If you have a group of people in a room clamoring for the spotlight, the loudest person is going to get the most attention. That’s basically how share of voice, or SOV, works (except in a digital marketing context). SOV is one of those unfamiliar terms that lots of people — including marketers — think is clunky, esoteric and secondary to many of the other KPIs they’re trying to track.

But share of voice is really at the heart of what marketers are trying to do. At the end of the day, all marketing strategies are about getting in front of customers and winning the highest portion of their attention, relative to competitors.

Leveraging SOV is critical to business success in the digital age. Here’s how to do it:

What Is Share of Voice?

Let’s start by talking about what SOV actually is. Simply put, share of voice quantifies your market exposure — or visibility — in proportion to the total market exposure of all competitors. “Market exposure” and “visibility” might sound vague, but there’s a reason for that. Marketers use a number of different, more specific metrics to track SOV, depending on the channel they’re using. We’ll cover them in greater detail a little later, but for now, here are the main three:

  • Social media mentions.
  • Impression share.
  • Click-through-rates.

Ready for a quick history lesson? In the old days (before digital marketing really took hold), share of voice referred only to ad space in print, TV and radio. Companies would pay extra to get exclusive airtime and newspaper space, and that meant less time for everyone else. The point was to get in front of their competitors so when it came time for customers to buy (which was only happening in stores), they were reaching for the brands they were already familiar with.

The problem was that SOV used to be hard to calculate because it relied solely on ad spend. Your organization might spend a few thousand on a big billboard in the center of town, but there wasn’t really a good way to know if you were actually reaching customers. Ad spend wasn’t a great way to measure whether your SOV was higher.

Digital tools have changed the game forever. Customers are spending more time than ever consuming ad content on their devices, giving companies tremendous opportunity for exposure. In fact, according to PPC Protect, the average consumer now sees between 6,000 and 10,000 ads every day, up from between 500 and 1,600 in the 1970s.

With consumers seeing so many ads every day, companies are now in a battle for the attention of online users. They can no longer simply rely on paying a high price for premium ad space — they need to find a way to earn users’ attention by offering content that’s relevant, timely and valuable.

Why Share of Voice Is Important

Many marketers overlook SOV when they’re crafting their campaigns and tracking performance. Among the many reasons to measure your brand’s share of voice, here are some of the most important:

  • Determine how effective your marketing campaign is: Perhaps the most important, share of voice helps you gauge the performance and impact of your campaigns. This allows you to better measure target KPIs, calculate your ROI and determine whether your ad budget is going to the right places.
  • Make more informed marketing decisions: Tracking your SOV also helps you make smarter and better decisions about your marketing strategy. If you’re pumping dollars and hours into creating engaging Twitter campaigns but you’re finding that your SOV is still low, that tells you a change needs to be made.
  • Learn about your customers: Tracking your brand’s share of voice gives you critical insights into the type of content that customers are drawn to, as well as what things matter most to them. This can help you make more tailored decisions about the content you’re creating.
  • Measure brand awareness: At its core, the purpose of investing in your share of voice is to boost brand awareness and recognition, making your brand the one that stands out in customers’ minds when it’s time for them to buy.

Marketers shouldn’t think of SOV as an obscure metric that’s more luxury than necessity. It’s one of the critical tools those in today’s digital economy can use to fine-tune their content marketing strategies and generate new leads for their sales teams.

How to Measure Share of Voice

Share of voice used to be measured by simply dividing your organization’s ad spend by the total your competitors’ spent on any given medium. As SOV has evolved, digital marketers too have developed more sophisticated techniques for measuring it.

Given the complexity of digital communication today, there actually isn’t just one way to measure SOV. Brands now have a lot more discretion over how exactly to track SOV depending on the KPIs they’re most interested in.

These days, measuring share of voice comes down to dividing your chosen measurement by the total figure of that same measurement among your competitors. Here’s how to do it for the three main metrics we listed above:

Social Media Mentions

A huge portion of peoples’ personal and professional lives are happening on social media, and digital marketers have kept up with the trend by making social a core part of their content marketing strategies. Use a social listening tool to track how many brand mentions you’re getting on popular platforms like Twitter, Facebook and Instagram and divide that figure by the total of your competitors’ brand mentions.

Impression Share

Google Ads has a series of built-in tools to make it easy to track your impression share (the total number of times your ads were seen as a proportion of the total number of possible impressions). Impression share is important if you’re running paid ad or pay-per-click (PPC) campaigns.

Click-Through Rates

The goal of marketers across the world is for users to click into their content and visit their page. After all, the whole point of content marketing is to generate qualified sales leads that are more likely to convert. Software like Google Analytics helps you track click-through rates for you and your competitors, giving you a deeper understanding of how effective your ads are. They also help you gauge the performance of your SEO-driven posts on Search Engine Results Pages (SERP).

Boost Your Share of Voice With Content Marketing

Before you leverage SOV in your marketing efforts, you need to learn about your customers. Online surveys are the tried-and-true method of gathering relevant data about customer experience and satisfaction, and they can help you fine tune your product or service offerings as well as your advertising campaigns to make them more focused and relevant. Building a content marketing strategy first requires that you understand your customers’ needs, problems and expectations on an intimate level.

Create Meaningful Content

The success of your content marketing strategy ultimately rests on the quality of the content you’re creating. Use the information you’ve gathered about customers to think creatively about their problems and needs, then produce content that gives them informative, interesting and actionable thoughts or solutions to their problem.

Don’t just regurgitate the information that’s already out there on the internet. Providing something exclusive and insightful that will truly add value and drive impact for your customers’ organizations will help you forge relationships that last.

Share It on the Channels People Are Using

Let’s imagine a scenario: You’re a technology firm offering digital transformation solutions for hybrid companies. You’ve realized that many companies are having a hard time transitioning to hybrid work models because their IT systems simply don’t support it. You offer a unique set of products and services that help them overcome their most pressing challenges and make the transition seamlessly. Sounds like the perfect fit.

You draw up a deeply researched white paper, some supporting blog content and maybe even an infographic explaining how your product works and how it can benefit hybrid organizations —

and no one saw it. That’s because you posted all of it on your website but didn’t blast it anywhere else, hoping people would simply find their way through organic search.

To avoid making this mistake, you need a way to reach your customers on the channels they’re actually using. Paid advertising can help you get to customers on search engines, but you might also consider crafting a social media campaign to put content in front of customers’ eyes while they’re scrolling. Even better, an email strategy sends content straight into the inboxes of those on your subscriber list.

Remember: SOV in the digital age is about winning your customers’ attention, so the more you’re able to dominate the conversation online, the better.

Dan Haverty is a content writer at Brafton. Currently based in Boston, he also spent time living in Ireland and Washington, DC. When he isn’t writing, Dan enjoys reading, cooking and hiking, and he recently became an avid yoga practitioner.