Apologies to John Wannamaker for mangling his quote about advertising, and for anyone offended by my doubting of their content. But I’d stand by it, and even say 100% of our content is pointless if we don’t review and know what is working for our customers and, ultimately, for our business and learning from it.
Producing compelling content that stands out from the masses, that stops people scrolling, gets them reading, interacting and buying what you do, well, it’s not easy, is it? Not consistently, showing up for your tribe and giving them something they’ll find valuable and useful.
But if you don’t stop and review what you have done, how will you know what you did this year that was valuable to them, and to your business?
With the end of the year rapidly approaching, then it’s an excellent time to take a moment the time to do a review. Which means knowing what you’re looking for, what your measures of success are. Every business is different, even if it’s only how long your business has been going.
What would you think about?
Don’t think you have to value what you think you “should” be looking at, pick what’s right for you. How about:
- Sales generated
- Customers signing up to your mailing list
- Likes, comment and shares
- New visitors versus returning
These are probably straightforward, and I would imagine most of us would look at these. That said, we’ve got to wean ourselves off “likes” in the year ahead as some channels, such as Instagram, are likely to move away from reporting them. For most small businesses, these are probably the most important ones, the ones most likely to impact positively on your business.
Part of the review will also give you a steer on which channels are working hard for you. Appreciate it’s going to mean looking at several different analytics, but if you’re going to take the time to create the content, then your effort deserves the time to review how effective it’s been.
What’s top of the class for you?
You might end up with different answers to each of the criteria, and that’s okay. I’d suggest you look at your top three to five in each channel so that you can get a sense of a pattern.
Look, if you’re a bigger business, or studying the theory, then, of course, you’d review a lot more. But for most small businesses, looking at 3 to 5 is a great starting point. If you’ve got time to get to 10 then even better. Maybe you look at your top 3 each month. That will give you a sense of the seasonal rhythm of what you do, and when your customers engage with what you do. Do something, rather than not doing anything because you can’t review all of it.
How would you connect your winners?
When you’ve got your top performers in each of your criteria, then you’re looking for the patterns, what connects them. Sometimes it’s not simple, or clear. Sometimes it is.
For example, my most popular blog posts this year were:
If I had to try and classify them, then I’d say there’s two interviews with small business owners, and three posts about how to (or how not to) do something in particular. Either they’re inspiration, or they’re ways to put things into action. I’ll aim for more of those next year. Oh, and one of those posts wasn’t even written this year, but still people are finding it, and finding it useful.
Looking at Instagram, the pattern is different. Likes would be a photo of me, and then photos of coffee, gin and the sea. Only one of the top nine links directly to a post that I’d written, the rest are just about life as it happened. But if I look at the ones that drove visits to my profile, then two link to posts and three link to external events where I’ve used the event hashtags. In my case, it was Yorkshire Day, National Kissing Day and Refill Day.
That suggests that I might want to look at more content that links to things in the outside world. They’re not particularly connected to my work, though possibly quite a good sum-up of my life. They bring colour and authenticity to my story. As we regularly hear, people buy from people they know, like and trust. Your story helps them with all of those things.
What do your results tell you?
Can you see any patterns? You might have one theme, there might be a couple, or it might just look like a jumble of stuff. The critical thing, if you can’t spot a pattern, is to look at where your key successes come from. If your sales come from content about your cat, even if you sell marmalade, then keep finding new things to say about your cat.
What do you do with it all?
I guess the answer is pretty simple, not rocket science at all. The same should happen after all reviews. Assess where you are, look at where you want to be, plan to fill the gap. That part of the process is simple.
The planning part is the bit most of us find a bit challenging. It’s probably a bit like New Year’s resolutions that we’re really keen at the beginning, and then it all tends to fade away a bit. I can’t talk, as you’ll know if you know about my gas leak challenges.
But when I do plan, then it does take some of the stress out of the week or fortnight ahead. You don’t constantly have to think on the run about what to post. It also gives you a chance to look a little ahead, and to look at what’s happening in the outside world as well as in your own world.
If you have had some success with content focused on external events, then a bit of advance planning might help you to make your content more distinctive. With a few of these external events on your calendar, then you’ve got some ideas ready to go. Add in the key events in what you do, and suddenly the calendar starts to look less empty.
Looking for inspiration
If you’re not sure where to find out about external events and days, then I can offer some help with that. The mid-month Content Catalyst lists relevant awareness days and charity events, with a particular focus on food and drink.
But some of you are really advanced planners, and have been asking for the full year ahead. If you subscribe to my newsletter, then you’ll be the first to know when the full 2020 calendar of events is available next week. I’ll keep doing the mid-month newsletter as well, because events do change, and get added in. After all, look what happened to the calendar makers this year.
Whenever you can, start a review. That gives you a headstart on a broad plan for 2020 and make more of your content efforts worthwhile next year.