How do you measure ROI in storytelling? Rhiannon Thompson, Director at Remarkable Content, puts the case for A/B testing.

The ultimate goal at the very heart of a content strategy is to create an action. That may be a sales purchase, a registration, a subscription, a payment, a donation or specifically a behaviour change. We don’t ‘do-what-we-do’ just to count industry metrics and prepare glossy reports.

Of course metrics and reports have their place, more of that later, but ultimately we create great content that not only demands to be shared but which also has a very real and direct commercial impact.

Storytelling is as old as time; we can all remember, regardless of our age, a story that we fell in love with as a child and that still resonates with us today. Be that a make-believe story from grandpa, a favourite learn to read book or a song with profound lyrics that meant so much to the younger you. The reason these stories remain close to you is possibly down to the fact that they have the perfect mix of ingredients. They are funny or emotive, informative or useful and ultimately they connect with you personally.

Now, we recognise that having an effective storytelling strategy may not always generate quick conversions, but it can certainly illustrate why a consumer should invest in your product instead of a competitor’s.

Storytelling, done properly — whether that’s generating your own brand story or embracing influencers to sing your praises — is a powerful top-of-funnel awareness tactic. It can generate the levels of engagement and brand affinity that translate to action, maybe not immediately, but over time.

Goals and business objectives need to be scoped out at the beginning of a campaign. Once they are confirmed, then the objectives can define the metrics by which the performance of the campaign will be measured. There isn’t really a right or wrong set of criteria, what matters is that the agreed metrics are adhered to

Extraordinary stories

The way in which we tell our client’s stories, or which our client’s stories are told by advocates, has evolved. So, too has the way in which we measure success. Simple publishing has gone, we know that today’s audiences are smarter than ever and can see right through self-serving content. However, by telling an entertaining story, we can endear brands to customers and turn fans into influencers.

As the industry continues to evolve at pace, and more and more players enter the ‘content’ arena, the issues surrounding ROI, KPIs and M&E (and many other acronyms) remain at the forefront of client comms. Efficiencies in delivery and a sole focus on commercial outcomes are essential to sustain client relationships.

It is only by working as a business partner, as a team, which ensures that we know the commercial impact of our activity in real-time. Using the tools available to us tells part of the story, but with client intelligence and bottom line metrics combined we are able to adopt an agile approach to execution.

Please stop looking at the glossy monthly reports that you and your team spend large amounts of time compiling. It’s important to examine key metrics on a more frequent basis, if your only interaction with metrics is on a monthly basis, you most likely will be reacting to the data at a point when you can no longer do much about it.

Daily analysis may be too often, weekly would be recommended, but each brand and business is different so make sure you find the right balance. It’s also critical not to compare metrics such as page views or unique visits month over month. Look at year on year instead as seasonal spikes can then be spotted e.g. summer holidays.


The importance of A/B testing

Ultimately the elimination of guesswork is the key to ensuring all content delivers great commercial results. The only way to know what works is to test and refine. A/B testing on content doesn’t have to cost the earth, just making small tweaks to content, or the posting schedule, can deliver improved results.

Assumptions about the best days for posting, the right call-to-action, the most effective tone can hurt results if you haven’t really tested for effectiveness.

Simple tests can deliver great impact:

  • Try publishing more (as long as the content abides by your strategy)
  • Shake up scheduling – do you post on evening and weekends? When is your audience most active?
  • Use the right types of content – video for brand awareness = viral?; case studies/successes = sales?; value-add content = advocacy from current customers?
  • Attract attention – be bold with your headlines, use emotional and personal pull
  • Is your content long enough or short enough? Try a variety of content lengths
  • Images – subjective, but when used right they set the tone, always use captions to bring the image into the story. Posts with images get more clicks, re-shares and engagement.

There is no right or wrong answer to what brands should measure against as long as the metrics are intrinsically linked to clearly defined business objectives and trackable goals. There isn’t just one solution for the best metric; objectives will define the metrics that are most suitable be that engagement, volume, sentiment or more importantly, action. The crucial point is to agree those goals at the start of the campaign so the correct parameters are adopted in order to measure effectiveness consistently throughout.

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