The Social Science: Leveraging Social Media to Gain Audience Data

Concept Of Social Media.Social media can be an incredible tool for gathering audience data and improving your marketing efforts. 

Show of hands—who here wants to improve their marketing?

Let’s assume you all raised your hands.

Now, who here knows the best ways to collect audience data for marketing success?

I’m guessing there are fewer hands up now.

Of course, “marketing success” means different things to different businesses. Many organizations measure success with time tested metrics: conversion rates, referral traffic, bounce rates, etc. There are more metrics to measure than there are stars in the sky. It’s impossible to track them all (though our friends at Google have given it a pretty good shot), but what do they all have in common?

They all measure behaviors. They’re all audience data. And they’re all part of a larger content marketing strategy that relies on customer information.

Audience Data and the Social Network

It’s no secret that customer data drives content marketing success, but how can marketers find and assess this valuable data? This is where the marketing gold mine known as social media comes into play. Data compiled by Statista showed that 97 percent of businesses are currently leveraging some type of social marketing. They also estimated the total value of social media marketing—in the next three years, total social marketing spend is forecasted to reach over 17 billion.

Screen Shot 2016-01-27 at 11.56.42 AMThe growth of social media spending, as found by Statista

Think about it: content marketing relies on understanding the actions and behaviors of your audience, right? This used to be a frustratingly complex process, but social media changed the rules of the game. Now, your audience willingly offers up information about their purchases, behaviors, actions, and preferences—all without realizing how helpful they’re being. This data can then be applied to future social media marketing, guiding the actions of your market that will provide future data for more targeted outreach, and so on.

It sounds great on paper, but how do marketers extract meaningful data from social media content? Aside from tracking measurable metrics (as we discussed above,) the content of the postings themselves can offer some interesting insight.

This process begins with a surface level assessment of their message:

  • What is your audience saying? What words are they choosing?

Taking it a step further, assess the meaning behind the actual words to determine their emotional state:

  • What is your audience feeling? What caused them to feel that way?

When you combine how they’re feeling with what they’re saying, you gain the third piece of the equation:

  • What do they want? What will satisfy them?

This last piece is the most important. As we know, understanding the needs and wants of your audience is the backbone of content marketing. Meaning can be extrapolated from social posts to reveal insight into what types of content viewers want to see. This data also tells you where to post content for maximal return.

Expanding Your Outreach

As any marketer worth their salt knows, where you post content is just as important as what content you post. Are you marketing to elderly populations? Social media may not be your best bet. What if your market is teenagers? They might be too Internet-savvy to click on your PPC advertisements.

PI_2015-01-09_social-media_01The number of people on social media is growing, as found by the PEW Research Centre

This becomes particularly relevant for audiences that don’t limit themselves to a single platform. While the less-technically inclined might find it strange, multiple social profile use is fast becoming the norm. Pew Research Center compiled data in 2014 on social media usage. According to the research, 52 percent of online adults used two or more social media sites. More recent research conducted by Pew in 2015 provided additional insight—71 percent of teens are active on more than one social media platform. Clearly, cross-platform usage is the way social media is moving.

Marketers can leverage this trend with the help of Google Analytics. Google Analytics lets you monitor from where each visitor arrives—are your fans coming from Facebook? Are you generating traffic from Instagram? And what about LinkedIn? Learning the origins of your users tells you what channels they prefer, and just as importantly, where you should apply your marketing in the future. Vary up your content across social channels to give your cross-platform users another reason to come back for more.

Gathering Social Data

Social media gives marketers unprecedented insight into their audience’s lives. Though it can be daunting to sift through this sea of data, analytic software tools can help ease the burden. Analyze the metrics when needed, but always remember that there’s more data out there besides conversion or bounce rates. Open your ears and listen to what your customers have to say. You might be surprised at what you learn.

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