Content marketing is rapidly gaining momentum in the advertising world for a number of reasons: It allows brands to provide value to customers and prospects more authentically than a 30-second commercial. It positions the brand as a partner rather than as an interruption by providing empowering content that offers value. EMarketer reported that 74 percent of brands increased spend on content marketing in 2014.
There are two trends accelerating the use of content marketing. First, breakout brands are using content to create unique experiences with video, photos, apps, vines and more to engage customers. Second, social management platforms are evolving to offer more robust content deployment tools and, most important, measurement.
These two trends are igniting a rush to harness the power of content marketing. Here is how to make sense of it.
Tie your marketing goals to content measurement.
Usually, you either have brand metrics you need to lift or direct-response metrics you need to increase. Brand metrics should be tied to your content efforts. Investing in brand studies to prove what you are doing from a content standpoint affects awareness, purchase intent and more. Brand studies can get expensive, so some marketers are using engagement metrics and social listening as proxies.
Direct response, on the other hand, is harder to measure due to the closed nature of social platforms. Still, you can also use engagement metrics as proxies. There are far too many engagement metrics to list and will evolve as your content does, but the critical metrics are site analytics (site-traffic lift, uniques, time of site), referral traffic from social platforms, social engagement, and follower/fan growth as directional data to show content’s contribution to sales.
Don’t simply create content, Create content campaigns.
Most marketers do not track their content as campaigns. They launch them as campaigns but report on them as an aggregate or as an individual post. It takes work but tagging your content correctly will allow a good analyst to understand the campaign as a whole in order to optimize content types, themes, copy and channels. This is a major shift in workflow, but can reap huge benefits. Increasing brand perceptions and sales using content takes time. It is no different than paid media (unless you’re a pure direct-response marketer who only fishes at the bottom of the funnel.)
Engagement metrics drive brand metrics.
Analyze metrics from a bottom-up approach using an analytic pyramid (right). Start with looking at how to optimize engagement metrics, which ultimately affects everything above. For example, a campaign that focuses on video content may track the following engagement metrics: views, video-completion rate and shares. As engagement increases, we typically see a lift in foundational metrics, such as site traffic and follower growth. And finally, brand metrics should lift if we did our job right (keeping in mind brand metrics take longer to impact and are often measured less frequently).
The manual dashboard is dead.
So you have all these data sources from Facebook, Google Analytics, Curalate, Twitter and more! Now what? Aggregating these into a cohesive and measurable story is what holds back more investment in content marketing. Currently, most marketers are creating a custom (read, manual!) dashboard. Often it is not segmented by campaign and struggles to show lift in traditional marketing metrics. Don’t fret; help is out there.
Social relationship platforms will be the backbone of content marketing.
Social relationship platforms (SRPs) are evolving at a rapid pace. Sprinklr, Percolate, Spreadfast, Adobe and Salesforce are all in the game of deploying, planning, measuring and optimizing content. Most companies use them for social posting, but they are becoming full-service content-marketing suites. Think of them as the Double Click of owned and earned properties. They allow agencies and marketers to segment content by campaign, leverage social listening (most include this), provide content insights, create marketing and editorial calendars (social posts and large tent-pole campaigns), buy paid social media and — most important — provide robust measurement analytics that help marketers prove the value of content marketing.
Content marketing is growing exponentially because it works. Embrace the power of content marketing by treating it with the same standards we would paid advertising. The tools and processes are available now to create robust content marketing campaigns that have the ability to build great brands.