Your fans. You have hundreds, maybe thousands or millions, but you haven’t a clue who they are or what they want from you.
One of the biggest social media marketing fails is lack of audience research. And don’t let that word research scare you. Marketing research can be very simple, but it does take some time and effort. Knowing who your audience and what their expectations and needs are will inform your whole marketing strategy. Audience research can help you determine focused marketing goals and increase your social media engagement significantly. Let’s start with a very primary look at what you should be gathering.
- Demographic information. If you have a Facebook page or a Twitter account, much of this basic information is available to you already in your analytics dashboard. You’ll want to know age, gender, and location plus percentages in each group. Facebook Insights breaks the ages into categories that marketers normally use for analysis—let that be your guideline. Here’s a sample of what a portion of demographic data looks like on Facebook Insights.
- Online behavior. What do your fans do online? Mobile or laptop, or both? How often? What time of day? What types of content do they engage with? Your free analytics will give you some of this information—Facebook more than Twitter. If you have a service such as Sprout Social, you will have more. But honestly, the best way to get this information, especially if you use channels like Pinterest, Instagram, and Snapchat, is to just do your own audience research.
I’ve found the most effective way to conduct baseline audience research is by online survey. You can hire someone to do it for you, but you can get a basic understanding by doing your own for free. You’ll gather pretty reliable information with a 10-question Survey Monkey survey. Survey Monkey allows ten-question surveys for free. Make sure you mark that all questions require an answer. The first questions can be gender, age, location, mobile or laptop use. The next five or six should ask about specific social media channels used. (this is a ranked list with multiple answers), how often and times of day, behavior on those channels (share, post, or just read), and so forth. Your next to last question should ask what types of content they like best (another ranked list). Your last question should combine email gathering (which goes to your master email list) and a request for general input or suggestions (paragraph of text). Send the link out to your email list (best case) or post it on your Facebook page.
Depending on the response, I would post this link three times over two weeks–same with email. Just send a quick reminder (with a thank you for those that have already participated). Also, if you use a service like Survey Monkey, set the survey so it will only allow one response per IP address. That will prevent one person from taking the survey multiple times.
This is an extremely basic look at what you should know. When I do baseline audience research for a client it includes a deeper look at the above questions and also includes information about online purchasing habits. It will also go into detail about channel use, content, etc. If you’ve never done audience research, I suggest you start with the above free version. If you have budget, I would suggest outsourcing this piece to someone who offers the service. Ask business friends for recommendations.
And remember you shouldn’t pelt your audience with surveys every month—this is an annual exercise. You can watch changes in the national trends by reading online articles. I suggest you do this as a preparation for an annual planning session of social media strategy for the coming year. Once you have a baseline (your first survey), you can also track changes over the years.
Cross check your results with reputable national research. Start with Pew Internet research—it gives you the most accurate look at social media channel use and audience behavior we have for free. Also take a look at a great free tool from Forrester Research that shows you what typical online behavior looks like for your demographic groups. The free tool is based on Forrester’s most recent social technographic consumer research. It will give you a great look at who is doing what online by age group. This makes a huge difference in your content direction. Just make sure you are not relying on “anecdata,” as one of my clients calls it—your own personal observations or those of others in your sector. Unreliable data also includes survey data done by online companies for a specific purpose to sell a product or service. Your mantra should be, “show me the data.”
Next up is analysis. Data is no good to you unless it helps you make good decisions or come up with focused marketing strategies. Data without analysis is just numbers. And all data is not created equal. But we will get there next when we look at the third social media fail. Stay tuned. As always, email me at email@example.com if you have any questions or comments.
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