How to “Spy” Your Way to Better Social Media Writing

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For years marketers have attempted to understand their target audience and create messages that speak directly to them. Focus groups, psychographic profiling, surveys and more have been used to get into customers’ heads for decades. And they still are today.

But thanks to social media it’s even easier to become a “spy” and understand who you’re selling to. Cracking the nut of what makes your customers tick can be as easy a tracking a few key terms and listening in to the social chatter that’s already going on in your industry.

Being a spy can help your marketing positioning, and it can directly effect your social media writing style. Embracing your role as a social business demands that you be authentic and engaging with your social media writing. While the authentic part comes easily (or at least it should), the engaging part can be a bit more difficult. Engagement means reaching out to the right people with the right message at the right time. Unfortunately, this can vary greatly from business to business, but fortunately, social media spying can help you become a better social communicator.

Spying – or listening to put it more pleasantly – can help you understand:

Who to Target

Every business has a target audience – but with my copywriting clients I’ve found that most companies cast the net too wide. Specificity is always better, and by paying close attention to what is going on in your industry, you can create ultra targeted social media writing.

What to Share

We’re all publishers now, and that means we need to keep the queue of content full. If you’re feeling challenged by the need to create and curate more topics, you can use social media spying to understand what’s popular and worth sharing.

How to Share It

As I’ve covered in previous columns, the language of social media writing makes a difference in your engagement levels. Spying in social media can open your eyes up to new opportunities for keyword terms, phrases and buzzwords that will grab attention.

Who Should You Spy On?

Since social media activity is so rampant on so many different platforms, it’s easy to keep tabs on anyone and everyone. But since you only have so much time in your day, you can focus on three key groups:

The competition – You may not find much here, and that can be a good thing. Taking a social business approach is still relatively new for many industries, so you may be a trend setter when you take a social approach. Still, it;s a good idea to look at your competition on your social channel of choice and see what they’re posting (blog posts included).

Even if your competitors aren’t doing a great job with their social media, you need to keep tabs on their positioning. By setting up a “spy operation” on their social media content, you can better understand how you stand up to them in the thought leadership arena and understand how you can take a unique approach to similar topics.

Your prospects – Understanding who you’re targeting is a starting step, but you won’t know for sure what constitutes engaging social media writing until you see it in action in the real world. Find target prospects on the social networks – not just the companies you want to work with but specific individuals who would value what you do. Pay attention to the type of content they share and how they share it. You may find some unique approaches – like a common tie between your industry and a specific hobby.

It’s kind of a weird example, but, I’ve found that a lot of my marketing friends are just as interested in Arrested Development as I am. I know any Bluth Family related posts on Google+ are going to get their attention.

Your customers – Your existing customers need to be on your radar as well. Even though they’ve already made a purchase or invested in your services, you want to build that relationship so they’ll become brand advocates. By spying on their social media activity, you can begin to understand what type of messages they are likely to share and respond to and create more of those yourself.

3 Steps to Spying for Social Media Writing

Now that you know why spying is important and who you should be spying on, you need to put this practice into action. There are three basics that you can use in any industry to become a better social media writing spy. I’d love to read your additional suggestions in the comments.

Getting industry related alerts.

Whether you’re tracking social media hastags, getting keyword related alerts from Google or are subscribing to a handful of important e-newsletters, getting alerts on your industry is key to creating great social media content. You’ll not only see what the competition is doing, but you’ll get a better sense of how you can create writing that is outstanding.

The pending demise of Google Reader has put a bit of a crimp in this strategy for me personally. I had a collection of Google Alerts delivered via RSS feeds to client specific folders, and also had blogs that were relevant to their industry in those folders. Any system that lets you keep as much of your spy fodder in one place as possible is a good move. It will keep your listening streamlined and focused.

Creating targeted lists or circles.

Competitors, prospects and customers can be tracked individually on social media through lists (on Twitter and Facebook) or circles (Google+). Since these categories can be private, you can feel free to put anyone you’d like to spy on in this list and figure out what type of writing is most engaging and interesting to those groups.

Using social media tracking.

Finally, tracking your existing social media sharing and analyzing its performance can give you valuable insight into what is engaging for your target market. Using a tool like Social Snap, you can track which platforms are getting you the best response and which of your messages are connecting with your audience. This kind of spying works best when you’ve already developed a strong presence on the platforms, and you’re publishing regular content.
Being a social media spy can help your writing and target your marketing. How are you going to get started?

Courtney Ramirez
This monthly Social Media Writing column is contributed by Courtney Ramirez. Courtney is the Director of Content Strategy for Endurance Marketing, where she helps take B2B brands from boring to breakthrough. She creates strategies that helps businesses tell their story, increase their prospects and convert more customers. She manages content marketing creation and implementation so clients can see the best results from their inbound marketing efforts. She geeks out on content marketing metrics and cat memes. +Courtney Ramirez
Courtney Ramirez
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