What social listening taught me about content creation

Years ago, a young man visited a station to buy a new cooking cylinder. Despite saving towards the purchase, he realised he could only afford an empty cylinder and did not have enough to fill it with gas. That evening, he took to Twitter to vent about various situations, including this.

Though he did not mention a brand, I found his tweet via keyword monitoring and directed him to a station to pick up a new cylinder with gas, at no cost to him. Working for a petroleum downstream company at the time, I wondered if there were potential customers like him online, so I started a conversation to verify this possibility.
The next day at work, I discussed my suggestions with my colleagues, and we agreed to propose a product variant with an ongoing layaway plan, in partnership with Microfinance Banks. This option which had always been communicated to a different customer segment appealed to a new segment and was oversubscribed.

It was no longer about selling the offer, but managing consumer feedback online about product unavailability at different partner locations.

This stirred business considerations on market/ partnership expansions, possible re-targeting and more; it brings to bear the importance of social listening.

Beyond content creation, social listening improves content strategy and offers low hanging opportunities brands can easily leverage, thereby driving business growth.

In addition to social listening, here is my take on developing valuable brand content:

Understand your audience

As rudimentary as this sounds, many brands pay lip service to the importance of this point. Understanding your audience is beyond knowing your target could be 20 to 35-year old ladies who subscribe to a certain Vlog or other single identifiers like women. It is unlikely that all women will be your target.

Their interests, motivations, pains, etc. should be as familiar to you as the features of the product or service you offer. Do not make assumptions about needs and behaviours. Listen to your customers, seek to create feedback loops and evolve with the growing needs of your audience.

Build empathy, not a persona

A common piece of advice in marketing is, ‘you’re not your audience’. As much as this is true, do not separate yourself from your audience. Keep them in mind and see through their eyes. Becoming your audience helps you build empathy, grows your connection and sustains relatable content.

Rather than ask yourself ‘what does my target want’, you could realise more valuable insights when you ask ‘If I were my target, what would I need?’. If you have to overthink this or you find yourself spewing your brand jargon in an attempt to answer this, you’re not there yet.

If you are struggling to connect, ask your audience questions and engage. When the responses pour in, address concerns and respond to negative comments, do not ignore or delete them. Clarifying doubts are important, as most negative Nancies become positive Paulines and your engagement could offer an opportunity for a turnaround.
Most importantly, concentrate on what you can change and work at finding sustainable solutions.

It’s ok to leave the bandwagon behind

It can be tempting to jump right in once a topic starts generating buzz online. Though trending topics could help brands better connect with their audience or gain relevance, latching on to trends can also be a fast lane downhill.
A lady recently offered discounted vouchers for her service, as Mother’s Day gifting options online. As thoughtful as her service is, the deal received poor traction and she decided to gather feedback with the assumption that an additional item will make the deal more appealing.

Turns out her offer was compared to that of a husband who gifts his wife a vacuum cleaner and ends up sleeping on the couch. She also admitted that she jumped on the trend without considering if it was valuable to her audience. We worked at crafting a more suitable offer for her audience and the turn around was great.

Do not be carried away by the online frenzy. Be deliberate about your content. Make data-driven decisions, not just ‘cos everyone else is doing it. If you must, make relatable tweaks to suit your audience, but do not force it.

Beyond Likes

The desire to trend or have a million likes takes centre stage for many brands. Likes, however, ‘may not be all they are cracked up to be’, so dwelling on surface social media metrics can be deceitful. There is a lot more you can track and analyse continuously, to optimise your content strategy.

Just as you measure performance metrics for SEO, email marketing etc., you should measure social media KPIs like acquisition, attributions, the quality of your followers, popularity of posts, extent of your influence, and more. These provide valuable insights and could help you hop-off bandwagons that lead you away from your audience.
It doesn’t matter what business you run, valuable content means the same thing to all audiences, i.e. genuine, focused, useful (educational, entertaining, or informative) and actionable.

Lastly, sharing informative content may be good, but if it doesn’t resonate with your audience, your efforts will be futile. Brand content should be relevant and actionable to justify its creation and brands need to listen more.

Written by Imabasi Esang, Marketing Communications, Strategy, Writing & Editing (MCIM, MNIPR).



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