In the business world, audits are conducted for a number of reasons, including the evaluation of performance versus benchmarks. In the digital world, we have a tendency to set our benchmarks and look at the results, but far too often we fail to understand the reasons why our initiatives exceeded expectations or failed to perform. Content performance is one of those areas where we often don’t take the time to understand performance measurements.
We all know that content is important – there is little debate there. In fact, quality and engaging content is a crucial piece of the puzzle when it comes to your brand’s success on social media. But to see the fruits of your labor, it takes time and you need to be sure that the content strategy you have implemented is working.
To find out if your strategy is working, you need to conduct regular content strategy audits that take an honest, objective, and critical look at what you are doing in order to evaluate the effectiveness of your program.
So, how do you conduct a content strategy audit? The following is a steps to help you determine if your content strategy is fully optimized for your brand and, more importantly, your goals when it comes to social media.
What is the Difference Between Content Strategy and Content Marketing?
Before getting started with the audit, it is necessary to understand the differences between content strategy and content marketing. The two are often used interchangeably, but there are some key differences that should be made clear.
Content strategy focuses on why your target audience is going to be interested in what your brand has to say. Why will they want to engage in conversations with you on these social platforms and share your content with their personal networks?
Content marketing, on the other hand, is how you use your social voice and message to connect your brand and your corporate mission to the content strategy.
Let’s say, for example, you’re a large office products retailer and you provide a free service to your customers where they can return used ink cartridges to be properly recycled. You know it’s a noble cause, but you also realize it’s a great opportunity to market to eco-friendly businesses.
In this case, the content strategy might focus on connecting with the audience and sharing relevant information about, for instance, the environment, the benefits of recycling, or why it is important to implement a ‘green’ policy in the workplace.
Once your content strategy is well-defined with your audience, you can execute your content marketing by showcasing what your brand offers in terms of recycling including product rebates and free shipping for cartridge returns.
Step 1: Evaluate General Overall Performance
When you created your social business strategy, you would have identified your program objectives and set your benchmarks or KPIs (Key Performance Indicators). What did you want to accomplish: More traffic? More sales? More sign ups? Greater brand awareness?
The first step in your ongoing content audit involves a simple review of your benchmarks versus performance. Reports from tools like Google Analytics (visitor interests and demographics) and Twitter Analytics allow you to see the interests of your existing audience and determine which content evoked the most interest or engagement. You can also analyze your Facebook data to see which posts receive the most shares or likes.
Consider both new and previously posted content as opportunities. Just because a post is several months old, it doesn’t mean you can’t selectively reintroduce the content if engagement was high. Use all of the insights you gather in order to develop new content that addresses the interests of your audience and move away from content that is stale. Use your data to find out what your audience wants to read, not what you want them to read.
Step 2: Engagement With Your Existing Content
The second step of your audit requires a close examination of the engagement rates with your different types of content on your most active networks.
Let’s say you use Facebook. Take a look Facebook Insights to see engagement rates and the types of engagement your content is generating (a share is, of course, more valuable than an impression). On LinkedIn, you would review the reach and engagement your Company Page posts are receiving.
Set a benchmark early for the engagement rates you would like to see. Studies show that organic engagement (as in, engagement that has not been the result of paid or sponsored content) can be as low as 0.5-1.0%. (SocialBakers) This is particularly true with the constant algorithm updates these networks undergo in order to entice brands to pay for advertisements. So don’t be too overzealous with your benchmark, but be prepared to change it as your program gains traction.
If you see that your content is consistently performing under expectations, rework it. Look at content that performs best and stick with it. Conduct A/B testing with different content and see what works. Eliminate content that is simply not reaching your target audience or generating interest.
Step 3: Capitalize on the Strengths of Your Content
Analyze where your content is performing well. Your free and paid insights from your networks and subscription-based services will help you determine this.
Screenshot taken 2/19/2014 on Facebook
Take note of the types of content with significant reach (paid or organic) and engagement (again, for both paid and organic). Amalgamated data might tell you that images are the best types of posts to share on your networks, but the truth might be for your audience and your brand, text-based updates or links far outperform other types of content.
Figure out what types of content resonate with your audience and stick to that. But pay attention to changing trends as your audience and engagement rates grow. Your ongoing audit might tell you that content that worked 3 months ago is no longer optimal for your expanded group of followers.
A few great, free resources you can use when conducting your content strategy audit to see what is working include Facebook Insights, Twitter Analytics, YouTube Analytics, and, of course, Google Analytics, which can tell you which content resonates best with your social audience once they land on your site.
Step 4: Identify Weaknesses in Your Content
Is there anything more discouraging than posting an update to a network and seeing it reach only a handful of users? It might seem like a wasted post, but it is valuable information when conducting your audit. Knowing what doesn’t work will help you create better content that will work.
As part of your audit, you should carefully track and record the performance of different posts across various channels. However, keep in mind that different channels have different audiences, so you might want to try messages across several networks to see if they perform better in one environment as opposed to another.
What generates engagement on Facebook might not work on Twitter. Your Pinterest audience is not the same as your LinkedIn following, so your content might work on one but not the other. Don’t simply throw out content because it failed to perform on one channel. Again, keep in mind that recycled content might outperform your expectations the second time around.
Another thing to keep in mind is that while a particular post might have fallen flat, it does not mean that there was not some good substance that can be used again. Rework your content. Sometimes it is a question of how information is presented, and not necessarily the information itself that leads to something not working. Creation different variations of the same content in order to take advantage of any opportunities that might exist if your first attempt does not work.
Step 5: What Opportunities Does Your Audit Expose?
Is there something you did that was out of your comfort zone – maybe a video blog or guest post – that generated huge buzz? This is a major opportunity and should be noted in your audit. There are several variations through which your content can be presented to an audience. ‘Recycling’ content (for lack of a better word) in different ways can showcase brand new opportunities for brand exposure.
This relates closely to the previous step. Maybe, in reworking a ‘failed’ piece of content to present it in a different way you discover a new way to generate high levels of engagement. If something works, it should continually be tested in order to see if it will work consistently, or if it happened to work for one particular type of content.
Simply, put figure out where opportunities exist and try to capitalize on them moving forward. There are so many ways to share stories on social channels – you simply never know where you might find success.
Step 6: Comparative Testing
Your audit doesn’t end when you have completed the steps above. Shortly after the static audit (looking at historical data), you’ll need to test the changes made. When an audit tells you to move in one direction, it does not mean you should stop everything you are doing.
Sure, you might have made all of these changes based on data and evidence you found, but you never know if it is going to work in the long-run until you have tried it.
Image credit: Shutterstock.com. Used under license.
Give yourself some time after conducting these audits to see what is working, where further improvements need to be made, and what else you can test. You might see, for example, that image-based updates perform much better during the holiday season. But if, historically, you have found success sharing text-based updates, don’t discount their value when the holiday season comes to a close.
Considering the constantly evolving nature of social media, a content strategy is going to be a living, evolving entity. Take the time to really observe what you are doing and how you can make it better (particularly when major changes to a network or algorithm are announced). You never know what might take your strategy to the next level and make the marketing side of your content that much more successful.
Featured Image Credit: Shutterstock.com. Used under license.