Measuring ROI From Content – SAScon 2015

Carl Eden | June 12th 2015



Measuring ROI from Content – a Q&A between Ben McKay (MEC), Clare Hill (Content Marketing Association), Catherine Maskell (Reed) and Jamie Toward (MEC). Answers summarized below.

‘What’s driving this interest in content, and measuring it?’

The starting point was algorithm changes. SEO doesn’t work the way it used to – this has pushed for content and ways to measure it. The marketing industry has changed in the last three or four years. There’s been a big change in the last two months – and now millennials are the highest percentage of the workforce – which means traditional advertising is being pushed out in favour of modern, engaging content marketing approaches. The conversion funnel has changed, and the kind of people we’re now marketing to are doing the marketing for us – consumers sharing content, pushing content. This is what’s really driving the investment.

There’s been a big change in the ways people engage with brands, with content allowing the brand to stay in constant contact with consumers. Organisations work now as reader bases – central marketing’s job is to keep people reading, engaging, in a constant one-to-one communication. This fundamental relationship with audience has changed – 60 percent of people on Twitter are following brands, for example. The audience is waiting, and the whole paid/earned model has changed dramatically now. Disney, Pret – these are brands which don’t do any paid media – it’s all self-owned and content-driven.

We are seeing investment criteria beginning to change. Media agencies, traditionally a paid-first business, are now moving away to organic first – consumer trends have changed an we’ve had to change too. If you as a brand can develop a relationship with your consumers, they will stick with you.

‘How would you look at lifetime value? How do you measure this?’

For social media, areas of measurement are brand awareness, affinity, loyalty – we need to apply traditional SEO ROI to social. Sometimes a sale isn’t a valid means of measurement. What is your business objective? Is digital too reliant on sales-driven data? The need to see a return has increased as measurement tools have become more direct. We’re too drawn to instant results and need to focus more on long-term. Longevity is really important now, and quick wins are not a solid strategy in comparison.

But it’s hard to come up with a single ROI measure. Different KPIs for different brands. Engagement – actions – metrics – downloads – sign ups – conversions – set your objectives first and aim for these. It’s now possible to track conversions through content.

Unless you’ve got a huge data management platform, it’s difficult to nail this completely. We need to come up with a link between consumption of content and econometric modelling – we’ve got the data, the numbers are big enough – so we can now track the difference between consumers and how they consume content – i.e. we’re starting to see the difference between someone who watches 20 seconds of a video, compared to someone who watches the whole thing.

Create content for specific kinds of media. Articles for Facebook. Vines for Twitter. Create a strong cross-platform piece of content and tailor it to each social media platform for best results. Find a hook that gets people reading.

The marketing director at HSBC spent millions on content marketing, and set a plan – look at the data after the fact. Don’t try and justify it at the time. It was a brave thing to do as a brand.

Content marketers used to say ‘we can guarantee you x amount of views if you pay y‘ but this is changing. Forecasting is bigger – a good content marketer judges success based on their knowledge of the content itself, and their experiences of getting said content out. The money you put into production factors in, the style, the hook – good content marketers are starting to project consumption based on experience.

From a brand health perspective, there’s ways to approach measurement. How do you measure brand health? LinkedIn will conduct studies on any campaign. Unruly – a video production outlet – ask emotive survey questions after content. Certain suppliers and media owners will provide means of measuring brand health.

The whole industry is talking about measuring return on investment on content. Content is being driven by the states, and each company and brand now has a chief content guy. From a marketing POV, you need to understand multi-channel publishing now. Your core skill set needs to understand this dynamic.

As a marketeer, you’ve got to have a view on so many different disciplines now. Sometimes, with ROI, it’s about making a common ground between your content team and the guys in charge of the budget. But sometimes, content can run on indefinitely – long-tail. This is harder to measure directly. It falls into a broader strategy. Think of it as watching a movie – if Star Wars is out this year, you can guarantee sales of the original movies. Content pushes other kinds of content over time.

Different formats, different audiences, different results.