Fill that whiteboard: Use social listening to build content ideas

Social listening in the strategize & ideate stage

  • By Team CSI
  • |
  • Jan 15 2018
  • |
  • Categories: Articles

In the first stage of the content lifecycle, content teams determine how content can drive business goals. This includes a clear understanding of the goals of your company, awareness of audience needs, and – importantly – a whiteboard full of content ideas.

While it may be easier to come up with company-focused topics, content teams should really be trying to create content for audiences. What do your customers or clients care about? What do they want to know?

We’re big fans of user experience research and data-based content decisions. Maybe you’ve got a team at the ready with a survey platform and a focus group budget to ask your audiences these questions.

But if not, or if you’re between user research projects, you can still listen to your audiences.

Using social media to listen to your audiences is a low cost way to find out what they care about. Use a social media management tool like Hootsuite or Sprout and track the conversations your target audience is having about topics related to your company and industry.

What do I listen for?

Start by using a keyword research tool like Google Keyword Planner to find out what terms your audiences are searching for. Then use your preferred social media management tool to track conversations that include:

Keywords or hashtags

Example: Start with the keywords you found in your research. Let’s say you work in the tourism industry. These might include travel, holiday, city names, campaigns.

Specific topics that relate to your company or industry.

Example: Include any attractions, activities, and businesses that came up in your keyword research.


Example: “Best lake in Ontario”, or your company’s slogan

Brands and competitors

Example: Hotel names, airlines, other tourism companies

Public figures

Example: Your CEO or spokesperson

OK, what do I do with this data?

Now you know what your audiences are saying. But what does it mean? Time to analyze.  As you look at your data, notice:

Pain points

Look for problems that relate to your industry. What’s making your audiences frustrated? Is it difficult to book holidays online? Is it hard to decide where to go? Difficulty traveling with toddlers?

Topic trends

What’s trending in the tourism industry generally? Maybe an airline is now offering a direct flight somewhere new, or maybe a new attraction opened up.

Related interests / possible connections

Look to see what your audiences connect to travel. Maybe it’s something related to work, like asking for time off.

Types of content that get shared

See what your audiences are sharing. Do they share videos or photos of your area? These might indicate opportunities for a user-generated content campaign.

General trending topics

Stay on top of general trends that relate indirectly to your industry. These might spark ideas for timely posts.

Build your idea list

Once you’ve identified common themes, think about how your company can contribute to the conversation. Should you provide expert advice? Informative information? Educational resources? Conversational dialog? Comic relief?

Come up with a list of all relevant topics and prioritize them. Be sure to clarify the purpose of the content and the desired result, or call to action. Think about the most appropriate channel to use to promote the content. For example, choose Pinterest for infographics and images, or Facebook for conversational dialog.

Bonus tip: Watch your language

While you’re listening to your audiences, pay attention for the words and phrases they use to describe your company, service, or a related topic. Use your audience’s words in your content to show your understanding.

When you really listen to your audience, you’ll be never short of great topics.

Further reading

It’s alive! The content lifecycle

It’s all about the audience: From research to content tools

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