Content is king — every marketer knows that.
However, oftentimes, content marketers cannot just rely on their skills and talent — they need to incorporate other tactics in their content marketing strategy to make it more powerful. Social listening improves your strategy and helps you speak directly to consumers in their language.
As a content marketer, you probably know that a good piece of content is defined by two features:
- The content should speak to your target audience, i.e. answer their questions and solve problems. To create content like this, you obviously need to know what these problems are. You need a lot of information about your customers and prospects, their desires and needs.
- The content should correspond with the current trends. The content you create should be fresh and relevant, addressing current issues. In our fast-paced Internet world, nobody wants to hear about months-old events.
If you adhere to these two rules, you will always get gripping content that actually brings leads. But how exactly do you make sure that your content is both relevant to your customers and corresponds with the trends?
Social listening is the answer! Social listening responds to the two main challenges mentioned above: it allows you to analyze your audience and their perception of your brand as well as the hottest online trends. You don’t have to try to guess what your audience wants to read or watch — you have hard data showing you that.
You probably already take care of SEO and pay attention to page stats to track your content’s performance. However, only social listening can show you the exact pain points of your target audience and even the exact phrases they use to describe these pain points. It basically puts you in their shoes without much effort on your part.
Social listening is a perfect antidote against a creative block. Don’t know what to talk about in your new blog or video? Check social listening analytics and it gives you tons of new ideas!
There is more than one way to use social listening for content creation, and in this article, we will cover the most popular ones.
However, before we cover actionable tips and how-tos, let’s briefly discuss what social listening is.
What Is Social Listening?
Social listening is a process of collecting and analyzing online data for product and marketing insights. This data can be sourced from social media, news websites, forums, blogs, review aggregators, and the web.
There are many ways to implement social listening tools both in content creation and in marketing strategy in general. You can analyze influencers, competitors, current trends, track your brand health, find hot leads, discover backlinking opportunities, manage your brand reputation, and more.
Social listening tools gather data based on the keywords you provide — it looks for these keywords in social media posts, articles, and forum messages and analyzes them and their authors. If you want to analyze your reputation or brand awareness, you put in your brand name as a keyword. If you want to monitor your competitors, you put in their brand names and product names. If you want to analyze your audience, you put in a niche-related keyword. The idea is clear.
Social listening provides you with various demographic and behavioral insights. For example, you can learn:
- Where your (or your competitors’) target audience lives
- Their gender
- What languages they speak
- How they feel about a certain topic
- What related topics they discuss the most
- And more!
Basically, you get infinite information about the people you want to convert into your customers. And as you know, information is power. Now that we know what social listening is. Let’s go through five different ways to use social listening in your content strategy.
1. Use Social Listening To Understand Your Audience Better
As I mentioned above, social listening can give you essential insights about your target audience — their demographics, online behavior, interests, dislikes, and so on. All you need to do is to choose the right keywords to collect the data you need.
Let’s say you are a plant-based milk brand, your target audience includes vegans and people with lactose intolerance. Thus, the keywords you should use are vegan, plant-based, lactose intolerant, and some others that are not directly tied to your product but are still relevant such as cruelty-free, green lifestyle, environmental-friendly, etc.
Hot tip: Since social listening tools look for the exact keywords you put in, make sure you add all spelling variations.
Advanced social listening tools such as Awario or Talkwalker collect and analyze real-time and historical data simultaneously. Thus, you are able to see demographic and behavioral insights immediately. You can see what people say about veganism and lactose-intolerance online, their gender breakdown, what countries they come from, how they feel about the topics, which websites and social media networks are popular with vegans, and more.
Here’s an example of some of the insights we can derive from social listening data. The screenshot was taken from Awario social listening tool. It features sentiment analysis, gender breakdown of the authors, countries where mentions come from and the Topic cloud.
It depicts major topics of conversation among vegans. As you can see, the word products, as well as different variations of vegan products (meat, cheese, candy), gets mentioned quite a lot.
A content marketer could immediately get an idea to create a listicle of the best vegan products — and we haven’t even looked at the individual posts yet to see the topics people talk about in more detail. If we go to the Mentions feed to look at the articles and social media posts, we can find tons of inspiration for blog posts, videos, and social media posts!
Now let’s search for the mentions of milk in the data we collected. Since it’s Christmas, many people are mentioning holidays in their tweets about milk:
- “How would Santa eat milk and cookies if he were lactose intolerant?”
- “What’s the best way to prepare eggnog without cow milk?”
These are all real questions people have and you can create content to answer them for entertainment or education.
2. Use Social Listening To Identify Trends
It’s unlikely that your audience stays the same: their interests and opinions change over time. That’s why it is essential to track trends within your industry and adjust your content to these changes.
With the help of social listening, you can monitor what kind of content goes viral and derive inspiration for your own posts from it.
Using Google Trends and the Trending tab on Twitter can help you as well. However, social listening helps you make trend monitoring more focused. You can target your niche or even specific Internet communities and track trends among these communities specifically. You can do it by monitoring industry-specific terms, phrases, or even names.
To notice trends in your industry, pay close attention to the number of mentions your keywords get. If you see that number suddenly skyrocketing, chances are there is a new trend on the rise. Topic cloud or word cloud can also help you figure out the trends inside your niche.
3. Use Social Listening To Learn From Influencers
Opinion leaders and influencers can also guide your content marketing decisions. Influencers in your niche are a natural indicator of the content your audience wants to see.
You don’t actually need to take any extra steps to find influencers in your industry. Advanced social listening tools show you a list of the most influential accounts that talk about the topics you want to analyze. The list is usually sorted by the size of their audience as you can see on the screenshot.
Once you get the list, go to their Instagram profile/Youtube channel/blog, and check what kind of content they post. Pay attention not only to the topics but the personality of the opinion leader as well. What is their image? Is it similar to your brand or is it drastically different?
Oftentimes the way an influencer looks and how they behave plays a major role in their appeal. Paying attention to these things can help you analyze your own content — if their tone of voice and attitude works better than yours, perhaps you could change your content to fit with your audience’s preferences.
You can also set up monitoring alerts for specific influencers popular in your niche using their names and social media handles as keywords. This will allow you to track which of their blog posts and videos get the most attention over a longer period of time thus giving you a deeper understanding of their content strategy. This understanding can enhance your own content.
Hot tip: Influencer marketing is not in your realm of responsibilities but you can still reach out to influencers as a content manager. Invite them to collaborate on a piece of content together, or offer to host their content on your platform. If they are an expert, maybe suggest doing an interview with them. Get creative!
4. Use Social Listening To Analyze Your Competitors
Competitor analysis is the best way to see what marketing tactics work without actually spending time or money on experimenting. Monitoring your competitors gives you pointers on what kind of content attracts your audience, what kind of content gets more shares, and what content flops.
However, it’s not enough to simply look at what they are posting online and copy it. Your content doesn’t need to be as good, it needs to be better than theirs. Social listening can help you identify the blog posts, videos, and social media posts that were shared the most and those that were not as successful and analyze what made them this way.
Let’s go back to our plant-milk example. Monitoring your competitor could show you that the most popular content they produce are the recipes that include plant-based milk. However, you see that they don’t post them that often. At the same time, they post a lot of articles about the health benefits of a vegan diet — but when you’re monitoring their brand, you notice that these articles don’t get a lot of shares or mentions.
If you were simply to look at their posting strategy you’d think “Hm, if they are constantly posting health-related articles, these must be very popular with their audience.” But social listening shows us it is not actually the case. And you’d be wiser to analyze their recipe posts to improve your content.
With this information at hand, you can build the formula for your own successful content strategy.
5. Use Social Listening To Use User-Generated Content (UGC)
Could there be a better way to make content relevant to your audience than using content created by your audience? User-generated content not only caters to your customers in the best sense but it is also more convincing for potential customers. They can see that people are actually using your product or service.
For example, this year Twitter asked their followers to roast 2020 in the replies. It has been a hard year, so there were plenty of volunteers. Twitter then showed the funniest replies on the Time Square screens in real-time. The Twitter’s marketing team didn’t have to write a line — all the content was created by users!
Social media posts can easily be incorporated into blog posts. You can go even further and make social media posts from your users the highlight of your blog post. For example, you could make up a blog post made entirely from questions asked about your product on social media — and answer them in the post. Or film a Q&A. Buzzfeed is one of the most successful content creators of our time, and half of their posts are just collections of funny tweets around a certain topic.
In the same vein, you can create case studies with your customers, telling their story — this is a great option for B2B companies.
User-generated content has the added advantage of generating trust. People are more likely to believe fellow customers like them. And those you’re sourcing the content from end up feeling valued by you. Everybody wins!
Finding user-generated content is extremely easy because you don’t need to come up with clever keywords to target your search — you simply need to monitor your brand and products. That way you’ll get every mention of your brand on social media and online, even those that don’t tag you directly.
Social Listening Is Essential
Social listening is what allows you to create content that speaks to your customer. Instead of relying on your hunch and feelings, social listening tools give you hard data that show what topics fascinate your audience and what types of content attract them.
It’s like a magic box that tells you everything you need to know to create the perfect content — but instead of magic, it’s data analysis.