I often get asked, particularly by clients, what the ROI of content and engagement is. What is it going to cost, and what are they going to get out of it? This is always a tricky question to answer, but I’ll attempt to do so at the end of this post. First, some context.
Nothing in life is guaranteed…unless you’ve been working in advertising.
Content in old advertising was pretty simple: shoot a nice, glossy ad, pushing your product/service and then pay CPMs to distribute that content. Advertisers knew exactly how much that ad was going to cost to produce, how much it would cost to distribute and how many people the ad would (potentially) reach (“potentially” because impressions are not synonymous with engagements).
The Wild Web
Today’s content is a different beast. A good content strategy incorporates paid media, owned media, relationship media and SEO to generate earned media. None are mutually exclusive. And, the emphasis is on the engagement, not the impression.
Notice I didn’t even mention social media in there? That’s because social media is ubiquitous across the aforementioned forms of media. Social media is a channel for paid media (e.g. Facebook Ads and Stories, Twitter’s Promoted Trends and Tweets, to name a few of the biggies). It’s a channel for owned media (e.g. Facebook Pages, Google+ Brand Pages, YouTube Channels, Tumblr accounts, Twitter accounts – these are all places to build an owned community). Social media is a channel for relationship media – my term for modern day PR (you can now identify who the top influencers for your brand are; many, if not all, will have a social media presence). Leverage these three media well, coordinated with a strong content strategy, and social media helps facilitate scaled earned media. But, please do not mistake social media as a siloed form of media.
The Brand’s Predicament
Now coordinating these media and solidifying one unified content and engagement strategy is difficult – particularly for Fortune 500 brands with large marketing budgets. That’s because each medium is often handled by a different agency or group. Paid media is handled by media agencies. The content for paid media is produced by the creative agencies. Relationship media is handled by PR agencies. You have a new breed of social media agencies doing some pieces of each (paid, owned and relationship media), while the PR, creative and media agencies are all fighting each other and the social media agencies for a piece of the social media pie. No wonder brands are confused.
Building A Newsroom
To help solve this issue, I’d like to see brands build something akin to a newsroom. This would be a cross-divisional/agency team focused on content and engagement strategy. They would work together to
- Identify the key existing and target audiences (i.e. consumers) for the brand;
- Identify what content is valuable to each of those audiences at different stages of the purchase funnel;
- Identify where (Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, blogs, TV, news outlets, etc.) and how (video, pictures, text, slides, etc.) audiences like to consume that content;
- Identify who the brands’ top influencers are; and,
- Then, assign team members and agencies to produce the appropriate content and distribute it through the appropriate channels (i.e. execute on the plan)
For more detail on the above bullets, see my posts “Content As A Platform” and “Building A Content Platform”.
Calculating the ROI of Content and Engagement Strategy
Now, I believe that social media and mobile technologies have empowered brands (large and small) to
- Access more specific data about their audiences;
- Produce and distribute a higher volume of content that is more valuable to their audiences, and do so more efficiently; and,
- Build deeper, longer lasting relationships with their audiences
With this in mind, I’d like to see brands and agencies use the following as a benchmark for calculating ROI
- calculate the average Customer Lifetime Value (= revenue x time [per month/per year])
- calculate Allowable Cost Per Sale (i.e. the amount your willing to spend to acquire a sale – e.g. 10% x CLV)
(Note: Jamie Turner does a great job describing Customer Lifetime Value and Allowable Cost Per Sale in this post)
With a successful content and engagement strategy, average Customer Lifetime Value should increase over time, while average Cost Per Sale should decrease over time.
I’d like to place emphasis on the words “over time”. While you can certainly run one-off social media campaigns, content and engagement are long-term initiatives that involve constantly listening, learning and iterating. You won’t see ROI tomorrow, or maybe even six months from now. Anyone that has ever started a blog and tried to build an audience/community around it will confirm that. But, I think a year in, you should probably start to see these effects starting to take place.
Are any of you building a newsroom in your organization? How are you calculating ROI for your content and engagement efforts? Would love to know.