Social Media as a Listening Tool Series: An Introduction

social media as a listening toolDo you ever wonder what to post on your Business Page? Your Group? Maybe your Instagram? If we’re being honest, figuring out what to post on social media is a complete time suck. We spend hours trying to craft the perfect post. We make it as inoffensive as possible. Using the perfect language that will get people involved, and hopefully interesting enough to keep them coming back for more. We’re so proud when we hit that “post” button! Then we realize we need to do it all over again for another platform. Our hearts sink, and we get started again. After a while it’s so overwhelming, it’s just easier to post the same content everywhere, and move on to something else.

Reality Check

When you see major social media powerhouses like Gary Vee or Gabby Burstein posting 4 or 5 times a day it’s intimidating. I know that when I see influencers posting brand new AND unique content on all their platforms that frequently I start to feel more than a little inadequate. I worry that I’ll never have enough followers, or attract new customers. Because in truth, how can I compete with them?

Never mind that we aren’t even in the same business, or the same field, or have the same customers. None of that matters. All that matters is that they produce tons of new content, and I don’t. Therefore, I suck. It’s simple, right? I don’t need to think any more about it.

And that makes it easy for me to want to just give up. I know you feel it too. When you consider the monumental task ahead of you to create content from whole cloth every day, it’s just easier to throw in the towel on social media or your business altogether.

But Wait, Don’t Give Up Yet!

Before you make a drastic decision based on what other people post on social media, let me assure you that rarely are any of these massive content creators responsible for their own social media life. Sure, they probably post some of their pictures or tweets on their own. They’re probably the brainchild for most of it too, but a lot of these powerhouses have a staff of people to help them create posts and graphics for them! We’re comparing apples and donkeys. That said, let’s start by agreeing that we aren’t going to compare our content volume and originality with people who may or may not have a large staff to support them.

Next, don’t feel like you must create original content for every post. You heard me right, you do not have to come up with original posts for your social media accounts every time. In fact, you want to be curating content from other providers to your business page to build and strengthen relationships with other content creators.

What? Curating Content?

You heard me right, I said “curating content,” not, “creating content.”

What do I mean by that? You need a system of content curation so that you don’t have to create everything all the time.

  • Start by selecting a few people whose content you like, admire, and is relevant to your customer base.
  • Follow them on the appropriate social media channels so that you always have access to the new content they produce.
  • Build up a library of influencers and content creators you follow so that you have content on demand whenever you need it.

So, How Does It Work?

Step 1: Identify where your customers are

One of the more common mistakes new social media marketers make is feeling like they have to join every social media platform out there: LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Snapchat, Twitter, and the myriad of others. The reason being: isn’t more content better? If I’m on as many as possible, someone should be able to find me somewhere, right? The problem is: not all of the platforms were created with the same purpose in mind, so simply creating accounts on each of them and posting content won’t be enough for you to see any measurable ROI.

How to Do It

The most effective way to approach social media is to first determine who your target customer/ideal client is. Then, examine which social media platforms they are most likely to use based on their demographic. If your target audience is women who are into fashion/beauty, you’re much more likely to attract them using Instagram or Pinterest, than Twitter. If your target customer is mostly men, you probably won’t find them hanging out on Pinterest. Knowing who your target audience is, and what platforms they are likely to use is the first step towards limiting the amount of time you need to spend on various social media channels.

There are plenty of ways for you to figure out who your target audience is, you can use Google to find some worksheets and videos to walk you through the exercises (I found a few useful ones), you can hire a business coach who specializes in that aspect of customer acquisition, or you can check out a course I created for just this purpose.

Then, to learn who uses which platforms, you can check out this article from Forbes.

Step 2: Content Distribution

Examine the purpose behind each of the platforms you selected, so that you can assign content accordingly. Below are some general guidelines for some of the more popular ones:

  • Facebook
    • Business – Curated Content and Videos
    • Group – Community Building and Community Value
    • Facebook Profile – Personal content relevant to you or your immediate friends/family
  • Twitter – News, Articles, Blog Posts, Quick Information
  • Instagram – Quotes, Motivation, Stories
  • LinkedIn – Business & Professional Content
  • Pinterest – Infographics, High-Resolution and attractive images
How to do it

You can see by looking at the list above that each of these platforms has their own purpose. Though you can reuse content from one to the other if appropriate, that is the exception rather than the rule. The truth is that posting community building content on Instagram won’t yield you the same results as it will on Facebook. Similarly, uploading your High-Resolution image with tons of lines of text cut off into Twitter will turn people off rather than attract them to your brand.

Takeaway: Know your platform, and its purpose before selecting it.

Examine the content type of your selected platforms. After you create accounts, visit some profiles for brands in your space that your target customer frequents. If you aren’t sure what those are, make a list of where you think your target customers get their competing products from. That’s a good place to start. You can use Google or refer to the Target Audience worksheet from my course as resources. Learn more about these brands and influencers so you can get an idea of the kind of content they produce – since you’ll want yours to be in a similar vein.

Step 3: Content Creation

We’ll talk about curation more in the next step because content curation is all well and good, but we don’t want to venture too far into the realm of using other people’s content! We do need to create some of our own. Run an analysis of your competition’s/peers’ content strategies and to figure out what you like and don’t like about them. This will start to give you an idea of what kind of content you want to create. Don’t be afraid to use other websites, profiles, blogs as inspiration for your own content, everyone is inspired by something!

*Note, by inspired I mean, inspired by, not, copy from. One is flattery and is cool, the other is copyright infringement and not cool.

How to do it

Focusing on the kind of topics and information that your target customer finds appealing, begin creating posts for your social media pages. There are plenty of different of posts you can make: video, live streaming, product awareness, photographs, inspirational quotes, etc. Pick one that you find appealing each day, and create a post around that type of media. Initially this will seem clumsy and difficult, but over time you’ll become more adept at creating content on the fly. Much like exercise and running, social media content creation takes practice!

Special Note

Keep in mind that a study done by The New York Times Customer Insight Group  showed that people share content that fulfills the following:

  • Entertains, Inspires, or to be helpful to others
  • Self-Expression, defining their personality to others
  • Builds or strengthen relationships
  • Spread awareness about causes or brands they support
  • Enables them to feel a part of the world around them

Before you even get to the point of creating content, you need to ask a question. Does this content fill any one of these needs? If it doesn’t, then you may want to put it on the back-burner until it does.

Step 4: Content Curation

Content Curation is when you go to a brand or influencers page, and see a post that your customers will find appealing, and you share it from their page. Make sure you are attributing your content appropriately, and sharing it from the source if you are able.

Don’t feel bad about doing this, it doesn’t make your viewers think any less of you. In fact, it helps you! Share content relevant to your audience! You demonstrate your expertise, offer them something of value, build relationships with other people in your space, and strengthen your community’s trust in you.

How to do it

Go to the pages, blogs, groups, and/or websites that you determine your target customer will frequent. Browse through some of their content. If you have a topic idea already in mind, then using the search function will rapidly speed up this process). Find something you like or feel would be relevant to your customers, and then share it. Easy Peasy.

Social Media as a Listening Tool – Next Steps

Now that we’ve gone over the basics of content mangement, it’s time to figure out how to use this information to create and curate attractive content. To do so we’ll create a content strategy for each of the platforms above. Over the next few weeks, during Target Audience Month, look for more articles which address content curation more specifically, and how to build a social media schedule that works for you!

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