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How to Turn Social Media Data Into Engaging Local Content

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How to Turn Social Media Data Into Engaging Local Content

How does one create locally-focused content that’s shareable, searchable, attracts links, PR, AND relates back to your business?

To quote Jimmy Dugan, if it were easy, everyone would do it. But when my wife and I formed our locally focused (in Upstate NY and the Hudson Valley) marketing agency, Kingston Creative, in 2015, we realized that we needed to create incredibly effective and engaging content in order to attract the kinds of clients that we really wanted.

Our content has had varying levels of success and scalability. But the most repeatable concept was a series of “The Most-Instagrammed Places in [Local Location]” blog posts, which to date have earned us around 4,500 organic social media shares, 15,000 page views, and a bunch of links from places like municipal websites, local businesses, and news media. They have helped us position ourselves as leaders in our market for playing in the intersection of data, creativity, and social media.

How to Turn Social Media Data Into Engaging Local Content | SEJ

I’ll show you how we did it.

Establishing Content Goals

We wanted to:

  • Get into local people’s news feeds organically
  • Show (not tell) that we “get” social media
  • Gain valuable touch points with local businesses, organizations, officials
  • Earn local, high-authority links to raise the overall SEO “equity” of our site

As a small, growing company, we also didn’t have lots of extra bandwidth or resources to invest in this content. We couldn’t afford to waste time on something that wouldn’t work.

To lower our risk, we drew on some core concepts from our favorite marketing experts. Gary Vaynerchuk says to create leverage by providing value to your audience, above all else. Rand Fishkin talks a lot about creating “10x Content,” which is ten times better than the baseline of existing content. And Tyler Hakes talks about presenting publicly-available data in interesting ways.

The data, we decided, would have to be something that’s flattering to local organizations and relatable to our social media-heavy audience. After scouring the Internet for something that hadn’t been covered in our area before, we realized that geotagged Instagram posts are valuable. People like making them and businesses like when people take pictures at their location. They’re also kind of a black box; there’s no easy way to tell which places are the most geotagged.

Checking out Ahref‘s invaluable Content Explorer tool helped affirm that content about “The Most Instagrammed Places” is highly shareable and not yet tapped out; they’ve been done mostly on a national or state level, but not by region. It’s intersectional—the lists aren’t just comprised of artisanal/hipster shops but also sports stadiums, bars, and natural attractions.

The next step was uncovering the data. A big social listening and insights company could probably spit out the answer in a matter of hours, but they were way beyond our budget. After a lot of searching, I stumbled upon NEXT Analytics’ $40/month Excel plug-in. You have to be ready to roll up your sleeves and dig into Excel spreadsheets, but it is a really powerful service.

The tool allowed me to set radii around different coordinates, and then pull down all of the Instagram posts geotagged within them. Since our agency is locally-focused, I tried to get everything within a 30-mile radius of our office in Kingston, NY. The tool is a little touch-and-go with rural areas, but I was able to cover most of our region, 5 km at a time.

How to Turn Social Media Data Into Engaging Local Content | SEJ

Once I pulled all of the data, I had to set up some rules for my blog post. To provide the most value to the reader, I wanted to make sure that businesses that simply post from their location every day didn’t automatically win. I also had to make sure that locations with messy, duplicate, or inaccurate Instagram geotags were correctly attributed. And, finally, I set the time frame: the posts had to be within the last 12 months.

All in all, I had about 200,000 Instagram posts across dozens of spreadsheets. We settled on the top 51 locations, perfect for a mega-listicle (here’s the final result). We also made smaller articles about different key areas that are in our market.

Listicle Structure

We wanted a repeatable structure that would make going from spreadsheet to WordPress simple. We went with this:

  • Name (link to the location website)
  • User-Generated Photo (Selected by us)
  • Photo Credit
  • Paragraph About Location
  • # of Photos Geo-tagged

Here’s what that looks like:

How to Turn Social Media Data Into Engaging Local Content | SEJ

While I wrote the content (with some help from our intern), my wife/creative director Gabrielle had the task of finding the best representative, visually-appealing Instagram photos for each location in the blog post. For each photo, we left a comment explaining what we were working on and asking for permission to use their photo if we credit/link to them. ALWAYS DO THIS. The response was universally positive, and many of these people ended up sharing the article because they were excited to be a part of it.

Gabrielle also created what we call a “share image”, and made sure that our Facebook author tag was set up properly. We used the Shortpixel WordPress plugin to losslessly compress the images en masse. A few months later, she also converted the post into a Facebook Instant Article to make it really easy for mobile users to read it.

We hit publish, and then the second half of the work began: outreach. Our outreach took a few forms. We made sure to immediately notify a marketing or management contact representing each of the 51 locations with a link and a short press release. We also sent a press release to all media within the geographic area.

Most of the listed businesses and organizations who have their own large social media followings shared the post within a day or two; six months later, we’re up to over 3,000 shares without a single dollar spent on boosting it. Unfortunately, we didn’t get too many inclusions in “press” sections of websites, but there’s still time for that.

We’re also still conducting link outreach to places like municipal websites, B&Bs, community organizations, and anyone with a platform for writing about the many towns covered in our post.

Long-term, we’re planning on updating the article with new data after it’s been up for a year and starting the cycle anew.

Measuring Success

Let’s circle back to our goals. Did we:

Get into local people’s news feeds organically?

Yes. So much yes. The posts were interacted with more than 4,500 times and were read more than 15,000 times.

Show (don’t tell) that we “get” social media?

Yes. These Instagram posts have been really great examples to pull up when in meetings with new potential clients who don’t fully understand the power of content marketing. Either they remember seeing the post itself, or they’re impressed by the large number of shares on it.

Gain valuable touch points with local businesses, organizations, officials?

We received several high-quality leads from local marketing decision-makers who learned of our agency through the post.

Earn local, high-authority links to raise the overall SEO “equity” of our site?

The social and link juice we received from the posts have helped us climb the mountain in competitive local SERPs. When we roll out a big update to the posts, we plan on doing much more targeted outreach to gain links.

What kinds of content have you used to make a local splash with your agency? Let us know in the comments.

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Image Credits

Featured Image: Mihtiander(Modified by Kingston Creative)/
In-post Images: Screenshots by Alex Panagiotopoulos. Taken December 2016.


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Alex Panagiotopoulos

Co-Founder at Kingston Creative

Alex co-founded Kingston Creative in 2015, a marketing agency that harnesses creativity, commerce and community in Kingston, NY.

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