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The social media strategy series: Finding your audiences

[tweetmeme]The next post in our social media strategy series is all about finding your audiences. If you’ve missed the previous posts in this series, you can find them here:

So by now you’ve ascertained that the people you want to connect with are using social media and it’s a worthwhile communications tool for your business or brand. You’ve already identified your goals and objectives and you understand what you want to achieve.

Now you need to think about those target audiences (aka people) you need to connect with to help you to achieve what you need to. You probably think you already know who these people are. It’s the same ones you’ve been targeting for years right? Not necessarily. Spend time thinking about who you need to connect and engage with and see past the obvious. Think about who’s interested in your product or service? Is there anything unique that could appeal to a certain audience? Then think about the next level, who those people might be associated with. Word of mouth is a powerful thing and it’s rife amongst social media folk, so connecting with those that are connected to your target audiences can be worthwhile.

Then think about who these people are, which industries they work in, what they like, what they read, what motivates them, age ranges, personality traits, where they hang out, technical know-how, how likely they are to use social media. Really do your research and segment your audiences by creating profiles for them. You may uncover some less obvious people that could be great for you. Keep a record of this, a simple spreadsheet will do, and as your experience of using social media grows, review and update, adding others as necessary.

Also identify your key influencers. These could be people that stand out within your communities, people that others listen to, people that create action (tip: this doesn’t necessarily mean those people with thousands of Twitter followers, true influence is far more than simply big numbers). They could be peers, journalists, thought leaders or other stakeholders. People with game changing opinion and ideas. People who challenge the norm. Or simply people that talk sense.

The types of audiences you could be looking for include:

  • Current clients or customers
  • Potential clients or customers
  • Associates of current/potential clients or customers
  • Journalists and editors
  • Bloggers
  • Suppliers
  • Affiliate businesses
  • Thought leaders

If you don’t know who these people are, make the most of the various free monitoring tools to track who is talking about the keywords associated with your business: Google Analytics, Social Mention, Delicious, Addictomatic and Board Reader to name a few. This should highlight who has a voice in these subject areas.

Once you’ve profiled the people you want to connect with, you need to find them. This is an ongoing process and takes a little time to begin with, so set some time aside to research where these people are. This will give you a good idea of which social platforms you should have a presence on, so keep your mind open to niche sites as well as the big guns. The research above will already have given you a good idea of where these people are, so record popular sites from that.

As for finding people, there are a bunch of tools you can use to help you find them on the main social networks:

How to find people on Twitter

  • Search.twitter.com is a favourite. It has a wide criteria range to search on, including location (handy for local businesses). Also use this tool to find the key influencers in your industry and browse their follower/following lists. You could find some great people to connect with there.
  • Twitterrel lets you find people talking about related topics.
  • Twellow is the Twitter equivalent of the Yellow Pages.  A directory sorted by occupation. Handy.
  • Just Tweet It a directory sorted by interest.
  • Twubble lets you find people compatible with your interests.
  • Twitdir searches for keywords in usernames, locations or descriptions.
  • WeFollow is a directory that organises people by hashtags.
  • Nearby Tweets and Tweepz help you you find people nearby.
  • Also pay attention to hashtags being used for events, you could find some great people there.

As you can see, there are a few search tools for Twitter and some of these double up on features, so have a play around with them and see which suit your needs.

How to find people on Linked In

There aren’t so many tools to find people on Linked In as there are on Twitter, but there are a few ways you can search for the right people to connect with.

  • Search for the names of those people you’ve already identified by name using Linked In’s search box. Also make the most of the advanced search feature.
  • You can also use this search box to search for keywords that will be included in profiles. Make the most of using OR or AND in these searches to include a few keywords (OR allows you to look for any one of those terms in the profile, AND allows you to look for a number of words).
  • You can also search for people using their email addresses if you have that and not the full name.
  • Join groups that fit with your interests or industry. Once you’ve been accepted as a member, browse the member lists and find people with shared interests that you want to connect with.
  • Use the Questions and Answer function to start a conversation around your key subject area. You’ll find those people interested in this subject will respond to you, after which you can connect with them.

You can’t simply choose to connect with people on Linked In as you can with Twitter. They need to give their approval (which I’m a fan of), so if they’re connected to you through someone you’re connected to, request to be introduced to them.

How to find people on Facebook

Again, it’s not as easy to find people as it is on Twitter, but try these tips:

  • Use the find people tool by popping your email address in. It finds all those people in your address book that are using Facebook.
  • Search for fan pages in your subject area and browse other fans there.
  • Once you’ve connected with some key influencers, browse their friends and connect with people that way (aka piggy backing your friends friends).
  • When using the search function, filter your results to drill down to the people you’re looking for.
  • Use the search for workmates function to find people affiliated with companies.
  • Keep an eye on the suggestions that pop up on your news stream.

As I mentioned, this can take a little time, particularly when you first start using social media, but it’s worth the time and effort. It’s not a ‘one time’ job either, set a reminder to review your connections on each profile every month or so to keep it fresh and to ensure you’re not missing anyone crucial to your business.

I hope that was useful. If you know of any other ways to find people on social networks, please let us know in the comments box below. The next posts in this series will cover:

  • Developing tactics
  • Metrics and measurement
  • The content strategy
  • Defining resources
  • Guidelines and training
  • Ongoing management and beyond

** Update: This social media strategy series has since been pulled together and published. Download the social media strategy ebook here.

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