Do you create content, measure it and still have no idea if content matters?

You are not alone if you answered yes (or even maybe/I’m not sure) to the question in the headline above. There is a disconnect along the creation, measurement, impact and learning path when it comes to content.

We set up The Content Survey to help you better understand how to develop and measure content that drives social change. Here are some preliminary results (and check out the slides below, too).

Content Survey - Preliminary Results

Who Took the Content Survey

67 organizations participated in the survey. Of that group…

  • 30 are small groups with under 20 staff.
  • 9 are mid-sized organizations with 20 – 50 staff members.
  • 11 are large groups of 51 – 100 staff.
  • 17 are very large organizations with over 100 staff.

The leading ways in which individuals saw their organization achieving its mission were direct advocacy and education. Groups also use research, community organizing, policy making and community service to achieve their mission.

There’s no clear correlation between organization size and having a written content strategy. Twenty-three percent of small groups have a content strategy — same as large organizations.

Overall, only one in four groups report having a content strategy.

Does Content Strategy = More Powerful Content?

We asked people to assess the power of their content on a 0 to 5 scale. The typical respondent gave their content an ok grade — a 3. Those with a written content strategy rated their content a more powerful 4.

How Do You Measure Success?

Content strategy or not, what matters most to any group is how their content helps them achieve their mission. We asked people how they measure success and what more they really want to know about their content.

Good News

There’s a ton of data out there about content and most groups are tracking it (right on!). Nearly everyone follows pageviews, likes and shares. And about half of respondents said they track how content produces outcomes such as donations and new subscribers.

Bad News

But… most everyone, regardless of whether or not they have a content strategy, has big questions about if (and how) content is helping them meet their goals. We asked people to tell us about the one thing they wish they knew about their content but don’t. Here’s some of what we heard:

“The direct connection between content and outcomes (and vice versa)”

“How it leads to real change. i.e., does it change hearts & minds?”

“If it’s helping us advance our core outcomes.”

“Better tracking. Where does it go? Who does it reach? Do they take it further?”

We Create Content. We Track Content. But We’re Not Sure If It Matters.

Just because data exists and we track it doesn’t mean we’re learning what works.

Heck, even analyzing, interpreting and talking about content data doesn’t mean we’re measuring the stuff that ties activity and resources to mission-driven outcomes. Anyone who has created a Google Analytics dashboard has wondered if the charts really tell us if what we did worked.

If we want to create powerful content that makes an impression, gets shared, remixed and acted on then we have to be super clear about what real impact and success look like and measure for that in meaningful ways.

Our assumption and experience, reinforced in part by this data, is that connecting content to impact is hard and our sector struggles with it. This means precious resources get misused and content programs are weakened by optimizing for the wrong thing. We’re working hard but maybe not working smart.

The Content Survey (slides)

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