In the latest post in our global series examining socially-led research, We Are Social Sydney's Head of Research & Insight Michael Batistich examines why connecting with your audience requires knowing who they are beyond superficial demographics, and how brands can get this right.

Knowing what your audience wants and expects from you as a brand is key to success. When physical touchpoints become less common within modern-day marketing, it is harder to understand your audience if you’re not interacting with them face-to-face.

But your audiences and potential audience do leave a lot of clues about who they are, what they think and how they behave on social media, and this information can be used to supplement existing information about your audience.

For us, audiences aren’t different demographics or generations - it’s about mindsets. There are lots of reasons why people don’t fit neatly into boxes / labels nowadays - disrupted generations (moving away from home, delaying life stages), more accepted fluidity and participation in different subcultures (facilitated by the internet and social media). 

To connect authentically with consumers, brands need access to high-quality, meaningful audience insights. The brands that leverage audience insights, generated by data, have a deeper understanding of their target consumer and know how to implement strategies that resonate. 

Why is it important for brands to know their audience?
We’ve broken down the five reasons why brands need to invest in social audience insights by exploring the Who, What, When, Where, and Why.

1.Know your current audience
Connecting with your audience requires knowing who they are beyond superficial demographics. A deeper understanding of your audience helps you appreciate that there are real humans at the other end. What are their hopes and desires? What are their passions? What are their touchpoints? Without the right tools to uncover these audience insights, you’re not treating your audience the way they’d like to be treated.  

2.Know what they want to engage with
A big part of connecting with consumers is knowing what they pay attention to. What content and conversations do they care about? Knowing what content your audience loves will help you create content that adds value to their lives and earns their attention.   

3.Know when to engage
Knowing when customers want to hear from you can help your brand win or retain consumer preference. What are the micro-moments on the customer journey? What are the optimal times to schedule content based on your audience’s platform consumption? Brands need the tools to understand customer context and make decisions on how to engage in the moment.

4.Know where they want to engage 
Understanding where to show up at the right time to make a claim for your audience’s attention is critical. Why promote your content on Twitter if your ideal audience spends the majority of their time on TikTok? A campaign will only be effective if your audience can access your content with ease.

5.Know their ‘why’
Analysing conversation can help you understand the humans at the other end and the kind of relationship they want with your brand. Are they seeking entertainment, information or utility? Why are some people advocating for your brand, whilst others are detracting? When you understand what’s driving your audience you can better add value to the lives of your audience and your business. 

How to do it

1.Owned audience profiling
Using your brand account page analytics, we can identify your audience's age, gender, location, industry, interests and pages that are likely to be relevant based on user affinity. 

An owned audience profile allows you to answer important questions about your existing audience. Do our followers look like buyers of our category, or are we attracting non-buyers? What are our audience's interests? Connecting with their passions will help capture attention and drive more conversions. What videos are watched by which age and gender cohort? Understanding which videos appeal to which segments will give the insight you need to double down on the cues driving impact. 

We recently helped a premium cable channel measure its existing social audience versus category users (via GlobalWebIndex) to identify audience growth opportunities. The analysis highlighted that on Facebook the brand was not connecting with males 35+ / females 45+ and on Instagram the brand was missing 18-24s. These audiences were prioritised to attract more people to the brand.  

2.Earned audience profiling
Social media listening tools, platform audience insights and AI tools, such as IBM’s Watson, can provide typical demographics data, but also tribes segmented by interests, psychology makeup, people they engage with on social and the most influential people within those tribes.   

An earned analysis answers questions into the people who are talking about your brand. What are the brand and category narratives? Being a good listener will help you talk to people about what they are interested in. Where are people talking? This will inform where to build your brand presence. What are the tribes, who is influential within and where are the overlaps. Understanding the tribe subcategories can help you create even more tailored content and campaigns. 

When working with a luxury handbag maker, we analysed its social following and compared it to its offline audience. We did this by carrying out a network mapping exercise of its social channels - using tools powered by IBM Watson to split its social audiences into tribes based on a psychographic makeup, as well as the factors discussed above.

A “network map” clusters audiences and highlights influential tribes within the communities. Importantly, it looks at connections within the clusters as well as any connections that might straddle one or more groups. These tribes are key, as they can influence different segments and help information flow between the groups.

With the luxury handbag maker, we found a completely new audience they had not considered marketing to - a younger, vocal, hip hop obsessed group. We were able to broaden our targeting options and create new content pillars tailored to this audience in its social strategy.

3.Consumer survey-based profiling
We overlay owned and earned audiences against audience survey data from tools such as GlobalWebIndex to build up a 360 degree view of the audience. Surveys offer a different perspective to the tribes - not only where they are on social media, but what they expect from brands, their outlook of life, as well as demographics, activities and media consumption. 

Anonymous survey data can help answer questions that social data cannot illuminate. What is the size of our audience? What motivates our audience to buy our category? Where can I connect with my audience and on what platforms? With survey data like this that focuses on your own brand, you get a clear vision of exactly what your customers want from you, helping you to: target your marketing efforts, position the audience within culture, react to changes around your brand perception when it counts, and track the shifting mindsets of your audience.

In the past, we worked with a global fashion brand to identify insights into the global high fashion consumer with a focus on four key fashion markets. The insights into mindsets, motivations and touchpoints was used to inform global and local campaigns. 

All this information can be used to identify new audiences to target, help refine targeting of existing audiences, develop the right content strategy for them, and maintain a healthy value exchange on social. 

Finally, and importantly, all data we use is anonymized to protect user privacy. Understanding your audience is not about speaking to people one by one, or using data unethically to help your brand. It’s about giving everyone a value exchange - better content for the consumer, and a more effective campaign for the client. 

-----

If you’d like to find out more about how We Are Social’s research team can work with your brand, contact us on lets.chat@wearesocial.net