Audience analysis comes first. Or does it?
It’s a fact of content marketing that getting to know your audience’s needs and wants is where things begin. Audience analysis is a pillar of content marketing, and it’s established over and over again that putting the audience first not only pays off but also determines the success of the entire content marketing operation.
There are many proven ways to research target audiences. From developing buyer personas to finding mutual truths, content marketers can’t know their audiences too well. There’re always new approaches to be discovered, new angles to be explored, and new allies to be won. Audience development relies on solid audience intel, and the job of gathering it is never done.
Precisely because of the continuity of the process, audience analysis needs to be employed at every stage of content marketing. The audience you knew when making a killer content plan is not always the audience you end up with. Hence, there’s every reason to keep audience analysis ongoing way into the execution of your content marketing strategy, and then some.
The audience is a living, breathing thing. Active listening is therefore the best way to approach audience analysis, and there’s literally no best time to do it as the timing is good all the way. Just as much as it’s vital to know your audience before you get content marketing started, it’s vital to keep listening to catch real-time feedback and spot any shifts in audience behavior to be able to adjust the course of action well in time.
Sit down and listen
Realistically, no one has the resources to keep close tabs on their ever-evolving audiences over long periods of time. Sure, analytics like website visitors, search impressions, and conversions help, and they’ve been powering content marketing decisions since the dawn of time.
Analytics and the metrics derived from it, however, are not exactly audience insights. Even when at a point where you’re dealing with comments and social shares — which is a great point to be at — it’s hard to get to the gist of every audience reaction in time to make a crucial turn in your content marketing strategy. This is where social listening steps in.
Social media monitoring aka social listening is essentially fully automated, 24/7 audience research. The mechanics behind it is searching social media and the web for mentions of any keyword related to a brand, product, campaign, phenomenon, or anything that ties back to specific content marketing efforts. The result is a slew of social listening metrics that support content marketing decisions in real-time.
- Engagement — volume and reach of conversations.
- Sentiment — tone and key themes of mentions.
- Audience demographics — locations, languages, gender, age, etc.
- Influencers — biggest mentioners and opinion leaders.
The metrics delivered in the course of social listening are based on real-time monitoring results, which means you get a scan of your audience at any given point of the campaign. This is especially helpful when benchmarking an audience against itself at an earlier time or running a re-evaluation of an audience that grew as a result of an influencer collaboration.
Set up and go!
To fire up audience analysis through social listening, you’ll need a designated tool. There are many great options to consider, and the feature sets vary greatly from social data analytics to leads and even TV/radio visibility and logo usage. When choosing a toolkit, consider the pricing-to-features ratio, i.e., make sure you won’t be overpaying for the features and metrics you won’t be using regularly.
When choosing a social listening tool, one feature I would recommend looking out for is Boolean search. Boolean is a must for tracking any ambiguous or common use keywords (think of your brand or campaign name), collecting data in a specific language or country, link building, and even lead generation. While the search itself takes some getting used to, you’ll be able to switch between different tools that have Boolean search, compiling laser-sharp queries from the get-go.
For example, to quickly collect audience feedback and online coverage of the latest post-lockdown Coca-Cola campaign “Open Like Never Before” on Facebook in the UK, you’ll need a Boolean search query that looks something like this:
(“Coca-Cola” OR Coke) AND (“Open Like Never Before” OR “George Mpanga”)
When you’ve put together a Boolean search query, you can copy and paste it into any tool with the Boolean search mode, having adjusted the keywords, search operators, and syntax to your current campaign. Boolean is all about mastering the search ingredients and experimenting with them in a way that makes for the sharpest audience portrait, and it’s totally worth looking into.
Audience data to KPIs (and back)
Every audience metric obtained in the course of social listening can be translated into business KPIs to be used in campaign management and reporting, as well as planning of future campaigns. As long as audience analysis is continuous, all the findings can be quickly obtained, benchmarked, and utilized in working out more effective content marketing strategies.
1. Reach of conversations ⟶ Brand awareness
Keeping tabs on the volume and visibility of conversations your content marketing efforts generate is the easiest way to measure brand awareness. Social listening metrics like the reach of mentions can therefore be a reliable indicator of the total online visibility and brand awareness, especially when looked at in perspective. To that extent, any spikes in the reach of conversations — which is measured in real-time — indicate a need for a change of content marketing direction.
2. Share of voice ⟶ Market share
Share of voice is a social listening metric that reflects the overall volume of conversations around a cause when benchmarked against a different cause. More often than not, share of voice is used to get a market share breakdown when tracking brand-related conversations on social media and the web. In the content marketing game, it helps build a winning content brand and stand out from the competition.
3. Share of positive mentions ⟶ Net Promoter Score
Business KPIs are the universal, cross-departmental language of business runners. They translate content marketing wins and losses in solid numbers and save any decision-making process that needs a data backup. Net Promoter Score (NPS) is one of the KPIs that can be sourced from audience data as social listening tools can tell positive and negative user feedback apart. Therefore, looking at explicitly positive mentions, i.e. publicly available social media posts praising a brand, it’s easy to make an informed assessment of a brand’s NPS.
Depending on the social listening toolkit you’re using, you might also get other metrics that translate into KPIs like the number of leads (translates into conversion rate). The important thing here is continuity — with audience analysis happening 24/7, social metrics and business KPIs are accessible at any point of your content marketing process and can be quickly brought together for a more diverse audience portrait.
Audience analysis is the cornerstone of content marketing. Traditionally regarded as a starting point, it’s also a destination of any content marketing strategy, as a scan of the audience adds to content marketing at any point of the journey. To save time and arrange audience research in a smart way, marketers turn to social listening tools built to collect audience data 24/7, analyze it, and deliver the metrics to power any content marketing workflow. This way, audience analysis never stops and never takes away too much of your resources.