One of the first things we learn as children is how to share. Letting our friends and classmates use our toys and crayons is rightfully championed. Sharing is caring. So why do we end up forgetting all about this once we step into our professional lives? Instead of freely sharing between teams, too many organizations keep their data close to the vest. Individuals and teams alike hide their knowledge from the others at the company that could really benefit. This can be a major downfall for your content creation and marketing strategy. Without the right data on which to base your choices, your campaigns can end up falling flat time and again. You may also end up leaving opportunities on the table because you don’t have all the information.
In our recent episode of Found Friday, a weekly series dedicated to all things data in content marketing, search, and digital, we took on the topic of data collection and sharing and how the right kind of data can inform your marketing strategy in a huge way. There are a lot of reasons that your data sharing strategy may be lacking at the moment, but as you’ll see, getting on board with more transparency, better data collection processes, and definitive marketing goals is worth the investment.
Why Data Sharing is a Good Idea
When we talk about data sharing, we don’t mean giving your social security number to a long lost relative. We’re talking about internal numbers and patterns that are derived from your digital marketing efforts.
And if the idea of data sharing isn’t immediately attractive to you, that’s okay. You might not realize how important it is to have strategic organizational transparency into your marketing data.
Sharing data between teams offers your organization a range of benefits (outlined below) but what it really comes down it is allowing the organization to make strategic marketing choices that are based on all the available information rather than jumping to conclusions about which strategy, channels, and messages won’t work for you. More on that later.
For now, keep in mind that effective data sharing within your organization does the following:
- Promotes consistent efforts toward common goals
- Allows for accurate measurement of cause and effect across your entire organization
- Helps effectively assess trends and outliers
- Ensures data that is being shared is done so easily and allows for effective use of that data
- Supports the creation of strategic messaging, content, and metrics
- Has a positive impact on your bottom line
These impacts can be far-reaching, offering benefits to individuals, teams, and to the organization as a whole.
Let’s go a little deeper into each of these benefits.
Promoting Consistent Efforts towards Common Goals
As you’ll learn a little later on, our data measurement and sharing process starts with defining campaign goals. By being explicit about what you are trying to achieve, not only does performance measurement become much easier, but organizational goals stay top of mind for everyone.
Accurate Measurement of Cause and Effect
Every campaign, whether it’s a seasonal sale, a new product launch, or a brand awareness push has effects that ripple throughout the organization. When you take the time to create a clear picture of your marketing data, it becomes much easier to trace a line between one action, message, or deliverable and a positive or negative effect. This is the key way that tracking and sharing data helps you to make better, more informed choices.
Effectively Assessing Trends and Outliers
Much like identifying causes and their effects, thoughtful data can make patterns that much clearer and can help you to see which outcomes are anomalies.
Ensuring Effective Use of Data
Organizations that track and share data regularly can more regularly and easily turn that data into actionable insights. It is not enough to collect information if it is not then acted on intelligently.
Supporting the Creation of Strategic Messaging, Content & Metrics
The more you know about how your messaging and content performs across platforms and mediums, the more informed choices you can make about how to invest your resources for better content. Particularly on small marketing teams, you have extremely limited time. Using good data to prioritize will save time, yielding an increase in marketing performance and a happier content creation team.
Positively Impacting the Bottom Line
Without a positive impact on revenue, there would be no underlying drive to collect and share data effectively. Better data and better data sharing together can mean more strategic marketing decisions. You can spend less for better results.
Common Obstacles to Effective Data Sharing
While there can be a host of reasons that companies are reluctant or even hostile to data sharing strategies, the three most common stem from a lack of process and an underlying fear.
First, many organizations do not promote data sharing. They may not be openly hostile to the idea, but it is not ingrained in the company culture or processes and therefore quickly falls by the wayside. Once you recognize the importance of sharing your marketing data, it is the job of organizational leaders to champion the cause and ensure that each individual stakeholder is on board.
The second common reason we see organizations fail to enact data sharing processes is due to fear at an individual or team level. People think that by sharing information that isn’t tied to a “win” they will call attention to their shortcomings or to the underperformance of their campaign, leading to criticism, reprimand, or even firing.
Of course, the reality is that when an initiative fails, people know that it fails. Hiding the data that can help to explain why it failed does no one any favors. Rather, sharing key data points can help to mitigate or even prevent future campaigns meeting the same fate. To overcome this obstacle, it’s essential that leadership place emphasis on data sharing and transparency between teams, making data sharing a clear corporate value.
Finally, a very common obstacle to effective data sharing is confusion about what data should be shared, who to share it with, and where or when to share it. This is one that’s much easier to overcome.
Getting Data That’s Worth Sharing
“How do I set up marketing so I can collect data effectively?”
You can only share data effectively if you have valuable data to share. Collecting good data actually started before you even engage in any marketing activities and should start in the goal-setting phase. Each deliverable, task and decision should map back to organizational and team goals.
Goal-linked deliverables, combined with accurate measurement, gets you useful data.
For a visual representation of how this works, take a look at the Goalden Pyramid below:
A Note on Vanity Metrics
When you’re setting up your data measurement, it’s okay to let go of the idea of the vanity metric. Vanity metric refers to things that can be measured but don’t matter. In fact, dismissing types of data out of hand is antithetical to the goals of effective data reporting and sharing. Instead, wait until you have the whole picture. You may find that what you thought were vanity metrics tie directly to your outcomes. These can be important pieces of the puzzle.
What Better Data & Reporting Could Look Like
Here we arrive at the crux of the argument. How the right data, at the right time, in the right format, supports a more effective and efficient content strategy.
The Message, The Medium, and The Method
It starts with considering your content strategy in three parts: The Message, The Medium, and the Method.
The Message: Your specific value proposition, campaign message, tagline, feature, benefit, etc.
The Medium: The medium is the type of content. A medium is characterized by how it is consumed and not what channel it is shared on.
The Method: The method is the way the content is distributed, including specific channels. Every medium can have multiple channels.
From these three parts of your campaign, you can track performance data as it relates back to your campaign’s goals. For each message of a particular campaign, you can note both the medium you choose and the distribution method and track data from each source.
For each message of your campaign, you’ll end up choosing a medium (or probably a few) to use. You’ll also choose methods with which you’ll share the media you create. We have found that generating one specific “pass/fail” metric for a message is significantly less useful than looking at how a message performs as it relates to a medium and a method.
For example, a certain message may perform well in video format and your videos may perform well on Facebook. But only by comparing that data to the data you get from your other messages can you learn whether it is Facebook as a platform that is performing well for your brand overall (because of a major presence there, a big ad spend, or something else) or because that particular message resonates with that platform’s audience better than others.
You must also keep context in mind, since some messages and media perform better via certain methods (and some, like YouTube, do not even support certain media).
As your campaign progresses, you will end up with data that looks something like this. The darkened borders indicate the most successful medium and method, as it relates to your campaign goals.
Collecting data this way allows you to gather and share insights that maximize what works and what doesn’t without dismissing channels, messaging or distribution tactics based on incomplete data. For instance, a video with a specific message may not perform well on Facebook but that does not mean that you should dismiss Facebook as a distribution method out of hand. Instead, you can use this data as compared to other messages and other media to determine what types of messages and media your Facebook audience likes.
It is too easy to dismiss an entire platform because it didn’t work well in one case when the message or medium may have been inappropriate. The same can be said of dismissing a carefully crafted marketing message that didn’t perform when it was really the placement that wasn’t right.
Using That Good, Good Data
Segmenting your marketing data by message, medium, and method makes it easy to see how your messages are performing. You can also see which channels are most effective for which messages.
Once you’ve collected performance data, you can make the initial observations we reference above but don’t stop there! This data can act as a springboard to more effective content marketing strategies.
For example, if you have one message that is resonating particularly well across platforms you may consider updating your website and other content so that your messaging aligns across all channels.
As you continue collecting data for multiple campaigns you will quickly be able to find out what types of media and methods your specific audience prefers. You can then build out your ongoing content strategy around that knowledge. If you have an audience that prefers video content, don’t stop at creating one original video and simply sharing it across your channels. Instead, take other content you have, like SlideShare presentations, webinars, or even blog posts and create more videos. You can easily leverage content you already have to great effect once you know how to best communicate with your key market.
Additionally, you can allocate your resources much more effectively with this kind of data. None of us have endless time to dedicate to content creation and proliferation but if you already have good data suggesting that a certain channel or medium will perform well with the message you have in mind, you can focus your limited time there and leave the less effective channels for a later date.
It is worth noting that while you may be sharing one message across many platforms, be sure that you are tailoring that message to the platform and your audience there. Rarely will people on Facebook respond to the same copy and content as the audience that your AdWords find. Over time, the better sense you will get about what and how to share with every method you choose.
Sharing is Caring
Finally, let’s bring things back to data sharing. If you expend the effort to collect and analyze your marketing data using the Message/Medium/Method methodology (and we think it’s worth a shot), don’t then proceed to keep your data hidden away from the other teams that could benefit from it. There are big advantages to collecting data in this way. It is easy to analyze, easy to process, and easy to leverage in future strategy. The more you share, the better everyone at the organization can make good choices.
Implementation & Takeaways
Content is an ecosystem and removing entire mediums or methods may have a disastrous effect on the system. Instead of working to cast aside a certain method or message as soon as it doesn’t perform, use data collection and organization processes that allow you to uncover trends and make good marketing decisions.
To start implementing an effective data sharing process, start with your organizational goals. Don’t be discouraged if you’re already in the process of running campaigns. You can still start tracking useful data from existing campaigns using our methodology. Some good data is much better than none.
When you have established the business goals for your campaign, you can then break those down into KPIs or smaller goals, and then into the deliverables that will support those goals.
Your “Goalden Pyramid” will support your data collection efforts from the beginning. As you launch and measure your campaign, you will be able to draw lines directly from your deliverables, like a blog post, to your business goals. In this way, you’ll start to learn quickly what works and where you can improve or reprioritize.
We try our best to abide by the Message/Medium/Method structure. However, the reality is that your reporting structure isn’t as important as the integrity of the data inside.
Collect good data, share it within your organization, and make choices that are based in fact and reality. You’ll see the results.
Found Friday is our weekly 30 minute video broadcast where we dive into a wide variety of digital marketing topics. Join us for upcoming episodes of Found Friday by registering here. Once you register, you will be able to attend all future Found Friday videos.
Want to learn more about how to simplify your data collection and sharing methodology? Contact DemandSphere.