Executive's Corner, Owned Media
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Technology has given us a lot of great tools to help us confirm what kind of content we should be creating. There’s predictive analytics, analyzing past content and countless other ways to decide.

However, one of the best ways to find out what your audience wants to read is to ask them straight out.

The wants and needs of your audience are a very important part of choosing content to create. While it would be great if you could have them fill in your editorial calendar for you, that’s way too much to ask for.

The more work you’re asking of your readers, the less likely they are to do it.

You want to find quick, low maintenance ways for readers to give you feedback on your content. That means reducing friction as much as possible and using 15-minute email surveys sparingly.

Here are a few things you can start with:

Social Media Polls

Any time your audience can share feedback in just one or two clicks, it is a great start for a high response rate. The response will be even better when you’re going out and meeting your readers on their favorite social channels, instead of waiting for them to come to you.

So social media polls are kind of golden nuggets. Twitter polls, surveys in Facebook groups and simply asking questions on social media lets your readers weigh in on what you create.

You could be as straightforward as asking “which of these topics would you like us to write about next?” You could also take a more subtle approach by asking questions about your readers’ lives and jobs and use that to determine what content they might want.

Email List Welcome Email

Most brands pretty much ignore their email list confirmation and welcome emails. They are missing out on great opportunities to build the relationship with a new subscriber. Right at the beginning is when your subscribers will be most engaged with your emails. You want to milk that as much as you can and engage them in conversation.

Use your welcome email to get to know your subscribers better and ask them about their problems. You can add a “P.S.” to your existing welcome email to hit ‘reply’ and open up to you, use a dedicated welcome email or add a new email to your existing nurturing campaign.

The key here is to be subtle. If you come right out with a vague, open-ended question like “What would you like to read about?” the recipient may not want to answer. That’s a lot to think about.

But if you say, “What are you currently struggling with most right now?” that’s getting insight into what they’re doing, thinking about and having trouble with. Those are the topics your content should help them with.

Host Discussions

Finally, hosting full, in-depth discussions will give you a ton of insight to use for determining content topics. Some of it could even be turned into user-generated content when you get to the creation stages!

Simply start a discussion in a Facebook or LinkedIn group, Twitter chat, Blab, Periscope or literally any other interactive platform where your readers hang out.

Once you start a conversation about a general topic, sit back and observe where your audience takes it. The specifics that they decide to focus on will tell you what’s top-of-mind for them.

While this is more time-consuming for your readers and you’ll likely have less people respond, the depth of the insights you’ll get when you can have a real-time conversation will be worth it.

Take Away: Constantly Solicit Feedback

If you’re still holding on tight to those quarterly email surveys to your readers, don’t worry. I’m not asking you to say goodbye, but your content strategy should be constantly evolving, and you need feedback in order to do that.

Supplementing your traditional market research with immediate audience insights and opinions can help you understand your readers so much better.

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