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Supercharging strategy: The role of audiences

Taking an audience-insight led approach to marketing and media strategy will deliver huge benefits.

"The trouble […] is that people don’t think how they feel, they don’t say what they think and they don’t do what they say" (David Ogilvy)

This statement from "Father of Advertising", David Ogilvy, draws attention to the flaws in traditional forms of audience research and insight. Largely, the more established methods rely almost entirely on claimed attitudes and behaviours. It’s based on what people tell you. Which will be based on what they want you to think rather than a true reflection of how they actually feel and how they behave in everyday life.

Monitoring social conversations and behaviours is a very different scenario indeed, here we get to see, in real time, how people act, behave and respond naturally.

Of course audience insight isn’t new, it’s been the foundation of marketing communications for a long time. However, often what we get our hands on is, vague, outdated and not data-led (and let’s be honest - in this day and age we’re all OBSESSED with data).

Relying solely on claimed attitudes and behaviours can result in a strategy which misses the mark and doesn’t achieve the desired outcome or the maximum ROI.

True audience understanding is the most valuable insight for planners and brands. It’s the only way of ensuring that the messages you communicate are going to resonate with your customers.

How does in-depth audience understanding help?

On a practical level, in-depth audience understanding helps you to;

  • Compete with other brands and organisations more effectively in an increasingly cluttered marketplace
  • Personalise the user experience with messaging that relates to them as an individual
  • Choose channels where your audience is most actively engaged

So, what is social media's role in insight gathering and what makes it such powerful tool?

  • Firstly, information collected is unprompted. You are not asking people to think about how they feel, you are naturally observing how they behave.
  • You also get access to more lifestyle information than other forms of research.
  • Through their social footprint, individuals disclose the brands they like, the people they trust and respect, the news sources they follow as well as their hobbies and personal interests.
  • You can even track their behaviour and level of interaction with different channels.
  • And, as an added bonus, you can start to map your existing audiences out into a wider targeting group to attract new customers and deliver incremental ROI.

The benefits are clear. What can be less clear, particularly if you don’t have access to social media and audience research specialists, is understanding what to look for and how to use the data to inform your strategy.

Key points to consider

The starting point is to look at social conversation to understand what people are saying. Look at both brand conversation and associated topic conversation. So for example, look at specifically what people are saying about the Apple Brand, and then more generally what people are talking about in relation to technology.

Then, review the conversations and identify the differences in what’s being said by existing audiences vs new prospects. Group these into behavioural types and consider where each group is in their consideration journey, what their needs might then be at the different stages and then what information and communications you need to deliver to them in order for them to move along a customer engagement path or buying cycle.

When creating the groups, look at both quantitative and qualitative data. Demographics is important, but beyond this, think about things like;

  • Their general outlook on life – are they positive thinkers or full of doom and gloom?
  • What they use social for, is it about sharing, commenting, raising their personal profile, venting… etc?
  • How they communicate, is it formal or informal, do they look like they behave on impulse, or are they more considered and rational in their approach?
  • Can I identify any common problems or themes that the brand can solve or engage with?

You can then go on to add another layer of depth and use social data to identify, for each behavioural type;

  • The type of person they are
  • What social platforms they use
  • Their general outlook at attitude to life
  • How they describe themselves and therefore a feel for their personality
  • The brands they love and the news sources they use
  • Their political opinions
  • Their common social conversation themes and complaints

It’s fantastic that you can get to this level of rich audience insight using social listening and audience segmentation techniques. But the important thing is how you apply it.

What is the value of taking this holistic approach?

There are many ways, and it depends on the organisation and their overarching objectives, but to give you few examples, you can:

  • Use this to inform your channel strategy by adopting a mix that is more aligned to the usage and channel preference of your audiences – don’t just assume that they’re all on Facebook or that it’s the most appropriate platform.
  • Be smarter and don’t treat all audience groups as the same, don’t be tempted to homogenise social content and expect the same content to work across multiple audiences - use this insight to inform the messaging strategy and try to appeal to both the emotional and rationale needs of your customers. Be creative with it. You should get a feel for what they like, so don’t afraid to try to bring this to life.
  • Apply these insights to your content targeting and outreach. Use the brand and interest filters to hone your targeting to the most receptive audiences and make best use of your budget. Through this segmented targeting strategy, iterate your content so that it tells one overarching story, but appeals to your different audiences in a more relevant and personalised way.
  • Ultimately use this insight to transform your whole customer experience. And keep in mind that although the insights we've talked about come from social tools and channels, the application of these extends far beyond. Use this to direct your website content, DM and above the line communications. Even use it to inform your product develop plans, customer service proposition and technical roadmap.

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