How to navigate engagement metrics: 3 mistakes to avoid & 3 future trends

Tom Salvat, CEO of Concured

Engagement metrics, attribution and ROI, are terms that will be ringing in the ear of almost every content marketer, the world over. Whether you’re confident of navigating the sea of metrics or feel lost in an ocean of data, we’ve spoken to an expert in the field to give insight and guidance on how you can orientate your strategy to take advantage of the right kind of metrics.

Tom Salvat, CEO of Concured, a content marketing analytics company powered by AI, recently spoke with Flockler and gave us some tips on how marketers should be incorporating metrics into their content marketing strategy. We start by looking at the three pitfalls content marketers often make, before going on to explain three future trends of which Tom encourages everyone to be aware.

Beware the keyword

Digital marketing agencies and traditional content marketers have cut their teeth on search engine optimisation and keyword advertising. While this is not defunct when done right (read our SEO tips), there are some serious problems that Tom explains:

“Because it’s often the only data a marketer can get their hands on, content creators rely too heavily on keyword tools – sometimes taking your audience miles away from what they actually want to read. SEO can also be manipulated, and people are paying agencies to try to alter the scoring of topics."

Concured is a company specialising in content analytics, to identify not just what content topics are engaging consumers but, more importantly, why they are engaging. With this kind of know-how, Concured is ideally placed to explain how content marketers can improve their strategies.

“SEO is looking at what people are searching for, but it can’t show engagement. SEO is in no way contextual, and neither is it driven by engagement – it’s driven by traffic. If you’re creating content, it’s better to focus on what people are really interested in reading about vs. what they seem to be searching for!”

Don’t be dazzled by vanity metrics

You may be familiar with the term but just to be clear, a vanity metric is data that might make you feel positive about your content strategy, but it’s information that doesn’t provide any real insight into the causes of your success. A classic example of a vanity metric is visitor traffic or a page view. Pages views can be helpful, but on its own, it doesn’t tell you anything about why a person was there. Surprisingly, this missing link is not limited to SME’s, as Tom points out:

“In large companies, there’s a huge disconnect between marketing and sales. I can comfortably say that an alarming number of major banks in the world have no idea about what happens between the start of the sales journey and the end. You need to have a CRM that communicates across sales and marketing.”

Tom goes on to say that dwell time will help identify if the click was more than accidental:

“Dwell time is a metric that is a little more difficult to get your hands on, but if you can, then using this to link time on page to time on topic is a big step forward. Then you’re one step closer to identifying the topics that will keep viewers on the page the longest – a fundamental engagement metric.”

Don’t underestimate social engagement

Identifying attribution and ROI are what we should be striving to achieve. In Tom’s opinion social engagement is not being appreciated for its true value in this regard:

“A social engagement metric is one where someone has gone out of his or her way to engage with a piece of content. If someone shares, or comments, or retweets it, more likely than not they’ve read it, had some kind of emotive response, and done something about it. That’s a big, big step forward from just a click.”

A/B testing your content strategy at every available opportunity, such as through controlled landing pages and social media circulations, are good ways to identify your most effective pieces of content. Of course, it will only take you so far. When you want to stop guessing and clearly identify which topics and themes are really bringing engagement, then Concured’s AI services will help take you to the next level:

“Opinion is fine, but it’s not fact. There are a worrying number of content strategists who think they can just go with gut instinct. All too often you have brands producing tonnes of content with dramatically different levels of engagement. Until you connect the dots, it’s virtually impossible to get true attribution”.

Tom’s top trending tips for content marketers

1) The consumer in charge of privacy

More and more consumer activity and commerce is shifting into the digital sphere, and with it goes an increasing array of our personal information. Privacy laws are playing catch-up, and the EU is introducing regulation in 2018 to help. As a huge market, the EU often raises the bar that other economic areas strive to reach. New regulations won’t stop digital marketers from employing other tactics outside the EU, whilst the upcoming changes in 2018 will probably lead to a more sophisticated approach to your digital marketing strategy. On this issue, an EU factsheet on the data protection reform notes that:

“In a letter to the European Parliament strongly supporting the data protection reform package, 25 major US consumer organisations stressed that “stronger privacy standards in Europe will benefit consumers around the globe."

The regulations will put the consumer in control of their data, with an opt-in to things like cookie tracking. Digital tactics such as cold emailing and blanket canvassing will be much harder. Tom says:

“It will make it really difficult to track people’s behaviours in the way the industry was able to do before. In my opinion, what that means is that there will be a big shift to inbound vs. outbound marketing.”

2) Advertising doesn’t work

Our attitudes and online activities are radically changing our consumer attitudes. We don’t accept advertising interrupting us in the way we did, or do, with television. Advertising budgets large companies could leverage in the past are being challenged and squeezed by SME’s who can show they care and can afford to rely on inbound marketing. Tom echoes this assessment:

“Individuals and companies want to feel like you offer the best solution and you’re not just trying to shift more stock. If you look at all the metrics, advertising just doesn’t work like before. You need to give people a reason to choose you rather than just shouting ‘buy me, buy me, buy me!’”

He emphasises that content is the best way to achieve all your engagement goals and bring value to the customer. Everything from PR to advertising, to product and industry information, can all be bundled into the content marketing medium.

3) How people buy (in B2B)

Changes to buying behaviour are much more pronounced in B2B. Researching a product before purchase is so commonplace it has coined a specific term, ‘the zero moment of truth’. The scale and accountability within B2B sales mean that all decisions are going to incorporate as much information and comparative analysis as possible. Tom highlights a famous study to illustrate this point.

“Gartner and Forrester states that about 70-80% of the buying process in B2B is complete before speaking to the company. During 80% of the journey, marketers need to influence that person in the right way somehow, and content again is the best vehicle for that.”

Summary

It’s clear! Insights from metrics are critical, but we need to be looking at the right ones. Successful content alone is not enough. We must seek out metrics that provide an understanding of why content is engaging to find attribution. Exploit social media to test and iterate new content and then find solutions that will eliminate the guesswork.

Align your marketing strategy to have inbound tactics and value-based content at the heart of your methodology. Take the long-term view and create evergreen content that will recycle itself and come into play during a potential client’s research and competitor comparisons.

A Bonus from Tom - Create a conversation with a subscribed audience

Tom refers to engagement with a client as being part of a ‘conversation’ as they seek to make decisions about what’s best for them. It’s an illustrative way of understanding the new paradigm, highlighting the shift to a more collaborative approach to marketing. Tom states that brands need to be involved in this conversation as early as possible. He says their content should be “educational, informative, insightful” so that when customers come to purchase, they feel the company has “given the best information to make an informed decision.” Finally, Tom asserts that content is about building a “subscribed audience” that you can come back to time and time again.

“When you have something you want to say, you have an audience of people waiting for it. You’ve built that conversation through trust and support.”

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