Forming an effective social media strategy typically starts with keyword research. By using a variety tools and tactics to conduct your keyword research, you can find the most relevant terms and hashtags to use in order to optimize your content and locate relevant exchanges across the various platforms via social listening.
However, social listening is not the only way to gain audience intelligence and continuously refine your online marketing efforts. While some set up basic keyword alerts and stop at that, there's more than can be done, more ways in which to use the vast amount of conversational data on social to improve your campaign performance.
This is where conversational research comes in to play.
As discussed by digital strategist Jason Falls in a recent podcast for Marketing Profs, conversational research takes social listening even deeper.
"Conversational research is getting into the weeds there and saying, 'OK, instead of looking at this as a route and respond feature and instead of looking for insights that will just anecdotally inform my product team... I'm actually going to use online conversations, not as a replacement for traditional market research, but as a supplement to traditional market research."
So instead of just locating and responding to relevant comments about your brand, conversational research enables you pinpoint the context of such exchanges so you can take action and prevent future unrest.
To conduct your own conversational research for your business, here are four steps to follow which will help you gain a better understanding of what people are saying about your brand online, and what you can to do to leverage your findings.
1. Use a social listening platform
The foundation of effective conversational research is the use of a social media monitoring platform.
There are different social listening tools that you can choose from, but consider the following factors first to make an informed decision:
- Competitive research - track your competitors' performances and how their sentiments compare to yours
- Real-time social monitoring - find out what your audience is saying about your brand and which social channels they are using to share their sentiments
- Advanced segmentation - group your audience according to different demographics like location, age and language
- Collaboration - delegate tasks with a co-worker to effectively monitor brand mentions, modify filters, and create reports, among others
- Resources and costs - measure whether or not you are getting your money's worth with the data provided by the platform
The measurements you need to track will depend on your specific objectives, so make sure you choose a platform that aligns with the features you need.
2. Organize your brand mentions
Once you have access to real-time monitoring functionality, you need to track down your brand mentions and group them under relevant factors. This is where any advanced segmentation features your chosen platform offers will be exceedingly useful.
Start by using filters to narrow down the scope of information gleaned regarding your audience's sentiments
For example, which geographical locations have the most positive opinions about your brand? Drilling down further, which online channels (blog, social media, and forums, among others) are mentioning your brand in a positive light?
You can make your data even more granular by filtering according to recency, language, and more.
Gathering and compiling the data into different categories will set you up to see your own business from new perspectives - and you never know what you'll find.
If, for example, you find your brand is getting mentioned alot in any one outlet or channel, spend some time there to get a better sense of the context around why users are discussing your brand on those sites. Gather even more data from your visits so you can compare and contrast your findings once you start synthesizing them for your research.
3. Track your competitors
To gain a foothold in your industry, you need to also look into what your competitors are doing.
Most social listening tools give you the option to track brand mentions - your own and your competitors - which enables you to observe and measure their performances.
But before scaling the findings of your competitor research with your progress, you need to consider two factors:
- What are the good things that your competitors are doing? Imitate them. If your competitors are getting lots of social shares from their blog posts, for instance, you may want to check out how they develop and showcase their posts. Imitate blog post elements that you think help made their content more shareable.
- What are the bad things they are doing? Capitalize on them. Identify factors from your competitor's brand that you're better at. For example, if they're getting flak for their poor customer support, you can compare your CS to theirs and see if you have the upper hand. If yes, develop a promotional strategy revolving on your superior customer support so you can acquire the disillusioned customers of your competitors to your services.
By keeping both in mind when doing competitor research, you can develop a more reactive and proactive approach to your social media marketing.
At the same time, competitor research under social monitoring provides valuable insights about your business that will help clue you into what makes your brand better than the rest. Building up such features within your business will help you focus on your strengths moving forward, enabling you to gain a stronger foothold in your industry.
4. Analyze people, not keywords
The biggest advantage that conversational research has over social monitoring is the ability to measure people instead of keywords.
Instead of looking into brand mentions, look into WHO mentioned your brand.
Understanding the person behind the mention gives you more information than simply analyzing the actual mention.
A great way to start is by analyzing the social media fans and followers of your competitors. Using Fanpage Karma for Facebook Fan Pages and Followerwonk for Twitter accounts, you can gain insights into not only the kinds of content being published on these pages, but also the kinds of followers they have within their audience.
You can make the connection between the followers and the social media page based on these factors:
- Content - What kind of content marketing does the page employ and share? Are they getting lots of likes and shares?
- Followers - Who is following your social media pages and your competitors? Is there any overlap between your and your competitors' followers? How many of them would you consider as influencers? Are you engaging with your followers the way your competitors are?
- Non-followers - Are there people in your audience who are not following you on social media? What is the best way to connect with them and get them to follow your social media pages?
These are just basic ideas on how you should approach conversation research in a social media marketing setting.
Remember, by categorizing your audience feedback by utilizing filters, you'll be able to segment them into increasingly specific groups. This, in turn, should provide more concrete ideas on how to take a proactive approach to managing your brand's social identity.
The ideas you incorporate into your strategy should ultimately influence your audience to view your brand into a positive light.
Conversational research is an emerging trend in social media marketing. While this type of research requires patience and a great attention to detail, pulling it off correctly will help unearth insights about your brand and industry to give way for more opportunities for your business.
Ultimately, leveraging the data gathered using conversational research will help you understand how to improve your brand as a whole.