Developing a clear understanding of your target audience for social media may be the most important thing you do as a social media marketer. Your target group informs all elements of your social media strategy.

Here's a hint before we delve into it: Your target audience is not "everyone" (unless you are Google). Your job in defining your social media audience is to identify and understand your niche so you can master it.

You can use audience research to create relevant content, news, and ads. All of this can lead to higher conversion rates and better ROI for social media. Of course, these are key indicators for all social marketers (and marketing managers).

Bonus: Get the free template to easily create a detailed profile of your ideal customer and / or your target group.

Definition of the target group

A target audience for social media is the specific group of people you want to reach through your social channels. These are the people who are most likely to be interested in your content, products or services. They are likely linked by some common characteristics like demographics and behavior.

When developing your target group definition, don't be afraid to become highly specific. You can start with broad categories like millennials or single dads. However, good research on social media allows you to get more detailed information.

Remember, you can sell to everyone, but you can't target everyone with all of your social content. You cannot speak directly to your best potential customers if you want to speak to their children, parents, spouses and colleagues at the same time.

How to find your target audience for social media

Research on social media is not complicated. The main thing is to limit your focus while increasing your reach.

We have created a free social media research template that you can use to keep track of all the information you get during your research.

Bonus: Get the free template to easily create a detailed profile of your ideal customer and / or your target group.

1. Collect data about your existing customers and audience on social media

Who would prefer to deal with you on social media? Start with the people who are already buying from you, following you and interacting with your posts. Some data points you may want to consider are:

  • Age: You don't have to be too specific here. Concentrate on finding out in which decade of your life your target group is on social media or in which generation they are.
  • Location (and time zone): Where in the world does your social media audience live? This helps you better understand which geographic areas you need to target. You will also learn which hours are most important for your customer service and sales staff to be online. And when you should plan your social ads and posts to ensure the best visibility.
  • Language: What language does your target group speak? Don't assume it's your language. And don't assume that you speak the dominant language of your current physical location.
  • Purchasing power and patterns: How much money does your target group have to spend on social media websites? How do you deal with purchases in your price category? Do you have certain financial concerns or preferences that you need to address?
  • Interests: What does your target group like to do? What TV shows do you watch? What other companies do you interact with?
  • Challenges: Which vulnerabilities are your social media audience dealing with?
  • Life stage: Does your target group include college students on social media? New parents? Parents of teenagers? Pensioner?

B2B companies should also consider the following:

  • Company size: What types of companies buy from you and get involved with you? Are they start-ups or brands at company level?
  • Who makes the purchase decisions: do you contact the CEO? The CTO? The social marketing manager?

Social media analytics provide much of this information. Facebook Audience Insights can be especially helpful.

Your own customer database can also provide a wealth of information. You cannot assume that your general customer demographics match your target audience for social media websites. However, if you understand who is already buying from you, you can better understand who is most likely to be interested in your social channels.

If you haven't already done so, now is a good time to integrate UTM codes into social posts either manually or using a social media management platform like Hootsuite. In this way, you can use Google Analytics to collect information about who clicks on your content.

As soon as you have set up UTM codes, open Google Analytics. Audience Insights provides valuable demographic information to your most engaged social media audience.

2. Use social listening to find conversations about your brand

Social listening is an important way to uncover conversations about your company, your industry and your products. Monitoring relevant keywords and hashtags shows what people are saying online about you and your competitors, even if you are not marked.

If you reply to these social posts, you can find your target group on social media, even if they are not yet following you.

You can also use social listening to do more research on social media. While monitoring keywords and hashtags, you can uncover other relevant hashtags that your target audience uses. You can then test to add these hashtags to your social posts to extend your reach to more relevant users.

3. Research which social channels your audience uses

Now you have a feel for who your audience might be and what they're talking about online. So it's time to find out where they're already spending their time on social media. There are a few tools you can use to find this information.

Hootsuite Insights Powered by Brandwatch

Enter a combination of terms relevant to your company in the search bar. With Boolean logic, you can get pretty detailed here. Then scroll down to see which websites, hashtags, and authors are best suited for your search.

Start a free trial or log in to in your account to access this powerful research tool.

  1. Enter a relevant hashtag that you discovered in the previous step. A hashtag that works well for a competitor's campaign would be a good choice.
  2. Scroll down to Top Sites to see which social networks are among the most popular referring domains.

Google Analytics

Use Google Analytics to check which social networks appear in your referral traffic report.

If you use UTM parameters, you can also see which social posts drive the most traffic to your website. If you find that your Twitter posts are causing a lot more traffic than your Facebook posts, it is likely an indication that your audience is more active on Twitter.

4. Look at the competition

Your social media audience is likely to overlap with that of your competitors. So it's worth figuring out what they're doing so that you can benefit from the lessons they've already learned. Are you reaching segments you hadn't thought of? How do you position yourself?

Here are some helpful tools:


Enter a keyword that is relevant to your industry in the search bar. (Note: You can enter some searches for free. You also need to start a free trial or sign up for a paid Buzzsumo account.)

You'll see a list of the most shared social media content, including engagement data. Look for patterns. Which formats and channels worked well for your competitors?

If you've started a free trial or have a Buzzsumo account, go to the "Content Analysis" tab. In your niche you will find a breakdown of the most popular social networks.

Search streams

We talked about search streams to monitor keywords and hashtags above, but they're also a great way to keep track of your competitors' activities.

Set up streams in your social media management dashboard to monitor your competitor's social posts and search for patterns in hashtags, post type, and content strategy.

For more information, see our step-by-step guide on how to do competition research on social media. It guides you through the best ways to use social tools to gather insights from competitors.

5. Understand what your target audience expects from your social channels

First of all, you need to make sure you know exactly how your product or service affects your audience's life:

  • better
  • easier
  • or just more interesting.

Does it solve your challenges? Address certain pain points? Can you help them achieve their goals?

If you don't have a clear list of the benefits of your product yet, now is the time to start brainstorming. To automatically generate performance records, some basic information about your target audience must be provided.

In this IKEA article, the advertised furniture can be so small, inexpensive and functional, for example. The advantage is, however, that you can create a comfortable workplace even in a small house:

Next, think about how you can add value to your audience through your social channels. Some important questions to consider:

  • What are your audience's main buying barriers and how can you help overcome them?
  • Where are your followers on their purchase trip? Are you doing research or are you ready to buy? Are you looking for reviews?
  • What content is your audience dealing with?

If you're having trouble figuring out exactly what your social audience wants to see on your social channels, you can always ask.

SurveyMonkey offers a free template for a survey on target group research in social media. Use this template to find out which social networks your target group prefers and which content they prefer. You can link to your survey directly from a social post, as Amsterdam Marketing did here:

Hello to our great followers. We are currently working on making our Facebook page even better, and we want your …

Posted by I amsterdam on Wednesday June 17th, 2020

4 target group examples of real brands

1. The Limited

The general principles for defining your target group go back to the earliest days of marketing. The fashion retailer The Limited defined its target group in its 1979 annual report (as quoted in the textbook Retail Marketing Management):

“The target market for Limited is the 16- to 35-year-old woman. She is educated, wealthy, sociable, fashion-related and mostly a working woman who lives in or near a large metropolitan area. "

The principles for creating a target group definition have not changed significantly since this declaration was created 40 years ago. (Although the brand would probably put it a little differently today.) The parent company Belk is still clearly targeting the audience that defined The Limited in the 1970s.

Meet Ashley, Syeria & Anna, #WomenWhoGlow on #InternationalWomensDay and every day in the Belk home office! StolzYou proudly wear our limited-edition #YouGlowGirl graphic t-shirt. 100% of the proceeds will now be donated to Girls Inc. Shop.

– Belk (@belk), March 8, 2020

What has changed is that you now have so many tools to do social media audience research.

2. Zipcar

Let's go on for a couple of decades. Here is Zipcar's brand positioning statement, as quoted in the classic marketing text Kellogg on Marketing. The first part of the declaration defines the target group:

“For urban, educated and tech-savvy consumers who care about the environment and who will inherit from future generations, Zipcar is the car sharing service that can save you money and reduce your carbon footprint so you feel being a smart A responsible decision that shows your commitment to environmental protection. "

Note that Zipcar does not appeal to all residents of a particular city. They don't even target everyone in a particular city who doesn't own a car. They are aimed specifically at people who:

  • live in an urban area
  • have a certain educational qualification
  • are comfortable will technology
  • are concerned about the environment

These are all interests and behaviors that Zipcar can target with the help of social ads. They also help control the company's overall approach to its social media marketing strategy. This becomes clear in this thread about sustainable habits for World Environment Day.

We encourage you to only adopt a sustainable habit that can have a major impact on our environment. Here are some ideas that you can quickly and easily integrate into your current lifestyle. ???????? #WorldEnviornmentDay

– ZipcarUK (@ZipcarUK) June 5, 2020

3. Tourism Australia

You may not need to include all demographics (such as age and gender) in your audience definition. In some cases, especially when targeting social ads, it may be more important to focus on the behavior and motivation of your target audience.

Tourism Australia defined its target group as:

"Quality travelers who are motivated by what (Australia) has to offer and most likely choose Australia for their next vacation or business event."

This target audience statement may seem a little broad, but Tourism Australia has looked at the data in depth to further define its target audience. For example, they know that their target audience:

  • regularly travels on long-haul routes
  • is driven by food and wine, water and coastal experiences as well as nature and animal experiences
  • plans longer trips to explore more of the country

This is an impressive star blanket ???? Ari Rex captured this breathtaking sky show in the Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve …

Posted by on Saturday June 20, 2020

They also examined the reasons why their target group is traveling. These include:

  • Looking for local experiences
  • learn about the world
  • Visit “fashionable and cool” travel destinations

Then they went one step further. They analyzed the data to create definitions of the target audience in each of their major geographic markets. They even learned how far visitors are likely to book before traveling.


The lifestyle and sportswear brand GANT defined a specific target group of "25- to 45-year-old men and women with university degrees, a cosmopolitan lifestyle and a hunger for discovery and growth".

With this in mind, they have developed a digital marketing strategy based on a YouTube series. It is known as a "couple thinker" and features celebrities and inspiring personalities.

They promoted the show on their social channels and worked with Esquire UK to make the content available to an even wider audience.

How to reach your target group on social media

If you have found and defined your target group for social media, you can use these tips to connect to others.

1. Lookalike audiences and ad targeting

GANT expanded the audience for its YouTube series by a similar audience. They supported these target groups on both customers and subscribers.

Lookalike targeting is one of the easiest ways to reach more target groups on social media. Lookalike audiences share traits and behaviors with people who already interact with your brand.

You don't have a customer or subscriber list yet? You can still use precise targeting options to target social ads. You will then reach exactly the audience that you defined during your research.

If you’re targeting more than one audience, you can target your ads so that each audience sees the content that’s most relevant to them. For example, the NHL uses geographic ads for team memorabilia.

Screenshot of NHL-targeted social media ads
Source: NHL via Facebook Ads Library

Make sure that you structure the content of the ads so that they target exactly the target group you are addressing. Ask yourself: Does the language exactly address the market that you have defined with a suitable voice? Do the graphics make sense in the context of your target market?

2. A / B test paid and organic content to maximize reach

If you focus on reaching your audience for social media websites, you may need to adjust your strategy for organic and paid social content.

Use the information you received during your social media research to optimize:

A / B testing can help you refine your content over time by learning exactly what works best.

3. Review your audience research as needed

The results of your A / B tests may provide additional insights that you didn't have when you made your target market statement. Make sure that you include all the lessons you learn.

Check your target group definition regularly. Make sure that the people you want to reach the most on social media are still clearly described. The Limited target group has been defined for 40 years, but not all companies.

Your target market could change over time. For example, Atari marketed its game console to children in the 1980s.

Today Atari targets the same people who played his games in the 1980s. But these people are adults now who don't see the Atari brand as a state-of-the-art gaming system, but as a nostalgic part of their childhood.

A strong dose of nostalgia Did your setup look similar back then?

Posted by Atari on Wednesday June 24, 2020

Use Hootsuite to better target your audience on social media. Create, schedule, and post on any network, get demographic data, performance reports, and more. Try it for free today.

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