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Why technology is powering the content marketing business

(Image credit: Image source: Shutterstock/Scanrail1)

When companies produce bad content, the results can be disastrous. The technology industry has plenty of examples: Microsoft’s chatbot Tay, operational for less than 24 hours before it began spouting racist and sexist tweets. Or YouTube’s struggles with inappropriate user-generated content showing up on its family-friendly Kids platform.

But what’s less likely to hit the headlines is the idea that, when a company delivers compelling and engaging content, they create better user experiences. They also foster stronger customer relationships, showcase their vision and values, and even increase sales. When content is honest and transparent it sparks reflection, conversation, and engagement.

For example, opposite from the Microsoft Tay debacle, Cisco earned kudos for user-generated content in its WeAreCisco campaign. In 2018, the company invited 20 super-ambassador employees from several office locations to an online brainstorming session. They thought about what content would best connect with university students, new graduates, and other members of Generation Z. The group (dubbed the Kitten Rainbow Unicorns to reflect everything that’s awesome about the web) developed a successful ongoing programme, where the company’s young go-getters share daily Snapchat Stories about what it’s like to work at Cisco.

Content can make or break a brand. And it’s the tech-powered analytics behind the content that can be the difference between a great piece of content that performs well, or an asset that disappears without a trace.

A guide to measuring the right stuff

A good content strategy must go hand in hand with comprehensive analytics — which help organisations work out how people consume their content, what works well, and where they should take their activities next. 

Most of us already know the importance of metrics — and any time we publish a piece of content, our instinct is to look for data about how well it performed. How many people saw it? Liked it? Shared it? These so-called vanity metrics include views/listens, sessions and session duration (the average amount of time visitors spend on your site), social shares, likes, and open rates.

And whilst this kind of information can be motivating, not all of these metrics are equally useful. In fact, when it comes to helping you deliver better business outcomes, only a handful actually matter. 

For instance, having a bunch of sessions, users, or social shares may seem encouraging. But, unless they translate into sales, what real value do they offer? Admittedly, it’s always a good thing to have eyes on your brand and on your content, but that alone isn’t enough.

If you want metrics your C Suite will pay attention to, you need to track how you’re helping your company meet its business goals. At its most broad level, this means asking if your content aligns with your brand strategy, and whether it communicates the messages your customers value.

For this, you need more nuanced — and more immediate — measurement.

The technology solution

A major flaw in the metrics most brands use is that they’re only available after you’ve published your content. And whilst you can still use them to make changes to your content marketing programmes, you’re always left doing so after the fact. To get the best results, you also need metrics that can help optimise your content and content creation processes, before you ever publish anything.

This means using technology to help.

With a content governance platform like Acrolinx, you can analyse your content against a number of key metrics that are proven to impact performance — all before you publish. These include things like content clarity and accuracy, tone of voice, and consistency with your company’s unique brand standards and preferred terminology. By evaluating these elements before you publish, and making changes based on your findings, you can reliably enhance the chances of your content getting the best results.

When it comes to tech, Artificial Intelligence (AI) is already helping create better, more accurate content faster. The Associated Press reports that it’s gone from publishing 300 earnings reports a quarter to 3,000, thanks to the help of AI systems. Meanwhile, in a 2016 experiment, The Washington Post published machine-written high school sports stories, Olympics, and election coverage.

AI gives us the capability to harness a new kind of analytics too. Its first benefit is in planning. There are lots of specific software options that can help you analyse your current market position and give you useful information on where you are and where you want to be. You can capture insight on your competitors, monitor the digital ad space, and figure out how much others spend, how many ads they buy, and what channels they use. You can also map content to the buyer journey, identify keywords and topic clusters for your content, and predict how it will perform.

In looking at content performance, AI drives much more nuanced analytics than anything we’ve seen before. AI can analyse tone of voice, the appropriateness of content for a discrete audience, and importantly, it can scale. Large organisations can create hundreds of pieces of content every week, from multiple writers — far too many to accurately control and manage manually. And it’s here where technology really provides the solution.

Just as companies like Amazon and Google give us data-based recommendations for what we’re searching for, we need to be able to create content that’s built for our customers. Collating and interpreting the relevant data is time better spent by machines than writers who craft the messages.

In conclusion

Companies spend a lot of time, money, and effort fine-tuning strategies around their brand — how they want to appear to the market, who their buyers are, and how they can resonate with them. It’s equally important that these companies understand if their content aligns with their goals and how it performs against useful and strategically-important metrics.

Just as it has disrupted many industries before, technology now has the power to change the way content works for companies. And that goes way beyond using tech platforms to share Tweets, blogs or videos. It’s now powering a whole new world of measurement and analytics strategies too.

Andrew Bredenkamp, founder and CEO, Acrolinx