You need to reach the right customers with your social media to get the results you want from your social media efforts. That means you have to make decisions about how to allocate your resources. We were configuring a social sharing plugin recently for a client, and we saw a new-to-us social network: VK. VK, it turns out, stands for VKontakte, a Russian social media platform which claims to be the most popular social media platform in Europe.
Facebook stats seem to disagree, as it happens.
But the question wasn’t how popular the network was in Europe. The question was, since there are more social media platforms than there is space under blog posts, should our client give that precious space to VK rather than some other network? Would VK help them reach the right customers?
This particular client has the advantage of knowing exactly what demographic they want to reach: older adults. Their target market is changing, though. A decade ago, older adults were much less likely to use the internet, and there were some behaviors that were strongly associated with aging internet users. They tended not to hover over things with a mouse to see what options were available. They tended not to realize elements were clickable unless there was a large button, preferably labeled “Click here.” They often wanted to print things out.
And only 2% of people over 65 used social media in 2005. Now 35% do, according to the Pew Research Center. That’s fewer than the 90% of Millennials who use social media, obviously, but it’s an amazing degree of growth.
One reason for that leap, of course, is that people who were younger in 2005 got older. The whole cohort of people in their 50s, who were at that time more likely to use social media, moved into their 60s. And while there are behaviors that actually are associated with being young, things that people tend to give up when they get old, social media use isn’t one of them. Add the older folks who learned to use Facebook in order to stay in touch with their grandchildren, and the growth is no surprise.
But are these older internet users on VK? Apparently not. A recent research report reveals that Russia’s older folks prefer Odnoklassniki. With a clear demographic in mind, our client should choose Facebook over VK.
And this approach to social media data is often exactly what you need. Many website owners can — if they check their data — say with some confidence that their typical customer is a guy in his late 20s or women 30-54. Figure out which social media platforms are most popular with people in your demographic group and put most of your social media resources into those platforms.
What if demographics don’t tell you enough? Our client happens to speak to a specific demographic group, but your organization may be talking to all people suffering from psoriasis, not just to Hispanic teen females in urban areas suffering from psoriasis. How do you choose the right social platform?
You still need data. People who are members of interest groups congregate in groups on social media platforms, and their social media hangouts are often smaller and more narrowly targeted than those associated with demographic groups. Knitters hang out at Ravelry, veterans visit Vetfriends, and psoriasis patients get support at TalkPsoriasis. You have to identify the interest-specific platforms. Here are a few options for finding that data:
- Google it. If an interest group exists, the chances are good that someone has done a study of their social media use, and that specialized platforms or groups within larger social media platforms like LinkedIn or Facebook exist. Check out those platforms and see whether you recognize your potential customers, clients, and patients there.
- Ask. You may not be a member of your target market, but you surely know some people who are. Ask them about their social media use. Insiders may know about up and coming websites that haven’t yet shown up in research or in the search results.
- Test. Make searches you’d like to come up for. If you’re serving psoriasis patients, an example might be “psoriasis treatments.” Notice the communities that show up in search. Check them out and choose a few that you think could be appealing to your target market. Buy ads (fast) or become a useful member of the community (slow). Once you see traffic coming from those sites to your website, do more of what works and less of what does not.
A combination of these three steps should give you information that will help you decide which social media platforms will reach your target market.
You may not want to reach a specific demographic or interest group, but rather a much more specific set. Maybe you want to reach African American women who like to experiment with hair products and prefer natural ingredients, or wealthy Republicans who care about healthcare legislation. It’s not as easy to sort out this kind of human group as to find marketing directors or retired men.
Instead, use personas — fictional or real people whom you can describe very clearly, who can represent your ideal customers. One of our clients has Betty, an accountant for a firm with branches in multiple states, who prizes keeping control over her workflow and her data. We interviewed a number of real people our client identified as Bettys and we use the finely-honed mental image of Betty in our content for this client.
Our client personas are actually based on real clients of ours. We can easily decide whether a new product would be of value to these individuals, because we know them pretty well after working with them for years.
Once you’ve got your mental picture of your perfect client, whether it’s a real person or a fictional composite, find similar people in social media, and see where they hang out most online.
The time invested in this homework will make a big difference in your social media strategy.