Using Social Listening to Fuel Content Strategy

Using Social Listening to Fuel Content Strategy

Vespa wanted to acquire new customers. The chic, stylish scooter company felt strongly that if they could find people who were just like their current customers, they would have a great shot at marketing their trendy mode of transportation to them.

This strategy isn’t uncommon. But what most brands do in this scenario is conduct a major demographic study of their customer base so they can better target with advertising and marketing messaging to people who fit into that demographic profile. They likely do some media research to know what magazines, television shows and even other brands their customers have an affinity for. The total cost of such an exploration ranges from tens to hundreds of thousands of dollars.

But Vespa had a hunch they could get to a profile of people just like their existing customers a little quicker than a demographic study. How? They’d been listening to conversations their customers were having online through social listening platforms. The conversations are there, they just had to really understand them.

Using Social Listening Platforms

Social listening platforms are built to present keyword-centric analysis. You look for conversations that mention a certain brand. What Vespa wanted to see was different. It wanted to search for a specific audience (its own customers) and analyze their conversations to know what they are interested in. More importantly, they wanted to completely remove the keyword-centric approach and know what their customers talked about when they weren’t talking about Vespas.

So they approached their listening platform – in this case NetBase – and asked for help. It just so happened that the software company was working on building a new audience-centric product and found a way to look at Vespa’s current customers themselves, rather than starting with a keyword.

The outcome was gold. Vespa customers indexed much higher than the average online user in talking about art, fashion, design and style. Anecdotally, that makes sense and is a hunch any Vespa executive could have made. But with advanced social listening, the company now had data to back it up.

That data led to the decision for Vespa to rebrand their corporate blog as a “magazine” and fill it with the content their audience is interested in, not just post after post about how cool Vespas are.

The end results: 50,000 more visitors to the Vespa website in three months, 2,800 sales leads — 45 percent of which were new to Vespa; and a 24 percent increase on conversation volume for the brand on social channels. So this data-based content strategy shift produced leads, many of which we can assume led to revenue (Vespa doesn’t share exact sales numbers), an increase in brand awareness through online conversations and – most important to the goal – a large chunk of new customers to the brand.

I’m willing to bet you never thought social listening could do that.

Leveraging Social Listening

Whether you’re using a free product like; low-cost solutions like Mention, ViralHeat or Klear; or expensive platforms like Sysomos, Brandwatch or Zignal Labs; or a category I consider research platforms like Crimson Hexagon, Infegy or the aforementioned NetBase (which for disclosure sake, I use and is a client), the possibilities of leveraging social listening to help your business have barely been scratched.

We are entering a new era in marketing where data analysis and data-driven decisions are finally “in” and anecdotal second-guessing is out. As a marketer, you owe it to yourself and your company to make better decisions using the tools and technology out there.

Social listening is now far more than finding mentions for customer service or reputation management purposes. The world of online conversations offers us the largest sample size for research the world has ever known. No, the data is not structured or organized conveniently like multiple choice answers in a survey. But that’s where the social listening platforms come in. They slice and dice that data however you like. Your challenge is to figure out where to slice and what to dice.

Traditional market research is typically employed to accomplish one of three things:

  • Gather insights about product
  • Gather insights about user experience
  • Gather insights about messaging

In the Vespa example, they gathered insights about messaging to better define a content strategy to reach that target audience of prospective new customers. There is a growing library of case studies of companies small and large levering social listening platforms to steer product development, enhance user experience and services and improve or change content strategy, marketing messaging and more.

Isn’t it time you were taking advantage of the available toolset to improve your product? Your customer experience or services? Your content marketing? If so, the next steps are simple. Invest in a listening platform. Get to know it well. Then figure out how you can be like Vespa and use a little bit of data analysis to fuel strategies that drive business.

Have you used a listening platform for more than just finding brand mentions for engagement or customer service purposes? If so, I’d love to hear about it. Jump in the comments and share your stories. What was the purpose of using the platform? What platform did you use? What did you learn? What facet of your business did it change?

The comments, as I like to say, are yours.


JasonFalls-2X3-HeadShotJason Falls is senior vice-president for digital strategy at Elasticity, a digital marketing and public relations firm with offices in St. Louis, Chicago and Louisville. He is the author of two books, a frequent keynote speaker on digital marketing topics and a well-respected social technologies analyst and pundit.  He loves to connect! Follow him on Twitter or connect on LinkedIn.