Every day, millions of social interactions are taking place across the web. The social signals to engage your current and future customers are out there — but are you paying enough attention to them? When your consumers connect with you, are you offering them the most relevant and timely information, or are they likely getting lost as they search for answers or expertise you are not yet providing?
The most valuable insights into understanding your customers’ needs come from what they are sharing on the web. When your content is shared, it validates that you are headed in the right direction with your content creation. And with the help of some advanced social-sharing tools and insights, you can get a 360-degree view of all sharing behavior happening regularly, which will help you optimize your website content for improved user retention and acquisition.
1. Start with the basics: social-sharing buttons
Some of the most informative audience data comes from social sharing activities — a voluntary action taken by a consumer who chooses to engage with your brand and its website content.
Most social channels offer individual buttons that you can integrate on your site, allowing visitors to share your content to their networks. However, it may be worth forgoing the use of these individual buttons in favor of using a new class of tools that can aggregate the various sharing buttons for your preferred social channel(s). This method keeps all your user engagement data in one place, allowing you to clearly analyze the activity around your content as a whole. Dedicated sharing tools can help content marketers avoid the hassles and discrepancies that can result when data and reports are pieced together from disparate social networks or platforms. When considering a social sharing tool or service, it’s important to make sure the widget you will be working with is customizable — you want to be able to analyze the social sharing channels that your audience or community is most active on.
2. Incorporate the intelligence you might be missing: “dark social”
“Dark social” refers to activity by individuals who share content through one-to-one channels such as email, SMS texting, private messages on third-party services, or instant messaging and chat, rather than through the official social sharing buttons you put on your website. When users share your content in this way, it can prevent you from being able to account for many of the interactions that are happening with your content. However, some social-sharing tools can enable you to track when snippets of your content are copied, pasted, and sent through “dark social” sharing. Taking it one step further, marketers can even track clicks from URLs copied and shared from the browser address bar. Because many consumers frequently copy and paste content to share it (research by RadiumOne shows that 72 percent of all users go outside the sharing tools to share content with their social connections), these sharing actions can represent an untapped gold mine of consumer information. Looking only at formal social shares prevents you from accurately knowing which content is truly shared the most. But by exploring dark social activity data with advanced sharing tools that offer this capability, you’ll get a more complete picture of your audience’s sharing habits.
3. Target reporting and metrics
The right metrics can make all the difference in how you are able to assess and manage your website content. For example, if you want to understand how content is resonating with your audience, I recommend that sharing data be broken down by social channel, location, and device. This will provide some important insights on the kinds of content that appeal to your audience members — as well as where and in what ways they prefer to engage with that content — so you can iterate and innovate in a more targeted, impactful way.
Engagement reports let you derive specific characteristics of who your audience members are and how they interact with your content. For example, are they sharing to Facebook or Twitter more often than they do to LinkedIn? On what platforms do consumers click through to your links the most? The social sharing intelligence you can collect from your most engaged users can help you refine your content strategy. Take a look at these three potential marketing goals you may be trying to deliver on and how the right social intelligence from your sharing tool can make an impact:
- Increase engagement on a particular social network such as Facebook or Twitter: The goal on social networks is to encourage more people to talk about and share your content. From pictures to lists, hard news, or short articles, publishers should know what types of website content receive the most engagement when shared to a particular social channel.
For example, if your goal is to increase Twitter engagement, you will want to track the content topics and formats that are being shared the most to Twitter and are garnering the most clicks. This knowledge will help you make better decisions on topics and formats to use for your next content creation effort.
- Boost engagement in a key geography: Let’s say your audience currently skews heavily toward the United States, but you are looking to capture and/or expand your international, European audience. In this case, reports from your sharing tool that break out your audience engagement by region would be important.
Here, you would want to know what type of content is important to your consumers in Europe — and how it differs from your U.S. demographic. Is it a certain product, customer reviews, news articles, funny content attracting shares and clicks that seem to impact performance the most for each demographic? Understanding what users are sharing by geography will help you tailor your content marketing to attract customers in specific, new regions.
- Identify and adapt your website content to the devices/platforms your target audience prefers: You should be aware of your most frequent touch points when it comes to how and where your audience prefers to engage with your website content — and adapt accordingly.
For example, is your data telling you that your audience members prefer to view your content on mobile or on a desktop? On mobile, are they more likely to access it on a smartphone, or on the larger screen of a tablet? If you find that most of your sharing happens on mobile, you will want to prioritize content creation in short, “snackable” pieces that are optimized to be displayed on mobile. On the other hand, if you see more social sharing happening on desktop, you may want to create longer-form content formats (like in-depth white papers, or thought leadership articles) that take advantage of the larger real estate available.
- Select content topics that deliver the best engagement: You can use advanced reporting tools and content reports to help you dive deeper into the top keywords that are being searched for and shared in your industry. These insights can help you home in on your most valuable content.
For example, dedicated sharing tools can deliver top-shared keyword reports that aggregate the most popular phrases for your industry. The keyword insights from these reports can focus your strategy to deliver website content that’s more likely to engage your audience.
With great intelligence comes greater relevance
With the amount of articles, top 10 lists, videos, and photos pumped out by brands and publishers daily, we sometimes lose sight of the goal behind the content marketing process. Content shouldn’t be created just for the sake of having more content that might attract an audience. By going deeper into available social-sharing data and engagement trend research, you can create the well-thought-out content that will have a much greater return than 10 half-baked articles combined. Now is the time to break into your social-sharing data and bring your content production cycle full circle.
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Cover image illustration by Brad Jonas