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Stop Making These Reporting Mistakes To Keep Your Content Budget

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Updated May 24, 2022

If you aren’t getting sufficient ongoing executive support for your content marketing, look at the writing on the wall.

Are you communicating with the C-suite in ways that will get them to sit up and notice what content marketing is doing for the brand? You might be if you’re making any of these six mistakes.

Read on to figure out the problem and how to remedy them fairly easily, so you win the attention and budget from your company’s leadership.

1. Fail to set SMART goals and KPIs

Though an obvious pitfall, content marketers repeatedly fail to appropriately document goals for their strategy. Failing to set goals is a common pitfall. They don’t make them SMART – specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound.

That failure might be prompted by the marketers’ own fear of failure – not hitting a goal is worse than not identifying a goal. But how else are executives going to track your success and decide content marketing is worth funding?

Executives need to know #ContentMarketing’s goals and results to decide if it’s worth continued funding, says @IamAaronAgius via @CMIContent @acrolinx. Click To Tweet

Brand awareness, for example, is often a general fuzzy goal mentioned by marketers. What are your key performance indicators (KPIs) for measuring awareness? How much should the content contribute to a revenue boost? In what time frame? Whatever your goals, make them measurable.

Once you detail your SMART goals and clearly define the KPIs, present them to your company’s executive team to get their buy-in. They’re more likely to invest when they have a tangible way to see if the content marketing program succeeded or didn’t quite hit the mark.

2. Don’t align marketing with the business’ road map

To get time-starved executives to take notice, ensure content marketing goals intersect with their priorities, which usually revolve around the bottom line.

Too many marketers assume their content generates revenue. They don’t prove it with data-driven findings.

In HubSpot’s 2021 Not Another State of Marketing Report, 85% of marketers say they are somewhat or very confident in investing in their programs that influence revenue. But that’s not enough. As the report’s authors write: “The disconnect lies — you guessed it — in failing or nonexistent attribution reporting.

That’s a mistake if you want to garner C-suite support. These executives want proof. Whether you’re fortunate enough to have data directly linking content marketing tactics to ROI or must undertake a significant analysis, begin reporting meetings with this headline in mind: How Has Content Marketing Affected the Balance Sheet?

Every report to executives should answer this headline: How has #ContentMarketing affected the balance sheet? says @IamAaronAgius via @CMIContent @acrolinx. Click To Tweet

3. Deliver numbers only

Leadership doesn’t necessarily have the time or expertise to delve into each content marketing initiative’s minutiae. You must show them the bigger picture.

Don’t present the result of one time-limited activity – contextualize it. How did it fit into the overall content marketing efforts for the year? How does that compare to last year’s performance? Are there anomalies in the data? Why?

Putting context around the data also works in your favor when the numbers don’t look great. It helps you explain why the less-than-expected results don’t indicate that content marketing activity was a total flop.

For example, a retail brand compares its gifting blog’s first-quarter performance to the previous year’s fourth quarter. At first glance, the numbers indicate the blog significantly underperformed. By adding the context about the impact of the holiday season on fourth-quarter numbers, executives can better recognize that the hit in visitors wasn’t that bad.

If the explanatory context isn’t obvious, drill down by looking at assisted conversions. Say this retail brand conducted a paid social campaign to bring shoppers to the site, but the visitors didn’t convert. Analyzing assisted conversions could explain that the social referral traffic visit is merely the first step in their buying experience. A large percentage eventually return to the website to purchase the products advertised to them on social media.

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4. Lack transparency

When leadership commits budget to content marketing, they need to trust you and the content marketing strategy.

You should never attempt to hide negative figures or bury bad results in your reports. Obfuscating the truth only makes them less likely to trust you with the company’s dollars.

Never hide negative figures or bad results in your #ContentMarketing reports to executives. They are less likely to trust you with company dollars, says @IamAaronAgius via @CMIContent @acrolinx. Click To Tweet

Instead, report exactly what has happened and proactively explain how the approach will be adjusted to ensure the failures won’t be repeated.

5. Report inconsistently

Your content marketing likely will see peaks and troughs in traffic and conversions. Performing random data pulls or only reporting your successes doesn’t give leadership the information they need to make the right decisions.

While it can be tempting to send an email or schedule a meeting with the executives the moment you see a set of outstanding results, resist the urge. It’s vital to be consistent with your reporting – both in format and timing.

Document (and share) your reporting process, including strict timelines. It could look like this:

  • Set SMART goals (month one)
  • Ideate campaign (month one)
  • Set KPIs (month one)
  • Set up tracking for KPIs (month one)
  • Implement initiative (months two, three, four)
  • Gather data (month five)
  • Analyze data and identify trends (month five)
  • Document findings and recommendations for adapting the next campaign (month five)
  • Report to leadership (month five)

6. Ignore the power of storytelling

As content marketers, we know that storytelling is a powerful tool for engaging any audience – so use it for your executives.

While they may not properly engage with a spreadsheet packed with context-free figures or a document full of marketing jargon, they have a natural interest in understanding customer behavior.

Thanks to significant advances in technology, data surrounding search query information, basket size, and click-through activity can help you create powerful stories about your customers’ behaviors.

Turn your reporting meeting into an engaging storytelling session. Narrate stories around each primary customer type, explaining how they behave and engage with your brand. Use visuals and even videos to really help leadership see and buy into the stories.

Then, you can follow up by email with the details – the spreadsheets and documents – supporting the points in the presented stories, thereby ensuring that the transparency box is ticked too.

Not only can storytelling tactics gain their full attention during the presentation, but they are more likely to convince any content marketing skeptics to support your budget requests.

If you can stop making these six mistakes, you’ll be well on your way to convincing leadership to break the vicious content marketing cycle.

Want more content marketing tips, insights, and examples? Subscribe to workday or weekly emails from CMI.

Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute

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Is Twitter Still a Thing for Content Marketers in 2023?

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Is Twitter Still a Thing for Content Marketers in 2023?

The world survived the first three months of Elon Musk’s Twitter takeover.

But what are marketers doing now? Did your brand follow the shift Dennis Shiao made for his personal brand? As he recently shared, he switched his primary platform from Twitter to LinkedIn after the 2022 ownership change. (He still uses Twitter but posts less frequently.)

Are those brands that altered their strategy after the new ownership maintaining that plan? What impact do Twitter’s service changes (think Twitter Blue subscriptions) have?

We took those questions to the marketing community. No big surprise? Most still use Twitter. But from there, their responses vary from doing nothing to moving away from the platform.

Lowest points

At the beginning of the Elon era, more than 500 big-name advertisers stopped buying from the platform. Some (like Amazon and Apple) resumed their buys before the end of 2022. Brand accounts’ organic activity seems similar.

In November, Emplifi research found a 26% dip in organic posting behavior by U.S. and Canadian brands the week following a significant spike in the negative sentiment of an Elon tweet. But that drop in posting wasn’t a one-time thing.

Kyle Wong, chief strategy officer at Emplifi, shares a longer analysis of well-known fast-food brands. When comparing December 2021 to December 2022 activity, the brands posted 74% less, and December was the least active month of 2022.

Fast-food brands posted 74% less on @Twitter in December 2022 than they did in December 2021, according to @emplifi_io analysis via @AnnGynn @CMIContent. Click To Tweet

When Emplifi analyzed brand accounts across industries (2,330 from U.S. and Canada and 6,991 elsewhere in the world), their weekly Twitter activity also fell to low points in November and December. But by the end of the year, their activity was inching up.

“While the percentage of brands posting weekly is on the rise once again, the number is still lower than the consistent posting seen in earlier months,” Kyle says.

Quiet-quitting Twitter

Lacey Reichwald, marketing manager at Aha Media Group, says the company has been quiet-quitting Twitter for two months, simply monitoring and posting the occasional link. “It seems like the turmoil has settled down, but the overall impact of Twitter for brands has not recovered,” she says.

@ahamediagroup quietly quit @Twitter for two months and saw their follower count go up, says Lacey Reichwald via @AnnGynn @CMIContent. Click To Tweet

She points to their firm’s experience as a potential explanation. Though they haven’t been posting, their follower count has gone up, and many of those new follower accounts don’t seem relevant to their topic or botty. At the same time, Aha Media saw engagement and follows from active accounts in the customer segment drop.

Blue bonus

One change at Twitter has piqued some brands’ interest in the platform, says Dan Gray, CEO of Vendry, a platform for helping companies find agency partners to help them scale.

“Now that getting a blue checkmark is as easy as paying a monthly fee, brands are seeing this as an opportunity to build thought leadership quickly,” he says.

Though it remains to be seen if that strategy is viable in the long term, some companies, particularly those in the SaaS and tech space, are reallocating resources to energize their previously dormant accounts.

Automatic verification for @TwitterBlue subscribers led some brands to renew their interest in the platform, says Dan Gray of Vendry via @AnnGynn @CMIContent. Click To Tweet

These reenergized accounts also are seeing an increase in followers, though Dan says it’s difficult to tell if it’s an effect of the blue checkmark or their renewed emphasis on content. “Engagement is definitely up, and clients and agencies have both noted the algorithm seems to be favoring their content more,” he says.

New horizon

Faizan Fahim, marketing manager at Breeze, is focused on the future. They’re producing videos for small screens as part of their Twitter strategy. “We are guessing soon Elon Musk is going to turn Twitter into TikTok/YouTube to create more buzz,” he says. “We would get the first moving advantage in our niche.”

He’s not the only one who thinks video is Twitter’s next bet. Bradley Thompson, director of marketing at DigiHype Media and marketing professor at Conestoga College, thinks video content will be the next big thing. Until then, text remains king.

“The approach is the same, which is a focus on creating and sharing high-quality content relevant to the industry,” Bradley says. “Until Twitter comes out with drastically new features, then marketing and managing brands on Twitter will remain the same.

James Coulter, digital marketing director at Sole Strategies, says, “Twitter definitely still has a space in the game. The question is can they keep it, or will they be phased out in favor of a more reliable platform.”

Interestingly given the thoughts of Faizan and Bradley, James sees businesses turning to video as they limit their reliance on Twitter and diversify their social media platforms. They are now willing to invest in the resource-intensive format given the exploding popularity of TikTok, Instagram Reels, and other short-form video content.

“We’ve seen a really big push on getting vendors to help curate video content with the help of staff. Requesting so much media requires building a new (social media) infrastructure, but once the expectations and deliverables are in place, it quickly becomes engrained in the weekly workflow,” James says.

What now

“We are waiting to see what happens before making any strong decisions,” says Baruch Labunski, CEO at Rank Secure. But they aren’t sitting idly by. “We’ve moved a lot of our social media efforts to other platforms while some of these things iron themselves out.”

What is your brand doing with Twitter? Are you stepping up, stepping out, or standing still? I’d love to know. Please share in the comments.

Want more content marketing tips, insights, and examples? Subscribe to workday or weekly emails from CMI.

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Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute



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45 Free Content Writing Tools to Love [for Writing, Editing & Content Creation]

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45 Free Content Writing Tools to Love [for Writing, Editing & Content Creation]

Creating content isn’t always a walk in the park. (In fact, it can sometimes feel more like trying to swim against the current.)

While other parts of business and marketing are becoming increasingly automated, content creation is still a very manual job. (more…)

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MARKETING

How data clean rooms might help keep the internet open

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How data clean rooms might help keep the internet open

Are data clean rooms the solution to what IAB CEO David Cohen has called the “slow-motion train wreck” of addressability? Voices at the IAB will tell you that they have a big role to play.

“The issue with addressability is that once cookies go away, and with the loss of identifiers, about 80% of the addressable market will become unknown audiences which is why there is a need for privacy-centric consent and a better consent-value exchange,” said Jeffrey Bustos, VP, measurement, addressability and data at the IAB.

“Everyone’s talking about first-party data, and it is very valuable,” he explained, “but most publishers who don’t have sign-on, they have about 3 to 10% of their readership’s first-party data.” First-party data, from the perspective of advertisers who want to reach relevant and audiences, and publishers who want to offer valuable inventory, just isn’t enough.

Why we care. Two years ago, who was talking about data clean rooms? The surge of interest is recent and significant, according to the IAB. DCRs have the potential, at least, to keep brands in touch with their audiences on the open internet; to maintain viability for publishers’ inventories; and to provide sophisticated measurement capabilities.

How data clean rooms can help. DCRs are a type of privacy-enhancing technology that allows data owners (including brands and publishers) to share customer first-party data in a privacy-compliant way. Clean rooms are secure spaces where first-party data from a number of sources can be resolved to the same customer’s profile while that profile remains anonymized.

In other words, a DCR is a kind of Switzerland — a space where a truce is called on competition while first-party data is enriched without compromising privacy.

“The value of a data clean room is that a publisher is able to collaborate with a brand across both their data sources and the brand is able to understand audience behavior,” said Bestos. For example, a brand selling eye-glasses might know nothing about their customers except basic transactional data — and that they wear glasses. Matching profiles with a publisher’s behavioral data provides enrichment.

“If you’re able to understand behavioral context, you’re able to understand what your customers are reading, what they’re interested in, what their hobbies are,” said Bustos. Armed with those insights, a brand has a better idea of what kind of content they want to advertise against.

The publisher does need to have a certain level of first-party data for the matching to take place, even if it doesn’t have a universal requirement for sign-ins like The New York Times. A publisher may be able to match only a small percentage of the eye-glass vendor’s customers, but if they like reading the sports and arts sections, at least that gives some directional guidance as to what audience the vendor should target.

Dig deeper: Why we care about data clean rooms

What counts as good matching? In its “State of Data 2023” report, which focuses almost exclusively on data clean rooms, concern is expressed that DCR efficacy might be threatened by poor match rates. Average match rates hover around 50% (less for some types of DCR).

Bustos is keen to put this into context. “When you are matching data from a cookie perspective, match rates are usually about 70-ish percent,” he said, so 50% isn’t terrible, although there’s room for improvement.

One obstacle is a persistent lack of interoperability between identity solutions — although it does exist; LiveRamp’s RampID is interoperable, for example, with The Trade Desk’s UID2.

Nevertheless, said Bustos, “it’s incredibly difficult for publishers. They have a bunch of identity pixels firing for all these different things. You don’t know which identity provider to use. Definitely a long road ahead to make sure there’s interoperability.”

Maintaining an open internet. If DCRs can contribute to solving the addressability problem they will also contribute to the challenge of keeping the internet open. Walled gardens like Facebook do have rich troves of first-party and behavioral data; brands can access those audiences, but with very limited visibility into them.

“The reason CTV is a really valuable proposition for advertisers is that you are able to identify the user 1:1 which is really powerful,” Bustos said. “Your standard news or editorial publisher doesn’t have that. I mean, the New York Times has moved to that and it’s been incredibly successful for them.” In order to compete with the walled gardens and streaming services, publishers need to offer some degree of addressability — and without relying on cookies.

But DCRs are a heavy lift. Data maturity is an important qualification for getting the most out of a DCR. The IAB report shows that, of the brands evaluating or using DCRs, over 70% have other data-related technologies like CDPs and DMPs.

“If you want a data clean room,” Bustos explained, “there are a lot of other technological solutions you have to have in place before. You need to make sure you have strong data assets.” He also recommends starting out by asking what you want to achieve, not what technology would be nice to have. “The first question is, what do you want to accomplish? You may not need a DCR. ‘I want to do this,’ then see what tools would get you to that.”

Understand also that implementation is going to require talent. “It is a demanding project in terms of the set-up,” said Bustos, “and there’s been significant growth in consulting companies and agencies helping set up these data clean rooms. You do need a lot of people, so it’s more efficient to hire outside help for the set up, and then just have a maintenance crew in-house.”

Underuse of measurement capabilities. One key finding in the IAB’s research is that DCR users are exploiting the audience matching capabilities much more than realizing the potential for measurement and attribution. “You need very strong data scientists and engineers to build advanced models,” Bustos said.

“A lot of brands that look into this say, ‘I want to be able to do a predictive analysis of my high lifetime value customers that are going to buy in the next 90 days.’ Or ‘I want to be able to measure which channels are driving the most incremental lift.’ It’s very complex analyses they want to do; but they don’t really have a reason as to why. What is the point? Understand your outcome and develop a sequential data strategy.”

Trying to understand incremental lift from your marketing can take a long time, he warned. “But you can easily do a reach and frequency and overlap analysis.” That will identify wasted investment in channels and as a by-product suggest where incremental lift is occurring. “There’s a need for companies to know what they want, identify what the outcome is, and then there are steps that are going to get you there. That’s also going to help to prove out ROI.”

Dig deeper: Failure to get the most out of data clean rooms is costing marketers money


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