Why content distribution is the key to growth

You're creating great work. Make sure people see it.

Every creator must answer two questions to build a successful online business: What will I create? and How will people find it?

Great content built around a well-defined niche is essential. But it's only one-half of the creator puzzle. Unless you're proactive about how people discover, consume, and share what you’ve created, you’ll struggle to find traction with your work.

The solution to this problem is a term that’s starting to make its way into the creator economy from the business realm: distribution. In this guide, you’ll learn what it means to distribute content, why it works, and exactly where to start.

What does content distribution mean?

To distribute content means to make what you’ve created available in multiple ways and places for your audience to consume.

So then, isn't this just another word for sharing? Yes and no. For example, sharing an article you've written on Twitter is one type of distribution, but there are many others, as we'll cover below.

Why should a creator distribute their content?

Let’s begin with a brick-and-mortar business example. An amateur baker just produced the best chocolate chip cookie recipe in the world. Everyone who tries it loves it and immediately wants to purchase dozens more. The baker knows they have a solid product in hand, but now the challenge is where to sell it.

  • Option 1: They can sell it at the quarterly community bake sale.
  • Option 2: They could bake batches for the local bakery and sell cookies all year round from their location.
  • Option 3: They could partner with a national grocery chain and have their cookies on shelves across the country.

Each of the three options above represents a different distribution channel. As you could imagine, the greater the distribution channel (meaning, the more people reached), the greater cookie sales will be.

Similarly, when creators leverage multiple distribution channels with large potential audiences they increase their chances of getting noticed and growing their following. Distribution is a non-negotiable part of growth.

Where to distribute?

There’s a few ways to think about this topic. The traditional marketing crowd breaks down distribution into three overlapping circles of owned, paid, and earned media.

This view has one major shortcoming: it puts the power in the hands of gatekeepers rather than creators. But the way modern content distribution works couldn't be more different.

Steph Smith, author of Doing Content Right, offers a different model with six parts:

  • Bedrock: Reliable channels that take a long time to build, like SEO.
  • Viral: Platforms that have a very small chance of a very high return, like HackerNews.
  • Social: Social media channels but with a focus on community-building.
  • Syndication: Copy and repost your work elsewhere, like taking a blog article from your website and reposting on Medium or LinkedIn.
  • Targeted: A non-scalable strategy where you direct message potential fans and influencers to engage with what you’ve made.
  • Paid: Spending money to get your brand and work in front of others.
Pro tip: The key to figuring out the best places to distribute your content is to first answer the question of who. Who is your ideal customer and where do they already spend their time? The sooner you answer this, the better your results will be.
In this interview, Steph Smith offers insights on narrowing down your target audience.

No matter how you choose to categorize them, here’s a list of distribution channels you can start with.

Foundational Social media Communities Syndication
SEO Twitter Reddit Medium
Emai list Facebook Facebook Groups LinkedIn
Instagram Niche forums Podcasts
YouTube IndieHackers
TikTok Product Hunt
Pinterest Quora

How to start distributing content?

With so many options available to you, it can be hard to know where to begin. Thankfully, you don’t have to juggle 20 different platforms in order to find success. By doing a few things consistently, you’ll soon build the traction you need to reach your creator goals.

Here's our suggestion for a 4-step sustainable content distribution strategy.

  1. Step One: Start with SEO. Search engine optimization is a free traffic source that takes time to grow. Start by publishing public content, on your blog or on another search platform like YouTube, and using a guide like this to make sure people can find what you’ve made: A beginner’s guide to SEO.
  2. Step Two: Choose a community. The fastest way to grow as a new creator is to do unscalable things: reply to questions, start one-on-one conversations, help others in your niche, and only post links to what you’ve made when appropriate. A subreddit or Facebook group about your topic is a perfect place to invest a few hours each week to meet this requirement.
  3. Step Three: Commit to a social network. People often don’t see the results they want on social media because they spread themselves too thin. To avoid this mistake, dedicate your time and effort to a single platform (Twitter, TikTok, Instagram), master how it works, and stay consistent. A resource like this article, How to get more followers on Twitter, will show you the right approach (plus, you can use this basic framework on any platform).
  4. Step Four: Syndicate. To syndicate means to "publish simultaneously" in multiple places — like reposting an article from your blog onto Medium. Another, usually more effective, option is content repurposing. For example, if you write a 1,000-word article, you can pull out quotes from it to tweet, illustrate the main idea into an image to share, or read the article aloud and publish the recording as a podcast. As you increase the number of ways people can engage with your content, you also increase the number of people who will engage.

When is the right time to distribute?

Near the beginning of this resource, we mentioned that creating content is only one-half of the creator puzzle, with distribution being the other half. The more you internalize this idea, the better results you’ll see from your work.

Ideally, a creator should be dedicating the same amount of time and effort to distribution as they do to creation from day one. For every hour you spend writing, researching, filming, or publishing, you should also spend an hour sharing, mastering a social platform, starting conversations in digital communities, and reaching out to new potential fans.

Don’t let your creative work sit unseen. Start giving your content the audience it deserves!

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