Social Media Ear Trumpet

Listening to your community to design relevant content.

This article by Jessica Havlak, Associate Digital Strategist at ICF International, illustrates how brands can and should listen to their audiences for content generation inspiration. It originally appeared on

It’s not so hard to think up fun ideas that we think might engage our audience… but who knows better than they what will be appealing? I’ve found that the best way to create engaging, relevant content is just to pay attention. Listen to what your community is talking about, and design content accordingly.

The Smokefree Women Facebook community is quite talkative, and a number of successful ideas have arisen just by paying attention. A few examples:

  • Sometimes people post photos on our wall of their smokefree selves, or of their reasons to quit. What a great idea! So we solicit others to post photos, and then turn them into a photo album (or two) that get incredible engagement, and inspire others.
    • Lesson: take what people are already doing, and amplify it. Encourage others to do the same.
  • In 2013 when e-cigs started to become popular, we had a lot of questions about people wondering what they were. We heard them, and so we created a page on our website to provide more information. Another content gap was filled when we kept hearing that people weren’t sure how to quit when the people around them weren’t supportive. Thus, this article was born.
    • Lesson: listen to what people want. Give it to them.
  • One of the more common pieces of user generated content that we get from our community is tips to get through cravings. Once, I staged a photo of one of the more common yet slightly unusual tips. It performed very well. Another person submitted a picture of one of their crave tips. It also performed well. So we got together a list of a bunch of crave tips and held an informal photo shoot. Stay tuned for the results… they should be awesome.
    • Lesson: take what is given to you, and build on it to make it better.
  • Support is important when you quit smoking. Some people don’t get it from their natural social network. Smokefree Women does a good job of providing some support, but some people need to be able to reach out whenever. Enter, the quit buddy status post. People asked for quit buddies, but we can’t provide them. However, we can facilitate them connecting with each other! Unfortunately, we can’t get metrics on this, but we do get a lot of comments. We repost whenever someone reaches out again for a buddy.
    • Lesson: use your moderator status as a force for good, even if you can’t measure the results.
  • Several years ago, someone commented on Smokefree Women with a link the their quit kit board on Pinterest. I thought it was cool. Lots of other smoking cessation programs offer tangible quit kits to participants. I wanted to be able to provide that, but it wasn’t in the cards. The result? We made a quit kit challenge on Pinterest to help people identify their own personalized quit kits. Even better!
    • Lesson: take good ideas. Make them better your own. Work within your limitations to create something unique.

If you’re looking for more information on how to get creative with your brand’s social media strategies, contact us.