Why Buzzfeed values engagement metrics—and so should you

Up your PR game using BuzzFeed’s measurement mindset, which adjusts depending on content type, desired audience behavior and changing consumer tastes.

We’re seeing the rise of metrics that matter.

I recently read an article in Fortune titled “BuzzFeed: Days of Counting Pageviews and Unique Visitors Are Over that made my PR engineering heart jump with joy.

In the piece, media and tech beat writer Mathew Ingram examines how BuzzFeed is shifting from so-called fuzzy metrics—such as unique visitors or subscribers—to more engagement-driven metrics that align with the unique goals of specific content.

If media giants such as BuzzFeed are making this move, PR can’t be far behind. This is one of the smartest shifts the comms world has seen.

Not only will BuzzFeed be better able to gauge the effectiveness of its output (which is the first step toward optimization), but it will also have a clear picture of success. Isn’t that what we’re all after in the end?

Here are a few key takeaways from the piece, plus how you can supercharge your PR game using the BuzzFeed measurement mindset:

Takeaway 1: It’s time to re-evaluate the emphasis we all place on traditionally tracked metrics in lieu of more modern metrics.

BuzzFeed is moving away from unique visitors and page views, which are pretty much equivalent to PR’s impressions and social shares. Yes, there is some merit to these measurements, but there are far more powerful metrics to focus on. Identifying these new metrics does require an initial investment.

As Ingram astutely states, “The right thing to pay attention to depends on what the goal of the content is, where it appears, whether it’s a video or a photo or a news article, and how the network or platform it is on functions.”

Sounds a lot like the three Content World questions every PR pro should ask about their output:

  • Content: What format am I choosing based on the audience I’m trying to reach? (Text, video, visual, etc.)
  • Channel: Which conduit am I using to deliver this content because it can best reach my target audience? (Earned, owned, newswire, etc.)
  • Measurement: How am I defining success? (Number of views, amount of conversions, message pull-through, etc.)

What this boils down to is content-specific measurement. Success, and the metrics you use to demonstrate it, will look different depending on what you create, where you seed it and whom you’re trying to reach.

Takeaway 2: BuzzFeed’s team continually re-evaluates whether they’re looking at the right things when measuring a type of content’s effectiveness.

Today’s measures of success will not necessarily be what matters six months down the road.

BuzzFeed publisher Dao Nguyen calls the continual application of healthy skepticism “re-anchoring.” BuzzFeed’s team never stops looking at all the ways they’ve done things historically and questioning their relevance. Ingram describes it as “an almost scientific approach of checking to see whether the thing being measured is actually the thing that is most important.”

For PR pros and content producers, this should be a reminder that what worked last year (or even last quarter), isn’t necessarily the measurement practice you should be using today. Consumers’ and journalists’ behaviors change over time.

Where your customers spend their time has changed, and you should consider “following them” to the places where they naturally “hang out”—if you haven’t done so already.

Are you meeting your customers where they are, or are you still trying to hook and pull?

Takeaway 3: There isn’t one golden ticket for successful measurement.

Silver bullets rarely exist in PR, and the same goes for measurement. The key is always to consider the goal of specific types of content.

Consider a video, for example. Are you more concerned that your audience shares the video or watches the video the whole way through? Maybe a combination of both. What’s the goal with a short-form article? Perhaps a lot of shares, or maybe it’s seeing key brand messaging appear in the copy.

What this means, PR pros and content creators, is that one size doesn’t fit all. Just as there isn’t one surefire PR strategy that works for every e-commerce brand, success metrics have to be thought about in the context of your business.

A version of the article first appeared on AirPR.

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