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Why audience research is key to social media success

Written by Spencer Durrant on March 22, 2016 in Strategies & Tips

7910370882_eeaed9b952_k.jpgThe importance of a strong social media presence for your online store can't be stressed enough. According to data from Adweek, 28% of time spent online is on a social media website. That staggering number is a big reason why so much attention is directed toward social media marketing. 

Regarding social media marketing, there is one aspect that many online store owners either overlook or don't focus on as much as they should: 

Audience research.  

To make your social media marketing efforts as effective as possible, you’ll need to perform some in-depth analysis on your audience. Where do they live? What age range interacts with your brand the most? Which demographic buys the most product? What do they like to do in their spare time? Are people who mountain bike more inclined to interact with you on social media, before going to buy from your store? 

These are just a few examples of the questions you should answer about your social media audience. Without that knowledge, your social media marketing efforts won’t be very effective. 

With that in mind, let's dive into a few ways to gain greater audience insight, and then move on to discussing use cases for that data.

Use each platform's built-in insights tools

The first step in analyzing your audience is incredibly simple - just use the built-in insights tools on your social media platforms.

Facebook provides you with a ton of audience insights. Under the "People" tab in Facebook's insights category, you’ll see a comprehensive breakdown of the people who like your page, people your posts have reached, and the people who've engaged with anything on your page - a post, CTA, or website links. 

These tools enable you to understand where your customers are, their biggest interests, and most importantly the types of posts they interact with the best. Some audiences prefer link posts. Others love photo galleries, or enjoy standard promotional posts. It all depends on how each post displayed and what resonates with your audience. 

The Kissmetrics blog put together a great piece of content that will educate you further on Facebook insights. You can access that here.

Twitter's analytic tools are similar to what Facebook offers. This example is from my personal Twitter account, through which I do run ads for a few companies and my own writing. Capture.jpg

The dashboard shows a very brief overview of your Twitter profile's reach. The real meat of Twitter's analytics lies in the audience insights.Capture_2.jpg

From these charts, I'm able to see the major interests of the people in my audience and create tweets that cater to the major interests of the people I'm reaching. It's the same with your own business account.

LinkedIn also offers insights and analytics along the same lines as what Twitter and Facebook provide. For more information about what LinkedIn offers, click here.

Data use cases

The meat of this post is digging into how to apply the data that you glean from your social media channels. It's one thing to have all the insights sitting there in front of you - but what do you do with all of that data now? 

According to a report from Ad Age, the most important aspect of marketing in the years to come will be a marketers' ability to personalize messages to their audience. 

The data you gather from your various marketing channels is going to enable you to do just that - deliver personalized messages to your customers. 

With that in mind, let's look at a few ways to use all this data to reach customers in a personal way. 

Segment based on sales cycle

This tip comes straight from HubSpot. You can target messages, especially on Facebook, to people based on things like marital status and income level. You can also segment audiences based on where they're at in the sales cycle - are they a customer or a prospect? 

An example of a prospect would be someone who's liked your page, interacted with more than a few of your posts, but hasn't yet bought anything - or even visited your website. 

You can then create targeted messages that are directed at only this group of people, with copy that compels them to finally take that leap from just interacting with your brand to actually buying from you.

This is the current stage the startup I'm involved with, based out Colorado, is in. We have decent engagement, our fan base is growing, but sales are stagnant. We just finished re-writing our entire social media marketing plan, and set up campaigns directed at a number of customer personas. 

It’s important to create customer personas so that you know whom you are talking to. I point this out to show that creating personals is a legitimate way to use your social media data.

Write to your most engaged audience

This is another tip from the HubSpot article, linked above.

"Monitoring social enables us to see how people interact with our content and can tell us a lot about where we should be focusing our efforts -- topics to write about, formats to deliver it in, and where to promote it. Look at your page analytics to see where your social traffic is coming from. If you get more Twitter traffic on a certain topic or format of content, for instance, it may be worthwhile looking at investing in some paid distribution on that network to get even more traction."

When you begin to analyze all of your data, it's worth it to spend more of your time and energy on the channel(s) producing the most engagement. For instance, the startup I'm working for has a lot more engagement on Facebook than on Twitter or Instagram. We still maintain a healthy presence on Instagram and Twitter (which is imperative for our overall social media success) but the bulk of our time is spent on Facebook, because that's where our best audience is.

Discover your optimal posting volume

Brian Honigman wrote about this topic on his website, and what he had to say was informative. 

Honigman made the very apt point that posting volume is a topic that's been beaten to death. But then he makes the point that,

"All of these figures can only be averages at best, and social media best practices will likely vary for your business based off your audience and industry."

If there's one rule in social media marketing, it's that no hard-and-fast rules exist. That's why they're called "best practices" instead of rules.

Honigman's post goes into detail on how to access the right data from Facebook (and other platforms) to help you find your optimal posting volume. It's worth your time to read through his tips. 

Persona building

I touched on this topic above, but it deserves its own section in this post. Perhaps the most valuable aspect of all this available information is that it enables you to build better customer personas. 

HubSpot has tons of information about customer personas, so if you don't have them fleshed out or are still fuzzy on what they actually are, I recommend starting your research here.

Audience insights will help you learn more about the different types of customers who frequent your social media pages - and hopefully, your online store. The more you understand who's buying from you, the more original content you can create that answers their questions and caters to their needs in a unique, helpful way, as opposed to just ramming a hard sale at them via social media. 

Social media excellence is imperative to the success of any online store, and if you want to reach that higher level of success, you'll need to gather all the possible insights about your audience that you possibly can. There are many more use cases for audience insight data than what I went over in this piece, but what I've put together here is a good place to start. Once you get your feet wet with audience information, you can seek out other insights that are specific to your brand itself.

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Photo courtesy Jason Howie.

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