According to Marissa Aydlett, vice president of marketing at Appboy, it’s about using the data to understand the user and potential prospects. From there, marketers can create relevant content through persona mapping and behavioral analyses, depending on where they are in the marketing funnel.
“Data is the backbone of a good content plan. By leveraging user data, marketers can fuel content and get the optimal results,” says Aydlett.
Three Data Layers
But what exactly should marketers look for in user data? Will Sandwick, director of analytics at agency The Barbarian Group, says it can be broken down into three layers.
- The first layer is owned analytics, data that comes from brands’ own website and social media platforms, including metrics like user reach, engagement and shares.
- The second layer is earned content around a brand which can help marketers understand what people are saying about them on social networks and in the news.
- The third layer is outside content that brands’ target audience is engaging with.
“Brands can use whitelists of their target and third-party social listening tools to see what types of content outside the category consumers are engaging with. This can tell them what topics and interests index highly among their target audience, and be fodder for new types of content,” Sandwick explains.
Even when the data is cleaned, analyzed and ready to be visualized, marketers still have a hard job to put it to use because audiences need context and a strong narrative for it to be understood correctly. This challenge requires content creators to work closely with data analysts to set standards on tracking and reporting, and essentially make recommendations. Once this has been done, the most important step, according to Sandwick, is to develop a testing strategy to see what resonates with an audience and what doesn’t.
“What can really add value is when content marketers and data analysts team up to create a testing plan,” he says. “Every piece of content that marketers create is an opportunity to learn something: what types of content can really take off and hit the spot with target audiences over the long run? So creating a testing strategy is the most critical pillar on the journey.”
Sandwick points out that many marketers do have rich data but they are not sure how to translate this information into actionable insights in the content creation process. Therefore, it’s really important for content marketers to come up with their own point of view and hypotheses around what’s valuable to them, and place this as a priority.
“When it comes to data storytelling, many marketers like to go straight to the data,” he says. “Data will tell you the ‘what’ but it cannot tell you the ‘why,’ which is why it’s important to start with the content and develop a few hypotheses. Once you have a framework, you can start analyzing data to judge what works, what does not, and what might be driving these trends according to your own goals.”
From a content distribution perspective, Appboy’s Aydlett adds that for an overall best practice, brands need to think beyond the idea that content marketing is just an article. Rather, it’s about tracking and technology.
“It’s visual, it’s prose, it’s interactive, it’s social, it’s anywhere that a piece of content could live,” she says, adding that it’s about leveraging one piece of personalized content and allowing it to have distribution and legs elsewhere.
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