Content Inner Circle: 5 Ways To Increase Distribution

Grab Attention Via Your Customer’s Content Inner Circle

Content Inner CircleYour target audience’s content inner circle contains the 5 to 20 resources where they focus the majority of their content and media time. It is also your biggest content marketing hurdle.

The content inner circle limits your ability to break through and grab your audience’s attention.

The growth of content marketing is transforming every brand, company and entrepreneur into a media entity. As a result more and more content and information is available yet we still only have 24 hour to spend per day.

Business Grow’s Mark Schaefer posited that the growing amount of content would outstrip people’s physical ability to consume it. He called this Content Shock. (BTW, here’s Schaefer’s Content Code author interview.)

Content Shock Graph by Mark W. Schaefer

Schaefer is a very smart guy and his logic is well founded. Yet these 3 trends challenge his theory.

  1. Dual or multi-source content consumption has increased. We’ve done this for years. Television is the background for other activities like reading and drive time is radio time. Now we have more devices that provide content to complement our main media activities.
  2. Devices make non-media time into media time. Our ever-present smartphones allow us to consume our choice of content during previously non-media time (like commutes and workouts).
  3. Devices provide more and/or different information (aka microdata). Smartphones and wearables provide data where it didn’t exist before. Fitbits are a prime example.

Due to these 3 trends, the average US employed adult behavior consumes 31 hours 28 minutes daily according to Activate.

  • That’s about 1/3 of a day more than our allotted 24 hour day or another 8 hours.
  • 1/3 of our total activity time is spent on content and media!


How We Spend Our Time (Hint: It's more than 24 hours!)

People have found a way to take in more content than Schaefer thought possible. (Sneaky us!!)

Don’t be too quick to cheer for your content marketing because most of this time is spent viewing a limited number of sources (aka the content inner circle).

Most US adults have their “content inner circle” and it dominates content-media time:

  • US adults use 27 apps per month on average and 79% of their time is spent on 5 apps.
  • US adults visit 96 websites on average per month and 44% of their time spent is on 5 websites.
  • US adults have 196 television channels on average available and 100% of their TV time spent is on 18 channels.


Content Inner Circle By Device - Chart

These trends aren’t new.

Earlier in the 2000s, research by a small email company found that on average people read 16 emailings on a regular basis. [Sorry, I haven’t been able to track the original source of this research down again.]

Translation: Your marketing email competes with one of 16 spots just like the NYTimes (or more likely TheSkimm). If your email gets in, another one is deleted.

As a content marketer you must break into your audience’s inner circle to become one of the trusted information sources that gets checked regularly.

Content Inner CircleWhat’s key about this finding?

While people spend more consuming content, most of where they spend their time is already committed.

As a content marketer seeking to get your content distributed and viewed, you’ve got a limited ability to break through. This is similar to Schaefer’s content shock but different.

You’re not competing against everyone. (BTW, unless you’ve got a mainstream offering targeted at a mass market, you never were.)

Rather you’re competing for visibility in a smaller window since the inner circle has taken its share of time off of the top. Additionally, you’re not only competing against your peers, but also against each person’s core interests.

Before you give up because you won’t get noticed. Realize that you don’t need to be top of mind all the time.

For example, many people sign up for retail emailings. They go to a special email address and folder. People don’t check them until they’re ready to shop. I dub this “content when I’m ready for it”.

5 Ways to content marketing attention when it’s not in the content inner circle

Content Inner Circle - 5 Ways to grab attention - Heidi Cohen

Here are 5 actionable content marketing tactics to get attention for content that’s outside the content inner circle.

1. Create a must-see channel

As the content landscape becomes more crowded, building your own content home base is increasingly difficult and expensive. Casper’s VanWinkle is a great example of a business willing to invest in content and related talent to support their brand.

Enticing content from Casper via VanWinkle's

Enticing content from Casper via VanWinkle’s

Schaefer admits he was fortunate to start his Business Grow blog in 2009 when the market was significantly less crowded. Further, he’s kept it going. (Rand Fishkin noted this is a key growth factor.)

While you may not have the resources to invest in becoming an inner circle content site, you still need a content and media home base. It won’t disappear if you’ve bet wrong on third party placement.

Hubspot research shows that you need to publish about 20 times per month and have an archive of 350 to 400 articles to gain traction. At an average of an article per workday, that’s about 20 months of posting quality content.

Blog Post Frequency-Chart

400 Blog posts yields 2x as much traffic as 300 blog posts - Chart-Hubspot

400 Blog posts yields 2x as much traffic as 300 blog posts – Chart-Hubspot

Actionable Content Marketing Tactics:

  • Build a home base. Regardless of what you call it develop a platform where you place content to answer all your customer’s questions, house your content published elsewhere, and be your online destination.

2. Plan “when I’m ready content”

Regardless of your product, many customers don’t need your content daily. Kraft’s audience, mothers, is an exception;their peak usage is 4:00-6:00pm when mothers get ready to leave the office and make dinner.

For most marketers, you need to create the content that your target audience needs and be findable when and where they’re ready to use it.

Actionable Content Marketing Tactics:

  • Answer all product-related questions. Get your customers real questions and answer them, not just what looks good. Track how these articles contribute to sales.
  • Send relevant emailings on a regular basis. Many shoppers check for retail emailings before they buy.
  • Show customers how to use your products. Many marketers underestimate the value of this type of content.
  • Have a mobile presence. Be findable on a mobile device.
  • Appear on relevant apps and sites. Think Yelp and TripAdvisor as they apply to your business.

3. Tap into other people’s platforms

Take advantage of companies and brands in your audience’s inner circle. This isn’t a new marketing tactic. PR firms have gotten executives columns, interviews and mentions.

The benefit: Increase reach and exposure by appearing in someone’s inner circle content.
The cost: Supply the content creation and help promote it.

Actionable Content Marketing Tactics:

  • Publish on open platforms like Medium and LinkedIn Publishing. Determine what your audience reads on each platform. Also consider the impact on your influencers.
  • Be a columnist for an established media entity. Write a column like Ann Handley does for Entrepreneur. Even if you don’t get paid, they’ve got an audience you want to see your content. (BTW- I used to write for ClickZ.)

    Ann Handley's Entrepreneur Column Gains Social Media Views

    Ann Handley’s Entrepreneur Column Gains Social Media Views

  • Write guest posts for other blogs and entities in your field. Leo Widrich built the Buffer blog by writing an amazing number of guest posts. Orbit Media’s Andy Crestodina aims to create guest content weekly. Here’s my guest post on Social Media ExaminerHeidi Cohen Guest post on Social Media Examiner
  •  Take advantage of existing podcasts and videocasts. Dip your toe in by being a guest. (BTW—This year I’m seeking to be a podcast guest!!!)
  • Get mentioned on other people’s media entities. Sign up for Help A Reporter Out (aka HARO). It’s free and is a great way to get mentions by helping content creators get the information they need.

4. Take advantage of influencers

Influencer marketing has been an increasingly important social media and content strategy over the past few years. Top Rank’s Lee Odden is one of the initial proponents of taping into the power of influencers. In the process, he’s created epic curated content  that’s a win-win . (Note: It must work for everyone involved!) 

Influencer Marketing Example - Lee Odden of Top Rank

Influencer Marketing Example – Lee Odden of Top Rank

At its core influencer marketing broadens your message’s reach by getting support from a person your audience trusts. It includes getting influencers to talk about you or to help promote your content.

When it comes to influencers don’t overlook your existing customers and employees (especially the technical staff not the c-suite. They’re more trusted!!!)

Actionable Content Marketing Tactics:

  • Build relationships with the key influencers in your category. Start by getting onto their radar and helping them. (Pay it forward!)
  • Reach out to your customers. Spotlight customers and audience. Make it easy for them to create and share content about your business.
  • Entice employees to share your content. Appreciate that your employees’ personal social media is their space. You can’t be overbearing. Instead help employees improve their social media presence, training them and recognize their efforts.

5. Pay for content placement on your audience’s inner circle platforms

Regardless of what you call paid promotion, it’s advertising adapted to today’s media and technology platforms.

There’s a broader set of paid options: third party media, social media, offline media, search and apps. (BTW, here’s a full definition of media.)

How do you choose where to put your limited marketing budget?

  • Determine where your target audience spends their time and where you can reach similar audiences. Social media advertising is useful for this information.

Actionable Content Marketing Tactics:

  • Dedicate some advertising budget to testing. Don’t assume that what you’re currently using is the best. At a minimum test your advertising, offer and media targeting.
  • Include a call-to-action. Where possible get people who see your paid placement to do something. Give them a special offer or enticement. Your goal is to get them to warm up to your firm.
  • Optimize your post-ad process. Keep the scent to your ad going when prospects leave your ad for a landing page. Streamline the process to ensure that it gets the most people into your funnel.


waves close-up -SquareIncrease the attention your content marketing gets by tapping into other people’s content inner circles.

To maximize your results, use these 5 content inner circle marketing tactics to effectively target your content based on where your audience already focuses their attention.

While content marketing and social media remove the corporate speak and promotion from your information, you still need to get it in front of your audience and encourage them to focus on it. In today’s attention fragmented world, that’s a tall order.

What do you think about the Content Inner Circle?

Happy Marketing,
Heidi Cohen

Heidi CohenHeidi Cohen is the President of Riverside Marketing Strategies.
You can find Heidi on , Facebook and .

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