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Understanding your target audience in social media marketing

Understanding your target audience

What is a target audience?

Your target audience is the group of people most likely to be interested in the products or services your business offers. As your potential customers, they are the most important people to consider when developing your social media marketing activity. You need to know who they are (demographics) and how best to reach them (content and channels).
Each business’s target audience is different. Those with mass-appealing products (e.g. a national mobile phone provider) are likely to have a broad demographic of users. Others offering niche products have a very narrow demographic of users that are interested in their products and services (e.g. a pet clothing business). Some businesses even have multiple demographics, and find that particular products or services appeal more to one group than another.
For example: Toy store owner, Vihaan wants to understand his target market so he can improve his social media activity. First, he considers the customers he regularly sees in his store: 25 – 34 year-old mothers. As his primary audience, they make up the largest share of his business. He defines his secondary audience as the grandparents of these children who also buy gifts at his store, but not quite as often. We’ll find out more about how Vihaan can use this information next.
Understanding your target audience can benefit your business in a number of ways. Let’s look at how.

Some useful expressions

Demographic – This is a specific market identified by the group’s shared traits, including age, income, gender, education and employment.
Social media marketing strategy – This is an overview of how you plan to use social media to achieve specific business goals.
Primary audience – This is a company’s most important group of customers, often those who account for the majority of sales for a business.
Secondary audience – This is the second most important group of customers to a business.

Why is it important to understand your target audience?

Businesses that clearly define their target audience are able to share more meaningful and relevant content with the right people, at the right time. This helps you build a strong connection with potential customers who are likely to think of your business the next time they need the product or service you offer.
A clear understanding of your target audience right from the beginning will save you time and money. Spend time getting this right and you will be rewarded for your efforts.

Making your social media marketing more effective

Understanding your target audience is key to the success of your social media marketing strategy. Remember: The social media community is vast and it can seem tempting to try and appeal to absolutely everyone. But this is not the right path to take. Engaging everyone means broadening your message and, as a result, losing your unique identity.
Instead, be really clear about who you are targeting. This will help you understand how to appeal to them on social media, ensuring you engage with the right people at the right time. Go beyond their demographics and consider when and why your business would appeal to people.
Focusing your efforts on the right people is the first step. What else can you do to ensure the success of your social media activity?
Let's look at how Vihaan used a deep understanding of his audience to make more informed decisions:
Toy shop owner, Vihaan, knows the importance of understanding his target audience. By analyzing his competitor's social profile he notices that they typically post product shots along with prices at random times. There aren’t any posts that speak directly to their target audience or that help to set them apart. Unlike his competitor, Vihaan understands the importance of relevant content and promotes a range of children's gifts just in time for Diwali, featuring photos of his top picks. Vihaan’s promotion is a success because he matched his business message and content with the interests of his target audience.

Informing your social media marketing strategy

Placing your target audience at the core of your decision-making process can inform many elements of your social media marketing strategy, such as:
  • The type of content you post (images, videos and blogs)
  • The way you highlight your business’s unique identity
  • The way you share information about your products and services
  • The best time of day to post
  • The best channels to post on
For example: You wouldn't advertise your Mumbai street stall to an audience in Bangalore, and you wouldn't advertise your restaurant's breakfast menu at dinner time. It may sound obvious, but these are easy mistakes to make when first starting out.
A clear understanding of your audience allows you to use your time and energy more effectively when you're creating your social media marketing strategy. You can plan your activity around your target audience, only publishing posts that are relevant and exciting for your audience.
We will discuss how to create amazing content that engages and excites your audience in a later lesson, “Engaging your target audience”.

Defining your target audience

Before we look at the specifics of defining your target audience in the next lesson, let’s have a think about your customers.
Try to answer the questions below:
  • What do your customers have in common?

  • Are they mainly women, men or is it an equal split?

  • How old are they? Are they of a similar age or is there a variety of age groups?

  • Are they working professionals, students, housewives?

  • Do certain demographics purchase specific products or services?

  • What are their needs – and how does your business help them?

  • Your answers will help you build a clearer picture of your overall target audience. Defining your audience can be a bit tricky and time consuming, but, once done, it’s much easier to know where and how to interact with them on social media.

Let's recap

  • A target audience is a group of people most likely to be interested in your product or service
  • Your understanding of your audience should inform your social media activity: what content to post, when to post it and where to post it
  • Align your social media posts to your audience’s interests and they will be inspired to engage with you

Defining your target audience

Defining your target audience

In the previous lesson we covered how a clear understanding of your target audience allows you to share more meaningful and relevant content with the right people, at the right time. Your target audience may be broad or it may be niche – size doesn’t matter. But understanding who they are does. In this lesson, we’re going to look at how you can clearly define your target audience.

Some useful expressions

Target audience – The group of people your business aims to serve or support. These may be existing customers, or potentially new customers.
Psychographics – This is information related to people's behaviours and attitudes. Whilst demographics explain who people are, psychographics help to explain why they behave in a certain way.
Millennials – The name used to describe people born roughly between the 1980s and the early 2000s.

How to define your target audience

In the previous lesson “Understanding your target audience”, we asked you to start thinking about your customers (their age, gender, etc.) In this lesson, we will build on this to help you define your target audience.
As we go through this lesson, consider your current customers. Who are they? Why do they buy from you? What are their needs and interests? The key is to look for the common, or shared, characteristics.
Don't worry if you're just starting out. Think of your favourite shop or café and consider who their audience may be. Our checklist below will help guide you through the key things to look at.

Let's start with demographics

Age: What age group will your audience most likely be?
Top tip: Millennials (20 - 30-year-olds) will often interact with businesses through social media in a very different way to their parents (40 - 50-year-olds). Millennials are likely to be more active throughout the day on their smartphone, whereas their parents may only access social media once or twice a week and may prefer to use their desktop computer.
Gender: Are they mostly men or women or is there an equal split?
Men and women often have different tastes and preferences, meaning a focus on one over the other could be useful to establish early on.
Location: Does your business rely on customers coming into your store or can they make purchases online? If you rely heavily on them coming to you, make sure you adapt your social media activity to those who are local to you.
For example: It is no use advertising your beauty store in Mumbai to an audience in Bangalore. They are unlikely to visit if it’s too far away!
Language: Which language(s) do they speak?
To improve your reach and engage more customers in a multilingual area, translate your content into the most widely used languages. Think about which language(s) your audience speak and tailor your content to them. While some social channels automatically translate – not all can. To be safe, check twice before posting.
Occupation and income: Are your customers mostly university students, housewives or busy working professionals? You can learn a lot about your audience’s buying behaviour by looking at their occupation and income.
For example: University students often have less disposable income but may have more time to shop around for the best deal. Working professionals may have more money to spend but less time to spare. Compare the two groups. How do their needs differ? What role does social media play in their lives?
Top tip: Working professionals are known to access social media during their commute to and from work. To capture their attention, try to post during the morning or evening.
Marital or family status: Are your customers mostly married? Do they have children, and if so, what age?
Understanding this may reveal some interesting insights into what really moves your audience to take action.
For example: Konal owns a barber shop and he knows that the majority of his clients are young dads. Knowing that this is a key part of his target audience, he decides to tailor the content on his Twitter feed to their interests. He posts funny snippets of “father-son” conversations he overhears in his barber shop on Twitter. He finds he gets more followers and more dads start bringing their sons with them to have a haircut together.

What about psychographics?

Psychographic information helps to explain the personal characteristics of an audience – revealing why people behave in a certain way. Think about the unique traits of your audience and what it is that inspires them to buy your products.
Needs: Look at your business and its products and services. What issues or problems do they solve? What value does your business add to someone's life? The answers to these questions can help you to understand the motivations behind your customers' actions.
For example: People buy products from a homeware company because they want make their home a nicer place to live.
This is a useful insight that explains why a customer may use or purchase your products or services. It can help you to demonstrate how your business fulfils their specific needs when you’re talking to them on social media.
Interests, attitudes and values: What are your audience interested in and what do they value most? Is it their time, family, well-being or religion? Does your audience have any interests or hobbies that align with your business? Even if they don't – consider whether this information can help you improve your offering or message. Really understanding what makes someone tick is key to capturing and maintaining their interest.
Let's pause for a second. What does your audience enjoy, value or love? Are they food lovers, animal lovers, fashion-focused, career-oriented or sporty? Try to write down 3 - 4 of the most commonly shared values and interests. Then think about how you could use this information to improve your social media activity.
For example: Gym owner Aryan knows his clientele of 30-something professional men share his interest in healthy eating. To engage his social media audience and grow his reach, he shares convenient and nutritious recipes that will suit their busy lifestyles. Soon after, he notices an improvement in engagement and an increase in subscriptions. And his gym is now busier than ever.
Lifestyle: Understanding a customer's lifestyle can also inform your understanding of their needs and restrictions (e.g. time, money or knowledge). This is where your business can set itself apart. By truly understanding how your products or services fulfil your customers' needs, you can create a proposition that really appeals to your audience. Not only will you understand how to talk to them about it, you will also know which social channels to talk to them on.
For example: Fashion addict Yogi, is a busy web developer who has little time to update her wardrobe. She recently discovered a dressmaker who shares a weekly collection of new styles on her social profile and takes orders online. Yogi quickly became a regular customer. The convenient service complemented her busy lifestyle and her love of fashion perfectly.

Over to you

There is a lot to cover here, but don’t worry – take your time. We suggest taking a pen and paper and creating a list of your audience characteristics (age, gender, interests, etc.) and think of how you can apply this insight to your social media strategy.
For example:
Age 20-30 - They are active on social media when commuting to and from work, so I should share posts during these times - early morning and early evening.
And don't forget, you can use your favourite shop or café for this exercise as well.
Top tip: Not sure where to start? Speak to family and friends that fit your customer profile and ask them about their interests and lifestyle.

Let's recap

  • It’s important to look at both demographics (“who” your target audience are) as well as psychographics (“why” they behave in a certain way) when defining your audience
  • Demographics will help to ensure you target the right type of people (age, gender, location)
  • Psychographics will help to ensure you deliver the right type of content, using the right channels (based on their needs, interests and lifestyle)
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