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.
There are so many ways online monitoring can be used to impact engagement with your audience. Here are some examples:
- Determine what content types (funny, informative, newsworthy, etc) and formats (pictures, videos, blog posts, whitepapers, etc) are most appealing. By understanding what your audience cares about, you can create compelling content and ads that resonate.
- Generate a list of the adjectives that your audience links to value (hint: they're not always what you think), and use these in your paid search advertisements, page titles, banner ads, etc.
- Bring your audience into the product development process by entertaining their feedback on Facebook, Twitter and other outlets. You may be surprised at how willing people are to provide such feedback, especially when incentives are involved.
After you determine what people are looking for, you need to do the research to understand how to deliver this information to them. This means knowing where and how people search for things, find information and share it with their friends. Where are your customers going to search for your products and services? What social networks are they on? If 80% of your audience is on Facebook, while only 15% is on Twitter, you probably want to focus more on Facebook. You can even drill down further to better understand when people are most likely to find your content.
For example, are people clicking and viewing content during work hours, or are they digesting content during their off time, such as on nights or weekends? You may find that you will need to schedule and time your content and ads differently across various platforms. Your Facebook fans might mostly view your content on weekends, while your Twitter followers like their information mid-morning during the week. You will want to experiment, and use the data as a guide to understanding what works best.
Finding out what your audience wants and needs is challenging, but there are ways to better understand then. When you take the time to understand your audience and use that knowledge to create relevant content that grabs people’s attention, you will inspire them to connect and engage with your band. This is crucial to building awareness, trust and sales in today’s world.
Jonathan Lawoyin is the director of search engine marketing and social media at eWayDirect, Inc. Jonathan has been involved in the online marketing and social media space for many years, with agency-side experience working with Fortune 500 clients. He is co-founder of Rotomania.com, an online community for fantasy sports fans.