October 14, 2020 Richard Jones

Introducing the “Desire Ratio”: the secret to unlocking engagement in content marketing

As people, we desire things that we like, things that we want to do, things that we enjoy using, or experiences we want to have. Everyone’s different, so everyone desires different things, at different times of their lives and in different parts of the world.

In every profession, people aim to make other people desire what they do, to prefer it versus what their competitors offer. Whether you’re a product designer, a florist, a chef, a realtor, a vet, partner of a legal firm or an engineer

It’s especially true if you’re a marketer.

And if you’re a content marketer, it’s your reason for being.

Content marketing is a profession focused on people and what they desire. According to the Content Marketing Institute, “content marketing is focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly defined audience, to drive profitable customer action”.

A recent article by Michael Brenner, CEO of the Marketing Insider Group, put it really well: “content marketing is the most critical aspect of modern marketing, and its focus is always on the customer. Content Marketing ROI is 7 times greater than paid ads”

But how the heck can you deliver great content without understanding what your audience is interested in?

I’ll rephrase that; how the heck are you going to deliver great content if you don’t know what your audience desires?

Let’s take a deeper look at desire

Desire: A strong feeling of wanting to have something or wishing for something to happen. To strongly wish for or want something.

Desire (noun): “they ignored audience desires with the content they created”

Desire (verb): “The content never achieved the status they so desired”

In content marketing, it’s all about desire.

As content marketers, we want people to enjoy content, to want to read it, to look forward to watching it or to choose to listen to it more often. So building desire over time results in people choosing to try, or keep using, your product or services.

This works across B2B as well as B2C (well, we’re all just people, aren’t we?) as research by Deloitte and the Spiegel Research Centre found that if B2B audience engagement across digital website content doubles, sales leads also double. 

If you deliver content about topics that your audience is interested in, in formats they enjoy, using emotional styles and intentions they relate to, you are on your way to delivering what audiences really want. You’re starting to create desire, which leads to engagement. Your content can’t ever be called irrelevant, fluff or even worse, undesirable.

But you can’t just create desire, it has to be built over time. To build desire, you have to really understand what people desire, what they like, what they prefer and create content that makes you relevant, useful and engaging.

Avoid taking a short-term view of engagement

For too long marketers have talked about audience emotions and preferences being either ‘positive’ or ‘negative’, relating them to simplified metrics such as social media likes, shares and comments.

Although useful to gain instant reactions that a PR or comms team can respond to, using these types of metrics to gauge audience engagement to define or evolve a content strategy takes a too short-term view. At worst it can be misleading and inaccurate when it comes to audience affinities and true sentiment. Social media interaction and commentary only reflects a relatively small percentage of the wider audience’s views, emotions and engagement levels. They don’t represent desire.

Life is complicated, and by focusing on the superficial comments or actions made by a few on social media is to miss the engagement expressed by the majority of people that have read, watched or listened to your content.

Listen to the silence

This phenomenon is known as the ‘1:9:90 Audience Participation Inequality’, or the Audience Participation Rule, that was first referenced in an online context in 1997 by Jakob Nielsen, then in 2006 it was used in a quantitative context within the topic of marketing by McConnell & Huba.

It states that a maximum of 9% of an audience interacts with your content by doing something like leaving a like, a comment or sharing it. The other 90% of your audience absorb your content and move on. So traditional audience analysis methods such as social listening can miss up to 90% of audience engagement; we call this majority the ‘Hidden Audience’ and track it through the Engagement Index (Ei) metric within our IMMediate platform.

Understanding what different audiences are interested in needs more than just listening to the opinions of the few, we need to dig deep into the complexities of how people engage with content.

To quote the words of author Stephen R. Covey, “most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply”.

In our experience at IMMedia Content, and after speaking to our diverse client base, one of the main reasons for this is because it’s impossible to audit, collect and analyse a complete set of multi-format, multi-language content from any market or industry, then accurately analyse it by measuring, scoring and applying engagement and emotional metrics, so you can apply weights, benchmark, compare and track hidden audience content preferences and desires.

That was until we started to harness the power of Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning.

AI and ML can measure, track and predict the desires of your Hidden Audience.

In my earlier blog, I talked about how the Engagement Index within our IMMediate platform applies content relevance and SEO performance, along with Neuro-linguistic Programming (NLP) tags, to assign engagement scores to content.

In addition to format, content topic, audience relevance and market scores, Ei also contains an ‘emotional intent’ score which assesses the messaging style of the content that the IMMediate platform has harvested. Emotional intent classifications include: ‘informative and educational’, ‘promotionally biased and persuasive’, ‘impartial case studies’, ‘reviews with comparisons and recommendations’, or ‘aspirational future views and predictions’.

Algorithms then overlay the NLP tags, audience relevance and content performance scores to the emotional intent metrics, allowing IMMediate to identify which styles of content audiences prefer across multiple markets.

These insights offer so much more than just positive or negative sentiment scores, or isolated numbers such as likes, shares, comments or achieved goals. 

Over time this is tracked, so we understand the content approaches that different audiences prefer: for example, what topics do they like, what formats, what emotional styles do they connect with. Overall, we seek to understand what content they desire.

Creating a new metric: the Desire Ratio

The Desire Ratio compares the emotional intent, and the other metrics within the Ei score, to the volume of content pieces published over time. A positive Desire Ratio score for a content topic group, format or emotional style/intent indicates that content based around those preferences will receive high engagement levels relatively quickly.

This information allows IMMediate to track, recommend and predict the most desirable content that will generate audience engagement across different markets. We can also benchmark versus our client’s competitors, identifying their strategy and predicting what they will do next.

All the time we are monitoring the most desirable content in the wider content landscape (content about the topic that was not created by our clients or their competitors), to recommend and predict the most effective content that should be created.

Over time, content topics, formats and emotional styles are ranked and prioritised according to how desirable they are to different target audiences. Ensuring maximum audience engagement and ROI is delivered by content published across multiple markets.

Case study: measuring desire to unlock content marketing opportunities

To demonstrate the effectiveness of the Desire Ratio, let’s look at a recent project for one of our clients. We used the IMMediate platform to measure desire across topics related to digital banking in Singapore. We identified which content topics, formats and messaging styles are preferred by people, and ranked them in importance.  From this we can understand which topics, formats and styles we should include in our client’s content calendar.

Firstly, we discovered that nearly 80% of people in Singapore are not finding out about digital banking services, news and trends from banks. They are going to other sources, as people don’t desire digital banking information from banks.

Secondly, banks are only engaging on a functional, service and delivery-based level. They are not creating content about topics that people really desire.

What an opportunity for banks to address this and win back consumer interest, in a subject that they need to generate desire!

The IMMediate platform enables us to understood what people in Singapore desire to know about digital banking. 

Without these insights, our client might have created content about undesirable topics or formats, and carried on creating content about digital banking services and the benefits of their ‘established and experienced brand’.

Armed with the new insights, a data-driven, audience-centric approach was taken to create content calendars about topics that people want to consume.

Tracking audience desires will become increasingly important

By continuing to track the Desire Ratio over many months or even years, we’ll be able to keep our clients one step ahead of their competitors and at the cutting edge of topics around digital banking that are becoming more and more important in Singapore as the MAS issue new digital banking licences in 2021.

Understanding audience preferences and how to be ahead of non-traditional competitors will be absolutely essential. Especially as those competitors are confident, consumer-savvy providers of innovative ride hailing, food delivery and gaming apps

Understanding audience desire will be key.

Contact us for a chat to find out how IMMediate could help map out new content opportunities for your business by unlocking insights on desire in your target audience