The Difference Between Content Promotion and Content Distribution

Stephen Fischer
Posted by Stephen Fischer on September 18, 2018


The digital age offers so much consumable content that it’s hard to decipher the good from the bad — making it important to have a solid strategy for content delivery. Two different types of delivery need to be considered for your planning: content promotion and content distribution.

Though you might sometimes see these concepts used interchangeably, there is a difference, and it’s important that you understand what each term means in order to do them well. In addition, while content promotion and content distribution are inherently different processes, both can be extremely valuable to an inbound marketing plan.

Let me explain it this way:

Say you’re hosting a birthday party for a friend (let’s call him Mitch). It’s his 30th birthday, and you want this to be the most memorable party anyone’s ever been to. In order to spread the word and get people to show up, you devise two different strategies. The first thing you’re going to do is send out a few tweets and post a Facebook status update telling all your friends and followers about the party. You’ve even printed out some flyers to hang up around town.


Once you’ve put the general word out, your next step is going to be inviting Mitch’s close friends. Rather than just letting them hear it through the grapevine, however, you take the initiative to send out some personalized email invitations. Mitch’s boss? Check. Mitch’s girlfriend? Check. Mitch’s chess club buddies? Checkmate. These are the friends Mitch will want to see there the most, so you’ve taken the time to invite them personally.

See where I’m going with this?

The biggest difference between content promotion and content distribution is the way in which you target your audience and provide them with information. With a content promotion strategy, your objective is to share the content in a public place so that anyone and everyone can find it. There isn’t much targeting involved, just blasting out your message to the masses.

With a content distribution strategy, your objective is much different. Rather than sharing the post with everyone and hoping for as much engagement as possible, you send your content to a specific person or list of people. You’re very targeted with your approach, and you’re careful about making sure the right contacts get the right content.

RELATED: Active Marketing Content Promotion Checklist

Examples of Content Promotion vs. Content Distribution

If you were paying attention to my story above, I already told you about two of the most common promotion and distribution strategies. When companies take a promotional approach, they may include some traditional mass communication channels like local newspapers and media outlets. More likely they’ll do most of their promoting across popular social networks like Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. Here, you can post your updates to your company’s public profile, and your fans and followers can access and share your content. These are the posts we’ve all seen a million times before, and often look similar to this LinkedIn example below:


When companies go a step further and take a distributional approach, most of their distributing will be done via email and very targeted online trade groups. In some cases, you may perhaps go “old school” with direct mail. Using these methods, companies can target specific contacts, craft more detailed messages, and even use special personalization tools to deliver an individualized message to every recipient. They can also use marketing automation software like HubSpot to send automated emails to their contacts — a crucial component of any lead nurturing strategy.


Promotion and distribution aren’t just limited to social media and email, however. There are many ways to promote your content online, including forums, paid advertisements and content syndication. For example, Reddit hosts forums for a wide variety of demographics and offers the ability to share content. Not a true social media platform, but it is a kind of hybrid of the promotion and distribution methods because your content is shared with the entire group. For instance, much like LinkedIn, you can target specific groups based on criteria (distribution), but you don’t have the 1-on-1 direct link you might have in with other distribution channels, so it hangs out in the “promotional” arena as well. With LinkedIn’s paid features, you also have distribution and promotional opportunities — you might start out more focused through paid targeting (distribution), but as your content is shared it becomes more “promotional.”

Which is Better for Generating Leads: Promotion or Distribution?

Though you could make arguments for both sides, it’s really a trick question. In order to get the most AND right people to view your content — real leads — you should be using a mixture of both strategies. Not only is it important to promote your content on the various social networks, but it’s just as important to distribute your content to your targeted email contacts. This way, you’ll be able to maximize your exposure and get your content in front of the people who want to see it the most.

To learn more about the different ways to enhance your content promotion and distribution strategies, check out these articles:

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Topics: Content Marketing, Marketing Automation

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