One of the keys to unlocking the virtuous cycle that exists between search marketing and social discovery is publishing content that is worthy of a Facebook like, a tweet, or a LinkedIn share.

As advertisers are encouraged to think and act more like publishers, writer’s block is an increasingly common and pernicious problem.

Creating an ad for a captive audience like the people who tune into the local nightly news broadcast is one thing: Do some market research, create the spot, and then let her rip. But since the dawn of digital media, the iron-fisted control of the broadcast television and radio networks over the audience has weakened to the vanishing point.

In order for an advertiser to capture the attention of a target audience today, the advertiser’s content must stand on its own. The audience will vote with its fingers and click or tap away from the content if it’s not interesting, useful, or even amazing. In light of this fact, effective advertising has to live up to this promise.

Savvy brand marketers and their agencies are well aware that the bar has been raised. Unfortunately, useful data and analytic/automation tools to guide the creative process from strategy and key messages to content type(s) and format(s) are as rare as a unicorn.

Sure, social listening tools can be useful sources of insights into keywords and phrases people are using to discuss topics directly relevant to your category and brand. Similarly, keyword research can be a great tool for identifying topics of interest to a target audience within the same category.

However, these approaches do little to expand our understanding of what members of our target audience are actually searching for or interested in. They ignore the reality that oftentimes the same people talking about search marketing on Twitter are also talking about the upcoming season premiere of Showtime’s “Homeland” on Facebook. And chances are most of them are more passionate about and engaged in the conversation about their favorite TV shows than they are in a new paid search report available through Google AdWords.

Discovering the less obvious or intuitive interests of your target audience is a phenomenal opportunity to unlock insights into topics and content that can capture their attention and drive engagement in surprising ways.

For example, my company works with a hardware technology provider that was running a campaign this spring to market a new device to college and graduate students.

By tracking the sharing of their content and connecting first-party audience data collected on their digital assets to third-party audience data from a variety of data providers, we quickly learned that when these students weren’t visiting technology sites and participating in discussions about technology, they were looking for travel tickets and deals to relatively inexpensive destinations in Mexico and the Caribbean.

Varied InterestsOf course they were. These students were seeking low cost destinations for spring break. This was certainly an “aha” moment.

What was a reasonable conclusion from this data and the resulting recommendation to grab the attention of this tech marketer’s target audience? In this case, the answer was to create content that combined interests in useful and entertaining ways, such as articles detailing how to use our customer’s devices to find last minute travel deals and promotions where students could earn entries to win free air travel each time they referred friends to learn more about the benefits of this particular technology product.

By creating this “smarter content,” coupled with engaging experiences that connect with a range of interests in which members of the target audience are passionate, the odds of them generating a lot of likes, tweets, shares, and backlinks go way up as well.

So the next time you’re wondering about new and different kinds of content to create in order to reach and engage your target audience, consider using data about the interests of your audience to guide your strategy.

The customer loyalty and thanks you receive from your audience will come in the form of stronger social signals and increasing ranking in natural search results.

Article originally posted on Search Engine Watch