Social media marketing is an evolving beast, with new networks popping up, new trends emerging and new content types shifting in and out of public preference. Yet perhaps the unsung hero of successful and sustaining social media marketing needn’t rely on any particular channel or one-size-fits-all approach – it’s all in knowing your customer.

Identifying and Profiling the Target Audience

Every business should have a comprehensive understanding of who their target audience is, in order to best target consumers relevant to them for sales and marketing purposes. This may be done through primary market research or the hiring of a specialist research agency to identify the appropriate demographics of the brand’s ideal customer and to segment them.

Demographic profiling is usually the starting point for such audience identification, giving a few basic key points around the customer’s lifestyles that provide a basis for targeting. For example, a single mother aged in her 20s with a part-time job and a lack of in-person social opportunities with adults will need to be targeted in a totally different way to a retired couple who live in a city and have plenty of disposable income and time. While these scant details are unlikely to provide much insight on buying patterns or motivations, it does give a foundation from which to work from.

Audience profiles can be developed from basic demographics, to understand the customer’s pressing issues, problems or desires – which in turn, can be met (if not exceeded!) by the business. Understanding customer’s lifestyles and traits helps further provide understanding on what it is they face in daily life and present opportunities on how to resolve these concerns. Should these needs and wants differ, the audience can be segmented for further specific targeting.

Meeting Needs, Meeting Expectations, and Problem Solving

Tailoring product, service and experiential offering to what the customer wants and will see the most benefit from is the best possible way not just to meet the need but also to profit from it. In turn, social media marketing should look to present explanations as to how the business can uniquely benefit the target audience and to present this information where they are, and in a manner they enjoy and understand.

The content posted on social media networks should effectively communicate how it can meet the needs of consumers in a digestible, easy-to-understand and concise way. All content should explain how the business can either solve a problem or fulfil a desire – and it needs to be done in a way that appeals to the person consuming said content. 

However important it may be for a business’ social media marketing to work with a channel’s algorithm and to apply to a set strategy, the key messaging of the problem to be solved or desire to be fulfilled must not be lost. This applies to every business unless it has truly been set up a passion project with no requirement or ambition to community-build, sell or reach critical mass.

Message Timing

The timing of communications on social media are a hugely important factor in the success they will enjoy with their audience – because if they’re not at an appropriate time, they’ll go unnoticed or be rendered irrelevant.

Most social media channels have the insights on accounts with business functionality to present the time of day that most users are online at any one time, but such features vary. For example, a brand targeting parents of newborns or toddlers may find that their audience is present on social media particularly early in the morning as they scroll through sleeplessness and odd feeding patterns, whereas those looking to target a teenager may find that nothing pre-lunchtime will land as they enjoy lie-ins and sleep further into the day. What’s more, different time zones should be considered as well as major events – sports fans, for example, may not spot a marketing messaged timed to coincide with the World Cup final and those politically-minded may not be visiting social media during times of protest. There is a degree of trial and error to be done in the timing of social media messages but once mastered, content will land as desired and be seen continually by the correct audience.

Of course, time of the day isn’t the only factor in appropriate timing that social media marketing managers need to consider. Current affairs also play their part in suitable communications, and so it is imperative that even if social media marketing messaging is scheduled in advance for automated posting that this can be overridden. For example, the coronavirus pandemic made much video content irrelevant and outdated immediately (particularly if it included the public in close contact or without masks), and the period of national mourning the country underwent upon the death of Prince Philip would have rendered lots of marketing that would otherwise be acceptable considered insensitive. Brands must consider current affairs alongside the timing of their marketing messages in order to not promote anything irresponsible, insensitive or tone-deaf. 

Social Media Networks and their (Current) Audiences

In most instances, consumers won’t seek out every company operating within a space in order to find the most appropriate fit for them and so it’s imperative that businesses look to not just differentiate themselves from the competition but also to present themselves where relevant. 

Businesses rarely appeal to a broad enough audience that they require heavy social media presence across all networks and so although it may be worth securing the brand name account-wise, social media marketing should really be prioritised to those channels used by the target consumer and those on which the expectation for messaging is clear. Although always evolving, each social media network does have an average demographic audience and these can be tapped into to best understand where the target market sits, what they use and how they consume marketing content online.

Facebook (Meta) – the base network

Facebook is often considered the network of the baby boomer generation but in actual fact, its current most popular age demographic is between 25-34. However, these users tend to spend an average of less than 30 minutes a day on the site – making it considerably less heavily used than channels such as, say, Instagram. The boomer generation (those born between 1946 – 1964) are indeed active on the site, and are particularly receptive to targeted advertising. Businesses looking to target this audience may find Facebook profitable in this respect but will need to act fast, as Mark Zuckerberg has confirmed that his focus for 2022 and beyond is to make the platform more accessible and attractive to younger generations, in order to futureproof the site for years to come. For many, Facebook is the ‘base’ social media profile that they keep active even as they go through fluctuating usage phases of other networks. Although Facebook has technically now rebranded to ‘Meta’, it is colloquially still known as Facebook and it is likely to be a long transitional period before the new brand name reaches common mainstream use. 

The incoming (perhaps imminent) launch of the Metaverse will see Facebook attract new audiences and prove new content communication channels. Although businesses should strive to have at least a basic presence on Facebook right now they may find that the relevance of the network and its related channels develops to be more appropriate for them as the offering expands and grows.

Instagram – a visually-appreciating audience

Instagram’s most active age demographic too remains those between 25-34, but is more gendered: with 57% of users being female. Instagram does present a range of advertising options through both image- and video-based content alongside seamless on-site shopping options. Cross-platform promotional opportunities are presented across Instagram as a result of it being manageable through Facebook’s Business Suite and so communications can be specifically targeted based on the audience using each. Although Adam Mosseri (CEO of Instagram) has yet to clarify any plans for intended demographic change, the increased competition to the site from the likes of TikTok for younger users is well documented and so it seems inevitable that this network too will look to shift its business model more toward Generation Z users (those born between 1997 – 2012). 

Twitter – the most qualified audience base

The demographics of Twitter have remained fairly unchanged over the last few years – with well over 40% of users in the 30-49 age group and a heavily male focus (68% of users identify as male). Furthermore, an impressive 42% of Twitter users hold a degree qualification or higher, making the audience base extremely professionally and academically qualified. The opportunities for monetisation through Twitter are not the clearest, simplest or most apparent, but with the departure of co-founder Jack Dorsey in 2021 the site is set to take a new approach to sustaining business presence. Organisations looking to present themselves as thought leaders or to provide an on-the-spot on-demand customer service option should continue to ‘show up’ on Twitter and communicate through the micro-blogging platform however works best for them.

TikTok – the younger generation

TikTok now has over 100 million monthly active users – proving that the platform is far from the passing trend many analysts predicted back at the beginning of 2020. The largest age group present on TikTok by far is 18-24, with a gender split of 59% female and 41% male. A hugely engaging channel, it is not uncommon for users to spend over 45 mins a day on the app; so advertising exposure is both rapid and vast. While such a young audience base can make traditional ad strategies a challenge, it does present interesting creative influencer marketing opportunities that don’t fit as well on other networks.

YouTube – the engaged audience

YouTube’s audience varies heavily and the network is used for a variety of different content appetites; from live-streaming and learning to vlogging and gaming. The largest active age group on YouTube is those aged 15-25 but with a largely equal gender split. However, YouTube’s older users (aged 18+) use the site more than those younger, with an average usage of over 41 mins a day – likely because those younger switch to more rapid video-streaming platforms such as TikTok and Snapchat. YouTube remains part of Google’s portfolio and so presents cross-platform marketing opportunities across the Google franchises, spanning SEO listings and Google My Business.

LinkedIn – the older generation

LinkedIn remains a more professional network than personal social one, but is largely considered a ‘must-have’ profile amongst those looking to either build their professional profile or look to find new professional opportunities. The gender split on LinkedIn is almost entirely equal (51% male, 49% female) and the age group is higher than that of other networks, with 46-55 remaining the highest. Advertising on LinkedIn is considered an entirely different discipline than that on other social media channels due to its differing audience but with one fourth of the demographic now being millennials, the appetite and attitude toward such ads are likely to shift over the coming years. 

Social media channels are communities and by targeting the appropriate one for the given audience, in a manner they enjoy and consume well, can make for hugely beneficial marketing. Hyper-targeting along with trackable metrics and ROI presents the opportunity for effective marketing without the continuous need to trial-and-error at business expense. What’s more, with the rapid roll-out opportunities for ‘of-the-moment’ communications to tie in with current affairs, events and/or consumer appetites and attitudes, the possibilities for brands to present as relevant and appropriate are vast. Providing a business knows their audience and how best to provide for, communicate with and market to them, their potential will prove beneficial and profitable. 

All organisations should strive to put the customer at the heart of everything they do, and providing they keep this focus long-term will be best placed to pivot with and adapt to their audience/s for successful, sustainable business. 

Profiling the correct social audience and finding the right channel to them can be a minefield but essential for your business to maximise your marketing spend. Skein Agency can work with you in an advisory capacity to set up your audiences for Google and Meta (Facebook & Instagram) ads, or we can do this for you. We are here to support you, just get in touch.