How do you find meaning online when there's so much content out there? Twitter epitomizes the challenge: it's a firehose of information - especially if you follow many people. It's intimidating if you're new, and can be exhausting if you're experienced. It can also being exhilarating when you find meaningful content. So, how do you filter for meaning to get more business?
The interesting aspect about filtering for meaning is that, if you're in business, it's not just a matter of coming up with meaning for yourself. It's also about figuring out how your potential customers come up with meaning - ideally meaning that has something to do with what you offer.
When I get overwhelmed thinking about all the content goodness available out there that I know I'll never ever be able to completely and thoroughly consume, I find solace in trying to think like a customer.
When I do that, I wind up searching through content, using a variety of filters to explore and, eventually, identify patterns or insights which provide meaning about prospective customers and their questions.
It's a lot like listening in real life. You're doing so online thinking carefully about the words people use to find meaning.
As you come across ideas, you're then able to test them further through search and get perspective on what meaning you've filtered out from the content you've discovered.
Which are my content filtering tools?
Which are the best digital tools to use in filtering content for meaning?
First off is Google. In Google For Search & Discovery: TalkFloor Social Media Marketing Series, I explored how to use many of the wonderful tools Google offers. Although some tools are nolonger available [e.g., the WonderWheel], there's still plenty that's valuable for filtering content - including the Google Adwords Tool.
Within the different social networks, you'll find search tools. The least robust is Facebook.
However, Bing Social offers a real time search environment for exploring both Twitter and Facebook that I find friendly. Whether you enter a specific term of a hashtag search term, you'll get results.
You can also explore Twitter's advanced search parameters as well as Facebook's.
LinkedIn's search is particularly valuable for company or people related searches. LinkedIn Today offers insight on what's trending for your professional connections.
While searching for an image to anchor this post, I went to Flickr expecting to find one type of image related to 'filter.' However, I was delightfully surprised to come across visuals demonstrating photo filters. This image will forever remind me to keep an open mind when filtering for meaning.
YouTube searches depend on how robust the video titles and descriptions are and whether they include specific search terms [aka keywords].
Although not a free tool, eCairn is a gem for filtering content for meaning. Read through the eCairn Blog for examples of fascinating insights uncovered about Twinkies, Zombies and everything in between!
What makes for meaningful content when you're filtering for meaning?
As you filter, how do you actually discover that meaningful content?
Fortunately and unfortunately, it's all a matter of how well that content has been indentified or flagged or tagged or whatever term you want to use to identify the topics that the content relates to.
Content online exists as part of a database. The only way to uncover relevant information in a database is if the fields are correctly formatted and the data within kept relevant.
Imagine having a big filing cabinet. You know you placed brilliance in there; how do you find it? Ideally, you will have placed that brilliance in a file folder and written a descriptor on the file folder's tab. You will also have identified which big categories of brilliance each filing cabinet drawer focuses on.
The same happens online.
Filtering content for meaning highlights how important it is to provide clues for those searching: robust descriptions with keywords, completed profiles, reference details - regardless of the social network or digital location.Imagine trying to find relevant photos in Flickr if all of the images were identified with the gobbledygook file name that cameras give digital photos?
[I recenlty tried to locate specific images in iStock without success because the name of the image wasn't in any way associated with the descriptive information on site. Crazy.]
If I make my content difficult to find, imagine how challenging a time my prospects will have finding me and my business. They must be able to come across me when they are filtering content for meaning.
What's the solution to filtering content for meaning to get more business?
The solution is to truly 'walk in customers' shoes.' Imagine the searches prospects conduct based on the challenges they encounter in their business lives. Those searches help them filter through data. If the data has descriptors which provide meaning to those searching, the filtering process will provide valuable results.
Filters help make sense of too much data. They help us avoid the paralysis that often comes from too many options and too much information [aka the paradox of choice]. They enable us to obtain and create meaning for prospective customers as well as ourselves.
Do you agree?
How do you filter content for meaning? Which are your preferred solutions?
Image Credit: Filters on Flickr.