Using social listening to improve content strategy

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“Content” has been a buzzword for so long it’s now considered an essential part of any marketing mix - that’s why it’s tempting to just jump in and start creating and sharing. The thing is, not just any old content is going to work; you need to make sure your content is relevant, engaging and useful to your audience.

Enter: social listening. The quickest and most accurate way to discover what your audience really thinks is to eavesdrop on their social media conversations. As marketing insights manager Liz Gross says: “Social listening allows you to constantly take the pulse of your community. Real-time data about their interests, questions, trending topics and demographic characteristics can give you the edge you need to ensure your content is relevant to your target audience.”

Social intelligence data goes one step further than purely listening, providing detailed insights that will drive your content strategy forward. But how can you leverage that in-depth data to create a strategy that shines?

Step 1: Listen to your brand and consumers

Like overhearing a colleague talking about you in the bathroom, social intelligence data tells you what people are saying about you, whether it’s good or bad, and how they are saying it. Use a content creation tool that gives you scores for engagement, virality and reach - not just the amount of likes, comments and shares - to get a more in-depth and accurate picture.

Pay particular attention to what the data tells you about influencers in your space; these are the people you’ll want to target later on, when developing your overall content strategy. They have large audiences of their own, and can really make a difference to your brand awareness.

But it’s not just about listening to what people say about you; social intelligence can also show you the success (or otherwise) of your current content in all forms. How many people are sharing your videos? What sort of interaction do you get in comments and forums? You can even monitor the effectiveness of your brand’s tone of voice. The data you gather at this stage will help you to identify what works well so you can do more.

Step 2: Monitor your competitive space

Repeat the exercises in step one, but this time look at your competitors. Social intelligence can help you to identify their strengths and weakness in audience interactions - and, of course, their weaknesses present an opportunity for you to step in with content that converts. Audit competitor content, too. Learn from their best practices - and their poor ones.

The right tool (for example the Meltwater social listening platform) can also help you dive deep into topics as well as accounts. What are the topics that resonate in your space? Discover the keywords that have impact, and identify your audience’s favourite topics. Detect market trends. Look at where you’ve come from, and where you’re going.

Step 3: Gather the insights

Loads and loads of data is great, but it’s what you do with that data that really counts. Gather the insights from steps 1 and 2 to identify actionable insights to drive your strategy forward.

Did the keyword and conversation analysis reveal any topics you can truly own? It is easy to create the same content as everyone else, but you won’t stand out amongst the noise if that’s all you do. There will be bases to cover, yes, but there will also be topics that are relevant to your audience and product, but that no one else really talks about.

Likewise, social intelligence will help you rate your tone of voice and the success of your current strategy, and identify influencers you either need to make the most of - or convince that you’re better than they think.

Step 4: Develop your content strategy

You’ve got the insights, and you’ve analysed them. That’s the easy bit done; how do you turn data into a content strategy that works?

First up, look at the topic data and gather keywords into groups of related terms. From here, you will start to see themes emerging. A good content strategy will have 3-5 key content themes that help spark your ideation, so use the social intelligence data to translate topics to content themes.

You’ve also now got in your hands a swathe of data about your consumers and your audience; you know what they talk about, and can identify other things about them like location, age range and interests. Coincidentally, these are the beginnings of content personas, so start to draw up profiles of your ideal customer. This will also help you when ideating topics for content; you can simply imagine what Sue, 27, a banker from London, would like to read about today.

Some of those consumers identified will have followings of their own; if someone with a huge following likes what you do, make the most of them! Engage them as an influencer, work with them to give exclusive access to products and services so that they talk even more about how great your brand is.

A note of caution, though: remember to not focus too much on themes, people or areas your competitors are hugely successful with - it will be a battle to take the crown. Don’t run before you can walk; look at related areas they are not operating in so that you can truly own that space before making your move into their territory.

Step 5: Create, publish, distribute, test and learn

A solid strategy based on actionable insights is essential, yes - but even more important is to create great, engaging content that resonates with your audience. So get stuck in! Go back to your social listening and use it to spark content ideas. Work collaboratively with great content creators with fresh perspectives and something to say.

Distribution is key to increasing engagement with your content; don’t expect success to come if you don’t shout about the great article you’ve just written. Social media, of course, is key to getting in front of your audience, and your social intelligence data can then be used to test the success of your strategy, and the individual pieces of content. You absolutely must learn from the metrics, and iterate on your publishing plan.

Go further, faster and with more clarity

The best and most successful content strategies allow for two-way conversations; that’s why social listening is a strategic investment that allows you to get in-depth insights from your community. Using social data, marketers can spot new opportunities, amplify their efforts, and create more resonant content faster than before.

As Justin Freid says for Search Engine Watch: “Social listening can actually do much more than inform your social strategy. It can help you find new keywords to target via paid search, find new networks or websites to run display ads on, and it can also help you optimise your content strategy.”

Harnessing social intelligence insights can drive a brand’s content strategy further, faster and with more clarity than listening alone. What’s the next step to world-class for your content strategy?

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