According to Ian Walsh, CMO, TrackMaven’s approach to marketing analytics is helping content marketers drastically increase engagement. Walsh explained how TrackMaven’s metrics aim to help content marketers focus in on what’s working–both in terms of their own content and their competitors’ content. TrackMaven is a competitive marketing analysis platform, aggregating and presenting competitor marketing activity and content marketing via a feed and offering it for comparison to one’s own campaign.
Tell me about TrackMaven—what do you do and what is your vision?
Basically, TrackMaven is a marketing analytics software platform. We call ourselves competitive intelligence for digital marketers. At the highest level, we help companies create better content for their content marketing. We do that by analyzing the impact that our customer’s content is having in the marketplace. Not social listening or the voice of customer but actually looking at the content and messages that our customers are putting in the market across various different digital channels, and looking at what’s working, what’s not? What’s driving the most engagement with channel metrics?
We do that for their competitors as well as for the customers themselves. This really helps them benchmark their performance relative to their competition. This means understanding how well they’re performing on different channels and different topics with different audiences. How is that changing over time? Where are they winning and losing the share of voice—where do they have competitors sneaking up under their noses? Which channel should they double down on, or which channel should they maybe walk away from? So that’s the benchmark insight.
The second use case is identifying the most engaging topics and tactics. So, what are the things that they should be talking about in order to engage their audience, grow the size of their followers, and create more dialogue? How does that break down channel by channel? We show them what they need to be talking about and where—which channels are putting these topics into the market.
Which specific channels do you track?
We look at 15 different digital channels. We look at all of the major social networks that register in North America, like Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Pinterest, Google+, Tumblr, etc. We also look at blogs. We look at text and display ads, web traffic data, and emails, and earned media as well. All of the channels where marketers are posting content and want to see their engagement.
What kind of engagement metrics does TrackMaven use?
The engagement metrics are specific to the channel. On Facebook engagement metrics include the number of likes and comments. On Twitter it’s re-tweets, on blogs it’s social shares, and so on and so forth. TrackMaven shows marketers engagement metrics for every single piece of content they put on the market, and for any specific competitors, they want to watch. Then they can filter engagement data by channel, or by level of engagement, and surface metrics over a particular time range.
Tell me about your customer base. Who’s the company that needs you?
The company that needs us is any company that’s focused on digital marketing, and wants to improve the impact of that digital marketing. Our customer base is about 50 percent B2B companies, 40 percent B2C, and 10 percent advocacy groups and non-profits. It’s no specific industry, we’re very horizontal—our customer base includes everyone from tractor manufacturers to IBM to the NBA.
In terms of company size, where is TrackMaven a good fit?
There’s certainly a floor. It varies a little bit based on digital sophistication. Typically if a company is greater than one hundred employees, we know that their marketing is sophisticated enough that we will be a good fit. If they are under a hundred employees but they’re very sophisticated with digital marketing, then engagement tracking will be important for them too.
Are there any particular areas of growth for you right now?
We are starting to see a lot of use cases where customers start to deploy us not just for a single brand, but for multiple brands. For example, we’ve seen this type of expansion with organizations in the hospitality industry, where certain hotel chains have a family of brands and are interested in deploying us for eight or 20 or 30 of their brands. Each sub-brand has its own competitive universe. In addition to deployment growth, we are also planning to expand our product to serve a broader set of insights, instead of just focusing on the digital content itself. This will be through added features and additional product offerings.
How are you different from a social media listening tool? Tell us a little about your competitive landscape.
There are probably two sets of companies on each side of us that are not quite our direct competitors but are competing for attention and mindshare in marketers’ budgets: social listening and content distribution.
On the social listening side, products tell you what people are saying about your brand, your product, and your company. They answer questions like, what is the sentiment right now around your brand? Who’s chirping at you or chirping about you in the marketplace? They do not look specifically at the content that you’re putting in the market; they can’t tell you whether it’s working or having an impact. So we don’t focus on what are people saying about you, other than the notion of how many are people saying things about your content. Rather than trying to understand the general sentiment, we want to understand engagement—what content works, what content doesn’t, and where you’d want to walk away. For us, it’s a matter of looking at the impact of marketing (versus just the voice of the customer).
The other side is the distribution stack. There’s a whole universe of production, curation, workflow, and distribution products, from Percolate and NewsCred to Contently, Hootsuite, and Google Analytics. That’s not what we do at all. But, we can integrate with those products.
For example, we’re working on some partnerships where insights from TrackMaven will help manage the workflow around content distribution by telling marketers which piece of content to do first. So we do analytics about social media but we’re not really part of the distribution stack. We don’t look at how many posts you get or what are other people tweeting about you. It’s about what you’re doing as a marketer, and what’s working. Among other things, of all the tweets you make which one is having an impact?
What about a company like Simply Measured, who’s also looking at optimizing content and social activity?
Simply Measured is a lot more similar to what we do. The thing we do differently is our focus on the competitive side. We show you what your content is doing for you, but also what your competitors’ content is doing for them and could be doing for you. And like I said, TrackMaven also looks at other channels besides social—earned media, web traffic, emails, text and display ads as well as other data, like Klout scores and other back-end metrics.
The real value at our core is the aggregation of your content from all those sources, and our analytics around what’s working and what’s not.
Do users have the ability to pick the metrics that are most important to them or define the goals within a particular channel?
Absolutely. We give users the ability to report on almost any metric imaginable, for some channels more have than others. With Instagram, for example, there are a million different things we can report on. But for all channels, we have saved reports and drafts where users designate the metrics they care about, what competitor segment they want to compare to, whether they want the results sent as an email, etc. It can be anything from the vanity metrics—output and follower size—down into the more in-depth engagement staff like interactions per piece of content, normalized per one thousand followers, as an example. Depending on the user, they might only be interested in how they stack up at the highest level or they might want to get all the way down to a more sophisticated content strategy.
For example, if I can pair my content relative to my follower size versus my competitor relative to their follower size, I can see whether I’m doing a good job or not.
Does TrackMaven put together an ROI metric on the content marketing that your users are doing?
We’ve been talking a lot about that lately. It’s not native in the product right now, but we’re actually about to launch a page on our website where we analyze the impact of content because we are tracking ten thousand brands in our database right now. We track almost a million pieces of content per week. We compared the aggregate of the ten thousand brands and the interactions per piece of content on 7 different channels of the non-TrackMaven customers and the TrackMaven customers. And it’s not direct ROI, but we saw about a five-fold increase in engagement per piece of content for TrackMaven customers versus non-TrackMaven customers. Now some of that is maybe that if they are sophisticated enough digitally that they want to be a TrackMaven customer, they might have a leg up otherwise. But it also means that the product helps them create content that is engaging.
On the other hand, the ROI model that we’re working on is something to help organizations understand, am I moving the needle on this one? Am I having a business impact with my content marketing? It’s not built into the platform yet, but we’re working with our customers and our customer success team to show them how to demonstrate the ROI of their content marketing. The question we get is not so much “Can you show me the ROI of your product?” but more “Help me show the ROI of my content marketing.”
What are some of the trends you’ve been seeing around content marketing and engagement?
One of the major trends we see is the pressure to produce more content and put more content on more channels. On the one hand, we have new channels coming out every month—what are we going to do about Periscope, Snapchat, and Vine? At the same time, we need to produce more. Our competitors are producing more, so we need to drown them out. It’s a two-dimensional matrix that just makes the total volume of content explode. When we look at our benchmark of brands, we see the average number of pieces of content per brand, per channel doubling every 18 to 24 months, in addition to the increase in a number of channels.
The interesting thing, though, is that people are still only consuming the same relative amount of content, on the same number of channels (see the Neilson survey on TV). That means an increasingly high percentage of the content is just useless noise. Every time you as a consumer decide, hey, I’m going to really geek out on Periscope, it means you’re probably not spending much time on Vine. You might just abandon Vine. As these new channels come along, companies aren’t abandoning the existing channels they already have. But their customers are abandoning them on those old channels because the companies are reaching out to them on new channels. So this cycle exacerbates the content problem.
In the aggregate, your audience is spread out across channels. But individuals are not spread out across more channels. So companies need to pick their battles—not just where can you get the biggest audience, but where will you have the biggest impact? For example, there might be a channel with a smaller audience but where you can create more engaging content, as a function of your value proposition or the way your product aligns with that channel. It might be better to go for some of those more niche opportunities.
Right now, when we analyze the impact of content over time, an average piece of content is having less and less engagement. It’s measured by interactions per piece of content, which is continuing to decline on every single channel. We think that’s because content is being produced quickly at a low quality.
What do all these trends mean for content marketers?
It means marketers really need to focus less on creating more content, and more on creating better content. Those tech distribution stacks have made marketers really good at getting their content out there; we’ve built world-class distribution engines. But if marketers aren’t paying attention to the content they’re putting into the system, it doesn’t matter. The world’s best content distribution engine cannot overcome bad content, whereas good content will work fine on any distribution system. TrackMaven helps marketers see what’s working, so they can focus on having a bigger impact with that good content.