Rethinking Social Media Marketing: How to Use a Behavior Based Approach For Content on Social Media

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Mimi An
Mimi An



Companies today are grappling with how to best market to consumers on various social networks. How can they better identify the types of content that will perform the best on each network? To answer that question (and better inform HubSpot’s own social strategy), HubSpot Research and the University of Virginia teamed up to survey consumers and analyze existing branded content to produce a framework that helps brands identify the types of content that performs best on a given social network. This post is an overview of a longer report published by HubSpot Research.


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Understanding Behavior and Content Options

We first needed to understand the primary behaviors people take on each social network – after all, people use Twitter very differently from a network like Instagram or YouTube. Through consumer surveys, we identified five key behaviors: bridging, bonding, communicating, discovering, and taking action. Based on our data, we tied the most prevalent behaviors found on each of the six social network we studied (see figure 1).

Figure 1. Prevalent Behaviors on Social Networks

Prevalent Behaviors on Social Networks

We understood behavior; now we needed to categorize the themes of content that we typically find on social media. Our research identified eight distinct categories of content commonly made by brands (see figure 2). These content categories build on HubSpot’s existing social content framework in which content broadly reflects consumers’ identity (Identity content), provides information to consumers (Info/Utility content), and elicits an emotional response from consumers (Emotional content). A given piece of content may have characteristics of multiple categories, but may be more associated with one of the eight categories than others. 

Figure 2. Content Categories 

content categories

Using the content category framework, the team at UVA tested various branded content on consumers to understand what type of content performed best for the five core behaviors exhibited on social networks. Our resulting guide below can help companies best orient the content they create for social networks, to better reflect the reasons why people are on the network in the first place.

Figure 3: Behaviors and the Content that Performs Best

Behaviors and the Content that Performs Best

Our survey findings show that people not only generally prefer different types of content as a function of their reasons for using a platform, but their behavioral response to brand content is driven by these various motivations. Integrating the survey results with the actual performance of campaigns in market, we are able to assess the relative effectiveness of content categories for each channel and suggest the optimal content for driving intended behaviors. Consistent results across the HubSpot survey and the HubSpot campaign data, as well as survey results for the content from various other organizations and product categories, allow us to broadly identify patterns of content category effectiveness for companies across channels. For complete details on the best and worst performing content types on each network, check out figure 4 below.

Figure 4. Content Performance by Channel

Content Performance by Channel

Want to see the entire study? Click here to read more

social media content calendar


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