In the days of Don Draper and Mad Men, understanding a brand’s target audience meant identifying characteristics of members of that audience. In today’s digital media landscape, that is greatly influenced by the search and social media channels. Understanding your target market means paying attention to what they are saying and searching, with the ultimate goal of maximizing the value of every interaction with your brand.
Winning in search and social media requires an understanding of your target audience. This has less to do with who they are than what they do. Everybody knows the demographic characteristics of their target markets. It is one thing to know your target market is young males between the ages of 16 and 24, or African American women, or consumers with credit scores above 740. It is another to understand their behavior online over time.
What Are They Searching For?
Searcher behavior and keyword trends can be a gold mine of insights into your target audience. There are many tools that businesses can use to uncover this information, including:
- Google Analytics for insights into keywords that have driven traffic to your website;
- Adwords Search Query Report for a look into the actual search terms that trigger your ads, remember, it is impossible to cover every single keyword a searcher will type; and
- Google Trends for insights into trending keyword theme.
Insights from these tools can help marketers develop more comprehensive keyword lists, better optimize paid search campaigns and achieve greater value from search engine optimization initiatives.
However, these insights can be used in areas other than search. Identifying keyword themes and trends over time can guide the content you develop and share with your followers as you strive to engage them via social media. My team continuously researches emerging keyword opportunities to maximize reach.
Apart from the superstar keywords that every marketer likes to focus on, why not find related subjects that people are searching and blog about them? If you are in the auto industry, your audience may not always be looking to buy a car, but who says they aren't interested in a blog post on the top 10 celebrity cars of 2011? Keyword research can help you find such topics, which help you create more compelling content, and the result is more likes, tweets/retweets, comments and the like. Each of these is an indicator of value.
What Are They Saying?
The increasingly interactive nature of the web has created one of the most effective tools a marketer could wish for—an ever-present focus group of consumers who have experienced your brand or product and have something to say about it. It is absolutely crucial to monitor the conversation around your brand, products and competition, and use insights to facilitate meaningful engagement.
There are a myriad of tools to help you understand what people are saying. These tools range in price from thousands of dollars per month to free (Boardreader, Google Alerts and Twitter Search, to name a few). Understanding what people are saying and how they perceive you is crucial to developing your online marketing strategy. This may impact your overall goals—maybe you find out that you need to change perception—or it may impact how you choose the keywords you’d like to rank for. Either way, understanding the language your audience uses when searching for your products and describing your business is crucial.
Understanding what people are saying is also vital for another reason: so you can give people what they want. In researching what your audience is saying about you, you should get a good sense of what your audience cares about. Posting content that is not relevant will have people clicking the "unlike" button on your Facebook page (or hiding your posts in their news feeds) faster than you can say Usain Bolt. It is a good idea to get into the habit of analyzing data such as page views, email open and click rates, as well as search and social metrics, to get a clearer picture of what matters to your audience.