This is a special guest post from Barry Feldman, freelance copywriter and content marketing consultant. Vertical Measures is pleased to showcase Barry’s words here on how to generate useful content.
A client asked me, “How do you continue to keep generating useful content?” It wasn’t his way of telling me my content rocks. He genuinely wanted to know the formula.
What a great question.
Were I to come up with a great answer, you know what I’d have? I’d have killer content (about the most vital element in all of content marketing). What pressure.
My answer: you have to listen.
He queued up another question: “What do you listen to?” Another Great question.
I said, “You have to listen to your customers, your prospects, to any and all voices across the landscape of your industry,” (or at least something like that).
Listening wasn’t always as easy as it is now.
I speak from a large number of years of experience when I tell you us advertising and marketing folks didn’t find it so easy to be good listeners in the pre-web era. Most of use were downright hearing impaired.
Even when we conducted market research, we weren’t really listening. We were testing our hunches. In focus groups and with polls or questionnaires, we might have been aiming to take the temperature of the target market, but the goal was mostly to confirm our thinking and then create messages that would be valuable to our clients or the companies we worked for.
New media, new dynamic…
Everything’s different now. Today, the objective must be to deliver content that’s valuable to your customer (or else it’s of very little value to anybody).
In the interactive age, savvy marketers recognize you don’t build successful brands without building relationships. And you don’t build relationships without listening. Marketing is a dialogue now, a two-way street.
The ultimate feedback loop comes from social media.
An insightful paper by PR Newswire titled “Active Listening: The Key to Relevance and PR Results,” made it fairly easy for me to deliver the insights that follow.
“True leadership is always an exercise in listening before taking action. In social media, the most effective thought leaders listen extensively to social media, monitor their competitors’ sites and follow their target audiences’ online behaviors to identify shifting trends.”
By listening via social media, you learn precisely what you need to know in order to map a content marketing plan with potential to truly touch your best prospects. You’ll learn:
- Your target market’s needs
- The questions being asked
- Topics for which you’ll need to establish authority
- What competitors are saying and doing
- Where your brand stands
- Your industry’s vocabulary
- What’s hot; what’s not
- The types of content being produced
- Who are the influencers
- Which social channels are most relevant
- How to best engage with your target market
The key is to create relevant content and spark conversation.
By actively listening (and seeing) the interactions taking place, you gain the insights needed to make meaningful contributions to the conversation, earn a larger media footprint, and join the ranks of industry influencers.
Tuning into Twitter is a great place to begin. Once there, you’ll find relevant dialogue in the various blogs and social sites where you belong. The lesson sinks in fast when you start hanging out and chiming in on Twitter.
LinkedIn’s many resources are tremendously helpful, especially LinkedIn Answers and LinkedIn Groups. The “Answers” feature makes it easy to tap into the knowledge of your professional network and members from across LinkedIn. I often mention how useful LinkedIn Answers is for social listening, research, and a number of other things. I come to find out my clients often have never heard of, or tried, the service. Try it.
Once you zero-in on a “hot button” subject, you should join—or even start—a LinkedIn Group. Use the LinkedIn search field to find your first group or two. I like to say about social media: “You get out of it what you put into it.” Put some effort into engaging in relevant LinkedIn Groups. It’ll payoff.
The value of active listening
Let’s get serious and notch it up now. To move into the big leagues of online listening, you should set up a social media listening dashboard.
To do so, you can put a handful of powerful and free tools to use. Assemble a central dashboard with Google Reader. It takes just a few minutes and will save you oodles of time every day. Help yourself to a well-written tutorial on the process here: How to Set Up Your Social Media Listening Dashboard.
Be a better listener.
And seek to understand.
Whether it’s Stephen Covey telling us about how highly effective people make it a habit or Dale Carnegie professing how vital it is to win friends and influence people, we’re reminded to become better listeners often.
Sure, it’s a fundamental idea, but when you take the fundamentals for granted, you lose. Legendary coach John Wooden reminds us that the 2-foot layups are where basketball games won and lost. You think they shot layups at UCLA practices?
Practice listening. 1,000 words or so ago, I mentioned a client asked me, “How do you continue to generate useful content?” Your best prospects will provide great questions. Find out what they are and answer them.
The result will be Grade-A content which generates traffic to your site, leads, and sales. Be patient. Remember, when you have something to sell, conversations are all powerful. Good conversationalists are good listeners.
Questions? Comments? Please speak up. We’re listening.