How to Identify and Join Online Conversations

What exactly are the “online conversations” you should be tapping into, and how do you find them? Read on for specifics.

How to Identify and Join Online Conversations image HiRes 300x3001How to Identify and Join Online ConversationsGood news: the “online conversations” you should be participating in on behalf of your brand might sound nebulous, but they’re real, and you can find and leverage them if you know where to look.

In a nutshell, the conversation includes what people read, share, and talk about online. Your ability to take advantage of it depends on your ability to 1) identify the conversations that are 2) relevant to your audience, and then 3) customize content relevant to it, 4) quickly. Why the time element? Because relevance is, in large part, a function how timely the content you make is vis-a-vis the content your audience is interested in at a given time. Once your audience’s interest is exhausted, you’re no longer in the conversation that matters.

Here are four types of conversations you can tap into now.

  1. News. One of the best ways to stay in the conversation is to keep current with what’s breaking right now. Not only will this shore up your reputation as a quick-acting brand, the news is also a great way to discover new takes on your brand message, and show how your product or service either solves a new problem or helps people take advantage of new trends. Just be sure to tread lightly around tragic events, which are minefields that can blow up a brand’s reputation when mishandled (if you must say anything, consider simply forwarding information about how people can help). To participate in the news conversation, be prepared to act fast. Remember: you have to consume relevant content yourself, then generating original content that’s in conversation with it.
  2. Memes. Sometimes they’re pegged to a news event, sometimes a pop cultural reference. In addition to demonstrating your general cultural currency, appropriating memes is a great way to generate repeat content quickly (for as long as the meme resonates) and to use the reference as shorthand for your own brand positioning. The watchword for taking advantage of memes: sharp execution.
  3. Topics. A bit more evergreen than news, understanding what general topics your audience frequently engages with gives you the leeway to produce content your audience cares about without relying on the news cycle – which can change on a dime – to plan it. This is the difference between writing about your brand’s general take on “big data” (topic) versus writing about how Silicon Valley big data innovations have played into government surveillance (news, made relevant by the recent NSA leak).
  4. Domains. If you see that your audience frequents certain websites with regularity, you can participate in the conversation with its stalwart fans by tweeting at its Twitter handle, contributing guest content, or doing a branded content deal. We previously discussed how to pick publishing partners in more detail.

The key to being effective in the brand conversation is to understand what the people who are engaging with your content engage with elsewhere: the stories they read, the topics they care about, the domains they frequent, and the keywords that pop. Get a handle on this, and you’ll get great clarity on how to insert yourself into a conversation with your audience.

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