3 Ways to Develop a Deep Understanding of Your Digital Audience

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The evolution of PR in the digital age is changing the playing field for brands, giving them access, reach, and the ability to engage with audiences like never before.

Today’s digital audience lives on social media channels and messaging apps. According to eBizMBA, the most popular social networking sites of August 2016 were Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and LinkedIn. And messaging apps—such as Messenger, Kik and WhatsApp—have now surpassed social networks in terms of monthly active users. Their rise has helped to democratize the communication landscape and empower brands to communicate directly to their target audiences.

Impacting an audience starts with understanding that audience. So, if you want to encourage a specific behavior with your audience (such as making a purchase), then you need to understand their preferences, concerns, and behaviors.

Here are three approaches that communications professionals can take to gain a better understanding of their digital audience:

  1. Profile Your Audience

Start with research and insights into your target audience’s demographics and psychographics to understand their unique wants and needs.

Research can be primary, secondary or a mixture of both. Primary research collects new data to answer specific questions, usually via interviews, questionnaires and surveys. Secondary research, or "desk research," utilizes previously researched material, such as research reports, company websites, online articles, etc.

Once you’ve done your research, build buyer personas—fictional representations of your ideal customers—to gain insight into the audience you’re trying to attract. Personas can help you understand what stage of the buyer’s journey they are in and the kind of content that will move them down the funnel from awareness to conversion. They can also tell you where your audience is online, and which digital channels you should prioritize to reach them.

Developing a specific customer profile allows you to directly target marketing efforts in a way that resonates with your audience’s wants, needs and digital life.

  1. Use Analytics and Social Listening

It takes digital tools to understand digital audiences. An array of digital and social tools is available to monitor where your audience is and what they’re saying.

These analytics tools can help you gain a better understanding of your audience and how they’re using each social media platform:

  • Google Analytics: Allows you to collect information about your website’s audience, such as what time of day is most popular with them, where they’re coming from and what percentage access your site on a mobile device
  • Facebook Insights: Gives analytics for your Facebook page, including the number of likes over time, post reach and overall engagement
  • Twitter for Business: Offers metrics for every single one of your tweets, and lets you track your follower growth over time and learn about their interests and demographics

Another way to track your audiences’ behavior online is through social listening. By leveraging your buyer personas, you can find where they are on social media, interact with them, and track their online behavior. For example, try brainstorming keywords that people might use when researching a product and then track these terms across forums and online discussions.

Using social listening and analytics builds on your customer profile by providing you with a data-based understanding of your target audience, resulting in an informed, focused social media strategy.

  1. Find Your Competitors’ Audiences

Digital audiences are everywhere, and on multiple platforms, so it can be challenging to find your audience. One way to approach this is to concentrate on finding audiences on the platforms that deliver the most return—including the audiences of the competition.

For instance, Facebook Ad Manager allows you to target audiences on Facebook based on their interests, behaviors and demographics. By targeting an audience that shows a competitor as one of its interests, you can find an audience that may also be interested in your services.

Next, compare the differences between your followers and theirs. It’s important to understand your competition’s positioning:

  • What strategies are they using?
  • How do they present themselves online?
  • How does their social profile look?
  • What are their target keywords?
  • What social networks are they on?

Most importantly, you need to answer how your brand is different from your competitors and then direct your social and online content to connect with your target audience and set your brand apart.

By better understanding your competitors and their online audiences, you can leverage opportunities to differentiate yourself and gain audience share.

Erica Pompen is SVP, influence, Text100. @ericapompen

Jeppe Christensen is SVP, content & social, Text100. @Jeppezdk