Why you need to dive deep on social demographics

One of the revelatory aspects of the online revolution has been the way it has exposed and accelerated the fragmentation and segmentation of audiences into often ever smaller niche categories.

The identification of audiences (meaning consumers as well) has blossomed into a kaleidoscope of weird and wonderful nooks and crannies that are often all but hidden unless you’re an astute observer of such things. This fragmentation, however, happens alongside the more traditional and still reasonably relevant ‘big picture’ demographic markers commonly used such as age, gender and income.

A recent article on AdWeek highlighted the fact that opportunity awaits in the challenge of working out who the people are in your target market, what makes them tick, and how you can effectively get your message across to them: “Audiences are getting more segmented, and advertisers need to be reactive to changes in the market.”

The headline for the article, “Demographic targeting is becoming less effective on social” is not pointing out anything more than what we’ve always known: demographics are broad brush strokes and audiences are always more complex than you think.

The better you know the people you want to target, the better you can devise a strategy that will resonate with them.

More to demographics than just age, race and gender

The most basic idea of demography is taken to mean the generally broad categories we often see used to describe people: age, income, ethnicity, gender. So we might speak of a 29-year-old white male who earns $57,000 a year, or a 62-year-old Asian female who earns $75,000 a year.

Furthermore, we usually extrapolate from these demographic descriptions that the 29-year-old is a Millennial and that the 62-year-old is a Baby Boomer. While these descriptors are definitely essential factors in building up a useful picture of the person we are hoping to target as a potential consumer, they only go so far as more nuanced elements of the picture are still missing. We get a rough sketch, but there’s not much shade or light, and very little colour in our picture.

The silly thing about descriptions like Millennial and Baby Boomer is that beyond the world of business and demographers, very few people go around calling themselves these things. In fact, many people bristle at being defined as such because it is an impersonal labelling that masks their real, actual personalities.

Bruce and the shark encounter

You don’t go to a BBQ and have people introduce themselves to you by saying, “Hi, my name’s Bruce and I’m a Baby Boomer.” After initial introductions, people will tell you about what they do, “I’m a builder and I like doing the occasional triathlon…”. From there, Bruce might tell you about the time he came face to face with a shark and the terror it invoked inspired him to confront that fear by doing a scuba diving course.

This is the nuanced bit that marketers want to know if they are to engage Bruce with a targeted campaign that gets him to click through on ads about building equipment or triathlon gear.

When Bruce had his shark encounter he might have spent time reading about bull sharks in Sydney Harbour and clicking on a few scuba diving school ads. He then checked out the Facebook page of one of these schools and ad re-targeting kicked into gear, with Bruce contemplating his diving foray for a few weeks before watching an especially inspiring video on YouTube that came up in his suggested videos tab.

Tailor your content, target your message

Having strategic content across your channels, especially on social platforms, that engages with those nuanced bits that put flesh and colour on the bones of your potential customers has become increasingly important. For most brands, this is where you start to get traction, where the rubber hits the road.

The powerful bit about social media platforms is they draw on the authenticity of the crowd. As AdWeek explains, “by using the actual social voice of the customer, brands can create authentic marketing using the right content for the right audience that effectively attracts new consumers and builds long term loyalty.”

Look at your data and think about who you are targeting and what is of interest to them. Social media platforms give you so many more options and opportunities to reach people, but without a solid strategy you could quickly end up in a demographic maze.

Fi Bendall is CEO of The Bendalls Group, a business that leads STRATEGY : ADVOCACY : MOBILE delivering the business acumen to drive effective positive results in a disruptive economy for the C-suite. Fi has recently won a Westpac/AFR 2015 100 Women of Influence award. See more at: http://www.bendalls.com.au/

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