Content strategy is currently one of the biggest buzzwords of online marketing, but many companies are still learning how to get it right. One of the most common reasons that content strategies fail is because companies neglect audience feedback. Many companies only publish commercial, salesy content that screams "buy me" without offering much value. This is an unfortunate trend - one that not only wastes marketing efforts and budgets, but results in ineffective online content and poor branding.

Organizations should publish content that's not only interesting, but also relevant and immediately helpful to their audience. How-to guides, video demonstrations, and infographics are great examples of helpful content that doesn't have to be commercially focused. Truly useful content, along with a strong social media presence, can strengthen relationships and build communities. So, how do you incorporate audience feedback into your content strategy to create truly useful content? Read on.

Product and Service Reviews

Some organizations dread looking at online customer reviews, worried that they'll be hit with a barrage of criticism. But it's important to take the complaints in stride with the praise - these reviews can provide a clear picture of your audience's needs and desires. 

Examine reviews for trends, such as consistent web ordering issues, breaks in communication, and post-purchase confusion. These complaints can actually provide you with a wealth of content topics, giving your company a positive opportunity to assist customers with common problems and turn detractors into promoters. You can apply the same content philosophy to the positive testimonials that your company receives; this can help you pinpoint positive, popular themes that your clients will be interested in. 

Customer Satisfaction Surveys

Companies can collect customer feedback in a variety of ways, including social media channels, email, and online surveys. Trade shows, outbound calling, and direct mail have worked from some companies, too

Work with your customer service team to identify trends, then be direct with your customers in surveys, posing questions such as, "What types of online information would you find helpful or relevant?" This puts the ball into your audience's court - they can help you brainstorm content ideas that your business marketing department might have never imagined. 

Forum Posts and Blog Comments

Forums and blog comments are a great place to get a big-picture idea of your audience's wants and needs. Search message boards and outside blogs to find mentions of your product or company. These are spaces where prospective customers and fans interact with one another. 

For example, tech companies often learn about user interface and functionality concerns by browsing blogs and forums for workarounds and user-generated tutorials. You might even discover new and creative uses for your product when your fans appropriate it for other tasks, like when Coca Cola drinkers discovered that the popular beverage could also be used as a rust remover. Keeping an eye on user-generated discussions can help you find new content angles. 

Niche forums and blog posts can also give you insight into prospective demographics. For example, you might discover that fans are posting about your company on automobile message boards - a demographic that you've never connected with before. 

Implicit Feedback Data

Not all of your customer feedback will be explicit and obvious. Often, the things that are left unsaid can help you craft a winning content campaign. Implicit data, such as heavy traffic times, engagement rates, and heat maps can tell you a lot about your customers' interests, without them having to tell you. If you don't have analytics set up for your website and social media channels already, it's time to start. These metrics can fill in the blanks and help you form a comprehensive picture of your audience and prospective new demographics. 

The digital era provides us with multiple direct and indirect ways to learn about audiences - reviews, message boards, comments, and surveys. It's our responsibility to parse this information and use feedback to create meaningful, valuable content that builds brands rather than begs for unwarranted attention. 

January 24, 2014

Jayson DeMers is the founder & CEO of AudienceBloom, a Seattle-based content marketing & social media agency. You can contact him on LinkedIn, Google+, or Twitter.

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Search Engine Guide > Jayson DeMers > Incorporating Audience Feedback into Your Content Strategy