Are You My Audience? 6 Misconceptions About Target Audiences in Social Media and Digital Marketing Strategy.

A narrowly focused message stands out and reaches and motivates an audience. General messages addressing everyone get lost in the crowd. As a communication professional or student, you need to know the target audience for any strategy or plan.

How to determine target audience.

Usually, clients do provide a target audience defined by the various bases of segmentation shown above. Yet it is not always the right target. Oftentimes business people are good at their business but are not the best marketers. Even top marketers at Fortune 500s can get it wrong. If you don’t start with the right target your strategy will not be successful and not meet the objectives the client is hiring you to help deliver.

Remember that clients are hiring you or you are getting a new project from a boss because current efforts are not working. There is a problem to be solved. Sometimes it’s an SEO problem, sometimes a social media content problem, but it can also be a target audience problem. How do you know you have the right target?

  1. Don’t assume your target is your social media followers. A client for the social media agency BSquared defined their target audience as 18-24 year-olds. They had the most followers from this age group. Yet BSquared took the time to look at additional social listening data beyond the brand pages and social media and digital advertising data. They found that the next two older age groups actually accounted for 90% of sales compared to just 10% of sales coming from the younger group.
  2. Don’t assume everyone that could use the product is your target. Gatorade learned this shifting to a mass-market target of hydration for everyone 18-49 and sales declined 10%. The core athlete got the message – Gatorade was no longer for them. Further research revealed high school and endurance athletes made up just 22% of customers but accounted for 46% of all sales. Only when they focused back on these two niche audiences with fewer mass ads and more target digital ads did sales return.
  3. Don’t assume the people who use the product are your target. Proctor & Gamble’s brand Old Spice sales were declining. Additional consumer research revealed that women purchase 60% of all men’s body washes. For the first time, the brand targeted women as the audience for its men’s brand. Within a year, sales grew 125% surpassing competitors to become the #1 brand in the category.
  4. Don’t assume your target audience is current customers. When sales level off or decline marketers need to reach a new group of people that is not their current users. The market for two-door coupe cars has been declining for years. The Ford Mustang Mach-E all-electric SUV is designed to reach a new audience. Targeting current Mustang drivers would not be effective as the car was designed to gain EV market share from Tesla. In the first year of sales, 70% of Mach-E buyers were new to the Ford brand.
  5. Don’t assume there is only one target audience. There may be multiple target audiences that influence a purchase decision. Colleges know that parents influence high school students’ college decisions. Therefore, enrollment strategies often include a primary target audience of high school students with a secondary target audience of parents of high school-age children. Messages and channels must be targeted for both.
  6. Don’t assume the target is consumers of the product. Other audiences can be selected for corporate communication and public relations to manage company reputation with employees, investors, suppliers, regulators and the media. With the Crock-Pot ‘This Is Us’ crisis an episode of the popular show killed the main character in a fire from the brand’s faulty product. The PR agency responded quickly with a message to multiple stakeholders assuring the public that Crock-Pots were safe.

Also, note that business to business (B2B) target audiences are usually segmented with different variables called firmographics based on company size, industry, geographic market, and business needs. A B2B target audience can include people with certain job titles, and members of professional organizations.

If you are a marketer at a business or marketing communications professional working for the business, it is always good practice to verify that the target audience is really who you think. You need the right target audience to meet the business objectives. How do you know you are addressing the right business objectives? Perform a Root Cause Analysis.

 

 

 

 

 

Are You Simply Treating Symptoms? For better digital marketing results ensure that you are addressing the root cause [Template].

Today we are awash in digital data. Something that will only rise as we saw a 70% increase in Internet sales and an 11% increase in digital marketing spending in 2020, which is expected to grow another 17% in 2021. This can be both a blessing and a curse. After years of working in the marketing industry, researching and teaching, there is a strategic mistake that I continue to see. It is the tendency for marketers to treat surface-level symptoms when there are often deeper level problems causing an issue. Michael Porter said, “Strategic thinking rarely occurs spontaneously.” Realtime 24/7 marketing data dashboards have not helped with this propensity for expedient remedies.

A benefit of digital marketing is that nearly everything is measurable. Google Analytics tracks over 200 metrics. Facebook Analytics adds another 100 and that doesn’t include your email, social media monitoring, CRM and POS software. A typical marketer can collect hundreds if not thousands of data points across digital and general marketing systems. Yet studies indicate 21% of marketing spending is still wasted resulting in inaccurate targeting (35%) and lost customers (30%). Added metrics does not equal added results.

With all this data it is easier than ever to spot a problem metric which marketers want to resolve as quickly as possible. Yet, the first problem noticed, such as a drop in website traffic, often doesn’t have a quick fix digital solution. It is merely a symptom masking a larger problem. This calls for some guidelines for marketing managers inundated with digital data. I suggest pausing for a root cause analysis that considers both digital and general marketing factors. Even though your symptom suggests a digital marketing issue, the root cause may be a general marketing problem that needs to be solved first.

With over 50% of advertising spending today going to digital marketing, it is useful to organize individual symptoms and problems into digital and general marketing. They usually require separate solutions and separate experts or teams. Below is a visual representation of a root cause analysis process for digital marketers. It is a modified Ishikawa, or fishbone cause-and-effect diagram, that outlines a process of asking a series of questions modeled after the Five Whys iterative interrogative technique. Like a physician, marketers can assess a set of symptoms to arrive at a diagnosis.

How to perform a digital marketing root cause analysis

Identify related symptoms

To start this process you or someone on your team notices the first symptom. Maybe a dip in website traffic is what caught your attention, but what else may be declining? You may find other symptoms that can help identify the cause. Perhaps your email open rate is down in digital marketing metrics and in your general marketing data you notice new customer signups are starting to slip. Most of what you find will be signs or symptoms of problems. Make a list and sort into digital marketing symptoms and general marketing symptoms.

Identify contributing causes

Start asking “why” questions for each symptom. Why is website traffic going down? Why is the email open rate declining? Why is the number of new customers slipping? Contributing causes can be internal and external. External problems could include digital marketing causes such as Google changing their search algorithm or general marketing causes such as a new competitor, competitor strategy, or availability of substitutes. Internal problems could be digital marketing specific such as a change in your content strategy or general marketing such as customer service issues.

Identify the root cause

Keep asking “why” questions descending through a correlated list of digital and general problem causes. The root cause process “Five Whys” indicates that five “why” questions can get you to the root cause, but it may only take three or it could take more. Eventually, your contributing digital and general marketing problem causes will lead to one root cause. The root cause could be a digital marketing problem such as a significant Google algorithm change or a general marketing problem such as new competition in the form of a substitute product or service.

Plan actions for each problem

Create an action plan to address each digital marketing and general marketing problem starting at the root cause. If the root cause is a general marketing problem of substitutes drawing away protentional customers, a new product positioning should be developed to address this target audience’s needs. Then contributing digital marketing problems should be addressed with a new keyword, SEO and SEM strategy. New content should be created with the new product positioning. If repositioning isn’t enough, a new product or new services may need to be added.

Without pausing to find the root cause you could waste time and money on a product message and digital strategy that is not relevant to the customers that competitors are stealing away. You could end up investing in general best practices of optimizing content with infographics, videos, and increasing digital spending to no avail.

Today Porter’s five forces of competition can emerge quickly and are constantly changing. Adding a new product or service isn’t easy or a quick fix. However, discovering this larger problem sooner gives you more time to work on a solution. In that way, your digital marketing metrics can serve as an early warning system. Early detection enables your business to pivot promptly saving wasted resources on misguided action plans.

Sometimes a drop in website traffic is just a technical website issue or it could be a symptom of a larger problem. A root cause analysis may not be a simple solution but it can reorient your marketing actions away from short-term survival to long-term success.

Social Media Update: Top Social Media Channels By Category

Multichannel social media strategy: Social media is no longer a small experimental part of marketing. Social media spending represents 15% of marketing budgets and is expected to increase to nearly 25% in five years. Social media is also seen as an essential part of digital marketing which has surpassed traditional with digital ad spending reaching 54% of total ad sales. Today brands must go beyond the top three social platforms or simply continue to use current brand social platforms. As social media plans become more sophisticated with a combination of organic and paid content how do you decide among the over 200 social media platforms? To simplify this process the chart below lists social options in eight categories by key characteristics and top platforms per category.

Audience Size and Engagement: Total audience size is important when selecting a social media platform within which to invest your time and money. Yet tradition measures of monthly active users or unique monthly visitors only tell part of the story. A user could visit a platform once a month and be included in audience size. Engagement is another important factor that looks at how active those users are on the platform. How many users are daily users and how much time are they spending per day or session?

Target Audience Demographics: How active is your target audience on each platform? Define  target audience by demographic characteristics such as gender, education, income, ethnicity and age. Look for social media platforms popular with your target age group. Be sure to look at both monthly active and daily active users by age. A high percent of Millennials may be monthly users of Facebook but if you look at daily usage they may be spending more time on Instagram. If your target is Gen Y, Snapchat may have the highest daily usage.

Target Audience Psychographics: Not all people in a generation have the same interests, therefore it is also important to define target audience with psychographic variables such as, values, beliefs and interests. People interested in crafts, fashion, the environment, or gaming may be active on other social media platforms where those interests are popular such as Reddit, Pinterest, Forums or Twitch.

Target Business Category: Not all purchase decisions are considered in the same social media channels. Therefore also consider type of business. Is the brand B2C or B2B? What industry is it in? Is it a local or national company? Does the brand offer online sales, in-person or a combination of both? The type of business could make other social media channels more relevant to a plan such as LinkedIn, TripAdvisor or Yelp.

Target Communication Objective: Finally, consider the communications objective. A plan to build brand awareness may work best with Facebook, YouTube and Buzzfeed. A plan to improve customer response may work better in Twitter and Messenger for customer support and Google My Business for customer reviews. A B2B lead generation plan may best leverage Blogs, Podcasts, LinkedIn and Slack. A direct sales plan for a multinational fashion brand could work best with Instagram, Pinterest, WhatsApp and WeChat.

Now that you know what to consider in selecting plans. What are the latest social media channels? Bellow is a list of the top three or more social media channels divided into eight key characteristic categories.

Social Networks: These are the websites and apps that connect people sharing personal or professional interests through profiles, groups, posts and updates. Facebook has 2.7 billion monthly users (1.8 billion active daily) and is by far the largest social media channel of any of the categories. LinkedIn is the dominate business/professional social network growing to 722 million users (260 million active monthly).

Social Messaging: Instant messaging platforms are chat applications created around social networks for communication on mobile phones with less limits and more features than traditional texting. Facebook Messenger has grown to 1.3 billion users but is still behind Facebook owned WhatsApp with 2 billion users (1 billion active daily). Other popular messaging apps include WeChat with 1 billion month active users mostly  in the Chinese market. Slack is the business messaging service with 12.5 million daily active users providing opportunities for B2B.

Blogs and Forums: Blogs are websites that contain posts or articles in reverse chronological order that include hyperlinks and usually allow commenting. Forums are online discussion sites where people hold conversations via threads around common interests and topics. WordPress is the top blogging platform with 409 million users viewing over 20 billion blog pages a month. Tumblr (owned by Yahoo) is the short-form blog focused more on photos and video and less text with 463 million blog accounts but usage has dropped to 327 monthly visitors from a previous high of 642 million. Blogger is a simpler platform with less customize options and is owned by Google. Recent stats estimate 60 million monthly visitors to blogger.com down from 167 million in 2017. To find forums try search and directories like ProBoards.

Microblogging: Microblogs are a form of traditional blogging where the posts are limited by content length or file size. The leader in Microblogging continues to be Twitter with 353 million monthly active users (187 million active daily), but this is down 9 million from last year. Pinterest is the social pin board dedicated to visual discovery, collection and sharing that limits posts to single images or video. Pinterest has grown to over 442 million monthly active users. TikTok has grown quickly to 689 million monthly active users. A new entrant in this category is the invite only, real-time, audio-chat app Clubhouse. Clubhouse has grown from 1,500 users in May 2020 to 10 million users in 2021.

Media Sharing: This category is for social media channels developed mainly for the sharing of image or video media. YouTube is the lead video sharing site with 2 billion monthly active users and an average 60 minutes spent per mobile viewing session. Instagram (owned by Facebook) is the quality photo sharing social channel that has grown to 1 billion active monthly users with 500 million active daily. Snapchat is a photo- and video-sharing messaging service in which media and messages are only available for a short time before disappearing. Snapchat’s monthly active users total 283 million with 180 million active daily.

Live Streaming Video: Top live video channels are mainly built into other social platforms.  Periscope is integrated with the Twitter app with last reported numbers of 10 million users and 1.9 million daily active users. Facebook Live is a big competitor with Facebook emphasizing live video in the newsfeed. Facebook claims 8 billion video views per day or 100 million hours (includes all video). Instagram Live works in Instagram Stories which has 500 million daily active users. Instagram launched a new long form video platform IGTV, but reports indicate they have struggle to boost user numbers. For niche audiences Amazon owned Twitch is a live streaming platform attracting gamers with 140 million unique monthly users and 30 million active daily.

Geosocial: Geosocial is a type of social networking where user-submitted (GPS) location data connects users with local people, businesses and events. The innovator in this category is Foursquare, but the platform has dropped to 7 million monthly users for location discovery while its app Swarm has only 2.1 million monthly users for checking-in. However, Swarm users spend an average of ten times longer on the app versus Foursquare. Marketers can leverage Google geosocial features though Google My Business that adds businesses to Google location search and Google Maps and includes ratings and reviews. Facebook Check-Ins are the geosocial feature in Facebook that is good for increasing reach, generating awareness and has ratings and review features. Instagram Location has locations that integrates with Facebook Places. Snapchat offers geosocial features with Snapchat Geofilters.

Ratings and Reviews: Reviews are reports that give someone’s opinion about the quality of a product, service or performance. Ratings are a measurement of how good or bad something is expressed on a scale. Yelp is the innovator in crowdsourced ratings and reviews representing a broad range of interests. Yelp has 132 million active monthly users and over 184 million reviews. For travel related businesses TripAdvisor has 463 million active monthly users and 730 million reviews. This social channel provides reviews of travel-related content and travel forums. Amazon attracts 138 million monthly visitors and has been reported as being the largest single source of Internet consumer reviews. Angi is a ratings and review site with crowdsourced reviews of local businesses is merger between Angie’s List and HomeAdvisor than 22 million monthly users. Ratings and reviews should also be tracked on Google My Business. If you are in the human resources or the recruitment industry, company reviews on Glassdoor are important. Ratings and Reviews are also important on the video sharing platform YouTube as many a Vlogger reviews products and services on their channels.

Social Bookmarking: Social bookmarking sites are online services that allow users to save, comment on, and share bookmarks of web documents or links. Social bookmarking sites have also expanded into content discovery and curation tools. Reddit is one of the top social bookmarking social platforms with 430 million users. Digg is the social news site that aggregates publisher’s streams via peer evaluation of voting up content for sharing. Digg has reached 7 million visitors a month up from a low of 3 million several years ago. Buzzfeed is a content discovery platform with a monthly audience of 125 million on it’s website, but Buzzfeed also creates its own content with popular channels on Facebook, Snapchat, and YouTube and offers native advertising opportunities for brands generating 3.2 billion cross-platform content views a month.

Social Knowledge: Social knowledge channels are web-based information exchanges where users search topics or ask questions and get answers from real people. This includes social sites such as wikis and question and answer websites. Wikipedia is the big one with 1.7 billion unique monthly visitors and over 71,000 active contributors to over 6.2 million articles in English. Brands cannot created their own pages, but should monitor for misinformation. Quora is the question and answer site that focuses on higher quality content and attracts 300 million unique visitors a month. Yahoo! Answers was a popular community question and answer site but shut down in 2021 after 16 years.

Podcasts: Podcasts are a series of episodes of digital audio or video content delivered automatically through subscription. Podcast consumption has grown in the US to 90 million monthly listeners. iTunes is the innovator in Podcasting . Other social platforms to consider are SoundCloud, TuneIn, iHeartRadio, Audible and Spotify. For the video version of podcasts, called a vlog, YouTube is a top destination. A useful podcast directory is PodBean.

This is by far, not a comprehensive list of social channel options, but it does give an update on the top channels by category to choose the best for your social strategy. What social platforms have you found to be the most effective in your social media strategy? A good first step is to Perform A Social Media Audit and as social spending increases Ask These Questions To Ensure You Have The Right Strategy.