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We’re bombarded by advertising, content and various other communications every day, meaning businesses worldwide are working overtime to make their mark in a content maelstrom.

Around 25% of marketing spend is now allocated to content, suggesting that marketers have plenty of confidence in its ROI. However, they may be losing sight of what’s truly important.

Unlike mindshare, traditional measurement metrics — clicks, opens, downloads — give us a distorted picture of how readers interact with our content. In this context of superficial measurement, many businesses fall into the trap of “just do more,” which translates to more content, more blogs, and more articles.

But this is a race to the bottom.

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The whole point of producing content is to deliver value to the reader, to educate and help them in some way. Clicks, opens and downloads don’t tell us if we achieved this goal, but the amount of quality time a reader spends consuming our materials does.

How mindshare is different from traditional measurement metrics

Traditional measurement often lacks any form of meaning. It’s based entirely on trying to quantify an individual’s interest in a piece of content or guess their reaction to it. For example, click-through rates don’t necessarily demonstrate a user’s engagement with a piece of content, as they provide no visibility on whether or not the messages have truly resonated with the reader.

Additionally, if we look at social media engagement, which is considered the gold standard of measurement because it requires an affirmative action by users, such as clicking ‘Like,’ we see this is not so far removed from the simple tech used to measure click-through rates. It also provides no insight into whether or not a brand has been able to secure mindshare in an end-user. Think about it: how many times have you mindlessly double-tapped a photo on Instagram without really taking in the content?

When businesses measure the wrong metrics, it starts to impact their wallets. For example, in the context of a brand awareness campaign, focusing on imprecise measurements might lead you to invest in the wrong content and campaigns, ultimately devaluing the perception of brand marketing when the revenue impact doesn’t arrive as expected.

Similarly, for lead generation campaigns, the wrong measurements create a lack of understanding around who is really buying ready, and who is not. Companies might see a huge amount of leads, but they’re seen as low quality and not well-received or followed up by sales. Again, this devalues marketing perception in the business and impacts revenue.

This is where mindshare differs from other metrics. For one, it’s not as easy to measure, given that it rests on an individual’s remembered perception of a brand’s comms. But this isn’t to say that we can’t quantify and optimize for a reader’s interest in a piece of content. We can measure readership time, information retention, and user perception of both the content and its format. While it requires deeper metrics, it doesn’t have to be a difficult process.

All it requires is a simple recalibration of our opinions on what data we see as valuable. Gone are the shallow, imprecise metrics. Instead, we need to consider how people really pay attention to and remember our brand, how effective our communications and campaigns really are at driving this, and how the resulting mindshare impacts revenue. The way we can do this is by creating and measuring scientifically better content that works with our psychology, not against it, to gain more attention and memorability that users will actually want to read and will remember.

Measuring mindshare to create value

Turtl began as an experiment to see if psychological principles could be successfully applied to online business content and, if so, how that would affect the reader.

The result has been both evidence of success in practice, as companies see improved performance and customer experience, alongside quantified, rigorously tested outcomes that demonstrate the benefits of appealing to the human brain.

There are three psychological keys that unlock access to business decision-makers’ mindshare and, by extension, their propensity to remember and purchase.

  • Autonomy: We want to feel in control of our experiences, behaviors and actions, and not have these dictated to us.
  • Competence: We want to feel that we are developing or improving in some way and receiving positive feedback as a result.
  • Relatedness: We want a personal element in our experiences so that we feel connected with them as an individual. 

We looked to these and other metrics and principles from psychology, behavioral science, and behavioral economics as the basis for scientifically better digital content that unlocks mindshare and other benefits for brands. The secret is to work with our psychology.

Take autonomy, for example. While most content presented online is linear, we’ve found that there is value in presenting content in a deliberately non-linear way. This provides readers with choices and options as they read, allowing them to experience autonomy in the way they consume the materials presented. Think of this content format as a “choose your own adventure” book that allows you to pick and choose (and navigate directly to) the information you find most interesting.

Then there is competence. It’s outdated to deliver readers a simple scrolling page of text. Instead, requiring the user to navigate, interact, make decisions and display a degree of competence to consume the information means that their brain stays engaged as they play around with the content. In this way, reading becomes an active experience rather than a passive one, which increases information retention.

Finally, there is relatedness. By allowing content to be personalized by and for the reader, such as letting them input information about themselves and having the content respond accordingly, we can ensure that readers feel it’s relevant to them. Moreover, if we use precise analytics to measure engagement with content, we can tailor future material to reflect learnings about their audiences. All of this creates an environment where readers feel that brands are speaking directly to them, without the need for content to be written with specific readers in mind.

By applying these psychological principles to their content strategies, brands can ensure that their marketing communications are read by the people who matter most. Cutting through the noise is difficult, but by appealing to the human brain, brands can go a long way towards leaving their audience with a lasting impression.

Nick Mason is the CEO and founder of Turtl.

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