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The internet is in a continual state of flux, every few weeks there seems to be new social platforms appearing, all of which could be a potential ‘hangout’ spot for your audience or consumer.

As marketers, we need to understand the likes and dislikes of our audience/customers. We need to know what they read, what they share, what sites they visit, and what drives them to make a purchase. So, how do you find this out and stay ahead of the curve? The answer is social listening.

What is social listening?

Social listening allows you to take a domain, keyword or topic and scan social channels, forums, directories, comments and editorial articles to see where it has been mentioned the most. It’s incredibly useful for marketers as it helps you to establish the following:

  • Where your top influencers are within your topic
  • The core keywords within your topic, and the sentiment surrounding these words
  • A live picture of how conversations are growing around your topic
  • And finally, where the most engaged section of the web is for your topic

The downside to social listening is that it can be expensive and does normally require you to sign into a contract with a tool/software company.

Over the past few years, I have trialled almost every social listening platform and can recommend the below. Of course, everyone’s needs are different, so it’s worth checking out what each of these have to offer, and looking for the one that best aligns with your requirements:


So, what does this have to do with link building?

When it comes to using social listening to plan campaigns, there is a wealth of valuable customer behaviour data offered by these platforms, and it can be hugely beneficial in helping PRs to understand how to sell in their campaigns. Let me explain…

For the sake of this post, let’s say you’re running a digital PR campaign around the subject ‘new homes’.

Social listening can reveal articles that have covered that subject before, show you who wrote them, and even show you how they were visualised.

It is the visualisation aspect that I want to cover today. If you know that the majority of news articles around your campaign subject are list features, then maybe you need to sell in a list feature to the media in order to get pick up?

Finding this data is not only useful for the outreach stage of a campaign, but it’s also relatively easy to get.

Using BuzzSumo, we can input keywords from our pending campaign. For this example, I have entered the phrase ‘new homes’.

After you have inputted the keywords (using Boolean, you can input more than one), BuzzSumo will reveal a list of articles around that topic.

Key tip, you can also change and language if you’re outreaching internationally

Select all articles and export into an excel sheet. The export will reveal data such as number of links, number of shares and how the article was visualised.

Now, take the following steps:

  1. Put all data into a table
  2. Remove all articles which gained a low number, to zero backlinks
  3. Create a pivot table

At this point you will see something similar to the below:

Drag the option titled ‘article types’ into the rows and values boxes.

The pivot data will then show you what content visuals gained the most links. Simply place this into a pie chart to get something like the below:

This shows that general articles gain the most links, followed by videos and list features.

This insight can then be taken by the PR team to guide their outreach strategy. For example, it can help them to decide things such as whether a press release should have a video or a list within it.

To summarise

By listening to what has worked for others, we can learn what will work for ourselves. Taking this data can be the difference between the campaign being a success or a flop.

A quick word of warning, however: make sure you input granular search terms into BuzzSumo to gain the best insights. I used the phrase ‘new home’ just to get the mechanic across. However, the more detailed you can be, the more accurate results you will achieve.

For example, if you’re working in the travel sector, the term ‘holiday’ will bring back a lot of results, many of which will be inaccurate. However, if you used the phrase ‘holiday’ AND ‘lake district’ then you will have holidays relevant to those in the Lake District, which may be more suited to your requirements.

I hope that you found this post useful! If you’d like more information on our approach, then check out our digital PR services, our work or contact us directly.