Monitoring is key to content marketing success

A few years ago, I did some acting. I started off with stage plays, before going on to do quite a lot of short films, web series and a couple of b-movie features.

In some ways, being involved with film productions felt more glamorous than theatre. This was partly because of screening events in swish venues (basically parties), those glossy publicity photographs and, of course, the strangely satisfying IMDb records, preserved online for all eternity. I was young and I felt like a movie star! Yet, I desperately missed something about performing on stage…

The intimacy and the immediate audience connection just isn’t there when you’re performing for the camera. After all, it can be months, even years, between the Director shouting “it’s a wrap” and the audience seeing the final edit. As a theatre actor, on the other hand, I had the audience right there with me. My eyes and ears were like real-time monitoring devices that enabled me to test and validate my performance on-the-fly. Moment by moment, I could adjust and adapt according to silences, laughter, tension and applause.

As a content marketer, I still feel like I need that instant audience validation. I’m always looking for their approval and seeking the rewarding feeling that comes with knowing my efforts are valued. The only way you’re ever going to succeed with content marketing is if you’re obsessed with wooing your target audience. Indeed, it’s the pursuit of that satisfying feeling that makes me successful in my efforts. And let’s face it, what are your customers going to do with their approval? They’re going to pay it back in loyalty, advocacy and years of repeat business. Get obsessed with giving the audience what they want!

I’ve found that content marketing is not a million miles from theatre acting in the way you can monitor and adapt to your audience as you go, using real-time analytics and social interactions as our eyes and ears. Are they enthralled or bored, cheering or booing? You can use this instant feedback to continually adapt your performance, make sure you’re holding attention and confirm in your own mind that you’re giving the audience everything they need from your story.

Across all industries, there is a real problem with the measurement of content marketing activity. Just 8% of businesses consider themselves to be ‘very successful’ at tracking content marketing return on investment, according LinkedIn Technology Marketing Community.

Most businesses fall down by looking too broadly at general numbers like page views and shares, without interpreting this data into actionable insights. In fact, according to research by Contently, 90% of marketers don’t feel that their key content metrics effectively measure business results.

Why not take this as an opportunity to get ahead of your competitors? What do you need to look for and how can you translate your findings into actions that will help tip the scales?

Although you’ll measure and monitor each piece of content continuously, you’ll probably want to report more broadly on your activities at certain points. When you set out your content marketing strategy, hopefully you were clear about what you wanted to achieve. Are you getting there? At the end of the day, you need to be able to answer one question: is it working?

I can’t stress enough how important it is to focus only on metrics that directly relate to your aim, goals and objectives. Don’t waste time collecting data and reporting on anything else. In my experience, information that doesn’t prove or justify your activity will just distract you from those actionable nuggets of insight, not to mention bloat your reports and encourage extraneous questions that are impossible to answer.

In a nutshell, by only monitoring the right things, you’ll keep your wits sharp and be empowered to cut loose ineffective efforts that are slowing you down.

The concept is simple: collect the right information, make informed judgements and change things that aren’t working. The mantra goes like this: ‘GAUGE – ACT – MEASURE – ADAPT’.

by Dane Brookes, Director at Group Dane and author of Content Marketing Revolution.