The question of whether brands should be publishers has been settled. They should. The question now is, where should they publish?
Most businesses pitch their content tents in their own backyards, building blogs (like this one) that live on their firms’ sites. And that’s often the right place to be. But camping out close to home means you’ve got to get your audience onto the property. And in an increasingly crowded content field, doing that is increasingly difficult.
Luckily, there are other options. New social publishing tools allow you to go meet your readers where they already live. LinkedIn and Facebook both allow brands to publish directly onto their platforms. And Medium, an elegant blogging platform with built-in social tools and rapidly expanding reach, offers intriguing possibilities for longer-form prose.
All three are different, with different audiences, different capabilities and their own advantages and disadvantages. If you decide to venture into social publishing, which platform should you use, and how? Here are four guiding principles to help you decide.
1.) What are your goals? What are you trying to accomplish with your content?
As we wrote here a few weeks ago, every content strategy needs a distinct, measureable goal — the business result you want your content to achieve. Identifying that goal is not only vital to an effective strategy, it’s also the first step in figuring out where you’re going to publish.
If building influence and reputation is your goal, for example, Medium or LinkedIn will likely be your top two contenders. While the choice between the two will come down to who and where your audience is, it will be informed by the kind of writing you plan to do. Medium is optimal for longer-form thought leadership, while LinkedIn is better for tight snippets of industry advice.
If your goal is large-scale brand awareness, on the other hand, Facebook should be a big part of your plan. LinkedIn can also work, but on a smaller scale. Both social networks offer paid promotional campaigns, which are the best way to maximize the number of eyes on your content. Facebook is not a blog, and posting there is only an option on Instant Articles, a mobile-only service. What Facebook is: a social network — and an incredibly powerful social network.
2.) Who is your intended audience? Where online do they already live?
This is perhaps the most important factor in choosing where to host your content. The point of social publishing is to gain direct access to the populations these social networks have assembled. So once you’ve identified your target readers, you’ve got to look at where they’re most likely to be found.
Whoever they are, you’ll probably find them on Facebook, which is as close as you are going to get to everyone — and that’s everyone as in everyone in your target audience, everyone in your client roster, everyone on Earth. Facebook has 1.65 billion monthly active members. Fully 72 percent of all adult Internet users are there. It tends to skew younger and female, but the overall numbers are so big that the demographics don’t really matter.
LinkedIn and Medium have much smaller audiences by comparison. LinkedIn has over 450 million registered users, and Medium has 25 million monthly unique visitors. However, what these platforms lack in quantity they make up for in quality concentration of highly educated, affluent users. Almost half of LinkedIn’s users make more than $75,000 a year, and 41 percent of millionaires use it. Similarly, 43 percent of Medium users earn $100,000 or more annually.
For business-to-business marketers seeking a discrete professional audience, LinkedIn offers something invaluable: the ability to target by job title, industry and other key characteristics in paid promotions. Facebook offers those too, but its users are far less likely to provide professional details.
3.) How will Facebook fit into your marketing mix? You almost certainly need to use it. Do not discount the social media giant.
If it’s not already clear, look again at the Facebook user numbers above. Facebook may not be a publishing platform (yet), but it is an incredible social network whose size and reach you absolutely cannot ignore. The sheer size of its audience spans countless global markets and nearly all generations of consumers. What’s more, the company is constantly innovating and has become the unquestioned leader in mass-content distribution. It would be remiss to neglect it; at the very least, consider a paid promotional campaign. It’s inexpensive and easy to use with little downside.
4.) How can you combine the strengths of multiple platforms to maximize your reach?
If Facebook is crucial but LinkedIn and Medium offer better publishing platforms, why not use some combination of two or even all three? It’s not only a possibility; it’s quite likely the best way to go.
Let’s say you want to write long posts (more than 800 words), but you’re trying to reach an audience of in-house lawyers in health care. You could set up a Medium blog (for free, and in a day), then use LinkedIn to promote your posts to that audience. Or you could break your Medium posts down into shorter, more digestible segments and post them on LinkedIn as well.
If you’re writing long posts and want large segments of humanity to read your brilliance, write on Medium and promote on Facebook.
There is no one-size-fits-all solution for content marketing and blogging in the business-to-business world. Your best bet is to make sure you have a deep understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of each platform, and then be willing to experiment until you find the combination that works.
Emily joined Greentarget as an intern in the summer of 2016.