The course of content distribution across the social web is not an easy route to track.
In fact, there are a number of theories on the path content takes when spreading throughout the social space.
To make things more complicated, there are different media tracks that content traverses, such as paid, owned and relationship media (by @dfossas) - plus it may jump from one track to another.
So is it possible to track the journey of social content? This post outlines how content is distributed and traced organically, that is, outside of owned brand channels and with or without a paid media buy.
The journey of social content is bidirectional:
- When a brand creates social content it can be seeded to the media outlets -- who have the largest aggregate social graph reach. The quality and social nature of the content make it spread to strategic partners, where it can be picked up by influencers, forums and localized communities.
- Alternatively, the content could be seeded to influencers and forums first -- who have a lower aggregate social graph reach. If the content is high quality and social in nature, it will be picked up by larger strategic partners and media outlets. This method of distribution validates that the content's DNA is social.
The diagram below illustrates this process:
Organic distribution pathway - bidirectional.
An example: Branded content created by Gatorade can be seeded to ESPN (a media outlet) which is then picked up by the New York Yankees (a strategic partner) and finally by local sports bloggers.
And the icing on the cake: the brand benefits most when content traverses both tracks simultaneously!