blog post/video or whatever the content format is. However, the call to action should never distract from the key message.

6. Monitor, Measure, Analyze & Act

Make sure you have some kind of goals in place along with tools and processes for measuring performance, both in the short and long term.  Whether you use Google Alerts, social media monitoring tools, web analytics, clipping services or something else like PostRank, make sure you track the reach of the content you’re promoting. Analyze where you’re getting traction and document what appears to be working or not.

Be free to test and understand that not everything you post and share, no matter how well-written, packaged or promoted, will gain traction.  Pay attention to time of day, headlines, link sources, traffic sources, citations without links and anything else that could affect reach and outcomes.

Be strategic and opportunistic. Plan content out, use overriding themes and metaphors to tie the message and call to action together.  Understand that developing and promoting content to achieve a desired outcome is a very different thing on the social web vs. direct marketing/response.   Also be aware that opportunities might arise and you should be prepared to create and promote content on demand in order to take advantage. Responding to breaking news or trending social topics for example.

Bonus tip: Give recognition! People will work for money but die for recognition. Give deserving kudos to commenters, those that share and help promote. Also give recognition internally to those that help create content. Positive reinforcement is a powerful tool for shaping desirable behavior.

I hope you’ve found these tips helpful. If you have any content creation, packaging, promotion or analysis tips, please share them in the comments.

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Lee Odden About Lee Odden

@LeeOdden is the CEO of TopRank Marketing and editor of Online Marketing Blog. Cited for his expertise by The Economist, Forbes and the Wall Street Journal, he's the author of the book Optimize and presents internationally on integrated content, search, social media and influencer marketing. When not at conferences, consulting, or working with his talented team, he's likely on a beach somewhere doing absolutely nothing.


  1. Great tips I agree the title of your headline should ask a question that you want answered. For example how to bring your blog 10,000 free visitors as an example. It will make the searcher want to click to see what your article, or blog post is all about. I personally think the quality of the blog post is much more important than the quantity of your blog posts or frequency. If you have nothing interesting to say do not say anything that is my philosophy. Anyways great post!

  2. Jim Rothstein says:

    Very insightful. Thanks for the thoughtful post.

  3. Lotmorewinner says:

    Very Interesting specialy the last part where you talk about “calling for action” Many blogger out there just post anything and… hope money will start falling from the sky !
    keep up the good work

  4. The Market Future says:

    The Call to Action item is one of the most underutilized or misunderstood aspects of social media marketing. All too often, companies simply want to use Facebook or Twitter or what have you to get the word out about a new product or service. And then that’s it. People use social media so they can be involved. Give them something to do.

    Well said. Nice blog.

  5. Lots of excellent points. For me, the most critical is your very astute observation that ‘crap content’ can bamboozle its way to success. As you suggest framing good content with good design and UI is vital, but so is a simple branding approach that suggests clarity and gravitas. My guess is that crap content is usually poorly ‘wrapped’.

  6. Lee, thanks for another great post. I would add one more thing- write for your community. There’s no better way to grow your readership than to respond to the comments that people leave on your posts, continue conversations that you started at a conference, or respond to posts from other bloggers in your space. This gives readers the sense that they are part of a dialogue, which means that THEY WILL KEEP COMING BACK.

    I think that you’re really great at this- you always end posts by “starting a conversation” with your readers. Personally, this makes me want to continue following and commenting on your posts.

  7. The last step is one that a lot of companies overlook. You can’t just predict what you think content will accomplish, put it out there and think the job is done. What did you really achieve? How can you measure it, analyze it and repeat it?

    • Exactly Paul – measurement is essential and monitoring both direct and indirect impact is often overlooked. On top of that is the delayed effect. Not all content results in an immediate outcome and it would be unfortunate to discontinue because expectations are more in alignment with direct response vs public relations (influence).

  8. Great article! Am new to Social Media Marketing and have been reading lots of books and articles. Today I found your blog. Reading each section of this article, I can really see where I am missing the boat in some of my own articles and blog. Can’t wait to start reading through your other posts. Thanks so much. I am your newest fan!

  9. My blog is based on latest news in entertainment, sports and lifestyle. I try to pack each post with a high res image or video to go with it. I feel like it brings more value and feel to the post. This may be hard to do with some topics, since closely related n images not be available.

  10. How do you guys feel about article length contributing to the value of the article? Often the most informative and valuable posts are long, but I sometimes find that I like to read shorter articles that get straight to the point & have photo or video examples.

  11. Well put, great tips! It’s easy to forgo quality in favor of quantity these days, your post is a good reminder why quality still matters.

  12. Len Davies says:

    Some really good tips here thanks Lee 🙂 I will definitely be putting this into action soon now.