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How to Use Data to Define Your Digital Audience (Part 2)

In my last post, I wrote about what questions to ask and which principles to use to help define your digital audience.

These elements are important to understand when defining your specific audience profiles, and they also offer a starting point and framework for what to research when going through the definition process. But they are not effective on their own. You will also need data to craft your audience profiles. The natural question that follows is: Where do I find this data? 

There are many great resources available to answer these questions — like Simply Measured — that also provide useful data to inform who your digital audiences are. There are also DIY hacks that can help you tease out this information, in addition to the viability of particular audiences that comprise your competitors’ audiences, what your influencer models look like, and how certain groups operate.

Learning About Your Audiences

The first place to start is with the audiences that are visiting your website. Using Google Analytics, you can determine the broad demographics of the people who are coming to your site and engaging with your content.

Google Analytics Map

Additionally, you can use Google Analytics to understand some of their behavioral qualities.

Google Analytics GroupsWhat percentage of your audience is using your site on phones? What time of the day is the most popular? What day of the week is most popular? Where are they coming from to access your site?

Traffic Source Analysis
This chart comes from the Simply Measured Traffic Source Analysis. It shows where site visits and engagement originated for one particular site.

Next are your social audiences. Facebook offers the most robust options for determining who is engaging with your brand — and it’s a good barometer, given that 72% of adults use Facebook. Similar to Google Analytics, you can get a basic idea of the age, gender, and location of your audiences through Facebook Insights. However, where Facebook really shines is in its Ads Manager.

Ads Manager is an extremely valuable tool for determining the qualities of your audience. By setting your followers as the target audience in a sample campaign, you can test different variables against this group to see what percentage of your audience fits within these buckets.

Location is mandatory in searching Ads Manager, so I suggest first setting up an audience that consists of your followers and as many locations as you feel is necessary to encompass a strong percentage of your followers (you can get this list from Insights).

Ads Manager LocationThen, with this group established, you can start testing interests, behaviors, and even life events to see what the common themes exist between your audience.

Ads Manager Ad SetYou can take this segmentation a step further by then focusing in on audience subsets based on location, age, gender, or any other important variable. One key to remember is to select “Narrow the Audience” to make sure the qualifications are “and’s” and not “or’s.”

Another group you can use Ads Manager to further understand and help craft audience profiles with is your email list (if you have one).

In Ads Manager, you can import emails, which Facebook matches with profiles set up with the same email. Once uploaded, you can save them as a custom audience to test different qualities.

These people may or may not be your followers; you can cross-reference with your followers to find out.

Ads Manager Email List-FollowersAdditionally, you can find the common interests of people who have subscribed with your brand, and create audience profiles based on this information.

Social is your Secret Weapon

Twitter also offers information on followers. Through Twitter for Business, you can find demographic, geographic, and behavioral data on your Twitter followers.

Twitter Audience insightsOne advantage Twitter holds for brands is that it provides buyer profiles, education level, and income information. With Simply Measured, you can take your audience analysis one step further and analyze your audience by influence, follower count, and Twitter profile keyword analysis.

Twitter Audience Analysis
This chart from Simply Measured’s Twitter Audience Analysis shows the keywords most used in one brand’s audience profiles.

General Audience Viability

Another benefit of Facebook Ads Manager is discovering audience viability. This means being able to determine if an audience profile is large enough to be effective, or if it is scalable.

Once you’ve determined some basic audience profiles, you can put the qualities into Ads Manager to see how big of an audience exists around these characteristics. If there are only a few thousand people that fit a profile, it may be worth considering broadening your criteria.

Ads Manager Small AudienceAs discussed in the previous post, it is important to keep audiences specific so that you can speak directly to their needs, wants, and desires — but they still need to be viable in size.

Conversely, if all of Facebook’s 1.5 billion users come back after you’ve entered your audience criteria, it may be time to consider ways to narrow this down.

Finding Competitive Audiences

In the same manner that you can find your own audiences, Ads Manager allows you to search based on your competition’s profile and cross-reference interests, behaviors, and demographics against their followers.

Ads Manager HopkinsKnowing who comprises your competitors’ audiences can help you determine the differentiated qualities of your own audiences. This information also can help direct your brand’s content to connect with audiences better than competitors or help you find how you can set your brand apart from theirs.

Simply Measured’s suite of competitive reports can show you how your brand is faring against every level of competitor.

Creating Influencer Models

Have you seen the movie — or read the book — Moneyball? In it, analytics are used to measure the effectiveness and potential of baseball players. A similar system to the SABR metrics in the movie is called PECOTA, which was developed by Nate Silver.

In essence, the PECOTA method takes current baseball players and finds their statistical match from years past to predict their future performance based on how their matches performed (the method has also famously been applied to predict election results).

So what does this have to do with digital audiences? Well, you can use tools like Buzzsumo to find influencers in your field or market.

Influencer Analysis
A solution like Simply Measured can help you identify your top influencers and traffic generators.

Then, based on these influencers’ qualities, you can build influencer models to identify replicable qualities you can target in certain audience profiles.

medicine Twitter InfluencersDepending on the level of information you know about audience types, you may be able to identify profiles of people who are on the cusp of becoming influencers and establish relationships with them to grow your brand along with theirs.

This principle can carry over to competitor audience profiles and audience profiles of brands outside of your market that have experienced rapid growth. From these, you can isolate audience qualities to measure and target to grow your own brand.

Connecting the Dots

By combining all the information, you can discover characteristics about your digital audience and larger audience, and you can start to make educated assumptions about their psychographic traits and habits.

In other words, the digital data you acquire from Google Analytics, Facebook, Twitter, and your email list can provide the outline of your audience profiles that you can begin to color in and customize, based on shared beliefs and habits of the different personal constructs.

Marketing segmentation programs such as Esri’s “Tapestry”

ESRI…and Nielsen’s “My Best Segments”

Nielsen MyBestSegments…can also help you fill in more information about your current or potential audiences by pulling in even more outside data.

By combining the principles in the first post in this series and the data sources provided in this post, you can start crafting or refining your digital audience profiles to enhance your digital marketing efforts.

Need more information on defining and understanding your audience on social? Download Simply Measured’s guide below.

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Jay Shemenski

Jay Shemenski is a Senior Digital Strategist at Hill Holliday. He is a digital strategist with 6+ years of experience at brands like AARP and Harvard Medical School. His expertise is in developing comprehensive brand experiences and digital marketing strategies to successfully engage audiences and establish long-term growth.

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