Social media can simultaneously be a delight and a nightmare to marketers.
There are so many people and so many choices. However, a crowd is a crowd. It is faceless and nameless. Customers, on the other hand, are the exact opposite. You don't want to sell to a crowd, you want to sell to a particular set of people who would be interested in your services.
Finding your audience online, among the hundreds of millions logging into their mobile devices from around the world, requires a much greater degree of specification.
Zeroing in on platforms that serve your purpose perfectly will be a process. However, keeping in mind the answers to the following two questions as you craft your content and social media marketing strategy will reduce frustration as well as save you time and money.
- Who exactly is my target audience?
- Where are they most likely to be found?
Study your target audience
We all have an idea about who we are selling to, or at least to whom we want to sell.
While assumptions serve well as a starting point, they aren't particularly helpful. You will have to invest in studying your target audience with a clear purpose in mind.
I believe one cannot get to know their audience well enough. I keep discovering new aspects of the demographics we target as a company even after years of research and running our business.
However, once you do gain a deep understanding of the people you want to consume your content and buy your services/products, everything else falls into place, though this can take some time.
Some useful pointers:
- Unearth detailed data on the prospective audience. Learn all you can about them - their income levels, their age groups, their physical location, their interests, their most pressing issues, etc.
- Create buyer personas. You can use your existing customers as a reference point. If you don't have any, look at who your direct competitors are targeting.
- Conduct keyword research to understand the kind of topics your prospective audience loves to read
- Find out the types of blogs they visit the most often and the communities they are most active in
- Pay particular attention to the comments sections in which people pour their hearts out. That's gold for a marketer.
The above should give you an insight into not just the kind of content your target audience loves to consume, but also where they are most likely to be found. (Hint: They will be where this awesome content is!)
Follow big names within your industry
This could be anyone, from a journalist to a blogger to a retired CEO to a young upstart. The only condition is that they ought to have clout within your intended audience.
Given how social media works, networking with popular names is a sure-fire way of reaching the desired audience.
However, it should be kept in mind that this may work better in certain industries than others. The fitness industry, for example, constitutes of people who are both aware of the subject matter and tech-savvy. If you know any fitness enthusiasts yourself, chances are they read up on health and workout-related literature regularly or follow a couple of blogs. They are usually a part of some online fitness community as well.
Enthusiasts of any kind are more likely to be found actively engaging on social media, and they inevitably flock to the influential names within their industry. Use this to your advantage. Influencers are a great starting point for anyone looking to build a following.
Invest in a useful keyword tool
Take all the guessing out of the game. Find a keyword tracker tool that demonstrates to you the popularity of relevant keywords, as well as their viability for your marketing goals.
A robust tool should also help you find the established voices in your industry. However, make this research an ongoing affair to keep finding more potential customers.
Facebook is not necessarily the default starting point
Most businesses have fallen into this trap at one point or another. The entire world flocks to Facebook, often multiple times a day, hence whoever comprises your audience are likely to be on Facebook, too, right?
They are likely to be on Facebook, but they still might not be found there for your purpose.
We found that out the hard way. After investing months of effort into Facebook marketing, we realized the platform wasn't doing much for us. We weren't doing anything wrong, we were just doing it on the wrong platform.
We are a B2B company, and for us LinkedIn has turned out to be far more useful as a lead generation as well as customer engagement tool than Facebook.
Twitter comes a close second.
Facebook, on the other hand, hasn't proved to be worth the dollars we invested in it.
Look at the raw data
Thankfully, there's plenty of reliable research that advises businesses about where to find their respective audiences in big numbers.
Consider the following:
- Pinterest is predominantly used by women. They make up 42% of its user base. Also, given the visual nature of the platform, it lends itself beautifully to businesses that rely on graphics and images to make their point. Fashion, beauty, home décor, fitness, and food industries make excellent use of it. If you are in this line of business, a proactive Pinterest campaign should be a big part of your social media strategy.
- Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat attract younger audiences in big numbers. If you are marketing to teens, this is where you want to focus.
- LinkedIn is the network of choice for professionals, young and old.
- As per one study, 94% of B2C marketers use Facebook, while 94% of B2B marketers rely on LinkedIn.
Here's a neat breakdown of demographics with reference to each of the popular social networks.
There's a caveat
Numbers, however, should be taken with a grain of salt, since what works for one company may not work for another. You will have to define your own metrics given the unique audience you are targeting.
For instance, while Instagram is also image-driven, it does not necessarily mean that it would sell to the same audience as Pinterest. If you are targeting women over the age of 40, they are more likely to be found on Facebook and Pinterest than on Instagram, which research shows us skews towards a younger base. However, there could be an overlap here and Pinterest, Instagram, and Facebook could all be of equal use to you!
Continuing with the above example, given the sheer numbers that Facebook attracts, it could still bring in a greater part of your target audience than would Pinterest, which is otherwise highly relevant to a company selling exclusively to women. So it would not be in your best interest to dismiss Facebook and Instagram (as teen-heavy applications) in favor of Pinterest on the basis of data alone.
You will have to look at a number of parameters before deciding which platforms to focus heavily on in your social media marketing strategy.
Finding your social audience could be a matter of trial and error
I stated earlier that we found out our social audience was more likely to reside on LinkedIn than on Facebook. That, however, does not mean that there aren't any B2B companies that have benefitted from their paid Facebook campaigns.
Use the available research and social media tools to undertake informed marketing, but don't expect to meet your goals right away. A bit of trial and error and a lot of refinement in approach will be involved as you find where your social audience resides and how to best reach them.
- Don't go by the number of users, but by the relevance of a network to your business.
- For B2B purposes, LinkedIn is the most useful network. B2C companies use Facebook with great success.
- A business should, however, have a presence on all the major networks to boost its online credibility. That would be Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Google Plus (great for SEO).
- Base your social media marketing approach in research, but put your experience first.
How did you find your social audience? Which tools did you use for it? Any lessons you would like to share with our readers? Please leave a comment and let us know!