An argument has emerged between a high school friend and me about what the first rule of writing is. She insists it was Layne Tackett’s freshman English class where we learned the K.I.S.S. rule, or keep-it-simple-stupid, was the first rule of writing. I argue that it was Jeanne Williamson’s sophomore one in which we learned what I think is the No. 1 rule for writing: Know your audience.
Of course, the disagreement could well be rooted in the fact I didn’t pay attention in school until roughly my first semester of grad school, but that is not quite relevant to the discussion.
Knowing your audience is certainly the No. 1 rule for persuasive writing, which describes most writing that marketing and public relations professionals — and I include social marketing professionals in there. In order to persuade your audience to consider, try or purchase your product, you must, beyond all other requirements, know that audience.
But knowing your online audience has always seemed to be an enigma. Sure, there are broad-based research projects like The Social Habit, which offer a scientific cross-section of Internet or social media users and give you a generic look at the social audience. From data like this, you can make better than assumptions about your online constituents. If you purchase questions in the research project, you can get darn near specific answers to who your audience is.
But diving into your customers, prospects and other stakeholders and what they do online is intimidating, especially if you don’t have the resources to purchase custom or even syndicated research. So what is a business to do?
Well, you can develop your own surveys or even anecdotal questions for your fans. Asking a research-type question per week on Facebook will at least give you a small sampling of an answer that, depending upon how you phrase the question and how many response you get, may be extrapolated out to a smart assumption about your customers. Putting together more formal surveys, though the way you write the questions can certainly bias the answers you get, and asking your online audience or customer set to fill them out is another way.
You can also use social technology services that offer cursory analysis of your Twitter or Facebook audiences. Many social monitoring and management platforms will at least give you gender, age and perhaps even household income data it has assumed from samplings provided by Internet service providers.
Then there are services emerging like DemographicsPro.com that dive a bit deeper into your social audience. DemographicsPro gave me a sneak peek at their new tool, launched last week, and I was quite impressed. While it only looks at Twitter, its depth in analyzing everything from core demographics to brands and companies your Twitter followers use or like is interesting.
Keep in mind there’s no way to know if my Twitter audience actually does eat at McDonald’s or shops at Wal-Mart, so the tool is likely counting how many of my followers also follow those companies. It’s a software analysis of the Twitter data that is available about your followers. I happen to follow several companies and even people on Twitter I don’t particularly care for. So do many people. So the analysis is imperfect and should be taken with a grain of salt. But it is useful.
Imagine if you could quickly say that your Twitter following is 58% female, 87% white, 39% in the U.S. South and 81% in the higher than $100K income bracket? That might help you sculpt your Tweets and target based on your products and service that appeal to that type of person better. What if you could also add that your typical follower shops at Old Navy, eats at Panera and shops at Ikea more often than other stores? Now you’re opening up partnership and cross-promotional opportunities traditional research and demographics doesn’t always produce.
The service starts around $30 U.S. per month for analysis of 25,000 Twitter followers. Prices go up to $400 per month for the larger accounts. The information you get for the investment is pretty insightful.
DemographicsPro is one of many emerging platforms that can do a deeper dive analysis of your online audience. And knowing that audience well can make or break your digital marketing strategies. Even if K.I.S.S. is, in fact, the No. 1 rule.