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6 Research Tactics to Drive Social Media Success

Author's avatar By Expert commentator 02 Sep, 2015
Essential Essential topic

Examples and tools showing that, to get great results with social media, you base it on insight

Let's say you’re boarding an airplane, and you strike up a conversation with the pilot. You ask how the weather is looking. He shrugs and says, “I don’t know; I haven’t checked the forecast. I’m just going with my gut.”

Unless you have a death wish, you’d probably turn around and get off the plane. You know a safe journey requires research, but when it comes to social media, many marketers skip that step. Instead of checking the social media forecast, they fly blind.

Social media marketing

As social media strategist Marji Sherman learned when she started at Kohler, overlooking the social media forecast can have serious consequences. Her research revealed that the company’s social media strategy was missing the mark. Examining the data, Sherman found that much of what people thought was working, well, wasn’t.

The good news is that research can help brands readjust. When Sherman noticed that plumbers were sharing Kohler’s posts on Facebook, she decided to edit the content to make it speak more directly to tradespeople, who would then share it with their followers. Although the brand usually sells to suppliers, Sherman knew it was important for consumers to feel connected to its products, too.

Her findings allowed Kohler to correct its course and connect with the appropriate audience. With the right research, your brand can do the same. Here are six crucial tactics to shape your social strategy:

1. Know Your Audience

Social media makes it possible to study consumers deeper than ever before. It allows brands to learn their followers’ typical login times, the celebrities their followers are tracking, and even the brands of peanut butter their followers prefer. This allows brands to create more detailed customer personas and to shape campaigns that resonate with their respective audiences.

As you examine the data, try to answer a few key questions: What does my audience read or watch? Which social networks do they use? What problems can my brand solve for them?

Tools to try: Facebook Audience Insights allows you to filter audience data by region, gender, age, or page likes — and it’s free. Another great tool exists called Affinio. For a fee, Affinio allows its users to retrieve a deep analysis of their Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram audiences while also showing audience interests and how all of it ties together.

2. Know Your Platforms

All platforms are not created equal. Demographics vary by site, and you’ll want to tailor your content, timing, and messaging to each network. For example, your research may show that your most active Twitter followers aren’t on Instagram or that certain content performs better on Pinterest than on Facebook. As you get to know each platform, pay attention to users’ average age, gender makeup, and usage patterns. Find out when users log on and what type of content — photos, GIFs, text updates, or videos — they’re most likely to engage with.

Tools to try: Pew’s annual Internet research is the gold standard for understanding social media trends in the U.S. Through this report, users can learn who is accessing social media in America and why. For data on content, podcasting, and other new technologies, I recommend using research from Edison.

3. Know Your Influencers

The social media age offers powerful co-branding opportunities, but influencers’ contributions aren’t useful if you’re partnering with content creators who don’t reach your audience. Use social listening and analytics tools to discover which influencers, celebrities, and other brands your audience likes. Then, consider how you can achieve your campaign goals by partnering with them.

Tools to try: Little Bird is my favorite tool for finding topical influencers. Available for a fee, this technology shows who is an expert at what. GroupHigh and Cision also allow users to find influencers and bloggers by topic and audience size.

4. Know the Trends

Social media is all about participating in the ongoing conversation. You can gain a wider audience by creating content that’s relevant to trending topics. A word of caution: Tweeting about hot topics is a great way to gain attention, but as DiGiorno learned last year, you don’t want the wrong kind of attention. Make sure you understand a hashtag before using it.

Tools to try: To figure out the current terms and trends users are talking about and searching for, try Google Trends, Google Consumer Surveys, and Twitter Trends for free.

Services like BuzzSumo have free and paid versions that reveal the most popular and trending content marketing pieces. Also consider Zignal Labs, one of the best tools available on the market offering real-time data about trends. I recommend starting with its blog for interesting examples about Amazon Prime Day, the Mayweather vs. Pacquiao fight, and more.

5. Know Your Competitors

One of the best measures of a brand’s success is how well it fares against similar brands, so keep an eye on competitors’ profiles to assess their user engagement rates and sentiments. This helps you discover your true competitors and provides a relevant benchmark. Also, pay attention to your competitors’ messaging to gain possible insights from their tactics. Of course, that doesn’t mean you should duplicate their strategy — show your consumers a unique selling point.

Tool to try: Another personal favorite of mine is Rival IQ (we use this almost daily at Convince & Convert). It offers a deep analysis of what you and your competitors are doing well (or not so well) on social media channels.

6. Know Your Brand

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, use social media research to familiarize yourself with your own brand. You can use analytics tools to assess the ROI of your social media campaigns and see which posts garner the most likes. Consider using social media to learn what consumers are saying about you as well. This can help you capitalize on your brand’s strengths by alerting you to your customers’ frustrations and allowing you to quickly change course.

Tools to try: Google Analytics is indispensable. The aforementioned Rival IQ service offers brand knowledge as well. A new dashboard tool called Dasheroo puts everything you need to know in one screen.

Social media is one of the most potent resources for firms hoping to home in on new customers, but setting up a company profile is only the beginning. Just as a close reading of the weather forecast is required before operating a plane, developing an influential social media presence demands careful interpretation of the data regarding your brand, customers, and competition.

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