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Own Your Content Own Your Tribe

Bird TattooContent marketing is everywhere, blog posts, photos of events, recipes, and curated lists.  Content marketing is also EVERYWHERE: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, and now Medium.  Which is great because as a small business publishing on all these platforms, you're everywhere, right?  The alternative is to publish on your own small business website, how is that better?

The answer is you need to do both, because there is a way to force distributed content to drive traffic to your own brand, and a way to just give your hard work away.  I'm guessing you don't like giving your time and money away...

The problem with using distributed services to market your small business is that they actually drive people away from your content, not towards it.  Every single one of these services has a goal, get as many users and eye balls as possible, some for advertising purposes, some for investors.  They tell you this is a win for your small business because their visitors are your visitors.  So you give them your valuable content, the gallery you photographed all day, the opinion article that took you all day to compose.  They host your hard work, attract visitors, then do everything in their power to keep that visitor on their site, not yours.  They offer similar photos from other people, an offer to download their application, or options to buy from their advertisers who are sometimes your competitors.  Visitors are presented with dozens of options to engage not your small business, which was your original goal.

Even worse, they got the visitors email, you didn't.  The only option you have now is to pay them a fee to market to people who showed up to look at your own content on their platform.  Facebook has mastered this.  Its like the Rube Goldberg machine of small business marketing, literally the longest road you can take when publishing content with the hopes of getting visitors.  This happens because by definition, the goals of distributed content services are just not aligned with small business.  They want to turn your content into their valuation.

It has to work, otherwise why has distributed content become so popular?  Because it works for marketers.  Marketers sell to small business, they sell their time and services.  To do that they need the next thing to get people excited, so they tout the benefits of these services.  Remember when it was all about Twitter followers, or Facebook likes, or Pinterest favorites?  Now its about Medium comments.  Next year it will be the next thing.  Marketers need to look like they're ahead of everyone else, so they shove their clients down these rabbit holes and move on to the next thing.  Imagine spending a year building up your Twitter following only to have a marketer tell you everyone is on Instagram today.  Their goals aren't aligned with yours.

Distributed content also screws up your marketing efforts, neigh it pretty much cripples them.  You organize and event, send people to EventBrite to register.  Not your site, no opportunity for conversion.  Then they show up, you spend hours photographing the event and publish the photos directly to Facebook.  Not your site, no opportunity for conversion.  You send a newsletter to people to promote the success of the event.  You don't have event emails and you don't have Facebook like emails, so you end up emailing links to Facebook to your own mailing list, promoting their site, not really yours.  Then you're told that the event was a success because people showed up and maybe liked your coffee.  From a marketing perspective it was a disaster, the other sites received more visitors than yours did, how are you supposed to sell them that bag of coffee from yet another 3rd party e-commerce site?

So back to that critical answer on how to overcome these draw backs of distributed content.  First, publish your content on your own site, and own it.  Its your brand, you worked hard to create it.  Second, every activity is about collecting your own list of emails and pulling people into your site.  Sell event tickets on your site, post event photos on your site, send newsletters featuring your site, and post links to your site on social networks.  That last one is important, by posting a link to your content instead of your content on 3rd party sites, you pull visitors into your conversion funnel, with up sells, offers, and lots of ways for the user to engage with you and only you.

The results will surprise you, clients we've worked with who've taken this approach immediately see a boost in engagement, foot traffic, and sales.  Owning your own content is aligned with small business goals because small businesses by definition have their own small tribes.  At the end of the day you're doing the work to create the content and drive attention to it. Own your content, own your tribe.

Written By: Paul Kenjora

Paul Kenjora is the Product Manager and founder at AwareLabs, a company that provides the next generation website builder for small businesses. He has 10+ years product development experience, has launched sites netting millions of visits a day, and has consulted for fortune 500 companies.