Social media has become the go-to location for campaign planning, for sussing out new market opportunities, compiling data and reinforcing creative messaging. And why not? Social media scraping provides fantastic insight into the issues and motivations of a target audience. But it has one fundamental flaw: it is historic. 

Knowing in great depth what a key target individual was up in arms about last week is fabulous, but how relevant will that issue be next week, next month, or next year?  Jane Hales, managing partner at Sapio Research, outlines the value of a blended methodology to reveal the clear air topics that can give your content marketing strategy and business, the edge.

Proof point

From PR campaigns to inbound marketing, organisations are becoming ever more creative in order to stand out from the crowd and reach out to their target audience. But with the board increasingly demanding ROI from every marketing campaign, creativity alone is not enough: where is the evidence? Where is the proof that the campaign is heading in the right direction? Is the client brief perhaps misguided?

As a result, many organisations are turning to social media to understand what people are talking about, what topics are resonating, and leveraging the raft of online tools now available to identify and track ‘noise’ around a specific topic. Using digital analytics to effectively listen to what prospects and customers are discussing is a fantastic way to gain a sense of key issues, pain points and motivators – especially for organisations planning to enter a new market area, influence a different prospect base or pitch for a new client.

But this information is, by default, historic and potentially biased: it is what individuals have been saying, not what they are going to say. It’s based on the ‘sharers’ with the loudest, possibly unrepresentative opinions. To truly understand the current and future motivations of target individuals an organisation is looking to influence requires more than a historical or myopic perspective. Scraping the Internet cannot predict the future, but it can provide an excellent starting point for directly questioning individuals, for challenging their perceptions and assessing evolving areas of interest.

Blended approach

And this is where a blended methodology offers significant value. Having used online tools to listen to on-going social media debates, original research is then used to build on that insight by understanding the issues they want to discuss and learn about, now and in the future.

Mapping online conversations against the audience’s real interest will reveal the clear air, or hot topics, that an organisation can leverage to gain market value. In addition to highlighting those topics that are both of interest and being discussed, this approach will flag issues that resonate with the audience but are yet to hit the social media debates or are not being talked about with the same frequency as others.  Essentially it provides an organisation with an opportunity to build serious credibility by driving a clear air conversation. It helps them cut through the noise ad get noticed.

In addition, the direct survey aspect of this blended methodology can include far more than a few questions designed to understand key areas of interest. It can be wrapped up with a strategic research project that delivers far greater audience understanding, from brand perception to influences and channel activity to provide far greater overall insight to support business planning.

Critically, by blending social media listening with direct audience questioning, an organisation can move beyond emotion-led creativity and take an evidence-led approach. With this objective tool in place, an organisation can move beyond personal debate and gut feeling and leverage proved insight to drive an effective marketing campaign strategy.