Effective social listening requires strategy. Tools such as Google alerts and RSS readers can generate an avalanche of information, but not all of that information might be useful or relevant to your blog. This post details six strategies for managing that flow of information.
1. Remember your blog’s goals and mission.
While social listening options might be chosen for their possible connections to your blog, not every option will offer relevant information all the time. Sometimes, a blogger might create a special post to promote an unrelated cause or to share a long rant. Other times, an email newsletter might announce a new fundraiser. Still other times, the information might be a fun diversion, such as a new meme or a funny cat video, but those diversions quickly become rabbit holes you might not escape from until two hours later.
The key question here is, Does the information relate to your blog’s goals and mission? If so, how? If not, pass on the information for something more useful.
2. Remember your audience.
Remember your audience is closely tied to your blog’s mission and goals. Most blogs serve readers in some way, and most blog developers have an audience in mind when they create content. Some bloggers even develop audience profiles through background research and interviews. These profiles provide a mental picture of the people who might engage the blog’s content.
The key question here is, Does the information serve my audience in some way? Will it entertain them? Inform them? Something else? If the information might waste their time, again discard it for something more useful.
3. Check regularly.
Social listening options generate a lot of information quickly. A daily digest Google alert for a popular topic, for example, can have 100 items minimum from news and blog items alone. Combined with social media dashboards, newsletters, and RSS feeds, the amount of information can add up fast. My Feedly account currently has more than 1,000 gaming articles alone, and that queue is less than a week old.
Set aside a regular block of time — each week, every few days, every day — to check these feeds and review the content. Mark items read to prevent the queues from getting too big or overwhelming. Avoid leaving the digest emails and newsletters in your inbox once you have reviewed them.
4. Curate content.
Checking regularly also means deciding what content to keep and what content to delete. In other words, curating it.
Curating content from social listening can be a challenge when you’re first getting started. To help, spend the first month putting together a weekly “top 10” or “top 5” content items that seem the most interesting or useful. After that month, review the lists and look for patterns. Those patterns can help hone later reviewing of materials.
Another option is to have a series of keywords that describe your blog’s content. A blog about multimedia production technologies, for example, might focus on augmented reality, virtual reality, and 360-degree video. A blog about gaming might focus on playing and reviewing serious games. These keywords then can lead to further honing such as new gear reviews for the production technologies and humanitarian crisis games (such as Darfur is Dying) for the serious games.
The longer you engage social listening, the easier it will become to curate the right content to help with building your blog. Just remain flexible and patient with the process.
5. Store content.
While curating means choosing the content to use, storing means finding a way to gather it all in one place. Multiple social listening tools means multiple items in multiple places, such as keeping an email digest or newsletter in your inbox or bookmarking something through Pocket. Neither option is a helpful practice long run.
Storing content means making it available for your future use. This means creating a PDF of the article or blogpost, or taking screenshot of the Instagram or Pinterest post, and then adding it to the folder. Ideally, all of this content should be kept in one place, such as in cloud storage like Dropbox or Tresorit, a folder on your desktop, or a portable external or flash drive.
The folder needs to be structured in some way to make content accessible and scannable. For example, subfolders might include themes, keywords, or (less helpful) dates.
Even better, develop a file naming system that helps with identifying the content inside as well. Make sure to use that system consistently.
6. Annotate content.
Making notes about the content is essential. Notes help with reminding you of the content’s value and purpose in your blog development.
Add notes about the following:
- What the article is about
- Where you can find it
- Why it seemed interesting
- How it might be useful
- What you will do differently
These notes can be added directly to the PDF, or they can be included in a spreadsheet.
While all of these strategies might seem like a lot of work, gathering this information will make developing your own blog content faster, easier, and more efficient.
What strategies do you have for managing your social listening? Tell us about them in the comments below.