Oh, the dreaded blank page, the taunting blink of the cursor!
As a marketer, one of your greatest challenges is to continuously come up with great content that resonates with your audience — whether you’re writing blog posts, email campaigns and newsletter copy, marketing page messages, or social media updates. When you feel like your main job is to always be producing new content, it’s easy to forget to stop and listen to the people for whom you’re creating it.
You might be wondering, “How does this help me?” Well, we’ll get there.
Getting to know and understand your audience is the best way to connect with them. What problems do do they face? What topics, questions, people, and products do they find interesting? How do their thoughts and opinions relate to your marketing and business goals?
The key to creating successful content is to be relevant and engaging — and one of the most powerful ways to do that is to be helpful and provide value. This kind of giving mentality works to build the trust and relationships you’ll need to attract, convince, convert, and retain your community and customers.
Media monitoring gives you the ability to gain insight into how to identify that value. People-watching or keeping your ears perked up in a crowd is a well-known tactic for gaining creative writing inspiration — and media monitoring is much the same way. You get to learn about people and what makes them tick, on their terms, and then use that intelligence to get creative, reach more people, and build deeper relationships.
Here are three ways to use media monitoring to come up with successful content ideas that make an impact.
Monitor keywords for topic ideas that will help your readers succeed
Make the content unique
Get to know your audience by monitoring general keywords and then deducing specific trends of interest. Set up alerts for key terms, topics, and hashtags that are in line with your brand and industry with tools like Mention. Or do manual searches on social media channels like Twitter and tools like BuzzSumo.
By tracking broader terms like “email marketing” and “lifecycle email,” we’ve discovered that people are hungry for guidance through best practices and tips. That gives us a choice to play into that trend or differentiate ourselves from the crowd by diving deeper into topics, with more specific treatments as well as concrete, real-life examples.
For instance, we noticed a recent uptick in interest around deliverability and spam filtering, but saw most of the content provided vague tips. So we published a post walking through specific steps to keep your emails out of the spam folder.
Social content-sharing forums and news sites, where community members can vote on articles and posts — like GrowthHackers, Inbound, Hacker News, and Quibb — not only reveal what people find interesting, but also have a built-in distribution network. Monitor trends in relevant topics and then use that networking power.
By using this approach to track the most popular email marketing content, we saw that people wanted templates and blueprints that they could then adapt and use. So we came up with some blog posts that provided copy templates for different types of emails. (Now depending on the month, sites like GrowthHackers and Inbound are among the top 5 largest drivers of traffic to our blog.)
Key takeaway: Use keyword and topic monitoring to identify trends and opportunities to stand out in a crowd.
Uncover specific problems by listening to what people are saying
With keyword monitoring, you get a sense of the forest of what people are interested in. But when you start paying attention to what specific people, community members, customers, and influencers are saying — not just sharing and upvoting — you get a sense of the trees, the specific questions and issues people are facing.
People pose questions in forums and social media and chances are, if a few folks have spoken up about something, there are many others wondering and working through the same issues.
Here are 3 quick ways to listen in a more targeted way:
1. Pay attention and respond to direct questions.
This is probably an obvious tactic, but just remember not to undervalue when people reach out to you. Here’s a question, unrelated to our product, from a Twitter follower, regarding a new tool from Gmail.
That sparked an internal discussion about trying the tool ourselves and seeing if we could come up with interesting insights to share.
2. Curate groups and lists of experts and influencers.
Find out what experts and practitioners are going through and listen to them talking shop. This is a great way to gain focus and efficiency in your media monitoring.
For instance, I created a list of awesome email marketers and learn about industry-relevant news, events, issues, and informed opinions about problems and trends.
3. Tap into people’s emotions.
On social sharing and monitoring tools, you can search and filter by sentiment or whether people are expressing generally positive or negative opinions. These tools aren’t perfect, but can give you a lot of insight into when people have strong feelings about something.
Here’s a sample Twitter search of the hashtag topic #emailmarketing, in English, expressing negative sentiment:
With this tactic, we’ve been able to learn more about how people often feel frustrated with email marketing, both on the receiving and sending end, because things don’t work the way they’re supposed to. There’s a gulf that people experience in how the care that gets put into building products and businesses often doesn’t extend to how email is treated. This inspired one of our most popular posts about how email is actually part of the user experience.
Key takeaway: Make your listening targeted and efficient by paying attention to particular audience members, experts, and strong emotions.
Talk to people, plain and simple.
Just as product managers must get out there and talk to users and customers to do their job well, so should marketers. Your product is your content and copy, and talking to your audience is the best way to get feedback and new ideas.
A great opening into a conversation with people is when they share your content. In the optimal case, say thanks and express gratitude, but don’t just stop there. Be proactive about continuing the conversation. Here’s a more content/product-focused interchange: where the reply back to a “Thanks for sharing!” message paves the way to introduce our newsletter:
More importantly: ask questions based on their initial tweet or around the content they’ve just shared. It’s a real opportunity to learn from others, increase understanding, and prompt creative ideas.
A tip: don’t just track your Twitter handle for content shares. Remember to set up alerts for brand names without an @ symbol. According to Mention, “30.72% of tweets containing company names don’t include their Twitter handle.” And that becomes even more important when you’re looking to start a conversation with someone who has shared your content but didn’t directly include an “@“ mention.
Finally, email is one of the best ways to talk with people because it’s a more personal, one-to-one communication channel. This is easy to overlook, given common (but not best!) practices like having no-reply email addresses or treating messages as a one-way, outbound street. Whether it’s with your newsletter, feature announcements, or lifecycle emails: keep the conversation going, because this is your core audience.
Key takeaway: Use media monitoring to not just start but also develop an ongoing conversation by asking questions.
Putting this into action
- Set up alerts in your media monitoring tool and track topics in community content-sharing forums to identify recurring themes, questions, and trends.
- Look for specific questions and challenges posed by your followers, customers, and community members as well as influencers on social media and forums.
- Pay attention to signals of strong emotion that will suggest ideas for strongly resonant messages.
- Listen and keep the conversation going with your audience and community, instead of thinking of marketing as a one-way, outbound channel.