If the modern content creator feels like they’re drowning in a sea of customer data, that’s because they are – companies and their marketing departments have more opportunities to track, measure, amplify, optimize and assess consumer behaviour than ever before, but doing so requires filtering the most valuable data through an even greater amount of clutter.

Nevertheless, it will be the companies that best measure their audiences, analyze the data collected, and use it to improve their content that will come out on top, according to “Connecting the Dots: Analytics and Measurement,” a Feb. 10 webinar about data-driven content hosted by the Content Council, a New York City-based content marketing association.

Two of the webinar’s participants were based in Toronto and two were in New York, with moderator Jacqueline Loch, a Content Council board member and vice-president of content solutions at Toronto-based St. Joseph Media joined by Theresa DiMasi, Weight Watchers’ New York-based vice president of content; Kathy Kayse, Yahoo’s vice president of sales strategy and solutions, also based in New York; and Michael Grier, the Toronto-based business development director at Globe Edge, the Globe and Mail’s sponsored content arm.


How Weight Watchers uses analytics

Each of the webinar’s three experts introduced themselves by describing the role played by data analytics in their company’s creative process, starting with DiMasi, who said she was responsible for 90 per cent of Weight Watchers content, including articles, videos, recipes, program guides, success stories, Weight Watchers magazine, and “myth busting,” educating readers not only about weight loss, but what it means to embrace happy and healthy living.

“We want to inspire people whether they’re Weight Watchers members or not,” she said.

“Content maps directly to our customer journey, so my job is to create a steady stream of content that delivers the right content to the right people at the right time with the right creative on the right platform,” DiMasi said.

To create and distribute Weight Watchers content, DiMasi said that she relies on a content management system that organizes the company’s library in multiple ways, such as by topic, brand, author, or user segment, in addition to where it has been published, embedded, shared, or followed.

“You can have the best content out there, but if people aren’t finding it, it doesn’t matter,” she said.

How Yahoo’s analytics can help

Yahoo’s Kayse used Weight Watchers as an example of how her company’s data analytics could be used to add personalized content to the latter company’s marketing efforts: for instance, by notifying Weight Watchers that every winter, a significant portion of its members purchase airline tickets to Florida. Based on Yahoo’s insights, Weight Watchers could then create content providing travel advice, perhaps distributing e-newsletters to members who had purchased a ticket. During their visit, they could receive tips on how to keep their Weight Watchers program on track while travelling.

“The beauty of the insights we have through e-mail is I know who’s buying Weight Watchers products, and we can take those individuals and understand where they go, what they do, and how they engage with our brands,” Kayse said.

“A number of advertisers would love for us to hand over the data,” she said. “But it doesn’t tell a story unless you have the people who understand the data – the journey to engagement – as the experts within Yahoo do.”

How the Globe and Mail uses analytics to enhance content

The Globe and Mail’s Grier emphasized that while analytics plays a significant role in how his company creates and measures its work, storytelling remains king: without great content, the Globe and Mail’s properties wouldn’t reach over 18 million impressions every month, he said. Analytics simply influences which type of content deserves his team’s focus.

“We’re getting into the business of predicting, which is I know a bold statement and a bold position to take, but we’re very confident that the data that we have does that for us,” he said.

So how can data analytics help your content creation efforts?

While guiding the discussion, moderator Loch asked the experts how they cut through the clutter to reach their audience.

Weight Watchers’ DiMasi said that in addition to ensuring her company’s content always carries a clear message, her creators approach each topic in an integrated, multifaceted way.

“So we’re saying this on YouTube, we’re saying this in the meeting room, we’re saying this through e-mail, and so you’re surrounding the customer with a very simple message,” she said.

Occasionally Weight Watchers will produce similar content in multiple formats – a list, an article, a video – and measure which is seen by a wider audience, she said.

The Globe and Mail’s Grier said that his company will often measure the around the amount of time someone spends watching a video, or reading an article, and have concluded that 30 seconds is the ideal running time for a video, and three minutes the ideal reading time for an article.

He also said that even content creators who have mastered data analysis are better off applying their insights to one or two aspects of content creation very well, rather than attempting to utilize consumer data in 50,000 ways.

The Globe Edge staff, for example, has become very good at writing headlines – and knows this because 40 percent of their traffic comes from referrals, Grier said.

“Just knowing where people are coming from and discovering you is a huge success,” he said.

Weight Watchers’ DiMasi said that she thinks many companies misuse data analytics because they aren’t familiar with the process.

“As people get more comfortable working with data in departments and understanding digital, I think the culture of companies will start to [adapt],” she said. “The fact that you can now take this [data], and actually enhance and make your job even more effective, I think will be more of a standard in the future.”


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