People tend to think of paid digital media and content marketing as two separate categories, with the latter promoted or amplified using social channels, email and sharing. But paid media, like search ads, can be a powerful way to drive people toward specific goals such as registering for a webinar or downloading a whitepaper.
Paid digital media and content can work together
People tend to think of digital media such as paid search, display, video and social ads as separate from content marketing. While content is often promoted or amplified using social channels, email and sharing (unless it’s bucketed within the category of “sponsored content”), it falls within separate strategy and budget categories than paid media.
Creating high-quality content is indeed a powerful way for businesses to promote themselves and reach their target customers at every stage of the buying cycle. However, there is so much B2C- and B2B-targeted content available online that this can make it difficult for any one piece of content to stand out.
Consider the following statistics from HubSpot’s Not Another State of Marketing Report 2020 survey:
- 70% of the 3000+ marketers surveyed are actively investing in content marketing.
- Facebook is the most popular platform for amplification of content by marketers, with over 50% of respondents indicating this is their top social channel followed by Instagram and Twitter.
- Most Facebook amplification tactics involve nonpaid media (e.g., they are free to use and thus not considered ads). These include business pages, groups, messenger and events.
- Just over 20% of respondents indicated that they use Facebook ads for promoting content, thus paid Facebook ads present an opportunity for companies to have their content stand out in a cluttered marketplace.
- The most common publishing schedule on social media is 3-4 times per week across all channels, but many companies post more often, as illustrated by the following chart from the HubSpot report.
- Facebook and Google ads provide the highest return on investment for companies who invest in paid digital media, with just under 35% of respondents indicating Facebook ads had the best return, followed by about 28% for Google ads.
The sheer volume of content being produced and shared is mind-boggling, particularly when you consider that some businesses regularly post and share content over 12 times per week. Standing out amidst the clutter is no easy task. This is where paid media can help.
Using paid media to increase content reach
There’s no question that paid media can increase your content reach, getting it in front of more people in a very targeted way. But what does this mean, exactly?
In order to illustrate this concept, I’m going to use a tangible example. Marketers surveyed in the HubSpot report listed the most successful type of content as imagery.
So, let’s say you’re a B2B SaaS company and you’ve created a compelling graphic illustrating how to build a marketing technology (martech) stack. Here’s an example of just such a graphic, created by ABM Platform Terminus:
This graphic is part of a blog post meant to illustrate that tech stacks do not need to be overly complex. While a link to the entire post can be shared organically on social media, via email and on the Terminus blog, the graphic itself is compelling enough to stand alone.
However, simply sharing this blog post or image alone produces poor results, particularly if it’s not immediately shared or distributed among the very specific audience that Terminus is trying to reach.
Graphics and other visual content can help elevate the visibility of this post, but organic shares of your content are still prone to getting lost in a sea of other content. Running ads enables you to target the content to the right audience on a variety of platforms, including Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.
The image can be promoted as a standalone graphic, or the entire blog post can be promoted and even targeted via Google ads for keywords like “simple martech stack” and “example of martech stack.”
Here are some specifics on how you can advertise on a variety of popular platforms:
- Facebook: 2.5 billion people use Facebook every month and Facebook supports multiple ad formats aimed at helping businesses capture attention and motivate people to act. Some formats appropriate for promoting content include photo and video ads, Facebook Stories, Messenger/Whatsapp ads and Slideshows. Details on each ad type can be obtained via the Facebook for Business website (note: Facebook owns Instagram and Whatsapp, both of which have huge audiences and support ads).
- LinkedIn: LinkedIn is the largest professional social media platform, with over 630 million members and over 10 million C-level executives across more than 200 countries. LinkedIn ads are great for targeting specific companies with appropriate content because they can be aimed at specific business personas (e.g., IT decision makers, C-level executives), making it a powerful platform for amplifying highly technical and specific content.
- Twitter: As with other social platforms, Twitter supports multiple ad formats and targeting criteria for advertisers. Targeting is particularly helpful when promoting your content. Options include language, gender, interest, followers of relevant accounts, device and keyword targeting. People use Twitter to connect with businesses, so this is a good place to promote your content and stay in front of an engaged audience.
- Google Ads: It may seem counterintuitive to pay to promote content via Google Ads, but for specific content types, Google can be an excellent tactic for generating leads. Google Ads can be used to promote “lead magnets” and other gated content that motivate people to register on your website, thus getting them into the sales funnel. Bynder’s ad for the term “martech stack optimization” is a good example of this. The ad links to a landing page on Bynder’s website that requires users to fill out a short form in order to download a guide:
What to consider when crafting a content and paid media strategy
You’re likely already doing some form of content marketing and/or advertising on one of the platforms listed above, but when creating a content + media strategy, there are some things to consider that go beyond either of these tactics alone.
First, it’s helpful to create a content strategy that maps out exactly what your goals are for each piece of content, where the content will appear, and incorporates an editorial calendar (e.g., what, where, when).
Next, you’ll need to create a media deployment schedule that ties the publication date of each piece of content to an amplification schedule. For example, let’s say you’ve just created a 16-page report based on the results of a survey you commissioned. Your deployment schedule should list all platforms and websites where you plan to promote this piece of content and, ideally, include the ad/post formats you’ll need for each platform.
Finally, you will need a media budget to pay for the ads. The easiest way to do this is to carve the money out of your existing advertising budget. Alternatively, you can create a separate content promotion budget. Either way, it’s important to have a strategy in place that outlines your content and media strategy. This strategy should also include where the content will appear and when it will be posted.
Again, the key to focus on when combining your content strategy with paid media is: what, where, when. Then, as with any type of paid media, make sure you test different types of content, monitor results, optimize based on performance (then rinse and repeat).