What is audience targeting?

Drive down the I-91 freeway in southern California, and you’ll see billboards everywhere. Disneyland, independent lawyers, plastic surgeons, and addiction treatment centers all advertise on billboards, as do lingerie stores that swear to their car-passenger viewers that their products are cheaper than divorce. If these businesses have one thing in common, it’s that they’re all practicing the antithesis of audience targeting: a spray-and-pray type of marketing that sometimes works and sometimes doesn’t.

But people do get stuck in traffic on the 91, which means that someone is always staring at one of those billboards. So billboards have their place and can be an effective way to use your marketing budget.

Some people who see the lingerie or lawyer or addiction billboards might actively be seeking those services. Many, though, are not. These viewers won’t consider the ad much more than a daily fixture on a boring commute.

In some ways, those viewers are a waste of money for the companies who pay for that ad space because they’ll never become customers, even though they see the ad daily.

Why audience targeting matters

Audience targeting changes all of that. With targeted media campaigns, you don’t show your ad to as many people as possible (like thousands of daily commuters on the freeway). Instead, using audience targeting, you find an ideal audience for your product and then use various methods of segmentation to target that audience directly with your campaign.

What is a specific audience?

A specific audience in your target market is any group of people who share similar characteristics. These shared traits can be demographic, behavioral, psychographic, or geographic.

What are the four types of audiences?

Let’s take a closer look at these four audience types, which we’ll refer to as segmentations. These segmentations can be studied alone or mixed with other groupings for a better understanding of your target market.

Demographic segmentation

The most basic type of audience segmentation, demographic segmentation focuses on grouping people according to demographic similarities. This is where you study your target audience to discover their age, race, religion, gender, family size, education level, and more.

Behavioral segmentation

In behavioral segmentation, marketers study their customers’ decisions and online buying behaviors. Common behavioral characteristics include

  • Shoppers who purchase for special occasions
  • Customers who seek certain benefits from their purchases, such as confidence or convenience
  • Customers who purchase out of loyalty to a brand

Psychographic segmentation

This type of audience segmentation studies peoples’ inner characteristics — traits you can’t know from studying their external behavior. In psychographic segmentation, you study characteristics like your customers’ values, attitudes, likes, dislikes, beliefs, and priorities.

Geographic segmentation

This straightforward type of segmentation focuses on your customers’ geographic location. Easier to obtain than psychographic or behavioral traits, geographic segmentation is crucial to any marketing strategy.

How do you attract a target audience?

We live in the perfect age for targeted online marketing. Say a small e-commerce business makes wafer treats. The shelf-stable sweets are modeled after European-based companies Manner Neapolitaner and Loacker and loved by people everywhere. It’s not hard to find this audience through digital targeting.

With digital targeting, you find your audience on social media platforms, in polling services, and through online ads. What follows are tips to target audiences using these various platforms and services.

Social media platforms

On professional marketing sites like LinkedIn, you build a page that puts customers at the center, like this branded profile from Coca-Cola. The company puts out articles that highlight its work in making the world a better place.

On Twitter, a brand can do the same thing — often to a larger audience base, as consumers are more likely to be on Twitter. Loacker USA’s Twitter feed is all about eye-pleasing images and mouth-watering posts. The brand knows students in the U.S. head back to school in mid-August and early September. So its posts in those months are all about brightening the back-to-school experience with Loacker wafers.

Instagram, of course, is the ultimate place to showcase your brand’s delights — all through the lens of a camera. Numerous online guides demonstrate how to effectively build an Instagram business page that attracts customers. Once you have a decent following, Instagram makes it easy to find out your audience’s demographics via its Insights tab.

Polling sites

For solutions that take a little less grunt work than social media but aren’t as expensive as placing ads, try a polling service. PickFu, for example, enables you to create polls that target a wide range of audiences. You can target based on age, ethnicity, number of children, homeownership, pet ownership, sexual orientation, religious affiliation, income, education level, and more.

You can even use PickFu to test an ad before you run it live on Google or Facebook. Polling sites give you the advantage of being able to find out which ad characteristics attract your target audience before you ever place an ad.

Polling sites have one more advantage: they are straightforward ask-and-answer tools. As we’ll see below, audience targeting can wade into tricky territory in the pursuit of creating a campaign targeted at a certain group of people. Thankfully, there are ways to ensure you are protecting your audience’s privacy. But with a polling site, it’s not something you have to worry about as much.

Online ads

Facebook’s targeted ads enable you to choose an audience based on behavior and interests in addition to the typical demographic data. So, the wafer company could select an audience that loves sweets (interests) and has purchased candy and other desserts before (behavior).

Using Google Ads (formerly known as AdWords), you can reach an even wider audience. Google is the most popular search engine in the world and, according to Lifewire, the world’s most popular website, beating out YouTube, Amazon, and yes, Facebook. With Google Ads, you can advertise in two ways.

Google Search Network

First, there’s the immense Google Search Network, where your ad can appear on the search results page. Say the new wafer brand wanted to display ads on the Google Search Network. The ad it creates might pop up whenever someone searched “best wafers” or “where to buy wafers online.”

This type of ad is pay-per-click, or PPC. This means you’ll pay a fee each time the ad is clicked and drives traffic to your site. Often, PPC advertising is worth the fee because of how valuable each visit to your site can be.

Considering Google processes upwards of 40,000 searches every second of the day, translating to billions of daily searches, that’s a lot of potential customers the business is targeting with a PPC Google Ad.

Google Display Network

You can also advertise on the Google Display Network. The Display Network is a collection of over two million sites, apps, and videos where your ad can display, depending on what audience targeting information you choose.

You can get really specific with an ad on the Display Network. Google itself says, “With the Display Network, you can use targeting to show your ads in particular contexts (like ‘outdoor lifestyles’ or ‘cnn.com’), to particular audiences (like ‘young moms’ or ‘people shopping for a new sedan’), in particular locations, and more.”

Make sure that when you’re searching for your target audience, you utilize remarketing strategies, too. Remarketing simply means that you target ads to people who have expressed interest in your site before but haven’t made a conversion. Many e-commerce brands keep tabs on customers who add an item to their online shopping cart. If the shopper abandons the cart, the site can use the information voluntarily given — usually an email address or a cookie — to send a reminder or offer to encourage the shopper return to the site to complete the purchase.

Google has faced significant fines and backlash for using personal data in ways that did not comply with the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). Facebook, too, has faced intense scrutiny and even legal proceedings due to the Cambridge Analytica scandal.

Make sure you, your marketing team, and the ad companies you work with understand the legal ins and outs of the GDPR and any state, provincial, and federal laws that affect you.

Non-digital audience strategy

Want to find customers on the ground, not just on the web? Guess what? Online sites can drive customers to your brick-and-mortar doorstep, too. On a polling site like PickFu, you can ask potential customers what they would think if they saw a book or product in a store versus online.

Facebook, Google Ads, and other tools can also help bring your audience to your door purely by raising awareness of it.

You can also hire a local ad agency that knows the specific culture and demography of your area. While expensive, ad agencies conduct in-depth interviews with you to determine your goals for your brand. They then study all your data, including where you currently stand in your industry, who your competition is, and how well recognized you currently are in your target market.

An ad agency will then create and promote your ads for you. These days, it’s common for ad agencies to employ a mixed-media approach, specializing in everything from TV and billboard advertisements to website and email campaigns.

There’s a lot to learn about in the world of media targeting, but it’s worth figuring out how to promote your business using the plentiful tools available today.

What is a target audience?

A target audience is a group of potential consumers your business targets with advertisements, polling questions, and campaigns.

What are some different target audiences?

A target audience could be a combination of many things. For example, a candy company could seek out young people who enjoy sweets.

How do market audiences work?

Market audiences are the pool of potential connections and consumers from which you will draw segments to target with ads and campaigns.

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