If a tree falls in the forest …

We all know how that one ends, and we all hope that there’s always someone around to hear and see our great content when we push it out into the digital forest.

One of our goals as content marketers is increasing the chances that the right people see and hear our content by expanding the audience that sees our message. Though sometimes too much emphasis is placed on reach (more on that later), it is a vital part of content marketing success. Here are a few ideas for expanding your audience.

Great Content – The Bedrock
First, underlying all of our content marketing work is the assumption that we’re creating great content – content that is well crafted, compellingly presented, and valuable to our audience. Without that, well, nobody cares about that tree falling in the forest, even if they’re standing right next to it.

Your Website – The Hub
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: for 99% of businesses, the website should be the hub of your content marketing efforts. That makes the website a great first place to look to expand your audience.

The way to do that is to attract more visitors to the site, and attracting more visitors typically false under the umbrella of SEO.

The best advice here: SEO early, SEO often.

SEO has to be an early part of the equation so that the content your create, the way you organize it, and the language you use are all based on solid, basic, foundational keyword research. You can take an educated guess to get the ball rolling, but you really have to know the language your audience is using to seek out and learn more about the topics they’re interested in – and the topics you should be covering.

Simply put, you have to use that same language in order to attract a wider audience on the web. You can use your proprietary terms in conjunction, but you have to draw the connection pretty explicitly.

SEO, of course, is much more than the very mechanical, tech-side adjustments that were made in the past, so be sure you’re looking at your site much more comprehensively.

And don’t fall into the “set it and forget it” trap. SEO must be an on-going effort for it to yield on-going results. The competitive landscape is constantly shifting and the search engines update their algorithms frequently enough that what worked last quarter may not be as effective next quarter.

Social Media – The Amplifier
SEO is just the start. Next come methods for promoting the content you’re creating to folks who may not be looking for it, or may not be using search engines to find it. This is where social media excels.

Forget what your 15-year-old kid is doing with his or her smart phone. That social media is not what we’re talking about. They might be using some of the same channels – Pinterest, for example – but there are others they’re not on, like LinkedIn, and they’re certainly not using them the same way.

Recognizing that social media for marketers is different than social media for, well, socializing, is an important part of getting over the “I’ve got nothing to say” and “my industry is too boring” hurdles. You do, and it’s not.

Expanding your reach here puts more emphasis on the “compelling” part of the content equation. Keywords are important – I almost always include the #contentmarketing hashtag in my social media posts – but so is eye-catching cleverness. You’ve only got a moment, and perhaps as few as 140 characters, to grab your audience’s attention and get them find what you’re saying interesting enough to share it with their own audiences.

And that, of course, is the real power of social media.

Email Marketing – The Reminder
The chance of anyone who isn’t your mother randomly visiting your website to see what you’ve added lately is pretty slim. That’s why email marketing needs to be a part of your tool kit. Yes, all of our inboxes are full to overflowing, and yes, the bar for keeping people from clicking “delete” is pretty high…

But email is about being in the right place at the right time. So the potential client you met 6 months ago who wasn’t ready to buy or didn’t have the budget then … you want to stay on their radar. So strictly speaking, we’re not necessarily always expanding our reach with email, but we are maintaining the reach we’ve gained in other ways.

Calls to Action – The Ask
Finally, we have to talk about where the rubber meets the road. I mentioned above that reach is too often over-emphasized at the expense of engagement. Without engagement, reach isn’t of any real value.

Your calls to action are where your reach transitions to engagement. We’ll dive into engagement in more detail next time around, but don’t forget that one kind of engagement is sharing. Make sure you are providing your audience easy opportunities to share your content via email and social media. It’s a great measure of the value of the content you’re creating and a great way to increase your reach. Make sure that’s built in to every piece of content you publish.