How to: Tap Into Your Social Audience

I’m always trying to think of ways to engage my audience. What do they want from me? How can I best get them to interact? How do I make them like me?! But I don’t always think about how my audience can help me.

Many companies are starting to not only listen to their audience, but tap into them for help. I have briefly mentioned the idea of using your community as a focus group. But you can also use your audience as a source.

This is an obvious step for news outlets, like NPR, who often asks their fans to contribute to stories that they are working on. They ask for volunteers to come forward and tell their story. Those fans are then featured in radio interviews. This is an invaluable resource for a company like NPR. It saves them money (less time paying reporters to track down the perfect person for a story) and makes their listeners feel important. Which they are!

But how can this work for brands? We use our audience as a source every day. We just don’t realize it. Community Managers need to take it one step further by listening to their fans and outright mining for content.

How? Here are a couple of examples:

 
1. Straight up ask them. Want to know what magazines your audience is reading? If they are using a certain product? If they like a topic you are thinking about writing about? Ask them! Use their responses to (or to not) drive and create content.

2. Fan interviews. A sure fire way to get more readership to your blog is to interview the people you want to read it. Pay attention to what your fans are saying, who is commenting most on posts and retweeting your content. Then ask that fan if they want to be interviewed by the brand. And bada-bing – you’ve got yourself a blog post! Not to mention all the friends and family who come along with that fan to read it.

3. Polls. One of the brands I work on recently created a promotion that would highlight some of our best Facebook fans. But what to call the contest? People were throwing around lots of ideas, and all of them were great. Who gets to decide which is best, though? The head of the brand team? No. The people you want to enter and participate – the fans! We asked our fans which title they liked best and chose which received the most votes.

4. In their own words. Another easy way to mine content? Use your fans’ own words. We all have those amazing fans who say exactly what we want to be saying about our brand, but better than we ever could. Quote the fan in a post and ask others if they feel the same. Or use them as inspiration to create your own new content.

But these are just a start. What other ideas do you have for tapping into your social audience? What has worked in the past? What hasn’t? Share in the comments!