Being Social vs. Being Promotional

#usDragons are big advocates of the 80/20 rule. For those who haven’t heard of this handy little guideline, it represents balancing the amount of conversational, passion point-focused content that should be posted, such as ‘how to’ videos, industry tips, news, conversations around the passion points behind the products, etc (80%) vs. the amount of promotional content a brand should post on social media, such as “check out our new product” (20%). Based on the understanding that social media is not an appropriate venue to be constantly talking about yourself or your brand, following the 80/20 guideline helps ensure that your brand is doing what it’s supposed to do on social media… be social!

An image of a social media community manager's ear listening to twitter searches, customer reviews, and website searches

Listen to what customers are saying about you!

Many community managers will fill up the 80% by curating industry related content using tools like feedly,, etc. This is a justified cause. After all, sharing is caring! However, this tactic cannot stand alone. Depending solely on other websites for content you post can start to feel ineffective to your goals and down-right time consuming.  Additionally, it might seem like you’re not contributing much to the conversation, not demonstrating your expertise and not sending people to your website. Overall you’re providing minimal value to you and your brand and more importantly, your fans. Quickly, you’ll start thinking to yourself, “There’s got to be a better way to engage with my fans!!” Don’t worry, there is! The answer is… drum roll, please… create your own content!

Crafting Content by Talking Less and Listening More

If you’re thinking that you’ve heard this before, you’ve tried and failed, or that it’s too hard, too time consuming, or too expensive, I understand. Creating really excellent, shareable, valuable content can sometimes be all of the above; however, the ability to think creatively and discover ways to progress within time and budget constraints is what makes online marketing so accessible, affordable, and effective.

Continuing on as you are over-posting and over-sharing, is not going to produce different results.  To get the most value for your time and effort put towards content development, I’m proposing that you do something fundamentally “social”: do a little less talking and a little bit more listening.

Four Tactics of Social Listening for Content Creation

The tactics behind this concept are simple: utilize the vast amount of data, information, and conversations happening online to strategically inform your content creation through “social listening.” Tactics may vary from industry to industry; however, here are a few methods that will get you started listening to your fans:

    1. Collecting and Analyzing Customer Reviews: whether you are a restaurant, a product, or business providing a service, somewhere online there may be conversations taking place about your company. People are providing honest feedback about your brand and they are the ones informing future potential customers. Reviews are the holy grail of information – do not underestimate the potential here.
      How to use it: Start by doing an exhaustive review search, collecting all you can find, and analyze them  for commonalities, trends, questions, comments, and concerns – not just about your brand, but about your industry and passion points around your products or services.. Consider responding to these reviewers individually, and use this information to brainstorm ways to create content around the feedback you are getting. A blog addressing a common industry concern, a FAQ page, a testimonials page, a video… the possibilities are endless! (Get excited here, guys!) The #usDragons team compiled some great content marketing tips for the future that may help your creativity flow. And once you have that great content, share it with your fans via your social channels.


    1. Search Feature on Your Website or Blog: Do you have a search function on your site? (If you don’t – add one.) If you do, are you paying attention for what users are searching? This can be a data goldmine. Your users are telling you what content they are looking for on your website! Give it to them!
      How to find this information: one way to find this information is in Google Analytics. Depending on the plugin you use, your website’s search function is returning custom pages for each search, with one commonality in the URL. On the DragonSearch website it’s “?s=”.
      Screen shot of the website search function on the DragonSearch website
      Once you’ve identified this on your website, simply search under “Site Content” “All Pages”, like this:
      Screen shot of a Google Analytics graph and search
      And from there you can start to see the keywords users are searching with on your website. For DragonSearch, we have readers searching for digital marketing related terms, like “big data,” “personas,” and “social media monitoring.”
      Screen shot of the Google analytics search results showing data that can inform content marketing strategies
      How to use it: You now know what people want so, give it to them. Consider writing content about these hot topics for your audience. For example, we already have posts about social media monitoring, but from this data we might consider writing more content on the topic or might look into how we can make that content easier to find for our users. On the other hand, you can see from this site search on “persona” that we haven’t written any content on the topic since 2011 and really no content that digs deep on the topic. Now we’ve identified a great content opportunity based on listening to what our visitors are telling us they want!


    1. Social Media Monitoring Tools: (Speaking of social media monitoring) Tools like Brand Watch are an extremely effective method of social listening. In nearly real time and of course retroactively, you can use these social media monitoring tools to find people talking about your branded terms, products, and industry anywhere on the internet! The tricky part about these tools is creating the right query. We covered this topic extensively in our White Paper on Boolean Search Query in Social Media Monitoring Tools.
      How to use it: Once you have the data, analyze it just as described with the customer reviews. What are users saying? Are they expressing concerns or asking questions? Are you noticing any trends or commonalities? These are topics you can address in your content development. You can also use these tools to monitor competitors for similar data on their brands. Don’t be a “copycat,” but if you notice something they are doing that works, have a brainstorm around that: How can you take that idea and make it better, or give it a twist that works for your audience? As you analyze the data, also keep an eye out for influencers who are blogging and speaking publicly about your industry or the passion points around your products.


  1. Twitter Searches: More and more I am seeing companies utilizing Twitter data to do awesome marketing; for example: Verizon’s Super Bowl marketing. This is because the amount of data on Twitter is enormous and accessible. You can also use it to inform your marketing and content just like the big brands do!
    How to use it: Start by using Twitter to search your branded hashtag, variations or common misspellings of your brand name (like we do with “Dragon Search” vs. “DragonSearch” or “Rick Dragon” vs. “Ric Dragon”) and so on. One easy way that you can use Twitter searches daily is by searching for your website’s URL or a particular blog link you are promoting. Twitter will return all tweets in which your links were shared, like this:
    Screen shot of a search for "" on Twitter and the results of people who shared links from the website
    As you can see, even if a user shares your URL with a link shorter, Twitter can still pick it up. In addition, many users will share your content without @tagging you, which was the case for Jenn Mears and Andrée Archbold. Had I not been using this method of social listening, I would not have been aware that they’ve read and shared a DragonSearch post. Now an opportunity has been created where social listening has translated into an outreach method, in which you can monitor for and engage with users that may be aware and appreciate your content, but have not yet taken that next step to follow you, subscribe, etc.
    “Listening” on Twitter is another method to receive more useful data to analyze and shape your own content. What are your influencers sharing? What type of articles, images or videos are you seeing when you search for industry related terms and hashtags? Which pieces of your content seemed to have gotten the best reaction from your audience and why? Be curious and get your answers! If you start to ask yourself these questions, you’ll discover what your audience is looking for.


Additional Benefits of Social Listening

The benefits of social listening reach substantially further than providing fodder for content. For instance, from the community manger’s point of view, you may often have ‘gut feelings’ about what you think your audience wants to read, hear, or watch. These instincts are good and stem from your natural ability to listen, be aware of and identify trends, and tune into psychology and sociology issues (in other words, it shows you are right for the job).  Nevertheless, it’s hard to relay this to your boss when he/she calls you in to explain what you are doing on the company Facebook page. Bosses don’t want to hear “I feel/thought/noticed.” They want hard facts, goals and metrics, data, ROI! Instead of struggling to explain, let the data you collect from social listening speak for you, as well as enhance the content you are posting.

Additionally, for CEO’s, CMO’s, presidents, etc., it can be hard to think objectively about your own brand. Social listening allows you to take a step back and listen to what people are really saying. This way you can see the bigger picture, identify trends, find solutions to negative feedback, and of course create content around it. It’s a process of better understanding your brand, your marketing, and your audience, as well as being able to effectively identify, react, and take advantage of opportunities for crafting smart and effective content.

No matter your industry or your position in the company, social listening is ultimately a necessary component of your content strategy and your digital marketing campaign as a whole. So take a day and don’t tweet, post, or write… and use that time to listen, and you’ll end up with a higher sense of awareness and a long list of possible content ideas that you never would have come up on your own!

Do you have a question or know of any other tactics of social listening that I didn’t mention? Let me- and the other readers- know about them in the comments or join the conversation online: @DragonSearch @peoplesknees