Nicholas Love is Director, Digital Engagement Strategy at G&S. Following his presentation at NetBase Quid’s Virtual World Tour, we caught up with Nick about how his team leverages social listening and insights to drive demand and digital engagement.

At G&S, we begin every engagement with an Informed POV. How does this apply to a digital or demand generation program?

We approach each new social media project with two methods: 1) social listening and 2) social media intelligence. Understanding the brand’s key audiences on each social channel is critical to developing a strategy that will resonate and drive engagement with your content.

When we conduct a social media audit or a social listening exercise, we’re looking not only at how the brand performs in terms of engagement but also at what specific keywords, topic clusters, influencers/brand ambassadors, and media formats drive the most interaction on each digital channel. This allows us to pinpoint the type of content that will accelerate that brand’s performance, merging social media insights with digital strategy to create audience-focused content that drives action.

What is the difference between social media listening and social media intelligence?

Social media listening involves monitoring and measuring the types of conversations around a company, brand, individual or even a product that are unfolding across the digital landscape. This means identifying and evaluating keywords, sentiment, share of voice, content performance and event engagement. It’s about auditing the brand and what’s being said about it across the Internet.

Social media intelligence is the result of applying the right mix of technology, expertise, methodology and process to derive focused, business-relevant insights from digital and social media data. A social media intelligence program carefully monitors sentiment and impact across four areas: content, channels, competition and ambassadors, looking more closely at content trends and hashtags; when and how conversations unfold, and on which channels; how the brand is performing as compared with similar competitors; and what key voices serve as advocates and potential partners for the brand. It’s taking a deeper dive into the elements driving success for the brand and pairing that with strategies to continually improve and optimize performance.

How does that inform the content strategy? Tell us more about the process of turning those conversations into branded content.

It’s a constant cycle of collecting data and insights, analyzing them, applying our findings to optimize each channel strategy, evaluating the impact, and continuing to test and learn from new data and insights. We want to identify the topics, channels and individuals that audiences engage with the most in order to introduce more of that content and fine-tune it to each channel’s unique features.

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We can also use that data to match topics with thought leaders who can amplify a brand’s intellectual capital among relevant audiences. There are three key “flavors” of thought leadership: product, industry, and organizational thought leadership. When activated and championed by the right brand ambassador, whether an internal champion or an external influencer, each one can generate a dedicated stream of content for the brand.

How does thought leadership content on social media influence consumer perceptions of the brand?

A brand’s image is not what we (the brand) say it is but the thoughts, feelings and behaviors that users experience when they’re interacting with the brand. That’s why it’s so critical to align your content with your audience’s preferences and the topics they prefer to engage with on your channels. Catering to your audiences shows that you understand them, you appreciate them and you’re dedicated to optimizing their experience – which, in turn, shapes the value they can derive from interacting with your brand.

One way that marketers and communicators can influence their brand image in the digital space is by creating relevant and resonant thought leadership content that creates a slow-scroll experience. As a consumer of content, I know the social media newsfeed is competitive, and content creators must operate with the intent to disrupt as we’re battling the oversaturation of content that often leads to content fatigue and the beloved algorithms – but that’s another story. When something genuinely disruptive enters your feed, you’ll pause and begin to engage. Serve up that experience to your followers by developing content that aligns with their personal needs, preferences, goals, and aspirations – which you can distill using social media intelligence.

What’s your advice for a brand that’s just getting started with demand generation, social listening or digital engagement?

Always start with an informed point of view, relying on the data to help you evaluate the current standing of the brand. You’ll want to articulate a clear and achievable goal for each channel, then rely on the data to help you chart a course from the current state to the desired state. Driving increased engagement has to be powered by very precise changes to your strategy, so be sure to conduct a full social audit to analyze what’s working and what’s not for each channel.

It’s also important to revisit your content in terms of how your audience is perceiving it and how it’s performing vis-à-vis your competition. Let your followers and their engagement behavior serve as your guide when it comes to determining your strongest content, topic clusters, keywords and digital strategy. When your goal is to generate demand, sharing audience-focused content will attract more engagement than self-focused brand stories. You’ll gain greater interaction with an audience that feels you understand their needs, and greater engagement means greater share of voice in a crowded digital marketplace.

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