Finding and understanding your online audience

First of all you’ll note that in the title I’ve said online audience as opposed to just audience – and this is something someone picked up on in my talk at the Content Marketing Show as well – there is a good reason for that which is that your online audience will differ from your general or offline audience. Sometime its big differences and sometimes they’re only slight but nine times out of ten there will be a difference and it’s important to understand this when planning your online strategy.

As you will have noticed from my first post here on State of Digital, I’m pretty passionate about audience engagement and the fact that this should be at the heart of any activity that you do. So I thought I’d make my next post more around how to find your audience and understand their online behaviours.

As mentioned, I recently spoke about this at the Content Marketing Show so you can find the full slide deck here if you’re interested in that – ‘How to implement and audience engagement strategy using content’.

Audience Types

There are other differences and ‘types’ of audiences as can be seen in the diagram below between people that buy from you, people that visit you and people that talk about you. Some people may fall into all three of these categories and some may only fall into one but it’s important to look at how these differ. You may also have other ‘types’ specific to your business  that you need to consider as well but this is on a basic scale for most businesses.

Audience

Most of these ‘types’ are self-explanatory but it’s worth saying the ‘broadcasters’ category is quite wide and includes bloggers and journalists as well as regular people talking about you on social channels, forums, review sites etc. Obviously the majority of the time journalists and bloggers won’t necessarily convert but they’re leading people to you that may convert.

So now we’ve worked out the types of audiences it’s important to know how to find them, the following are the tools that I use to help find these audiences for my clients.

Customers

Finding your customers is going to be different for each business but a good point to start is usually with your CRM system and look at the data that you can extract from it – what can it tell you about your customers’ demographics, interests and purchase cycle?

There’s also some great info that you can find from web analytics tools such as Google Analytics.

All of this will help your to build up a better picture of who your online customers are and it is at this point you can start to understand the difference between them and your offline customer – for example they might be younger or a higher percentage might be female.

Visitors

This one should be fairly straight forward as above with your web analytics tool but this time it’s looking at visits where a conversion didn’t take place. There are various reasons that the visitors might not be converting, it could be that they’re visiting some content and not at the right stage to convert which is fine or it could be that you’re attracting the wrong type of visitors with your content which could be more concerning, this article gives a great overview of where this has gone slightly wrong for a brand before. The importance has to be on creating content for customers not just to get links or visits.

This time we might look at:

  • What are the demographics of our visitors and how does the content they visit differ by demographic?
  • What other interests is GA telling us our visitors have?
  • What sources are they coming from?
  • Where are they dropping out?
  • What are the most popular landing pages?

Broadcasters

These are the people that are talking about you online but this doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re your customers or that they’re visiting your website. Again it’s important to understand who these people are and what they’re saying about you.

It’s when looking at the broadcasters that you’ll be able to start identifying the influencers and brand advocates and these are the most important people to focus on in your strategy.

Various tools will help to find the broadcasters such as:

  • Social listening tools like Brandwatch or Radian6
  • Followerwonk
  • Buzzsumo
  • Topsy

Fans & Followers

Similar to above your fans and followers on your social channels will provide you with more great insight into your audience. Most of the platforms’ own insight tools offer great insight into the demographics of your fans and followers and looking at your most and least popular content on there will be crucial in shaping your future strategy.

Other ways to understand your audience

There are a number of other tools that I find really useful in understanding more about your audience generally so I thought I’d include them in a bit more detail here.

YouTube Trends

Although you can’t drill down that far in terms of the audience with YouTube Trends I find it interesting to look at the differences between videos that get a lot of views compared to those that get a lot of shares.

For example if we look at the UK and compare the top 3 most viewed to the top 3 most shared there is a difference, as videos with less views can still overtake where shares are concerned.

Trends Dashboard

Trends Dashboard2

You can also set up comparisons for example between countries, genders and ages.

Trends Dashboard3

There is also the YouTube Trends Map feature but either this only works in the US at the moment or I’m not smart enough to find out how to change country!

YouGov Profiler

This is a new tool (I believe) and I have to say I really like it – but then I find any kind of data tool interesting! It allows you to put in a brand, person or ‘thing’ (I’m not sure what thing means) and it will bring back the profile of that person in terms of what differentiates them.

So this example is looking at Coca Cola customers and you can click into any of the options to see more information. You can check the tool out yourself here, unfortunately it will only provide UK data however the chances are the rest of the sections outside of ‘regions’ will still be relevant for people in other countries.

YouGov

Google Consumer Barometer

This is another of my favourite tools to play around with, you can look at a variety of questions and apply filters to look at how different things affect consumer’s purchasing decisions. Again have a play around with the tool yourself to see if you find it useful.

GCB

Question and Answer sites

I also find looking at question and answer sites such as Yahoo Answers and Quora really useful when forming our strategies as you can see the questions people have about your brand, industry or competitors and use this when shaping your content strategy in particular to make sure you’re answering all the questions that people have.

Summary

You’re probably thinking –  ok that all sounds great but then what? The key is to pull all of the information together in the easiest format for you to analyse, personally I like Excel because I can categorise data and then filter easily but different things work for different people so find what’s best for you. Once you have all the data in one place you need to start building personas, again different things will work for different people but a good place to start is with a piece of paper, draw some stick figures and starting adding information about them; age, interests, where they hang out online, behaviour, how profitable they are etc. Once you’ve done this you can build your content and PR strategy around this making sure you always have one of your personas in mind which should make it easy to focus on what type of content or campaign is best to reach them. Finally you need to keep analysing and re-evaluating, are the personas responding how you expected them to? If not why not>? Then adapt your strategy where needed.

About Laura Crimmons

Laura Crimmons is Communications Director at digital marketing agency Branded3 overseeing their Digital PR, Outreach and Social Media offering.