Online marketing measurement has always been a rather finicky undertaking for brands and agencies. Marketers and content producers are still struggling to identify a proper process for their measurement methodology; in some cases, marketing teams are even using outdated approaches (like measuring impressions on content) for their analytics.
As data collection has gotten more sophisticated, new metrics have begun to explode onto the scene. These updated metrics—things like exposure time, viewability, or post life cycle —require marketers to evolve their perspective on how people interact with content online. In turn, marketers need to ask themselves better questions in order to make the best use of the data being shown.
How did the reader arrive at your content? How long did they stay? Did they make it past the headline and intro paragraph before tuning out? Where did they go after? Thanks to some innovative content measurement tools, it’s now possible to begin answering these important questions.
We’ve outlined seven tools of these tools, each of which approach marketing analytics in different ways. For ease of reading, we’ve organized them by their main functionality. All of them, if used correctly, can help make measurement and analytics easier—and your marketing better.
(Editor’s note: This list does not include the tool use here at The Content Strategist—Contently Insights—because it’d look like we were shilling for our own product. But Insights is the bomb diggity and designed specifically for brand publishers. You should check it out. Shill over.)
Social Media Publishing
Hootsuite does a great job of reacting to immediate social or content needs, primarily in the customer service realm. The tool functions particularly strongly when used on a brand’s Facebook page or Twitter profile to quickly post a status update and monitor its effect on the audience. It’s a great tool for a community manager, and works well for basic customer service needs within one specific community.
From a pricing perspective, Hootsuite is substantially lower in cost to use than most of the tools on the list. The catch is that users are limited to the number of social media profiles they can load into the system, as well as the number of searches they can run.
The tool does a good job at basic monitoring of a brand’s immediate space, but falls flat in trying to assess the larger topic of conversations that can expand a brand’s point of view. So, where Hootsuite is strong at understanding what people are saying about detergent brand X, the tool becomes rather useless when you try to understand what Americans are saying about detergent as a whole.
Online Listening & Monitoring
Radian 6 is one of the more popular online listening tools available to agencies and brands. The software, through its multi-dashboard perspective, will show you a number of interactions (key influencers, share of voice, volume of mentions, and key online destinations) in one screen for easy observing. It’s a great digital war room for keeping an eye on marketing tactics as they are executed.
Radian 6’s strength lies in its ability to be a listening tool for both research and tracking. Influencer analysis is a good feature for a high-level read on who is most active in any given conversation a brand is monitoring. If you want to see what people are saying on any given subject—especially around a brand campaign or brand crisis—and then analyze these results against past behaviors, it’s a pretty reliable tool.
Data visualization is also decent enough to generate quick charts or graphs on the activity happening. Still, the visuals that the tool churns out won’t really wow people who don’t quite understand what they’re looking at.
Sysomos MAP is the rough-around-the-edges cousin to Radian 6. It does exactly what Radian 6 can do from a listening, monitoring, and publishing approach, but it’s slightly more crude and clunky. Saving searches for easier access later on is still a feature for which users have to navigate a tunnel of files before arriving at the desired folder. You can only have one user on the tool at a time, and that can be rather annoying and inefficient if you need multiple team members active in the tool.
It’s a good, basic listening tool, but you have to be a patient person to sift through all the conversations that come through your searches. Boolean query engine—the component of the tool that runs your search phrases—is a good place for beginner marketing managers or brand managers to understand how a listening tool can work. Basic data visualization on conversation volumes, word clouds, and popularity gives the user a quick summary of what’s happening in a particular space.
Sysomos has generally been the tool that agencies and brands start out with to get a feel for listening and monitoring. It’s important to note that the team recently broke off from its parent company Marketwire, so the tool may see some drastic user experience improvements in the coming year.
Alterian is a tool for the seasoned marketing analyst or data scientist. It’s a powerful monitoring tool, but it requires the equivalent of a statistics degree to use the technology to its full potential. But marketing teams that want to get a head start on where analytics and measurement will be heading can benefit from tackling a tool like Alterian.
One example of its automated learning functions allows the tools to better decipher sarcasm, sentiment, and context within social conversations. This is still a very manual process for other tools, but Alterian can be taught to understand how humans converse online for a better analysis.
Perhaps the best use of Alterian is by marketers who want to understand what an entire industry looks like online over a specific period of time (e.g., opinions on coffee over the past five years).
The organization that owns it, SDL, has taken steps to create a “lite” version for less analytically inclined people to use, but the complex depth of Alterian is what sets it apart from other tracking competitors in the first place.
If you think Alterian is a tool your marketing team needs to understand, the software provides a great variety of training and customer service options that can guide marketers through its use. Video tutorials, certification, and guidebooks are all included in the package when you sign up to become an expert with the tool, but SDL still has a long way to go in simplifying such powerful technology.
Content Publishing Analytics
Unmetric is an analytics tool that only focuses on the conversation brands are having with their audiences. That level of focus is calming, but it can also be rather limiting. Users—marketing or brand managers and digital folks in the agency world—can only see what brands are saying on YouTube, Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, and LinkedIn.
The focus is meant to give brands a feel for what their competitors are doing, and how audiences react or interact with the content being put out. This, in turn, allows the listening brand to improve content based on what other brands have succeeded or failed at implementing. But problems arise when you’re onlylistening to what other brands have to say. It’s essentially listening in a bubble or an echo chamber.
Unmetric’s interface is simple, which makes the onboarding process for a marketer slightly easier. A key feature of interest is the tool’s “Ideate” function. Unmetric will give the user insights into what types of content have been performing well, and suggest ways to use those same techniques to create content. There aren’t many tools that will churn out insights from the data being generated for marketers.
Parse.ly is a useful tool for basic analytics tracking on content published by a midsize media organization or content production business. The tool takes a simple approach to presenting data that allows publishing teams to analyze and optimize new content against previous works. It’s incredibly simple and easy to navigate.
The software’s analytics are robust, measuring pageviews, visitors, engaged time, traffic sources, social shares, and visitor loyalty, amongst other metrics.
Chartbeat wants to make metrics and analytics a less difficult territory to navigate for marketers and publishers. CEO Tony Haile recently opened up the software to anyone who is willing to collaborate on building a better version than his existing product. He hopes that collaboration on an approach to measurement will help the industry legitimize its science.
The tool provides affordable pricing tiers for independents who want to measure their content efforts (a basic version of the tool goes for $10 a month), and can scale up for the established newsroom that churns out thousands of words daily.
In fact, according to the Columbia Journalism Review, about 80 percent of the top 100 digital publishers use Chartbeat to track their readers. If it’s good enough for The New York Times and Al Jazeera, it’s probably good enough for you.
Chartbeat displays key information like volume of readers, social share activities, traffic sources, and top performing content in one consolidated dashboard. The tool also assesses how long a reader has spent consuming specific content, the device it was displayed on (desktop or mobile), and rank traffic referrals based on how well a source converts readers to your content.
What happens once you get them there, of course, is in your hands.
This post has been updated to reflect Parse.ly’s latest measurement capabilities.