When we think about the “behind the scenes” of content production, we almost have a romantic idea of an artisanal job where creativity guides the editor in the conception of narrative and multimedia proposals that are aimed at engaging the user more and more.
Jef I. Richards, Professor of Advertising & PR at Michigan State University, is used to repeating that, without a strategy, creativity is called “art”, while, with a strategy, it is called “advertising”. And certainly, nowadays, it is a strategy that marketers are missing: in a now “saturated” market of advertising messages that, too often, go unobserved or are received with annoyance, it is too risky to reason “with your gut” on what may or may not be to the audience’s taste.
This is why companies that want to attract the attention of their audiences and stand out from their competitors need to move up a gear: this “boost” is offered by data. Ural Cebeci from ScribbleLive confirms that the best content marketing is obtained from a mixture of creativity and data. But where do these data come from and how can they be integrated into brands’ editorial strategies?
Data: how and why?
According to Cebeci, data analysis can be divided into two buckets: the first refers to metrics on the effectiveness of content once it has been transmitted; the second, on data collected from the use of this content, can help to create new content, which is more relevant to user expectations on every occasion. The value of data in content marketing can therefore be twofold: on the one hand, they allow you to determine if and to what extent the content produced is connecting with the reference audience; and, on the other hand, it also allows you to drive the content creation process in advance, based on “recorded” user preferences.
The value of content is measured by its ability to build a relationship with its reference audience. The importance of determining this value is certainly nothing new, but this operation has not yet struck a chord with marketers: just think that the Content Marketing Institute (CMI) has found that only 43% of B2C marketing teams have a clear idea of how their content marketing is performing.
At this point, key indicators are required that are able to measure the value of content and the engagement that it “triggers” in users, to then be analyzed from a business results point of view. Up until now, post campaign metrics have taken into account the tracking of sales (the aspect on which marketers are usually most focused), without neglecting elements such as brand awareness, customer retention and loyalty, and engagement. But this is not enough. We need to be even more incisive: a magnifying glass that observes the entire viewing journey of the user is required. Cebeci recommends including in our metrics:
- traffic: Are you able to generate a movement of visits and accesses around your website? What is its consistency and how is it targeted? Are they really the people you want to attract?
- engagement rates: How engaged are people? Will the interactions that you are creating last over time?
- conversions: This is the most important metric and is needed to understand when visitors turn into leads and, therefore, customers. What did people do after seeing your content? Did they reply to any CTAs by visiting your website or making a purchase?
Once these data have been collected, their analysis can provide useful ideas to improve your content strategy. One of the most effective ways to “extrapolate” them comes in the form of Content Intelligence, or rather, Artificial Intelligence applied to content. It gives significant insights on user interests obtained from the content they have used. These can then be enriched with CRM, providing brands with a single customer view, of customers and potential customers, that is updated in real time.
What point are we at?
There has already been a small improvement compared with two years ago: according to the rankings of the Content Marketing Institute, marketers that use a content marketing strategy based on data have increased to 37% (compared with 27% in 2016). A “documented” approach is essential because it helps brands to identify targets and trending topics, channels and the best moments to transmit content, and the most relevant influencers, avoiding failures and a waste of resources.
An approach of this kind allows you to:
- get to know your audience, obtaining a single customer view that is updated in real time
- map channels and content, adapting the form and tone of voice to the channel and age range, which demonstrates different usage preferences
- take advantage of influencers: with a better understanding of the target, it is possible to identify the right partners who can bring new followers to your social media pages more effectively
Furthermore, Cebeci warns against the mistake that many marketing teams are making: it is not necessary to follow the trend of the moment, with so-called hot topics, but it is necessary to always study the topics that are most relevant to your audience. The concept is that it is better to have few people who look at your content and convert, rather than reaching thousands of the “wrong” people, who are not in line with the products/services offered by your brand.
This is why marketers must become “scientists” and take advantage of data to improve their content strategies. This does not mean killing creativity, but instead, channeling it down those editorial paths that are known to be effective.