There are times when we all run out of content ideas.
I’ve been in this situation many times myself — feeling unsure about what content to create and share.
However, after much trial and error, I’ve managed to find a few solutions to help keep a constant stream of content ideas flowing. These strategies help me uncover the types of social media content that our audience loves to engage with and share.
And in this post, you’ll learn about six ways to discover the content your audience craves.
Let’s dive in.
1. Use your analytics
One of the best ways to find out what your audience likes (or what works for you) is to use your analytics.
Your social media analytics can tell you what’s working and what’s not.
What you’ll want to do is to study your top-performing posts and re-create them. Here’s how to find your top posts with the native analytics in Facebook, Instagram, and more.
One way to find your top-performing Facebook posts is to go to your Page Insights > Posts and manually look for posts with high reach or engagement.
A shortcut is to use the Pages to Watch feature in the “Overview” tab. When you click on your own Page, Facebook will show you your top posts for the week.
To get the analytics for Instagram, you’ll need to have a business account. (Here’s how to convert to a business account if you wish to.)
In your business account, tap on the analytics icon on your profile. Then, tap on “See more” under the “Posts” section. Here, you’ll see your top posts sorted by impressions. You can also sort it by engagement, reach, and more, and adjust the time period.
If you are using our Pro or Business plan, you can easily find this information in your Buffer dashboard. Go to your Analytics tab and then Posts report. Then, click on “Most Popular” to see your most-engaged posts.
Once you’ve found your top posts, try to find a pattern among them. Here are some questions you could ask yourself:
- Is there a common topic among them?
- Is the content from a particular source — your blog or other publications?
- Does a particular content type — text, image, or video — perform consistently better?
- Did people leave any interesting comments on those posts?
2. Ask your audience
The second strategy is to ask your audience.
You could simply post a question or a poll on your social media profiles. For example, “What content do you want to see us sharing?”
If you would like open-ended replies, posting a question will be great. If you have a rough sense of what your audience might be interested in, you could create a poll and list a few options. For example, a while back, we created a Twitter poll to ask our followers what sort of content they would like to see more of from us.
Buffer Poll: What sort of content would you like to see more of from the Buffer Blog?
— Buffer (@buffer) April 14, 2016
A few people also replied the tweet to give us more suggestions.
As Facebook and Instagram (Stories) only allow two options for polls, my favorite way around it is to do a manual emoji poll.
Alternatively, you could email your blog subscribers and ask them what they would like to see from you. For example, at the end of 2017, we reached out to our blog subscribers with a survey. In the survey, we asked them what topics they enjoy the most and what topics they would like to see more from us.
From the answer, we learned about what to create for the blog and also what to share on our social media.
3. Learn from your industry peers
The third strategy is to learn from your industry peers.
Look at the top pages in your industry and see what is working for them. If you have a similar target audience, what worked for them will likely work for you, too.
It’ll be great to go beyond just your competitors. Are there other companies that you admire, which you can learn from? Maybe because they are in the same space but aren’t your direct competitor. Or perhaps their way of marketing resonates with you. For example, I often like to check out the social media profiles of HubSpot, MailChimp, and Airbnb.
Here are a few ways to research on your favorite companies:
On Facebook, you could use Pages to Watch. This feature allows you to quickly compare the performance of your Page with similar Pages. You can also click on any of the Pages and see their top posts for the week. For instance, here’s a recent top post from Shopify:
You can find this feature in your Page Insights, at the bottom of your Overview tab. This feature will only appear once you have more than 100 Likes on your Page.
On Twitter, you could create a Twitter list of the companies that you would like to learn from and regularly check out what they share.
Here’s how to create a Twitter list:
- Click on your profile photo and select “List”
- Click on “Create a list” and fill out the fields (You might want to keep this list private)
- Hit “Save list”
Once you’ve created your list, head to the companies’ profile, click on the three dots, and select “Add or remove from lists…” to add them to your list.
A tool I like to use to monitor several lists at the same time is TweetDeck. It is a free tool by Twitter, which allows you to have multiple columns of tweets from a list, search result, and more.
Here’s a point worth noting: while it’s great to learn from your favorite companies, you might not want to follow them exactly. This is because ultimately your brand is different from theirs and you would likely want to be unique with what you’re sharing on your social media profiles.
The point here is to look for general patterns and ideas that you can adapt for your own brand.
4. Use a research tool
The fourth strategy is to use a content research tool like Buzzsumo.
Buzzsumo is like Google for the most shared content. You can search for any keywords (e.g. “social media marketing”), and Buzzsumo will show you the most shared content that’s relevant to the keyword.
Look through the results and see if you can identify the popular topics around that particular keyword.
What is also helpful is that Buzzsumo breaks down the share count by networks. So you can see if a piece of content is more popular on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, or Pinterest.
Buzzsumo also allows you to sort the results by social network. For example, maybe you want to see what types of articles are popular on Twitter. You can click on the “Twitter Shares” header, and Buzzsumo will sort the articles by the number of shares on Twitter.
This is also a great way to find quality content to share on your social media profiles. If an article has done really well on Twitter in general, it would likely resonate with your audience, provided that it is relevant to them.
5. Create marketing personas
The fifth strategy is to create marketing personas. Your marketing personas will give you ideas on what content to create and share on social media.
Here’s what a persona is and why it’s important, according to Adele Revella, the founder and president of The Buyer Persona Institute1Content Marketing Institute, 2015 (Emphasis added) :
… a buyer persona is a composite sketch of a key segment of your audience. For content marketing purposes, you need personas to help you deliver content that will be most relevant and useful to your audience.
Without personas, you may only be guessing what content your audience wants, which means you are more likely to revert to creating content around what you know best (your products and company) instead of around the information your audience is actively seeking.
Once you have done your research and created your marketing personas, you’ll have a better sense of your core audience’s goals and challenges, and the content that they want to read.
To help you with this, here’s our beginner’s guide to creating marketing personas.
Experiment with Jobs To Be Done
Besides creating personas, you could also try the Jobs to Be Done methodology (we’ve tried both ourselves!)
Jobs to Be Done is a concept created by Harvard Business School professor, Clayton M. Christensen, and his team. The idea is that understanding the jobs our customers want to do (or the reasons they buy products) is more useful in helping us create and sell great products than just having demographic information.
Here’s a short video about the methodology and how Intercom uses it for marketing:
How does this apply to creating content that your audience loves?
By understanding the jobs that your customers want to do, you can create and share content that helps them with those jobs.
For example, we have been creating content that helps our readers with their social media strategy, content creation, engagement, and more. And those blog posts seemed to have resonated with our readers. (You might have noticed in the survey results I shared above, we phrased each option as “Content that helps me with (a job)” rather than just the topic.)
6. Follow trends
The final strategy is to keep an eye out for general trends in the social media space and follow them. This will help you get a general sense of the types of content to post. While it won’t be very specific to your audience, I think it can still be helpful.
For example, the top content format now is video. In our 2018 Social Media Trends report, we pointed out that “video posts have the highest average engagement and twice the level of engagement of other post types on average”2Buzzsumo, 2017. Also, according to our State of Social 2018 report, we found that 85 percent of businesses would like to create more videos in 2018.
Does that you mean you should be creating videos?
I think it’ll be great to experiment with a few videos if your resources allow and see how they perform. You can create simple videos without a big budget using tools like Animoto and Lumen 5 (and more here). If you are keen, here’s our step-by-step guide to creating engaging social media videos.
Over to you: How do you find out what your audience likes?
The key to growing your following and engagement on social media is to create content that your audience craves. Here are six ways of discovering that content:
- Use your analytics
- Ask your audience
- Learn from your industry peers
- Use Buzzsumo
- Create marketing personas
- Follow trends
How do you discover the content that your audience likes? Let’s exchange notes below.