Commentary

How Agencies Should Use Data In Content Strategy

We all know content strategy is the vehicle that drives marketing where it needs to go. And like most vehicles, it needs periodic tune-ups and adjustments, a never-ending evaluation to make sure your content is running in peak form.

But if you want the fastest, most powerful engine on the block, you need to put super fuel in the tank – with intelligent, nimble data.

The days of guesswork are over. Running quarterly campaigns and waiting months to see results belong to an obsolete era. In our fast-paced digital world, leads and customers interact with content in real time. By collecting that data, you can respond with that same immediacy, accelerating engagement, lead generation and brand visibility.

With data in hand, you have the power to drive fast – modifying content on the fly, identifying new audiences and targeting them with razor-sharp campaigns. It’s a heady experience, watching your content hit the mark. Once you deliver this high-impact ROI for your clients, you’ll understand just how essential data is to all content.

So what’s the best way to get started? Mapping out your methodology is a smart first step. Let’s look at some of the data you should consider, and how you can track results to put more horsepower in your content.

What (and Who) Is Popular

How often do you look at the data for your blog and social media posts? A lot of people tend to throw up posts and forget about them as they move on to the next project listed on the content calendar. In fact, your social data can tell you a lot about what people are interested in and what they feel is valuable enough to share. 

Analyze everything from titles, publication days/times, content categories, authors, comments and shares. Maybe people really like a certain contributor’s e-books and blog posts the most – and that tells you what products or subject matter are driving interest.

Relevancy, Segmentation & Precision Campaigns

By now, we all know that targeted, highly relevant content performs best. Superficial, generic campaigns are marketing dinosaurs. So how can you use data to drill down into precise audience categories?

Start by creating content about a broad topic, and look at the response rates, keywords, comments, shares and other data that come from that. You’ll spot emerging themes and new communities, and create a fresh round of campaigns that address those finer triggers and pain points, continuing the cycle until you’re addressing multiple campaigns with high-impact, meaningful messaging.  

Test, Test, Test

If you’re only running one version of your banner ads, social posts, email subject lines or other content promotions, you’ll never know what could have performed better. Build A/B tests into your campaigns, so you know exactly what content works and what elements need to be amplified or discarded.

Don’t Forget Offline Content

Don’t think data is just for digital content. Tie your offline efforts into that same overarching content strategy and watch the synergy between the two drive even better ROI. All that valuable online data — popular themes, new buyer personas, top search keywords—can inject more power into direct mail pieces, sales collateral, kiosk ads and even presentations.

Don’t forget to incorporate tracking elements, like unique URLs or individual promo codes into your offline pieces so you can track their performance, too.

In the end, data is about creating momentum. It’s about acquiring the deep insights that let you tweak, design and promote content that customers can’t ignore. Remember, numbers don’t lie. Fuse cold hard data with fresh creativity and you’ll intensify the impact of every campaign – and create a more vivid, memorable brand experience.

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5 comments about "How Agencies Should Use Data In Content Strategy ".
  1. Cliff Medney from Flightpath , June 25, 2014 at 4:31 p.m.
    Really smart. And, while numbers "don't lie" on their own, the selective use of data can tell a fairly "elastic" story. Thanks!!!
  2. Steven Keith from Centerline Digital , June 26, 2014 at 10:14 a.m.
    I like that we are starting to seriously talk about turning data into insights to drive content strategy. However this misses the point of content which is distill data into a compelling story that drives action. I get that legitimizing content with terrific insights based on data is important in separating the wheat from the chaff but the story is the key. And it's one of the hardest things to do — well. Ever notice there are a lot of good stories with a lack of data and insights and a lot of bad stories with or without an abundance of data or insights but there are precious few great stories with great insights based on good data? Why is that? The best story on earth in the hands of a bad storyteller is going to be a bad story regardless of the data or insight. It's easier for a good storyteller to get by without good data than it is for a crappy storyteller to tell an interesting story with all the data in the world. And based on what I am reading lately, there seems to be a lot of well-intentioned people trying to figure this all out.
  3. Mike Einstein from the Brothers Einstein , June 26, 2014 at 12:05 p.m.
    This is so mis-guided. The sober reality is that every legitimate pageview is the direct result of a content choice -- it doesn't even exist until a conscious content choice triggers its creation. So in digital media, the media supply (total pageviews) is entirely subordinate to the consumer demand that generates it. And the fact that billions of pageviews are created each day via this demand-driven cause and effect should tell us that there's already more than enough content, and more than enough expressed consumer demand and intent (that's what a content choice reveals) to know where your audience dwells. The pageview (again, the direct result of a content choice) tells you all of this with no intermediary optimizations to or modifications of the raw data. There isn't a single agency person on earth capable of improving upon what we already know about the only behavior that counts -- manifest in the billions of content-driven pageviews created every day, by choice. Oh, and BTW, in the grand scheme of things, virtually none of those pageviews are driven by ad clickthroughs. So the smart money will be on the publisher that eliminates the ads completely, and instead serves the chosen content (and the self-qualified consumer who selected it) uninterrupted and uncluttered in a manner that enables single-brand sponsors to assume the role of gracious host instead of unwanted intruder. The only way to achieve true branding scale in the media supply is to align with the scalable consumer demand that creates it by design, and that demand has absolutely nothing to do with the ad space and what we pretend to know about it.
  4. Merri Grace McLeroy from Integrated Marketing Strategies LLC , June 27, 2014 at 10:28 a.m.
    Well-written Mike. However, "If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?" Though content is the Koolaid du jour, one cannot dispell the need for driving traffic to generate awareness among lesser known brands by including advertising in the marketing mix. Broad, sweeping claims such as yours indicate marketing is a one-size-fits-all, and we know that is simply not the case. Andy isn't critiquing every tactic available to marketers; his observation of the benefit of data analysis is unimpeachable and has been proven over time. By the way, data analysis of the results of one's content strategy will also provide insight valuable in the development of other marketing tactics, such as advertising, public relations, special events, other forms of direct marketing and visual merchandising. Data rules in the development of truly integrated marketing communications, and generating content valuable to one's audience can provide that authentically.
  5. Andy Lombard from SocialWhirled , July 17, 2014 at 6:14 p.m.
    I appreciate everyone's feedback. This article highlights the impact data can have when integrated within content. Incorporating relevant data creates credibility and provides clarity. Readers and viewers are consuming more niche specific information. Gathering data in real-time allows you to tailor future content that will appeal to your targeted audience. For additional information I invite you to check out more at The Daily Whirled --> http://thedailywhirled.com/