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Ian Blair

How to Locate, Listen in and Connect with Your Audience Online

Social media marketing is more apparent than ever. The internet has an abundance of blog posts underlining the communications shift and social media is an evolution in how we communicate with each other and the world around us. And it makes sense, with more conversations happening online, that a brand should also be present.

More people are communicating on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn which has resulted in an increase in the number of people that rely on those platforms as key information sources, and amongst those exchanges, people are also talking about products and services – whether you’re present or not, conversations related to your business and industry are happening. And as time goes on, people are also expecting brands to be listening. Not being present and not being a part of those conversations could be putting you at a professional disadvantage and may reduce your standing in the eyes of your target audience.

It’s important to be visible and it’s important to be listening. But how do you work out where your audience is active, what platforms they’re using and what conversations they are creating? Here are a few ways to locate, listen in and connect with your audiences on social media and blog platforms.

1. Locate                   

I’ve talked to a heap of people who’ve told me that social media just isn’t for them. “Our target audience doesn’t use Facebook, there’s really nothing there for us”. My first question in response to this is, “have you checked to confirm that?” and almost invariably the response is “no”. I agree, social media is not highly utilised in all sectors, and each individual platform has its own level of relevance and irrelevance to specific interests and activities. But with so many options now available for tracking mentions and locating conversations, there’s really no excuse for not making yourself aware of the conversations related to your business online. Media monitoring has been an invaluable resource used by big businesses for years to maximise their efforts – now, with the accessibility to social networks, every brand can do the same. And it may prove to be an invaluable resource.

So how do you find your audience? First, look at demographic profiles – research giants like Pew Research conduct regular studies on social media usage that include figures on user age profiles:

Pew Research

As a wide ranging overview, these figures can inform your thinking on what platforms are getting the most traction amongst your target audience – but often, age brackets alone are not enough to go on. What you really need is to track down where conversations are happening, specific to your industry.

There’s a range of apps available online – and mostly free – which enable you to track specific keywords and mentions. Social Mention is one that lets you to enter a key term and locate conversations related to that topic across the web.

SocialMention

You can specify the search time frame (from ‘last hour’ to ‘last month’) and use the advanced search filters to eliminate non-relevant words (e.g. doughnuts but not recipes) or focus your search to a specific region.

Mention is another tracking tool that allows you to locate where relevant conversations are happening based on keywords.

Mention 

By clicking on the ‘All Sources’ dropdown menu, you can see how many mentions have been found for the search terms on each network, giving an idea of both where and how your topic is being discussed.

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BuzzSumo is a great resource for finding where relevant conversations are happening online. You can enter your chosen topic, hit search and BuzzSumo will come back with a listing of all the mentions it can find on that topic. It will list all of the relevant blog posts, along with where each post is being shared on social media platforms.

BuzzSumo

The tool has a range of filters, including language and location options, enabling you to really hone down on the specific details relevant to your search. You can also search for influencers on any given topic, which helps when trying to establish who people in your area of interest are listening to (and who you should also be paying attention to as a result). Another cool feature of BuzzSumo is you can export the list of social shares for any given topic and total them up in Excel, this ranks each of the social platforms based on where conversations about your key terms are happening.

These tools will enable you to get an idea of where and what’s being discussed online, in relation to your brand and/or industry. Using this, you can then ensure you focus your efforts on reaching people on the platforms most relevant to their interests and usage patterns – the next step from there is how do you connect with them?

2. Listen in

Listening is a key element of social platforms. Some marketers will rush in and hit people with promotional messages, blasting out content in the hopes of hitting as many people as possible. Such tactics are not likely to produce good results – what you need to consider is that people aren’t on social to see advertisements. They’re there to connect with friends, to stay informed of the latest news and updates and to share opinions and thoughts. The better you understand this, the more you’ll be able to use social media to your advantage.

The best tool I’ve found for listening in is Hootsuite. It has a free plan that allows you to utilise up to 200 streams that can be dedicated to specific searches across Twitter and Facebook; or to track pretty much any other social media platform. Searches in Twitter produce the most comprehensive results because it is a more open platform – much of Facebook’s content is hidden behind privacy settings, leaving it out of your view, but there are ways to track mentions in relevant groups.

You can set up search streams in Hootsuite for your key terms, then geocode them to focus the search on a specific region by pressing the target icon in the stream set-up.

Hootsuite

This enables you to refine your Twitter search to increase the relevance of the mentions you find – if you’re a fish and chip shop in London, for example, you could track all mentions of fish and chips within 30km. If someone mentions on Twitter how they’re looking for lunch, you could respond, in real-time.

For local businesses, Facebook groups are a great source of information and potential business. To monitor groups in Hootsuite, simply join the groups you’d like to keep an eye on, then add them to a stream in your Hootsuite dashboard. Once they’re live, you can then use the keyword filter option to search for mentions of your key terms within that group.

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These searches can’t be saved, but you can have a look through them each day and see if there’s any mentions relevant to your business, helping you stay on top of a range of local discussion groups easily.

Hootsuite is a great tool for managing your overall social presence and monitoring the required key terms – based on what you learn from the streams, you can then establish what your target audience is talking about, what questions they’re asking and what info they’re looking for. This feedback can then fuel your next step – outreach.

3.  Connect

The most important aspect to consider when seeking to connect with your potential audience is context. How does your message fit in with how people are using the platforms? Why would people be interested or feel compelled to share what you have to say? The more you can be helpful and provide relevant, interesting information for your target audience, the better you’ll be placed – this is why listening plays a crucial role in the process.

There are various ways to connect – you could respond directly to keyword mentions and engage users with offers or advice or look into guest blogging opportunities on sites that are relevant to your target audience. Putting on the hard sell or responding to people with unsolicited offers or promotions is generally not appreciated – it’s the equivalent of going to a party and butting into conversations to tell them about your amazing deals. The best approach to connecting and outreach is to think of ways you can offer assistance and become a useful resource to your audience. Getting involved and offering help are the best ways to increase awareness and sentiment in social circles. Word-of-mouth is a key thread of social media marketing success – people are more actively connected to wider communities than ever before. The brand that can integrate themselves with those groups, that can listen and be responsive to individual needs, is the brand that wins in the end.

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Ian Blair

BuildFire Co-Founder. I'm a digital marketer by trade and an entrepreneur at heart. I'm here to help businesses go mobile and build apps more efficiently than before.