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January 29, 2009
MKTG 101: Social Media Marketing is still marketing—know your audience
Look who needs a glow-in-the-dark
GPS enabled dog collar!
How to we reach his owners?
Social Media Marketing is hip. It seems like everyone wants to get involved, call themselves an expert and use the magical powers of social media to triple sales, recruit students, etc. But social media isn't magic. Social media, like advertising, direct mail and telemarketing is but one of many tools in the marketer's toolbox. Like any tool it needs to be used in the proper context—in conjunction with other marketing strategies. As such social media—when used for marketing—still relies on basic marketing principles such as understanding your target audience, the features and benefits of your product or service, brand awareness and so forth.
Lately I've noticed that a great number of online marketers are unfamiliar with these marketing basics. So today I'd like discuss the importance of understanding your target audience. On the most basic level this is a fairly intuitive process. If you are marketing a new glow-in-the-dark dog-collar with a built in GPS unit, then you can guess that your core audience will consist of:
- Dog owners
- Friends of dog owners
Your secondary audience may also include:
- People who like to make a unique fashion statement by wearing a collar
- Night-time joggers in need of additional safety accessories
- Ravers who see this as a cool alternative to glow-sticks, etc.
Targeting the market: The group of 'dog owners' is too broad to reach effectively.
Your product will not appeal to everyone on the planet who has a dog, so there is no point in spending the time and money it would take to reach all of them.
For example, I recently mentioned the word "dog" in a Tweet (a message I posted on Twitter.) Within 2 minutes I received an e-mail saying that person X was now following me on Twitter. (X had probably set up a search on "dog" and was auto-following anyone who mentioned the word.) I clicked on the link to see who person X might be and discovered that he is marketing some sort of dog-related service. Being currently dogless and unclear of the mission of his site, I neither signed up for the service nor followed X back on Twitter. Instead I posted a brief rant to friends on why following everyone mentioning the word "dog" was not a viable marketing tactic.
X missed out for three reasons.
- I'm not currently a member of his potential audience.
- I do not buy things from people/organizations who take marketing short-cuts. They may be taking short-cuts with their product or service as well.
- Customers and potential customers share bad experiences and I shared this with many friends who now also will not buy from X.
Targeting the market: who among these groups would be most likely to buy your collar?
In the long run we'll make more sales if we can match our product to customers who have a desire or need for that product. A good way to examine this need is to explore the features. Our collar:
- Glows in the dark—a valuable safety feature for night-time dog-walking
- Features built in GPS—handy for tracking your dog if he's walked off leash, sneaks out of the yard or is used in hunting
- Is available in a range of sizes—meant to accommodate either the smallest puppy or the largest Mastiff.
- Is offered in a range of styles including 5 colors of leather as well as 5 durable canvas models—accommodates different preferences and holds up to strenuous use
- Includes an innovative quick release buckle—that can be easily opened or closed with just one hand
Our collar has practical rather than decorative features. While it comes in a variety of colors, it's not a huge variety and none feature rhinestones. From this alone we can guess that it will not appeal to small dog owners who dress up their pets in decorative outfits. It's rugged and easy to use and may appeal to hunters and other owners of medium to large dogs, especially working breeds.
Market research can help us segment the population further.
We may learn that certain breeds are more likely to wander and their owners would desire such a collar. Perhaps owners of Golden Retrievers are 50% more likely to buy multiple collars for their dog than German Shepherd owners. If we have an existing customer base for related products we can analyze past purchases to look for buying patterns that may relate to our new product. If our Fluffy Anti Flea shampoo buyers have been good collar purchasers in the past, while our dog brush buyers have not, then we should promote our collar to the shampoo buyers.
Our market research team can also offer additional demographic information that may help us fine-tune our lists. Perhaps college-educated Volvo drivers replace their dog collars 50% more often than Cadillac drivers. If such correlations exist, we may want to consider those as well. The more we learn about dog-collar buying patterns the more likely we are to narrow our audience down to the group most likely to be interested in our product—while ensuring that there are enough potential buyers in that group for us to make a profit.
We've identified and fine-tuned the market(s): how do we reach them?
Let's say we've decided to target college-educated Volvo drivers with Golden Retrievers as one of our market segments. We've discovered that we can buy mailing lists for this group, that they watch the Discovery Channel and regularly buy from L.L. Bean. Accordingly we might want to initiate a direct mail campaign that we send to the list, advertise on the right shows on the Discovery Channel and make an arrangement with L.L. Bean to distribute the product through their catalog. As our focus, today, is on social media let's assume we already have these (and other) strategies in place. Now we want to supplement these efforts through social media.
Where do these people spend their time online?
By now we've learned something of the demographic make-up of our target audience. We know they've gone to college and have enough disposable income to afford Volvos. Perhaps we've also discovered that their average age is 35-60 and they tend to live near major metropolitan areas. A little research on the more popular social media services may show us that we're more likely to find these people on Facebook and Twitter than on MySpace.
Our audience is easy to find on Facebook.
Facebook skews a bit younger than our target age, but a quick search shows there are over 500 groups relating to Golden Retrievers on Facebook. This may then be a good place to put up a Facebook page, to advertise, and to participate in discussions about dogs and accessories. It will take time, but it might be worth reviewing the various groups and selecting a few active ones to join. There we can participate in conversations and even talk about our dog collars, so long as remember that social media is about people and not just about our products.
Tracking them down on Twitter will be more labor-intensive.
Twitter searches on Volvos and Golden Retrievers pull up many hits, but many of these won't be relevant to our project. Twitter conversations aren't as easily segmented by topic as they are on Facebook or StumbleUpon. Choosing who to follow on Twitter will take more research. We could do several additional searches on "dog collar" "hunting dog," etc. By carefully reading through these results we can pick people one-by-one that may fit our audience.
Services such as Twellow can help us find people by categories, such as "animal welfare" that may give us leads. We should also look into dog-related associations, dog shows and related groups that may be communicating about a related topic through the use of a Twitter Hashtag such as #dog. Ideally you would want something more specific, but there are countless Twitter services and tools available to help you with your research.
Finding the right people and forging those connections on Twitter takes time. This is not a place to push our product, but a place for us to join a community in which we can share ideas on topics of common interest.
It's important to remember that people will only follow us back if we have something worthwhile to say. Before following any of them, we have to make sure that we've posted some worthwhile Tweets—most of which are not about our new collar. Here we want to keep it human. We can post Tweets about our own dog, dog-training tips, and observations about life in general that have nothing to do with dogs. If we offer interesting insights and links that might intrigue members of our audience and respond to questions within our areas of expertise we'll forge far stronger connections than we would if we treated our Twitter stream as an advertising platform.
Define your audience then connect with them on their terms.
Taking the time to narrow your audience to an easily defined niche makes marketing more cost effective. People think of social media as being a free alternative to traditional advertising or direct mail, but making successful connections requires time and labor. By targeting your audience you can focus that labor on connecting with the people who matter most to your goals.
Once you've found that audience you need to connect with them on their own terms if you want to achieve any level of success. Study the usage patterns of the social media services/platforms you intend to use. Find out how your audience uses these tools, then follow their lead. If you put as much effort into tailoring your communication methods to your market as you put into developing a product or service that suits their needs you'll have a far better chance of establishing connections than you would with a more generic approach. It doesn't take magic, just time, research and work.
Market Segmentation, Demographics and Social Media Marketing Resources
- Bureau of Labor Statistics: Demographic Data
- How Marketing Plans Work: Psychographics
- Market Segmentation
- Market Segmentation: A Guide to Sources of Information
- Social Media Marketing Beginner’s Guide
- The Beginners Guide to Social Media ebook
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