Content marketing’s rise to prominence is not without reason. The new method of engaging customers is a valuable way to improve brand perception, put a face on your organization, and improve revenue. But determining the effectiveness of your efforts can be tricky, and considering your investment in new materials, this can lead to consternation. Fortunately, five key barometers can help you determine whether your work is sinking or swimming, and provide insight into how to improve your content.
Content marketing’s ultimate goal is to spread quality information and media of your creation in order to improve brand perception. This simply does not occur without sharing. Social media provides ample, free distribution channels for spreading your content as well as a barometer for its success.
With each social media platform, different metrics indicate different levels of success. Facebook allows “likes”, comments, and shares. Information that curries positive perception will receive approval in the form of likes, that which generates conversation will see comments, and that which embodies the values that customers espouse will see shares. In each type of activity, the response is an indicator of viewer reaction that can be read to tailor content in the future. The same concept applies to Twitter, YouTube, LinkedIn, and Google+: know the platform you’re examining and use the metrics presented to paint a picture of content efficacy.
The core mechanism of content marketing is improvement of customer relationships through engagement. Thought provoking information put out into the social sphere that does not resonate with customers or spur some kind of conversation has, therefore, fallen short. Gaging the effectiveness of your content then becomes a simple matter of monitoring customer interactions and crafting future efforts on that basis.
What constitutes engagement? A number of things. Web traffic has long been considered a useful metric, but we suggest examining bounce rate, time spent on page, and number of pages per visit. The bounce rate is the percentage of viewers that see one page and then immediately leave your website. Time spent on page is rather self-explanatory, but what it indicates is whether viewers spent the time to digest your content or simply moved on. Finally, engaging content should spur the desire to view more, which is why number of pages per visit is such a valuable barometer.
As a business, your aim is not to simply dazzle a few one-time viewers; you want to build a following. This can be achieved in a number of ways, including garnering Facebook fans, Twitter followers, and Google+ followers, but email remains the king of this arena. This is because, while followers and fans are an attractive metric, social network users can be surprisingly passive in their support, perhaps not even seeing your published content in the wash of their social media feed.
The primary aim of content marketing is to improve perception. This is inescapable. Any efforts that improve your following, generate leads, and engage customers, but fail to improve your brand in the eyes of consumers has failed. Fortunately, feedback methods are available that can help enlighten this crucial, if somewhat intangible, metric.
The best way to determine if your reputation has improved is to ask your customers. Services like SurveyMonkey have free and premium packages that allow you to poll users and glean important insight. In addition, their system offers advanced survey techniques, like randomized response order, to prevent unintended poll biases and deliver a clearer picture. Focus groups are generally more expensive to conduct, and interviewees may be hard to attain, but this more intensive method, combined with cursory surveys can help determine whether or not your content is pulling its weight.
Ultimately, marketing is an investment, and the return on that investment is what matters most. The problem is, this particular litmus test requires a lot of context in order to discern content marketing’s role in a positive or negative change. The key is to, once again, ask your customers. Tossing a quick “how did you hear about us?” question in the checkout process can help shed some light on the matter, as can tracking other metrics listed here. Remember that all aspects of your business contribute to revenue, and that if content marketing does not improve your bottom line, then all effort should be made to revise and improve them.
Tracking the intangible worth of content marketing can be challenging, but you are not without some valuable indicators. Monitor the sharing activity of your content on social networks, as well as the length and breadth of viewer visits to your website. Work to build a following and improve brand perception, and gage your success by tracking subscriptions and survey responses. Finally, look for an improvement in revenue. You’re running a business after all, and any information that can help plot a course for action is well worth a listen.