Ever feel like you’re just shouting into a void with your social media marketing? Perhaps you’re trying to appeal to everyone at once – an impossible feat, especially considering the variety of people that use social networks in 2015.
In order to generate leads from your efforts, users need to feel like you’re speaking directly to them. Enter one of the most important tools in your social media arsenal – audience segmentation.
Why bother segmenting?
While it’s important to have an ideal customer profile in mind, the reality is that your audience is diverse and fragmented, particularly if you’re a retailer offering a broad range of general products.
By its very nature, social media is personal; to attract new customers and build strong relationships with your followers, you need to provide content and spark discussions which are highly relevant to them. Taking a one-size-fits-all approach just won’t cut it – you’ll waste time creating tame, fluffy social content that fails to really engage with anyone.
Segmenting your audience can also help you work out who you should spend more time interacting with (ultimately because they’ll help you bring in the most money for your business). This is particularly important when it comes to social media, as it requires a greater time investment than other marketing channels and prioritising your time is essential.
How can I segment my audience?
Firstly, think about subdividing your audience based on simple demographic factors. Pay attention to the filters that the big social networks provide; for example, Facebook lets you narrow down the users who will see you post based on factors such as age, gender, relationship status, education. interests and more.
These demographics might seem simplistic, but keep in mind that they greatly affect how a user will respond to your messages, as they can influence not only their behaviour and tastes but also inform the pool of cultural references they have. (Remember that segments can overlap and most – if not all – users will fall into more than one segment at a time.)
If you want to go deeper, you can try separating users by personality types. This one requires an understanding of the basic competitive/spontaneous/humanistic/analytical system of personality assessment, but it’s useful for anticipating the behaviour patterns of users and driving conversions beyond your social media presence. For example, updates which highlight the scarcity of a product and the urgency of buying it can help you win over more impulsive characters.
You can also create segments which are specific and unique to your business.. How about a segment of users who have personally attended one of your events? Perhaps another segment could be customers who have converted previously and could be persuaded to buy again?
How do I target a particular audience segment?
So, you’ve decided which areas of your audience you want to focus your efforts on, but how do you actually go about reaching them? As well as the aforementioned filtering tools which social networks provide, there are also a few techniques you can use to grow your following and increase leads from social media organically.
Tailoring your content
From the copy you use in your updates to the long-form content you link to, all the things you push to your followers’ feeds should be highly relevant to them (not to mention they must connect to your business in some way).
This might mean varying your posts depending on where you’re posting them, creating time-sensitive content for certain times of the day, or writing content designed to grab the attention of an influencer. Let’s explore these further…
Posting on schedule
Posting at different times of the day can be effective, if not crucial, for targeting different demographics. For example, younger users are more likely to check their social feeds just after 3 or 4 once school and college is over for the day. Similarly, posting after 5 can help you grab the attention of adult users who work 9 to 5 jobs.
It’s also great for targeting different geographic areas, which is essential if you’re catering for a global customer base. Don’t forget that third-party software like Tweetdeck and Hootsuite allows you to schedule tweets and updates so they can go out at different times, even when you’re not in the office (or perhaps you’re asleep while they’re up and alert in their own neck of the woods).
Creating or joining groups
Aiming at a particular segment with your content is all well and good, but to a certain extent, it relies on them finding you. Why not go and find them?
Check out the groups that exist on each network and seek out the ones which your target audience segments use; these are places where you can directly engage with them. Perhaps there’s a group for fans of a brand which you stock, or a group for people who will be attending an event where you will be exhibiting or serving customers.
As with most social media marketing, don’t go into it trying to sell; listen to the people within the group and engage with them on a personal level. By taking the time to establish yourself as a helpful and honest member of the group, you’ll build trust with the other members and hopefully generate some leads for your company. You might even get a few helpful research insights out of the experience.
If you can’t find a group which is relevant to the segment you’re pursuing, create your own. It requires a bit more upkeep on your part, but you can build your own highly engaged community within your group; and since it’s your ‘house’, you have a bit more freedom over the direction of discussion.
Like email marketing, most social networks allow you to create lists of users – you can even view a feed of all the updates from users on a particular list, which you can then interact with. This is handy for segments which are clear-cut groups of people you know (such as all of your previous customers who have provided you with their email address and/or social accounts), but with some simple searching, you can also find strangers who belong to a segment and add them to one of your lists.
Sometimes simply being added to a list is enough to grab a user’s attention (and perhaps even start following you), particularly if the subject of the list is complimentary. It’s nice to know someone considers you one of their ‘Favourite customers’, and many people are inclined to return the favour.
As with the previous tip, it’s also a good idea to look at other lists that others have created first. Try going to an influencer’s profile and seeing if they have any lists of fans, for example – which brings us onto…
Tagging your posts
Another way to target a segment is to find out what hashtags they frequently use, then building content around those hashtags and including them in the post. This increases the chances of users from that particular section of your audience finding you, as you’ll show up when they click or search for the tag in question.
It’s not just hashtags – you can also tag the people who influence and inspire your customers, in the hope that they’ll share it with their followers. There’s also the option to interact with their updates, which can confine your post to a smaller audience. With Twitter, replying to a tweet and ensuring the mention sits at the very front of your message with no characters in front gives it less visibility to non-followers.
Keep in mind that the post must be relevant to the person you’re tagging, otherwise you’re just spamming someone you don’t even know.
Varying your updates across each platform
A lot of companies stick to the big four social networks (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Google+) and post the same update to all four of them simultaneously every time they have something to say. Taking a more focused approach to where and what you post can help you get the most from each platform.
Generally speaking, different networks serve different purposes and are inhabited by different types of users, so tailor each post to the platform where you’re posting and seek out the networks that your priority segments use the most. Facebook has a fairly broad audience; although many commentators have noted that teens are abandoning it in favour of Snapchat, Instagram, Vine and other more visual platforms.
Twitter is similarly diverse, but because of its short-form nature, it’s better for rapid news updates and the like – therefore it may come in handy for targeting determined and impatient personality types.
Speaking of visual platforms, Pinterest is particularly popular with young women, as is the strong vlogging community of YouTube and YouNow (although YouTube itself still has a very varied user base).
You might even choose to only maintain accounts on the one or two platforms where the most lucrative segments hang out and cut out the rest; a wise move if you don’t have the time or resources to manage them all.
Setting up multiple accounts
If you have more than enough resources, however, you might opt to create multiple accounts per platform, with each account specialising in a certain subject and targeting a particular segment. This is a strategy which is arguably reserved for larger companies, who not only have a larger customer following to cater for but also have a more diverse portfolio of services, products or areas of discipline within their business.
A basic example is having a customer service/support account alongside your main account to help guide customers and handle any complaints you might have. If you sell internationally, you could also set up dedicated geographic accounts for each of the countries where your brand is popular.
Just keep in mind that each account needs a sizeable audience and must be distinct enough from its siblings, otherwise your customers will be confused as to which account they should follow.
For more advice on social media marketing (and online marketing in general), why not check out our regular industry events? There’s a business training workshop for LinkedIn coming up in November – take a look or keep up to date on the latest upcoming events by following us on our own social channels.