In an era of multi-platform content, brands need to focus on objectives before KPIs

All too often, we start with the met­rics, jus­ti­fy­ing or con­nect­ing them to over­ar­ch­ing objec­tives as an after­thought. Often, it can be tempt­ing to ‘chase’ KPIs, but on a mul­ti-plat­form, app-based world of con­tent con­sump­tion, it’s even more impor­tant to...

Pat Hong By Pat Hong from Linkdex. Join the discussion » 0 comments

It was on the 3rd of Jan­u­ary 1996 that Bill Gates pub­lished his essay enti­tled ‘Con­tent is King’, out­lin­ing his thoughts on how the future of con­tent and adver­tis­ing would devel­op on the inter­net. It’s a fas­ci­nat­ing read, and always inter­est­ing to go back and ret­ro­spec­tive­ly look at vision­ary essays such as these.

Amongst oth­er things, the essay also reveals that con­tent has been ‘king’ for twen­ty years now.

Per­haps there was a time when brands might have pre­ferred to focus their online invest­ment on adver­tis­ing rather than con­tent mar­ket­ing, but today we’re at a point where there is so much con­tent being cre­at­ed that some are begin­ning to ask ques­tions about whether the scales have tipped, and brands are pro­duc­ing too much con­tent for audi­ences to rea­son­ably con­sume and engage with.

One of the excit­ing things about the Inter­net is that any­one with a PC and a modem can pub­lish what­ev­er con­tent they can cre­ate. In a sense, the Inter­net is the mul­ti­me­dia equiv­a­lent of the pho­to­copi­er. It allows mate­r­i­al to be dupli­cat­ed at low cost, no mat­ter the size of the audi­ence.”

- Bill Gates

It might be dra­mat­ic to say we are at a tip­ping point, but mar­keters are feel­ing the pres­sure to do more and more to make their con­tent stand out and be effec­tive. It begs a fur­ther ques­tion, how is the nature of con­tent chang­ing?

10x’ and mixed media content

Per­haps as a result of this, many brands are try­ing to do ‘less but bet­ter’. In fact there’s a grow­ing per­cep­tion in the indus­try that excep­tion­al or “10x” con­tent is what brands real­ly need now. As mar­keters in the indus­try, you’ll hear phras­es such as ‘one excel­lent piece of con­tent a month is bet­ter than four mediocre ones’ — and to a large extent, this is prob­a­bly true.

10x con­tent, how­ev­er, by nature can nev­er be the main cog in brand­ed con­tent oper­a­tions. Inevitably, it requires a great deal of resource (finan­cial, intel­lec­tu­al, and logis­ti­cal) to pro­duce, and in the com­pet­i­tive dig­i­tal land­scape, brands will always need to push the bound­aries of min­i­mum viable to achieve the results they need — ensur­ing equal­ly, that they pro­duce a few exam­ples of 10x con­tent each year as a kind of ‘pre­mi­um con­tent’.

Where we may see changes to reg­u­lar brand­ed con­tent out­put, are on the plat­forms on which they choose to pub­lish, and in the for­mats they choose to use. Name­ly, the brand­ed chan­nels we can expect on plat­forms such as Snapchat, Insta­gram, and even­tu­al­ly, inevitably, new and emerg­ing apps such as (yes) Poké­mon Go.

Inci­den­tal­ly, if there’s one take­away for me from the Poke­mon Go phe­nom­e­non, it’s that the app has shown us that the con­tent of the future is unlike­ly to be restrict­ed sole­ly to prose, images, or even mul­ti­me­dia audio and video, but to a much more immer­sive expe­ri­ence of mixed dig­i­tal media.

Future challenges in measuring content

One of the mea­sure­ment prob­lems that can arise from a demand­ing mixed media con­tent world is that mar­keters can become over­ly focused on plat­form-spe­cif­ic met­rics and KPIs. If you con­sid­er, for exam­ple, how SEOs approach met­rics for web and writ­ten con­tent, it’s clear how mea­sure­ment is often spe­cif­ic to the ‘page-based’ nature of the for­mat. (It may not be an exhaus­tive list but typ­i­cal­ly the oft-most cit­ed met­rics for page-based, writ­ten con­tent include: time on page, time on site, bounce rate, social shares and engage­ment, or CTR from the page to deep­er pages.)

If indeed the pre­ferred means of con­tent in con­sump­tion in the future is via a num­ber of dis­parate apps, it’s nat­ur­al that unique met­rics will be imple­ment­ed to mea­sure suc­cess across vary­ing plat­forms. In this regard, shares and engage­ments may be rel­e­vant for Insta­gram, but ‘time spent play­ing’ may be more rel­e­vant for an aug­ment­ed real­i­ty game.

And the prob­lem with here is not that mul­ti­ple plat­forms nec­es­sar­i­ly imply mul­ti­ple met­rics and KPIs, but that the nat­ur­al ten­den­cy is to focus on these, and in the process lose sight of actu­al brand goals and objec­tives.

It occurs to me that this is a cross-plat­form man­i­fes­ta­tion of a prob­lem a col­league, Jonathan Alder­son, iden­ti­fied (in the con­text of Google Ana­lyt­ics):

Prod­uct Mar­ket­ing by Num­bers — Objec­tives, Goals and KPI frame­works from Jono Alder­son


All too often, we start with the met­rics, jus­ti­fy­ing or con­nect­ing them to over­ar­ch­ing objec­tives as an after­thought. It’s a con­se­quence of the tools and ana­lyt­ics plat­forms we have at our dis­pos­al, cre­at­ing an envi­ron­ment where­in it can be tempt­ing to ‘chase’ KPIs.

The chal­lenge in mea­sur­ing the effec­tive­ness of con­tent, as con­tent evolves and spi­ral out­wards into mul­ti­ple plat­forms and points of engage­ment, will be con­sol­i­dat­ing indi­vid­ual met­rics with over­all brand con­tent goals; to deter­mine exact­ly what the con­tent arm of a busi­ness exists to achieve, and to con­nect the met­rics used to adjudge that to wider brand objec­tives, rather than the oth­er way around.

Pat Hong

Written by Pat Hong

Editor at Linkdex/Inked, Linkdex

Pat covers the SEO industry, digital marketing trends, and anything and everything around Linkdex. He also authors Linkdex's data analysis and reports, analysing the state of search in various industries.

Inked is published by Linkdex, the SEO platform of choice for professional marketers.

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