Content engagement remains THE challenge

You’ve created piles of marketing content. Congratulations. Or should it be “Condolences”? Content not aimed at solving others’ problems amounts to spinning your wheels, says this expert.

“Content is King!” has been marketing’s rally cry for some time, yet content engagement (whatever that means) remains a challenge. More and more, brands who were dubious have boarded the content train. They’ve seen (by watching competitors) the power of content marketing to educate, connect with, and engage an audience. Never mind how important content is in their lead generation. Many brands have thrown big bucks at digital content. Are they creating quality? Do they know what to do with that content? The answer is ‘no.’

In fact, most brands find it difficult to get engagement and the ROI they expected from their content marketing. If you watch brands do this, you’ve noticed that most branded content is little more than marketing messages and puffery. Delivering real value? Too often, no.

The engagement disconnect

BrightEdge’s recent Content Engagement Report looks at how content engagement—defined as traffic, conversions, and revenue—varies by industry. As this graphic shows, other than in hospitality, the results are disappointing, and in retail, deeply concerning.

Although the results for B2B Tech and manufacturing are scanty, it’s not a surprise that these fields, with narrower distribution networks and smaller audiences, score higher than retail. The low engagement in retail clearly shows that the attempts to gain attention by flinging massive digital content at a too-wide customer base have failed badly. Content marketing’s success in hospitality, a field that invites content about venues and destinations people want to visit and learn about, sets an example of what can be done when the customer base is highly targeted.

Mobile versus desktop

The study also looks at how content engagement depends on the device on which it’s viewed. Despite the mobile buzz, desktops generate the most engagement, as this report graphic shows:

That may be due to the fact that most of us prefer to consume long-form content on our desktops, leaving simpler searches like “where is it,” “when does it open,” and “how much does it cost” to our mobile devices. Whatever the reason, publishing content that doesn’t have mobile-responsive design won’t help.

Quality versus quantity

Why do we see a poor return of customer engagement from digital content? Because brands produce content just to feed the content machine, without goals and strategies, and without designing content for the stages of the customer journey. They also use content marketing to push their brand messages, then wonder why it doesn’t work.

Content marketing is more than writing and hitting ‘publish.’ It’s thinking about what your customers and prospects need, and writing content that serves those needs. Most brands, especially in B2B, fail to do that. They don’t write for their customers and prospects, they try to sell to them. They write corporate blogs to talk about their awards and accomplishments, which do nothing to serve their clients, solve their problems, or help them with trustworthy information along the path to purchase.

How do you measure engagement?

Engagement is often poorly defined. What does it mean? Does it mean blog comments? Does it mean likes and shares of content? Comments on blogs don’t prove success, as most readers don’t comment. Social sharing is a valuable metric, but not a true measure of engagement with your content. Instead, use things like how many readers read a blog post and then downloaded a gated white paper or case study. Or how many readers liked what they were reading so much they subscribed to the blog? Or how many readers, attracted to a piece of content, went on to another part of your website and submitted a contact request form. Or how many readers shared content they found relevant via email? Do you track those metrics? If not, you should. And you should connect your content marketing to your lead generation, and track them in your CRM. In far too many instances, that doesn’t happen.

There are many ways to measure engagement. Some are key performance indicators that you should use to judge your content marketing; others are soft metrics of little value.

The BrightEdge study doesn’t tell how to get more out of content marketing, but it does reveal the difficulties of using content to sell. Creating content solely to create content never works. Content must fulfill a need or solve a problem for the reader. It must be well designed, easy to read, and mobile-ready. Most important, it must serve consumers wherever they are in their journey to buying, and your strategy must lead them from one piece of content and brand connection to the next. Failure to do that means you’ve spent time, money, and effort on something that will deliver little, if any, value.

A version of this article first appeared on Shelly Kramer’s v3B blog.

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