Today, brands are expected to provide content that is engaging, informative, and entertaining for their customers. It’s the pay-off for clicking on an ad, or just wanting to learn more about a product or service.
But besides keeping an audience engaged with your site, brands can benefit immensely from analyzing what content their customers are engaging with, both on their own websites, and on social media. These insights can be used to inform audience profiles, personas, or act as proving grounds for new products, offers, and more.
Use of Social Media as a Research Platform
Every 2 to 4 years, we are reminded of how influential social media is regarding the outcomes of presidential/congressional elections. Political think-tanks use this data (sometimes illegally, but that’s a topic for another blog…) to create social webs and messages to proliferate ideas and concepts. While they may have had greater levels of access to 3rd party data than the average marketing team, the foundational principle behind this thinking is applicable to many businesses.
Social media as either an insights gathering tool or a research proving ground has proven fruitful for Primacy’s work for clients a number of times. A great example of this was research that we conducted on behalf of one of our higher education clients. Their nursing program was looking for a boost in their enrollments and came to the analytics team in search of some insights and recommendations.
Our recommendation and the subsequent research took on two-tiers. The first was a dive into existing secondary research and social media consumption that we could access. While there were “Paid” sources of syndicated research that we had access to and did leverage as part of our effort, this syndicated research was difficult to customize for the purposes of our very specific audience. Instead, we mostly leveraged social media and association studies to create some foundational insights about our specific target audience. From this initial phase, we generated some hypothesis that we then validated via our second phase: primary research study and subsequent campaign implementations.
The findings of the social media monitoring were extraordinarily helpful in understanding the “life” of the prospect. We scoured memes on Pinterest, videos on YouTube, organic posts on Facebook and wherever else there were content artifacts to help us shape the psyche of the nursing program prospect.
The nuance that could not be unearthed via standard syndicated data soon became apparent as we dove into the social content and association research. When we identified top social content being consumed by the target, we realized that nurses, an extraordinarily busy group, were still extremely connected socially, and over-indexed in their age group in the use of quick-witted, job-relevant memes. The adage seemed to ring true that nurses work hard, and play hard…at least on social media.
These findings helped us develop a new pathway for enrollment messaging, which we now knew should leverage job-related humor in otherwise informational content. But more importantly, the ideas and concepts of the high usage of social networking and nursing humor and pride helped spur on a highly successful “Nurses Night Out” campaign, culminating in a meet-up at a local establishment sponsored by our client that produced tangible results – leads and enrollments.
Other examples of leveraging social media as a proving ground for messaging and performance are frequent as well. Because of the relatively templated structure of social media advertising and the standardized targeting capabilities and buying strategies, there are significant and low-impact (from a cost and timing perspective) opportunities to creating in-market tests that can be true experimental designs. Determining copy, images, CTA, etc. can truly be turnkey and provide methodologically sound testing frameworks.
Besides social media content, the content on your own website can be rich with insights waiting to be uncovered. Before diagnosing the performance of site content – it’s imperative that we understand the anticipated “outcomes” of the research. How will a dive into the site content and audience truly help understand a business issue or arm your team with something actionable? Staying focused on this end goal keeps your research productive and focused. Are you answering either a question that your team has posted, or are you uncovering a key issue that may not be on anyone’s radar? Try to follow this as a researcher and you will spend less time in unproductive work.
Having a clear idea of the intended outcomes of your research will help you focus on KPIs, and ensure your analytics implementation is set up to capture these metrics. For example, there may be “event” tracking that you will need to add to your sites’ tags (Usage of forms, tracking video views, global navigation usage, etc) that you would need to develop to make the research more insightful. Setting these action/behavior-oriented “triggers” in your Google Analytics Events (Via Google Tag Manager or other equivalents) will give you more helpful KPIs.
To efficiently and effectively analyze your own website content, having a well-considered directory of content is important. For a good example of a generally sound starting point, refer to a healthcare website. Healthcare sites often need to partition their site into structured pockets of information. This tends to lay out well for the purposes of audience insights taken from content consumption and engagement:
In a directory structure like this, we are able to break out audiences quite easily and understand content and engagement nuances between the various audiences. i.e. the content relevant to someone looking for a specific OBGYN service is clearly differentiated between that of someone learning about low-impact exercises related to Orthopedic health. In such an environment, personas and audience archetypes can more easily be constructed and their traffic observed and experimented with as the definitions are more structured.
We can also generate “norms” and compare site averages with particular segments to understand the preferences of specific audiences compared to other areas of the site. This is helpful in diagnosing weaker performing content and product/service lines.
KPIs for Site Content
There are a couple of easy “go-tos” in looking at your website content that can provide you with messaging and concept information that is truly actionable from a product and marketing perspective. As mentioned before, understanding your sites directory structure can help in creating helpful research design ground rules. Some real examples are:
Product line decisions – A brand has a blog area and we track the content and usage of the blog traffic. We look for the “outliers”, articles or blogs that are receiving significant traffic that are NOT being supported by significant media efforts. Identifying this traffic and the source of origin of this traffic proved to us that our client was perceived as an “expert” in a particular service line and the message and content is one that we can leverage for future content/advertising.
Seasonality – A business wanted to understand what types of messages they should leverage based on time of year. In our analysis of their content, we created groupings of site content based on topics and observed the content consumption trending based on seasonality. This grouping proved to us that we should be messaging/advertising specific creative concepts in specific times of the year. For example, physique-relevant messaging in the spring and “Healthy Eating” content in the fall. Often times these insights support hypothesis and sometimes they contradict. Either way, you are learning and implementing.
One last, but important thing to consider is SEO rankings and Organic Search. This is a major part of what drives traffic to websites, and can dramatically influence what content is engaged with. Factoring SEO into any measurement plan will be integral in maintaining the integrity of any testing and account for any efforts that may be driving traffic to certain products, services, or content hubs.
People want to be entertained, informed, nurtured and stimulated by their preferred brands. Among the new responsibilities of a brand to its customer today is information. Tracking your key content and the content enjoyed by your key targets outside of your site is critical and will surely lead to better decisions on behalf of your brand.
To learn more about ways to better understand your audience using data-backed insights, contact the Primacy Data & Analytics team.