By James Prideaux published December 1, 2014

Social Listening Tools to Strengthen Your Content Marketing

14528484387_17ea996d0c_cover image Content today is most definitely not king. You’re shocked? I say this because there seems to be a skewed misconception of what the term “content” means. Too often marketers produce thin content as a way of generating quick web traffic and increasing conversion rates. This content can no longer be classified as royal.

In my eyes, effective content marketing should use tactics to provide information and entertainment to consumers that they feel is valuable, thus building relationships. Ann Handley rightly states “companies, organizations, and individuals place quality content over quantity.”

In her predictions of digital trends in 2015, Mari Smith says brands will gather and integrate data more deeply to truly personalize content. “This content will have a more light-hearted feel, including the use of selfies and micro-video clips shot on location with smartphones, giving the consumers the fly-on-the-wall impression.” This is the type of content that strikes me as being king.

Poor quality content campaigns often come down to a lack of knowledge about who is targeted and what they really want. Take J. C. Penney Company, for example. It was once a well-known brand offering discounted merchandise, but decided to rebrand around a strategy based on how the customer should be valued and not cheaply bought. The tone of voice took the premise of “enough is enough,” presuming that is how customers felt. Little did J. C. Penney know that its customers actually embraced the value of discounted merchandise. This epic fail led to a drop of 20% in sales and a gradual decline ever since.

What does this say to us as content marketers? Listen to your audience. As Smith and Handley suggest, personalization is key, but you can’t personalize without knowing your audience. By listening and monitoring, you will gain insights into your audience’s preferences and interests, as well as content it regularly shares.

Look back to think ahead

First things first, evaluate your existing strategy, including:

  • Content-engagement levels (user to content), using social listening tools such as Pulsar
  • Click-through rate by device, using universal analytics software
  • Content-specific bounces, using Google Analytics
  • Existing content visibility, etc., using tracking software such as Pulsar

Ben Harper provides more detail on what data to look out for when analyzing a content marketing strategy.

Take their pulse

Pulsar is a new social-intelligence platform that allows you to track, analyze, and engage with everything in the social stratosphere. You can monitor the engagement levels of a specific piece of content, as well as viewing its visibility.

To start your evaluation:

1. Give your tracking search a title and list the URL you want to track.

2. Exclude words. This step is more useful when tracking certain keywords, however you can block any shares of your content that involve certain words.

3. Enter specific information regarding your target market. You can choose the country and language, as well as filter the platforms and sources.

4. Select to track real-time or historic data, or both. Given the fact that we are monitoring our existing posts, the historic data option should be used. These searches bring back extensive data and present it in a number of formats. In the following screenshot, I share the most frequent elements I use to capture the overall activity and engagement levels of a piece of content.

The activity report shows the amount of shares, retweets, mentions, etc., of the selected URL. From here, you can click any point on the graph to show each mention and who made it.

Pulsar full image 1

The next set of data is a subset of the “influencers” data and represents the number of shares, as well as the linkages between them. As you can see, the bigger the circle, the more influence that particular share of your content had. Hover over the circle for more specific data or view the compiled list of users who shared your post. This is useful for identifying industry influencers and people to whom you should target your content.

Pulsar full image 2

The next report shows the overall visibility of each share. This chart evidences not only the amount of views for your content, but whether they were positive, negative, or neutral. This can be used to analyze whether the type of content you are creating is right for your audience.

Pulsar full image 3

Research interests

Among social listening tools, I’m most familiar with Hootsuite (learn how to use it). It allows users to monitor specific target audiences through the identification of relevant keywords related to the topic or industry. When you enter a search term into a new tab, Hootsuite collects and presents real-time data from your target audience from an abundance of social platforms and provides great insight into what members of your target audience are saying. From here, you can build a good understanding of their interests and build your brand persona and content strategy accordingly.

Know what your audience shares

Next up is identifying what type of content your audience regularly shares to understand what type of content you need to be sharing with it. The best way of tackling this topic may seem extremely simple, but Twitter lists are a great way of tracking popular content.

Using the Twitter platform to generate the list can be extremely time-consuming so I frequently use SocialBro. It allows you to create filtered searches for industry- or interest-specific users. Below is an example of search results for web developers in the London, United Kingdom, area:

social bro full image 1

This page allows you to quickly scan through thousands of users who met your search query. By selecting the bio choice (bottom left), you can quickly skim through bios, making it easy to decide whether the user is one you want to monitor. Once you select the users to monitor, simply click “selected,” “add to list,”and “create new list.” You now have a list of either influencers or consumers. You can access this list using Twitter or Hootsuite (I recommend the latter).

Track competitors and influencers

Twitonomy is an analytics tool for both you and your competitors’ accounts. By tracking and analyzing the accounts of major industry influencers and competitors, you can generate useful insights into what interests your target audience. With Twitonomy, you can see:

  • Overall stats on competitors and influencers, i.e., how many tweets sent, time of day, and how often content on the page is retweeted
  • A view of what content is most popular by observing most retweeted or most replied content
  • Most popular users on your page (In other words, users who most frequently reply or mention you or your competitor. This is a great way to see with whom your competitors are engaging.)
  • Most common hashtags
  • Devices from which most tweets came
  • Statistics on your followers in list format

Below is an example of Twitonomy used for our own site within the digital-marketing industry, detailing the overall statistics, users most retweeted, and followers:

twitonomy full image 1

 Record your listening results

If you are not an avid user of Microsoft Excel, I would suggest you become one. I use it to create a content review template to document any analysis extracted from social networks.

Create organized tables with specific sections such as consumer interests, time of day tweeted, popular topics, format of content shared, etc. It may sound simple, but you will be surprised by how many marketers ignore documenting valuable information at every opportunity.

You can download an example of the content review template that I use below, which includes headers such as platforms, post title, time of day mentioned most, topic, word count, type of content, potential reach, amount of shares, and link to URL.

ContentReviewTemplate

Click to enlarge.

Now is the time to plan

When you brainstorm your content for 2015, ask yourself: Is this the kind of content that would make my audience tick? Use the data from your social-listening tools. Instead of posting generic content, you can post content that your audience actually wants – and return your content to its rightful title – king.

Want to learn more about how to leverage analytics in your content creation? See and hear from the experts and speakers at Content Marketing World. Check out our Video on Demand portal.

Cover image by TheAngryTeddy via pixabay

Author: James Prideaux

James is a Digital Marketing Executive at My Social Agency. He works within varied aspects of digital marketing, however, primarily in content writing, SEO and social media management. You can follow James on Twitter or connect with him on Linkedin.

Other posts by James Prideaux

  • Shai Geoola

    Fantastic article James, thanks for sharing!

  • http://www.SchoolOfContent.com/ Reginald Chan

    James,

    Love the fact that you shared SocialBro’s tool. I used it for Twitter and it’s really awesome. And to be honest, I really wish there are other tools out there as versatile like SocialBro for other networks (okay, call me picky!).

  • Sam Thomas

    Fantastic article James, I will be stealing a few bits from here for my digital marketing plan assignment! (Referenced of course) especially the social listening tools you linked, absolutely spot on mate, you have developed a really good writing style too! Loved it!
    Keep it up.

    • James Prideaux

      Thanks Sam. I am sure Neil will be happy to see that you referenced (Prideaux, 2014) ;).

  • http://saleoid.com/ james brown

    Wonderful Stuff !!!

    James , thanks for letting us know about such a great points.

  • James Prideaux

    Thanks Guys. Your completely right Reginald, although instead of separate software, I think an expansion into a broader range of social networks should be on the cards for SocialBro, meaning all of your social accounts in one place.

  • Luisa Deas

    Thanks for posting this article James – it was a great read and pointed me in the direction of some new tools, i.e. SocialBro, which I’d not heard of before. Happy to see you give a wink to the underused excel spreadsheet in terms of recording the listening – often find the Directors are happier to be presented with the data in this format than using the social tools.

  • Laura Landoll

    Thanks for sharing your listening results template. It’s prettier than the Excel grid I was using. I plan to use these tips as I’m working to find out where our target audience is engaging online and what they’re saying.

  • Saitoh Droid

    Thanks for your great post James! really appreciate the post like yours that recommend tools to achieve an specific goal 😉

  • http://www.zebraboss.com/ Jason Henrickssen

    Great! Thanks! BTW there are some other tools to use in the same way. You can find them in a special section on their website called Tools http://www.zebraboss.com/tools