7 Tools to Help you to Identify and Understand Your Content Audience
I showed my Nan South Park once. South Park, in my book, constitutes brilliant TV. It’s hilarious, smart and keeps me entertained for hours. It’s been running for close to 20 years now and has won umpteen awards. So I’m not the only person who thinks South Park is freakin’ brilliant content.
However, my Nan disagrees. When I showed it to her, the situation looked a little bit like this:
She doesn’t get it.
“Didn’t Kenny die in the last one? I thought he was already dead?”
Anyway, my point is that the best content in the world is completely wasted and doomed for failure if it’s shown to the wrong audience.
Audience research – What do we need to know?
Audience research is so, so critical for content marketing. What you need to know about your audience will vary from project to project. But typically, when I set about researching my audience, I want to know:
- What their interests are (outside of the products or services relating to the brand I am working with)
- Demographic information
- Which brands or publications they already engage with online
- Which devices they’re using to browse and consume content
- What questions, queries or concerns they have in regard to my brand’s products or services
All of this will go a long way to helping you to tailor content better for the people you want to reach with it.
Fortunately, it has never been easier to research our audiences. There is so much data out there and these 7 tools will help you to find out all you need to know about the audience you want to reach through your content marketing.
1. Facebook Graph Search
Facebook’s search functionality is brilliant for finding information about your brand’s existing audience or, arguably more useful for audience growth, your competitors’ audiences.
Let’s say you’re a brand competing with Virgin Holidays – in other words, their audience is absolutely an audience you want to reach. You can do searches like this:
- Pages liked by people who like Virgin Holidays
- Interests liked by people who like Virgin Holidays
You could even find the interests or pages liked by people who have visited their physical stores:
- Pages liked by people who visited Virgin Holidays
You can find out the sorts of places people who like your competitors visit in the real world (stalking, much?):
- Bars in London visited by people who like Virgin Holidays
- Restaurants in Manchester visited by people who like Virgin Holidays
I wrote in much more detail about this and produced a cheat sheet back in July last year. You can check that out and download the cheat sheet on the Tecmark blog.
2. Google Display Planner
A tool designed for advertisers to choose ad inventory… but one that can be used by content marketers to find out more about their audience.
So, let’s say you are going to be running content marketing for a company specialising in travel with a particular emphasis on holidays to Australia. You can do this:
So here, I have typed in “Australia holidays,” and I can see the age break down, gender breakdown and device breakdown of people interested in this particular keyword.
Over half of them use mobile devices when browsing… so, if I wasn’t already planning to ensure my content was designed mobile first, I certainly would be now.
Then we can go a step further. Beneath the “individual targeting ideas,” tab, we can have a look for:
If we go to the “interests,” tab, we get a list of potential other interests ordered by relevance:
There’s perhaps nothing hugely new to us there… but when we click through on a specific one (e.g. “travel buffs,”) we get more information:
If 62% of these travel buffs are not parents, I won’t be creating family centric content.
Another useful feature is the “placements,” tab, designed to tell you what websites, videos and apps you could get relevant advertising on. We might not want to buy ad space, but we may well want to reach out to these sites with our content if they are relevant for our audiences:
There are a number of other ways you can use this tool and the information available can be incredibly powerful for identifying the sorts of people you should be targeting with your content.
Now part of the Moz toolset, FollowerWonk allows you to run advanced reports on the followers of any Twitter user. This is useful for finding out more information about:
- Your own followers
- The followers of your competitors
- The followers of magazines or publications read frequently by your target audience
4. Facebook Audience Insights
Facebook Audience Insights is a tool within Facebook’s Ad Manager. It’s designed for people creating ads, but can be used for content marketers just looking to find out more about their target audience. So, let’s use the example of a scuba diving retailer looking to find out about its target audience:
We can simply type “scuba diving,” into the interests section and then see the top publications people with this interest like, the top shopping pages the like, travel pages etc etc.
We can also check out demographics:
Their activity on Facebook and devices on which they carry out this activity:
With US audiences only (at present) you can also get household and purchase habits information.
This is really powerful stuff. From typing in a single interest, I can find out the pages these people are interacting with the most, the devices on which they do it, their locations and demographic information. All of this is really valuable information for those of creating content for this audience.
Identifying Audience Queries, Questions and Concerns
The tools I’ve been through so far allow you find out demographic information, interests and brands/sites your audience interacts with already.
I mentioned at the outset of this post that another important piece of information I want is about their questions, queries or concerns related to the products or services offered by the brand we’re working with.
The next tools are all about identifying that information.
Long tail keyword research is a great way of identifying questions people might ask about things related to your products and services.
A great long tail keyword tool is answerthepublic.com. It scrapes Google Suggest data and presents it in a way that is much easier to organise, consume and make sense of.
Back to our scuba diving retailer. If we search “scuba diving,” we see a load of questions people might ask about it.
We get a list of preposition centric searches:
We can also get an alphabetical list of searches including all sorts of words.
Now, make no mistake – some of these will be completely irrelevant. And there is a lot of manual sifting through required to shortlist some of the searches people make that are relevant to your products and services.
This data can give you inspiration for the content you product. If you can answer FAQs or address concerns an audience has about things related to your products, you’re not only assured that the content is relevant and useful, but you win potential customers.
Believe it or not, the world does not start and end with Google. People ask questions in places that aren’t Google (no, not Bing).
Forums, social platforms and other community sites are places that users frequently ask questions on and FaqFox lets you scrape them.
Simply put in a list of URLs and a keyword and FaqFox will scrape the sites for you and produce a list of questions.
As above, this is a place people go to just to ask questions. Use Quora’s search function to find out what people are asking about things related to you.
Make the data make sense…
All of these tools will leave you with a lot of data. But without context or organisation, this remains simply data. Give it context. Organise it. Turn it into information you can carry forward into the ideas generation stage. Whether you use personas, a simple mind map or something completely different is up to you. But you should make sure everyone who is to be involved in your ideation is able to digest this information and apply it.