My DIY Guide to Defining Digital Audiences and Creating Audience Profiles
With the amount of data available and number of questions that need to be answered, it is often hard to even know where to start or what to look for to develop audience profiles. However, knowing your audience is vitally important. If you don’t know whom you — and your competitors — are talking to and trying to engage with, then marketing and communications amount to nothing more than shooting in the dark.
The key is to developing audience profiles is to be precise. The more precise you are in determining your audiences, the more relevant your marketing can be for them.
Precise definitions and personas allow for targeted and segmented marketing, which makes for a more effective and meaningful consumer brand experience.
It’s not surprising that the brands that market best know their audiences’ voices, pain points, habits, wants, and desires. Plainly put, if you try to be everything to everyone, your messages will end up meaning nothing to no one.
You also need to be flexible when you’re building out your audience profiles. If the data you find is telling you there are only one or two types of audiences, don’t try to force three or four to fit a persona quota. I recommend fewer and specific audiences to a wider variety.
Additionally, leave any preconceived notions and ideas about who your audiences are at the door when you start. You may be surprised by what you find in the data.
To Get Started…
First look at the types of characteristics you’re trying fill out. This will tell you the questions you need to ask. Then you need to figure out how to gather the data.
Of course, the principles for each section remain the same regardless of brand or organization size or whether your brand is B2C or B2B, but a local business will undoubtedly define elements like location much differently than a multinational organization.
What to Ask
Who Are They? (Demographics)
In this very first stage, you’re attempting to figure out who your audience is in the most general sense. This can come in a variety of forms, all of which are demographic.
Common demographic information includes:
- Education level
- Marital status
- Family size
All of these elements shape commonalities between groups and will allow you to establish a framework to work within to draw the largest buckets possible for audience definition.
For instance, a high school senior is going to be in a different mindset and have different values than a college graduate, even if they are both in the same generation or 18-34-year-old demographic.
Where Are They? (Geographical)
Moving one step further, the next question to explore is: Where is your audience located?
This data will take the form of:
By understanding countries, regions, and states or metropolitan areas, you can start to deduce some of the cultural influences of your audience.
Furthermore, by understanding the overall climate and setting your audiences live in (and even potentially zeroing in on smaller communities or neighborhoods), you can gain insights into elements that may affect their routines, lifestyles, and shopping habits.
For instance, audiences in a warm city setting like Los Angeles are generally bound to have a different lifestyle and habits than audiences based in London — in addition to the cultural influences and attitudes.
— Spiritual Gangster (@sgangster) March 1, 2016
By defining the demographics and geographical locations of your audiences, you can then move into the granular level of audience definition.
What Do They Think About? (Psychographics)
This is where things get fun, and social analytics can be the biggest help.
Now that the general characteristics of your audience are established, the next step is to understand their psychographics:
There are many reasons why people interact with brands. By identifying these reasons, you can tailor and personalize messages that speak directly to your audiences’ needs. Some questions to consider are:
- What are their pain points and concerns?
- What are their goals and aspirations?
- Which values and characteristics do they identify with?
- How do they see themselves, and how do they want to see themselves?
- How do they want to be engaged with and talked to?
- What type of consumer brand experience do they want?
- What makes them feel good and what do they like?
- Who and what influences and motivates them?
By answering these questions, you’ll develop a deeper understanding of where your audience is and build deeper segmentation into your digital marketing.
Each segment is going to have different perspectives, pressures, and needs, and the more targeted your marketing is, the larger impact and resonance your brand will have. Your goal as a brand should be solving the pain points of your audiences and helping them achieve their goals. Always remember that your marketing efforts aren’t about your brand, but what your brand can do for your audiences.
— Cision (@Cision) March 1, 2016
How Do They Act? (Behavioral)
The last piece of a comprehensive audience profile is behavior. Behavior includes:
- Digital habits
- Purchasing habits
When focusing on the digital aspect of behavior, you can determine things like which devices your audiences are using, where they are going online, how they are spending their time online, when they are online, and what they are going online for.
All of these behaviors will inform how, when, and where you can engage with your audiences.
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Additionally, understanding how your audience is spending time offline and what larger trends are developing will help you understand what mental state they may be in at any given time, potential beneficial partnerships, and where your audiences may be going next with new technologies and channels (which will allow you to be prepared when they get there).
Pulling It All Together
You need a full view of your audience’s demographics, locations, psychographics, and behaviors to create effective marketing content.
The goal of your social profiles is really to understand the “who, what, where, when, and how.” This means knowing:
- Whom you are speaking to on multiple levels
- What content will have value to rise above all others
- Where that content will be most effective
- When the audience will be the most receptive to your messages and content
- How you will deliver your messages (including tone and imagery) for the greatest impact
This greater level of focus, specificity, and segmentation will lead to deeper brand connections and loyalties that unattainable through generalized digital marketing.
In the second part of this post series, I’ll tackle where and how to find the data to answer these questions about your audiences and those of your competitors.
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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.