Much has been made of the social media revolution. It has been a boon for digital marketers that are charged with identifying influencers, promoting content and pre-empting PR disasters.

Beyond that, social media has provided digital marketers with a newer type of insight to work with; one that extends beyond the intelligence provided by sporadic customer surveys and inferences made from a buyer’s purchase history.

Social media has promised digital marketers an unparalleled window into the lives of prospects and buyers - supposedly revealing their unique needs and interests and all the motivators that influence a purchasing decision.

The problem with social media

However, social media monitoring is not without its downsides. The Telegraph revealed that 1 in 4 women lie about their lives on social media to ensure they don't appear "boring", with 1 in 3 admitting to “dishonesty” whilst using Facebook and Twitter. It’s not just the ladies - men are at it, too. The same study found that men are more likely to lie on Twitter than Facebook, and are also twice as likely as women to want to impress their workplace colleagues (22 per cent compared to 8 per cent).

The 2010 documentary hit Catfish charted the exploits of a young American who strikes up a Facebook relationship with a woman named "Megan" that later turns out to be a lonely, mature housebound woman called Angela who had manufactured multiple online identities to lure him. Deception in the social web doesn't have to be as extreme as this but the general point still stands: our social media identities are a carefully contrived image that we want to portray of ourselves, not the real 'us'.

This, of course, has dramatic implications for businesses that rely on social monitoring solutions for accurate audience analysis and insight. So, where then can brands go for a more truthful and more useful reflection of the customer?

From social monitoring to ‘content listening’

The author Walter Mosley once said, “A man’s bookcase will tell you everything you’ll ever need to know about him”, and it with this in mind that organisations are starting to see the value of understanding what content prospects and customers are reading and engaging with online.

By tracking buyer interactions as they browse and engage with content, organisations can begin to learn their current and evolving interests, inclinations and needs — sometimes before the individual prospect knows themselves!

Think about your daily browsing habits: the content you choose to read is highly indicative of your current interests and needs. You’re reading this article now because you’re at least ostensibly interested in “digital marketing” and “content”, and any new innovation in this area. How much more could be learnt about your tastes and interests if we continued to follow your reading arc? Very soon we could learn the content topics on Digital Marketing Magazine that interest you the most (say, “First party data” and “data compliance”) and those which you have no interest in at all. This is invaluable insight for companies.

Content listening requires Content Intelligence

As we explored in our previous article, Content Intelligence is the technological process of using your buyers’ content consumption for insight and acting on that content insight intelligently (be it through personalised content recommendations or exploiting the intelligence in Sales calls).

This is particularly pertinent for B2B organisations that are increasingly finding themselves using content (whitepapers, blog posts, newsletters, PDFs, etc) to nurture prospects over prolonged sales cycles. Indeed, 70% of B2B marketers are creating more content than they did one year ago according to Content Marketing Institute’s 2015 B2B Benchmarking Report. Prospect self-education is taking more and more of the B2B (and high value B2C) purchase journey: according to the most recent research from CEB, B2B buyers get 57 percent of the way through the buying decision before they’re even willing to talk to a sales rep. For companies that are using content marketing to attract, engage and convert prospects, Content Intelligence puts them in an advantageous position where they can collect information about each prospect every time the prospect consumes a piece of information about the company.

Listen through content

The content choices your buyers make are highly indicative of their current interest and needs. Your audience may self-censor or curate their image on social networks, but they can’t hide the intent signals revealed by the content they are reading.

Whilst you may not be so vocal on LinkedIn about having lost your job, the content you’ve read most recently (“Ten ways to prepare for a job interview”) is highly indicative of your current context, what is concerning you right now and – most importantly for salespeople – whether you are in a position to make a purchase in the near future.

Social media monitoring still has its place - but the next leap for forward-thinking digital marketers is listening through content.


By Jonny Rose, Head of Content at idio.

Do you think content intelligence is the way forward? Let us know your thoughts below! 

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