In this latest post in our global series examining socially-led research, We Are Social Toronto's Director of Research & Insight Devon Vipond and Editorial Director Jaclyn Lacroix look at how research and measurement helps brands identify and optimize content.

Creatively, there was nothing conspicuous about it.

An egg. Literally, an egg. Sitting on a white background. With a caption that began with, “Let’s set a world record…”

But if there’s something gleaned from a categorical shitpost that kicked Kylie Jenner off her Instagram top-post-pedestal in early 2019, it’s that there isn’t a roadmap for social response. And in a world where you can measure anything within an inch of its life - with Facebook touting some 29,000 data points per user - madness could supersede method if you’re too prescriptive in content creation.  

But as we try to peel back the layers, or shell, of this egg post, we can see how it was set up for success. And to do that and also learn some lessons about making effective content, we’re bringing together our left and right brains with creative editorial, and strategy.

Starting with strategy: What the egg offered audiences
Let’s first consider the notion of a Social Value Proposition. The SVP, s’il vous plait.

What is this?

It’s the exchange of value between people and brands through social interactions. 

For people, social value is the reward they get from engaging with an entity and its social ideas. It can be in the form of:

  • Utility: Are we making things easier for people?
  • Entertainment: Are we presenting or provoking a specific kind of emotional feeling? (It may be humour, sadness, concern, etc.)
  • Social capital: Are we making our audience look good?
  • Value/worth: Is there a tangible or intangible financial reward?

For brands, social value is the positive effect that people’s engagement has on the business. These can include:

  • Communication effects: Immediate responses to your posts, such as people becoming aware of the brand, products or messaging.
  • Attitudinal effects: People thinking differently about a brand.
  • Behavioural effects: People taking action with an idea or a brand.
  • Business effects: Changes to the bottom line.

An SVP helps us articulate where people and brands meet in a mutually beneficial way. 

So let’s go back to the egg for a second. This wasn’t a brand post. But if it were, you could infer the brand value was a communication effect - perception - becoming king shitposter of turd island - if you will. The value for the people? Entertainment. Will they or won’t they supercede Kylie? Plus there’s being in on a collective internet joke - a sprinkling of social capital.

Defining audiences for social
The subreddit /r/fellowkids is a harbinger for getting really right, or terribly wrong. 

Personified by Steve Buscemi’s undercover character in 30 Rock, some 1.5 thousand people - typically gen Z - are online at any point relentlessly mocking brands who simply do not get them, but try to. In that same subreddit, brands who get it right are applauded. So how do you stay on the right side of Fellow Kids?

By knowing your audience.

We can’t articulate what our audiences will value without first identifying who they are. Luckily, people leave traces of themselves all over the Internet. 

To determine your core target, consider the types of data available:

Demographics: The A/S/L, if you will. (Age, Sex, Location, for you non-ICQ’ers - *Uh-Oh*.) 

Psychographics: Details on how an audience thinks/feels. 

Behaviour: Details on how your audience spends their time. 

We’ll delve further into audience definition in a future blog post. It’s important to note that knowing your audience means when you move into the next stage of actually creating content, that your filter for creative quality isn’t your own lens - it’s your audience’s.

Looking back to the egg example now it’s clear they weren’t after a small audience. They went LARGE, and leaned more so knowing the demographics, psychographics and behaviour of Instagram users at large rather than a subsect. Knowing even a few basic things - the popularity of shitposts, Kylie Jenner, and the ennui of the early year - helped them craft content they knew could spread. 

So, now that you have a sense of WHO you want to reach and engage with your content, what does our content say?

Creating content for our audience
So you’ve become intimately acquainted with your audience, you’ve basically fast-tracked a year into a relationship with them, well past the honeymoon phase where you’re comfortable, but you can still surprise each other every once in a while. At this point you know what makes them tick. You know which levers to pull and buttons to press to get a reaction from them. Creating compelling content for your audience follows a similar formula: know your audience, and you’ll know what to create to elicit the desired effect.

Remember the social value proposition? The goal when creating content should always be to satisfy the value exchange, quid pro quo, if you will. (Cue ”When You’re Good To Mama from the Chicago soundtrack.) Here are some questions to answer when planning content to help meet that goal: 

1.What is the brand’s objective with this content? 
What are you communicating? Whether it’s an entire campaign, a standalone brand piece, or part of the always-on mix, you need to make sure your message is clear. 

2.What’s the desired effect? 
What value is your audience providing? Determine what action you’d hope they take or which emotion you’d like them to feel after consuming this content.

3.Why should your audience care? 
What value are you providing them? You know your audience’s demographics, psychographics, and behaviours, so what is it about this content that they would find valuable? 

4.What is the hook?  
How are you going to leverage the things that are valuable to your audience as a vehicle to deliver the brand’s message to create the desired effect? This is where tapping into culture is important.

  • Go Deep in the Creep: Based on audience interests and behaviours, spend some time in the spaces that matter to them. Whether it’s a social platform, a meme aggregator account, a forum, a blog, a book series, a scripted podcast, or a conspiracy-theory message board, get inspired by the things they care about.
  • Centre in on that Community: If you have a vocal community, chances are they’ve already asked for what they want from you in the comments, the DMs, and in subtweets. Listen to what they’re saying and find inspiration in their praise, frustration, and commentary. Also consider what worked in the past for both your brand and competitors. Seek patterns in topics, creative styles and even tone your audience liked.
  • Follow Breaking News: A social newsroom is good practice no matter the brand. Not only to gauge how people feel about your brand or your competitors, but also to have a general sense of what people are talking about and caring about day to day. Reactive content inspired by cultural moments, straight from the newsroom, can help to contextualize brand information.

You’ve done the research, you know your audience, and now you’re ready to create content that is valuable for both the brand and its community. But how will you know if they found it valuable? And did it have the desired effect? That’s where measurement comes in.

Knowing if/when content resonates
Once you have your content out in the world, data continues to have your back. But as we mentioned earlier, there’s a LOT of it, so how do you narrow down?

Well first, let’s consider the medium. We’re talking social media, and despite monetization efforts to drive platforms to reach-based marketing machines, the inherent goal is and should always be to bring people together in some shape or form. So let’s consider a few metrics that help us do that.

Going back to our social value proposition, here’s a sample of the communications effects (data points) we might want to map our content against.

If your brand is focusing on UTILITY…

Let’s say you’re selling financial service software and your strategy is to educate current and potential customers through content. Your goal for social may be to get audiences into the purchase environment (your site), while also sharing knowledge.

  • Clicks tell us content was compelling enough to educate (assuming you’re driving to a blog.) But any standalone number can lack context. So reviewing a Click-Through Rate (clicks/impressions) and establishing a brand-specific benchmark will help you decide: What topics does your audience find more or less helpful?
  • Saves are the new bookmark. They tell us something was worth returning to. Creating a Save Rate can be particularly helpful in establishing norms (saves/impressions.) This helps us decide: What topics are most helpful? Higher Save Rates on specific posts can also prompt questions, such as: Could there be something in particular prompting a return visit - visual, text, or audio creative?

If your brand is focusing on ENTERTAINMENT…

Let’s say your brand is an entertainment property trying to drive interest to a new trailer release. Your goal for social is to entertain but also share enough detail to compel audiences to plan to watch the full film.

  • Engagement Rates are resonance metrics that look at one or a collection of desired audience responses against impressions generated on posts. So if the post is a tailer, you may look at View Through Rates (completed views/impressions), overall views, and perhaps Saves. Hone in on the specific engagement you want! Analyzing both Views (typically considered only watching a few seconds) and View-Through Rates will  help us decide: Did our audience react in a desired way relative to the post’s reach?
  • Tone is a qualitative assessment of the types of response comments. It can come in the form of a sentiment analysis, or a review of themes. Tone helps us decide: Did this post have the desired emotional effect? 

Sentiment can be hard to automate, so more robust tools like Talkwalker can come in handy when you train them. Look for anomalies - some brands may just generally get negative commentary, but is this volume of negative comments above or below normal? For example, we track mentions of the phrase “Silence brand” for one gen Z focused client. If we pass a certain threshold, we know we missed the mark.

If your brand is focusing on SOCIAL CAPITAL…

If you’re trying to support affinity for a beer brand, you’re likely trying to build preference amongst audiences through lifestyle content. Your goal for social is to drive affinity for the brand by having them react to brand content and align themselves with the brand.

  • Shares are a measure of social currency. Posts can be shared privately or publicly.  Shares are better contextualized by framing them as a rate against impressions, and paired also with a measure of tone to ensure people are sharing for the right reason.
  • Inbound Brand Interest by means of public and private requests for product or partnerships can indicate desired association. How you measure interest is up to you: It can be in the form of direct messages ‘can you send me free X?’, tags of the brand in audience posts, reposts of brand content, etc. Inbound brand interest helps us decide: Do my audiences want to be associated with my brand?

If your brand is focusing on VALUE…

Ecommerce brands typically will fall in here. Let’s say you’re launching a new product. Here, your goal for social is to fill a need in your audience’s life, and them taking steps to purchase is your proof.

  • Lead Generation or Conversion will quantitatively tell you if you’re on the right track. Measuring this involves some degree of digital data integration (typically on-site using pixels or cookies) and can be supported by things like link tracking. For example, if deploying influencers in social, you’ll know you’ve provided value if you gave them specific discount codes to use at checkout.

Bringing it all together
Once your content is live, now’s your chance to see how audiences react. With that data pouring in, use it to observe and optimize. Your communications effects act as a filter by which you can evaluate posts. Tracking these effects over time and forming benchmarks will enable you to compare one post against another - particularly if you use rates as measurement methods.

You can optimize by testing hypotheses against your posts each month. For example, if you’re the software company, you can test educational topics and come to learn what audiences are more likely to click. If you’re the entertainment brand, you can test content formats - perhaps your audiences prefer shorter film clips rather than longer trailers?

So back to that egg...

To the untrained eye, the success of the World Record Egg post seems like an eggception (I’M SORRY) to the methodology of content development. But upon further inspection, the social value proposition couldn’t be clearer. For brands, creating successful and meaningful content is done by establishing an audience persona, an audience-focused approach to content and relevant measures, tracking them over time and constantly checking in. Now go crack that content strategy!

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If you’d like to find out more about how We Are Social’s research team can work with your brand, contact us on talktous@wearesocial.net