Small Business Digital Marketing: 3 Metrics That Matter Most

This article graciously contributed by Devon T. Smith, Sr. Content Strategist, VCCP New York

As a small business owner, content marketing is likely a core part of your strategy for consumer outreach and raising brand awareness.

  • 96% of small businesses say they use social media in their marketing strategy.
  • 92% of small business owners believe that having a website is the most effective digital marketing strategy.
  • At 54% use, email is the top marketing tool used by small businesses.

As the saying goes, numbers don’t lie and the stats listed above point to one fact – digital content is an essential element for your small business success.

Along with digital content marketing comes vanity metrics such as follower counts, subscriber counts, page/video views, and open rates. At a surface level, high numbers related to vanity metrics may convince you and others that your content marketing efforts are successful. But a peek behind the curtain of those often reveals that these vanity numbers don’t suggest actual or valuable engagement with your audience — nor can you use them to actually inform effective strategy. 

By remaining vigilant over the metrics that matter, you can create a purposeful approach to content marketing by setting goals that facilitate audience conversation, organic validation, and time spent in relation to your business. 

Conversation Is Queen

If content is king, then conversation is queen. You can buy followers, views, and even impressions that can create the facade of organic brand awareness across channels, but dialogue isn’t for sale.

Authentic, human-to-human conversation is the last frontier of content marketing. As a small or medium business leader or entrepreneur, you’re very aware of that. No matter how much you spend on ads across all social media channels, you can’t pay for audiences to have conversation with or about your brand. Mark Zuckerberg himself verified this school of thought way back in 2018, declaring that Facebook would prioritize “meaningful interaction” in its newsfeed.

Comments and comment threads are toward the top of the list of algorithm-friendly engagement signals you can count on. According to Facebook, high conversation leads to better ranking in the news feed. The platform also considers the volume of people replying to comments, with posts garnering comment replies receiving high ranking in the news feed as well. 

Do This: Ask Questions 

The easiest way to drive conversation is quite simply to give your audience a reason to speak. Every industry has cultural norms which establish the experiences, needs, wants, pleasures, and pain points that generate the demand for applicable products/services. Tap into those cultural norms to identify conversational topics that warrant a response when positioned as questions or powerful statements. 

Do This: Be A Participant

You don’t always have to be the catalyst for conversation. The conversations your audience cares about are most likely already happening.

Search the hashtags and topics across forums and social media channels, and engage in the comment sections. Not only does this make the algorithm work for you, but it shows that your brand is not just talking to the audience, it shows that your brand is an authentic member of the consumer culture. 

Sharing Is Caring 

Word of mouth marketing drives $6 trillion of annual consumer spending and is estimated to account for 13% of consumer sales. Why shouldn’t your small business get a piece of the action?

How does word-of-mouth show up in the digital content ecosystem? Some might say influencer marketing, but if you’re part of the nearly 47% of small businesses spending less than $10,000 on digital marketing – chances are influencers aren’t in your budget. Even if they are, what’s the best indicator that audiences are spreading the word about your brand across owned digital platforms like social media, blogs, and newsletters? Shares. 

Sharing content is another organic action that simply cannot be bought. When audiences deem your content to be of high enough quality to share with their own personal networks, you’ve crossed a threshold of consumer trust even on the most basic level as a retweet.

If you’re noticing that content related to specific products, services, or information is driving shares — then there’s your evidence to lean in and find out how you can create more value and drive more specific desired consumer actions around those types of content. 

Do This: Be Topical

Create content that speaks to needs, wants, and even pain points of your audience. This is the subject matter that resonates with their community and warrants shareability. 

Time Is Money 

Dollars are nice to count. Gold is even better to have, but time is the most valuable form of currency. It’s the only thing we can’t spend and get back – so if your audience is choosing to spend time with your content it truly means something significant. Plenty of brands love to boast high monthly page views, video views, and open rates – but what good is high traffic if nobody is staying once they’ve arrived? 

Smart brands understand that the win is not in just attracting consumers to a content destination. It’s about keeping them engaged long enough to make an additional decision. Watch time, low bounce rates, and time spent on site are all metrics that indicate consumer interest in a deeper relationship with your brand. If certain videos and web pages are showing high numbers of time spent, you’ve got an indication of where to place your most important information and calls to action. 

Do This: Be Interactive 

One sure-fire way to increase time spent with your content is to make it interactive. Make your audience active participants in the context experience.

  • Quizzes & Polls: Integrate content in quiz, poll, and “click-to-continue” formats that encourage your audience to spend a little more time engaging with the information on your social channels and websites.  
  • Surveys & Data: Leverage surveys to allow your audience to inform you of the topics and subject matter they’d like to see addressed. Use website performance data to let audience behavior inform the optimum content experience. 

We’re in the attention economy in which your small business is competing for consumer attention. A simple click, view, or follow doesn’t mean your content marketing is meaningful, it just means it’s attractive. Conversations, shares, and time spent combine to form your NorthStar for content marketing success. Stay the course. 

DS EDITORS NOTE: Catch Devon and his session The Content Strategy Playbook: 4 Principles for Content Marketing Success at our upcoming Digital Summit at Home event happening Mar 29-31. 30+ sessions and workshops tailored just for marketers from small and medium businesses.



Devon T. Smith is a digital marketing strategist, multimedia producer, and speaker. He has built a successful track record of digital content and communications strategy for brands ranging across various industries such as T-Mobile for Business, Shell, Magento, eBay Enterprise, and more. A respected voice at the intersection of culture and marketing, Dev is published on platforms such as Adweek, Black Enterprise, Revolt TV, and Tidal. Through his work, Dev has led and collaborated with bi-coastal and global teams establishing an average of 117% increase in content engagement, 170% increase in audience growth, and 103% increase in website conversion – reaching a linear and digital audience of over 50m viewers.