It may come as no surprise that pressure is rising for marketers to prove the value of their content marketing efforts. After all, content marketing takes a lot of human resources to sustain a proper content marketing strategy in time and effort. We need be able demonstrate incremental and overall effectiveness as a result of content marketing and there is a lot of data available.  But not all data is created equal and not all of it is worth our time to crunch on.  On the flip side, not everything that is important can be individually measured in dollars or impressions, but it is still incredibly valuable.

A company’s content is its “asset.” It is the neatly packaged value that we extend to the consumer to say, “Hey there, I thought you might like this.” And the beginning of trust is established and a conversation is started. Content is the asset that ensures you never show up to a dinner party empty-handed, and what happens after that initial exchange occurs goes well beyond content marketing and involves everyone within an organization. The conversation content marketing helps to start is what community managers, sales, and customer service continues at the highest level of customer engagement.

So then, what are the metrics, the key performance indicators, that are of most importance to measure for content marketing success?

I’ll review the ones you are probably familiar with and suggest a few more that perhaps you haven’t thought about before.

1. Reach

FACT: The Millennial population is larger than the Baby Boomer generation and three times bigger than Generation X. (The Pew Research Center via Forbes)

Your content marketing reach is the amount of people you can potentially reach with each piece of content based on the known size of your audience. This means the number of Twitter followers you have, Facebook business page likes, LinkedIn connections and publisher followers, etc. and your subscriber database.  Keep track of the size of your network month-over-month. If you are doing a great job with your content marketing efforts, you will see increases in your potential reach for your content.

2. Engagement & Amplification

FACT: U.S. Millennials trust friends over “corporate mouth-pieces.” (BCG)

Truthfully, engagement is a metric that can predict whether or not you are going to be successful at content marketing or not. Are people engaging with your content and your brand online or not? Are you sharing and publishing content and only hear crickets? Or when you share and publish content does it ignite a conversation? CONVERSATIONS are key and it what makes content strategy dependent on a SOCIAL strategy. This is not direct marketing where you leave some flyers behind or mail out a bunch of promo cards. No, no, no.  If you’re doing a content marketing strategy justice, people are not just going to see your content, they are going to respond to it and you better be listening.

How many weekly posts?

How many people replied?

Was is shared? How much and in what way?

Was it liked or favorited?

What was your channel growth as a result?

Amplification is when someone in your network shares your content with their network, exposing your content to a completely new group of people. Your content becomes amplified and endorsed by your network, increasing the reach and impact of that one piece of content x every new person who was exposed to it.  Tracking amplification doesn’t just tell you that you’ve reached a larger audience, it tells you that your audience found your content valuable enough to share with others.  Then, if your network shares it … you see the point. This is exactly what we want to have happen.

Tracking amplification can be complicated if you’re trying to do it manually. You would have to literally keep track of each person who shared it, their size of their network and so on. I recommend you use a social media analytics platform like Buffer to keep track or retweets, favorites, mentions, clicks, and potential (which factors in amplification). Not only will it make your life easier when it comes to publishing content, it will then keep track of how each piece of content performs for you.

3. Website Guests

FACT: 73% of consumers surveyed wouldn’t care if brands they use disappear from their life. (NewsCred)

Traffic to your website is an important metric for your content marketing strategy. I like to call them guests, because it implies that you’re expecting them and ready to make them feel right at home so they’ll stay a while and come back. If, as a result of strong SEO fueled by great content, more people are coming to your website, you’ll want to be monitoring that.  More website guests means that you are using the right keywords and providing quality content that is leading people back to your company. It also means that you are relevant to them and given all the websites they could have gone to, it’s important you woo them once they get there. Your website will only continue to increase in authority, making your business easier and easier to be found by people looking information and solutions around the topics you want to be found for.

You can track the referral links that brought people to your website and see if they follow the path you designed once they show-up from a piece of content. In this way, you will see exactly which pieces of content help drive more guests to your website and how it compares with other sources of website traffic. Google Analytics is free and then other paid platforms like Hubspot and TrackMaven among so many more are available for such analytics.

4. Conversions

Conversions is a biggie and it a “transaction” between you and your audience. When I person converts, it could be they subscribed to your blog or they signed up for your newsletter. Conversions happen at various stages of the relationship and could mean that your audience intenionally gave you information about them (whatever you ask for on a form) so that they could receive something from you that was not free. The person has moved beyond the awareness stage of the buyer journey and is now in the consideration or decision stage. They’ve reached out and said, “I want to know more,” and nowadays that happens only after you’ve established some trust with them first, i.e. valuable content.

Online conversions even mean sales if they have an e-commerce site and if you have a good system to track offline sales. I personally like to keep track of conversions by buyer life-cycle stage and use certain online forms with certain types of content and offers to help organize leads in this way. As a content marketer, this only helps me create better, more valuable content at each stage and see if it working to move people along the sales cycle. If it is a service business where people don’t buy the service online, keep track of the hand-off from online marketing to sales and then work with sales to nurture this lead through the decision stage and then hopefully as a customer.

Tracking up to what point content brings a person to your business is the golden metric you want to have, but I recommend going above and beyond that with your sales team if you can. When sales and marketing can work together on this, content marketing can have a much higher impact.

5. Social Mentions

FACT: We have become a socially-dependent society.

FACT: Millennials give feedback directly to brands on social about products and features, and services they like or dislike. (BCG)

In addition to engagement and amplification, keep track who is talking about your brand and what they are saying beyond what is in direct response to a piece of content. Content marketing efforts over social channels should spark some conversation, but what are they saying after you leave the room? Make sure you’re monitoring company, product, service, and mentions of individual people at your organization.  Social listening is something you should be doing anyway and it will be part of the social strategy that works alongside content marketing.  How relevant (or not relevant) is your brand? Don’t you think that it would be good to leverage opportunities to share content at the right time to just the right audience?

As a result of content marketing, are people recommending your product or service to their networks? Did you get a shout-out from a happy customer? Are they posting reviews about your company? What kind of feedback are they sharing with the world about their experience with you as a friend, foe, or customer? Which channels are most active? All of this is something you should be keeping track of.

6. Company Participation

FACT: U.S. Millennials highly value personal relationships and use technology to connect with a greater number of people, more frequently, in real-time. (BCG)

This last metric is one of the most important metrics to keep track of and I hope more and more businesses start. This is an internal metric that measures how YOU and YOUR business is doing at supporting your audience online. What really matters for content marketing to have its biggest impact is how a brand is engaging back with its audience to build a community.

Of all the metrics we track to measure content marketing effectiveness, it’s incomplete if it doesn’t factor in our own engagement rates.  If we are only measuring how much our audience is engaging with us, loving us and our content, and the tactical side of what we do to put it in front of them…. we’re missing something. We’re missing the relationship factor that builds a community around our content marketing efforts and that puts them first. We can pine all day over data like it’s the Holy Grail of consumer insights, but it is one-sided and doesn’t provide the full view of the true potential of content marketing that unapologetically needs all-hands-on-deck from its organization. It’s great to know how much our customers are engaging with your brand, but are you showing up to engage with them back? Content makes the connection, but it can’t carry the relationship and this is where community managers, sales and administration all align to support what content marketing helps to start.

How many people did we engage with directly and personally?

How many new followers did we greet individually?

How many questions did we answer about our industry or our business?

How long did it take us to respond to a tweet or social shout-out?

How many times did we show gratitude to our community?

How many times did we amplify our own network?

Who did we help this week?

Internal accountability and being intentional with our outreach between the content posts is what maximizes the potential for all the metrics I reviewed above. How are you and your organization performing?

There is a huge, socially-connected consumer base present who cares a lot about relationships, expects excellence in products and service, and will be your greatest marketing asset if you treat them well.  Content performance is important, but what we do once we have our audience’s attention is even more important. Growing a strong following for your brand and your content matters, but personalizing their experience with your brand and making them feel known and valued matters more. Having a pretty good pulse on what you think your audience thinks and values isn’t nearly as good as being certain, because you actually asked them and listened with open ears. Make sure you’re measuring everything that matters for content marketing success.

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