Knowing your audience has never been a more critical element of business success than it is now in the digital era. Digital age customers are educated about purchases and brands to which they are loyal, and they are vocal about these things on social media. This increases both the importance of understanding brand audiences and enables doing so at a previously unheard of speed and scale. There are, however, different levels of "knowing" the customer that impact digital brand marketing, and more specifically, social media strategy. Two of these levels are demographics and psychographics.
Demographics are factual and fixed information about the makeup of a population, whereas psychographics are insights and understanding about the thoughts, feelings, beliefs, and interests of a population. For example, if we look at the group "potato chip buyers" in the United States, demographics might show 15% of them are in the age range 25-35 and 20% of them live in Texas. For the same group, psychographics could show things like they feel angry about increased food prices or enjoy watching baseball. When considering a group of consumers for a particular product, demographic information never reveals any opinions about the product. Psychographic information can reveal product opinions, but it doesn't have to. While both demographics and psychographics are used to understand a group of people, demographics create a physical and spatial shell of the typical group member, while psychographics show how that person processes information and approaches life.
Today's landscape offers more possibilities for collecting demographic and psychographic data than ever before. Because it's more finite and less subjective, demographic data is easier to come by. Demographic data is available from sales records, shipping information, web analytics, social media data, and other sources. Until recently, psychographic information was most commonly collected through self-reported methods including surveys and focus groups. Customer support channels sometimes can be mined for psychographic insight as well. In recent times, social media has created exciting new opportunities for collecting psychographic data. Analyzing social media discussions among people who fit a population of like interest can reveal unsolicited and honest opinions and ideas.
While demographic data can help you locate a customer group that your business should target, it doesn't tell you what to say to them. Without looking into psychographics, your business will simply be guessing as to what sort of messaging a particular group of people will respond well to. Businesses who don't consult psychographic research when trying to engage with a group often make the mistake of crafting their messages by relying on the preferences of a small collection of individuals they know who fit the profile. Just because your colleague is a 35 year-old woman and enjoys rock climbing does not mean that all 35 year-old women like rock climbing. This example is extreme, but often many hard-wired, seemingly obvious societal assumptions about a certain type of person are dead wrong, and psychographic research helps to clarify preferences. Think about how many women enjoy American football, and how until very recently almost all football promotional content was geared towards men.
Ultimately, this information should be used to decide where to spend marketing and advertising dollars - who to target, where to target, what sort of media to invest in, and the creative components of your content. Before that, the data, insights derived from it, and recommendations based on it should be circulated and presented across the entire organization to get everyone on the same page. This is a key step that is often missed, especially at large organizations, where different departments are conducting separate data collection and research initiatives. The end result is sort of like an orchestra in which each section is playing a different composition at the same time.
There's nothing wrong with acquiring this information as often as possible. Demographic data can be checked on a daily or weekly basis fairly easily; although in many cases it doesn't register significant changes day in and day out. Psychographic data, even with the faster analytics offered through social media tools, takes longer to process and understand. It's to be expected that the frequency of psychographic analysis will be less than that of demographics. What matters most is comparing the latest data against what you already had to identify changes and similarities. This will yield new opportunities and validate existing efforts.