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10 Content Marketing Lessons I Learned From Seeing How Our Content Is Shared

Do you know which blog posts or webpages are driving the most visits to your website right now? Probably. It’s not amateur hour. But did you know:

But, honestly, it’s hard to find good statistics on how much referral traffic is driven from social, because, until recently, you couldn’t tell how much web traffic was coming from each individual social network, including private sharing on FB messenger, Slack, text, etc. (otherwise known as dark social).

2017 Digital Marketing Predictions From the Experts

Now that you have access to this information, what can you learn about your content marketing efforts, and how can you use this information to plan better in the future? I set out to find out for my own brand, Simply Measured. Turns out, you can learn a lot from how your content is shared across web and social when you’re seeing the complete picture.

1. Twitter Drives Visits, Dark Social Drives Goal Completions

More people visit our site from Twitter than from dark social, but those that do arrive on our site from dark social are more likely to convert.

ChannelsAction Item: I am going to focus on replicating the content which drives traffic to our website from both Twitter and dark social. Traffic from both channels has value–we want to be driving a lot of eyes to our content, regardless of whether those visitors are downloading content or requesting a demo. They might do that later, and it’s important to cultivate a strong awareness-based community on Twitter.

But, we also need to be driving content downloads and demo requests to fuel our demand gen machine. I am going to start keeping track of which content is converting via dark social vs. which content is converting via Twitter, and see where there is overlap and where I should double down.

2. Owned Social Content Is Our Engine.

We get earned shares, sure, but they aren’t driving the bulk of our web traffic.

Most shares of our content are propelled by owned social media posts.

Action Item: Most of the content which does drive earned shares comes from posts which include numbers (5 ways to…), data points, and/or major brand name. I am going to experiment with some blog posts which include all three, and see what kind of traffic change I see, if any.

3. Fortune Favors the Bold (and Presumptuous)

Our top five pieces of content by visits from Twitter in the month of January were…

  1. Digital Is Going Dark: Only Early Adopters Will Thrive in 2017
  2. The Ultimate Guide to Micro-Influencers [GIFOGRAPHIC]
  3. Simply Measured’s Ultimate 2017 Instagram eBook 
  4. 10 Bold Social Media Predictions for 2017
  5. How Starbucks Generates Over 270K in Engagement for Each Instagram Post 

This tells us that our audience favors bold, authoritative titles and words like “Ultimate” and “Only…” It also tells us that our audience trusts us, or they would never click through on a link that presumed to have the “ultimate” or “only” answer. This is good news!

Action Item: I’ve questioned before whether we should use such bold titles, but it clearly works, on Twitter in particular. Now I can free myself from that doubt and increase my use of these title and subject types.

4. Free Tools for Dark Social

Our Free Tools page generates most of our traffic from dark social.

Free ToolsAction Item: People want access to the data around their brands, but they don’t always have the money to pay for a solution. They’re willing to get a small snapshot of their data in exchange for inputting their information. This leads me to believe that utilitarian content–oh, there’s an app for that–behavior drives dark social sharing, and this makes me want to spend more time brainstorming content which will solve these problems instead of advising about them.

5. Our Blog URL Is Being Shared on Dark Social…A Lot

The only part of our site which ranks higher is our guide to social media attribution models.

Click to zoom

This tells me that people are privately pointing towards our blog as a resource and research endpoint.

Action Item: Being seen as an authority in the social and digital marketing space is incredibly important to us. I am going to keep improving on our contributor program with high-caliber authors to increase this authority and widen our reach.

6. The Blog Drove Most Web Visits, Not So Much Goal Completions

So the good news was that our blog drives the bulk of our web traffic from social. The bad news is that those web visits aren’t mirrored in goal completions as we have defined them.

CompletionsAction Item: The conversion from social to our blog is happening…but that’s where the conversions end. I am going to retool some of our CTA’s and make sure our blog content is more aligned with our demand gen team’s current offers and priorities.

7. I’d Like to Have Some Input on What We Define as “Goals”

And speaking of goals: the current goals we have set up in our solution include clickovers from our free trial page and newsletter subscriptions, and that’s about it. What about content downloads, which are a major demand gen function? I want more insight and input into what we consider goals for our pieces of content.

Action Item: Set up a meeting with our demand gen and product teams, and redefine goals within our solution.

8. Our Contributor Program Drove 40% of Our Social Traffic

In January 2017, our external contributor program drove 40% of all web traffic from social. That’s HUGE.

Action Item: Keep investing in our contributor program, and renew my search for high-impact, highly followed marketing professionals who can help us reach our target audience. Also, maybe make a budget request for authors who have giant follower bases, but require payment.

9. Creativity Is a Dark Social-Driver

Many of our most-visited blog posts from dark social focused on getting creative with your social strategy and/or exposed other brands that are being creative, especially on emerging platforms like Facebook Live and Instagram Stories. This tells us that people are privately sharing our content when they’re stumped for creative ideas moving forward and need a jump start.

Action Item: Increase our writing and solicitation of content that inspires and leads marketers in the right direction when they’re experimenting in uncharted digital/social waters. We’ve always said that marketers see us as the “approachable college professor,” or, as Kevin puts it:

You respect our opinion, but we aren’t snooty or condescending. We talk in plain English, involve you in the conversation, and get you excited to learn more about a topic. We probably sit on the desk while we lecture because we’re kinda cool, and instead of telling you the answer, we guide the conversation and help you find it on your own.

The content that people share on dark social can tell you a lot about what your audience wants to see more of–and how they see you.

10. I Don’t Need to Figure It Out All On My Own.

When I was doing my research, I saw this.

Click to zoom.

But I couldn’t figure out how we were getting so many visits to from Facebook, especially since we hadn’t posted this link within the given time period on our own Facebook page. First I reached out to our social media intern. She said she hadn’t promoted it, but to ask Robin, our demand gen manager, who handles our paid and promoted content on social. So I asked Robin, who said she hadn’t. We’re still in the process of figuring out where this traffic originated, but the process has made me understand how truly interconnected we are as marketers, no matter where we sit in the organization, and how much we have to learn from one another.

Looking at our social referral traffic was definitely an educational experience for me, and will certainly transform the way I strategize and create content. I encourage you to do the same. Catch your free demo below!

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Lucy Hitz

I’m the Head of Marketing Communications here at Simply Measured, where I'm responsible for our content program, social media marketing, PR, and comarketing ventures. I love yoga, The X-Files, peaty scotch, hiking, and poetry. If I were a social media channel, I’d want to be Instagram, but I think I’m Twitter.

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