Online Marketing for Elearning Part II: Distribution
How to use email and social media to grow your online course audience.
Now that you’ve created content, how can you help make sure it draws in more learners for your online course? As we covered earlier in our discussion of content marketing, if you’ve done the necessary SEO work, your posts should draw in some organic traffic on their own. However, while content marketing is great for this passive publicity, there’s more you can—and should—be doing to be seen by a wider audience.
This is where distribution strategies come into play, and the biggest ones for digital marketing are email and social media. As with anything online, the environment changes rapidly, so it’s important to stay up to date with best practices and the nuances of each platform. But these are the basics that should get you started.
1. Offer a newsletter for your blog content.
First of all, start building your email subscription list. This will give you direct, private access to people who have explicitly indicated an interest in your content, which is far more likely to work in your favor than more intrusive methods. The easiest way to build an email list is by including a subscription form on your website where visitors can easily see it. The footer is a good place for it, as this will ensure it appears on every page.
The subscription form doesn’t have to be complicated. In fact, the only form field you really need is their email address. But you should include a description of your newsletter so that they know what they’re signing up for. Tell them what they can expect to get in their emails, as well as the newsletter frequency. For instance, if you blog once or twice a week, describe your newsletter as a weekly blog roundup that includes some actionable tips for learners interested in your course matter.
2. Give an incentive for subscribing.
Offering to email your blog posts is enough for many subscribers, who may be interested in your content but not want to have to revisit your site to get it. However, for others you may need to sweeten the deal a little, and that usually means providing more content.
One way to do this is to create a downloadable PDF and offer it to anyone who subscribes to your newsletter list. You can even use this as part of a lead generation strategy where you reach out directly to anyone who downloads the PDF to ask them if there’s anything more you can do for them. You can even create multiple PDFs based on the various interests of your audience, and customize your follow-up emails based on what content they downloaded.
Another incentive is to include extra content for email subscribers, such as a weekly quiz or learning challenge. This can make the emails more exciting, which can increase your engagement rates.
3. Push your best content to your home page.
Most blogs aren’t of equal value. Some might be highly topical, and while important and relevant when they’re first published, can quickly fall out of date. Others involve extra research and may cover a number of topics in depth. These have staying power, and you want to make sure they get the attention they deserve.
One way to do this is by pushing that content to your home page. While your blog will continue to list content chronologically, only posts you’ve tagged as being your best content will go to your front page. If visitors click on those posts, they’ll have a better introduction to your blog than if they entered at random, and they may even be better disposed to sign up to your email list.
4. Publicize to social media.
If you’re creating content and not sharing it to social media, you’re doing yourself a great disservice. Social media is the closest thing to “free” publicity you can find online, and it only takes a few seconds for you to write a teaser that might encourage someone to click through to your full post.
Nevertheless, many educators grow discouraged with social media posts, as they are often lost in the stream of other online content. Don’t be: you’re still giving subscribers and followers an important way to keep in contact with your content, and even if they don’t click through, they still see your post, which is good for brand recognition.
5. Repost content for new views.
Another thing about social media: it’s transient. Unlike your blog content, which is easy to track down, finding a single social media post from even a few weeks ago can be irritating. And while blog content gains value over time as it accumulates views, social media posts come and go in a heartbeat.
The good news is that you can use this to your advantage. Track down your best blog posts, and repost them to your social media channels. If you blog a couple times a week, make a couple social media postings to promote your blog posts and schedule them to go out at different times. Then make one or two postings a week about articles from your archives, maybe with some additional commentary to add value. It’ll keep your best content in front of your followers, and make sure no one misses an important post.
Keep an eye out for other networking opportunities, such as through guest blogs or speaking events.
There are many ways to grow publicity around your brand beyond distributing your original content. For instance, you can invite a prominent member of your community to come write a guest post knowing that they’ll link to their audience. Or you can offer to write a guest post for them! Conferences and networking events are also prime opportunities to share your knowledge.
And finally, there’s the traditional method with the digital twist: online advertising. Stay tuned.