Developing a content strategy is something most marketers will experience during their careers. Traditionally, this type of strategy is built on past content performance, brand initiatives, or keyword research, which can distrct marketers from creating a content strategy built with an audience-first mindset. Social listening, a data-rich tool, can provide real-time audience insights to create a content strategy that will deliver relevant and engaging content topics that your audience is already discussing.
Using Social Listening to Develop a Content Strategy
Developing a content marketing strategy is not only fundamental to most marketing teams but also increasing in popularity. According to HubSpot, 70% of marketers are actively investing in content marketing, and 24% planned to increase their investment in content marketing in 2020. Content marketing is essential for showing up where your audience is searching for you. For many brands and agencies, it can be difficult to know where to start when creating a content marketing strategy. A content strategy could take many forms, from a holistic roadmap, determining content for all channels, planning a user journey to drive towards conversion, or a list of content topics based on keyword research.
Knowing that many marketers are investing more in content, how will your content strategy help your brand differentiate? How will you create content that grabs your audience’s attention, then maintain it by fulfilling their needs? For us, the answer is clear—use social listening to develop a content strategy.
What is social listening? It is simply the act of analyzing conversation online and using that information to make decisions about your brand. Check out our guide to social listening, which includes its definition and how to get set up with a social listening strategy. In this blog, we will review why and how social listening is essential to developing a content strategy.
Benefits of Using Social Listening to Develop a Content Strategy
To understand why social listening is essential, we need to know why we are developing a content strategy in the first place. Creating a content strategy, ultimately, leads to a strong content development plan that will:
Win the battle for attention. We’ve heard it time and time again. There is a lot of content being produced and promoted across various websites and social media platforms. Content needs to grab your audiences’ attention and keep them engaged.
Fulfill the audiences’ intent. Whether it be the answer to a question, inspiration, or a comparison, your audience is looking for something very specific. If your content does not answer the call, it is not valuable to your audience.
- Meet a desired goal. Whether the goal is for your audience to retain a message, take action, or share your content, that goal needs to be clearly defined within your content strategy. Set your audience up to take the desired action with great content.
So, where does social listening come into play? Social listening can provide insights that can fuel content strategy development where all three of these content requirements are outlined.
First and foremost, social listening data goes beyond the realm of Facebook and Instagram. Social listening data includes conversations across social media channels, blogs, forums, websites, etc., creating a rich data source for understanding the information your audience is consuming, questioning, and desiring.
Secondly, creating a content strategy isn’t just about writing blogs. It can determine content needed for different channels, audiences, and in various mediums. Therefore, your content marketing strategy cannot be created based on one medium or one data source. Social listening pulls together a variety of channels and sources to provide a birds-eye view of what users are looking for across different channels, helping you share content where your audience is.
Lastly, social listening allows you to be proactive vs. reactive. While past content performance can help in understanding the types of content you should produce in the future, it shouldn’t be the only input driving your content strategy. Instead of waiting to see how content performs, social listening tools can tell you what content themes or trends are developing in real-time. This helps with winning your audience’s attention and driving them towards action.
While social listening should be used as a data source among many others (keyword research, audience insights, past content performance), there are many unique insights that social listening can provide to help develop or enhance a content strategy.
1. Provide context to keyword research
A sound content strategy is built on user intent. For many content marketers, this means partnering closely with an SEO team to identify keyword opportunities or even develop a content gap analysis to provide keyword opportunities that your competitors are effectively using. While these keyword opportunities will absolutely inform your audience’s intent, that is just the start. To develop the content, marketers need to understand the primary and secondary topics an audience is interested in, the type of content they are searching for, and where they want to find that content.
Along with a traditional SERP analysis (reviewing content at the top of the search engine results page), social listening data helps provide context for your keyword research. For example, suppose we are writing a blog that aims to rank for the keyword query "dessert." We might use social listening to understand the various forms of content that are promoting that topic, or what subtopics users are talking about when it comes to dessert.
2. Understand what content your audience wants
Ever wonder what type of content your audience is looking for? While we have reach, engagement, traffic generated to our website, or even product sales, metrics only hypothesize why content performed a certain way. For example, you may believe that your audience wants to see product detail videos when you release a new product simply because your content performance tells you that videos drive the most engagement. But does that mean your audience wants to see that type of content? Or do videos see the most engagement because they surfaced more on Instagram and Facebook newsfeed/discover tabs? Or maybe because video receives more engagement because you can post across multiple platforms, like YouTube, TikTok, and your website? Or maybe that video was also utilized in an advertisement, gathering organic and paid engagements? As you can see, there are so many factors to content performance.
Social listening allows you to analyze these metrics, and more, to see the distinct content themes your audience desires. Conversation analysis, trend analysis, along with performance metrics, give you a crystal-clear answer as to the type of content your audience is looking for. Using social listening also allows you to create more purposeful and relevant branded content that responds directly to consumer questions.
When we did this exercise to develop a content strategy for the 2015 NYC Marathon, we would have never guessed that our target audience of marathon runners and spectators cared so much about race day signage. Sharing them in memes and tweets, we knew our content had to include ironic and pun-ny race day signs. We had never shared this before, so the past content performance would have never told us that. This campaign aligned extremely well with what our audience was looking for from ASICS’s social channels, leading to serious fan engagement.
If you haven’t gotten the gist yet, content marketing is not just about website content. A content strategy requires understanding what channels you should live on
, and what type of content performs well on that channel. Using social listening, you can see what sources (social, website, forum, news site), along with which domains (Twitter, Instagram, Reddit, etc.) have the most content about a certain topic. You can also identify which source or domain has the most engagement around a specific topic. This helps to identify not only where your content should live, but also where it should be promoted.
3. Harness the power of UGC
If you aren’t using user-generated content (UGC), you’re missing out on some serious engagement. Not only does sharing UGC better help build trust with your audience, but it also builds loyalty by sharing audience content.
UGC content can be used in a variety of ways. After finding this content through a social listening tool, marketers can use it to develop a content strategy and production. A few ways to do this are:
- Re-share that content to a variety of brand channels.
- Create similar content by mimicking the themes or mediums used in the UGC.
- Analyze the UGC to see how consumers are talking about your brand or using your products/services. Use this information to better position products/services in future content or provide feedback to the product team.
UGC helps consumers to picture themselves using your product by seeing how others use them. When we created our strategy for the 2015 New York City Marathon (NYCM),
we knew we had to have a UGC component to help our fans see our products in action when it comes to marathon training, and get tips from runners just like them that may be training.
Our 5 To The Finish Line content series featured 5 bloggers, training for the NYCM and providing their advice. They also captured some incredible content of ASICS products that we could feature on our channels.
4. Find influencers to promote your content
If there is one thing to remember about content marketing, it is this: build it and they won’t come. Even with the best piece of content that ranks well for desired keywords, promotion is still needed to ensure the right audience sees your content. A content strategy needs to include a plan for how the content is going to be promoted. Whether it be micro-influencers or large publishers, influencers can help promote your content by sharing it with their engaged audiences. Using social listening tools, you can see which authors are the most influential around a certain topic and ensure they make your outreach list when it’s time to promote your content.
5. Analyze your competitors’ content
Social listening tools can help track your competitors’ content and conversation. Sure, you don’t need social listening tools to see what your competitors are publishing on their websites or social media channels. But you do need social listening tools to see what is being said about your competitors based on their channels. Using a social listening tool, you can see all conversations happening about your competitors. Analyzing this conversation allows you to understand what consumers talk about most, like, or dislike about competitors. All this insight helps better position your brand and define your content themes.
How To Use Social Listening To Develop A Content Strategy
So what does it actually mean to use social listening data to create a content strategy or even to create a piece of content? Regardless of how you are using social listening inputs to develop a content strategy, using social listening will put you ahead of the curve. SocialBakers states that only 51% of brands utilize social listening in any capacity. Just analyzing the data will help you to create a more informed content strategy.
We’ve developed a step-by-step guide on analyzing, developing insights, and creating a content strategy from social listening data.
1. Gather the Data
We know that any good content strategy starts with your desired goals. Similarly, before you begin to gather social listening data, you need to determine the goal of your content strategy and the data you want to collect. For example, if you are starting from scratch, you might need to gather audience insights, major content themes, or sentiment drivers from your social listening tool. Suppose you need to revamp your existing strategy or hone in a better way to create engaging content around a certain topic. In that case, you may only need to look at key conversations and top influencers in your social listening tool.
When gathering data, these are a few key areas we recommend looking at:
- Key Conversations:what people are mentioning the most regarding your brand or desired topic. For example, when people talk about marketing agencies, do they talk more about SEO or Social Media services?
- Sentiment Analysis: are people describing your brand, product, or desired topic in positive or negative ways? What are their pain points and what are they satisfied with?
- Audience Demographics: who is discussing your brand, what are their interests, and general demographics?
- Top Influencers: where are there potential for partnerships?
- Top Sources/Domains: where is the conversation happening?
2. Develop Insights
Once you have all the information, now what? It’s time to start asking some questions. Is this information new or different than what you had previously thought? Does this information enhance something you have seen from another source of data? How does this information change the type of content you are currently producing?
After asking a few of these questions, we recommend writing down a list of what you found
, and the next immediate action. Writing everything down helps to synthesize all the data you gathered and create actionable next steps.
For example, we may write:
- Insight: Key conversations about digital marketing agencies include SEO & Social Media services.
- Action: Develop content for social media services for sales funnel and increase the number of lead generation content pieces for the SEO services page.
- Insight: Social listening shows the key sources of digital marketing agency conversation is on Twitter.
- Action: Increase posting frequency on Twitter to twice/day to highlight recent blog posts and ask our audience questions.
Remember, this is all about starting with a goal! If you are creating a new content marketing strategy, you likely will have many inputs from social listening tools and other data sources that you will need to synthesize into a cohesive plan. It might feel like data overload at first, but the first step is to make sure you have everything written down.
3. Create a Content Strategy or New Content Piece
Now that you have all your insights, develop your strategy. Identify the desired goal of the content and audience, then outline the content needed to reach those goals. Pro tip: start your content strategy by outlining the content needed based on key conversations or topics that are mentioned most by your audience. Check out our 3-part blog series to learn more about developing a content marketing strategy.
You're Ready to Create a Content Strategy from Social Listening Data
Social listening is an essential component for developing a content strategy. From audience insights to content theme generation, this real-time data can help enhance any content created by your brand. If you want to learn more or are interested in building a content strategy fueled by social listening data, contact us today.