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Imagine a situation; two people go to a market to distribute pamphlets. One just throws them into the air all over in the market and the other one hands them over to people who would want to read it. Not many would have bothered to read what’s written in the pamphlets thrown, but most would have noticed the content of the pamphlets that were given individually in their hands.

The same happens with your brand’s content as well. No matter, how great your content is, without a proper distribution plan and strategy, it won’t reach your target audience.

Karan Kumar

Karan Kumar, Chief Brand and Marketing Officer, Fabindia, said, “Development of high-quality creative content is clearly the first and most important task. While how this content needs to be distributed is extremely important, but in the overall scheme of things, it comes as the next step in decision-making. That certainly does not make it unimportant. In fact, a robust distribution strategy is an essential element to make the content marketing plan succeed.”

Darshan Bhatt

Darshan Bhatt, Director, India, South East Asia, Africa and the Middle East, Goquest Digital Studios, stated that traditionally marketers love to devote 99% of their time on creating content and 1% on distribution – because the avenues to distribute content are just four -- Facebook, YouTube, Instagram and Twitter to a certain extent. “The general notion is that the target consumer consumes content only through these platforms and by placing content on them, the content/marketing objectives will be fulfilled,” he said.

With newer platforms coming into existence, the marketers are becoming selective of the platforms they choose to distribute content. They now have options beyond Facebook, YouTube, Instagram and Twitter.

Shamik Ghosh

Shamik Ghosh, Head of Content and Communications,, said, “With digital avenues opening and a plethora of options available to distribute your content, brands have started becoming selective of which distribution channels they should focus on, especially when it comes to paid media. Content is now being measured, and brands have started to realise what works for them and what doesn’t.”

Although a lot of marketers argue that if a piece of content is impactful, it will find its own funnel organically and reach the audience concerned. But the chances of a content piece being recognised organically are less. To get your content piece its due, one needs to have a solid distribution plan.

Kartik Nagarajan

Kartik Nagarajan, Chief Content Officer, Wavemaker India, said, “Probably the most common mistake is the misconception that if the content is compelling enough, it will spread on its own. Nothing could be further from the truth in today’s social media environment, where we all exist in echo chambers, surrounding ourselves with things we want to hear. This aspect of social media has significantly brought down the universal organic impact that once used to exist.”

Fundamentals of content distribution strategy

The fundamentals of a brand’s content piece distribution are somewhat similar to a TVC distribution plan: it should resonate with your target audience. It’s important to understand the strength of the platform and why your target audience would go to the particular platform. The content should match the reason for the platform’s existence. The same person would go on Facebook and LinkedIn for different reasons.

Bhatt explained this with an example. He said that a working professional visits the TOI app or reads the TOI newspaper for different reasons than Economic Times (app and newspaper). The former is consumed more from the perspective of getting an update on the developments in the world, while the Economic Times is used from the perspective of consuming business news only.

Most importantly, content should be created keeping in mind the distribution plan. The brands should first set their goals, then identify the target audience, then choose the right distribution channel to reach that audience and finally create content that matches the goals, audience interests and fits the form of your distribution channel.

Sandeep Balani

Sandeep Balani, Head of India, Outbrain, said, “If you are crafting content without factoring in your distribution plan, even the best content idea might fail. Unlike the chicken and egg conundrum, in marketing, who comes first is clear. It is always a good idea to do a little A/B testing along the way -- our assumptions are rarely spot on and testing new distribution channels can sometimes open you up to audiences you did not know about.”

Kartikay Mehta

Another important thing to be kept in mind while executing the distribution strategy is to measure your content at each step. Kartikay Mehta, Vice-President, Sales, Unibic Foods India, said, “Profitable commercial success is the best way to know if your content strategy is working or not. The other way is if one meets every step by some goal. If yes, then one can be sure that things are going fine.”

Avoid these common mistakes

Kumar said, “Identification of the ‘right’ audience profile, creating content that resonates with them and choosing platforms that uniquely deliver each content type is critical to getting the overall plan right.”

All brands love the content they create and in order to maximise return on it, tend to put it everywhere, which is definitely a wrong practice as it makes measurement complex in absence of a unified measurement system or platform and also ends up annoying the consumers. One should carefully select the platforms matching the brand objective and TG.

Ghosh of Paisabazaar added, “As content creators, we often get carried away by the content we have created and put it everywhere, something known as the ‘spray and pray’ approach. With every distribution channel you choose, you make your job of measuring it more complex. You need to have your content in the right place, the right time and for the right people. Having it everywhere can lead to irate consumers and do more harm than good.”

Kumar of Fabindia points out that generally one targets a frequency between 3-6 impressions per audience unit, but this can also change a little based on the nature of the campaign and its objectives. For example, on a campaign that focuses on delivering ‘new’ news, the frequency could be upped to even 8-10 per audience unit. 

Although gut works a lot in planning strategies, too many assumptions about where the target audience is spending most of their time can turn things bad. One must keep on trying new and emerging platforms. Balani said, “Even the most digitally advanced brands will test dozens of landing page variables before finding the one that really connects with their audiences and drives results. The same goes for distribution channels, marketers make too many assumptions about where their audiences spend time.”

The Outbrain Interest graph shows us that people interested in content business and finance, are also interested in entertainment, home, lifestyle and sports content.

* Discovery categories show what kind of articles users read before clicking on any business and finance recommendation on the Outbrain networks [Q4 2018 India].

While video is the biggest thing in the current branded content scenario, one must not forget the importance of other forms of content marketing, i.e., images, infographics, GIFs, texts and audio.

Bhatt of Goquest Digital said, “People miss out on the fact that content does not involve only video but also focuses on text, audio, images, gifs, etc. One needs to use all aspects of content together to make the strategy work well.”

Distribution platforms that don’t provide proper measurability metrics will lose the game

Major platforms such as Facebook, YouTube, Instagram and Twitter, on which brands distribute their content, don’t really offer transparent third-party measurement and the brands have to accept whatever metrics these platforms provide. Even as these platform claim that they are giving access to a few third-party measurement platforms, the data coming through aggregated relay logs do not really give a transparent picture. Some platforms do provide third-party measurement through paid tools like Sizmek, DCM and others, but the number is few and lack transparency because of clarity on whether the data is based on relay logs.

In fact, we are now seeing a trend that brands are exploring newer and even niche platforms to distribute and promote their content, which either provides revenue sharing models or authentic performance data.

Ghosh said, “Most platforms have come up with fairly transparent means to gauge the impact of your content. Those who haven’t will need to because sooner or later, brands will choose not to engage with them.”

People are working towards finding means to accurately measure the success of content. But, as of now, brands have to accept whatever is served on the table. Therefore, the brands often undertake qualitative research modules to measure the impact of content on the overall brand.

“While the exact numbers shared by platforms remain a challenge, it surely does give a fair indication of success or failure of that content. One cannot influence the entire social media ecosystem in its favour. Having said this, a third-party neutral measurement process would certainly bring comfort all around,” added Bhatt.

Emphasising on the importance of having proper metrics to measure the effectiveness of content, Balani said, “Very often, viewability metrics provided by different platforms or channels are not comparable and also not informative. We definitely need a consolidation of metrics and analytics in the market. At the moment, it takes a lot of manual work for the marketer to dive deep into each platform, understand the analytics and implement tracking pixels to measure the right metrics to compare different channels.

Outbrain offers API (Application programming interface) access so you can connect the platform to its management and analytics solution. Outbrain has now launched Zemanta in India, which is a native DSP (Demand-side platform) which can be one single platform for all native/content distribution strategy on native.

While the world is moving towards coming on a common ground or finding the right means to measure content effectiveness, Nagarajan pointed out, “For brands, a universal ‘one size fits all’ currency is a mirage that we should not be chasing. Measurement should be heavily customised for campaign and brand goals.”