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It's said that knowledge speaks, but wisdom listens.

In our industry, the mouthpiece of a brand is its content. It's how that brand communicates what it knows as well as what it values. Advertising, LinkedIn, blogs, podcasts, short-form video... all the channels and media through which a brand speaks.

But how does a brand listen?

The answer is data. As in, brands listen through data.

It's like an ear for modern businesses, and it's at the core of marketing. Data can reveal transformative opportunities for brands, and for that reason alone it's incredibly valuable.

But there's so much of it and it's often unwieldy—so it's easy for marketers to get lost in the noise and miss what they should be listening to.

Brands have access to vast amounts of data; but without taxonomy—AKA, classification of that data—it's not nearly as useful as it could be. So how can marketers listen to their data more clearly and use it to optimize strategies and make better decisions?

To start, listen to audiences, because creating content is not enough

Content makes the connections, but data finds the match.

Brands often create new content, over and over again, without closely examining how that content is performing for an audience. And that's a total miss.

Especially in the age of AI, it's becoming increasingly easy to produce massive amounts of content at unprecedented scale. But all that content is still useless if you don't pay attention to engagement.

Which means you must ask what people are looking at. And why? And for how long? And how did they get there?

Those are just a few of the questions the data you already have can answer—to help you foster meaningful connections with audiences. Data explains how audiences interact with content, what resonates with them, and what doesn't. It also empowers brands to make sure they are putting the right message in front of the right person.

That knowledge allows for personalized and tailored content strategies across various platforms, shaping future content initiatives and ensuring everything you produce is relevant to your target audience.

And customization is the key to forging deeper connections with audiences.

Put data into practice

By understanding audience preferences and behaviors, brands can deliver content that resonates deeply, incorporating modifications to suit the preferences of diverse audience segments so that end users feel heard and understood by the brand.

There are truisms you can't ignore.

For one, never create content for your next campaign without first looking at what worked from previous campaigns, as well as what drove engagement, and using that as a starting point. By listening to your data, you can build upon strong content to create content that will work even harder for you.

For another (and here's where it gets a bit complicated), you can't expect people to look at raw data: It must first be organized if you want to have any chance of getting something good out of it.

There's a lot of digital information out there—a lot. But it doesn't mean that more data will make a brand more successful. Rather, the data you already have is sufficient; it just needs to be better organized.

And, no, doing that isn't a glamorous task. It isn't why people become marketers. But it is fundamental and critical to effective modern marketing. When data is properly organized and coded, marketers can unlock its true potential. It empowers marketers' understanding of exactly what is working and why.

With that in mind, here are a few tips for organizing your data, as well as details on the value-add.

First off, recognize that content is designed to interact with audiences. By classifying that content—which we tend to view as different building blocks (i.e. scripts, images, videos, voice captures, etc.)—for future use and complementing it with a layer of content performance, we enable a marketer to get a full 360-degree view of the content.

That means the next time you go to create additional content for the campaign, you'll have access to learnings from previous campaigns related to the brief and the performance, which should enable you to reuse or repurpose some of the previously built assets and thereby save both time and cost. It also helps you pick the proper agencies based on the effectiveness of content vs. briefs and make more astute decisions as a result.

Also, consider that high-quality content is only worthwhile if it establishes equally high-quality insights through data. That's why brands need to harness metadata (essentially, overarching category tags that describe data sets), which provides context and enhances discoverability.

By adding meaningful descriptions and tags, brands can increase the chances that their content will reach the right audience segments—as opposed to having a plethora of tags around semi-related topics that end up clogging data streams and making a mess of the data.

Successful brands continuously iterate and improve their content strategies based on data insights. More-informed decisions. Better customer experiences. Higher chances of growth. All phrases that should be music to marketers' ears.

* * *

In our digital era of data-driven marketing, it's easy to think that content is king. Content is important—but high-quality content is king.

Content strategy is effective only if it's supported by the right data. Through taxonomy and proper data organization, brands gain valuable insights into audience interactions, enabling them to create personalized content and forge deeper connections.

Again: knowledge speaks, but wisdom listens. In this data-rich landscape, success lies in not just creating more content but in listening to what your audience is telling you.

You can continue to create content at scale in an attempt to boost your marketing efforts, but until you start to listen to the data, your efforts will fall short.

More Resources on Using Data to Optimize Content

Content Intelligence Isn't Just for Demand Gen Marketers

What Your Customers' Searches Can Tell You. Are You Paying Attention?

How to Create and Optimize Content Marketing for the B2B Funnel [Infographic]

Three Ways to Use Customer Data to Deliver the Brand Experience Your Customers Want

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Content Speaks, but Data Listens: How to Optimize Your Content Strategy

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image of Apeksha Mishra

Apeksha Mishra is worldwide chief product officer at iDX, a digital communications and marketing firm.

LinkedIn: Apeksha Mishra