Blogging as a Conversation: Learning to Listen Before You Speak

At its core, digital marketing is a conversation. The democratization of the internet, along with the valuable insights that can be gained from your audience, has made it necessary for brands to not only push their messages, but to also listen to the responses. 

As a result, digital marketers are beginning to embrace the concept. But, while social media listening has become increasingly popular in recent years, most marketers don’t yet extend the insights gained into their blogging efforts. And yet, ultimately, blogging is a conversation, which means you should learn to listen before you speak.

quotation-marks-in-speech-bubblesThe Need for Listening in Blogging

A marketer’s need to listen precedes even the beginnings of blogging as a marketing tool. When the concept of Integrated Marketing Communication first emerged in the 1980s, it aimed specifically to move away from a caveat emptor approach to marketing and toward a customer-centric model. That model has only increased in importance, thanks to the increasing ubiquity of the internet.

For marketers, the democratization of the internet is not just an empty phrase. As consumers have found their voice online, audience-initiated communications are considered the most credible form of marketing communication online. In fact, 80% of consumers trust online reviews from strangers as much as they would trust personal recommendations from friends and family.

Audiences are not afraid to share their opinion online, which is why marketers need to pay attention. And especially as it relates to blogging, listening insights can play a crucial part in informing both your short-term and long-term digital strategy.

SEO-focused blogs, for example, rely on keywords and phrases that your target audience searches for. Listening to your audience enables you to find phrases that are relevant to your audience, writing more relevant posts as a result.

Listening also enhances your understanding of potential customers on a broader level. Gaining credibility is only possible if you know just what type of content your audience seeks out when looking for expert opinions. Simply pushing posts you think are valuable is not nearly as effective as writing content that you know to be valuable and helpful to your target audience.

5 Tools to Enhance Your Listening

So just how do listen to and find audience feedback to incorporate in your blog? Here are 5 tools that can help you accomplish just that.

  1. Blog and social media comments. It may seem obvious, but paying close attention to what your readers are saying about your blog gives you direct insight into their expectations and content needs. If your blog allows comments, monitor them closely to listen and respond. Similarly, promoting your blog on social media may elicit feedback that can be valuable in helping you understand your readers and guide your blog direction.
  2. Subscriber survey. Another way to get direct feedback, especially if you have already attracted a following on your blog, is to survey your subscribers about their satisfaction with and feedback for your blog. Free tools like SurveyMonkey allow you to ask questions about past topics and current strategies. You can even use it to crowdsource future topic ideas with free-form questions along the lines of “what would you like to see?”
  3. IceRocket. Used extensively by social media marketers, this tool can be valuable for insights as well. Simply typing in a keyword or phrase not only allows you to determine who else is writing on similar topics, but what types of conversations your audience engages in. An analysis tool helps you show historical trendlines for the topic in question.
  4. Mention. While IceRocket is focused on keywords or topics, Mention helps you determine and monitor just when your audience is talking about you. Subscription plans beginning at $29/month allow marketers to both monitor brand mention and find key influencers among their target audience. The results can drive strategy not just toward what others are saying about you, but what the most influential members of your target audience expect from you.
  5. Google Alerts. If you don’t have the budget for a paid solution like Mention, Google offers a scaled-down version of the same concept. Its Alerts feature allows marketers to set up email notifications each time someone mentions their brand or any other keyword or phrase online. 

Incorporating Insights Into Your Blogging Strategy

Any of these tools can help marketers gather valuable insights that can guide your strategy and provide greater understanding of the conversations surrounding their brands. But, as is the case in all digital marketing, information matters little if it does not lead to action and improvements.

Marketers can incorporate listening insights from any of the above tools into their strategies in a variety of ways. Here are just a few possibilities:

Adjust Your SEO Strategy

Chances are that at least one of your blog’s goals is to improve your website’s SEO. But, do you know just what your audience searches for through Google or Bing? Keyword research is crucial in helping you optimize your efforts, but listening gives you additional qualitative insight into what your audience searches for.

For example, your keyword research has shown that the phrase DIY bathroom renovations offers an ideal balance of competitiveness and monthly search volume. But through your listening efforts, you find that audience members who mention your brand mention a variation of the phrase, such as renovate your own bathroom. An adjustment of your blog’s SEO strategy may be in order.

Find Inspiration for Future Posts

Listening also enables you to find topics your target audience discusses that you may not have covered. You can use that insight to either increase the range of topics on your posts, or delve more deeply into a topic you have already covered.

For example, the above-mentioned post about renovating your bathroom may generate some blog or social media comments asking just what color they should paint the room. If you pay attention to the conversation, you now have a new potential topic that you can dive into more deeply during a future post. 

Incorporate Feedback into Blog Posts

You can even use direct and indirect feedback about your brand to inform future blog posts. If you regularly receive a set of questions related to your brand or your industry, consider one or more FAQ posts that cover the answers to these questions. You may even want to directly quote questions from specific users, making them feel more involved in the process.

By actively listening to the conversations of your target audience about your brand and industry, you can focus your blogging strategy to more specifically appeal to that audience. Ultimately, you will generate a more active blog presence that succeeds in both attracting visitors to your website and establishing your credibility as an industry expert.

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