Lee Odden

How to Get More Out of Content Marketing

content marketingCompanies are jumping on the content marketing bandwagon in increasing numbers, investing in new content for articles, newsletters, whitepapers, blogs, and video to better attract and engage customers. Social media and networking offer an ideal channel for promotion but many marketers chase such tactics as a crap shoot vs. developing a body of content that grows and builds momentum over time.

In a B2B Content Marketing study by Junta42, 79 percent of companies that employ content marketing have adopted social media tactics. Social networks and media sites are often centered on content so the relationship makes sense.

Marketers involved with content and social promotion often conclude that creative promotions are essential to jumpstart attention and traffic. In some ways they’re right but many efforts at social promotion of content fall far short of their potential.

Whether it’s to drive traffic to a new microsite or an attempt to revitalize attention to an existing blog, social promotion ideas pop like pick-up lines at a night club: “Let’s do an infographic” or “We should run a contest.” Better yet, “Let’s create a viral video.”

What’s wrong with those tactics? When they work and work together, nothing.

Individual social content and promotion tactics can achieve a certain level of success on their own, but in many cases it’s a bit of a crapshoot.

Approaching social content promotion purely from a tactical perspective often results in a mixed bag of results. Some succeed and some fail, giving businesses an unrealistic sense of how well social media can work or not for them as part of their marketing mix.

Another approach is to think about social content promotions as part of a continuum, not a single event. Instead of whipping out an infographic or online comic just because it’s a cool and trendy thing to do, I’d challenge online marketers to think a bit more strategically about their social content promotions.

The ideal situation involves objectives, audience, and strategy where specific tactics are identified. Understanding customer triggers, keywords and buzzing social topics can be instrumental for mapping out a social content plan.

Within that plan certain tactics can be identified as best suited to advance business goals by providing value to prospects, customers, and influentials.

For example:


Will it Blend Video Series

Rather than shooting individual videos designed to “go viral” consider planning out a series of videos along a theme. Explore topics that support your customers’ content needs according to their position in the buying funnel but that also trigger social sharing.

Individual provocative, creative and inspiring videos have their place. But also consider the value of building your audience and community from an ongoing series of videos tied together by your unique selling proposition and addressing key questions in your industry where the answers could involve your product or service.

One of the most successful is the “Will It Blend” series of videos from Blendtec that have had millions of views. Imagine if they had created only one or two videos and moved on to something else?

Contests and Ranked Lists

Women Who Rock Social Media List

If you run a contest or ranked list, think first whether it’s something you could do at regular intervals like monthly, quarterly, or annually. Each contest builds credibility and your list for promotion of the next contest. Consider developing a contest where participation requires creation of content. Repurpose that content for promotions and build community around recognizing participants and winners.

A single contest or ranked list lights up like a firecracker and then dies out. A well thought out and executed contest that occurs at regular intervals is something people look forward to and can grow larger organically each time it happens.

A good example of a successful list is TopRank’s 25 Women Who Rock Social Media. This list is produced with great effort once a year and is held in high regard by many of the recipients who include the badge or designation on their websites, in their resumes, press releases and author credentials.


Flowtown Infographics

There’s an art and science to effective infographics as a marketingtool. Many companies publish individual infographics as linkbait but never consider how a series of themed infographics can build a growing audience and contribute to community development.

The theme can be as simple as a common label that reflects a target keyword phrase or topic relevant to the business. For example, “Social Media Smarts: Content Marketing Best Practices” or “Social Media Smarts: Top Social SEO Tactics.”

A great example of a company that has used a series of infographics is Flowtown. Initially promoting social media topics, when they were a social media profile/appending company, to their new focus on “gift marketing”, Flowtown has used infographics as way to draw attention to topics related to their offering.

Hopefully this gives you some perspective on the pros and cons of doing individual social content promotions versus finding an approach that involves ongoing use of tactics that work together sequentially and cumulatively.Not only does it make sense to tie a sequence of individual social content promotion tactics together, but to coordinate content types as part of an overall content marketing strategy.

Create content customers will love, share, and look forward to and you’ll find a lot more satisfaction and business results than from a series of disconnected, social content marketing experiments.

A version of this post originally ran in my Social Media Smarts column on ClickZ.

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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. Ted Peterson says:

    Hi Lee,

    Couldn’t agree more.I think to many people are jumping into content marketing without thinking about why they are doing it.  Their goal is simply to boost their numbers or readership or as you said it is cool and trendy.  The real purpose of content marketing should be to help your target market or readers to better understand something or to help them in some way.  They are using a shotgun approach to their marketing and that is the kinds of results that they are going to get.  They may see some short term gains but long term they are killing their credibility.  If you are going to go through the trouble of creating the content anyway why not make sure it is something your target market can actually benefit from.  Love your ideas on themes too!  Great post.  Looking forward to your next!

    Ted Peterson

    • Thanks Ted – I do think there’s a lot of speculation made with content marketing that’s executed by the types of marketers prone to linkbait and that sort of thing. They get addicted to the short term traffic spike, likes and links and focus on creating the “big one” vs. creating things that add up to something far bigger over time. There’s no right or wrong to it, just different ways to approach the end goal of attracting and maintaining customers. 

  2. Sam Singer says:

    This is great Lee. I’m currently using referral marketing for my marketing campaign while looking to delve into content marketing for my shop. 

  3. Richard Ng says:

    Hi Lee, great sharing, I always believe that properly planned out content marketing will create huge potential to the business!


  4. Very cool article, thanks for the perspective!

  5. This was very insightful and makes a lot sense. Campaigns are a serious of action that all have the same goal in mind. This should hold true for any type of marketing campaigns whether it is a campaign to monitor social media or to promote a product. All of the actions should be tied together like the article suggests.

  6. I like the idea you’re expressing here but I wonder about how appropriate some of the content is.  Will a “Top 25” type list that appeals to people really result in new sales?  Isn’t it better to stay on topic so as not to dilute your overall message? 

    • Hi Darren, each page isn’t meant to convert to a sale. If we did that on all our blog posts, no one would ever come back.  List posts serve multiple purposes ranging from being useful to a method of recognizing others to creating thought leadership by association.  Content Marketing is the creation of purposeful information that educates and inspires the prospect to a conversion. That’s rarely one web page or blog post, but more likely a series of articles and maybe even tweets, status updates as well as other media like images and video. 

      With content marketing we’re not only after prospects to buy, but also influentials that can spread our message and lists posts are quite effective for that.

  7. Having grown up in the Marketing/Advertising industry for many years, you are saying exactly what we used to say to clients who years ago wanted to quickly “throw out” a promotion for a quick, short term spike in results. In most cases, quarterly results were due. Today, the marketing/promotional vehicles have changed, but unfortunately with many clients, the thought remains the same…

  8. Great post Lee! I especially like the themed and organised approach to content creation and theming you have covered. Cheers Jeff

  9. Lee,
    Great post, and great to meet you!~

     The Franchise King®

  10. Anonymous says:

    I would just add one point to your excellent article.  Your social media content marketing had better be integrated into the rest of the company’s marketing strategy.  Mixed messages can kill.  I’ve seen articles where there the contention is that the social media manager has to be kept in the loop.  But it is more than a matter of being in the loop.  All the tactics used in marketing to reach out to the customer/user/prospect must be integrated into one coherent strategy.  More and more companies have CMO’s (Chief Marketing Officers).  It is their job to make sure that all marketing communications support a the company’s product and business strategy.  Social media, as important as they are, cannot do it alone.

    • That’s a good point Emily. I think one thing that happens is that approval for social media at executive levels can be sluggish, at least in terms of understanding how it fits with overall messaging and strategy. As a result, some company social media efforts are run as tactics in support of marketing or public relations and get pigeonholed there vs. being an extension of the overall business strategy.