Your customers' values are your values. The better you understand your customers' wants and needs, the better you'll be able to appeal to them, and the stronger and more loyal your customer base will grow. Unfortunately, it's not always easy to figure out what topics are most important to your customers or what's currently popular in your target demographics, but today, there's a wide range of marketing tools available to help you out in the process.
1. Social Mention. Social Mention is a search engine that--you guessed it--searches for any social mention of a topic throughout the web. With this minimalist, specialized platform, all you need to do is enter a topic and select an optional niche that you want to search within. For example, if you sell cowboy hats and you want to see what people have been saying about them for the past few months, all you have to do is run a search on "cowboy hats" and see what comes up. You can also do branded searches, in categories like blogs, microblogs, bookmarks, images, videos, and even questions. As a bonus, the search engine works in real time, so you can get up-to-the-minute results.
2. Sprout Social. Sprout Social is an all-in-one social media management platform for the busy social marketer. It offers capabilities like post scheduling and task management in addition to providing straightforward analytics like follower growth and engagement. But where Sprout Social really shines is its "discovery" feature, which allows you to tap into your followers' update feeds and get a feel for what's important to them. With a couple of quick searches and some adjustments to filter out unnecessary information, you can, at a glance, figure out what's going on in the mind of your average customer, and build a strategy around it.
3. Prismatic. Prismatic is a type of content discovery platform that you can use to find and harness stories that are currently trending around the world. Essentially, it works by tapping into your Facebook or Twitter account and taking a look at the types of news and stories that your friends and followers are sharing. You can toggle between looking at trends from a global perspective or zeroing in on ones that are more popular among your own audience. Either way, you'll get a firsthand look at the types of content getting shared and syndicated, and you can customize your own content stream accordingly to generate the most impact.
4. inPowered. inPowered is a promoted content platform, but it's very useful in discovering which types of content have been the most popular within your target demographics. It features both a free and a paid version, and offers selected topics and influencers within your search specifications. It also projects the popularity of specific terms and topics over a period of time. You can use this data to fuel your own content program and maximize your chances of appealing to your audience.
5. SocialRest. SocialRest is currently operating in Beta, but it looks to be a valuable resources in content discovery and social listening. SocialRest is primarily a measurement platform that calculates the impact of your shared social content, but it goes further than most other similar platforms. Here, you'll be able to see exactly what your customers are engaging with and sharing, as well as which pieces of content have had the greatest impact on your followers' behavior. It's a great tool to find out what's important to your customers, and a near-perfect tool for measuring ROI.
6. TweetReach. TweetReach is a platform that specializes in Twitter analytics, so it isn't as universally applicable as some of the other entries on this list. Nevertheless, if you have a strong Twitter presence and you're looking to get more out of it, TweetReach is a near-perfect platform. With TweetReach, you can scan the platform to find the most influential or authoritative followers in your industry, and mimic their following while building your own. You can also measure the reach of your individual tweets, including the number of impressions and clicks, and indirectly measure the impact of each of your updates. It's a great tool to see how your Twitter followers react to your current strategy.
7. Quora. Quora is, at its core, a question and answer platform. Users can log in, create a specific question, and other users within the community will supply concise answers to that question. The answer that gets the most votes will win out as the top answer. Because both askers and answerers work together as an ongoing community, Quora has evolved to become quite a powerhouse in terms of specific information. For marketers, Quora is especially useful because you can learn what types of problems your customers face and what specific needs they have that aren't being adequately addressed by your competitors. It's perfect for finding new content topics.
Knowing what your customers are talking about is only half the battle. What really matters is how you take that information and apply it meaningfully to your existing content marketing strategy. Throughout your content development process, be sure to hand-pick topics that are both timely and relevant to your target market, and don't forget to measure your initial results. The more data you have about your customers' behaviors and interactions, the more ammunition you'll have to fuel your future campaigns.