Back when social media was first taking the business world by storm, many clients came to us with understandable questions: Do we need to be on Facebook? What about Twitter? It was reasonable to approach these new platforms with apprehension or reticence—they were yet another place to spend valuable marketing time and dollars!

That led us to develop a tool we call Conversation Mapping to help brands understand the lay of the land when it came to their industry’s presence on social media. We use it to look at who is talking about what, through which channels, how often, for what reasons and with what impact.

And while most brands have embraced social media to varying degrees, it has not necessarily found widespread adoption across some industries. Additionally, there are a lot more avenues for digital marketing in 2018 than there were back in 2008—which makes the idea of Conversation Mapping as relevant as ever. Let’s look a little more closely at how it can help even brands with an established digital footprint.

At its core, Conversation Mapping provides insights as to how engaged users discuss topics, find each other and share information. In the marketing world, utilizing this technique can help a brand better understand who is talking about them, where this audience is having these conversations and what exactly they are saying. This information is crucial to the creation of ideas about how to join the dialogue and guide it in a direction that will benefit the brand.

The first step in breaking down the conversation is identifying whose exchanges you want to hear. Are you interested in what your current audience is saying, or would you rather “listen” to potential customers? Or even your competitor’s customers? Once you decide that, the demographics of these audiences have to be determined: are they 30-year-old stay-at-home moms? 65-year-old retirees? 21-year-old college students? The key to any effective marketing campaign is having a targeted focus, and you can’t have that without understanding the demographics and interests of your desired audience first.

US adults social media

According to the Pew Research center, Facebook is still the clear winner for social media usage.

Once you’ve got that piece of the puzzle, it’s time to figure out where these people are having their conversations. You would probably not be surprised to know that one of the most common places people are conversing about brands is on social media. A 2018 study by Pew Research revealed that 69% of the public uses some form of social media. But like many other things in life, one social platform does not fit all. A person’s likelihood to be active on a specific site depends heavily on various factors, including age and gender.

Here are some of our favorite nuggets from that study:

  • Four of the most popular social media platforms used by adults (18+) in the United States are Facebook (68%), Instagram (35%), LinkedIn (25%) and Twitter (24%)
  • Even though Instagram is 10% more popular overall, more consumers in the 50-64 age range are present on LinkedIn
  • 11% more people in the 18-29 age range are on Twitter than LinkedIn, despite LinkedIn having more users overall

See the importance of breaking it down? Think, for example, if your brand was an early adopter of Facebook but you haven’t yet looked into Instagram. Familiarizing yourself with these kinds of data points can help you determine whether or not the investment in a new platform is worth the effort or budget. Otherwise, simply showing up to the party with nothing concrete to offer and no audience to talk to is a surefire way to harm your existing social media efforts (and perhaps cast doubt on the tactic in general to your company’s leadership).

Just because Instagram has a high number of users in your target demographic doesn’t mean it’s a good platform to start a conversation if you’re not a visually-inclined brand.

Another key aspect to note when locating your audience is the fact that audiences change over time. For example, at its inception, Facebook’s user base was almost exclusively under the age of 30. Now, it’s fairly spread out and can even skew older. That’s why it’s important to conduct yearly audits to ensure your brand is present on the platform that will most effectively reach your target audience.

Knowing where your audience is and how they are communicating does not just allow you to lend your brand’s perspective and offer “valuable” (which often translates as a combination of educational and entertaining) content—it also provides actionable insights into the types of conversations you should be a part of.

In other words, just because Instagram has a high number of users in your target demographic doesn’t mean it’s a good platform to start a conversation if you’re not a visually-inclined brand. Using this information properly can give your brand the opportunity to build transparent relationships with your audience, chatting in real-time about their concerns and questions. No other marketing tactic allows for such a direct exchange.

Without this baseline information, it’s tempting to make quick judgments, such as dismissing Facebook as a viable space for your brand when you’re not happy with the results. But have you set clear goals for your use of the platform? Have you done the work to make sure your audience is using the platform? Are you speaking to them in an approachable, engaging way?

Conversation mapping creates an opportunity to figure all those details out, as well as dive deeper into the common habits or sentiments of consumers, unlock insights about your industry, confirm the alignment (or lack thereof) between a business and brand strategy and even discover real-time marketing opportunities.

If you’re ready to start auditing into your existing social efforts (or finally embrace the tactic altogether), we’d be more than happy to show you the way.

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