Social media platforms can provide brands with heaps of data about their consumers. This allows brands to zone in on their market like never before. The team at social media tracking and reporting service amaSocial breaks it down simply.

What is social media targeting?

Social media targeting is the ability to display adverts and posts to specific audiences chosen by the advertiser or poster.

Targeting is mostly available for social media adverts, although networks like Facebook offer basic targeting options for some organic posts too.

Advertisers target their paid posts based on factors such as demographics, interests and sometimes even consumer behaviour. Your brand can also combine a number of these factors to narrow down your audience.

Why is targeting so powerful?

Adverts on billboards, television and print publications are seen by a wide, often immeasurable, audience. Not all of these viewers are members of the advertiser’s target market, but social media makes it possible to choose who sees your content.

Because social media companies can provide rich data about audiences, brands pay to have only their audience see their adverts. This means that money is being spent on consumers that are more likely to buy your brand’s product, and less money goes to advertising to consumers that fall outside of the target market.

Targeting also allows brands to share customised marketing messages to each of the groups of people they target. Your posts no longer have to be generic enough to appeal to a massive audience; you can change your post’s tone of voice and language to suit your audiences.

Factors your brand can use to target the ideal audiences

Social media platforms each offer a selection of these targeting factors:

  • Geotargeting: This is targeting by country, region, city, metro area, postal or zip code.
  • Demographics: Some social networks allow for basic demographic targeting such as gender and age group, while others add options to zone in on users according to education level, relationship status, income and ethnic affinity.
  • Language: You can reach users who speak a specific language. Advertisers can also combine language with geotargeting to reach users speaking a specific language in a certain country. In terms of South Africa’s official languages (besides English), Facebook and Twitter allow you to target Afrikaans-speaking users.
  • Interests: Reach audiences based on the topics they are interested in. Some social media platforms offer hundreds of interests to choose from, so pick carefully.
  • Keywords: For networks like Twitter, keyword targeting means reaching users that tweet specific keywords, while platforms like Pinterest target according to the words people use in searches.
  • Devices, operating systems and network operators: Reach consumers using specific mobile phones, tablets or laptops. You can also target adverts based on whether consumers use iOS, Android or other operating systems and the operators that provide their connectivity.
  • Your customer data: Social platforms like Twitter and Facebook allow advertisers to upload lists containing user data. Import lists from your CRM system or email database to reach specific people.
(Note that some targeting options are only available to certain countries.)

Where do I start with social media targeting?

Before you jump in …

You’ll need to know who to reach before you start. Do research on your consumers to find out which channels they use, where they are located and what their interests are.

Crafting marketing personas also helps, says Angela Hausman, adjunct professor for George Washington University in the United States. She suggests creating a number of personas of the people in your target market based on the data delivered through your market research.

Here are the options for South Africa’s big three social networks: Facebook, YouTube and Twitter:

Targeting for Facebook

This platform can target based on demographics, including detailed data such as the industries people work in, major life events, whether they are parents and – in some countries – whether they own homes. This can also be done based on interests as well as behaviours, such as purchase behaviour or intent. Adverts can also be targeted to users who have a connection with a Facebook Page, a specific app or even an event.

Facebook’s remarketing option lets brands reach users who have visited your brand’s website – provided that you have Facebook’s pixel base code on your website.

You can also target your Facebook Page’s organic posts through the preferred audience targeting option. Add interest tags to help posts reach people who are most likely to engage with them. You can also restrict your posts from being seen by certain audiences.

Targeting for YouTube campaigns

YouTube’s advert targeting options are backed by the massive amount of data the website’s owner, Google, gathers about Internet users. In January 2017, YouTube improved its targeting abilities by allowing advertisers to reach specific people based on their past searches on Google.

YouTube adverts can be targeted based on four demographic factors: age, gender, parental status or household income. It also lets advertisers target a consumer’s interests based on where they are in the customer journey. You can choose to reach people that are actively considering buying a product, those that have shown great interest in a certain topic or those that are interested in subcategories of a topic.

Other options include remarketing, which targets users based on past interactions with a brand’s video. You can also choose to only have adverts placed on specific platforms and placements within those platforms, or placements based on topics and keywords.

Targeting for Twitter adverts

Twitter can target audiences based on geography, language, gender, interest, followers, devices, shopping and spending behaviour, keywords users engage with and lists of specific users.

The interest option offers 25 categories to choose from, broken down into 350 subcategories.

With follower targeting, you can reach users that have similar interests to people that follow your competitors.

To reach custom audiences, Twitter requires a code snippet to be uploaded to websites to collect visitors, purchases and downloaders. With this information, it creates custom lists of users to target.

Targeting options on social media are constantly evolving to help social media adverts make a greater impact. The latest is the use of image recognition software to reach consumers based on the photos they upload. Social media targeting technology is bound to keep on growing with new advances – get ready to see more innovation in this field.