There are billions of people on social media, and it often seems impossible to reach the right ones. But only after finding your target audience online and making sure they see what you have to offer, you know that your SMM efforts aren’t in vain.

Start with a full picture of what your customers are like. You should not only know their demographics, income, and location, but also their interests, lifestyle, values. Basically, everything that might give you a clue to the kind of marketing campaigns that will affect them most.

The first step to researching and locating your audience is to have an idea of what kind of people you’re looking for. Take a moment (or rather an hour) to come up with an image of a perfect customer. First, answer the question of who your buyer is, in as many details as possible, including:

  • Age
  • Location
  • Gender
  • Income
  • Education
  • Occupation
  • Ethnicity
  • Marital Status
  • # of Children

and then answer the question of what moves their action. Consider:

  • Values
  • Challenges
  • Personality
  • Interests
  • Lyfestyle
  • Opinions
  • Attitudes

For example, I could come up with an image for a brand that sells rather expensive skin care products women. Let’s assume it has a reputation of an environmentally-friendly brand that is committed to stop animal testing. Although it is rarely the case when all factors are important to your business, it is worth considering all that might be. I would have an image like this:

  • Female
  • Aged 30-45
  • Educated
  • Household income $60K+
  • Occupation – people oriented
  • Values honesty, fairness, morality
  • Concerned with health, appearance, global issues
  • Independent, with medium to high self-esteem, extroverted
  • Leads an active, busy, healthy lifestyle
  • Has strong opinions of politics and environment

Now the question is, how do you find people similar to your perfect customer?

First, research the audience that you already have by looking at your social page insights. Some platforms provide you with a report on your current followers. Twitter, for example, shows your followers’ gender, country, region, main interests.

And then start the hunt for the new people.

1. Research your direct competitor’s audience

Similarly to you, your competitor has brand pages on a number of social media platforms. You can see who is following them and who is active on their pages. As a priori you and your direct competitor have the same target audience, it is very much likely that you will find their audience profitable to you too. However, you can still go through the demographic and psychographic qualities of your competitor’s audience by looking at their “bio” fields. This information is usually open to anyone.

Send your found target audience an invitation to Like your Facebook page, follow them, or do whatever the given social network requires. Go one step further: find people who are not signed up for your competitor’s social media pages, but are their customers anyway. This can be done by searching for mentions of your competitors on social media. Your competitor’s customers can engage with your competitor by only mentioning them on their own social page. After you’ve found the ones that have mentioned your competitor, go through their demo/psychographics, and add the right people to your list of potential customers. It will be even more effective, if you’ve found the customers that are unhappy with your competitor’s products. They aren’t only your target audience, they are also warm leads, and it is always nice to have two in one.

SMM tools for monitoring your competitors: Awario, Brand24, Mention

2. Research your influencer’s audience

Find your influencers by searching for keywords of your product category with a Social Media Monitoring tool. Influencers are active social media users that are believed to be experts in a particular topic. They have a large following of people that are often engaged and hungry for new information, brands, and products.

Let’s say you’re selling spices. In this case, finding a cooking expert on a YouTube channel will get you access to your potential target audience, which subscribers to the expert’s channel are. Then essentially you do the same as you have done with your competitor’s followers. You look through the information they have made public, compare them to the image of your ideal customer, and then follow people that you have found, invite them to Like your page, and so on.

3. Find groups of your target audience

Depending on your target audience, there can be whole communities on Social Media platforms of people you are interested in. Such communities are engaged, active, and although their main goal is communicating and sharing advice, they are not hateful about relevant promotions either. Online communities that count millions of users exist for mothers, book lovers, travellers, gothic subculture, video gamers. Billions types of smaller but no less powerful communities (as they can be, for example, local) exist on social media.

Use a search option within a platform to find your kind of community. For example, if you sell backpacks and are based in Manchester, you can find your target audience by typing “hiking Manchester” in Facebook search. Before pushing your website, you might want to start with being useful within the community. Find out if people are posting questions, and, if the page owner is ignoring them, you can take up an expert role.

Once you’ve found a decent number of followers, grow and refine your community. Regularly delete spam comments and fake accounts, attract new followers, and engage your community by posting relevant content, asking questions, and being a valuable source of entertainment and information.