By Mark Sherbin published August 8, 2013

How to Use Social Listening on LinkedIn for Real-Time Publishing

The difference between a conversation that happens naturally versus one that’s forced is astounding. As a content marketer, which side are you on?

Content marketing is moving away from the “fixed schedule” model into a hybrid approach that uses data to determine well-timed content delivery. After all, content sharing and engagement are much more dynamic than they were a few years ago.

LinkedIn’s Mike Weir, who is the marketing lead for the company’s technology sector, thinks real-time content publishing is one of the most important challenges facing today’s content marketer: “How do you blend what you think your audience should know with what they’re talking about today? This is a challenge that requires a structured approach. Content marketers must deliver more content that addresses the conversation happening right now.”

For many of you, real-time content publishing is a challenge. It requires on-demand content producers who are ready to research and write about a topic at a moment’s notice. Plus, you have an editorial calendar packed with high-value content. How do you make sure everything works in sync?

First, you need to categorize your content based on how you’re timing its delivery.

The three types of content (based on timing)

Content marketing that strives to meet real-time demands requires a new approach — one that doesn’t rely solely on last-minute content creation.

“Becoming more dynamic is a demanding task for content marketers,” Mike explains. “You need great coordination across marketing teams, and a solid editorial calendar. You also need to monitor the conversations that are happening, isolate the biggest trends, and turn the insights into content. There’s a lot of science involved in all of this.”

More dynamic content requires a structured plan. According to Mike, a strong content marketing program has three categories of content:

1. Content you think your audience needs to understand the market and your products: Most of you already create thought leadership content. Much of it is based on what you think your audience needs to know to understand the market. Some of it is necessary to help potential customers see the value in your products.

“This is the no-brainer category — content that you’ve identified as important for understanding your brand’s role in the market,” Mike explains.

Universal conversations tend to play a role in the creation of this content. These are discussions that your target audience will always have, revolving around timeless yet crucial topics. Long-standing best practices, tips, and tricks usually work well in this category, as do longer-term explanations of your market.

2. Content that sits in storage, waiting for its day in the sun: A content repository is a crucial part of the marketer’s playbook. This content may be evergreen (like the first category), but would benefit from an uptick in audience interest.

A simple example here might be holiday content. Retailers start pushing Christmas gift ideas around Thanksgiving, for instance. Based on past years, they can predict when their audience will start searching for gifting advice.

Today, we can drill even deeper to find less-obvious timing cues. A small news development inside or outside of your industry could trigger a wider conversation about a specific topic. A small bug fix on a new tablet, for example, could have wide implications for the future of the health industry.

More and more of the content in our first category can and should be shifted into your repository. That way, you can deliver that content as soon as you see a specific topic gain traction.

“Content in your repository is just waiting for the right moment to strike,” Mike says. “Social listening tools are essential for understanding when that moment has come so you can deploy the content into organic conversations to maximize its social engagement.”

3. Content created in real time to address hot new topics: There’s a fine line between staying informed and getting ahead. Crossing that line has major implications for a content marketing program.

Delivering content that capitalizes on buzz in real time is tough. Here’s where social listening tools become even more valuable.

“Arriving late to the conversation means you’ve missed your opportunity,” Mike explains. “The right social listening tools make sure you can hear what’s happening in real time and deliver content that drives the conversation forward. As marketer’s adapt their organization structure and agency partnerships, they can apply the social listening insights to create content in shorter cycles — aka newsroom content production — so they’re filling gaps in their content repository without missing critical conversations.”

Augmenting your typical content strategy with real-time understanding of trends gives content marketers a huge advantage. To join the conversation, you have to hear what your audience is saying.

With Mike’s help, we’ll focus on how you can accomplish this using LinkedIn.

How to use LinkedIn for social listening

LinkedIn is a hotbed of conversations revolving around your industry, your brand, and the topics that your audience finds interesting. You can use LinkedIn to help you plan timing of content in your repository and to inspire new, timely pieces of content.

Here are four ways that content marketers can use LinkedIn for social listening:

1. Join active groups that are relevant to your market: In our last discussion with Mike Weir, we touched briefly on the power of using LinkedIn Groups for content marketing. Keeping a keen eye on your groups is a great way to passively listen in.

With Groups, content marketers don’t need to know exactly what topics they’re looking for. Let your audience do the talking for you. Monitor conversations and see which ones generate the most engagement from group members.

2. Refine your newsfeed: LinkedIn’s newsfeed feature seems pretty standard at first glance. You get updates from people you know and brands you follow.

What many people don’t realize is that you can customize your newsfeed by filtering based on updates from connections or companies, shared content from outside the website, profile updates, content your contacts are sharing in groups, and more.

Just mouse over the “All Updates” box in the top right corner of your newsfeed for quick customizing options. Click on the “Customize” link to place automatic filters that kick in whenever you log on.

LinkedIn Customized Updates

Putting filters on your newsfeed is a great way to cut the noise of your network to a minimum. Content marketers can highlight only the newsfeed content that helps them hear what people are saying more clearly.

3. Take advantage of strong search functionality: There’s more to LinkedIn’s search feature than meets the eye. Many of you probably use it to find contacts and brands. But try searching for a topic, and you’ll find out that the search feature has much more relevant applications for content marketers.

The search function scours five different criteria: people, jobs, companies, groups, and your inbox. Try isolating the topic based on “people.” LinkedIn returns a great sampling of the people you could be engaging with your content.

Finding people relevant to your market gives you an opportunity to see what they’re buzzing about. Visit their profile pages to check out articles and other bits of professional content they’ve posted.

4. Work with one of LinkedIn’s API partners: So far, we’ve mentioned a bunch of great ways to use LinkedIn for social listening — but they’ll definitely require a time investment. Content marketers looking for centralized social media management should work with a LinkedIn partner.

Social management partners leverage LinkedIn’s API to simplify social listening. Thus far, those partners include HootSuite, Percolate, Shoutlet, Spredfast, Sprinklr, and Thismoment. Through these partnerships, you can plug into LinkedIn’s Company and Groups API to track engagement across company posts, comments on company posts, and select group discussions. This social listening allows you to close the loop on content marketing to see what your audience engages and doesn’t engage in. Your engagement insights should then fuel your next generation of content.

Ask LinkedIn

Have questions on how to use LinkedIn for social listening or content marketing in general? Ask Mike Weir for his advice in the comments below.

Join CMI and host LinkedIn as they present the Content Marketing World Tech Summit, September 12, 2013 in Cleveland, Ohio. 

Author: Mark Sherbin

Mark Sherbin is a freelance writer specializing in technology and content marketing. He shares occasionally insightful information at Copywriting Is Dead, where he promotes authentic communication between organizations and their audiences. Contact him at msherbin@gmail.com.

Other posts by Mark Sherbin

  • Sue

    Nice article. Thanks for posting.

  • Mike Turner

    LinkedIn continues to surprise and amaze me with functionality I didn’t know existed. Another great article and ideas to add to the toolbox. Thanks.

  • G-Free Laura

    Great tips!

  • Tim Rowley

    Good information, I’ll have a closer look at those filters, Thanks.

  • Tamar Weiss

    Great tips Mark! Thanks for posting!

  • Eric Majchrzak

    LinkedIn actually made it harder to find relevant conversations when they discontinued LinkedIn Answers…and more recently, LinkedIn Signal, which allowed users to search the status updates of people across LinkedIn.

  • Olivier Bouchard

    Great tips indeed – thank you!

  • http://www.patrickwagner.com/ Patrick Wagner

    Good information, Mark! Thanks for posting it – I will share it with my network.

  • JimYoungPRBrigade

    Mark, some industries are really crowded in LinkedIn groups. We’ve found that a great way to decide what groups you want to join is by identifying the influencers in your industry and then joining the groups they’re in. As an aside, it’s also a good way to get into the conversation with those influencers too.