The Fog Of Content Wars Is Lifting With The Rise Of Engagement Metrics

10/25/2016 12:48 am ET
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We know from numerous studies that consumers like content more than standard advertising channels. That means that a blog post, a native ad, or a webinar is more likely to convert and create a loyal customer than a banner ad on a website.

The challenge for many companies is intelligently integrating their content into their marketing and sales process. Until recently, content professionals have relied on their own experience, trial and error, and a good amount of guesswork to develop content and achieve ROI. But new technologies and services are stepping up to fill the information gap.

One leading method for realizing ROI from content is capturing and leveraging engagement metrics. Matt Ley, President of The Streaming Network, an enterprise webinar platform, says that knowing the degree to which content consumers are engaged is the missing link in the process.

I wanted to know more about the future of content marketing ROI so I asked Ley to explain further:

Q: What is the biggest mistake people make when they try to assess the ROI of their content without having data to look at?

Ley: Without data there really is no way to effectively measure the ROI of any content asset. I think most marketers have moved beyond the idea of using anecdotal evidence, such as Customer A liking X piece of content or Sales Rep A getting a lead from Y piece of content. They are shifting towards using aggregate numbers, such as volume of viewers or emails received, as their main way of measuring ROI.

Data is the core of measuring the ROI of content marketing efforts.
Data is the core of measuring the ROI of content marketing efforts.

When we first engage a prospect and ask them how they measure ROI from their webinar program, the first thing they start talking about is the number of viewers that converted from the number of registrants they receive for a given webinar. The idea here is that more viewers equates to more leads, which in turn, drives ROI.

The mistake in that reasoning is that they are treating all of their viewers the same and applying the same value (a lead) to each one. In reality, the fact that each lead viewed your content does not mean they should be qualified as equal value.

The key factor to track is engagement with content. This is the number one data point in measuring how qualified a lead is. ROI needs to be defined by the number of qualified leads the content drives.

Q: What kind of engagement metrics are most indicative of an interested potential-consumer?

Ley: The first data point we look at is time. The longer someone spends engaged with a piece of content or the more times they view a piece of content, the more engaged they tend to be. This is why media is so much more powerful than content that can be off-lined, like a PDF, E-books, or whitepapers. Media formats, such as videos, podcasts and, of course, webinars all offer you the ability to track the time someone invests in your content. With long form content, like a podcast or a webinar, you can tell a lot about someone’s engagement if they view or listen to the entire piece.

The other benefit of hosted media content is that you can easily embed other calls to action (CTAs), which can measure commercial intent.

Let’s compare two people who viewed the same webinar:

Both Viewer A and Viewer B registered and logged in on the day of the webinar. The Viewer A watches the first 20 minutes and then tuned out while the Viewer B watched the full 60 minute presentation, asked 2 questions, responded to a poll, and downloaded a white paper on the webinar producer’s product. Viewer 2 is a much more engaged lead than Viewer 1. Viewer 2 is a MQL and possibly a fully sales qualified lead.

Q: Webinars are tricky. What is the most important thing a company should do to stand out from the crowd?

Ley: It is not really as hard as people might think. The problem with webinars is that they generally operate in this weird vacuum where those putting them on tend to forget everything they know about how media works. They run a format that has never been very effective: a 45 minute presentation followed by a 15 minute Q&A period.

This format has lulled audiences to sleep for over a decade and as a result, webinar audiences generally remain pretty unengaged, with less than 10% of them willing to ask questions.

The most important thing you can do is remember what other kinds of media these same people view or listen to on a daily basis and “steal” from that. Think of your webinar as a show; think of your podcast as a radio program. Both should be meant to inform but also entertain if possible.

CNN, ESPN, NPR or podcasts like Stuff You Should Know and This American Life are great inspiration for how you can format your webinar. Remember that you are looking for engagement, so programs like these that solicit and use audience interaction are the best inspiration.

We measured engagement for one of our customer’s events before and after they made a switch from a didactic presentation followed by Q&A to a simple interview format. Their content didn’t change, but the way they delivered it did. Their aggregate engagement score went up 2.7 points and the number of questions submitted by their audience rose by 17%! Audience members felt more a part of the conversation and less like a passive listener.

Q: The Streaming Network is a leader in gauging content engagement, but what is next for that technology? What metrics will we be looking at tomorrow?

Ley: Today we are tracking everything in the same manner Facebook or Google did before they fully knew how they were going to monetize it. With integration into marketing automation systems and CRMs, we have been able to draw a straight line between engagement and the lead quality of a viewer, but more can and will be done with that data.

The next stage is to properly identify the sales qualified leads (SQLs). This means understanding commercial intent of leads by the actions they take while watching the live or on-demand webinar. As our customers start to look at webinars as a content asset rather than an “event”, they are becoming quite creative in how they use our platform to provide engagement options to their viewers. In turn, we are learning how to draw even more direct lines between actions taken by viewers and the potential or actual revenue being generated.

Like Netflix, we know a lot about webinar viewers. We know when they tune in, when they tune out, when they get hooked, what actions they take while they are watching, and what they watch next. With this data, our ability to help our customers define their content choices is only growing stronger as well as our ability to provide them with the intelligence that drives real revenue.

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