Measuring the impact of content marketing webinar

While sifting through my daily social reporting for both SHIFT and myself, this webinar I did with the AMA and Aquent on measuring your content marketing came up. It’s from January 2014, but much of it is still relevant. Enjoy!

If you can’t see anything, you can watch it here.

Transcript:

Good morning or good afternoon.

I’m coming to you today from our San Francisco offices where we do not have a foot of snow.

We have covered a lot about what’s going on and who we are, but just a very, very brief amount about Shift.

We are a public relations firm, and we are more than happy to help you when it comes to all aspects of public relations and marketing.

The rest of the boiler plates, you can find on our website.

I would encourage you to use the hash tag, and if you’re looking for the slides and some tweets about this webinar, we’ve got them prepared for you.

In fact, to encourage people to spend less time trying to figure out what to tweet and more time enjoying the webinar, we actually have a whole Twitter board.

So if you go to shiftcomm.

com/amaaquent, you’ll find all of the tweets conveniently laid out, so you can just tap them on your mobile phone, or on your iPad, or on your desktop, and it’ll tweet it for you, and of course the slides are there in PDF, as well.

So with all that, let’s actually talk about content marketing.

What is content marketing? Depending on who you ask, you can get a bajillion different answers of every kind, from people who are talking about video to social media to making stuff.

The Content Marketing Institute has a formal definition, which is the process of owning as opposed to renting media, a marketing process to attract and retain customers by consistently creating and curating content in order to change or enhance a consumer behavior.

The very, very short version of this, content marketing’s suppose to help your content reach your audience.

There are three primary outputs of this content marketing process.

The first output is audience, and these are– you can call them KPI’s.

You call them goals or objectives, whatever the case may be.

The first is audience.

Are you developing new audiences? Are you are you bringing in new people? The way I like to explain this is imagine you’ve got, say, a coffee shop, and you’ve got this coffee shop, and you are open for business.

First, people have to find the coffee shop.

Then they have to come in.

They have to look at the menu.

They have to order something and pay for it at the register.

If you don’t do all those things, your coffee shop goes out of business.

So the first aspect of content marketing is building the audience, getting people to even become aware that the coffee shop exists.

And this is done predominately through media, from social to paid to earned to owned.

We’ll talk about all of that.

The second outcome of content marketing, if you’re good at it, is getting people to raise their hand and say, I’m interested in what you have to say above and beyond the content you’re producing.

I think I might want to do business with you.

So going back to the coffee shop analogy, people are aware that you exist, and now they are walking by.

They come in, they open the door, and they look around.

They raise their hand.

They’ve shown intent to want to do business with you.

The third and final outcome of content marketing if we’re really good at it is to get people to do business with us.

I call it– you can call it sales.

You can call it conversion, whatever the case may be.

But that third output is so critical for understanding the ROI of content marketing and understanding the impact it’s having on your organization.

These three outcomes are mapped to different sets of business processes.

Audience building is predominantly the realm of media, so that is paid, earned, owned.

That’s where PR firms like Shift come in.

That’s where an ad agency comes in.

We are all about trying to attract new audiences.

The process of getting people to raise their hands to come inside the coffee shop, to look around at the menu, that’s marketing’s domain.

That’s where marketing tries to get people to engage, to become more interested in you.

If you go back to the 1898 St.

Elmo Lewis AIDA, attention, interest, desire, and action, that’s where marketing’s role is.

And of course, the sales at the bottom end, the ringing the register and making sure that you’re making some money, doing some business.

In the old days, content marketing was actually pretty easy.

It was so easy, we didn’t even call it content marketing.

We just called it media.

You had the local television station.

You had the local paper.

You had the local radio station.

And understanding content marketing was super easy.

All you had to do was to get your media placed, you would go and buy some airtime, or send out a press release, or make friends with a local TV station manager or the story editor, and you’d get your content out there.

But then this whole thing called the internet came along and broke everything.

Today, we are drowning, absolutely drowning in content.

If you look at these stats from investment bank GP Bullhound.

They just published this about a month ago.

photos on Facebook uploaded, 350,000 tweets.

Every single minute 100 hours of video are uploaded on YouTube.

If you think about it, there’s absolutely no way any living human could consume all the content that’s being uploading onto YouTube, even over the span of a week.

LinkedIn, 120 new accounts, 3.

5 million queries on Google, people asking for stuff, and Amazon– probably the leader in online commerce right now– clocks $118,000 in revenue every single minute on the internet.

This is a content– it’s beyond a landslide.

It’s even beyond– I don’t think there are superlatives enough in the English language to explain just how much content there is out there.

My friend and colleague Mark Schaefer– who runs the business’s grow block– actually had a really interesting post about this about a week and a half ago called the Content Shock.

And what he talks about is that the economics of content are changed so drastically where we have so much content now as consumers, as people, as businesses.

We have so much content to wave through that it’s actually starting to become uneconomical for some companies to produce content, because at the end of the day, technology has done amazing things for helping us consume more content wherever we are.

But there’s still only 24 hours a day.

We haven’t figured out how to add hours to the day just yet, so we have a finite amount of time in which we can consume content.

And yes, mobile has been a huge part of helping us consume more content.

The internet has been a huge part of that, but we’re plateauing.

We’re at about 10 hours of content consumption a day.

If you figure sleep takes between five and eight– unless you’re really caffeinated– there isn’t a whole lot of extra room for content consumption and still being able to do things like have a job and a family.

So what’s happening is businesses, marketers like us are cranking out content like crazy, but it’s getting squeezed out.

In fact, we call it the content squeezed.

Back in the old days, when it was that three television stations and newspaper and stuff, the amount of content that was a lousy was– there was room for it, because there were only three television stations.

You have your choices.

What are you going to watch? CBS, NBC, or ABC tonight? So there was a lot of junk, a lot of stuff that you weren’t necessarily interested in, but there was room for it.

And then content started to increase.

Content started to increase, and the selection of content started to increase.

Everyone who is older than 35 remembers when cable television first came out.

And suddenly, holy crap, instead of three channels, we have 30, and then 300, and then 3,000.

You get the idea.

More and more cable channels.

And now there’s 9,000 channels on television, and nothing’s on.

The amount of overall crap content has increased, but with the internet, with social media, with blogs, with YouTube, with all these different channels, you as an individual, and our customers, and our prospective customers have more choices than ever, which means that we can choose, and say, we’re not going to consume bad content anymore.

The amount of space– the amount of hours in a day that we are willing to allocate to bad content is getting much, much, much smaller.

So as content marketers, we have to create great content.

We can’t create good content anymore.

We certainly can’t create mediocre or crap content, because the consumer can simply exclude us and fill that space, that little sliver of the day with somebody else’s stuff.

Our choices are either we are great or we just simply can’t– we’re just not going to get seen.

Think about in your own experiences.

If you log onto Facebook, or you log onto Twitter, or you go surfing on YouTube, how much time do you willfully invest in mediocre content? The answer is probably not a whole lot.

Yeah, there’s a cat meme or whatever going around, and you may pay a slight amount of attention to it.

But the reality is you’ll move on to the stuff that you actually want.

If you think about it– and this is an interesting side tangent– one of the reasons that political polarization has gotten so bad is that you no longer have to see, hear, or read anything that you don’t agree with anymore.

So the space for us as marketers to get our messages into someone’s day is getting tinier and tinier, because as those consumers have more and more stuff that is exactly what they want to see, hear, and read, we have to be better than the stuff that they already think is great.

Before we get into talking about the impact of content, let’s talk about how you make great content.

There have been a whole bunch of changes recently.

Yesterday– or actually, yeah it is was yesterday now that I think about it– Matt Cutts, the web quality engineer extraordinaire at Google, made a stunning pronouncement that got marketers and PR folks in a three Maalox kind of day where he said, “stick a fork in it: guest blogging is done; it’s just gotten too spammy.

” And so when Google makes this kind of pronouncement, he makes this kind of pronouncement, you can be sure that algorithm penalties for bad content are on their way.

There is some speculation that actually Google has already started doing these penalties by using things like Kincaid reading tests to read content in a mechanistic way and understand when bad guest blogging content is coming out.

But the penalties for bad content keep getting stiffer and stiffer.

Guest blogging as a marketing tactic is going away because of so much bad content out there.

Just this morning, Facebook released a whole post on the news feed algorithm.

If you are a manager of a Facebook page or business, Facebook said, yeah, all those text only updates that you publish with your page and link them, we’re going to devalue them in the news feed.

You’re going to get seen less, and less, and less.

So what we want to see from you is better content.

We want to see more rich content.

We want to see more visual and more compelling content, so we want to see more video.

We want to see more images.

Facebook has raised the bar just today the content we publish on their network, because they want to penalize bad content.

They want to penalize stuff that isn’t compelling.

And these are not isolated trends.

If you look back over the past year, Google and Facebook have been making algorithm after algorithm change.

Last year alone, Google cranked out 26 content quality updates and eight web spam updates, and it’s like being an amateur facing off of in the ring against Mike Tyson.

We’re just getting pummeled left and right.

So, all these penalties keep keeping up on us as content marketers.

They’re going to drive us into obscurity.

Unless we develop terrific content, we’re going to be completely obscure.

We’re not even going to be seen.

We can’t even do something to get attention in a bad way, because these algorithms will simply penalize us out of existence.

So how do you make good content? How do make stuff that actually people would want? This is what we call the Earned Media Hub Strategy, and this is something that our CEO here at Shift– Todd Defren– came up with about a year and a half ago.

But it’s a process for creating content, and in our case, we use it for the purpose of public relations.

But you can use it for marketing.

You can use it for advertising.

You can use it for any form of content that you’re going to be marketing.

And here’s how it works.

In the beginning of the earned media hub, you start by doing research.

It is super critical to do research on the content you’re going to create to understand what’s been done, to understand what people are doing, to avoid duplicating somebody else’s efforts.

There are terrific tools that will help you with this.

Google Trends is probably one of my favorite places to go for research as a starting point, because you can see what people are talking about right now, what’s got people’s attention.

In fact, this graphic here, there’s an HDTV version of Google trends that shows you what the top searches being typed into Google at this very moment are.

And it’s just a neat way to look up and– here in a PR firm you see your client’s name up there you immediately start making some calls, but it’s a good way to start.

There are other great sources.

There’s Google News.

There is Facebook, if you follow interesting people.

I would strongly recommend if you’re a content marketer who’s not using a blog reading service of some kind– Feed Reader, Zite, or Flipboard, or something– that you need to get that going sooner rather than later, and have 50, 100, 150 blogs across different industries that you can use as research sources as inspiration sources.

Which brings me to my next stage in the Earned Media Hub Strategy, which is getting creative.

We have to figure out how to be more creative.

Text only updates aren’t working anymore, and they’re being actively penalized.

So how can you be more creative in the content that you are creating? My new book Marketing Red Belt actually talks a lot about this, but just a couple of ideas for being more creative.

Think in different media formats.

If you see a Facebook post or a Twitter post on your social feed has done well, can you take that and transform it to a different format? Every week, there are new releases of data from a variety of government agencies like the CDC, the Bureau of Labor Statistics– you name it that your taxpayer dollars– if you’re an American citizen have paid for.

If you’re not an American citizen, you’re welcome.

And these data feeds are incredibly dense of reports and statistics.

If you are creative and you’ve got a graphic designer, or a design firm, or a clever marketer on your staff, look into them.

Look and see what’s in there and what stuff can you pull out and turn into an infographic, or a YouTube video series, or something, but get more creative about transforming from media format to media format.

It’s an incredible way to build more interesting content and to bring other people’s data into your content to give it more validity.

Todd Defren has a wonderful expression.

“The prerequisite for being incredible is be incredible.

” So the more that you can bring in this data the better.

Surround yourself with creative people if you can.

Follow them on Twitter.

Follow them on Facebook.

Follow them on Google Plus, and see what it is that they’re sharing.

If you have a choice when it comes to content marketing about where you’re going to put your budget, put your spend– put 60% of your spend on the research and the creative, if you have the opportunity to have the choice there, you have the budget, because right now, everyone’s saying, let’s put money into paid media.

Let’s put money into email marketing, what have you.

But if your content isn’t compelling, if your content isn’t original and attention getting, all you’re going to do is spend a whole lot of money to get not a whole lot of attention.

Take the time and the money, and the effort, and the hours, and the brain power that you have access to and front load it onto the research and the creative side to come up with better content, the content that’s going to be stuff that people haven’t seen yet.

After research and after creative, the next section is to look at messaging.

Messaging isn’t just how do we say this, or how do we cram something into 140 characters.

Messaging is about understanding what you can and cannot say.

Here’s a picture of one of our mouse pads at the office, and it seems a silly thing to have a picture of.

But we have seven core values at Shift, creative, connected, dedicated, positive, smart, honorable, and ballsy.

and these seven core values are what we measure everything by.

We hire by them.

We do performance evaluations by them.

We obviously put them on mouse pads and a variety of other services that– and in fact if you come visit our offices, we’ll probably write them on you if you sit still long enough.

The point is these values are also guiding our content marketing.

We want to look at every piece of content we publish and say, does it meet these values? Does it at least meet some of these values? Does it violate any one of these values? If you are familiar with some of the social media scandals that have happened recently, you can pretty much peg every single thing that was blown up on a brand on not having one of these values.

You saw there was a prominent PR person got themselves in a whole lot of trouble with a very racist tweet recently.

That’s not an honorable thing to say.

We like to say these core values, they tell you what kinds of content you may not create.

If your organization doesn’t have them written out in such a compact way that you can’t put it on a business card, or a mouse pad, or something like that, think about adding them to your organization, especially to your marketing team and your content production team so that they know if they’re about tweet something, or they’re about to put up an infographic or something, if it violates one of your core values, then you know we should probably not put that up.

We should probably go and rethink that.

So those core values are super important.

You have research.

You’ve done your creative.

You’ve got your messaging and alignment.

Now it’s time to create the content.

Creating the content, you have to choose the medium, you have to choose the method, you have to choose what messages you’re going to put in it and how you’re going to make it more appealing.

Here’s an indicator that you’re doing it wrong.

If you are thinking about how easily, or quickly, or painlessly you can make content, you’re probably headed down the wrong track.

There are a variety of automated content creation tools.

There are blog creation robots.

I’m not kidding.

There actually are robots that will write blog posts for you.

They will take words and phrases and attempt to do automated writing.

There are other things, social media tools that will try to automate your social media posting schedule.

Automated anything is inherently bad, because it’s not unique.

The machines can only draw off of previous experiences, previous things that have been done.

If the word automated comes up at any point in your content creation strategy, you need to stop and rethink that.

There’s a simple test I like to say.

It’s called the three l test for determining whether your content is good or not.

The first l is laugh.

When you’re creating the content, did it make you laugh? If it didn’t, OK, well, that could be a problem.

The second, when you’re creating your content, did you learn something as you were creating it? Because presumably, you are the subject matter expert.

You know what it is– everything there is know about, industrial concrete, or public relations, or how to cook tomatoes.

Whatever it is, you know the majority of the stuff, and people who are in your audience are coming to you to learn from you.

So if you didn’t learn anything, there’s a good chance that the people who are following you are not going to learn anything either.

If you did learn something, as the expert, you can be pretty much guaranteed that everyone else is going to learn something too.

The third test is whether you love your content.

I don’t mean like it, or it’s OK, or yeah, I published just to meet the deadline.

I mean you are talking about the content you just created to your significant other who is not a valid prospect in your marketing database, possibly in your sleep, and your getting kicked in the shins or whatever, or the dog or the cat gives you a really bored look again.

But you’re talking about your content.

You love it so much that you can’t stop talking about it to people who frankly may not care.

If your content does not meet one of these criteria, if it doesn’t make you laugh, learn something, or love it, it’s probably bad content.

You need to go back and restart the process, do some more research, do some more creative thinking, maybe do some more messaging alignment, but you’ve got bad content.

Do not go any further in your media hub strategy until you either laugh, learn something, or love your content.

Now this right here, this is where almost all content marketing stops.

We go out, and we write our blog posts.

We publish our infographics.

We tweet about it.

We put up it up on our Facebook pages.

We send an email about it.

Yay, we’re done.

But we’re not done.

Build it and they will come barely worked back in the day.

It certainly does not work now.

And with the sheer volume of content being created every minute of every day, build it they will come is almost a– at this point, it’s an impossibility.

What you need to do is now that you’ve got your content, you need to think about distributing.

How are you going to distribute your content? You need to tackle it on three different channels.

You need to publish it on all of your own media channels.

So everything that you have control over, everything that you can publish on, put your content out there.

And to the greatest extent possible, be in as many places as is practical to be.

If you’re not trying out new owned media channels like Pinterest, or Snapchat, or one of the new ones– Storehouse– that looks good, take your pick.

You go to a Mashable or TechCrunch, or any of these new sites, there’s 32 new social networks every single day.

Be on as many as makes sense that you can practically manage, but get out there and try publishing your content.

You need to have paid media in the mix.

There is these days no getting around that.

Facebook has basically said, pay up suckers.

We’re tired of giving you free reign.

Google has said, well, we would really prefer that you take out some AdWords.

Twitter said, we’d like you to buy some promoted tweets.

So you need to pay, and it doesn’t have to be a lot.

There are some really innovative and unique ways of doing paid placement, especially on social networks that will not cost an arm and a leg.

But you need to have some paid budget in there.

A good rule of thumb, look in Facebook, any post, and you’ll see a little Boost Post button at the bottom of every post.

And it’ll tell you what your recommended range is, $5, $10, $20 $50 to $100, whatever the case may be.

Look at how many fans you have on your Facebook page, how many people have clicked Like.

You want to spend enough to cover that number, so if you have 5,000 fans, you need to look at that little paid menu option, and say OK, what do I need to spend to cover the 5,000 people who like my page? Because you need at least reach the audience you’ve already got.

The third channel and the one that– admittedly we’re biased, we’re a PR firm– we think is the most credible and the most important is earned media, which is getting other people to talk about your content, getting other people to share your content.

Earned media is all about credibility and trust and awareness.

The more people who share your stuff, the more they will become aware of you, and the more you have those endorsements racking up.

If I retweet Aquent or a friend of mine retweets my retweet about Aquent, these are layers of trust that are being heat onto a brand, says this is a trustworthy brand.

So you need to distribute on earned, owned, or paid with the goal of getting people to share stuff.

Sharing, the moment any piece of content is shared, it becomes earned media, because it’s an implicit endorsement and instantly becomes more credible.

Think about it, paid media can be shared.

In fact, we’re about two weeks away from the biggest paid media circus of all.

There’s a football game attached to it.

You can make your choice about Denver or Seattle, but there’s a whole bunch of people that are making a big deal about the ads that are happening that day and the ads are getting shared.

The moment you take a paid media ad and share it, it becomes earned media, so your goal is to get people to share.

So that’s the process of creating great content.

You do your research, you do your creative, you make and launch your messaging, you make your content, and then you go out on to the different channels– earned, owned, and paid– and try to get your content distributed as widely as possible.

That brings us to the tail of your media strategy, which is measuring this stuff.

How do we figure out whether our content marketing is having any impact on our organization? We have the three buckets that we talked about at the beginning of this talk about the outcomes.

Do we have more audience? Do we have more leads? Are we making more money? But those are not enough.

Those are objectives and goals, but those are not diagnostics.

Those are not ways to tell us whether our content is working or not.

In order to get to that point, you need to have a more robust measurement framework.

One of the ones that we use, actually probably the one that we’ve been using most here at the offices, one we invented last year, and we’ll have more formal product announcements coming about this in the next few months.

But we call it Reflex.

And it’s looking at seven different areas where content is going to have an impact on your organizations.

These are things that are going to make your content showcase that your content’s having that impact you want.

So let’s look at each of these sections of the Reflex Measurement Framework.

Search, if your content is good, you should see more organic search traffic.

More people should be finding you, because your content’s that good.

Google’s indexing it, and Google’s quality scores are indicating that it’s good, and the Facebook searches is in there somewhere too.

But organic search traffic should be on the increase if your content is good.

Branded keyword appearances should be increasing.

Now this has gotten a lot harder to look at in the last few months, because Google is taking away keyword data in Google Analytics.

But use their Webmaster Tools product, which also totally free, you’ll see keyword appearances.

And you want to see over time, the number of branded searches about your company, and your name, and popular pieces content, you want to see all that going up.

And of course, the third part of search is you want to see your search engine ranking positions go up.

You want to see if you type in Shift Communications, gosh, we gotta be number one for that.

But if you type in San Francisco PR agency, or Boston PR agency, we want to see over time our rankings increase, because it indicates that there’s awareness and trust of our brand.

Content should be driving that.

So content, that’s part one.

Number two, if your content is good, you should see an impact on your social media.

Things like followers, and fans, and likes as much as some social media experts will say that those are foolish numbers that are vanity only, it’s actually not true.

They’re just very, very close the top of the funnel.

Those things still matter.

followers on Twitter or 10 million, I probably would choose 10 million.

If it was all things other being equal, I’d rather have more audience than less.

You want to see your content driving more engagement.

More people should commenting on it.

More people should be talking to you about it.

More people should be asking questions about it.

You want to see more voting behavior.

These are +1’s and likes, and shares, and votes, and things on the different social networks.

I think LinkedIn has likes, Twitter has favorites, Facebook has likes, and Google Plus has the plus 1.

But you want to see a voting behavior occur more, and more, and more on your content if you have good content.

And of course, you want to see people sharing You want to see more and more people distributing your content on your behalf.

The third bucket of content impact is earned media.

So, are more people covering your content? Are more people talking about it? Are you getting traditional coverage? If your content is really good, if have an infographic, is a popular publication in your industry picking it up? Is your reputation increasing? There are reputation services and scoring mechanisms out there like Klout, and Cred, and Pure Index, and all these different social media scoring services.

They aren’t necessarily really good measures of influence, but they actually are pretty good measures of activity and of popularity.

These are not bad things to keep track of it as part of a healthy breakfast.

No, as part of a healthy marketing mix, keeping track of those numbers is not a bad thing.

And of course, reach.

If your content is good, it should getting greater and greater.

It should be showing up in more and more places.

When you look into who’s linking to your website in a tool like Fresh Web Explorer from Moz or even just in Google in Webmaster Tools, you should see more links to your website, means you’re earning those mentions.

Your owned media, your social properties, your blog, even your email list, you should see traffic increased.

You should see more people in your audience, and you see more people engaging, if your content is good.

If you have a blog post or a blog series that’s doing really well, people should be talking to you more about it.

People should be asking you more about it.

People should be questioning you.

In fact, you should even have a small percentage of people who are vocal critics of you.

That indicates that you’re getting engagement.

The worst thing you can have is not somebody who is trashing you all the time– although that’s not a wonderful thing– but the worst thing that you can have is nobody talking about you at all.

So you want to have owned media working for you, and look at metrics that surround owned media.

Look at your paid media metrics, too.

If your content is working for you, if your content marketing is strong, there are going to be people who are going to become aware of your brand and trust your brand.

They read your blog posts.

They read your ebooks.

They read your infographic.

They attended your webinar.

And when they see an ad appear, on Google or Facebook or what have you, they should be more inclined to click on it.

Because they recognize your name, they trust your name, even just a little bit.

So you should see your ad performance increase.

You should also see the sharing of your ads increased, because hopefully, if you’re a really good content marketer, your ads are just as exciting and interesting and fun as the regular content.

And so you should see more people sharing your ads, too.

The last two buckets are marketing and sales.

In terms of marketing, you want to look at things like the number of leads in your marketing automation platform.

You want to look at number of subscribers on your email list.

Are people raising their hand more because of your content? So your content should be a referrer.

If you’re looking at web analytics, it should be one thing is referring people to your lead generation forms.

And you want to see the number of people coming from your content to your lead generation forms increasing.

If you’re a brick and mortar store, you want to see people talking about your content while they’re in the store.

So imagine you’re a grocery store or a coffee shop, ask your employees.

Pull your employees on a regular basis and say, how many customers mentioned our blog recently? Or how many customers mentioned this or that recently? I guarantee you almost no one is doing this, but if you were to do it in your business– particularly if you’re a B2C company– you might find that your content marketing is having an impact.

People who are in the store have more affinity and more reason to be there and are happier to be there.

And finally, of course, the Jerry Maguire, “Show me the money”.

Your content should be driving more sales opportunities and ultimately more closed one deals.

One of the most important things that you can do at any point in the sales process is ask people how did you hear about us.

And then if you win the deal, or even if you lose the deal, you should be asking, what made you choose us or what made you didn’t choose us, and be listening for things like content.

When people say, oh I read an ebook, I was really impressed, and that made we want to sign on the dotted line with you guys, or I read your blog, and I checked you out, and it just didn’t seem like you guys were really thought leaders, so we went with another company.

You want to listen to see if your content is impacting your sales.

That’s the Reflex Measurement Platform.

That’s what you need to measure your content on, on all these different areas, because your content will show up in different places, and you ideally want to see your content having an impact on each of these seven areas.

It’s equally important to understand that no one metric is going to tell you how your content is doing.

You can’t just rely on inbound links, or Clout score, or number of Facebook follows, because it’s not good enough.

There is no one magic number.

Can you imagine going to the doctor and having a doctor say, well, Mr.

Penn, your personal health score is a 72.

Would you be happy with that answer? I certainly wouldn’t be.

I would say, OK, why is it not 100, and what does that mean? But I go to the doctor, and he says, well, your weight is this, and your cholesterol is this, and your resting heart rate is this, and suddenly I know, OK, there’s a basket of numbers that tells me about my relative health.

Just as you have that for your physical health, you want to have that for your content marketing.

You want to have this basket of numbers that indicates all the different things that are happening.

Let’s look at an actual case, a walk-through of how this Earned Media Hub Strategy works.

So it’s a little more concrete.

A while back, Twitter was doing this whole thing about going public, and one of the things that we decided is we want to jump on this news and contribute to the conversation in some intelligent way.

We wanted to create content that would get attention.

So the first thing we did, of course, we did our research.

We figured out the– OK this Twitter IPO thing’s a pretty big deal, and as the chatter started to pick up on it, we knew it was something we had to get talking about.

We jumped into Google News.

With our creative team, we said, OK, let’s look at what people are already talking about.

What stuff is being discussed? In this news flurry, there were a whole bunch of people talking about what’s the share price going to be, what’s the opening price going to be, what’s the valuation, what are the monthly users on Twitter, all this stuff that was numbers based.

And we knew we could not do the same thing as everyone else.

Doing what everyone else has done is not going to get you what everyone else has gotten, because at best your getting the leftovers.

You’re getting the people who weren’t paying attention the first time.

You’re not going to get something new.

You have to do something new to get new audience, to get attention.

So we got creative, and we figured out, let’s look at Twitter’s job page.

Because if you’ve been working in the HR industry at all, you know that a company is going to hire today for a problem that they need to have solved in 12, or 18, or 24 months.

So we went into Twitter’s job page, and we went into the– if you haven’t tried it– the Internet Wayback Machine, and we looked at Twitter’s job page over the last 3, 6, 9, to 12 months.

What jobs were they hiring for? What jobs were they not hiring for? What did they fill? What are their new needs? So we got a sense of where they were going.

But in case you’re curious– the blog post is out there– but they are currently looking for Arabic language, natural language processing, and the Android stuff.

So we had our idea.

We did our research.

We have our creative idea.

We had to make sure that the message was aligned to our core values.

There are things that we found in our research that wouldn’t necessarily be positive, or weren’t necessarily all that smart, or all that creative.

So we discarded those things and came up with the content.

We wrote ourselves a blog post.

What’s Next for Twitter Besides the Twitter IPO? From there, we went out and started publishing, hit our own media channels, published it on social, of course.

We put in our newsletter, of course.

We put it on our website, obviously.

It was a blog post.

We covered all of our own media channels.

We went out to our earned media.

One of things that we do– and I strongly encourage anyone else to do– is know who your super fans are.

Know who are the people who are going to share stuff.

Go ahead and approach them.

Give them an exclusive.

Do a little outreach.

Take them out to coffee, whatever.

But get in front of your influencers and your– we call them friendlies– as soon as possible, so that when you push the post out there, there’s an immediate sense of uptake.

There’s immediately people talking about what you’ve got to share.

That led in turn to a very quick query from Digiday, the digital marketing publication.

And they included us in an article, and a couple of other folks included us in some articles.

It got us earned media very, very quickly, and this was critical to getting our content distributed.

And we started going to paid media sources.

We wanted to put this article in front of investors and financial reporters on LinkedIn, so we targeted those folks just with LinkedIn pay-per-click advertising.

We took out a Google AdWords campaign for a whopping grand total of $50.

This is not a huge expensive campaign, just the different tools you want to use.

We took out an AdWords campaign for a couple days for anyone talking about the Twitter IPO.

We spent $100 on Facebook to sponsor the post there to the people who’d be interested and, of course, did some promoted tweets and things like that.

Did it have any impact? Did we get anything out of all this effort? Well, let’s look at the content marketing impact from our Reflex Measurement Platform.

Did we see an increase in search? Yes, to that specific blog post, we went from, obviously, 0 links to getting 5, or 10, or 15 links coming out of this.

We got more search results out of it.

We got search value out of it.

We got social media proof.

We saw a number retweets, and engagement, and people talking to us on all the different social channels, which was terrific.

It’s exactly what we were looking for.

We got earned media placements.

So we got the traditional press and the major media outlets covering what we had to talk about.

Our own media properties, we saw a nice little bump on our web analytics.

We were very happy to see that the people were coming to our website, and doing stuff, and interacting with us.

Our paid ads performed actually very well.

In addition to lots of people seeing them, we got in front of some of the financial journalists we really wanted to be in front of.

So we were able to achieve those results of more audience generation there.

Marketing went well.

We got probably about 100 or so leads out of this and people who raised their hand and said, hey, that was pretty good.

Maybe we should talk some more.

And of course, actually, from that we actually scored one new client out of the deal who is still with us today and very happy, so we have hided him.

So you see each of those seven blades of Reflex, we were able to figure out and understand that our content had an impact.

One of the other things you need to do with this Reflex Measurement Framework is to understand that not all the blades are equal in weight.

There are some things that are going to work better or worse, and the way to figure this out if you have some experience in Google Analytics, you’re going to want to look in your multi-channel funnels is what’s called.

It’s a feature that came out on August 24, 2011 and has been one of the best things to happen to marketers, particularly content market since then.

Look in your multi-channel funnels to understand these different channels– of the seven blades of Reflex– which ones you should be giving extra credence to, because they are delivering better results than some of the other channels and weight them appropriately when you’re doing it.

Here’s the big part about these metrics.

Here’s your so what moment.

OK, you’ve measured the seven buckets, so what? What does this mean for our organization? Each of the seven blades of Reflex is not just a report to make, or a dashboard to make, or a PowerPoint slide you can deliver to executives.

Each of the seven blades is about what you need to do to make that category better.

And so, if you have content, and you’re out their creating content, and your search numbers are not great, maybe your content marketing’s not targeted enough.

Maybe you’re writing about stuff that your audience isn’t even looking for.

There’s not enough outreach or replacement, so it’s not being picked up.

You’re not using best practices when it comes to writing content, using the words, and phrases, and topics that people are actually searching for.

So if your search numbers are deficient, fix your content marketing to adjust for those realities.

If your social numbers are not great, maybe it’s your audience is too small.

Maybe your content’s not getting enough reach.

You need to build more audience.

Maybe you have to pay to grow some audience.

Or maybe the content your creating, the content marketing that you’re doing is a mismatch for the audience.

They’re just not– they don’t really want to talk about it.

I actually had this happen when I was doing financial aid and student loans back in the day, where even though it was a very important topic, people didn’t really want to talk about it, because it was very private stuff.

So we had to change tactics to more personal finance stuff in order to get people talking and to build that social audience.

So if your social numbers are down, there may be a content mismatch.

If your earned media numbers are down, hey, we know a PR firm that can help you with that.

But no, if no one’s sharing, it means your content’s not compelling enough.

If no one’s covering you, your content is not good enough.

It’s not newsworthy.

It’s not something that’s going to be compelling, so talk to your PR agency, talk to your in-house PR person, talk to a PR comm specialist, somebody to say, OK, how can we make this content that we’re marketing more compelling? How can we make it more interesting? If your owned media, if you’re not seeing traffic increases, one possible reason for this is that your content may be living in the wrong place.

If you’re putting all of your effort into your Facebook page, your Google Plus page, and you’re not seeing any results on your on your website, maybe you’re posting too much there.

Maybe you need to put more promotional attention getting stuff on the social sites or the media sites and have the content be on your own media sites.

It could be that there are other things on your own media site that are just not compelling, or there’s not enough calls to action, there’s not enough quality in your content.

If your paid media is not performing, maybe it’s just not getting enough ad performance.

Try linking up your content to your ads.

This is a very powerful, very simple tactic.

If you get a great placement from your earned media, make sure that there’s a paid media ad right next to it, and use your content marketing as part of your re-marketing to boost your ROI.

If your list isn’t growing, your content marketing might be to blame.

Test incorporating less or more of your content and the balance of curation versus creation to diagnose that marketing engagement to see if that’s what’s causing people to not join your list.

And finally, of course, if sales aren’t closing, there’s a couple possibilities.

Perhaps your content is too rich, and it’s cannibalizing sales.

If you give away too much, you may have to pull back and say, there’s some secret sauce involved.

You might want to hire us.

Or the content you’re creating does not support your sales narrative.

Your sales guys or girls are saying, well, there’s this blog, but they don’t really want to send people to it, because it gets people to not want to do business with you.

The goal is to look at these buckets and not just have a dashboard, but to understand that you need to fix the most broken things in all these buckets in your content marketing.

There’s a whole bunch of other little things that go into this, a much deeper discussion for another time.

But that’s secret sauce territory, and we’re happy to work with you.

So there’s three things we want you to take away, and then we’ll have time for a couple of questions.

Number one, no content is better than bad content.

Do it well, or don’t do it all.

The algorithms now are too punishing to bad content, and there’s so much content out there that if the first impression somebody has of you is lousy content, you have lost them.

Do it right.

Go big or go home, as the expression goes.

The whole point of content marketing metrics, the stuff of measuring the impact of your content is telling you what to fix next.

So don’t worry about it as a dashboard.

Don’t get obsessed about pretty presentation.

Fix what’s most broken.

And third, and most important, when it comes to content marketing, please stop chasing the easy things to do, and start chasing great things to do.

This is the only sustainable long term content strategy.

Nothing else is going to work.

Nothing else is going to survive all these algorithm changes and technology changes over the years.

If you takeaway nothing else from today, remember this, stop chasing easy, and start chasing great.

So with that, I want to remind people that if you want a copy of the slides, you can get them right now at this URL, and of course we’ll have the audio recording up as I finish editing it, but we have time now for a couple of questions.

Great, thank you so much Chris, and questions are definitely coming in.

So if you have questions, we have a few more minutes.

So go ahead and chat those in, and we’ll try and get to them.

So Chris, my question for you came in from Mark, and he said, “the three l’s that you talked about, are you saying that I must satisfy all three or at least one of those?” Go for many as you can.

You have to have at least one.

Two out of three is the goal, and three out of three means that you are awesome.

OK, great.

My next question came from Tate, and he wants to know, “does PRWeb count as paid media?” So you’re talking most specifically about press releases.

Press releases are a form of paid media, because you do publish them as paid.

But be cautious with them, because press releases have not passed any search juice or had any search impact for quite some time.

And in fact, Google announced that if you’re link stuffing in your press releases– they announced this last year– they will actually penalize you in search rankings.

So the role of press releases is to get in front of the report as you actually want to get in front of.

And a service like PRWeb, or Marketwired, or PR Newswire, these are really good for mass distribution, but the best thing you could do is find a reporter or two in your space, and take them out to coffee or whatever, and be prepared to tell a really good story to them, so they would want to cover you and talk to you.

And never ever ever send a reporter bad content.

Send them only your best stuff, because their performance is based on the amount of attention they get, so you want to make sure that you’re helping them build their careers with your great content.

Right, exactly.

My next question is from Erna, and she wants to know, “do you use a specific social media management software to manage the results of your campaigns, or do you utilize existing tools that are available within social networks?” I use the native reporting for the major networks like Google, and Facebook, and stuff like that.

And probably the most complex cool tool I use is good old Microsoft Excel.

OK, great.

My next question is from Julia, and she wanted to know, “when you talked about reaching out to your friendlies or influencers on social media, how much is too much? How do you know if you’re expecting too much of them?” Ask them.

If you’re doing it right, these people should actually become professional colleagues and acquaintance.

They should be people who that if you tweet, hey, I’m going to San Francisco, they should actually reach out to say, you want to grab a cup of coffee? These are human beings.

At the end of the day, it’s one human to another.

Ask them.

Become friends with them to the extent that you can with professional boundaries.

But ask them, and say, hey, how often do you want to hear from me? Is it every time I’ve got something great, or do you have a quarterly deadline, do you have an editorial calendar? But again, they’re human beings.

Just ask them.

Become their friends, and get to know them, and the question will resolve itself.

OK, so earlier in the presentation you mentioned the concept of branded keywords under Search.

Marissa wanted to know if you could explain a little bit more about branded keywords.

Oh, sure.

Branded versus unbranded search terms are basically somebody using the name of your product, or service, or company in a search versus a generic search.

So for example, if someone searches for Shift Communications, that’s a branded search.

That’s the name of our company.

If after this webinar you search for the Reflex Management Platform– that’s name of our product– that’s a branded search.

If you search for a Boston PR agency or a San Francisco PR agency, those are unbranded searches.

Not specifically saying, hey, Shift, I’m looking for you.

It’s, I’m looking for something, and maybe Shift is in there.

OK, Dave wanted to know, “when you are optimizing content for search value, is there a minimum or maximum amount that you should optimize?” Optimizing for search has changed dramatically in the last three months, with Google rolling out its topic based search, so there is not as much optimization you can do about it as there is choosing it for the topic and being perceived by your audience as a subject matter expert.

So the optimization you want to do is you want to do the research so that you would develop really great content that is relevant to the topic.

It can contain multiple words and multiple phrases about the topic, so it could have the words public relations, PR, and social media, and stuff– as an example– in a post.

But ultimately, Google is trying to encourage us to create more natural content that humans would actually want to consume, so think about it from that perspective.

What would make this– instead of optimizing it for a key word, what would make somebody really want to share this post or share this infographic? That’s the way to think about optimizing these days.

OK, a good question just came in from Andrew, and he said, “in terms of thought leaders, do people care about internal thought leaders, so people who work at your company? Or should you tap people or engage with people that are outside thought leaders?” Go back to the rules, the three l’s, laugh, learn, or love.

When it comes to thought leaders, if your internal thought leaders actually are leaders, or actually are people that you want to hear from and are being asked to speak on stage at conferences, then of course people want to hear from them, and work them into your strategy.

If they suffer from the legend in your own mind syndrome, then yeah, you might want to look at external resources and things like that.

But a good indicator is if you are getting– if you have people who are public facing individuals at your company that people really want to talk to, use them.

Classic example being Robert Scoble at Microsoft or Frank Eliason formally of Comcast.

These are people that really other people wanted to talk to, so use that as your benchmark.

OK, it looks like we have time for probably one more question.

I want to get to this one, because we’ve gotten a couple different variations of it.

Alex wanted to know, for smaller companies, “what should you focus on if you have a limited staff and limited budget?” Focus on creating really good content.

You have to create something that is better than what your competitors who may have a vastly more budget are creating.

And this not as a Sisyphean task as you might imagine, because the biggest competitors in your space typically are not agile.

When a piece of news breaks, it’s going to take them two weeks to get through legal, and copyrighting, and marketing, and stuff like that.

Whereas you can publish the same day, as long as you’ve got something actually worth saying.

So focus on research, creative, and building up your audience as much as you can.

So if you don’t have a lot of budget, you can do custom audiences.

Check out the Shift blog if you want some details on how to do that, but you can spend $50.

This whole experiment we did with Twitter IPO, we spent a grand total top to bottom of $500 to make this thing go big.

And we could’ve done much more with it, but we just wanted to improve it as a case.

It’s not a major marketing initiative for us.

So you can do the same thing that we showed in this presentation step by step for $500 or less.

OK, great.

There is one good question that just came, and I want to make sure we answer that one.

So Matt says, “if you’re saying that people should be aiming to produce great content– as we’ve talked about throughout today’s presentation– are you saying that we shouldn’t experiment with different types of content? That is, how do you know beforehand– aside from the three l’s– what’s good?” You don’t know, and that’s one of the challenges.

Part of being creative is doing what hasn’t been done.

But at the same time, if you know your space really well– Matt works at Aquent, so he knows the human resources space really well, along with experience in the filed.

Just say, OK an HR manager or an HES system administrator will look at this and go, that’s actually useful.

I could see how that would be interesting.

Even if you’ve never done it before, you probably– from talking to people in your industry– have an instinctive understanding of what they will and won’t like.

If you’re not sure, the easiest way to do it is to take your five super fans or your five best customers and focus test in the background privately.

And say, hey, what do you think about this? If we did this, would that be of interest to you? And if they all say, no, then you probably need to go back to the drawing board.

But if they all go ooh, that sounds interesting, then you’ve got your winner on your hands.

Great, well, that’s a great way to wrap it up.


If you enjoyed this, please share it with your network!


Want to read more like this from ? Get updates here:


Marketing Blue Belt Preorder

Subscribe to my free newsletter!


Old social media strategy is new again

With Facebook’s recent algorithm update that favors news from friends over organic updates from brand pages, the unpaid reach of brands has been hit yet again. We are in a place where social networking has returned to being a useful tool for keeping in touch with friends and family. As marketers, the easy button days are over.

Social strategy now looks like one of two basic models. First, there’s the broadcast model: pay money to spread your updates. This is an advertising and broadcast model, and it looks very familiar to anyone whose media background is television or radio. You pay your money, you get your distribution. It’s easy, it’s clean, and it’s well understood. It also works no matter what quality of content you have, at least in terms of getting eyeballs. For brands with average or good but not great content and financial means, this is going to be the default choice.

Second, the friends and family model. If you are a brand that has a strong base of fanatically loyal customers, those individuals can still share things at scale that will be seen by their friends and by their friends in a ripple effect. This is no different than any other word-of-mouth strategy that you’ve used in off-line word-of-mouth or influencer strategy. The goal in the friends and family model is the activation of as many friends as possible on behalf of your brand. Particularly for small businesses with loyal followings, this will be the default choice.

emoji_social_strategy.jpg

The model that is truly dead, and has been for quite some time, is the build it and they will come. Those days are over.

Whether we like it or not, this is the state of social media today. We can broadcast and pay for reach, which is good if we don’t have insanely great product, service, or loyalty. Or we can cultivate and nurture our most rabid fans. Either strategy will work; it’s just a question of which is the better fit for your brand and the resources you have. 


If you enjoyed this, please share it with your network!


Want to read more like this from ? Get updates here:


Marketing Blue Belt Preorder

Subscribe to my free newsletter!


Cost equivalence is a poor marketing metric

One of the ways you can measure goals and goal values in Google Analytics (or any marketing analytics system) is through cost equivalence. This is the least best way to measure the impact of your marketing, but in some cases, it’s better than nothing.

What is cost equivalence?

Cost equivalence is giving a goal the valuation of what it would have cost you to achieve the same goal by other methods. For example, let’s say you have a newsletter signup box on your website. Every email address you collect through organic means (SEO, unpaid social, etc.) is an address that you don’t have to pay for from a list broker.

Thus, if working with a list broker costs you $55/CPM (a not uncommon rate), a single email address is worth about 5 cents; 100 email addresses is $5.50 of value you don’t have to pay for.

The same cost equivalence measures can be used for things like Twitter Followers – who follows you organically are people you don’t have to pay for with a Promoted Account.

All of this seems logical, doesn’t it?

Why is cost equivalence bad?

Cost equivalence fails to take into account impact. It only calculates the money you saved. Let’s look at the email example. If every email address is worth 5 cents because that’s what you pay a list broker, it doesn’t take into account the value of the email addresses. For example, I’ve been selling my book Marketing Blue Belt. Email is one of the many methods I’ve sold with, and email is one of the top ways people have bought the book, accounting for 30% of sales.

ecomm.jpg

I would have vastly underestimated the value of email addresses if I’d gone the cost route, rather than going with the actual value created.

Now kick it up a notch. Let’s say you’ve got a complex B2C or B2B sales cycle. Each sale is worth thousands or millions of dollars. One email address could be the first touchpoint in a value chain that eventually results in a 7-figure sale. Would you still value that email address at 5 cents? I should hope not.

The only time cost equivalence is appropriate as a goal value in Google Analytics is when you’ve got absolutely no other monetary outcome. These situations are exceedingly rare. Even non-profits and politicians seeking office need donors to keep the lights on, regardless of the fact that their ultimate mission has a non-monetary outcome (common good and election, respectively).

Avoid using cost equivalence whenever possible in your marketing analytics.


If you enjoyed this, please share it with your network!


Want to read more like this from ? Get updates here:


Marketing Blue Belt Preorder

Subscribe to my free newsletter!