It’s generally accepted wisdom that thought leadership content marketing works. Especially for professional services businesses such as law and consulting firms. But is there any good evidence? And, crucially, how can you measure it?
Evidence of impact
The 2020 Edelman-LinkedIn B2B Thought Leadership Impact Study surveyed 3,275 executives across a wide range of industries and company sizes.
The study found that 89% of decision-makers surveyed believe that thought leadership is effective in enhancing their perceptions of an organisation.
89% of decision-makers surveyed believe that thought leadership is effective in enhancing their perceptions of an organisation2020 Edelman-LinkedIn B2B Thought Leadership Impact Study
Let’s start by recognising that measuring direct, causal relationships between items of thought leadership content and new business leads, or sales, isn’t a realistic objective.
Business enquiries are more often by phone, email, or in-person rather than via nicely trackable website calls to action.
But there are measurements you can make which will help you to understand which pieces of content are working well, and which are working less well.
And there are measurements you can make which will help your firm assess the influence of all your thought leadership content.
Experience has shown us there are two great ways of measuring the value of your articles. These use scrolling and sharing.
Articles and blog posts
I’m going to focus on the commonest form of thought leadership content: articles published as web pages and blog posts.
This isn’t to say that podcasts, videos, slide decks, downloadable PDFs, and other forms of thought leadership aren’t valuable. It’s just that the approaches to measurement I discuss here are not as applicable to them.
Two types of measure: scrolling and sharing
So, what proxies are there that will provide insights into the impact your thought leadership articles are having?
Two great ways of measuring the value of your articles involve scrolling and sharing activity.
If someone is willing to take the time to scroll right through your article that says a lot. When time is precious, spending some of it reading all the way through an article means that a reader thinks it is valuable.
Why would anyone share if they didn’t regard an article highly enough to think that reading it would be valuable to a colleague?
Here are four metrics that are easy to measure using tools like Google Tag Manager and Google Analytics.
A scrolling metric for thought leadership writers
For medium and long form articles, scrolling tells you some hard truths about the value of your content.
A useful metric is the percentage of views of an article that scrolled to at least 75% of its length.
The table and bubble chart shown below are examples of how you can use this metric to identify high and low performing articles.
Using the percentage of views, rather than the absolute number of views, gives you a metric which represents something about the quality and value of an article to its readers.
As a writer you’ll want to be able to compare the performance of your articles so that you can learn from those that do well, and those that don’t do so well. This metric enables such comparisons.
A scrolling metric for your firm
While you, as an author of thought leadership content, care about insights into the differences in perceived quality of your piece, the business cares more about absolute numbers.
A useful metric for the business is the total number of monthly views of thought leadership content scrolled to at least 75%.
You might be congratulating yourself for an article achieving a rate of 95% of views scrolling past the 75% mark. However, if that only represents a total of five views in an entire year the overall impact of your near-perfection might not be so great.
And actually, the business as a whole is more interested in the aggregate performance of all thought leadership pieces than any one piece.
The chart below shows how this metric can be used to give the business a measure of the overall impact it is getting from its investment in thought leadership content over time.
A sharing metric for thought leadership writers
If a reader regards your piece so highly that they share it with someone else, that’s a great measure of its value.
You’re not going to be able to measure shares where a reader copies a URL from the browser and emails it to a colleague, but if you’ve got share buttons you can track activity on those.
Share buttons are particularly useful for users on mobile devices where copying and pasting a URL is particularly time consuming.
A useful metric is the percentage of views of an article with a share.
This metric will help you to identify articles that are particularly valued as sharable by their readers.
A sharing metric for your firm
As with scrolling, aggregated numbers of shares matters more than percentages.
A useful metric for the business is the monthly total number of thought leadership shares.
Presenting your metrics
The most effective way of presenting your metrics is to build online dashboards.
There are plenty of analytics dashboard builders out there, but if you are using data from Google Analytics, Google Data Studio is a powerful, and free, option.