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Using Social Data to Inform Content Strategies

Social media channels offer a near infinite amount of data about your audience. By gathering and analyzing social media data, you can learn who your customers are, what they like and don’t like, what they think about your brand, your products and your competitors, where they are in their purchase journey and thus, what content will be most valuable to them. This information is available to almost anyone, as long as they have the desire and resources to record and mine it.

That’s not the case with most business though. In fact, a recent HootSuite report showed that 60% of companies struggle to turn data into actionable strategies. With the data volume red shift that is occurs everyday, it’s no wonder businesses are overwhelmed. But you don’t have to catalogue every conversation and try to interpret it’s meaning to find valuable insights. You can focus on a few sources to begin growing your knowledge and understanding of your audience. Here are three sources and methods.

Facebook Fan Insights

Facebook provides Audience Insights through Ad Manager, but the data is pretty basic and only available for specific demographic categories or interest groups. 

Audience Insight provided through Facebook can be useful, but is basic and can be taken further with a little time and effort.

Audience Insight provided through Facebook can be useful, but is basic and can be taken further with a little time and effort.

To really uncover interesting and useful information about you audience, spend a few hours digging into and comparing data from Facebook’s custom audience targeting.

Simply upload an email or phone list through Power Editor. With that audience selected, choose various demographics, interests or behaviors and note how the estimated audience numbers change. Take this a step further and compare these numbers to all of the U.S. for that specific demographic, interest or behavior group, and see where your audience over- or under-indexes.

For example, let’s say your audience over indexes in the “Single parents, 0-3” category. That may mean that your audience members have very busy lives, juggling kids, jobs, friends, family and a million other things. They don’t have time to consume lengthy content pieces or submit to user-generated contests. Keep your content simple, to the point and useful.

Question & Answer Sites

What are the most common questions being asked about your brand or your competitors? Search Yahoo! Answers, Quora or other question and answer sites to find out. Just type in your brand name, product names, related terms or competitor names. If most of the questions being asked are about how to use certain products, you may want to focus on instructional or how to content. If, on the other hand, questions are more abstract or conceptual, your content should address these questions.

A search on Quora for “LEGO” shows both tactical and conceptual questions.

A search on Quora for “LEGO” shows both tactical and conceptual questions.

Conversation Clouds

Some think conversation clouds are hokey, but I have found them extremely useful in boiling up common themes from seemingly unrelated text. These common themes help to show what is important and interesting to your audience, because it’s the most common things they’re talking about. If you create content related to these themes, you are able to participate in these conversations.

This word cloud is from conversations about NASA. You can see some topics bubbling up related to the recent rocket crash.

This word cloud is from conversations about NASA. You can see some topics bubbling up related to the recent rocket crash.

I don’t use the default ones provided by listening software, however. Instead, I create my own by downloading all text from mentions from listening software, removing any branded or related terms that may skew results, and then copying text into Wordle.net or other word cloud software. You can customize font, color, layout and maximum words to make the word cloud more useful to you.

This process can also be completed to audit your exciting blog text, or to analyze competitor sites. As long as the blog has an RSS feed, the process is even simpler than for mentions. Simply enter the RSS feed and hit “Create.” Then customize as desired. Here is a word cloud of SpaceX’s news section. 

Learning about your customers is an exploration process, but it’s not as if you’re discovering a new species. You customers are humans, and as such, they crave connections. With friends, with family and yes, even with brands. If you know enough about what motivates and interests your audience, you can create content that provides value and thus allows them to feel a connection with your brand.  

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