5 Social media research strategies you can use today

Pri Maheshwari, Associate Strategist, Khoros Strategic Services

In this blog series, a member of the Khoros Strategic Services team dives into a topic they have helped many enterprise brands with, sharing insights and best practices. Khoros Strategic Services has deep expertise in community management, paid social, analytics, content, and they're ready to help your brand.

Imagine this scenario: You just published a video to social media on behalf of your brand, and you’re really excited about it. You worked with the creative team on storyboarding, double-checked the social caption for any typos or phrasing issues, and even put a couple hundred dollars behind it to make sure it gets seen by a wide audience.

You wake up the next morning to check the engagement and video view rates, only to be disappointed: It flopped. Few people watched the video to completion, and it generated only a handful of likes and no comments. You share the post with a few friends, wondering if perhaps your team missed something, but they can’t find anything wrong with it.

If you’re a social media marketer, this story probably sounds familiar. Almost everyone has run a campaign that failed, without understanding why. It’s possible that you published the post at the wrong time of day or didn’t use a strong enough call-to-action.

It could also be that you were writing to the wrong audience.

Why understanding your audience matters

Publishing great content doesn’t mean your audience is obligated to pay attention to it. Your social media pages compete with content from thousands of other brands, meaning you have to fight to get your posts noticed. This requires understanding your audience’s motivations, desires, and interests in order to be relatable and fill a need.

When audiences resonate with your content, it leads to shares, clicks, and conversions. If you’re publishing paid content, your audience matters even more. Every dollar you spend goes towards getting your content in front of people who match the demographics, geographies, and interests you specify. You should look to maximize the proportion of people viewing your content who are also most likely to become customers.

So how can you tell who that is? Here are five ways to get to know your followers:

1. Determine who your audience is by social media network

Monitoring native analytics across your pages (such as LinkedIn’s follower analytics and Facebook Business Manager’s people insights) is the best way to discover your current audience.

LinkedIn Follower Demographics showcase the job functions of your page’s followers

If the primary audience engaging with your posts doesn’t match the audience who you were intending to target, you may need to tweak your copy or imagery to match a different persona. This may also indicate an untapped opportunity to convert an audience you were unaware of into customers.

2. Monitor reactions and responses to your social media posts

Native platform analytics can only give you so much information, particularly on Twitter, which disabled its Audience Insights feature this January. Fortunately, you can glean valuable information from the reaction that users have to your current content strategy.

If some of your current posts aren’t eliciting the action you want users to take, make a note and see what these have in common. Is there a certain type of post that consistently doesn’t generate clicks, despite containing a link? The call-to-action you used may not resonate with the audience who is actually viewing your posts.

If the comments on your posts contain a flurry of questions, your audience may not fully understand your product or service. Use these questions or any comments to determine what your audience cares about and what is stopping them from becoming customers.

When you answer these questions proactively in posts, you’ll build trust in your brand and make your audience feel like part of a community. To learn how you can improve your posts so that they’re reaching the right audience and hitting the right notes, read our guide for increasing brand engagement. And remember: Social listening isn’t just helpful for marketers! Forward-thinking brands are using data from social media to inform their customer care strategies, as well—learn how you can follow suit in this playbook.

3. Listen to social media conversations about your brand

Your brand advocates say a lot about who your audience is. Check out your active followers and who is constantly tagging and mentioning you in posts. Are there similarities in their demographics like age and gender? Or do they all appear to be vocal about a particular industry? What keywords do they have in their bios? Other users who match their interests may also be a target audience for your content.

Tools like Khoros Deep Listening can help you find posts mentioning your brand that people have engaged with the most. It allows you to see how people are reacting to your content strategy and whether the overall conversation surrounding your brand is positive or negative. Analyze the themes in these earned posts to see what audiences want from your brand and how they are currently engaging with you.

Depending on your industry, social review sites such as Yelp or Google Reviews can also help you see the ways that people are interacting with your company. Unbiased reviews can help you identify what people like and dislike most, and you can tailor your content to address these themes.

4. Track what people saying about your competitors

The @fabletics Instagram reveals that audiences want clothes made for taller women. Other brands in the activewear space should identify if these women also fall under their target audience.

There are going to be some potential customers who you aren’t reaching, but your competitors are. While your audience won’t (and shouldn’t) overlap entirely with competitor brands, ask yourself whether their most engaged audiences could benefit you.

Search for people who are proactively talking about competitors through branded hashtags or user-generated content and what makes these users unique. Is there a way you could shift your content strategy to be more relatable to these individuals and turn them into your own brand advocates?

The comments on your competitor’s posts can also shed light on what their audiences like and dislike. The dislikes are the most important for you—what are their audience’s problems with competitor brands, and can you solve them? Use your social posts to communicate how your brand can fill these gaps.

5. Engage with what’s being said within your industry

Brands only wield so much power. Influencers and thought leaders within your space can help you understand what your audience actually cares about. Look at the conversations they’re participating in and seek out similarities between their audience members and your own. You may be able to observe a more candid conversation on personal pages than branded ones, and when it’s appropriate, you can sometimes join in.

Khoros Deep Listening can provide a better view of the other top terms being used with a specific search term, providing a better understanding of how conversations in your field are being shaped. When researching your industry, look at the keywords and hashtags being used to see if there’s room to incorporate this language in your own copy.

Once you’ve defined your audience segments and researched trends, begin developing a content calendar that speaks to each persona. Be creative about how you engage; seek ways to differentiate your brand by adding a new perspective or taking the conversation in a different direction. It’s also important to monitor the conversation on your posts carefully, making note of content that doesn’t do well and pieces that overperform.

If you continue to rework posts and they still don’t hit, you may need to bring in a third party to evaluate your messaging against your target audience’s needs and interests. The Khoros Strategic Services team has the training and social media expertise to analyze what content resonates best and how to make sure it generates results.

Paid advertising can also be a useful tool (if you have the budget) to check the validity of your audience. Running a set of posts against two or more audiences provides a control variable from which to compare performance, and allows you to see which audiences are actually going to interact with your content.

Your audience will change regularly, so you should plan to revise your research and incorporate new targeting often. At a minimum, add this as an action item to revisit once a quarter. Additionally, new campaigns and initiatives may introduce potential new audiences, so be sure to expand your list of competitors and influencers accordingly.

At the end of the day, audiences want content that answers the question “what’s in it for me?” Let this question guide your content strategy — if you can’t definitively say who your posts are for, it’s time to change your approach.

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