We’re going to put the “person” back in Content Marketing persona by walking through some really practical ways to understand exactly what your customer wants to consume.
I offer you a method we use at Left Brain that’s been very successful: listening posts.
Getting started with listening posts
First, pull your company’s past purchaser data to compile initial assumptions about the titles and the topics you believe will be of interest in a given campaign. Keep in mind, you’ll be tracking online conversations for each of these topics, so try to limit your list to about five key topics you want to follow — or you’ll quickly feel overwhelmed by the task.
Now let’s go about the painstaking process of proving or disproving your theories by setting up “listening posts” and testing what you learn.
Step 1. Give your research its own email address. Something like <topic>@gmail.com to sign up for e-news and LinkedIn alerts will keep you focused. You have nothing to lose; they are free AND it will help keep you organized.
Step 2. Use an online news reader to automate the news-gathering process.A multitude of free and not-so-free news readers is available, but I’ll call out Google Reader here. After logging into Google using your new email address, you are automatically logged into Google Reader.
Step 3. Set up a Readability account to quickly push information you discover in your online news reader that appears relevant into the “read-later” bin. You can also send the most relevant e-newsletter content directly to Readability when you’re done gathering.
Step 4. Set up Google Alerts that align with topics and audiences. This step will be less of an email deluge if you create alerts as RSS newsfeeds. Check this out:
Create news alerts and deliver them to Google Reader.
Subscribe to a topic of interest to track.
Create a news dashboard with key topics.
Step 5. Look for LinkedIn Groups that include discussions about your topic. You don’t have to participate in every discussion. Just enough to be taken seriously.
Step 6. Monitor social traffic on the topics of interest. If you’re lucky, you have Radian6 and a team of social media users who alert you to key conversations and places to engage on Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, Facebook and other communities. If you’re like the rest of us, however, you “MacGyver” everything together with tools like TweetDeck, HootSuite, your news reader, and your topic-specific email account for anything else you’ve missed. Sounds messy, but with a process in place you’ll find it’s very doable.
Step 7. Engage with people online in the social streams or communities relevant to the subject matter. Pay close attention to influential bloggers in the area you are researching. Mine the discussions. . . . and when you can, comment. . . add insight, etc. when you can, as a person with interest, not a megaphone.
Step 8. Set a time to review information collected — and stick to it. For example, you may decide to start your day with a 30-minute scan of any information gathered overnight — flagging seemingly relevant news using your Readability app. Do a similar sweep at the end of the day to flag new items online and in your topic-specific inbox. Use Readability to narrow the best of the bunch to review in depth after the research phase ends.
Step 9. Look for patterns, odd ducks and hot data points or quotes. After amassing this content and combing through it, you’ll start to see similarities emerge — as well as a few eyebrow-raisers or quotes that set the tone for your work.
Step 10. Confirm your insights or assumptions with people in your desired audience. Remember, your audience are people. Treat them that way.
Using these steps, you can set up a system that delivers the right information to you in real time rather than spending countless hours chasing down hunches. Spend more time publishing great content, and less time batting at the ever-elusive piñata.
I would love to help you launch a new Inbound Marketing, Content Marketing, and Social Media Marketing strategy that will deliver qualified leads for your B2B or B2C business.
It all starts with a Stern Storming Session.
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