I believe it is a very exciting time for content marketing. Some say that this will be its big year, e.g. see 2012 is the Year of Content Marketing; and Windmill Networking columnist Judy Gombita shared this post about a Content Marketing Institute study that projected an increase in spending and said it “remains a top priority for marketers in 2012”).
Social media expands the possibilities. By combining the two, you can take a discrete unit of marketing, track its trajectory, costs, impact, and connect the effort back to a business result.
However it is hard to know what to expect if you set out without a road map. Sure, the content is the star, but great content alone does not necessarily translate to great business results. And what good are great results if you can’t track and prove them?
To maximize return for your efforts, it’s important to take a strategic approach that starts with goal setting and takes into account the systems you will use to implement campaigns and measure the impact of your efforts.
In this post I will take a closer look at the metrics, methods and systems that can contribute to your success and get you on the road to earning content marketing ROI.
The Measurement Challenge
One of the challenges I mentioned in my first Windmill Networking post relates to what I called the social media and marketing disconnect, i.e. the cultural and organizational differences that can stand in the way of bringing the two together for best results. This also applies to the world of measurement.
E.g., questions about ROI and metrics can make social media teams and specialists squirm. While many talk about it, not all agree that it is even necessary to try to track ROI for social media investments; Neal Schaffer blogged on this topic recently in his post There’s No Thing as Social Media ROI – It’s called Business ROI).
For marketers, social media may seem like a field day, but the approach is all too often “shoot first, ask questions later.” And old measures of marketing success may seem to be less relevant, or at least need updating when social media is involved.
While it is tempting to focus on short term business results like driving more sales and leads, it might not be obvious how to track these back to social media efforts. Sales leads are only one part of the marketing picture of course. Forward thinking marketers are looking to apply content marketing and social media to get many other types of results.
My point is that the types of numbers social media teams love to see, whether they relate to Twitter followers, retweets, conversations, and Facebook likes may not be the same ones that scream “results!” to marketing teams. Success means bridging these areas and finding ways to connect the dots.
Steps in the Right Direction
It is possible to get the information and results you are seeking with intelligently-designed campaigns and measurement systems. In other cases, you need to settle for intermediate measures, and/or take some educated guesses.
Avinash Kaushik talks about this in his post on Occam’s Razor: Best Social Media Metrics: Conversation, Amplification, Applause, Economic Value. He writes:
Focus on measuring your macro (overall) conversions, but for optimal awesomeness identify and measure your micro conversions as well…For the macro conversion you measure Outcomes (say orders). For micro conversions you could measure page views…
In other words, macro conversions are the ones that arguably count the most – e.g., sales– while micro conversions are the steps along the way. The trick is measuring which micros / conversations relate to which macros / leads and sales gained or lost. Without this measurement, you do not know which factors to pay attention to, support, and which ones to counter. Having the metrics in hand makes it easier to monetize content marketing via social media.
The types of metrics he describes can be effective in bridging fuzzy social media math and outcomes with the real world discipline of results-driven content marketing. Conversation relates to the reaction your content gets, e.g. as reflected in comments, amplification refers to the reach of your primary and secondary networks, applause ties back to sharing and likes, and economic value’s meaning is somewhat obvious.
It is just plain good business sense to track micro and macro conversions, i.e. to try to achieve and document real short term benefits, whether these are tangible ones like orders, or intermediate measures.
I found the blog, posts and links to be a great resource, and think you will too.
Closed Loop Systems Help Generate and Prove ROI
A systems approach can help you move beyond one-off content and campaigns and put in place the elements that will consistently drive results and earn payback for your content marketing programs.
One way to do this is to apply what Tony Grass of E-Market Intelligence calls customer centric e-marketing. It’s a closed loop approach that seeks to target the most promising customer segments and optimize Web and content campaigns to draw qualified leads, win business and earn ROI. Customer centric e-marketing is about inbound marketing, something that I talked about in my first Windmill Networking post.
It starts with keyword research, e.g. via the Google Ad Words tool, which can give you feedback about what people are searching on related to your market segment (as Tony likes to say, “It’s not about what you want to sell, but about what your customers are looking to buy”).
The approach involves generating a Demand Landscape, which shows similar terms grouped into buckets, each with a search volume and score. The score tells you how easy it is to optimize around these terms. By taking into account the score and search volume you can identify market sweet spots, the opportunistic segments which will provide the highest return.
The feedback from the demand landscape and social media monitoring lets you use the voice of the customer to drive SEO, content generation and can also inform outbound efforts like PR and social media engagement.
Customer centric e-marketing uses content as the essential hub, the draw that brings people to your website or micro-site, where you can track their activities and capture their information; from there it is relatively easy to connect the dots between the campaign and sales that result.
I will be explaining more about how this works in future posts.
Social media plus content marketing opens the doors to new ways to deliver business results. It is an exciting time in the world of content marketing, and I look forward to sharing more info about how to achieve results in future columns.