Using audience metrics to measure content impact

Identifying key content engagement metrics is an involved process.

Identifying key content engagement metrics is an involved process.

Content creators and mangers are often faced with a relative one-to-one need/supply proposition: A need for specific content is identified, that content is supplied – either by creating new works or reconfiguring existing modules. Too often, however, consideration of the content’s efficacy ceases to be a concern once that immediate need is fulfilled.

This is bad business. Even using automation, the act of content creation is still resource and time intensive. To avoid redundancies or ineffective content, content marketers and managers need to measure the impact of the materials they generate. But which metrics offer the most meaningful insight?

Journey mapping: Naming the nameless
Crafting content that connects with its preferred audience requires understanding audience objectives – and how these objectives match enterprise goals. While often process can be as simple as soliciting direct feedback or taking requests, sometimes this ends up being more esoteric. Audiences may not know the kind of content that will have the most impact and fulfill a direct need – primarily because they may have never encountered content like it before. You can’t identify something that has yet to be named.

“Starting by aligning with your audience personas.”

To attempt to identify a need – naming the nameless, so to speak – start by mapping the journey your audience is taking involving your enterprise. Starting by aligning with your audience personas, use trend data to trace the lifecycle of a customer and their content needs.

The Content Marketing Institute identifies five distinct stages of the customer journey:

  • Awareness. A customer encounters a piece of content.
  • Interest. The customer expresses some form of active engagement with the content or the enterprise behind the content.
  • Evaluation. Both customers and enterprises take a closer look at the content products available and determine value.
  • Decision. Customers purchase and/or implement the content.
  • Retention. Any after-purchase activity, from returning audience members to subscriptions, to organic promotion.

This journey map is by no means fixed: Smashing Magazine, for example, only has four stages, consolidating evaluation and decision into a single “conversion” stage and dubbing retention “reward.” Regardless of specific structure of terminology, the goal is a simple lifecycle map that you can use as the bedrock for tracking where each content interaction – or “touch” – occurs.

‘Attention’ metrics
As Keith Grossman, global chief revenue officer at Bloomberg Media, told eMarketer, even if you understand the audience journey, knowing where the most valuable touches took place can be tricky. There is minimal standardization across any content industry by which engagement can be meaningfully measured, leading Grossman to measure the ability to grab “attention” rather than time spent or clicks.

“There’s a slow evolution taking place. The marketplace is trying to understand the right metric to standardize against, but it hasn’t figured itself out yet,” Grossman told eMarketer. “The question is, what is the proper amount of time to measure success and engagement? If we agree on 2 minutes but then I give you a 200-word piece that takes 2 minutes to read, that’s not successful.”

Key performance indicators
At each stage of the journey, there are opportunities to identify key performance indicators as well as gaps points in the customer experience that are disjointed or painful, causing the customer to drop out of the cycle. Crafting these KPIs is particularly important since these are the metrics that you can use to measure how effective or enticing the content. Some common metrics CMI identifies include: keyword rankings, impressions, overall search visibility, webinar registrations, white paper downloads, conversions, shares, comments, subscription renewals and social media engagement.

“KPIs in a audience journey aren’t the be-all, end-all.”

Credit where credit is due
The presence of these KPIs in a audience journey isn’t the be-all end-all. Rather, the value of these KPIs as metrics fluctuates based on situational factors and audience person. What may be a valuable metric to measure engagement for one audience member may not be true for another. This is where analytics platforms step in to create an attribution model, weighting KPI value based on profile engagement trends.

This may mean mean that certain touchpoints in the audience journey have more value than others: For some, that first touch deserves more credit, for others it is the last touch that will foster long term engagement. Weighting touchpoints can help recognize the inherent attributes of the content that seems to resonate most with which audiences.

Segmentation to measure performance
Finally, once you have your KPIs and attribution models in place, you can build audience subsets out of your analytics data. Segmenting your channels and measuring engagement rates can help confirm or debunk assumptions born out of trend projections. Look at the frequency and depth of these engagements and the dividends they pay. The goal is to match segmentation, KPIs and attribution models with the data derived from your audience journey.

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