Time To Evolve How We Target Social Media?

How many times have you read something like this in a digital communications plan?

“One in three of our target audience is using Facebook. So, we recommend creating a Facebook page for this program.”

As social networks become more and more prevalent, we’re at the point now that almost every client brief appears to point, on its surface, to one of a few key networks. As a result, we’re seeing more and more programs based on “insights” like:

  • Only eight per cent of Canadians in the target demographic are inactive in social media (according to Forrester)
  • There are more Facebook accounts for Canadians aged 25-34 (according to Facebook’s ad creation tool) than there are Canadians in that age group
  • We need to reach our target market in the place they inhabit.
  • Therefore, we should create a Facebook page.

Right there, without any knowledge of the company, the product or the objectives and only minimal knowledge of the target audience, you’ve made a pretty standard case for a Facebook page. Trouble is, these insights are no longer particularly insightful. At this stage of the game, they’re akin to “2.6 million Canadians read the Globe and Mail. Therefore, we should do a traditional media campaign.”

This only leads to a plethora of Facebook pages, Twitter accounts and the like – some of which are well targeted, but many of which are not. Let’s face it, most B2C clients are going to target people somewhere in the 18-55 age group. Using just a demographic rationale, you could propose similar social media campaigns for all of them.

I think it’s time to move beyond sheer demographics when we’re planning social media campaigns, and towards more sophisticated analysis. What about:

  • What are the company’s business and communications objectives?
  • What behaviour are you trying to motivate?
  • What are the norms within the different social networks? Do they fit with what you’re trying to achieve?
  • Would you be better served via mass reach, existing niche communities or your own hosted site?
  • Do the company’s culture and existing policies lend themselves to social media engagement?
  • What existing properties do we have that we could leverage?

Let’s move away from generic demographic analysis and towards more sophisticated, critical analysis. For sure, some people are already doing this, but I think we can work to raise the bar.

What do you think?

Dave Fleet
EVP Digital at Edelman. Husband and dad of two. Cycling nut; bookworm; videogamer; Britnadian. Opinions are mine, not my employer's.