Faculty, Grand Canyon University
Content marketing has become a major buzzword within digital marketing, and for good reason. It's through content marketing that businesses can amplify their content and raise brand awareness. The most effective content marketing campaigns start with a strategy that outlines goals, voice, style and ideation- but most importantly it addresses the audience. That leads to two important principles:
- Great content marketing means knowing the audience.
- Knowing the audience means listening to them.
How to Listen to Your Audience
Content is defined as anything that communicates a message to the target audience, such as articles, landing pages, social media posts, videos, images and podcasts. These are all effective ways to reach prospects and customers. However, without knowing what the audience wants or needs, there is a risk of focusing on topics that they are not interested in. When you become a better listener, you start to truly understand other people—from their perspectives. You understand their desires on a deeper level. Below are ways to determine what the audience cares about:
1. Engage With Existing Customers
One of the best ways to understand topics customers are interested in is to engage with them. Focusing on groups, surveys and interviews will provide insight into customers’ desires, needs and even concerns or fears. In addition, customer service and sales departments are great resources to gain insights into your customers’ needs. Find out how customers describe their situations and problems. The more information you have about your target audience, the better the chances of fulfilling your goals. Those are all possible topics that can be developed and promoted through content marketing.
2. Use Social Listening Tools
There are many tools available that make it possible to listen to potential customers in a non-intrusive way and most involve social media. Social media makes it possible to discover what people are talking about and how they are talking about it allows us to discover their feelings and opinions toward a certain topic.
Social Mention, BuzzSumo and Mention are some of the many tools that aggregate discussions about topics, competitors, brands and industries. These tools provide a real-time view of what customers are sharing and discussing, which can be incorporated into content development. You can expand your social listening by doing a daily search for topics or hashtags related to your product area, particularly in posts searching for recommendations or advice. Not only will you gain additional insights into what the people in your audience are thinking, but you may uncover opportunities to engage new leads.
3. Move From Listening to Understanding
After listening to the target audience, the final step is applying that knowledge. Once you listen to your audience, you get to know what they care about or desire. With this new-found information, you will be able to answer questions such as:
- “What does the audience want or need?”
- “What do they expect?”
- “How can businesses help solve their problems?”
- “What are the objectives of the content?”
Knowing the answers to these questions result in content that resonates with the audience.
In addition, to identifying appropriate content topics, listening also helps in understanding how and where the content should be delivered. For example, some people prefer watching videos while others prefer reading articles. Determining the way in which the content will be developed, as well as where it will be located (i.e. YouTube, company website, iTunes, Instagram, etc.), is critical. This type of information can be uncovered while researching and listening to the audience.
4. Develop a Content Strategy
Content strategy lays out the goals you want your content to achieve and how you are going to create, distribute and measure the performance of it. Developing a content strategy brings focus and purpose to your efforts. A successful content strategy is one that seeks to understand what your audience wants and needs; it focuses on developing content that is useful, educational and valuable to them.
Knowing your strategy before you start producing content will allow you to create more relevant content, which converts to a better ROI for content marketing efforts. Following steps are essential for developing a solid content strategy.
- Set your goals.
- Determine your target audience.
- Perform SEO analysis.
- Develop an editorial calendar.
- Choose a content management strategy.
Another important element of content writing is voice and tone. A voice is an expression of your organization’s personality. Tone is the reflection of the feelings we have when we communicate. Contrary to voice, tone can change. Your tone of voice is directly responsible for the impression you make on your audience through the words and expressions you choose to use. It is also important for your tone of voice to be consistent and recognizable as influences what people think, how they feel and what action(s) they take after reading your words. Without a consistent tone of voice, you will end up sending mixed messages to your audience.
5. Conduct Keyword Research
Keywords help people find your content on the internet. When users have a specific query, they head to a search engine where they input sets of words. Search engine then searches these indexes to find content that matches those sets of words. The better the content is related to the search input, the higher in the search results the content appears.
Therefore, after you've determined your target audience, you must carefully research the keywords relevant to your audience. Keyword research is important because it tells you what topics your audience is searching for—and how you can cover those topics comprehensively—to write content drives traffic and higher SEO rankings for your website.
Digital marketers must take the time to listen and closely recognize what the audience is trying to communicate. That means taking the time to see the world through customers’ eyes. Every message that is created and amplified must show empathy and an understanding of the target audience. Always remember that your audience is the one that ultimately creates content. That is how content today stands out from the thousands of messages customers are bombarded within the digital world.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Grand Canyon University.