Creating content that gets liked, shared and drives the desired actions and conversions is a top priority for every brand with an online presence. To do that, you first need to find out what your brand's community looks like on the internet: who they are, where they are and what they're talking about.
Let's say you are a brand. And people are talking about you online. Or about your competitors. Or your industry in general. They talk about the services or products you and your competitors offer or even the ones they can't find anywhere yet but they would sure like to be able to.
They express their dislikes, needs and desires, ask questions, share experiences and those still researching and analysing the different available options in the market, exchange information with the 'experts' or those who have already made a purchase.
Interesting, right? I'm sure you can already see the potential of tapping into those conversations, the value for your brand and the numerous opportunities.
But where exactly is all this information exchange happening? At Blonde we answer this question with online community mapping.
What is an online community?
- controlled by or connected to a computer.
- while connected to a computer or under computer control.
- in or into operation or existence.
"the new power plant will go online this month"
- a group of people living in the same place or having a particular characteristic in common.
"Montreal's Italian community"
synonyms: groups, section, body, company, set, circle, clique, coterie, ring, band, faction
- the condition of sharing or having certain attitudes and interests in common.
"the sense of community that organized religion can provide"
An online community can be defined as a group of people connected to a computer (or any device that has access to the internet for that matter, such as smartphones, tablets, smartwatches and so on) who have certain interests in common.
An online community might have a local character (e.g. Imperial College students who are interested in cafes, pubs and low-budget restaurants around the South Kensington campus) or not (new parents that are looking for advice around baby insomnia).
But what's in it for you and your brand?
"So, why do I really need to know?"
It's practically impossible for your content to survive in the endless online 'ocean' of information (a.k.a. the internet) without knowing who to connect with to help your content get noticed by the people that are indeed interested in it in the first place.
It's not enough to publish your brilliant content on your website and share it on your company's social media profiles. Even if you have thousands of fans and followers on social, you are constantly battling against optimised algorithms, shrinking attention spans and branded content blindness.
The solution to this is having a more targeted approach.
You need to identify the influential people in your online community, connect with them and introduce them to your content. If it's indeed brilliant, they will start sharing it with their social networks, spreading the word to large audiences within your online community.
The best way to make sure your content is brilliant is to understand what your online community is interested in - what content they consume and share and in which format.
To do this, you need to answer three crucial questions:
Who are the people participating in discussions relevant to my brand?
Where are these discussions taking place online?
What content are people interacting with?
So let's have a closer look.
1. Who are they?
Your online community is made up of two basic categories of people. The influencers and the sharers.
Influencers can be:
Experts and experienced industry professionals whose opinion is respected and trusted
Journalists specialising in this sector
Social media influencers with a large number of followers and fans
Popular bloggers/ vloggers with high readerships and many subscribers
Influencers have high credibility and the power to amplify your content's reach, if they decide it's share-worthy.
Sharers are non-experts who are interested in content relevant to your industry. They occasionally enter and exit your online community and when they stumble on content they find useful, interesting or entertaining, they share it with their network and talk about it. As we'll see later on, the content that attracts their attention is different compared to content addressed to influencers.
2. Where are they?
You're now looking to locate your community in the online space. What you want to know is:
Which news sites does your online community visit?
Which social networks are people using when they interact with content around your brand, industry, services or products?
Which blogs (independent or belonging to a company) are highly popular in your industry?
Are there any relevant forums?
Are there niche websites people visit to stay informed about and comment on the latest in your industry?
3. What content do they interact with?
These are the main points you need to keep in mind:
What is your online community currently talking about?
What are they interested in?
What questions are they looking to answer?
What are their challenges?
Which types of content drive the most interactions?
I mentioned earlier that influencers and sharers are rarely looking for the same content. Sometimes there might be some overlapping but, as a rule, the first want to be where the action is, know the latest and go into more detail. Influencers need to be able to lead and influence the online community they belong to, so you need to present them with fresh, expert and avant-garde content.
Sharers on the other hand require less detail and it doesn't matter if it's around a topic that's been around for a long time now, as long as they find it interesting and easy to comprehend. If what they're reading is too 'technical' and requires in-depth knowledge, they won't be inclined to interact with it - people are less eager to share stuff they don't fully understand.
Content type - wise, you might find that videos attract a lot more attention compared to photo posts, infographics do better than text-based articles and long-form copy drives more interactions than 500-word pieces.
A few tips to get you started
Most of the time it's easier to start with where, i.e. with finding the most popular news sites, blogs and competitor sites in your industry.
The next step is to analyse their social traffic and understand which social networks are the 'big players' in your online community (e.g. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, Google+, Reddit). It's on those networks that you'll need to build a strong presence for your brand.
Then, you would go on to identify the relevant communities within those social networks (Facebook and LinkedIn groups, Google+ communities, Twitter and Instagram hashtags, SubReddits): by participating in conversations and distributing your content there you'll increase your brand awareness, grow your follower/fan base and drive more interactions with your content.
By looking at the people who contribute content to major news sites and blogs, you can start creating a list of influencers you should start building relationships with. And by understanding who the audience of those sites is, you can better profile your sharers, too.
Finally, now that you have a list of sites and influencers, it's easier to find the top performing content in your online community. With tools such as BuzzSumo and ahrefs, you can search for top content published by any specified domain and with Followerwonk you can analyse the tweets of influential Twitter accounts to find out what they are talking about.