So you have a brand’s target audience in mind. Or at least an idea of your target audience. But how do you know which platform is best to reach them? The answers are far more nuanced than reaching boomers on Facebook, millennials on Instagram and Gen Z on TikTok.
Chase Carraro, Director of Paid Social for Movement Strategy, says that the past year and a half of pandemic life has sped up people’s digital adoption as they looked for ways to stay entertained and connected. “You can reach people more than ever across platforms,” he says, especially with strategic thinking and planning.
Here’s what Movement Strategy’s team keeps in mind.
Step 1: Don’t Sleep on Data and Testing
Data is key but not king. It’s nonsensical to lead with only data, but also irresponsible to exclude it. There has to be a happy medium.
“The wrong approach is trying to reach an audience on Instagram because that’s where you think your demographic is without having any data to back it up,” Chase says. “We constantly test to see who’s engaging at high rates and who isn’t so we can tune things as we go.”
Chase thinks about testing in two categories. First, there’s putting organic content out to your audience of followers and tracking how your current audience reacts to it compared to a baseline from prior months. Second, there’s paid testing, where a piece of organic content is targeted to non-followers and observed for performance. Coupling those two provides a clear and low-risk path for targeting your current and potential new audiences. Testing within your own audience is hugely important, Ed Felix, Senior Director of Digital Content for Movement Strategy, says in order to understand where your opportunity for growth lies.
Testing might not be as quick as you would like, but it is the best way to reach more people and the right people. Nothing moves faster than the social space, Ed says, as it’s ever evolving with opportunities not just daily but almost hourly.
“I think that we’re at the point where brands can’t afford not to test,” he says. “If you’re not testing, you’re flailing.”
How to Apply It:
One of the simplest things to do right away is pull data on your audience. But you have to be strategic here because demographic data is complicated. If your data shows your demo is primarily men in their 40s and 50s, you might be leaning toward Facebook as the primary social network to focus on. Sure, Facebook’s 2.7 billion user base has had a rush of older users but the network’s largest user base is actually 25-34 year olds, who make up 26.3% of users. Meanwhile, Twitter’s largest age group is 30-49 year olds, 68% of which are male. So perhaps in this case, you test a strategy on Facebook and Twitter, pull data after a dedicated time period and then make a better-educated decision about what platform to focus more attention on. Basically, your own audience demos and your gut check around platforms doesn’t equate to enough data to make a decision. Your data needs to be layered.
Step 2: Think About Your Audience As More Than Their Age Demo
Ed says that while it’s important to leverage age demographics as a way to get a brand’s message in front of the right people, it can sometimes be harmful to think so reductively.
“I do think that generations can be bullshit in the sense that everyone in one generation doesn’t have the same mentality,” he says. “Thinking about generations as having subsets is really impactful and can help unlock creative opportunities.”
Movement applies specific strategies to make these distinctions, most notably by developing singular critical mindset and social personas—a particular audience that’s the focus for each brand, and a character of sorts behind the brand that speaks for it on social media. These characters are also critical in how and where brands show up for an audience.
“I always think of a Venn Diagram where there’s culture on one side and brand on the other. So what’s our intersection that provides authenticity and believability?” Ed says. “Those things are way more important and should come before the generational aspect of a demographic in order to be successful.”
How to Apply It:
Get to know your audience as much as possible. One excellent practice is social listening, monitoring social channels for mentions of your brand or topics tangentially related to it. Ed says it’s about finding the passion points your audience is going to respond to. Maybe most of their conversation is happening in subreddits, on Discord servers or Clubhouse rooms, then you can identify how to engage with them better, and on which channels. Maybe a large swath of your audience listens to the same podcast, which has a large Instagram following and you can feature that host in an Instagram Live or partner with them in another way. The more genuine you are about understanding your audience, the better you’ll know where to meet them on the social platforms you have at your disposal. Plus, the more creative you’ll get to be. And the more fun you’ll have with the work.
Step 3: Don’t Focus on Just the Cool Kids
It’s no secret that everyone is hot for Gen Z at the moment. Historically, marketers have always been eager to grab the attention of the latest demographic with influence and money to spend. It happened with millennials, too—hence the 43 million hits from Google when you search “millennial pink.” Chase says this isn’t only because marketers are eager for Gen Z but because they’re looking for the cascade effect Gen Z can have on others. If you think of the newest platform as a place only for the youngest, newest generation, you’ll be missing out.
“TikTok is becoming a bigger and bigger deal not just because Gen Z is on it, but because of the way they inspire older audiences to join them on the platform so it becomes a bigger way to reach people,” he says. Teens create so many internet trends that have a ripple effect first with slightly older people (in this case, millennials) and then ultimately their parents (boomers of Gen Y).
How to Apply It:
If you’re using data and research to understand your audience then you should already be on the right track. But watch out for trends and emotions. As soon as you see other platforms, and maybe even brands on other platforms, skyrocketing in success, it’s very easy to get emotionally invested on why you, too, should make a move toward that channel. If you’re focused on Instagram for your audience and TikTok is calling your name—because you’re seeing data that people spend upwards of 45 minutes on it per visit—you’re not wrong to wonder. But focus on the wondering and the strategic thinking before you try to dive right in without a plan. It’s not worth throwing all your time there and disregarding your other platform strategies.
Step 4: Don’t Try To Be Everywhere
There’s undoubtedly pressure that brands and brand managers feel to step up when a brand is not on a particular platform or when they’re underperforming on a particular platform, but it’s impossible to be everywhere and everything to everyone.
As Ed put it, “I would rather do one or two things at a world-beating level than do five things at a mediocre level where you get lost in the crowd.”
How to Apply It:
All these steps should lead you to understand which platform it makes the most sense to focus on for your demographic. Or at least which you should focus on in which order. In a world where there’s opportunity to market your brand on Pinterest, LinkedIn, YouTube, Instagram, Facebook, TikTok, Twitter and more, how do you not try to do everything? By prioritizing, Chase says.
For one of Movement’s streaming clients, five different platforms are activated: TikTok, YouTube, Instagram and Twitter. However, the focus of each platform is different for each demographic. For the sweet spot of the demographic, 18-24 year olds, the social channels are prioritized: Instagram, TikTok, Twitter, YouTube. For shows or movies targeting 15-17 year olds, the order changes to TikTok, YouTube, Instagram, Twitter. And for targeting 25-34 year olds, the order changes to Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube.
Targeting the right platform is a strategy not a science but one you’ll succeed in if you follow these tips.