Going hand in hand with establishing your social media goals is defining your target audience. Companies have traditionally relied on market research to figure out where to most effectively put their radio, print and television advertising dollars. Today, small businesses can look to research organizations that provide information on how consumers use social media. Knowing how your existing and potential customers use social media is an important part of developing an effective social media strategy.

Your target demographic is specific to your business and will depend on the goods and services that you offer. In order to understand your audience, you must determine which social media sites your existing and potential clients use – where are they online?

Research organizations publish valuable studies that can help you reach your audience. A late 2012 survey by the Pew Research Center, for example, entitled The Demographics of Social Media Users – 2012, shows that 67% of Internet users use Facebook and that it is especially appealing to women and young adults aged 18 to 29. The study also found that 15% of Internet users use Pinterest, and this social media platform is especially appealing to white adult women under age 50 and those with some college education.

Pew research shows other statistics, such as the percentage of Internet users that earn at least $50,000 that are on LinkedIn (24%) compared with the percent of users who earn less than $30,000 (7%), and the number of Internet users that are at least 50 years old who are using Facebook (57%). These statistics can help small businesses figure where their social media efforts are best served. Because social media is a dynamic environment, it is helpful to review current studies when determining where to focus your attention.

You can perform your own non-scientific research to find out if your target demographic is active on a particular social media platform. One way is to research your competitors’ sites; if they are engaging successfully with an audience on a particular social network, then you should be able to target your audience on the same platform. You can also search the various social media platforms for keywords that pertain to your business. For example, to find out if your audience is active on LinkedIn, you can enter your keywords into the People search box in the top menu bar.

Know Thy Audience
Digital Producer Hannah Twigg says that the most important consideration when planning a social media strategy is to know thy audience. She explains, “The same way a job candidate needs to know the company they are interviewing for, a business must have a clear understanding of who they are targeting, which social media channels they prefer and what they read, share and post.”

Twigg notes that social media is a two-way street and that timing is important: “Successful social media strategy is more about listening than talking. The right message interjected at the right time at the right person can lead to bigger ROI. Here is a perfect example: a well-known journalist was visiting Las Vegas and while checking into his hotel tweeted about the terrible wait time. This tweet was seen by a competing hotel in the area and their response was quite simple and genius: ‘Las Vegas is happy to have you @ … We hope your time here improves quickly’. This message resulted in the journalist switching hotels and then recommending his new accommodations to two other friends.”

Because of the viral nature of social media, one well-timed interaction with the right person can quickly spread across the Web. In addition to the Las Vegas hotel earning the journalist’s business, their well-timed tweet brought additional clients. Twigg explains, “This single tweet resulted in over 10k of new business for the hotel. The hotel targeted a high profile journalist, listened for the right moment to engage and delivered a simple message that wasn't a sales pitch, rather a friendly acknowledgment of their target audience's woes. Being 'likeable' and non-intrusive to your audience is key!”

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