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The One Change Facebook Made that Led to $1 Billion

official line judge-measuringI’ve spent a lot of time recently with this Fast Company article on the future of Facebook (I highly recommend the read in its entirety). But there is one particularly critical part of this article that, if followed, could make all the difference for your content marketing plan.

After Facebook’s IPO in 2012, the stock dipped by over 50 percent, down to less than 20 dollars per share. Since that point, Facebook’s value has quadrupled. The major reason, according to the article, is a revision Facebook made to its management and performance structure.

Prior to this period, Facebook’s ad team had been responsible for revenue, while the product team was focused on user engagement. After months of lackluster results, and a clear lack of a unified team effort, Facebook decided to reward all its employees on their performance against a single metric: revenue. It was argued that, “the enterprise would get a whole lot more ideas, and they would be better, more creative, more diverse.”

And boy did this change work. In November of that year, App Ads came out, representing a true collaboration between the ad team and the product team. It was a game changer and, according to Fast Company, added over $1 billion in revenue.

Goal-driven measurement vs. the content marketing plan

One of the top challenges enterprise organizations experience in developing successful content marketing programs is a lack of alignment around employee goals. Take this example: Just recently, one of our clients put in months of work creating a new blog for one of its key audiences. It was a great effort, but then they discovered they couldn’t get any promotion for the blog on the company’s own website. Why? The web team’s performance was measured on page traffic only. Since the blog wouldn’t help in that initiative, the request for blog promotion fell on deaf ears.

You’d be surprised how often this shortsightedness happens in large companies.

We can all dream of increasing revenues from our content by billions of dollars, but let’s be realistic here. What do we know for sure about a content marketing program? It needs to drive revenue in some way. It either needs to create new revenue opportunities or it needs to drive more revenue from current customers. It’s that simple.

Most likely, this is easier for Facebook to do than your company. Facebook is trying to drive ad revenue through every change it makes, but your indicators-to-revenue equation may be a bit different, depending on your business and your goals. For example, if measuring direct sales (a primary metric) is a challenge with your content marketing initiatives, you may be better served by looking at some secondary indicators, such as:

  • An increase in lead quality
  • An increase in lead quantity
  • Customer turnover rates
  • Changes in the spending patterns of customers who consume your content
  • Shorter sales cycles

pyramid-content marketing indicators

When you are putting a plan together to figure out which goals make the most sense to pursue, the best way to start is to clearly run through questions that lead to our most reliable indicators of content marketing success:

  • What is the goal of the content initiative (a primary indicator, a sales metric, a cost-savings metric, etc.)?
  • What are the user indicators (i.e., web traffic or SEO rankings) that will drive secondary indicators (i.e., leads, shorter sales cycles)?
  • How can we develop a unified metric that will help us hit our goals and drive all team members to excel?

While there is no silver-bullet metric, since all content programs behave differently, the majority of our larger enterprise clients seem to rely on subscriber analysis; basically, they look to answer the question:

What is the difference between people who subscribe and engage in our content and those who don’t?

From there, you have many options on how to create a singular focus. You may want to compensate your team based on increasing net subscriber rates, or perhaps on net qualified leads. Or perhaps your goal should be to increase the number of subscribers who take an agreed-upon secondary action (like signing up to receive an additional piece of content, like a weekly newsletter, or a white paper).

It comes down to this: If compensation for your content team is based on different goals than those of other teams in your enterprise, you’ll never be as successful as you can or should be.  It may not be easy to bring everyone’s goals into alignment, but it’s absolutely essential. Take a page from Facebook: Finding the right metrics for gauging content success is just as important as any other business decision you will ever make.

For more great ideas, insights, and examples for advancing your content marketing, read Epic Content Marketing, by Joe Pulizzi.

Cover image by Peter Griffin via