Landscape audits are one of the most important digital marketing tools we have at our disposal.
Listening to conversation online is the most useful activity we can do as digital marketers.
More so than engaging, creating great content or coming up with astonishing creative, listening is the fundamental skill anyone working in social media must be proficient in.
Without an understanding of what people are saying online, it is incredibly difficult to know how to connect with them in an effective way.
I’m a great believer in using data and analysis to inform strategy. Without that evidence, observation and evaluation, you simply can’t rationalise any plan you want to pitch to your client.
To do this, you need a landscape audit: research of online conversation around a particular topic, company or community.
I believe that the use of landscape audits is often under appreciated and that they are a vital skill to have as a digital marketer.
And, if you’re like me, you needn’t be brilliant at maths or statistics to start getting tangible results.
Categorise your question
Landscape audits can be incredibly powerful ways to begin solving a problem, addressing an issue or learning more about the general behaviours of your audience.
You can categorise the types of question you might be looking to answer; you can then start to work out which types of data are going to be most useful:
- What does a community think about my company?
- What does a community talk about that’s relevant to my company?
- Who are the main voices engaging around my company?
- Which conversation topics are most associated with my company?
- How does a community behave online?
Know your tools
Once you’ve used one or two tools, you can easily navigate your way around pretty much any. Yes the UI will differ, but the output is often very similar.
Become best friends with the likes of Sysomos, Netbase, Radian6 or Pulsar (other monitoring tools are available).
- Sign up for trials with different vendors
- Learn their capabilities
- Find out how they can help answer your client’s questions
Become familiar with standard data outputs
Most tools kick out the same sorts of data, it’s usually just their presentation that will vary.
This means that once you’ve used one tool you can apply your knowledge to any new service you end up using. It’s incredibly helpful (and impressive!) to be able to switch between tools seamlessly.
You’ll find variances of:
- Platform distribution
- Conversation volumes
- Linguistic analysis
- Sentiment analysis
- Influencer analysis
Data is just the start
Your clients don’t just pay you for your data. They’d go straight to the vendors if that’s what they wanted. They’re paying you for your analysis skills.
You need to learn how to interpret the data and look to identify trends, erroneous behaviours and odd occurrences that stand out:
- Find out the catalyst for conversation spikes
- Understand how word clouds reflect actual conversation
- Investigate the platforms where content is being created
Use your understanding of people
if you’re working in marketing, one skill you’ll have, whether you realise or not, is that you can build relationships based on how people behave.
You should look to nurture this innate expertise and use it to analyse what you’re seeing people do online; think about what would make you do what they’re doing, for example:
- Are they sharing content?
- How are they sharing content?
- What content are they sharing?
Look for personality types
Analysing networks of users, and the clusters they form, help us to work out who’s influential and who is listening to who.
There are essentially three types of person you should be interested in looking at – they’ll help you to understand the make up of any community you’re analysing:
- People who generate
- People who curate
- People who amplify
Treat each audit as if it’s your first
When you’ve done a few audits and picked up experience of how people interact or engage, it can be very easy to end up repeating your findings.
You’ve got to put everything you know to one side when you’re conducting a new audit because each situation has a unique set of circumstances.
After you’ve conducted your research and established your findings, dug though the data and evaluated behaviours, then you apply the stuff you already know.
Keep your eyes open and your mind receptive:
- It keeps the data from being misinterpreted
- It won’t prejudice your insight formulation
- It ensures you find a unique answer that will benefit your client
And, after all of that, what should be the main output?
It depends on your need but it’ll be a report of some sort. How you should construct that report is something I’ll address another time.
What are your experiences of using landscape audits and how have you found them useful for your clients?