Social media isn't just a medium for content promotion. It's a medium for content testing. See how to use your social media analytics reports to find out what content will succeed - and what will fail - before you ever create it.
“I want it to go viral.”
Raise your hand if you’ve ever heard a client say that.
Or maybe your clients are more sophisticated. They want more leads from their content. Or more links. Or more sales.
Thing is, everybody wants more results from their content.
And who wouldn’t?
The trick, of course, is getting it to happen.
We sure do try. Content marketers work crazy-hard. And they usually follow best practices, too.
If you’ve been doing content marketing for any period of time, you have probably:
It’s a tidy little cycle of analysis, planning, creation, promotion, and analysis again. And it works. Over time you learn what works and what doesn’t.
But it often takes a lot of time for the whole cycle to play out. If you add in the time to see search engine optimization results, it could be six months from when you first have a content idea to when you’ve created it and then given it time to rise in the search results.
That’s a painfully long time to see if something’s going to work.
Time isn’t the only problem, either. A lot of money gets spent on content. Even a blog post costs over $900 by the time all is said and done.
So is it any wonder that creating quality content is the #1 challenge of content marketers?
And is it any wonder that content marketers would like to have more of their content be successful? Some estimates are that only 10% or so of the content being published actually works. The rest of the content we’re publishing… just kind of disappears.
This is why so many content marketers struggle to achieve a positive return on investment, if they even attempt to measure those returns in the first place.
And so, everybody’s looking for an easier way. Everybody wants to be creating more effective content. Content that is more likely to work.
We’d all like to leave the days of “spray and pray” publishing behind.
Fortunately, there are several ways to increase your odds of creating successful content. And you can use social media – and your social media analytics reports – to do it.
Social media is a vast sea of content being shared.
It’s also a vast content-testing laboratory. You can use this lab to test content, whether it’s your own or other peoples.
You probably already know how to test your own content on social media. It’s testing other peoples’ content that’s new.
Or maybe not so new. “Content curation” has been around for a while. It’s proven to be an effective way to build an audience and get website traffic. It even generates leads.
But you can also use content curation to test content. So you’ll know what’s likely to work before you ever invest a dime in creating your own version of that content.
Every post of curated content can be a stand-in for content you might have created. But instead of investing time and money to test each piece of content, you share someone else’s content and see how your audience responds.
If your audience likes the content, great; make your own version of it. If the content falls flat, no problem; just don’t share it again.
You can do this for 80% of the content you share, so long as you follow certain rules of content curation etiquette.
For starters, you must give people credit for their work. What we are doing is curation, not plagiarism. The two are VERY different things. So, include the content creator’s name or handle in your posts. Check out this superb article on plagiarism to learn more.
We didn’t write this blog post, but it’s about a subject our audience would like. And so we shared it on our Twitter feed, and included the Twitter handle of the publication. This helps us, because we can see if our audience responds to this content. And it helps our audience, because it gives them interesting content. It even helps the publication because they got more exposure.
Second, link to their content. This is especially important with images and infographics. It’s not nice to use someone else’s graphic and not link back to their site.
Don’t want to give them that link? Then maybe you need more motivation. Tools like Back.ly or Snip.ly that can add an overlay to the pages you’re linking to. That way, when someone clicks through on one of your curated links, they’ll see a little overlay with your messaging on the content page. So you give out the link, but you don’t completely lose the reader’s attention.
Don’t want to share other people’s content because you’re worried you’re just sending people away from your own content? Then add an overlay tool like Snip.ly to recapture clicks and attention – even after people are no longer on your site:
Content curation works best if you also add your own spin to the content itself. So add a comment to put the content in context. This lets you put your own fingerprint on what you’re sharing, and lets your audience get the benefit of your expertise.
So suddenly, you’ve got a ton of content to share. And every piece of content you share is like a little content-interest test.
This is where your social media analytics comes in. You need it to be able to quickly see which content got the most interest. And then you need to make more content like that.
All this data can get fed into your Whatagraph social media reports. So you don’t have to log in and run a report every time you want to check which posts have performed best. And you don’t need to log into each social media site.
No radio required here. A listening station is a social media monitoring tool that monitors what your audience is talking about. TweetDeck is an example, but there are many tools available now that can help you understand what your audience is talking about.
And you want to know everything your audience is talking about. Sure – a listening station can tell you what your audience says about your company when they’re not talking directly to your company. You’ll know whether they’re angry with you or not.
But that’s just the beginning of what you can learn from this eavesdropping…. Ahem, “listening”.
You can also see how your audience engages with ideas beyond what’s directly related to your brand. You can gauge their sentiment about all sorts of topics, from kittens to politics.
This helps you create better content because it helps you frame your content with the same world-view that your audience has. It shows you what they care about, and it can even show you which words to use in your content.
Want an example? Consider Amazon reviews. There are millions of them, and even if you’re in B2B or sell a service, you can check book reviews related to your business to see what people are talking about.
Smart copywriters have been reading Amazon reviews (and blog post comments, and forum posts and comments on social media posts) for years now. They use the sentiments expressed to shape their copy so it speaks to their audiences better. They’ll often lift entire sentences, or just words and phrases, directly from these sources.
Amazon reviews – and blog post comments, and comments on social media posts – can tell you what your audience thinks about a wide range of subjects. You can use this information to create content that will resonate with your audience better.
If you can speak to your audience in the language and with the same words they use, you’ll be more familiar and trustworthy to them. That can result in higher conversion rates, better engagement, and more sales.
There are also some more sophisticated listening station tools. Some can run up to hundreds of dollars a month or more. Whether they’re right for you depends on your budget and your goals. If you’re on a shoestring budget, it might be smart to just research this manually and log some notes in a spreadsheet.
Also think beyond your content needs. Listening stations can also be used for customer service and for brand protection tracking. You might be able to split the costs of a listening tool with another department in your company.
Example: would your audience love this - or not? Social listening can help you make an educated guess.
We’ve talked about using third party content as a way to supplement your own content creation efforts. But there’s another source of excellent content that you may not want to share with your audience. It’s your competitors’ content.
There are dozens of tools you can use to monitor your competitors’ social media presence. Usually, these types of tools are made for specific platforms, so here’s a few examples of what to use where:
This free tool lets you compare up to nine YouTube channels to your own. They also let you download the results as a CSV file. That means you could pull it into Whatagraph if you wanted to. (Just sayin’).
Facebook’s Pages To Watch feature
Your page needs to have at least 100 likes for this option to appear, but once you’ve cleared that, you can watch up to five other pages.
Pro tip: Because this is part of your Facebook Insights data, it can also be part of your Whatagraph reports.
While this is great, Pages To Watch only gives you fairly high-level data. It wouldn’t show you individual posts. Head over to Fanpage Karma to get that kind of data.
FollowerWonk is great for Twitter analysis. So is TweetReach.
There are dozens of other tools like this. You probably have a few favorites yourself.
But finding the tools and getting the data is actually the easy part. What you really want are the insights that come from the data. So ask yourself as you look at these reports…
For many social media managers, this kind of browsing is great for idea generation. So if you’re having a day where it feels like you’re out of ideas… cheat. Go check your competitors’ social media feeds.
Social media is a fantastic laboratory for testing content ideas.
Some of those ideas will work, and some won’t. But if you know how to listen – if you know which metrics to track and how to distill social media data into streamlined, actionable reports – you can learn a tremendous amount about which content to create. You can also learn (just as importantly) which content to not create.
Because let’s face it: Content is expensive. The more you can assure yourself that the content you do invest in will “work” for your business, the better your content marketing program will operate. And the happier and more engaged your audience will be.
Published on Feb 12, 2018
WRITTEN BYPam Neely
Pam is a devoted freelance content writer and THE expert in the SAAS industry.
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