Output is seductive. It feels great to crank out lots of content and call your strategy a success.
But prolific doesn’t always mean effective. Marketers must resist the allure of vanity metrics to ensure their content actually resonates with their intended audience.
Consumers’ social feeds and dashboards are flooded with content from colleagues, friends, family, and the high school sweethearts they stalk on social media. A brand might publish stellar long-form articles, but what’s the point if people ignore its posts and just keep scrolling?
To cut through the noise, marketers must track and measure the right data and up their distribution games. They need to focus on metrics that reveal which subjects to cover, where to publish, and when to share for maximum impact — not just ones that revolve around page views and traffic.
The Uselessness of Vanity Metrics
Let’s be honest — we all love vanity metrics. Racking up likes, follows, page views, and subscriber tallies seems to validate our hard work. If people like our posts on Facebook, we must be doing something right.
Well, not necessarily. Most of these popular metrics don’t accurately reflect ROI.
Marketers often tout web traffic as the No. 1 metric to monitor, but traffic is deceptive, and it often raises more questions than it answers. Who are all these people visiting your site? You might see a million hits a day, but they’re worthless if they’re coming from the wrong people.
Search engine rankings can also cloud your thinking, leading you to become overly consumed by thoughts of “Are we on the first page?” “Are we moving toward the top of Google’s search results?” and “Are we trending in the right direction on Bing?”
Depending on which keywords and search terms relate to your business, obsessing over SEO rankings could be a huge time-waster. If only a few hundred people find your company through search engines, you’re spending way too much time, money, and effort fighting a battle that’s not worth winning.
The Distribution Data You Need
Without distribution data, creative decisions are tough to quantify. Design, layout, and copywriting choices all tend to rely more on intuition and gut instinct than hard data.
Content distribution, on the other hand, is a numbers game that should drive your creative. Once you complete a masterpiece, its distribution data should dictate the how, when, where, and why of your future content projects.
Focus on the following distribution metrics to best reach your goals:
Likes may validate your message, but shares are what actually distribute it and help it become viral.
People share content when it’s useful, entertaining, informational, and relevant to their overall interests. Use Buzzsumo or another social metrics tool to analyze social shares based on content type. Buzzsumo will also tell you where your content has been backlinked and how many people it’s reached through outside platforms.
Widespread sharing is an excellent indicator that you’re producing the kind of content your audience craves. Build future articles, blog posts, videos, and other materials around the themes that attract the most attention.
2. Share of voice
People who create and share positive content about your company without being asked to do so are your bonus brand ambassadors. Scour the web for this material, and recognize it on your social accounts. Show your appreciation by sending the content creators a personalized thank-you message. You can even consider inviting them to company events, asking them to review products as beta testers, or including them in any other activity that makes them feel like VIPs.
At the other end of the spectrum, don’t ignore your haters; hug them. When people write negative reviews, they usually don’t expect to get a response from the company they’re complaining about. However, if the company does interact with them, empathize with their struggle, and perhaps offer gifts or incentives to offset their hardships — they’ll be much more likely to change their negative opinion.
Conversions happen when prospects respond to your call to action. Opening an email, clicking a CTA link in that email, and filling out a registration form on a landing page are all conversions. But, of course, buying your product is the ultimate conversion.
Use your content to lead prospects further into the conversion funnel by educating them about your company or by inviting them to download in-depth gated content. You’ll get their contact information, and they’ll benefit from your ideas. It’s a win-win, and it’s one step closer to conversion.
There’s a fine line between vanity retention metrics and true retention metrics.
The ones you should be tracking are those in which customers exchange personal data for your content or products. The average buyer requires seven touchpoints before he’s ready to buy from a brand (known as the Rule of Seven), and content is a great way to demonstrate and reassert your value during this process. Metrics that share or create new content are much better than likes or hearts.
5. Sales pipeline impact
This measurement indicates how much of the sales pipeline has been influenced by one or more pieces of content. You can focus on single articles, a group of pieces, or all content collectively, but the bottom line is the same for each scenario: If your content marketing and distribution aren’t impacting the sales funnel, your efforts are being wasted.
Sales pipeline impact metrics should indicate how much money you’ve earned in potential opportunities and actual sales as a result of your content. Products like Kissmetrics (see how Kissmetrics can tie content to revenue), Marketo, and Salesforce are able to assess how much pipeline a piece of content has generated.
With so much content being pumped into your customers’ feeds, distribution is now the code to crack. It’s not about who produces the most content; it’s about who can get it in front of the right eyes.
About the Author: Russ Fradin is a digital media industry veteran and an angel investor with more than 15 years of experience in online marketing. He is founder and CEO of Dynamic Signal, the leading platform for empowering employees to be effective brand advocates. Learn more here.