reach

Content marketing growth isn’t always explosive, but should it be slow?

No, it shouldn’t.

You should have steady, measurable growth on a monthly basis in most cases.

That’s why it pains me to see so many marketers create content and be satisfied when barely anyone sees it.

You don’t need tens of thousands of views for a new piece of content to make a difference, but you should be aiming for at least a thousand, even when you’re just starting off.

If you’re not getting many views on your content, something is wrong.

It could be one of many things:

  • not a good topic
  • weak writing
  • overall mediocre content
  • not enough promotion
  • low quality promotion

In this post, I want to dive deeper into one of these elements: the content aspect.

There are things you can do to instantly expose your content to a larger audience. In fact, I’m going to show you 5 of them in this post.

If you’re looking to get hundreds or thousands of extra views on your content, this is a post you’ll want to read closely. 

1. Influencers can help you in many ways

In order to grow your site’s traffic and readership, you need to put in a ton of consistent hard work.

However, there are ways accelerate the growth. They involve getting a few big influencers in your niche on your side.

Imagine that someone sent an email to thousands of their subscribers, linked to you in a blog post seen by tens of thousands, or shared your content on social media.

Depending on how much of an influencer that person is, it could lead to you gaining dozens of subscribers immediately.

If you could just find 5-10 influencers who wouldn’t mind helping you promote your content once in a while, you would grow your blog several times faster than you currently are.

It’s a simple plan, and it works.

However, it’s not so easy to actually get influencers to share your content.

Influencers don’t share mediocre content, and getting them to take the time to look at your content in the first place is difficult as well.

Again, though, there are ways that you can increase your chances of getting a positive reply and action from an influencer.

You can’t ever guarantee that a particular influencer will help you promote your content, but you can greatly increase the chances with these four tactics.

Option #1 – Get them to contribute to the article: Why should someone help share your article?

There are a few main reasons someone might want to:

  • because they want to be nice
  • because they think their readers will love it
  • because it makes them look good

The first one is nice, but completely unreliable. Influencers often get several (hundreds for some) share and link requests each day. Even the nicest guy can’t say yes to all of them.

That leaves us with two reasons.

Option #1 focuses mostly on the second main reason.

The idea is to ask them to contribute a small bit of content to the post, whether it’s a short story, quote, or piece of advice.

If they contribute to something, they’ve essentially given it their “stamp of approval.”

Through confirmation bias, they are more likely to overvalue the quality of your content. And since they think that it’s great, it follows that their readers would as well, which makes them more likely to help promote it.

If they do agree to contribute, you don’t need to ask them to promote it. Just thank them for helping you out, and send them a link an hour or so before you publish the post.

Most influencers understand that you would also appreciate any mentions to their audience, but asking for it can put them off.

The hard part, therefore, is getting them to contribute in the first place.

Here’s a sample email you could send:

Hi (first name),

I’m the head content creator at (site) and have a quick offer for you.

I’m putting together an incredibly comprehensive (describe the content) for our audience of X,XXX subscribers.

I guess this isn’t the time to be humble—it’s going to be amazing. I know you wouldn’t waste your time contributing to sub-par content, and I wouldn’t waste your time if this was the case.

My offer to you: I’d love to feature a quick piece of advice from you in the guide—it’d be the icing on the cake for my audience.

If you’re in, here’s what I’m looking for:

(ask them one specific question here).

But if you’re too busy, no worries, I won’t take it personally.

Thanks so much for your time,

(Your Name)

You wouldn’t want to go any longer than that.

The key part is your question has to be specific. If they don’t think they can answer it in under 200 words, most aren’t going to bother.

For example, ask them a question like:

What would you say is the best thing a beginner marketer can do to begin their education?

But obviously tailor it to your topic.

Option #2 – Giving input always makes someone care more: If someone came up to you and started complaining about not being able to find a job, you might sympathize, but you probably wouldn’t care very much.

But how would you feel if they asked for your advice on finding a job?

All of a sudden, you’ve taken on the role of a mentor/teacher. In this role, you have a natural inclination to care about your student’s success.

If they actually listen to you and apply your advice, how likely are you to help them more?

Very likely.

You’d probably try to set up interviews and introduce them to any relevant people you know to help them network.

Content promotion is pretty similar.

If you can get an influencer to offer advice on your content—and you actually apply that advice—most will be happy to share the content when it’s ready. They will want to see it succeed.

How do you get an influencer to offer you advice? That’s the hard part.

There are two keys to getting a decent response rate:

  1. Genuinely ask for feedback
  2. Have a really cool idea

The first key is self-explanatory. If it seems that you just want them to share your content and you don’t really care what they think, they’ll delete the email immediately.

The second key is something most marketers don’t stop to consider.

If you send me yet another “guide to SEO,” I don’t care how good it is, it’s not interesting. Besides my own guide to SEO, there are hundreds of others.

You need to have a unique and interesting take on a topic (or an entirely new topic altogether).

Let me show you an example of a great email to help illustrate my point.

Groove HQ launched their content marketing strategy just under 3 years ago, but they launched it with a bang.

Their first post got them over 1,000 new subscribers. Seriously. Some blogs take months or years to reach that number.

And they did it using this one tactic.

First, they identified several key influencers who might be interested in their content marketing project. Then, they sent them this email:

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The key part is that long second paragraph, the main paragraph, where Alex explains the project.

The idea he presented was for Groove to reveal everything about growing their software startup.

At the time, this was completely unique, and, of course, many influencers found it intriguing.

They offered to give real feedback on the post.

After Alex took action on that feedback, he produced an article that immediately got comments from plenty of huge influencers like Gary Vaynerchuk.

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Option #3 – Give them a great reason to care: The final reason why an influencer might care enough about your content to help promote it is because it makes them look great.

In simple terms, you feature them in a good light.

This has worked for years, but like most tactics in content marketing, it’s evolved.

You used to be able to simply link to someone’s site and then email them to let them know about it. When you told them you loved their content so much you had to link to it in your post, a decent percentage were happy to share your post.

That doesn’t work so well anymore because many marketers adopted that strategy.

Influencers now get many similar emails, and the content doesn’t even make them look good (it’s just a link buried somewhere in the article).

But you have an opportunity to get ahead of the curve again.

With this final option, I recommend not only linking to an influencer but giving them a few surrounding paragraphs where you paint them in a positive light.

Here’s an example from one of my past Quick Sprout articles:

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I used Brian Dean’s content as a “great example” of a concept I was trying to explain.

By doing this, not only did I include a useful example for my readers, but I made Brian look really good.

Imagine if I sent him an email after and included the content in the above picture in it? Automatically, I’d stand out from dozens of other similar emails he gets.

Another way you can show someone that you want to make them look good is to interview them.

Many bloggers successfully start podcasts just to build relationships with the influencers they interview.

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For anyone, an influencer or not, being able to grab someone’s attention for 20-40 minutes during a podcast is an amazing opportunity.

Why wouldn’t I promote an interview of mine if I felt like my audience would enjoy it?

Tools to help you find influencers: One of the most important steps for all of these different options is to target the right influencers.

If they aren’t a good fit for the content you’re proposing, why would they contribute?

If you email me for advice on how to bake a pie, it’s going straight to the trash (the email, not the pie).

If you’re familiar with your niche, you might already know all the big influencers and can simply list people you’d like to connect with.

However, if you’re somewhat new or aren’t confident that you know all the influencers, you can find them in a few different ways.

The first is a simple Google search for “top bloggers (your niche),” which is a great starting point.

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Most of the time, you’ll be able to find 50-100 fairly popular blogs, and you can then figure out who the people behind the blogs are.

Next, head over to BuzzSumo. Type in a few main keywords that describe your niche into the influencer search function:

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You will get thousands of results. The first few hundred are usually pretty good.

2. Optimize your images for maximum shareability

It’s no secret that images are crucial for good readability.

They attract attention; readers love them; and they break up content.

But many marketers don’t make the connection between images on their sites and shares on social networks.

If you do understand this connection, you have an opportunity to increase the social shares you get on an average article by a substantial number.

Size comes first: One of the most common mistakes I see is creating an attractive image to include in a blog post but making it an awkward size for social networks.

Even if a reader shares it, it will end up distorted or cut off, so it won’t get much attention.

If you don’t know which social networks to optimize for, head over to BuzzSumo again, and type in a niche keyword. Typically, one or two results will dominate the search:

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Even better, if you have a fairly high traffic blog, you should be able to check the number of shares past posts have had on each network by plugging them into a social share checker.

Once you know which network most of your readers use, either search on the social media site for image guidelines, or refer to Buffer’s ultimate guide to social media image sizes.

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From there, just make sure all your blog images fit within the optimal size range.

Once you know the right size for an image, you need to figure out which types of images to include. There are a few types of images that attract more shares than others.

Type #1 – Informational images: An image that includes actual practical information will get more attention than a plain photo.

An infographic would belong to this group, but so would other images like short tutorial pictures:

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You can see how the above picture would naturally attract more shares and likes than a picture of just a makeup brush.

Type #2 – Quote images: Another type of image that absolutely kills it on social media in most niches is a quote image.

Such images consist of a simple patterned background with a meaningful quote laid over top.

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This is a type of picture that gets shared a lot but can become boring if used too much.

I recommend including no more than one of these per article.

Type #3 – Plain beautiful pictures: I often get asked how I get such great pictures to use for the featured images on Quick Sprout posts.

The truth is my designer creates them or finds amazing pictures that others have created.

Yes, they cost more than most stock photos, but they not only attract more reader attention but also result in more social shares.

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Add image sharing buttons to your images: This small tweak will immediately produce a significant increase in shares.

You can do this by using a plugin such as SumoMe Image Sharer.

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Once you enable the plugin, all of your pictures will have buttons like the ones shown above.

You can configure it to show only specific networks.

Tools to make image creation simple: There’s no point in spending money on simple pictures like quote images unless you have a very comfortable budget.

Instead, spend 10-20 minutes learning how to create your own custom images.

There are a few tools I recommend using. They are easy to use even if you stink at designing:

In this case, I’d recommend using Pablo when possible—an image creation tool created by Buffer.

It’s specifically designed to create images that are optimized for social media, which saves you a lot of time.

You don’t need an account to get started, and it’s completely free.

Start by picking the image size on the right sidebar (it shows you which one is best for each network):

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Your canvas in the middle will adjust to that size.

Then, you can pick a background from the left sidebar:

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Finally, you can click in the textbox and edit the text as you’d like. You can also drag the text around if you think it’ll look better in a different location.

3. Feature something other than an influencer

We know that people are more likely to share something if they are featured in it, especially in a positive way.

That’s why featuring influencers can produce some pretty impressive results.

But influencers aren’t extremely likely to share your content even if you do feature them. Sure, a decent percentage will, but not as many as you’d like.

But what if you could feature a typical reader who isn’t an influencer? They’d be really excited and be very likely to share it with everyone they know.

The problem here is that they have a small number of people they could send it to.

If only there was a way we could feature hundreds or thousands of typical readers at the same time.

Do you see where I’m going with this?

You can feature people not just by including their names but by featuring groups they are a part of.

And this is really powerful.

When people are heavily invested in a forum or a community site like a subreddit, they identify with that group.

If you feature that group, they’ll want to talk about it and share it because it makes the group as a whole look good (and therefore themselves).

To do this, pick any active community in your niche, and feature it in a post.

You can simply use the group as a good example for something, just like I did when I talked about influencers earlier, or you can make the whole article about them.

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Even better, compare two or more of the leading communities together, and it could start a discussion within each community about which one is actually better:

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4. Create content specifically for a community

This tactic piggybacks on the last one, so make sure you understand that one first.

The idea here is to recognize a common problem within a community and then solve it. This is content marketing 101.

The best example of this happened on Reddit years ago.

At the time, most image hosting services sucked because they would constantly crash, load slowly, or be filled with ads.

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One Reddit user took this opportunity to create their own minimalistic image hosting service called Imgur.

It is now one of the top 50 sites in the world.

The interesting part is that all the promotion that was needed was a few posts by the creator within the community (Reddit).

From there, the community was the one that spread it. They excitedly mentioned it at all opportunities, and power users flocked to it.

Even today, many years later, Imgur is still thought of as the Reddit image host even though it’s a completely separate business.

Get as specific as possible: I’m not suggesting that you need to create the next Imgur to use this tactic. It’s unlikely that you’ll see a huge problem within a big community and be the one to solve it (although possible).

But what you can do is find a problem on a small, niche community site and solve that.

For example, a forum member on a popular poker tournament forum noticed that many other members were struggling with staying focused and energetic during long tournaments.

So, he put together a really interesting and practical post for the members of the community, calling it his “gift to MTTC” (the community).

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It’s gotten over 400 replies and tens of thousands of views. I’m sure it gets linked to all the time from other parts of the site.

Ideally, your gift would be a tool or some content on your own site. However, even if your content was posted just on a website of that community, it would still instantly elevate you to the status of a highly respected member.

You could then use that standing to promote your future content with a lot more support from the community.

5. Pick topics with the potential to go viral

You want any piece of content you create to spread as fast and as wide as possible.

In other words, you want it to go viral.

But content marketers often don’t understand that they can’t just add words like “surprising” to the headline and hope the article will go viral.

Certain topics are doomed from the start.

A review guide about lamps is never going to go viral.

While you can never guarantee that an article will go viral, you can at least give yourself a chance if you understand the three factors behind viral spread.

Factor #1 – Positive feelings: Fractl conducted an in-person research study to analyze how people felt when shown a variety of different viral images.

They found that there were three significant factors behind the popularity of those images, and one of them was positive feelings.

By positive feelings, they mean any of the following:

  • joy
  • trust
  • interest
  • anticipation

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The study found that when shown a selection of viral images, most participants felt a positive emotion.

This suggests that positive emotions spread more easily than negative ones. It doesn’t mean that posts that evoke negative emotions can’t go viral; they can—just much less likely.

For you, this means that you should create content that makes your readers feel good.

Factor #2 – Emotional complexity: If you see an image and smirk, you probably won’t be in a hurry to share it.

However, if it has you smiling from ear to ear, you’d want to share it so that others can feel that positive emotion too.

The second main finding from the study was that the viral images were associated with a wider range of emotions in the subjects (extreme emotions), while non-viral images had a narrow range of emotions (mild emotions).

Not only did the subjects feel strong positive or negative emotions, but when shown the most viral pieces of content, they felt both!

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This is a good thing for you because it means that even if you’re creating content around a negative topic, it can still go viral. Just make sure to end it on a positive note.

Here’s an example of a video that starts negatively but ends positively. It went viral and now has over 3 million views on YouTube alone:

It starts with a heartbreaking story about a dog who was chained to a spot and left in poor conditions for 10 years.

However, it ends with the dog being rescued, taken into a caring family, and doing much better.

Neither of these two parts of the story would get too much attention by themselves, but when you combine extreme emotions on opposite ends of the spectrum, you drastically increase the story’s chance to go viral.

If there’s an issue in your industry that’s really sad, create content around the way you fixed that issue (even on a small scale).

Factor #3 – The element of surprise: While surprise can be categorized as a positive emotion, it can also be a negative emotion.

The study found that surprise is the most important emotion of all when it comes to a piece of content going viral.

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Viral images, both positive and negative, were very likely to trigger a feeling of surprise in the study’s participants.

So, it turns out that adding “surprising” to the headline might not be so silly afterall.

The really important part is making sure that the meat of your content really shocks your readers.

This is something that sites such as Upworthy have down to a science.

Just about every article they post has some element of surprise:

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First, you’ll need to get your reader to become curious about the topic. Then, you need to show them something that they never expected, which gets them to feel the emotions we’ve looked at.

All of this isn’t easy, but you give your content a much better chance of spreading when you focus on these three emotional factors behind viral sharing.

Conclusion

Content can help you achieve a positive return on your investment only if it’s reaching an audience.

The bigger the audience it reaches, the better the results.

If you’re having trouble reaching a large enough audience with your content, start by trying out one or two of these content creation tactics.

They will help you expose your content to new readers, and if the content is good enough, they will stick around for more or help you share it.

Some of these tactics are fairly difficult, so don’t expect to get them perfectly on the first try. As long as you see a positive result (better reach than usual), continue refining your use of the tactic, and I think you’ll be surprised with the results.

If you have any questions about any of these tactics, let me know in a comment below, and I’ll try to clear things up.

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