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Listen Before You Write for the Web

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Whether it’s an e-book, a blog post or simply content for a website, it will all make an impact only when you write about things your target audience wants to hear. Usually, most web publishers think they know it. Even if you know some of what your readers want, you aren’t really ready. You should know what it is exactly that your readers want, what it is that they are passionate about and what it is that they’re not finding anywhere else.

And you won’t discover it unless you’re ready to LISTEN.

Given below is an overview of why it’s crucial to listen, what to do to improve your listening skills and how to work out a listening strategy that enables you to achieve better results.

Listening Benefits

There are numerous benefits associated with appropriate listening. First of all, listening helps you understand customers’ opinions, aspirations and expectations. This, in turn, allows you to develop highly targeted marketing messages and create products according to your target audience’s specific needs. Also, listening helps marketing teams a great deal in keeping in touch with the latest developments in the industry and to gather knowledge about those key factors that influence the market.

Approximately 20% of a site’s overall traffic is generated by 1% of its audience. By listening to the people who constitute this percentage, you will be able to understand the exact nature of content to which your niche audience will instantly respond to.

Another great benefit of listening is that it gives you a sneak peek into the type of language or words users are habituated with. In fact, proper listening skills will also help you track the keywords most frequently typed by customers when searching for a particular product or some specific information. As a result, it makes it easier for you to incorporate those business-associated keywords while writing for the web for better search engine visibility.

In a nutshell, effective listening allows you to write content that’s extremely suitable both for your business (or brand) and for the target audience you’re seeking.

Listening Skills

Since listening is essentially a skill, it will take some time for your team to learn it properly. Firstly, you must avoid being pretentious. As we live in a world full of distracting elements, it is important for you to stay focused and filter out all the unwanted things while listening. It does not matter if you can’t keep your concentration level intact for more than a few minutes. The point is to understand the points, not just to hear them.

Secondly, after listening to your customer/competitor you must be able to keep the points in your mind. For this, it is important to turn off your own mental distractions. Thirdly, you must genuinely care for the speaker or the words that are being spoken by him/ her. If you have little or no concern for the speaker, you will most probably end up only ‘hearing’ their opinions. If that’s the case, it will become almost impossible for you to implement any changes for improved results.

Lastly, you must think twice before responding to what has been spoken. It’s always highly recommended that you respond only when you are emotionally stable and have a crystal-clear understanding of the customers’ views or thoughts.

Listening Strategy

Just like you develop a strategy for an online marketing campaign, you should also create one for listening itself. The web is overflowing with all kinds of news and information. If you lack a strategy, you could easily waste a lot of your valuable time without getting any results at all. A good listening strategy should answer key questions like why you want to listen (i.e. your listening goals) in the first place, when you should listen, who you should listen to and where you should exactly listen.

It’s not enough to just know why you want to listen and get started with the process hurriedly. You should know when you should listen so that you don’t miss out on what you’re actually looking for. Online listening doesn’t only apply when there’s a crisis or when an event is about to happen. It should be an ongoing process for you. At the same time, it’s crucial to know who you should listen to. Many online marketers think that listening to customers is all that they need to do. How can you forget your key competitors? Not just your competitors, you should also actively listen to those conversations that are important and relevant to your industry or business.

But where should you go when you want to listen? Let me tell you that listening is not restricted to social media alone, as many would think. Though listening via major social media platforms (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Google+) should be at the center of your strategy, you shouldn’t ignore other online channels like mainstream media, consumer review websites, web forums, emails and blog comments. What’s more, you could also send emails to your subscribers and directly ask for their opinions, feedbacks and suggestions.

Depending on the kind of goals that you want to achieve, you’ll need to use several listening tools as well. Using the right tools will not only make listening easy and fun but it will also provide you with useful analytical insights to recognize trends and understand sentiments.

Takeaway

So, if you want to create content that feeds an audience’s hunger for information quickly, you must remember to work out and include an effective listening strategy as part of your overall online marketing plan. For this, you should dedicate 1-2 hours every day solely for the purpose of listening. You should be able to track customers’ views, identify the key patterns, learn from them, discover areas of opportunity and then create a list of actions to develop or further improve your web content or online products.

Feel free to share what you think in comments.

{ 1 comment… add one }

  • Jude Banks April 7, 2014, 12:56 pm

    Jane, I enjoyed reading your article. This is so true. We are so busy listening to the voices inside our own head that we often don’t listen. I am certainly guilty of this. After reading your post, I am motivated to pay more attention and really listen to what people want and need and focus on providing that, instead of choosing content and information that I just feel like writing about. Makes a lot of sense!

    ~Jude

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