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Claire Austin: Clicks and Followers Are Just Vanity Metrics

By Stine Andersen on January 17, 2017

How do you measure native advertising? How do we turn vanity metrics into valuable data? How do we secure ROI?

Claire Austin, Head of Audience at King Content, explained this and much more as a speaker at Native Advertising DAYS 2016. If you want to join us in 2017, sign up for notifications about the upcoming conference. 

Below are highlights from the interview which have been slightly edited for clarity.

"It's all about data"
"Why is it important to measure native advertising? It's all about data and it's all about understanding our audiences. If we're going to invest so much money in a marketing medium, then we need to understand how it works. Is it effective for us as a business? Is it driving the results that we want to drive and is it garnering the results that we want? Is it meeting the overall objective?

The idea is that we should be better at communicating with our audience, we should be getting results that help us to be better as marketers but also to grow our businesses and if we can't do that then what is the point of doing marketing? Digital is like any other medium whether it's TV, radio etc. You need to know what the impact is and you need to know if it's working for you as a brand."

Get the right stakeholders in the room
"Measuring native advertising is about building out your objectives and it's about everyone being on the same page. Make sure that you have the right stakeholders in the room such as a sales person, one from customer services etc. This way you get an integrated approach that everyone buys into.

Everyone has a different idea of what they want to achieve from a campaign: The brand team will want to get the most reach whereas the sales team want leads, so you need to say 'OK what are we going to do for each of the different objectives that we have, and how do we make sure that we meet each of these objectives?' So 1) that everyone's happy and 2) that we are meeting marketing and business objectives. So to sum up: Document your strategy, make sure you are all on the same page with the objectives and then build out your KPIs."

Related: New Survey: 5 Facts About Native Advertising and the News Media Industry

"It's not a case of last click"
[To build your KPIs] you need to look at the user journey. It's not a case of last click, it's a case of attribution modelling. People will come into your journey at different stages. Do you know where your audience is? And have you build out the right content to fit the right format of that particular channel that you want to reach them on? Then it's understanding how do I measure that? What is the point of that piece of content that we produced? What do we want to do?

So for example, if it's a video then generally you'll want video views and you'll want people to get to a certain amount of that video so for example 95 percent of the video. Then you may have a blog. Maybe you want them to scroll to a certain point in the blog or you want them to click on something within the blog. Then you may have a gated asset and the objective of that particular gated asset is to get them to download it. So each content asset has a different KPI attached to it and then the metrics fall under that as well. Then hopefully you should be able to marry everything up and seamlessly create the user journey and ensure that you get your prospect or your customer from A through to B."

"ROI doesn't really work for native advertising"
"What's the difference between ROO and ROI? ROO is return on objective. We're very much focused on return on investment within the ad industry or return on advertising spend. It doesn't really work for native advertising or content marketing because we're not just looking at last click, we're not looking at one piece of content. We're looking at a whole journey, so we need to have attribution modelling in place and we need to be fair to each piece of the journey. If we set an objective for each of those different mediums and we get the results that we want from each of them, then we can say: yes that has been a success, that has done what we wanted it to do.

Don't try to figure out what that ROI is at the end of a campaign

So awareness needs an objective, consideration needs an objective, conversion needs an objective. And if you can seamlessly go through each of those and say yes we've met the objective for that, now we are going to move on to the next part of the funnel, then you should be able to get them down to the bottom of the funnel and it should be a process that is a lot more simple and a lot more effective to measure rather than trying to figure out what that ROI, or return on ad spend, is right at the end."

"Clicks and followers become useless vanity metrics without objectives"
"Clicks and followers are vanity metrics in my eyes. It's a very short tactical approach that marketers sometimes get a little bit wrapped up in and we're all guilty of it. We're constantly wanting to know how many clicks did we get? How many impressions? How many people do we reach? How many video views? They're just vanity metrics.

I don't like buying followers

When we take that away, what are we actually trying to achieve? What is our marketing objective and what is our business objective? If we don't know what those two things are, then our clicks become meaningless, our followers become meaningless. In terms of followers, I don't like buying followers because I think it's a waste of time. You should earn followers, you should be able to produce a piece of content, amplify it on a channel and if your content is good enough and you engage your audience enough they will respond to you by following you. And that's earned, it's trust and it's respect."

Related: BuzzFeed on How to Make Native Advertising Go Viral

How to best drive traffic to native
"How do you best drive traffic to native. Again I think it comes down to the objective and I think it comes down to knowing where your audience is and there needs to be that research into who your audiences are and where are they, what are they consuming and what are their interest points and also looking at your competitors as well. Finding that white space. If you could own something then that's where you can tap into that audience.

If you can see that they're constantly googling or searching something in particular creating content around that and then driving your audience to it is going to be really effective. If you're producing the same content as your competitors or you're just copying what they're doing then the chances are you're not going to engage your customers in the same way. So it's trying to find something that's unique, find that white space and then really understand them and listen to them as well and that's where the measuring and the reporting come in; constantly listening to them on a weekly, monthly basis testing different content formats. The more you can do that and the better you can understand them then the better you can help them."

"Data is the biggest opportunity for native advertising" 
I think data is the biggest opportunity for native advertising. It's something that we aren't using enough and there are heaps of data out there that we should be using from our own campaigns and we're not.

Are we putting the right measurements and analytics in place to understand if our content is working? I would say no

We are producing content at such a rapid speed, but are we putting the right measurements and analytics in place to understand if this content is working? I would say no. In a recent piece of research that we did with Warc, we found that 57 percent of respondents didn't think that native advertising was effective. And what that really came down to was the fact that they didn't know how to measure.

That means they're not using all of the information that is right there in front of them and that they actually paid for. They've paid to engage their audience, they've paid to learn something about them -- so use it. Use it to help you build out your next marketing campaign. Data is so important and we all love it so it's really being able to take that and turn into insights and again it comes back to the word 'listening'. If you can listen and you can analyse and interpret what that data says, then you should be able to build a more robust content marketing and native advertising strategy and be able to better engage your audience, meet your business objectives and hopefully make more money."

Setting KPIs: Know what you want to achieve and how to measure it
"How do you set KPIs? This is really simple: know your objective, know what it is that you want to achieve and then set measurable metrics that you can actually achieve to be able to meet that particular objective. If you're looking at brand awareness then you want to be setting a KPI that is based on reach or around video views. If you want to achieve leads then you will want to look at downloads or conversion rates or subscribers.

It's about making sure that the KPI is something that you can actually measure across multiple channels. It doesn't have to be the same metric that you're measuring across different channels, but with every piece of content you're putting out you need to know how to actually measure that piece of content in that particular context and the format that it's in."

3 takeaways: Forget vanity metrics, use data and get buy-in from all stakeholders
"So to highlight three takeaways from my presentation today. Number one would be concentrate on and real metrics, not vanity metrics: Stop looking at your clicks, stop looking at your followers and really think about what is that overall objective and how do to achieve that through setting KPIs.

Number two would be data. Every time you do a campaign, every time you produce a piece of content think about all the data that you're going to get from it. Hopefully, it'll give you that kick up the bum to measure and to think about what you can actually gain from this. The more data you have the more you understand about your audience and the more as a business you will be able to achieve.

A third thing would be to look holistically at marketing within your business. It does affect sales, it does affect customer service, it does affect marketing so let's take a more holistic approach and start introducing stakeholders from different parts of the business to get buy-in so that everyone understands what we're trying to achieve. Then we will get bigger budgets to be able to play with on native advertising and achieve better results."

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