Why analytics really F’ing matter – and then they don’t… (from the creative point of view)

For a small business, the battle proving amazing digital media content and the ROI it brings to your business is not simple. A fantastic digital asset can boost your brand beyond the cost of producing it but every dollar you spend on content is a hit to your bottom line. The battle between creating amazing content and cost of production is like walking a tightrope. Spend too much on creative, and you are burning cash; follow the analytics, and you run the risk creating average content and not maximizing your brand value.

Today, it should go without saying: Everything you do in Social must be measured; it does not matter if it is a brand story or a call to action for the latest crowd-sourced fundraiser. If we don’t measure our results – we can not grow our audience.

Every post, every picture, every video must drive engagement otherwise your boss is going to start muttering about ROI and demanding to know “is it all worth it.” In our team, we start with an assumption and then methodically improve it until we either realize our assumption is wrong or we refine the message to squeeze engagement as far as it can go.

A hard lesson…

A hard lesson that we learned was that we did not set solid “engagement goals.” We were vague and nonspecific which caused us to drift for weeks. All the while as we were reacting and playing “what if” with our content, we missed out on some exciting opportunities. We lost great partners and writers from our awesome growing community because we were not focused.

Art and science

The second lesson we had to learn pretty quickly was deciding what to measure and then the hard truth that we were not quantitative geniuses. For us “interpreting the results” is part science and part art. Learning how to interpret results is just as important as your story.

We allowed our numbers guys to push their agenda, and in the short term, we lost our perceived 🙂 creative edge – our content started to look and feel the same. When we brought balance back to the process, we found our path to steady, predictable (enough) growth and produced the type of work we wanted.

So what do we do?

We always start by working out our engagement rates. We believe that helps us set a performance level or a starting place for content improvement. It doesn’t matter what the goal is- everything from brand support, making a purchase, downloading a file, watching a video, asking for a Like, or clicking an affiliate link… If you measure engagement, you can start the “conversion improvement” conversation. Most importantly by understanding our audience, we can set the tone for our writers and designers and give them the right type of freedom to generate great content.

Market surveys? Ummm… maybe

Traditionally marketers perform extensive market surveys to understand their customers. Surveys are a useful tool, but if you don’t have the budget – and let’s face it not many of us have the resources to afford full-service market research – you can hack the results using A/B testing. We achieve a similar result using A/B testing to determine what our customers prefer. It may not be sophisticated or as insightful as a professional survey, but that is the compromise.

Talk the talk – but can you walk it?

The “conversion rate” optimization theory is straightforward. You need to understand who is engaging with your content and what they were doing with it. You need to identify the roadblocks that stop the user from completing the desired result. Once you have that information, you can start the “content improvement” process and increase your chances of growing your interested audience.

Here’s an overly simple example: you run one campaign or promotion with the language of “buy now,” and you run another with “try now.” When you run your engagement analytics, you will be able to determine if one campaign performed better than the other.

Having said that, the process of content improvement is never-ending, and it can get complicated fast. You can test new slogans, a call to action, colors, logos, pictures, product strategies, animations, videos, etc. The examples are endless. So by implementing a framework where you can start to control the moving parts, you will have a toolkit that can help you keep up.

So, why bother?

A systematic A/B testing process gives you the confidence to justify investing more in advertising because the results will speak for themselves. You invest in the winner, and if a promotion fails, at least you can troubleshoot the cause.

All this is underpinned by the fact that your content must be good enough to engage your audience. In the end, your boss looks at the numbers, her job is to make sure you all get paid – and to her, ultimately revenue matters most. While she will understand the value of great creative, she can only support you if your content can help drive revenue.

 

Never Forget

There is the always battle between “great” content versus “necessary” content. Great only becomes “great” when your creative work supports the necessary. Your mantra that you must live and die by is: never let the “necessary” support the “mundane”.

The bottom line is that “engagement analysis” followed by “content improvement” analysis is, in my opinion, the only way you can justify spending any money on advertising and awareness. Until then, you are burning cash to make yourself feel happy.