Five years. That's how long "native advertising" has been a thing. That's when digital publishers started offering content marketing solutions to brands. It's when BuzzFeed tripled revenue, further validating that branded content was here to stay. Publishers, new and old, from the New York Times to Vox, quickly followed suit, creating expansive content studios to support the growing demand for these services. I did the same thing during my time at Time Inc. and Business Insider—staffing big teams, creating a ton of content, selling it to brands.
One small problem, though: We had no idea if the content was good.
Now, the concept of "good" content is somewhat subjective. At the very least, we can agree it's difficult to discern if branded content solutions help marketers achieve their goals. But to this day, publishers, brands, and agencies have difficulty measuring the efficacy of branded content. It definitely "feels" more valuable than a set of banner ads, but why is it so difficult to prove?
The answer is simple: Content is complicated. Branded content doesn't have a basic metric such as click-through rate to fall back on. Every campaign can include a range of metrics that help tell the story, but this only gets you halfway in measuring content. To get the full picture, a baseline that puts campaign performance into context is needed. Industrywide branded content benchmarks can create that bridge, and it's what
Our ability as an industry to set branded content benchmarks is critical to the success and growth of this format. Here are the Top 3 things we need to consider when leveraging benchmarks:
1. Identify the right metrics.
Not every metric is created equal. Identify two to three key metrics that you can objectively examine to see how your campaign did. If the goal is increasing brand engagement for women 18 to 34, for example, you might focus on social referrals coming from Pinterest and Facebook while also looking at average engaged time. This will help prove if you've hit your target audience and if they were engaged.
2. Benchmark against topic, not industry.
It's a mistake made too often when comparing your program to others. Automakers shouldn't be benchmarked against other automakers, but rather by the content topic they've published. If Ford has a campaign focusing on travel and top family road trips, it shouldn't be compared to a music/entertainment campaign being executed by Toyota. Always remember to benchmark against similar content types.
3. Create what resonates.
This sounds obvious, but you'd be surprised how often content is created in a vacuum. There's a ton of data available to help identify what people want to hear about from your brand. For example, SimpleReach's Branded Content Benchmarks provide topic-specific word clouds to help you focus your strategy.
As we establish branded content benchmarks in the marketplace, be sure to use these tips when setting benchmarks for your own branded content campaigns and creating great content for your audience.
About the Author
Evan Giamanco is VP, Customer Success and Services, for SimpleReach. With over 10 years of digital marketing and sales operations experience, Evan has played a vital role in the growth of digital properties at Time Inc. and Business Insider. He received his MBA in marketing from the Peter J. Tobin College of Business and his BA from Fordham University.
About the Sponsor
As the centralized data platform for content, SimpleReach provides content creators with universal measurement and optimized distribution for all their native ad and content marketing needs. Visit SimpleReach.com to find out more.