Do You Know Your Social Media Target Audience?

Mark Evans Principal, ME Consulting

Posted on November 26th 2010

When I meet with companies about their interest in social media, one of the key questions is “What’s the target audience, and what kinds of social media services are they consuming?”.

It’s a straightforward question because it is important to know where you should be telling stories, having discussions and focusing your time and effort.

What never ceases to surprise me is how so many companies have no clue about how their customers, potential customers, suppliers, partners, investors or even employees are using social media. No formal or informal surveys had been done to determine whether the target audience is using social media and, if so, any particular services.

There doesn’t appear to be anyone looking at analytics information to see if any social media services are driving Web site traffic.

Instead, there’s a huge information void. This means two things can happen: a company can invest the time to discover social media usage among its target audience, or it can take an educated guess while creating a strategic and tactical plan for social media.

In most cases, the latter option is selected due to time constraints, or the sense most people are likely using a particular platform (e.g. Twitter, Facebook) so there’s a good chance their social media efforts will hit the target audience. In other words, companies are taking calculated risks rather than taking the time to prepare themselves.

When you think about how companies operate other parts of their businesses, and the research that goes into making strategic and tactical decisions, it is surprising social media decisions happen with less information.

It may have to do with immaturity of the market, or perhaps a reluctance to spend money to do research on a new initiative with uncertain returns. Hence, there may be a less enthusiasm to spend money on research.

In an ideal world, companies would know the social media services being consumed by their target audiences. This lets them embrace the right social media services and, as important, deliver the right content and information.

This is a better approach than throwing a plan into the wind on the hope it manages to resonate with the right people. Sometimes, it works. But in some cases, a company’s social media efforts will flounder, which causes a lot of frustration because so much work and money have gone into it.

The reality, however, is a company could have given themselves a better chance of success by simply doing some research before they got started.

What do you think? How important is it to do research in getting ready for social media?

(Note: This post originally appeared on the Sysomos blog.)


Mark Evans

Principal, ME Consulting

ME Consulting is a strategic communications and content consultancy that works with start-ups and fast-growing companies looking to drive their marketing, communications and content activities. Our services include core messaging, content development, business development, social media strategy and tactics, corporate videos and pitch creation so companies can effectively deliver messaging and stories that engage and resonate with target audiences. We’re hands-on and collaborative, and see ourselves as honest brokers and a trusted partner who bring a unique set of skills from working in the traditional media, start-up and social media worlds.
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Posted on December 2nd 2010 at 5:36PM

Wow! I was just having the same conversation yesterday with someone. I too wouldn't recommend to anyone plunging into the Social Media waters without doing ones homework [and by this I mean research]!!

Why not take some of the guesswork out of the equation? One thing's for sure - you probably won't need to grab a roll of TUMS when it comes time to sell key stakeholders on your strategy.

Posted on December 2nd 2010 at 9:44PM

The work I am doing around Developers and I.T pros definately falls into "its important to know your audience". In our particular case we started out broadly but used questions and identified influencers to bring these two segments into sharper focus. I think its important to do some research on who are the people talking about the topics you are promoting via social media. I think segmentation is still going to be a challenge in the near future. My thoughts on this. Cheers, Peter

Posted on December 3rd 2010 at 5:04AM


Great points.  I wondered if you had any effective tools to help with this process?