Let’s begin with some statistics.

There are now 1.71 billion active monthly users on Facebook.

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On Twitter, there are 313 million active monthly users.

LinkedIn’s got 450 million, Pinterest now has over 100 million, and Instagram is up to 500 million.

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(Most famous social network sites worldwide as of September 2016, ranked by number of active users (in millions). Source: statista.com)

That’s an awful lot of people. And while these figures are clearly indicative that having a presence on these platforms is an imperative for your business, the fact remains that you’re not going to be able to sell your wares to everyone on all of them.

I know – what a shame, right? If every single Facebook user bought just one penny-sweet off you, well, you’d have 1.71 billion pennies, or 17.1 million pounds.
But there are a few problems with this seemingly very simple business model:

  • You don’t sell penny-sweets
  • Not every single Facebook user will want to buy a sugary, synthetic penny-sweet (fad diets and clean eating are all the rage these days)
  • Penny-sweets probably cost about a fiver each to produce in the post-recession global economy

Ok, so that last one was a joke, but the first two are right on point.

Social networks are hugely populated and extremely diverse places. Not everyone who frequents them is going to be interested in what you sell, and you can’t make a product that is going to be saleable to everybody (I can’t decide whether that statement is tautological or not – but you get the point).

No, your products are targeted at a very specific type of customer, and so your mission is to develop a very targeted social media audience.

So, how do you do it?

How to Develop a Targeted Social Media Audience for Your Business

Customer Personas

First thing’s first – you need to create your customer personas. These will define your target market in no uncertain terms, but what are they?

Put simply, a customer persona is a semi-fictionalised representation of your ideal customer.

For example, let’s pretend you really are selling penny-sweets. Your customer persona will look something like this:

  • Name: Jack
  • Occupation: n/a – he’s at primary school
  • Age: 7-12
  • Interests: superheroes, Xbox, swear-words, climbing trees, kicking balls, 40-40-in
  • Favourite social networks: Facebook, Snapchat

If you’re trying to make your millions selling penny-sweets, then it’s the Jacks of this world that you’re going to have to appeal to – and there will of course be a Jill counterpart, as well.

Indeed, the likelihood is that you will be able to identify more than one customer persona that you will be able to try and sell your wares to. So create them.

As a guide, you should try and answer the following questions on behalf of your ideal customers to create a list of named personas (Jack, Jill, Jenny, Jeff – other names are available) whom you will subsequently attempt to target in your ongoing campaigns.

The questions could include:

  • Male or female?
  • Marital status?
  • Annual income?
  • Location?
  • Age?
  • Children?
  • Education?
  • Industry?
  • Career path?
  • Size of company?
  • Job role/title?
  • Seniority within company?
  • What are the tools/skills required to do your job?
  • Career aims?
  • What publications do you read?
  • Preferred social network(s)?
  • What’s a typical day like for you?

Perhaps there are more questions that you would need to ask your client personas that are particularly germane to your business. So ask them, and answer them honestly.

By the time you’ve completed your customer personas, you are well on the way to developing your targeted audience on social – the next step is finding them.

Finding Your Target Audience on Social

Your customer personas will give you a clear idea of the key demographics you are targeting. Thankfully, the Pew Research Center is the ever-reliable go-to site to glean this precise information.

The latest update is from August 2015, and, for your convenience, we reproduce the charts provided detailing the key demographics of social media users across five of the most popular platforms.

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(Source of images: pewinternet.org)

It should be noted that the research specifically covers social media users in the US – but, even so, the above figures give a pretty good indication as to which network your client personas are most likely to favour no matter where in the world your business is situated (and besides, marketing on the World Wide Web means that you’ve got a World Wide Audience).

So, using this data, I can see that since I’m selling top-end baby accessories to Jill, who’s a university-educated 30-something working mother in a well-paid job (perhaps on maternity leave, but due to go to back to work soon), I’m most likely to find her on Facebook and Pinterest. That’s where Jill is, and so that’s where, as a social media marketer, I’m going to place my primary focus.

Preferred Networks by Industry

Of course, being the high-powered woman that Jill is, she’s probably just as likely to be on LinkedIn as Facebook or Pinterest. However, LinkedIn is not the most appropriate network to be selling baby-accessories to consumers.

In 2014, UK Business Insider reported on the results of BI Intelligence study that looked into the demographics of social media users.

Here are some key takeaways from the report that will also help you narrow down which networks are most likely to attract your ideal customers:

  • Consumer goods will perform better on Facebook than luxury items as the user-base is generally younger
  • Twitter is a top network for brand awareness and thought leadership campaigns, as it’s primarily used as a news source by its users
  • Pinterest is the place to go if you’re selling family, parenting, or food and drink related goods
  • Like Pinterest, Instagram also has a primarily female user base. Clothing and accessories do well on Instagram

That last point is interesting with regards to Jill. Facebook and Pinterest are perhaps her favourite networks, but the research suggests that she might be partial to a bit of Instagramming as well – so there’s a third network through which it might be a good idea to push my high-end baby accessories.

Don’t Forget to Search

It’s important not to forget the manual processes when developing a targeted social media audience for your business.

All the networks have a search function, so use it. On Facebook, look for fan pages in your industry, browse through the fans, and create a list of targets. For Twitter, use a tool like Twitterral to identify users with particular interests. On LinkedIn, you can use the search function for finding keywords that are in users’ profiles, and you can also join LinkedIn Groups that fit your interests and your industry.

On top of this, you can start using the specific targeting tools that are on offer from individual networks, such as Facebook Custom Audiences or the new Pinterest Engagement Retargeting tool for instance.

Indeed, it’s a very good idea to start building a retargeting strategy in general – but I’ll save the details of that for another blog post.

Over to Your Content Marketing Strategy

The final stage in the journey towards building a targeted social media audience is of course to produce content that appeals and engages.

Identifying exactly who your target audience is and where it is likely to be is essentially the first step towards defining your larger content marketing strategy. A well-targeted audience is only going to remain engaged with your brand if you give them something equally targeted to engage with.

If you want to keep Jack buying your penny-sweets, then you should be producing all manner of content that’s going to keep him interested. As you found out when you created his persona, he’s into Xbox, so think about the games he might be playing when he’s enjoying a quid’s worth of your sherbet infused flying saucers and link the two in a piece of content – a video maybe, a competition, a meme – and get it on Snapchat and Facebook where’s he’s most likely to see it.

For Jill, she’s going to be thinking about managing her time between going back to work and still being a great mum, so perhaps a blog post exploring how to cope with being a full-time working mum will keep her engaged with your brand – and promoting it on Pinterest will make sure she sees it.

Need help devising and executing a meaningful social media strategy that keeps your target audience engaged? My Social Agency has the solution for you. Check out our services, and use our Contact Page to reach out.