Friday, January 8th, 2016 | 9 min read
Content marketers of the past probably didn’t sleep much. For nearly a century, gathering deep customer insights to influence content strategy was a laborious, time-consuming task. Then came the digital revolution, and, along with it, a myriad of ways to quickly collect information about customer pain points based on their online behavior.
Social listening is one of those ways. It gives marketers real-time access to what their audience is talking about, sharing, and consuming. But it’s surprisingly underutilized by content marketers. Typically, social listening is the domain of community managers, who use it to keep their thumb on the pulse of brand conversation as well as mitigate crises.
But it can be so much more than that. In a nutshell, social listening can connect marketers directly to the thought streams of their customers, and then they can turn this data into insights that inform content creation.
Here are 4 concrete ways to use social listening in your content marketing.
These days, your content marketing strategy won’t go far without the help of paid advertising. But for brands publishing a lot of content (be it on Facebook, Youtube, a company blog, or as a quarterly magazine), it can be challenging to decide which pieces to promote with paid.
They’re all great, right? So how do you choose the topics that should get the most visibility? Social listening will show you, in real-time, which pieces of content garner the most mentions and engagement on social channels. You can then respond by putting paid behind your best-performing organic content, right as it gains traction on social.
Alternatively, say you have an old blog post that is unintentionally relevant to a current event. Through organic searches, your old blog post gets renewed attention, and you see a spike in audience engagement on social media. With social listening, you can verify that the old post is the root of engagement and then promote it to continue the upward momentum.
Since this requires integration of multiple teams, making it all work smoothly can be challenging. The community manager typically does the social listening, the paid team is in charge of boosting content, and the content marketing team tracks blog metrics. You can see the internal organizational silos being built before your eyes, can’t you?
Ideally, both the paid team and the content marketing team will also be in the habit of using social listening; this way, they won’t depend solely on the community manager to feed them listening insights they can use for paid.
There’s no way around it: We’re living in an age of content shock, where an exponentially increasing volume of content intersects with our limited capacity to consume it.
This means it’s becoming harder and harder to get people’s attention with a blog post, an Instagram post, or a video. In some ways, this could be a good thing; it will force marketers to produce higher-quality content, and a big part of this will hinge on creating content that is more personalized.
Personalization, which boosts relevancy, is a prerequisite for catching a customer’s attention—it makes customers feel like brands actually care about them and want to make their day better by adding real value. Social listening is a powerful tool for creating better personalized content.
First, you can look at how audience behavior differs on each social platform—including preferred topics, hashtags, and so on—and then tailor your content strategy accordingly. But it can also be more specific. You can create custom audience profiles that segment people based on location, topics of interest, or how recently they’ve engaged with you. Then, once you’ve selected your target audience segment, you can use social listening to craft more relevant messages (and put paid behind the ones that perform best).
Say a fast fashion company wants to engage city-dwelling professionals with content promoting this season’s products. They could use listening to understand what employed 30 to 40-year-old’s living in major US cities say about Fall fashion on social and then tweak their content.
We all know it can be hard to consistently come up with great ideas for content; after a while, you might start to feel like you’re racking your brain for fun, original topics but always coming up short.
Social listening can be a great source of inspiration (and a powerful tool for customer research). It allows you to see what your target audience is talking about and engaging with on social at any given moment. You can search for hashtags related to your brand or industry and analyze conversations around relevant keywords. And, if there’s a spike in conversation about your brand, you can see conversation streams on all platforms, determine the root cause, and then add to the conversation with meaningful content.
But what if your company already has a successful content hub? Social listening can still help you source new ideas by connecting the dots between topics your customers are passionate about. Say you’re a company that creates natural cleaning products, and you publish several articles a week on green living. Through social listening, you notice that many people who talk about green cleaning products also talk about the negative impact humans have on the natural world; you could then create a series of articles on how using green cleaning products could decrease that negative impact.
Social listening is also a great tool for lead generation.
One option is to use your social media management tool to filter conversations by specific words or phrases used by customers that indicate they’re interested in your product or service.
For example, a realty company could set up a listening query with the keywords, “apartments”, “in”, and “Mission” to keep tabs on Twitter users who tell their community they’re looking for an apartment. That company could then tweet them a link to their comprehensive article titled “Five Step Guide to Finding the Perfect Place in SF.” Here, social listening allows brands to simultaneously delight potential customers with relevant content and begin building new relationships.
You can then use audience profiling to hone in on this community of people who’ve indicated they have a need for valuable information that you can provide.
There is, of course, a delicate balance here. Brands need to strike the perfect harmony between providing helpful information when it’s needed and not coming across as invasive or overly promotional. If someone indicates interest without directly mentioning your brand, it’s a good idea to share content that isn’t excessively branded.
It’s a great time to be a marketer. Sure, we’re all worried about the oversaturation of the internet with content, decreasing attention spans, and the rising cost of actually getting material in front of people’s eyes.
But while marketers of the past had to guess which type of content would resonate with consumers—or conduct time-consuming, manual research—marketers today have social listening. They can now quickly (and continuously) check in with their customers’ needs and interests and then shape and reshape their content strategy. Social listening allows marketers to administer research at every step of the marketing process, in real time.
When used correctly, it has the potential to inform what topics you write about, what platforms you post on, and what content to promote.
After all, the success of content marketing is dependent on the degree to which you inform your content creation with the voice of your customers. If the voice of the customer is included in each step of the way, your content will always be relevant.