Targeting on Social Media: Back to Marketing Basics


targetingIf you ever doubted the power of targeting on social media results, then I’ve got something that settles the debate — data. My MBA Digital Marketing class just finished a simulation (provided by Stukent) and targeting on social media works — generating 5.5X higher ROI than strategies that didn’t target effectively. That’s incredible!

Today we’ll talk about crafting personas (the first step in targeting) then crafting targeted messages aimed to motivate purchases from these buyers.

First, I’ll give you a little background on the simulation so you can decide how valid the results were and whether they apply to your business. I don’t want anyone going away thinking that the findings from the simulation don’t apply in their context.

About the simulation

ROI of Targeting on Social Media
ROI of Targeting on Social Media

Our simulation used mainly the big 5 social networks — Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, and LinkedIn. Obviously missing from this list was YouTube, although posts on the other social networks used videos hosted on YouTube, so our findings likely apply to them all.

Students were given a scenario that included 8 personas with information regarding demographics and psychographics, as well as prior sales performance for each. In the scenario, they marketed products for a fake eCommerce brand and results derived using an algorithm based on real social media metrics generated by the real brand. Individual students crafted social media posts, monitored results, and interacted with simulated followers over a simulated 5 month period — 5 rounds of the simulation.

While there’s some wonkiness to the simulation, I found it a good learning tool for students and very realistic.

Targeting on social media (learning from the simulation)

The biggest factor explaining the difference between high performers — the highest ROI was over $146 — and low performers — the lowest ROI was about $30 — was how effectively the students targeted a specific persona, preferably one of the highest performing personas in terms of spending on brand products. This finding was based on a debrief with students during the simulation and after the simulation ended. And, frankly, this debrief actually muted the impact of targeting on results because low performers modified their strategy in later rounds of the simulation once they discovered the high performers did better targeting.

Crafting generic messages and sharing them across social networks was the initial strategy followed by low performers. Even after instructed to consider the personas and crafting messages directly targeting these shoppers, low performers lagged due to their poor understanding of how to target messages to personas.

Crafting personas

The first step in targeting social media is to craft personas. In pre-digital days we talked about target markets, but they’re really the same thing. Except, personas are richer than target markets, which tended to focus mainly on demographics. They also commonly translate findings of a group of consumers into an individual representative of key aspects that make that group unique.

marketing persona is a composite sketch of a key segment of your audience. For content marketing purposes, you need personas to help you deliver content that will be most relevant and useful to your audience — CMI

To learn more about personas, check out this post from Buffer.

Here’s a summary:

crafting personas
Image courtesy of Buffer
  1. Craft 3-5 personas – there are tons of templates available, but the biggest issue is you need to do your homework. Personas aren’t based on your intuition, although that’s part of making a great persona. You’ll need to supplement intuition with hard facts gained through traditional market research. You might get information about customers/ prospects by monitoring your site analytics (through Google Analytics or similar), asking questions (ie. focus groups or interviews), expert insights (from your sales or social media teams), or ethnographies of your social platforms.
  2. Flesh out additional factors about your persona specific to your product/service. You might include things like hobbies, pain points, social media usage, etc.
  3. Give your persona a name. I also like to add an image to reflect the character of my persona. Even though the name and image are just placeholders for a group, it helps to think more personally about posts. It also helps the team keep personas straight and eases communication between team members. Some folks like to use regular first names, others prefer using a moniker that reflects the personality of the group, like Curious Nancy. I prefer the latter.

Target marketing

Target marketing is really the process of modifying your 4Ps (or 7Ps, or whatever method you use to reflect your internal marketing strategy) so they “fit” one of your personas. Hence, you might create new products, prices, or distribution channels to reach different personas, but, today, we’ll focus on the promotional element of your marketing strategy, since we’re focused on targeting on social media.

Targeting advertising consists of:

  1. Targeting channels of communication
  2. Targeting messages
  3. Targeting non-verbal images

Targeting channels

At last count, there were over 200 social networks. While not as ubiquitous as some assume, 37% of the people in the world use some type of social network, and many use more than 1 — 24% of internet users use 2 sites and 16% use 3.

Obviously, you don’t want to use all those channels for marketing messages, especially given that the best results come from customizing messaging on each channel. There just isn’t enough bandwidth to use more than a handful or so of social networks if you want to do it right.

At the bottom of this post, I’ve included a great infographic from Tracx showing the state of social in 2017. You’ll find a wealth of facts and figures related to the demographics of different social networks common in the US and worldwide. Outside the US, there are networks that attract users in specific regions, such as QZone in China. Facebook and Twitter tend to be worldwide.

You can use this information to plan your content marketing strategy. For instance, for female personas, Pinterest is a top choice, while men dominate on Reddit. Younger demographics are easier to reach using YouTube and Snapchat (which didn’t make this graphic), while you’ll reach more older folks using Pinterest. LinkedIn is your best bet for reaching affluent consumers.

Even within channels, many, like Facebook, let you choose specific groups for your messages. I like Facebook, in particular, because I can choose to massage folks based on deep psychographics in addition to simple demographic characteristics. I find this particularly effective when it comes to ROI.

Targeting messages

Consumers buy products that speak to them and say “this is for me”. So, your message should resonate with a persona (or sometimes 2+personas) by telling them exactly how your brand not only fixes their pain point but how it fits them personally.

One student performing well in the simulation said she specifically used words from the personas when crafting messages. I don’t know that the fit has to be that explicit, but you definitely need to ensure folks comprising that persona feel like your message is for them — fits their unique needs and addresses their unique desires.

Targeting images

Sometimes overlooked in the chaos that social media becomes is the role of images in adding or detracting from a message. Remember, a picture paints 1000 words, so an image that’s poorly executed or poorly targeted at a particular persona can ruin everything.

Ensure that images fit your target persona — the people look like them, sound like them, and live similar lifestyles. Authentically use symbols that reflect your persona and their values.

The last word

  1. So, targeting is critical to optimize success in social media, just like in other marketing channels.
  2. A targeted campaign delivers 5-10 times more results than one that isn’t targeted effectively.
  3. Start targeting by crafting personas mixing intuition with data
  4. Ensure messaging “fits” one or more personas by choosing the right words and images that resonate with that group and using a channel where they’re likely hunkered down.

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targeting on social media
Image courtesy of Tracx