keyword research

How to Research Keywords for Social Media Marketing

In Social Media Strategy by Ann SmartyLeave a Comment

Creating an effective social media marketing strategy is much more than scheduling social media updates and monitoring your engagement. You also need to meet your audience needs, answer their questions and offer them what they want to know. You need to do keyword research to get to know your audience.

In other words, social media marketing should be well integrated into your overall digital marketing approach. Your social media strategy should rely on your fundamental marketing knowledge base you’ve accumulated over time:

  • Knowing your audience (and possibly using persona research) will inform your social media team of what they need to post to increase your brand discoverability and better serve your customers
  • Knowing your key niche topics will help your social media team to angle their updates so that they achieve the maximum possible exposure (which means better engagement, wider reach and more leads).

This is where traditional keyword research comes in handy, as it’ll inform your social media team of what to publish, and how to phrase their updates to maximize reach.

So how do you research keywords for social media?

Keyword research is fairly straightforward, even in the social sphere. You just have to know which tools to use.

Traditional Keyword Research Tools

Google Analytics
A nice thing about Google Analytics is that you can create custom reports and email a special one to your social media team to let them monitor the success of their campaigns and get further insight into what’s worked well in the past.

Serpstat is a multi-purpose marketing platform that offers powerful keyword research features. The reason I find myself using it more and more often is its ability to group long and overwhelming reports by relevancy.

This offers a much more useful and clutter-free way of looking at keywords, which comes in handy for content creators and social media managers.

Social Media Keyword Research Tools

There are a few solid social media analytics tools that should be used by the whole marketing team, including, of course, social media managers.

Here are the two that I use:

Not only is BuzzSumo an awesome way to monitor keywords, examine competitor strategies and even find ideas for content. It’s also perfect for checking the ‘social capital’ of keywords based on click-through and social shares.

You might be surprised to find that a phrase you dismissed because of poor search performance is actually doing super well on social media platforms. Remember that it’s important to differentiate success based on multiple factors, not just something as simple as volume or CPC. You can get a ton of insights from Buzzsumo.

Buzzsumo also offers a powerful question analyzer option, which enables social media managers and content creators to find popular niche questions they can cover.

Keyhole is another one that a lot of people don’t think about for social keyword research, since it’s primarily a search tool. But it’s data options tools apply really well to Twitter and Instagram – if you’re concerned with hashtag and mention results, this is definitely one to check out.

The downside is the price. You need a decent budget if you’re going to be using Keyhole. If you’re really serious, try it out – otherwise you may want to stick with some of the tools above.

Monitoring Tools

For those that don’t know, Cyfe is an affordable ($19 per month for premium, cheaper for annual billing) dashboard which enables you to create customized widgets for an all-in-one business platform. It’s surprisingly easy to use and customize, and it provides social monitoring capacity, which is pretty much the other half of the keyword research equation.

If you aren’t keeping track of the keywords you’re targeting, how do you know if you’re getting real results?

Cyfe integrates with Google Analytics, as well as with Twitter search, enabling you to effectively monitor and discover more keywords.

Native Social Media Tools

Native Search
You aren’t going to like me for this one, but the truth is that one of the best ways to do keyword research on social media is the old-fashioned way – by running a basic search on each platform.

All the major networks have their own unique search engines which filter posts. By using each one, you can get an idea of which keywords are popular, and which are oversaturated or underexploited, based on network-specific activity.

What’s going gangbusters on Twitter may not be so prominent on Instagram, what’s making waves on Facebook probably hasn’t hit it big on Pinterest, and so on.

The good news is that you’re (presumably) industry-specific. If you run an app for monitoring competitor marketing campaigns, for instance, you probably won’t be trying to corner a keyword related to baking cakes. Given this, you already have a basic starting point to go from.

Yes, it can be time-consuming, and tedious, but if you want to be thorough, and see real-time, actionable insights as they apply to your user base, it’s still the best option you have.

Quick tip: Twitter search supports the [?] search operator. It will return results that contain a question. Try putting quotation marks around your query (if you want an exact match) and be sure to add a space between your search term and [?] (see the example below).

Social Media Trends
Another manual sort of tip you can use (though not my favorite with current tech) is to just go for trending terms. There’s a good chance that you’ll be able to find a handful that are making the rounds and then go from there.

Of course, you’ll also want to make sure to check out the history of each term and figure out if it’s worth targeting. Some marketers will find a keyword/phrase that isn’t consistent, but still cycles back around every so often with an interest spike. It can be helpful to work those into your overall strategy because they come with occasional peaks of interest you can take advantage of later.

Some examples of sources here are Google Trends, Twitter’s trending keywords, Pinterest’s trending posts, Facebook’s trending search terms and stories, Reddit’s front page, etc.

These are some of the key ways you can research your social media marketing keywords, and improve your performance. As noted, there are various other approaches, but these tips will help get your started and on your way to boosting your strategy.

The original version of this article was first published on

Ann Smarty