Introduction to Who is Your Audience
“The aim of marketing is to know and understand the customer so well the product or service fits him and sells itself.”
~ Peter F. Drucker
When it comes to social media, there are two very important reasons for knowing as much about your audience as possible:
- It helps you determine which social media platforms to focus on. You’ve probably heard about the ol’ 80/20 rule. That rule says that 20% of your activities generate 80% of the results. So we’re going to figure out which social media platforms are likely to provide 80% of your results, and then focus on those platforms.
- You can connect with your audience better when you know something about them. In other words, you’ll be better able to post content on your social media platforms that really appeals to your audience.
Two good benefits, right?
For the purposes of this particular discussion, we’re going to focus on that first benefit: finding out who your audience is, so that you can then figure out the best social media platform(s) to use.
So how do you figure out who youraudience is?
If you’re thinking you’ll just take a look at your crystal ball or look at some tea leaves, I’m gonna nix that idea right now. We’re going to be a bit more methodical about this. This is a two part process:
Step 1: Do some market research.
Step 2: Profile your market based on this research.
Let’s look at these two steps in more detail…
Step 1: Research Your Market
With any luck, you’ve already done some of this research as part of starting up your business. If not, now is as good of a time as any. Here are some of the steps to take…
Survey your market
The first thing you can do to learn more about your target market is to simply survey them. This gives you a chance to find out about the market demographics, such as:
- Income level
- Education level
- Where they live
- Marital status
And so on.
You can also learn a lot about what sorts of problems your market has, and what types of solutions they’ve been using to try to solve these problems.
Why is this second part useful? Because if you know what your market wants and needs, then it’s easier for you to create content and apps that will appeal to them on social media.
Here are a few tips for surveying your market:
Get a Random Sample
If you sample people who all congregate in one place, then you’re not going to get a truly random sample.
For example, if you survey dog lovers who attend dog expos, then you’ll have a good survey of dog lovers who attend expos. But this sample is not necessarily representative of ALL dog lovers.
In fact, you may find that expo-attending dog lovers are very much different from those who don’t attend expos. So your survey results would be skewed.
Instead, what you need to do is gather surveys from as many sources as possible.
- Send surveys to your own prospects and customers.
- Get a phone list of people in your market and call them to survey them.
- Distribute an online survey on niche-relevant forums, social media groups, and other communities.
- Get your joint venture partners to help you distribute your surveys.
- Send surveys in the mail to a targeted list.
- Take out advertisements to promote your survey.
TIP: Be sure to make a notation as to where each survey was collected, because there may be differences in these various collection methods and groups.
Beware of “bribes”
A lot of marketers who distribute surveys reward people who take the survey, such as by giving them a niche-relevant app, book or other incentive.
However, be careful about bribing your prospective respondents in this way. That’s because people who take surveys to get rewards may be fundamentally different from the rest of your audience.
Indeed, even the reward itself can skew the results. For example, if you offer a book on a particular topic, then you’re going to attract a segment of your target market that’s particularly interested in that topic. This segment may not fairly represent your overall audience, so you’ll end up with skewed results.
Ask open-ended questions
Sure, for a lot of the demographic questions you might offer multiple-choice options. However, when you get to the questions about problems and solutions, it’s a good idea to ask open-ended questions. This gives respondents and opportunity to provide answers that you may not have thought of.
However, heads up…
Avoid leading questions
One of the big factors that can really skew survey results is if you ask leading questions. As the name implies, these are questions that naturally “lead” people to answer them in a certain way.
For example, let’s suppose you’re catering to a weight loss market. And let’s suppose you ask a question that refers to “unattractive fat.” E.G., “Why do you want to lose that unattractive excess fat?”
Well, here’s the thing…
The person responding to the survey may not see fat as being unattractive. Perhaps this person is losing weight for health purposes, NOT vanity purposes. So now you may have just lost a chance to find out that your market is losing weight for health not vanity, because a leading question skewed the results. That would have been an important thing to know about your market!
So the point, be sure you’re not injecting your opinions and values into your survey questions. It’s a good idea to have at least one or two other trusted people go through your survey questions to be sure you’re not asking leading questions.
And now for the next market research step…
Research the demographics
In many cases, there are other companies, university-funded researchers, and other organizations that have already collected a large amount of data on your market, and they’re sharing it freely online. All you have to do is go to Google or Bing, and search for your niche along a search term such as “demographics.”
- dog owner demographics
- dog owner data
- dog owner survey results
But heads up…
The key to good data is to be sure you can trust the organization that has collected and distributed the data.
For example, “Billy Bob’s Survey Results and Bull Stud Rentals” probably isn’t your most trusted source of data.
Instead, turn to organization such as:
- Universities (.edu sites). Just be sure that any data you’re uncovering is being presented by the university, a professor or other official source. In other words, be sure you’re looking at scientifically collected data, and not a (fake) sample survey that a statistics professor put up to teach data collection and results.
- Peer-reviewed papers and journals. You can find many of these journals by search Google Scholar (https://scholar.google.com).
- Government organizations. For example, if your target mark has some sort of health issue, then the Center for Disease Control (CDC) may be able to provide you with demographics data on your audience.
- Market research firms. Some reputable companies are in the business of collecting and providing a large number of data for business owners like you in different niches. Just be sure to do your due diligence on the firm so that you’re confident you’re dealing with a reputable agency.
- News sites. Again, stick with reputable sources such as the BBC or PBS.
Your keyword search in Google or Bing may uncover other reputable sources. As always do your due diligence to ensure they are indeed reputable. And no matter where you get your data, check to find out how that data was collected. This will help you uncover potential bias or skewed results.
Check with alexa
Many people use Alexa.com to get a sense of how much traffic a site gets relative to other sites in the niche (at least in relation to those who’ve installed the Alexa toolbar, which may be a skewed sample). However, Alexa also provides some rudimentary demographic information on web visitors, such as their browsing location, education and gender.
TIP: If you use this method, search multiple sites in your niche to ensure that the demographic information is pretty uniform across closely related sites.
While you shouldn’t use Alexa in isolation to determine anything about your market, you can use it to confirm the results you’ve gathered from other sources.
Use a quick and dirty method
Facebook has an incredibly targeted ad platform, which lets you narrow or broaden your audience on a large set of demographics and even behaviors. Thus you can use this ad platform to get a quick and dirty idea of about the demographics of your market.
TIP: Just pretend like you’re going to place an ad on Facebook. You don’t need to go all the way through to the payment steps. Just go into the ad manager far enough to play with the audience demographics.
For example, let’s say you’re JK Rowling, and you want to know who is reading your Harry Potter books. What you do is go into the Facebook ad manager, and select people who’ve shown an interest in Harry Potter. Facebook will show you the size of this audience. Then you can start narrowing by demographics such as age, gender and country.
For example, let’s imagine you start with an audience of one million. Then you narrow it by females only, and you have an audience of 700,000. That tells you that 70% of the people who are interested in your topic are female.
(Or, more specifically, 70% of the people on Facebook who are interested in this topic are female. This is an important distinction, as some platforms are more skewed towards one gender or the other.)
So, this may seem a bit circular in that you’re trying to figure out which platform is best to focus on, and yet you’re using one particular platform to do some of your research. But it’s well worth the effort since there is so much information to be gleaned.
Also, this is why it’s important to NOT use this method in isolation. It’s great if you later find out (in the next article) that your audience is likely to congregate on Facebook. It’s not as useful if there are actually very few members of your target market on Facebook, as the results may be skewed somehow.
So, what we’ve talked about above will give you a good idea as far as the demographics of your audience. For now, we’re focusing on this, because we want to figure out which social media platform your audience is most likely using.
However, you may want to do additional market research beyond demographics to better understand your audience. As mentioned previously, this will help you with your overall social media strategy. When you have a good understanding of what your market wants, then you’ll know what kind of content to share with them.
Here are additional tips for gathering information beyond demographics…
Eavesdrop on your market
While you can certainly do this both online and offline, the easiest way to do it is online. Specifically, follow the communities in your niche (such as forums, blogs and groups) to find out what your market is talking about.
Take note of which topics get a lot of discussion, and which ones seem to come up repeatedly. These hottest topics are good potential content to post about on social media.
Become a part of your market
The idea here is to not merely lurk in the corner, but actually get out and do what your market is doing so that you can truly understand their joys and pains.
For example, if you’re catering to golfers, then take up golfing for a few weeks. Go to the country club. Hang out with other avid golfers.
If you’re serving people who want to lose weight, then get on a diet yourself. Attend weight-loss meetings. Go to the gym. Discover for yourself the problems, the solutions, the pains, and the joy of losing weight.
In other words, there’s no better way to truly understand what your market goes through than to experience it for yourself.
Read product reviews
Finally, one good way to get some insight into how your prospects and customers think is by reading product reviews on sites such as Amazon. You’ll find out what your market really wants, what’s lacking in current solutions, and you’ll even get some insight into your market’s pains and joys.
So, at this point, you’ll have a whole semi-truck load of data. Now we can move to the second step of this process…
Step 2: Profile Your Market
This step is simply about writing down everything you know about your target market.
What you want to do is picture your ideal prospect. This is who you want as your customer, and who you want in your growing audience.
Hint: “Everyone” is not the correct answer. If you try to appeal to everyone, you’ll end up appealing to no one at all.
So use the data you’ve collected to create a snapshot of your ideal customer. Then write down everything you know about this person, including:
- (E.G., What percent male and what percent female?)
- Highest education level obtained (still attending school?).
- Career information (or retired).
- Where they live (what country, what part of that country, etc.).
- Housing situation (own, rent, other).
- Marital status (married, single, divorced, widowed, etc.).
- Children (how many, and approximately how old?).
- Political views.
- Religious views.
- Hobbies (what they do in their free time).
- Percentage of income spent on hobbies.
- Where they go on vacation.
- They’re problems.
- What sorts of solutions they’re tried.
- They’re desires.
- How they access the internet.
- How or if they use mobile (smart) phones (Apple? Android? etc.).
- Other technology they use.
- What sort of social media they use and how often.
Once you have all of this information in hand, then you can move onto the next major step, which is to compare your demographic data to the demographics of major social media platforms. This will let you know where to put your focus.