While most of us communication pros are ringing in the new year with hefty planning, how seriously are we taking our research? What time and resources are we committing to understanding overall cultural trends and our industry’s current relevant news? Why is this important and how does it impact the bottom line? For starters, we’ll explore not only why we should be dedicating time and resources to research industry trends but also how to do it completely hassle-free.
The current media landscape lends itself to lucrative opportunities on a global scale. The ability to tap into this knowledge can help inform owned, earned, and paid media of your organization’s PR and marketing efforts. Information is power and knowing what people are searching for, talking about, or actively reading on the internet provides you a leg up on your competition.
In this post, we’ll explore numerous free tools readily accessible at our fingertips across the world-wide-web. All of these can be used to research industry trends and current news:
- Google News
- Wikipedia Top 25 Report
- Trends on Social Media
- Google Trends
Let’s explore what we can learn from these tools and how we can use them to inform our strategy.
1. Google News
When it comes to earned and owned media getting a pulse on what’s trending worldwide provides a competitive advantage. For example, if we are trying to build out our earned media strategy and developing public relations pitches, using trending topics in a relevant way gives you an opportunity to be noticed by reporters. If we are building out a content strategy for owned media, like a company blog, using content that pertains to trending topics is a way to take advantage of the increasing searches on Google.
So why Google News, specifically? Well, first it’s a free media monitoring tool and while other tools may give more analytical data about coverage, they also can eat into a budget. Google remains the largest search query, a near-monopoly, across the globe with more than a 90% share of search traffic. Additionally, this tool provides flexibility in what subjects we want to track providing an array of categories to choose from and allows us to “customize a news feed tailored to our interests.”
2. Wikipedia Top 25 Report
Similar to Google News, the Wikipedia Top 25 Report is usually illustrating trending news topics. While Google News is more malleable and can be filtered by industry, categories, or certain key terms, Wikipedia’s should be seen more as a cultural trend snapshot. The report is updated weekly and mainly illustrates insights into pop culture and what is being researched. Luckily, you don’t need to go digging to find out why a certain term, person, or event is trending, Wikipedia has a nifty “Notes” column discussing why it’s jumped in interest and provides the # of views over the last week.
3. Trends on Social Media
Trending on Twitter
While Twitter isn’t the center of attention when it comes to social media platforms these days, it is the most transparent with its data. Instagram and Facebook use hashtags as well. While specific hashtags can be searched or “followed” within the platform, it’s difficult to capture top trending hashtags without buying into certain third-party tracking software. Even with the aforementioned access, there is limited visibility. Facebook offers top trending news now on their platform which can be leveraged, however, Facebook has slowly turned into a pay to play platform with algorithm changes in the news feed impacting organic social media marketing efforts.
Twitter has a spot within the platform on the left-hand browser that showcases top trending topics and hashtags being discussed on the platform by region. You can filter based on the country, region, or city you’d like to focus on. Additionally, there are free websites that track and post these relevant terms and hashtags on a rolling basis, illustrating what topics have increased or decreased in rankings over time.
So why is this trending news so important? It also gives us a pulse on what components of the news cycles are trending on social media. We can leverage these relevant topics and hashtags for content creation along with social media marketing efforts to broaden our reach and increase awareness around our content.
A great third-party tool that can be used for competitive social media research is CrowdTangle. Not only is it free but it gives you the flexibility and access to public postings on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Reddit. You can add competitor profiles to certain strategic lists and use it for tracking quantitative data such as engagement, number of posts, etc. along with post content data. This provides insights into what constitutes top performing content for our direct industry competitors.
Another great tool within the CrowdTangle platform is “Intelligence.” This allows you to compare account performance overtime in categories such as Interactions, Video Views, Post Counts, Followers etc with direct industry competitors. Once again, providing us insight into where our competitors put their focus – are they posting more than us, do they have more video content, and how does our interaction rate compare?
We can use all of this information for:
- Setting competitive industry benchmarks across metrics for social media efforts.
- Analyzing what content is performing well for competitors and using that to drive our own efforts.
4. Google Trends
Google Trends is the ULTIMATE tool to research industry trends. The amount of information and data that can be garnered from this tool is crucial and the insights that are garnered are insightful and actionable. Essentially, this tool provides data pertaining to a certain search query or topic, generating metrics such as the following:
- The volume of overall searches on a logarithmic scale from 0 – 100
- The volume of searches based on location
- The volume of searches over time
- Top related terms and topics
- Rising related terms and topics
Here is an example of Google Trends results for the query “Public Relations.” This graph illustrates the locations, within the US, that most frequently search for the topic.
For example, if we are trying to build out an owned content strategy where we are driving search traffic to our website, we may look at some rising related terms and topics based on our business’ products or services. Additionally, we can localize our content based on where search queries are the most popular. These are just a number of use cases for this industry and trending data. We’ll uncover more market research capabilities using this tool in our upcoming blog post covering the topic.
As we embark on a new year of earned, owned, and paid media efforts, we should continue to use and research industry trends to help inform our strategy. This allows us to capitalize on relevant topics, seek new angles for pitching, and optimizing content on our social media platforms for engagement. Don’t just perform traditional PR, use data-driven PR!
Senior Marketing Strategist