Know Your Audience: 7 Ways To Learn More About Your Community

By Lauren Dugan 

Who are you connected to on social media? If you can’t answer this question, you’ve got some pretty serious research ahead of you! Businesses need to understand their audience – everything from their demographics to their purchases to their online behavior – if they want their message to resonate with the right community.

And although it will take a bit of time to get to know your audience, it doesn’t necessarily have to be hard: we’ve compiled 7 tools and tactics for you to use to get to know your audience.

1. Identify them first

The absolute first thing you should do when setting out to learn more about your online community is to figure out who your business’ target audience is – on or offline. Before you can connect to the right people on social media, you’ve got to make sure you and your team is fully aware of what “right” means for your business.

Identify your ideal customer. Be as specific as possible. Is she a wealthy, single woman living in a big city who loves shoes? A family man with a house that’s nearly paid off and a need for a vacation? Who is the ideal customer for your business?

Once you have this person in mind, it will be easier to identify whether you are connecting to him or her via social media.

2. Understand general demographics

There are a number of free and paid tools out there that will give you some insight into the demographic breakdown of who’s who on social media. It’s important to get to know high-level social media demographic statistics, in order to narrow down the demographics of your target audience.

The Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project conducts regular surveys of social media users in the United States, ComScore’s Data Mine explores social media demographics regularly, eMarketer frequently releases social media demographics reports, and Nielsen puts together studies on social media demographics as well.

These tools can help you determine which social network(s) are best for your business, since they’ll give you a glimpse into the age, gender, income and more of specific sites.

3. Track keywords

Keyword tracking is one of the most powerful ways to understand more about your audience online. Using a keyword tracking tool, you can listen in on the conversations your audience is having about specific brands, products, events, locations… anything you can think of! And if you take some time to set up your search, many tools offer emailed reports or notifications, so you can stay on top of current trends within your community.

There are plenty of great keyword tracking tools out there, including: Topsy Analytics, Social Mention, and SocialPing. Some of the features on these tools are pretty basic until you get into the paid plans, but most offer trial period so you can do some keyword research risk-free before committing to it in the long term.

4. Dig into your community

Now that you’ve got a sense of social media demographics and trends in general, it’s time to dig deeper into your own social media community.

Because of the sheer amount of data associated with each social media profile, you have a great opportunity to learn about the demographics and habits of your community.

Some of the best free and paid tools out there for getting to know your social media community include Facebook Insights, Social Bro, CrowdBooster, Social Bakers, Follower Wonk and Tweriod. Each offers slightly different breakdowns of your community’s data, so try a few and see which one(s) give you the data you’re looking for.

5. Find out who’s influential

Sometimes knowing which of your community members are most influential is more valuable than knowing the general makeup of your community as a whole. If you can target these influencers with the right message, they could help your brand go viral.

Klout and Kred are two of the most popular influence measurement services out there. Both will provide you with your own influence score, allow you to build up a network of influencers, and show you who is engaging with your content the most. You can use this data to target key influencers – those that are already spreading your message – and cultivate a relationship with them.

6. Conduct surveys

Another way to learn more about your audience is to ask them directly. Surveys can be a powerful tool for understanding the thoughts and opinions of your online community.

There are dozens of great survey tools out there that have features designed for all types of businesses. Some offer simple polls while others allow you to conduct in-depth, penetrating research.

I suggest including a survey on your website that asks visitors about their social media habits. You might want to offer a discount or coupon to those who complete the survey, to increase the number of participants. And testing several different survey styles will help you get at the most accurate, detailed data.

7. Listen

The social web is buzzing with activity 24/7, and if you’re able to listen in on the parts that are most relevant to your business, you’ll learn a lot.

Quora is a great site to check in to once in a while, to see what kinds of questions people in your industry are talking about. This can show you current and upcoming trends that may interest your own community. Or, you could set up Google Alerts and saved Twitter searches for certain topics, and listen in from time to time to see what’s popular among your community in real time.

There really is no limit to the data you can glean from putting your ear to the ground, so to speak. Your community is talking, and by listening you’ll be able to connect with them more easily.

Do you have any tips for learning more about your social media community? We’d love for you to share them with us in the comments below!

Image by Fears via Shutterstock.