Analytics is, quite simply, one of the most underappreciated tools in the world of content marketing.
For some quick evidence of what I’m talking about, pop on over to Google and check out the top 5 search results from “content marketing trends in 2018.”
Or, if you’d rather save the time and effort, I can tell you right now that there’s a lot of noise surrounding live streaming, mobile optimization, creative uses for social media, repurposing content, better strategic documentation, and the Internet of Things.
What’s lacking is any significant appreciation for the powerful role of data analytics.
In fact, the word “analytics” only appears twice in all five articles combined.
And although the word “data” does appear more often – nearly 20 times – it’s almost always as a subordinate, speaking on behalf of another trend.
The lone exception is one short paragraph near the end of one article.
In light of this, and in light of the fact that reliable trends lists like these often depend on analytics themselves, I’d like to propose a shift in the way that we think about data, its current uses, and its potential.
But Wait – What are Analytics?
Analytics is the primary tool by which your business makes sense of raw data – a system of organized computation and pattern-finding.
A good example in marketing is conversion rate.
Conversion rate is not raw data, but rather the result of calculations applied to raw data.
And depending on the kind of conversion you’re trying to measure, the raw data you focus on will be different (e.g. lead conversion rate requires raw data on both number of leads and total traffic generated).
In social media, analytics uses raw data on things like number of shares and viewers to help you determine the best time of day for a Facebook post, or the optimal length of a tweet.
Fundamentals of Display, Reporting, and Relevance
There’s no shortage of ways to display your analytics.
Tables, charts, and graphs in your dashboard account for the most common display methods, but that’s not to say that more options aren’t possible.
Analytics can also differ in terms of immediacy.
You might track real-time data and translate it into patterns almost instantaneously.
Or maybe you’re getting daily, weekly, or monthly reports. Ideally, you’re taking advantage of both possibilities.
But the most important thing is that you’re focused on relevant data because your analytics is only ever going to be as useful as the data input which fuels it.
In the same sense, you need to be careful that your analytics is not being muddled by confounding variables.
How reliable are analytics on tweet length, if you’re posting all of your strongest short tweets at midnight?
Is it Worth the Bother?
The bad news for the marketing community as a whole is that there’s still a lot of confusion and misapplication when it comes to analytics.
As many as 70% of B2B marketers say that their content marketing is ineffective.
Likewise, 55% believe that Facebook marketing is ineffective (HubSpot).
And although these figures are dismal in their own right, they’re made far worse by the fact that only 55% of B2B marketers even know how to identify content marketing success (HubSpot).
The offshoot of all that, and the good news for your business is that if you can figure out your analytics game, it will give you a huge advantage over the struggling majority.
So, what does that look like?
Letting Analytics Drive Strategy
The true victory of analytics doesn’t come with relevant patterns alone, even if they are displayed in a variety of forms and made constantly accessible.
The Harvard Business Review puts it well – if you don’t know how to use your analytics, it will become nothing more than “just another expense.”
Instead, the real goal should be actionable insight.
If you can determine not only what kinds of content your audience finds most engaging, but also why, your analytics will begin to enable future growth.
The difference is one of perspective.
Rather than looking at your analytics report through a reactive lens – that is, as a document which tells you about past data – consider how you might use analytics to proactively change your content strategy.
Rather than blind trial-and-error, make the most of your tools and proceed as a scientist might.
Study what has worked.
Ask yourself, what does this reveal about my audience? Can you test your hypothesis with similar forms of content? Can you test it on other forms of content? Do the same rules apply to other channels? And on, and on, and on.
Because the strongest insights never stand alone.
It is their nature to propel future insights.
Keeping up on the trends around you is very important, and you shouldn’t stop doing so.
But there’s something especially empowering about dissecting internal trends – your own successes and your own failures – and letting the wisdom there reshape your strategy.
As for your audience, wouldn’t you rather know what they want, so that you can give it to them?
Isn’t this kind of understanding and anticipation the bedrock of future brand advocacy?
Of course, it’s not always going to be easy.
Without the right tools, and preferably a unified platform for your content and reporting, all of this is just talk.
And you know, as well as I do, that the best marketing is never just talk.
Marketing, and particularly social media marketing, is so much more than a megaphone for your business.
And so, the final question is simple:
Has your business invested in the science of listening?