When talking about content marketing, discussions often focus on decisions about topics, headlines, platforms, and distribution.
But how much do you consider the data that supports these decisions?
I’m not talking about demographics, like age, gender, or location — although those matter, too. Rather, I’m talking about the answers behind qualitative questions:
- Who are your community’s influencers and why?
- Which events are your community members attending?
- What will be your first touchpoint with your community?
- Where is your community getting their information and news?
- Where is your community having meaningful conversations?
- How do you choose which headline will resonate best with your audience?
Gathering this type of intelligence will allow you to develop a stronger content strategy with better results and deeper relationships.
One of the best (and most efficient) ways to conduct this research is by listening to current and potential customers on the web and social media.
Web monitoring and social listening allow you to go directly to the source — your current and potential customers.
Here are five ways to use community data to help expand your content creation process.
1. Identify and develop brand ambassadors
“Listening” online to what current and potential customers say about your brand, competitors, and related topics will allow you to build meaningful relationships with people who will actually use your product or service.
You can learn more about their interests and even recruit your first brand ambassadors.
If you’re a startup, building a community pre-launch can be incredibly beneficial.
To find and recruit your brand ambassadors:
Look beyond the numbers
At Mention, we recently analyzed one billion mentions delivered to companies across the globe and found that only 8 percent of people talking about a brand or company have more than 500 followers. Meaning, anyone can be a brand ambassador, and all interactions matter.
Conduct a search on social media channels or use a monitoring tool to discover who’s talking about your brand or related topics the most and what types of interactions they’re having. See who’s leading these conversations and reach out, no matter how many followers they have.
Be helpful and friendly without being overly promotional. Most importantly, add value to these conversations. And if they’re singing your praises, make sure to show them your gratitude.
Join the conversations
Our data shows that 31 percent of company mentions on Twitter don’t include a company’s handle.
It’s important to capture these potential community members with social listening and engage with them. Start a conversation, answer any questions they have, or offer a demo. Convert them to people who are not only talking about you, but also with you.
Most importantly, make sure to answer every question, even if not aimed at you. Every comment and reply fosters more interaction, more brand awareness, and more committed readers who know you’re there to help. Do it right, and someone who might have just mentioned you once could turn into someone who will consistently recommend your brand.
After identifying your potential brand champions, get to know more about their interests. Converse with them and ask questions. If you’re trying to decide on a topic to write about, ask them directly which would be the most useful. Foster a relationship.
Create alerts for your brand name plus words like ‘love’ or ‘great’ to find more positive mentions. Maybe you can reach out to your fans with a little token of your appreciation? (At Buffer, we try to surprise some of our fans with these awesome Stickermule stickers.)
I don’t know about you, but I love a good surprise and delight.
At Mention, we “drink our own champagne” — we use our own product for monitoring our key terms and joining in on our community’s conversations, but there are several other options on the market.
Rand Fishkin from Moz runs through them in this Whiteboard Friday.
My personal favorite content, marketing, and community forums are:
- Inbound for anything inbound and content marketing related.
- GrowthHackers for all things startup marketing.
- Hacker News for all tech and startup news.
- Product Hunt for new, useful products and apps, and to find out what’s trending.
2. Turn support queries into quality content
Monitor support-related interactions where people ask questions, seek assistance, or ask for advice, such as “Does anyone know a good alternative to …?”
Social interactions are beginning to rival support through tickets and email. Take this as an opportunity to leverage your content to raise the bar in your customer service.
Listen to what your community has to say via social media and support queries, blog comments, etc., and then incorporate their questions into valuable pieces of content, such as:
- your FAQ,
- a blog post,
- a tweet chat,
- a Slideshare to be published on your blog, or
- a webinar on popular topics.
3. Reach out to guest bloggers and journalists
Track topics closely linked to your product or service to discover people who are likely to be interested in your brand. Take a look at who is leading conversations on such topics, whose names appear the most in these conversations, or who is cited the most often.
Join these conversations and follow these thought leaders on social media or subscribe to their blogs. Build relationships with them by leaving valuable comments on their articles and social media posts (but please, exercise moderation to avoid scaring them).
Eventually, you will get to the point where you can invite them to contribute to your blog, or visa versa. This is a win-win situation, as you will both be broadening your networks and audiences.
The same approach can be used when identifying journalists for outreach. Use media monitoring to identify the reporters writing about relevant topics, then dig deeper into their interests.
Discover what other types of conversations they are having, and what their personal interests are. Find a shared interest you can use to strike up a conversation — a starting point for building a relationship.
A comprehensive media monitoring tool is ideal for identifying people who share interests related to your offering, but there are other options that can replace or complement such a tool:
- Swayy pulls quality content that your social community is talking about based on your personal interests. The site, with email updates, is a great way to discover who’s talking about topics relevant to you and your community, and where they’re published.
- Prismatic is similar to Swayy and pulls popular posts among your social network based on your topic preferences.
- Rapportive for Gmail is useful for uncovering basic information such as a person’s title, company, photo, website, and links to her social media accounts.
- Riffle by CrowdRiff, a Chrome extension, gathers important insights and displays information about an individual, such as Klout score, top hashtags, mentions, URLs used and shared, whether she’s an Android or iPhone user, links to her other social profiles, and an activity breakdown between items such as retweets and favorites. (We love Riffle so much that we added an integration in Mention.)
4. Gather insights about your community’s needs and wants
A membership section of your site allows you to collect interesting and insightful information about your audience that you can use to tailor communication and gives your community a chance to get to know each other better, increasing the likelihood of them talking to each other.
When your community engages in conversations, you can learn critical information, such as:
- their problems,
- the advice they seek,
- the resources they use,
- tools they find valuable, and
- popular events.
This data is gold when determining what to publish, where to publish, where to speak, and new touchpoints for your audience.
Hosting a community forum or members area on your site is the most direct way to gather this intelligence.
Another option is hosting a branded (or non-branded) Facebook or LinkedIn group. Pin a question to the top of the page and ask the community to introduce themselves and give a fun fact.
Other community and forum tools include:
- Mightybell for hosting community conversations or meetings.
- Meetup if you’re up for hosting IRL events.
- Intercom, which we use for support at Mention, for A/B testing messages that resonate with your community.
5. Find speaking and sponsor opportunities
Social listening is a great way to learn about the events that interest your community.
Gather this information into a database of events that you can either attend, speak at, or sponsor.
Don’t hesitate to reach out to community members and let them know you’ll be there and would like to meet in person!
I use Google Sheets to keep track of events. I also have an alert in Mention for “Marketing Conferences,” where I can mark certain events as “favorites,” so that later I can pull a list of them and gather more information.
Content goes beyond the page
At content.NYC, Ann Handley of MarketingProfs (who is a fantastic presenter, BTW) introduced content as “everything the light touches.”
I couldn’t agree more. Content goes beyond blog posts, podcasts, webinars, forum submissions, social media posts, etc. You create content when you present at a conference, create collateral for a sponsorship, or reply to a question.
Content is any touchpoint with a human. Ask yourself: what does my community really want that hasn’t been given to them yet? Then produce, test, gather feedback, and repeat.
How have you used community data to strengthen your content marketing strategy?
Let’s go over to Google+ and discuss the factors that influence the type of content you create!
Flickr Creative Commons Image via Tollen.