Before you begin publishing and distributing any content, you first need to ensure you have an audience (or at least the beginnings of one) to read, appreciate and hopefully share your messages as a means to establishing your authority. Why bother taking the time and effort to create great content if there is no one to consume it or it is likely to fall on deaf ears. One component of optimized content marketing is developing and publishing keyword-rich content on a website, blog or other channel you control to be crawled and indexed by the search engines, with the end goal being Page One visibility. However, in order to gain the authority necessary to earn Page One visibility you need to have your content social validated (Liked, Commented On, Shared) by your target audience; a concept called social proof. So how do you determine who your target is and where you can find them?
Let’s start with the who, which should generally be the easier of the two questions, as it directly relates to who your customers are. A great starting point for identifying the “Who” is to develop customer personas. Wikipedia definition: Personas are fictional characters created to represent the different user types that might use a site, brand, or product in a similar way.
Be as detailed in the creation of your customer personas as you can be including demographics, likes, dislikes, needs and communication (including social media) preferences. These personas will help you not only identify who the members of your audience are, but also where they are most likely to be found online. For example, if your audience is 18-24 year old females, you will probably find them on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest or Instagram. However, if your audience is 35-50 year old businessmen, you probably want to look to find and build an audience on LinkedIn. There are ample studies by organizations like Pew Internet Research on which social media networks are used by which demographic groups.
Another consideration when thinking about your audience and where to find them is the nature of the channel. Is it a community you share with your audience where you will want to both listen for relevant conversations or mentions and engage (e.g. an industry forum or blog) or a customer-only community where you should remain on the periphery and simply observe. What type of content does the channel lend itself to. Some like Pinterest, Instagram and YouTube are obviously image and video oriented, while others lend themselves to short bursts of content and images (e.g. Twitter) or longer form text, photo galleries or videos with links to more detailed blog posts or web pages (e.g. Facebook, Google +, LinkedIn). The media type has a significant role to play in the makeup of the audience. A social network like Snapchat, for example, has risen in prominence among teenagers because they are comfortable and familiar with using mobile phone-based cameras. Progressive advertisers, targeting this demographic, have begun experimenting with the distribution of content here.
The important word to consider here is “community” as consumers are increasingly forming and joining online groups of people with like-minded interests to share their experiences and opinions. There is no shortage of shared-interest communities, no matter how obscure or niche you may think your product or service is. Proof in the pudding is Facebook’s recent announcement of a Facebook Groups App to enable Facebook users to better connect with the Groups they interact with. Google + Communities and LinkedIn Groups are similarly focused on bringing together people with shared interests. Organizations can no longer afford to assume their customers aren’t online or are not using social media as people are social by their very nature. The trick is finding out where your audiences are socializing and then becoming a trusted member of the community; which you will do via the value added content you will be creating and sharing.
Budget time to conduct research on each of the major social media networks, starting with those deemed best to serve the needs of your personas. You can begin by conducting simple searches in the social networks on the keywords you want to be associated with. There are several useful social media analytics tools like SocialBro, to help with audience targeting and segmentation. You can also leverage tools like gShift’s Top 50 Keyword Positions to identify traditional online communities like industry forums or review sites or the Social Keyword Research module to more specifically find people talking about your brand or your offerings on Twitter. Rest assured, your audience is online somewhere looking for content to help inform their next purchase of your products or services. If it happens to be your content they find and it does indeed help them, they may take the time to like it or even share it with their friends or colleagues, thereby providing the social proof you need to establish your reputation as an online authority.
Read the entire ‘Create Smarter Content’ series: