We all want to create amazing content that engages our audiences – but content creation is just the first step. How do we know if our audiences are engaged? How do we know if our audiences thought our content was as amazing as we thought it was? It’s really important to measure the performance of your content in order to determine its success. So we sat down with Pickle Jar’s Head of Research, Robert Perry, to get some answers to our content measurement questions.
1. First of all, why is measurement so important to a content strategy?
Measurement is the core of a content strategy! (Well, I would say that, wouldn’t I?) As much as it’s important to produce great content that your audience will enjoy and get value out of, it’s also vital that your content helps achieve your strategic goals – and that’s where measurement comes in.
We’ve all got targets that we need to aim for, whether it’s recruiting a certain number of students or increasing the take-up of a particular internal service, or whatever – and we measure those targets to help us see how effective our efforts have been. It’s no different with content. We need to know what works and what doesn’t, otherwise what we’ve got isn’t a content strategy – it’s just content.
2. So you’ve collected the metrics, now what? How can you actually use this data?
You find out what worked – and you find out why it worked. And then you try again, and make sure you were right. Measurement isn’t a one-time thing, it’s a constant process. You look at where you were successful, and identify what caused that success – was it the channel you used? The timing? The choice of words in a headline? Was it because it got shared by an influencer?
And then, of course, you need to make sure that you’ve chosen to measure the right metrics. It’s all too easy to get carried away with follower numbers or pageviews, but if they’re not helping you achieve tangible outcomes, then are they the right thing to measure in the first place?
Once you’ve identified this, you test again, and you measure again. You make sure your assumptions were right, and you report back to those who have a stake in the work you’re doing. People like to see evidence of success, and being able to measure what you do can really help prove the value of having a content strategy.
3. What advice would you give to help institutions decide which metrics to track and which tools to use?
We work with a lot of universities and colleges of different types and sizes, so their challenges are always unique to them – but one of the measurement issues we see regularly is a lack of understanding about what success should look like. We’ve got an incredible amount of data available to us, but if we don’t know what our audience is likely to do, we can’t evaluate the success of our activity.
So I like to look at the ways different audiences consume information online and use that to determine performance. It can be frustrating to see that a great series of social media posts isn’t getting much engagement – but if you know in advance that a particular audience type just doesn’t tend to retweet or share articles they find on social media, then you know not to worry about it. There’ll be a different way to measure success for that audience, and finding out what that is – that’s the fun part.
4. Finally, if you could give three top tips for measuring content success, what would they be?
My first top tip is always about audience. Make sure you know your audience. You can’t accurately measure the effectiveness of anything unless you know what their behaviour is likely to be. Take any chance you get to find out more about your audience, and keep that information up to date.
Secondly, put aside some time for analysis and evaluation. It’s all too easy to add it to someone’s to-do list once a month, circulate a report, and then forget about it for another few weeks. Dedicating a bit of time to learning from your findings can go a long way – why did that blog post outperform all the others? Why did we get more clicks on that link than anything else? Why didn’t people open our competition email? There’s always a reason, and the success of our content strategy depends on knowing what that is.
Finally, don’t be afraid. Don’t be afraid to try out new tools, don’t be afraid to change things if you find out something’s not working, and don’t be afraid to report negative results to your colleagues. Higher education is a sector full of people who innovate, take risks, and who learn from failed experiments – so we need to take the same approach with out content.
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The team at Pickle Jar Communications founded ContentEd in 2017. Pickle Jar Communications is a consultancy that specialises in all things content strategy. If you want to advance your institution’s content strategy, feel free to get in touch with Pickle Jar for a chat.