How to Define a Social Media Audience
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How to Define a Social Media Audience

Christy Pregont

Dec 17, 2020

I once heard a recommendation that when you are writing you should have one, specific person in mind that you are writing to. Maybe it’s your best friend, your sibling, your fourth grade teacher, the cool guy you see every day on the subway, or even a celebrity, but write to someone who you can really picture. While you are writing, ask yourself: how will they react to this? Is it the reaction I want? Will they connect with this?

Maybe this doesn’t work for everyone, but it has always stuck with me. I’ve always liked being able to visualize that person I want the work to connect with, and have brought that same thinking to a lot of what we do as an agency.

The bottom line is that you don’t need every kind of consumer to connect with everything–which is good, because this isn’t possible

In fact, it’s this thinking that drives a lot of our work on social media. We have that one, specific person in mind for everything we do, and our process of defining what we call a single critical audience is what sets us apart.

Creating a Better Social Media Experience

Just like actors are trying to connect with an audience by way of a character who’s incredibly genuine, we are trying to connect with the social audience we should be talking with and creating incredibly genuine content for. 

I’ve worked at Movement Strategy for 11 years and helped create how we define a single critical audience because, frankly, social media is saturated with too many accounts talking into a void. Too many accounts who think they are speaking to everyone, but no one is listening. We want to talk to those who want to hear from us. Otherwise, we’re just creating noise that can easily be tuned out.

We want to talk to those who want to hear from us. Otherwise, we’re just creating noise that can easily be tuned out.

The broader you get, the more you end up watering down the message. Oftentimes, brands think they need to talk to the woman here and the guy over there and this broad age group, and the odds are, you might not be reaching anyone as much as you could be.

So instead of trying to reach everyone and missing the mark, we narrow our focus to a single audience that we can fully understand, visualize, and create content for, directly. It’s a characterization strategy that goes against common thinking around social audiences. 

What’s common is for brands to do research to define specific personas within their audience, maybe the top three to five types of people who are already consumers or could turn into consumers. There’s no reason to discount any work brands have done to define their audiences. In fact, understanding their audience is imperative to success. But there’s a big difference between a brand’s total audience and its best audience to reach on social media. That’s where we come in.

We don’t want to cater to all of these personas. Instead, we focus on the leader of those personas, this single critical audience. We believe that hitting that one audience really, really well not only works on this targeted audience but also delivers a trickle down effect where secondary and tertiary audiences also respond to the content. We define how these audiences interact with one another and their relationship, even if it’s just crossing paths on social. When you examine audiences in this way, one will bubble to the top. One who the others follow, who sets the trends, who is the most primed to connect with your brand. This is the consumer you want. The bottom line is that you don’t need every kind of consumer to connect with everything–which is good, because this isn’t possible. 

Identifying Your Audience

There are very rudimentary ways to identify a social media audience. Most networks even provide demographic data directly on the platforms for you to dive into and make your own assumptions. Some even suggest who to target (and where to spend money within those targets). 

What we do is very different, but that’s what makes it unique. It’s also what makes it work.

Identifying the singular audience isn’t simple but it is collaborative, with teams across the agency working together and clients providing input throughout the entire process. Like all things strategic, there’s a balance of science and art to the work. 

I really urge the creative team to think about this like we’re painting a picture of this audience, almost like we’re creating a character who could be in a movie or TV show or in your favorite book. Someone you’d really get to know well. We can only do that with every piece of the puzzle, which includes data and insights from our strategy team, platform insights from digital content team, cultural insights from our comms team and business goals from our account team. What are the goals? Is there a shift in product focus? On target consumer? Of course, our clients’ insight helps us bring the audience fully into realization as well. Their creative feedback breathes life into the audience. After all, they’re the closest to the brand.

The process is fantastically creative because of the narrative storytelling that goes into this method. One of the biggest aspects is that we want every person working on the account, including the client, to know this audience, to understand who they are, what they’re like, what they get angry about or fired up about. The richer the storytelling, the better we all understand who we’re speaking to. We explore everything from where they live to what their style is, from their favorite shows to if they put pineapple on pizza. That may seem silly, but it’s part of the art. The narrative becomes much richer as we develop who this audience really is.

Diversifying Social Media Audiences

We pay attention to every detail, and sometimes the singular critical audience isn’t one sole person. It can be a family, where on certain channels we’re speaking more to the dad and on others we’re speaking to his youngest daughter. We get nuanced into race and gender, working with our Diversity, Equity and Inclusion team to ensure that the conclusions we’re drawing about the audiences make the most sense. 

Being inclusive of diversity and gender fluidity are incredibly important to us as an agency and are always factored into the single critical audience discussions. Where did our audience come from? If we land on a white male, we pick that apart, and question ourselves to make sure we’re not just defaulting to a majority. We’ve done a lot to create a safe environment and to be able to have conversations around race, gender, what the data shows and what we think the audiences should be, look like, stand for and believe in. 

Adjusting who they are is part of the fun. Brand goals and products are always shifting and changing, so who we’re speaking to as the brand has to pivot as well.

All that said, the single critical audience is never set in stone. The audiences evolve and grow. More often than not, we’re adding to what we know about them more than we are taking away. As our cultural landscape changes, we make additions and add elements to how they feel. Do they want to see anything from a brand about politics? Where do they land on controversial topics? As social platforms change, this changes, too. For example, we expect to see TikTok users continue to age up, so we’ll think about what that means for the audience. 

Just like real people change what we listen to and talk about and care about, so will our audiences. Adjusting who they are is part of the fun. Brand goals and products are always shifting and changing, so who we’re speaking to as the brand has to pivot as well. This isn’t an annual exercise, it happens in real time.

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