Distribution Channels Define Success
According to Jodi Harris, the director of editorial content and curation at Content Marketing Institute, and editor-in-chief of its digital magazine, Chief Content Officer, “No matter how much time and care you put into building your strategy, outlining your editorial plans and processes, or crafting persuasive, engaging, high-quality copy, your brand’s potential for success often lives or dies by your distribution and promotion choices.” (1)
It makes perfect sense. Exercising poor choices in distribution channels means you are less likely to get your content in front of your target audience. The choices can be overwhelming, particularly when you are looking at developer audiences. In addition to the “generic” channels like social media, there are all the developer-to-developer (D2D) communities and channels like dev.to and Hacker News (and much, much more).
There is a seemingly endless number of distribution options. But as the definitions of earned, paid, and shared channels blur, it’s time to take a hard look at distribution in the channels you own first, and then, how to amplify your owned channels using additional channels.
Maximizing The Channels You Own
For most brands marketing to developers, you own at least two channels, and possibly three. The first is your company’s technical blog. The second is your newsletter/email channel. And the potential third channel, while not a must-have, is becoming a likely to have — your developer community/forum. Within a developer community, you may have more owned channels, such as another technical blog and member newsletter/email list.
Why Start There?
Your brand exercises the most control in your “owned” channels. You might argue that your brand’s social media account(s) is an owned channel, but in reality, it’s a shared channel that your company has branded. You are restricted in how you use it by the third party that provides it. If you are promoting organic posts beyond the audience you think you earned on that channel, it is also a paid channel. See how blurry it’s getting?
There is nothing wrong with using earned, paid, or shared channels to amplify and direct your audience to your owned channels. Just remember that you will always have the most control of content, delivery, metrics, data collection, and distribution on the channels you own. That means you have the best shot at delivering an architected omnichannel developer experience by focusing first on the channels you own.
How To Select Additional Channels
This is absolutely driven by the audience segments you are trying to reach, and when in the developer journey you are trying to reach them with the content you are hosting on your owned channels. So, once again, you can’t choose “what” or “how” until you understand “who.” This is the perfect time to consult the data you have collected in order to define your audience.
Beyond the specific data you have on your particular audience, there are some general behaviors that developers exhibit that are also data-backed. Evans Data Corporation asked developers about how they learn about brands, new products, technologies, solutions, as well as where they are when they decide to purchase a developer tool or service, for their Developer Marketing Survey.
Let’s look at where developers go at different stages of their developer journey.
- Awareness. At this point, developers are researching a solution or new technology. They are most likely to go to a search engine — which means that you should plan to make your owned channel content search engine friendly. Developers like Alice Brosey agree. Another popular source of information is Twitter, with developers curating their Twitter follows to include developers and developer influencers they trust.
- Education. Developers are very likely to view webinars to learn more about a new technology. They are also likely to go to tutorials to understand a new technology –– before and after adoption.
- Decision. Most developers rely on user reviews and the features matrix when it comes time to decide on a tool. User reviews can be found on third-party sites, and features comparisons can exist on a vendor’s owned channel as well as on earned, paid, or shared channels.
- Implementation. Now you have the developer as your customer/user. So, where do they go for technical resources to use their new tool? They go to code repositories, open source communities, third-party development sites like tech media, vendor developer programs/communities, and the vendor product page. (Notice that they are going to owned sites as well as earned, paid, and shared sites.)
Document Your Plan
Your distribution channel decisions aren’t complete until they are documented. Ideally, you are including the what and why for each channel you select, and recording your distribution selections for each campaign. In fact, a successful content marketing strategy typically includes a distribution strategy.
Launching a campaign with a promotion plan improves the success of your distribution channel selection. And wherever you place your content, you should have a plan for how you will promote it. To get the best results, align your promotion methods with your channels, and craft your strategy as thoughtfully as you did for your distribution channel. You don’t want to simply spray and pray.