The most successful social media marketers know that beyond reaching their audience with engaging content, social is a valuable channel to learn from their audience. Now with A.I. and machine learning, brands can unlock more information than ever about what content their audience loves.
One axiom of communication states that communication always goes two ways. This means, that if there is no reaction to the message you are broadcasting, it is a reaction. Some chose to ignore the silence because they were convinced it was nothing they needed to hear. If you were of the conviction that communication is a dialogue, the silence to you would be a deafening terror. Because you KNOW it is a reaction.
Implementing a social media strategy follows the same principles. You could assume it’s one way and just broadcast your content, but you shouldn’t. Because you aren’t just looking at content anymore. You are looking at relationships between consumers and the content and therefore, the brand. What they react to, how they react to it, when they react, how many reacted and so forth. But gleaning information from social beyond complaints and the occasional viral content is difficult because meaningful content insights from engagement metrics alone is difficult for humans to process. To learn from your followers, you have to go beyond the likes and comments and ask in depth questions.
Asking the right questions
There have been countless attempts to describe why and how content will perform on social media. ‘Content has to resonate with the audience’. However you want to phrase it, it is about if content is moving an audience to action, or not.
And if so, what is it that moves them to engage and convert. To increase engagement, we first need to identify what specific elements of content cause people to share and take action and find how these triggers vary among different audiences.
In the summer of 2014 the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge went viral and millions participated. From the initial ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, it soon became just ‘The Ice Bucket Challenge’. As unfortunate as it was that the original cause for it was forgotten quickly after it started, it shows how content will be spread through followers. And will be spread for many different reasons. Some wanted to raise awareness, some wanted to tag their friends, some just wanted to be part of it. It is your job to find out why and cater to it.
Mark Zuckerberg participating in ALS Ice Bucket Challenge
In the quest of what you are trying to achieve on social, you must start at asking the right questions. You need to ask the ones that give a glimpse into what moves your audience. The point to this is to ask a quantifiable question. You’ll want to find out how your product or service is being used in you followers everyday life and how they are responding to it and communicating about it.
This, in return, will lead to results through you creating a more effective content strategy and dramatically increasing your engagement.
Let’s look at an example of how social media and its content can be surveyed apart from the usual measures. A study Cortex did for AB InBev, the company behind Bud Light.
They wanted to know if Bud Light is the most social beer.
This study actually showed, that from all the beer brands, Bud Light is indeed the most social of all beer brands. Consumers tend to buy Bud Light when they wish to hang out with friends and family. Whilst still presenting a quality beer, it isn’t being considered as ‘too fancy’. Their customers choose Bud Light in more of a ‘emotional’ setting, than formal.
Learn from your followers
Gaining insights from this test, InBev was able to make big changes in their communication and advertising. It changes their narrative and enables the brand to ‘fit’ themselves to their customers Not only are they able to call themselves ‘most social beer’, but due to the detailed results of the study, they have a clearer image of their target audience and its preferences, allowing for more precise targeting. All by trying to answer the following:
- who is the most social beer?
- Is it just major beer brands?
- Which factors need to be identified? (age, gender, population)
To this day, this research has impacted the way InBev advertises, targets, and posts on social media, proving that getting to know your social following will have a big impact on the success of the entire company. To put things in numbers, on social media, Bud Light is 25% more social than other beers, is being shared by 10x more females than other brands and achieved a 38% higher engagement per photo.
Pick the one that will improve you the most
To conclude, when tackling social media to learn from your audience you have to forget all about the messaging you intend and look at how your customers use your product, then mirror what drives their attachment to it. It’ll shine the light on the difference between what you want and what is actually happening with your brand through the eyes of your customers.
If you accept this, you’ll learn much about yourself and your followers/customers. It can confirm hypothesis, change your advertising, and get you insights to perform better, proving social media isn’t just a pipeline.