I remember scrolling through my first-ever Spotify Discover Weekly playlist, thinking, “But I’ve never even heard of these bands. Spotify doesn’t get me.” (I guess I’m not a real hipster after all.)
If you’re unfamiliar with the Discover Weekly feature, let me give you a crash course: Spotify looks at the music you’re already listening to and uses that data to create a playlist of 30 new songs you might like.
Before I even gave myself a chance to check out this new music, I made a quick (and misinformed) judgment: I don’t know these bands, so they must not be for me. Rather than trust Spotify and the data it collected to curate this playlist for me, I wrote it off because the bands didn’t have enough hype for me to have heard of them.
The Top 40 Myth
This is the exact mentality of many people we encounter at Influence & Co. Our content marketing teams craft strategies a lot like Spotify curates a new playlist: based on data and designed specifically for a target audience. But when the publications we select aren’t super familiar or leading a top publications list, the assumption is they aren’t good, credible, or valuable.
They sound a lot like I sounded when I looked at my first Discover Weekly playlist: “But I’ve never even heard of these publications.” The thing is, when I actually gave it a chance, I fell in love. It’s no easy feat to curate a playlist triggered by “Pony” by Ginuwine (on repeat half a dozen times), followed closely by Penny & Sparrow — yet Discover Weekly brought me Honne, a beautiful gift from the heavenly mistrals.
The Value of Niche Publications
There’s nothing inherently wrong with targeting a publication like Forbes, Inc., Entrepreneur, or any other big name with a wide audience, just like there’s nothing inherently wrong with listening to the Top 40. But if you dismiss the value of smaller niche publications (or really cool obscure underground bands you’ve probably never heard of, no big deal), you’ll miss out on incredible value for both your brand and your audience.
1. You’re able to target a highly specific audience.
Spotify’s Discover Weekly playlists work hard to fill the gaps between the music you’re listening to and artists whose music you might also enjoy. Niche publications work similarly: They’re curating the kind of content that melds insights like yours and your other thought leaders with the specific audiences who are hungry for that information.
To help you visualize this, our friends over at Affinio, a marketing intelligence platform (that actually happens to work with Spotify), provided us a rich look at Forrester’s U.S. audience.
Compare this graph, with its highly specific, targeted audience segments, to an overview of the musical tastes of a writer at Quartz.
Notice anything? Your audience is specific, and each member of that audience has specific tastes — in music, in content, in the brands he or she buys from. If you want to reach those audiences and nurture them into clients, your job is to cater to their preferences and post to the publications they read to meet their preferences.
2. That specific audience will be more engaged with your content.
Spotify uses technology that connects listeners to even the most seemingly unknown bands. You could be a brand — sorry, a band — that records whale noises while clanging pipes together, and the geniuses at Spotify will find the whale-pipe enthusiasts and connect you to them.
In the same way, niche publications bring together tight-knit communities of engaged audience members (their industries’ whale-pipe enthusiasts), and publishing there gets you in front of them — and connects your unique, detailed insights to the audiences who can genuinely benefit from them. Plus, they’re often looking for such specific information that you’ll be able to craft more technical and in-depth content.
How to Tap Into the Value of Niche Publications
Now that I’ve opened your eyes to smaller niche publications and the awesome value they can bring to your marketing (you’re welcome), you’re probably asking, “How the heck can I publish there? And how can Brittni possibly keep this Spotify analogy going?”
Don’t worry. Here’s how:
1. Find out what your audience is jamming to.
Do your homework. Ask your current clients where they go for information and which names they trust. Are they going to forums? Blogs? Trade publications? Start collecting a list. Take our interactive publication quiz to learn more about the publications in your industry and the people who read them, and if you want to go all out, use a platform like Affinio to better understand exactly where your specific audiences are taking in information.
2. “Add to playlist” — your content playlist, that is.
Keep an ongoing list, an Excel spreadsheet, a knowledge management template, a hasty email to your marketing team —whatever works to organize all your ideas for topics your audience would love. Our CEO calls these “content triggers.” (You know, like when you hear a song in a movie and think, “Dang it, what is that? I want to listen to that again,” and furiously start typing the lyrics into Google to hope you find it. No? Just me? OK.)
Content triggers occur any time a topic comes up that you realize you need content around. Maybe it’s an objection during a sales call, an email that frustrates you, a client request, or a question that inspires you — whatever it is, you want to have content that addresses it. Some triggers will be smash hits, and some will be Nickelback. Either way, now you’ve got an audience-fueled list of topics curated specifically for your audience that you can write about.
3. Take the time to write a hit.
Once you’ve identified which publications your audience is interested in, it’s time to create content to pitch publication editors. With the list of topic ideas from your target audience and your industry experience, you can get to work creating engaging content tailored to that publication’s audience.
You don’t want to bring George Strait’s greatest hits to a death-metal party. Instead, find the death-metal tracks your audience is dying to hear, and add them to your playlist. That’s how you’ll get your content into their specially curated Discover Weekly playlist — or accepted into the niche pubs they love.
4. Leave your demo tape at home.
One of the reasons I trust my Discover Weekly list is because I know that none of the artists or tracks are there because their labels paid enough money to squeeze them in. Spotify keeps its lists true to listeners by denying artists’ requests to pay to have their music show up on Discover Weekly.
Publications have a similar responsibility to their readers. Acceptance isn’t just awarded to the highest bidder; it’s earned by the thought leaders who offer the most relevant, high-quality insights. So adopt the same stance, and don’t blatantly self-promote. Your content should genuinely add value to the publication and its readers, and throwing in a hard sales pitch will probably only result in a rejected guest post.
5. Qualify your jams.
I know a Discover Weekly playlist has nailed it when I add several of those 30 songs to my other personal playlists. Maybe not all 30 will convert, but if three songs lead me to entire albums that I love, that list was a success for Spotify, the artists, and me.
When you post in niche pubs, you already know the audience is full of potential qualified leads — as opposed to the wider-but-less-targeted audience of huge marquee publications. You can even track referral traffic and monitor how guest posting in niche pubs increases conversion.
6. Blast your jams on repeat.
When you get published, keep the momentum going: Share your article in targeted LinkedIn groups, email campaigns, etc. Make sure your sales and marketing teams have it on hand to educate along the buyer journey. Repurpose your published piece and create a blog post around it as well — and, of course, encourage your employees to share your content with their networks. Not only does this help you maximize your niche post, but it also makes publication editors more likely to collaborate with you on future tracks.
In conclusion, Spotify Discover Weekly playlists are dope, and niche publications are, too. They can connect your brand to the exact audiences who would benefit most from your content, and they give you the chance to dive deeper into your ideas — and better showcase your expertise in the process.
If your team has done the legwork of researching buyer personas and crafting content for them, why would you risk your time and money targeting a giant pub that might — hopefully, maybe — reach your audience? A niche publication is going to get you in front of your exact audience, resulting in warmer, more qualified leads and better ROI.