2018 Content Planning: Don’t Stare at the Dashboard, Look into the Horizon

It’s that wonderful time of the year: annual planning, when we’re forced to take a hard look at the past year’s performance and set ambitious – yet achievable – goals for ourselves and our department.  If you’ve had a successful year, anxiety starts to build on how to top it.  If you fell short of your goals, anxiety builds on how to redeem yourself. 

The good news: As you look into the horizon and try to create the best content strategy for your brand, we can help.  First, take a look the metrics your content generated over the past year.  Second, take a deeper dive into the numbers to discover what’s working, and why. 

Step 1: Metrics

First, it’s important to take a careful look at last year’s dashboard results during the goal setting process for the coming year.  Your internal audience (your leadership team) can understand the value your content brings to the business by generating click-throughs and other important performance metrics typically displayed on a results dashboard.  

It's also important to think of content characteristics while reviewing the content produced over the past year.  Examples include the content type (text, video of infographic), format ("how to" or interview format), content length (wordcount or time) and/or tone (upbeat or serious).  Step 2 explores how certain characteristics influence performance.    

Step 2:

When it comes to setting your content strategy, it's necessary to dissect the reasons WHY certain content performed better.  In other words, it's necessary to look beyond the dashboard and into how those characteristics identified during Step 1 are influencing (or sabotaging) success.  While metrics are important for measuring results and goal-setting, real time data is overrated when it comes to setting digital content strategy. 

Step 2 gets to the WHY behind content performance by finding correlations between the characteristics and performance metrics.  In other words, it’s impossible to say definitively that upbeat, educational video content under 60-seconds is guaranteed to be successful – but you can say (with confidence!) that there is solid statistical evidence that there is an X% higher correlation between click throughs and upbeat, educational videos and other content created. 

For brands that have the self-discipline to take a step back and take a strategic, analytical look at what’s working for their brand, they will be rewarded with metrics that will provide actionable insight into what is specifically working for their brand.      

Ready to fuel your content strategy with better insight into the factors driving content performance?  Contact us today for a free consultation. 

Why Real Time Marketing Data is Overrated (and what to look for)

We need it.  We love it.  But it has major shortcomings.

It’s time to get real about your real-time marketing data for digital content.  Getting to the heart of why campaigns succeed and fail cannot be revealed at the press of a button.  But brands that invest in this type of analysis will get a great ROI.

While we're enamored by real-time metrics, there is no algorithm, nor artificial intelligence, that exists today that can do a thorough analysis of content performance, and identify the factors that are influencing results.  

When analyzing your data, here’s an overview of what to look for, and common pitfalls to avoid. 

 

What to look for: The reasons why campaigns are succeeding or failing

Pitfalls to look out for: Only using real-time data to identify the “why” behind campaign performance. 

Recommended Approach:  In a world focused on instant gratification, few take the time to accurately identify the specific factors influencing performance. Brands need to take a step back, look at content strategy and identify the factors influencing content performance.  This requires both qualitative and quantitative skills, and ideally contributing team members will have backgrounds in Marketing, Sociology and Statistics.  Together, the team will take a scientific approach to determining variables and finding correlations.  Don't have the resources at your fingertips?  Brightside Data can help. 

 

What to look for: KPI Data

Pitfall to look out for: Assigning the wrong KPIs to a campaign.  There’s no doubt that KPI data is important, but what’s even more important is selecting the right KPIs for the campaign.  KPIs should reflect the goals of the campaign, and setting the right goals for the campaign up front gets the entire team aligned and moving in the same direction.  

Recommended approach: Identify where the marketing tactic falls in the sales funnel, and the corresponding performance indicators.  Looking to build awareness of your brand?  Impressions are important.  Are you approaching the narrow part of the funnel?  KPIs such as dwell time and conversion are important. 

Tip: Even if you’re focused on one KPI, always track multiple metrics.  Every campaign is an opportunity to generate data points for future analysis, and presents an opportunity to learn more about what moves the needle.   

What to look for: Opportunities to adapt and learn

Pitfall to look out for: Prematurely labeling a campaign a failure.

Recommended Approach: It’s OK to start with the best-case scenario, but if that’s not working, incrementally remove any self-inflicted barriers to success.  For example, if you’re offering gated content, remove the gate and offer free access to the content.  The time and effort used to create the content are sunk costs, and there’s no getting those resources back.

Tip: Before a campaign launches, predetermine how you will test and leverage your digital assets when underperforming.  Determine performance thresholds that would justify action to adapt and test.  

 

What to look for: Graphs, Charts and Other Pretty Stuff.  Because you have to convince internal stakeholders that your campaigns are getting results to receive additional marketing budget, and simply presenting numbers are not enough.   

Pitfall to look out for: Make sure you’re communicating the right metrics.  Its’ easy to fall in love with a graph that shows a steep incline, but ensure your metrics and comparisons are telling the right story. 

Tip: Put metrics in context, by comparing results to last-year’s data, other recent campaign, or industry benchmarks.    

Ready to go beyond real-time metrics, and uncover WHAT is driving content performance?  Contact us today for a free consultation. 

 

Content Strategy: Get Big Answers from Big Data

Every time you publish digital content, it produces metrics.  And what you do with those metrics can make or break your digital strategy. 

As an industry, we’ve been debating about measurement for decades.  From column inches to click-through-rates, different metrics bring different value.  And digital marketing offers a whole new list of metrics to calculate and criticize. 

Here are some things to keep in mind while navigating through today’s big data:

There is no silver bullet metric that measures success for every brand.  Each brand needs to make an informed decision about what measurements are most important to them.  These metrics should reflect the organizations priorities.  Also known as key performance indicators, consensus should be built around carefully prioritization of the metrics most important to the brand.  This will ensure everyone during the process – from the creative brief through production and placement – is focused on achieving the same goals. 

Keep in mind that beauty is in the eye of the beholder.  What some brands view as meaningless vanity metrics – such as the number of impressions generated by content – may be viewed as valuable for brands who are focused on boosting brand visibility. 

Once your key performance indicators have been established, it’s time to figure out what moves your needle.  In other words, take a deep dive into your data to get answers about what correlates between content and metrics.  Questions you can seek answers to include, but aren’t limited to, finding correlations between the following:

·         Are third-party spokespeople really influencing our metrics?  If so, which metrics and by how much?

·         How do images we use correlate with click through rates?

·         Are we pushing our products too hard, or not enough?  How does the number of product mentions correlate with our key performance indicator?

By isolating certain variables and finding correlations, you can distill your big data into big answers that can effectively drive your content strategy. 

The problem is….

Data about trends are plentiful, but trends don’t provide real, meaningful insights into your brand’s content strategy.  Using basic math to rank content and calculate averages are also not very insightful.  Instead, real data-based marketing utilizes advanced statistics to find real insights about WHY certain content performs better while other content flops.

There is no one-size-fits all approach, and no substitute for discovering what is working specifically for your brand.  The good news is, we can help.  Contact us today for a free consultation about uncovering the insights in your data.  

Gretchen Crawford is CMO of Brightside Data and a partner with PRSC Group LLC.  She is passionate about both the creative and analytical aspects of great content.  

 

The 8 Crucial Steps for a Content Audit

How do you know what’s working – and what’s not – for your content?  It’s easy to look at top performing (and worst performing) content and make assumptions about what’s causing it to sing or sink.  But when it’s time to stop guessing and delve into the data for real answers, it’s time for a content audit. 

The good news: The answers are within reach. A good content audit leverages the treasure trove of information accumulated by published content, and provides valuable insight on what’s specifically working for your brand. 

Not sure how to approach a content audit?  Here are eight crucial steps that ensure you get meaningful results:

1.    Define the scope:  It seems simple enough, but scope creep can happen if this step is neglected.  Define the scope of work by identifying the time-period and the type of content to be analyzed during the audit.  For example, the audit may look at all blog posts and whitepapers published from January 1st – December 31st of the last calendar year.  When defining the time-period, keep in mind seasonality or events that may affect the outcome of your results.    

2.    Define Key Performance Indicators (KPI):  Make sure the audit is measuring behavior that is important to your business.  For example, click through rate is a popular KPI used to measure engagement.  If brand recognition is important to your organization, impressions may also be an important KPI.  If multiple KPIs are important to your brand, a weighted KPI formula is an excellent way to reflect your brand’s priorities. 

3.    Identify variables: Make a list of potential “it factors” that may influence content performance.  The audit will reveal statistical correlations between potential “it factors” and your KPI(s).  Variables can be quantitative (such as the length of content or the number of product mentions) or qualitative (such as tone).  Variables can be found within text, video or images.  Choosing your variables carefully will ensure you have meaningful results for your strategy moving forward.   

4.    Collect, scrub and code the data: The cliché is true: If you put garbage in, you’ll get garbage out.  While data collection, scrubbing and coding may become tedious, attention to detail is essential for meaningful results. When setting up data collection procedures, integrate quality control measures. 

5.    Analyze the data: At this point, look for mathematical correlations between the variables and your KPI.  This will provide insight into what’s causing some content perform well – and what’s causing other content to drag.  These correlations will help you set the strategy for efficient content creation moving forward.   

6.    Integrate results into content strategy: Whether the content audit provides the ammunition you need to support your gut feeling, or it revealed new insights that change the course of your content creation, integrate the key take-aways into your content strategy moving forward.   

7.    Share your findings:  You have the numbers to support your updated content strategy – now shout it from the rooftops!  Fully leverage your audit and refined content strategy to get buy-in from internal stakeholders.  Content managers armed with clear direction and the statistics to support their strategy are more likely to have well-funded content budgets.  

8.    Rinse and repeat:  Content changes over time, and so does its environment.  Set a schedule for routine audits to ensure your content strategy stays on track.  Quarterly or biannual content audits will ensure your content strategy evolves with the ever-changing landscape.   

Case studies, industry trends and best practices are helpful when creating content strategy, but there is no substitute for insight on what’s specifically working for your brand. By using this methodical approach, content managers can build on success and set a clear direction for the content creators and publishers. 

Don’t have the bandwidth to conduct a content analysis on your own?  We can help!  Contact us today for a free consultation.

Gretchen Crawford is CMO of Brightside Data and a partner with PRSC Group LLC.  She is passionate about both the creative and analytical aspects of great content.  

How a Plastic Water Bottle Can Help Your ROI

When I was doing my PhD work, I was walking across campus with a friend when he gave a homeless man a bottle of water. The homeless man said, “Thanks for the water… and the bottle!”  That moment sticks with me, because most of us would view the plastic bottle as disposable, just something to hold the drinking water.

The take-away: While there’s no doubt that water is essential to life, let’s not overlook the importance of what contains it - the very thing that gives it shape, structure and cohesion.

The same rule applies to data generated by digital content.  Digital content is essential to the life of your business.  Once the initial KPIs of a digital campaign are measured and the initial reaction to the clicks, views and shares are noted, the data accumulated throughout the process should not be deemed useless.  When viewed as a resource rather than a by-product, the growing treasure-trove of data generated by digital content can reveal incredible insights that can be leveraged to increase ROI.

 

Measuring KPIs, Mining Insights

 

There’s a huge difference between measuring basic key performance indicators and mining data for insights. 

While a valuable metric, KPIs alone do not provide insight on why, or how to duplicate success or avoid failure.  Once the ever-growing cache of data is viewed as a resource rather than a by-product, a valuable step will be added to the content creation process. 

This is not just a shift in work flow – it is a shift in mentality.  Content creators are constantly under pressure to produce the next great campaign, and make assumptions about what works.  Personal biases, rules of thumb and best practices are valuable, but there are always exceptions to the rule. And there is infinitely more value in discovering what’s specifically working for your brand.

 

Find Your Water Bottle

Mining your data for insights will help you discover what specific elements can give your digital content the structure, support and practical guidance needed for success. 

By finding correlations between your KPIs and the elements that make your content succeed or fail will empower you to plan, implement and measure content more effectively. 

Not sure where to start?  Contact us today.