How to Build a Bulletproof Content Strategy With Social Listening

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Creating consistent, high-quality content is no easy feat. You’re constantly fighting for new ways to break through, and better messaging to reach your target audience.

And no matter how well you perform this time, you have another plan of attack to build.

In the end, it all comes down to data. Data helps you track what works, eliminate what doesn’t, and can even fuel the ideation process.

You need data to succeed.

In this post, we’re going to show you why social media can be the best information source for marketers. If your goal is to create more impactful content for campaigns - especially internationally - there’s no richer well to draw from.

Sounds good? Let’s dive right in.

The clear advantages of social data for marketers

We’re going to look at specific use cases for social data in a moment. But first we need to examine the overarching benefits of harnessing this information.

1. Measure what's working

Most marketers have a hard time measuring success. There are so many metrics to consider, and it usually takes a lot of manual work to get results.

Social data can help for a few good reasons:

  • It’s a massive data source
  • It’s always up to date (in real time)
  • It comes from real people in natural situations - unlike some focus groups or polls

And once you have social media intelligence tools to help, interpreting and employing this data can be as easy as logging into your computer.

2. Amplify your brand message

Marketers always feel that their content doesn’t get the exposure or engagement it deserves. And usually, the problem is that they don’t really know what works for them, or what the best opportunities are to share.

Simply by measuring your campaigns properly (as above), you’ll be able to approach the next one with eyes wide open. But you can also improve your chances of success by speaking to the right target audiences in the right language, and involving influencers along the way.

More on these ideas shortly. But with good social data at your fingertips, you have the best shot at amplifying your brand online.

3. Find better ideas

Another huge challenge for digital marketers is fueling the content engine. You always need new ideas, and it doesn’t take long before you feel like you’ve exhausted your reserves.

Social media is the perfect place to look. You have a clear view on what the world is talking about right now. You also have tools to measure trending topics and engaging issues.

And you can look to competitors and influencers for ideas too.

Social media is certainly already a staple of your marketing and communications strategy. We’re going to explore how you can be analytical and derive even more value from it, without investing endless resources.

And you can see these results no matter what your content channels of choice.

A content strategy for all platforms

We should make one thing clear upfront: just because we’re focused on social media data, that doesn’t mean this strategy only applies to social media marketers.

In fact, the beauty of a good content strategy is that it can be applied through a range of channels without significantly more work. Once you know what your audience cares about and how to reach them, you can use this information wherever you prefer.

Bloggers, digital advertisers, and even event marketers can all use social data to craft great content for campaigns.

But with better insight into each channel

Having said that, social media insights can teach you a lot about the platforms you use - and also the ones you don’t. As we’ll see, you’ll know where your target buyers communicate, what they talk about, and the tone of their conversations.

With this information, you can quickly decide whether to invest more energy into specific platforms, or perhaps even stop using them altogether.

How social data improves your content strategy

Having more information is never a bad thing in business. And social data insights give marketers several distinct advantages over their peers at other companies.

1. Get to know your audience better

Anyone who’s tried to identify and segment their target audience properly knows just how much work is involved. It takes countless conversations, surveys, and more than a few educated guesses.

The beauty of social media intelligence tools is that they gather the information for you. You have data to use however you choose, whenever you need it.

And the sample size is enormous. Basically endless.

Social intelligence lets you analyze your audience in two ways:

  • Identify tribes based on topics. Collect conversations about your brand, your competitors, or your industry, and then find common characteristics between the people talking about them. You’ll immediately see demographic information like their location, age, gender, and plenty more useful information.
  • Find topics and ideas based on targeted tribes. If you already know who your target market is, you can instead look for common interests among these users. What else do they talk about? And are there particular influencers they follow with a passion? (More on this shortly)

Again, the nice part about this exercise is that it can be done almost instantly. As long as you collect social posts with a good analytics tool, you’ll always have a sample you can use.

2. Track content performance

If you’re a content strategist reading this post, this is the section for you. It can be so hard to accurately measure what’s working well for your brand, especially on social media.

Ideally, you’ll have simple and effective metrics to show you what’s working best, which formats perform, and how you can improve your next campaign.

As with audience tracking, you can monitor content performance in a few distinct ways:

  • See which of your social posts perform best. This is the simplest and most obvious option. Track all of your posts in general or for a specific campaign, and highlight the ones that see the best engagement. Your social media intelligence tool tells you which have been seen most, shared most, and what other conversations have sprung up out of them.
  • Learn how your other content spreads over social media. Even if you don’t have an active social media presence, you should hope that your content does. Every blog post, report, and infographic can be shared and critiqued by readers. And you need to know what they think.
  • Compare one campaign with others. You need to be able to truly say which campaigns were successful, and which flopped. An ongoing social tracking strategy means you’ll have data on every campaign you launch. You can track these in real time to see how campaigns unfold, and then conduct a robust analysis once each one comes to an end.
  • Benchmark your own performance against others. An even more complete comparison will include other brands in your industry. Simply track their social content the way you track your own, and figure out what’s working best for them. Then, try to beat them at their own game.

You’ll be able to see the kinds of content that perform (image, video, and more), the key user tribes who respond best, and the platforms that give you the best return on investment.

As always, the goal is to figure out the wins and losses in order to create a better campaign next time around.

3. Find suitable influencers

Finding an influencer on social media isn’t particularly hard. Just search through all the posts containing “#ad,” or look for accounts with lots of followers.

But successful social marketing campaigns require the right influencer-brand fit. You need spokespeople who suit what you sell, and whose audience will actually listen and possibly buy.

And you don’t want to have to spend weeks finding them. That’s crucial.

Again, social media intelligence gives you a few shortcuts. You can:

  • Find influencers within your tribes. We talked above about identifying tribes on social media. Within these, look for power users with more followers than the average, or with exceptionally high engagement rates on their content.
    And you don’t have to do this manually. Your tool will let you filter users based on the metrics you prefer.
  • Spot influencers based on location, platform, or language. You can easily find influencers outside your target market as well. Simply track a key topic of interest, then filter users by location and language, and then by other factors like platform or engagement rate. This is so much faster than building a spreadsheet of users manually, or scrolling through hashtags.
  • Track specific influencers and get to know them. Once you have a few influencers in mind, it can pay to monitor their posts for a week or two and work out what’s important to them. You want that first outreach message to really sing.

The goal is to identify key opinion leaders in your industry, and enlist their help to amplify your brand message. Remember, they need to truly fit well.

The more information you can gather - with the least effort possible - the better.

4. Leverage user generated content (UGC)

One oft-overlooked source of social content is other social users themselves. You can easily find high-quality, high-volume material for all of your channels by using what customers and fans say about your brand.

UGC has several clear advantages:

  1. It’s great social proof and shows how much customers love your products
  2. You don’t have to make it yourself, so it can be highly time- and resource-efficient
  3. There’s usually lots of it

The only real challenge is in finding posts you can use.

To do this, a good social listening tool is all you need. It’ll scour social media and find every mention of your brand name. You only need to take a quick look through the results and find content you can share.

And more advanced social listening and intelligence tools take this even further. Image recognition technology now lets them spot your logo or even key people (perhaps your influencers) in other users’ posts:

Even if a user doesn’t mention you by name, modern tools can spot the company logo and save that image for later.

Which is one more way to get great user generated content while hardly even lifting a finger.

5. Benchmark against competitors

We talked about this above as part of monitoring content campaigns. But competitive analysis has so many advantages other than comparing your posts against theirs.

Social media intelligence lets you:

  • Look closely at their target tribes to see what their fans and customers look like. While you may see similarities, this is often a great way to spot new opportunities for your business.
  • Identify their influencers as a quick way to find your own. You may not be able to pry them away, but you’ll have a good idea of who to look for in your own research.
  • Look for complaints and controversies. Sentiment analysis will pull out particular negative comments from social users. See what has them upset, and make sure that your own campaigns don’t make the same mistakes.
  • Spot the best of the best. You don’t need to care about every single tweet or Instagram story they post. But knowing which of their articles and posts get the most traction online is obviously valuable information for your own planning.

You could easily go down a competitive rabbit-hole and never have time for your own marketing. Which is certainly not ideal.

Instead, use modern technology to pull out the most interesting parts of their strategy, to both keep an eye on your competitors and make smarter decisions for yourself.

6. Make smart decisions in real time

This final feature of social intelligence is perhaps the most important. Social data can be more powerful than traditional market research because the information is available the moment you need it.

If you want to know how people feel about your brand and products right now, all you have to do is look.

But there’s also a real-time aspect to social media that goes beyond collecting data. Social networks are now the place where news breaks, where people share their first thoughts and reactions to events, and where the most important ideas happen now.

And for marketers to truly take advantage of these platforms, they need to be able to harness this energy.

Social media lets you:

  • Find trending topics and breaking news the moment it becomes a big deal
  • Understand immediately the sentiment and general responses to that topic
  • React quickly to capitalize on the sudden spike in interest

Real-time marketing opportunities

The absolute classic example of this technique is Oreo. The cookie brand took advantage of a temporary blackout during the Super Bowl to post this now-famous tweet:

Brands that can do this well have thriving and effective social content strategies. 76% of marketers who’ve created real-time content say that it boosted engagement.

And good social intelligence tools show you what’s happening in real time, and let you take advantage.

Why social intelligence takes you further than social listening

We’ve used these two terms throughout this post. Sometimes the difference isn’t important.

But more and more, it’s becoming clear that simple social listening isn’t enough for global brands.

Listening lets you track every social post using keywords and hashtags, and collects them all in one place. But when it comes to analysis and insights, you’re largely on your own.

Social intelligence takes you to the next step. It actually interprets social data and gives you actionable insights that you can infuse into your marketing strategies. When you’re dealing with sometimes millions of posts, having a powerful tool and analysts with industry expertise to decode them for you is essential.

Learn how you can evolve your approach to social listening and reach sophistication by downloading our eBook, Climbing the Social Data Ladder.

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