Vans are my favorite brand of shoes. They're comfy canvas shoes that come in an array of fun styles, types, and colors that appeal to a wide range of consumers.
The shoe brand is a global company that's been around since 1966, using their tagline "Off the Wall" as an ode to their first core audience: skateboarders. But who else do Vans appeal to?
Looking at their Instagram, you can gather a few clues:
From skating to lifestyle and even surfing, Vans has a different Instagram account for each of their target audiences — and each account is just different enough to resonate with its specific consumer. This approach shows the company's deep understanding of marketing to multiple target audiences. Take this Instagram account geared towards women:
The account is packed with relevant campaigns and content for their female buyers.
Understanding target audiences can lead to more successful campaigns for you, as customers will feel as if they connect with your brand. Let's get into target audiences and how to identify yours.
What is a Target Audience?
A target audience is a group of consumers characterized by behavior and specific demographics, such as female extreme athletes between the ages of 18 and 25. Target audiences are a pillar of most businesses influencing decision making for marketing strategy, such as where to spend money on ads, how to appeal to customers, and even what product to build next.
Target audiences are used to define the buyer persona of a business, as well. Buyer personas are a representative overview of a business's ideal customer, drawn from data that makes up a target audience. Some of these demographics and behavior areas are:
This information is helpful in understanding the customer and how they make purchase decisions. Targeting a specific audience will also help your campaigns reach the correct people who will relate most to your company's message and products.
When talking about a target audience, it's a useful distinction not to confuse the term with a target market. While similar, their difference is key for marketers.
Target Market vs Target Audience
Though both target audience and target markets are centered around segmenting customers into groups to make informed business decisions, a target market is a specific group of consumers at whom a company’s products are aimed. A target audience defines that group using audience demographics, interests, and buying history.
Essentially, you can describe your target market by finding your target audience. If a target market was "marketers aged 25-35," the target audience would then be something like "marketers living in Boston, Massachusetts aged 25-35."
That was an overview of target audiences. Let's dive into some specifics, such as the different types of audiences and how to find your own.
Types of Target Audience
We've briefly gone over the attributes that make up a demographic. There are plenty in the marketing world — all helpful in locating the correct audience.
When we talk about types of target audiences, we're talking about more ways to define who you're creating a campaign for. You can segment your audience into groups or define them further using categories such as:
Purchase intention — Groups of people who are looking for a specific product and want to collect more information before doing so. Some examples include consumers buying a new laptop, vehicle, clothing, or television. This data is necessary in order to see how you can better direct your messaging to your audience.
Interests — This is data about what people are into, like hobbies. Knowing this data helps you connect with your audience in a relatable way and unearth buyer motivation and behaviors. For example, consumers who enjoy road biking as a hobby are likely most interested in new road bikes in the spring, when the weather is warmer and road racing season begins.
For example, if you find that a large number of potential audiences are interested in traveling, you can figure out a way to work that message into your marketing campaign to appeal to more potential buyers.
Subculture — These are groups of people who identify with a shared experience. An example of this would be a specific music scene or genre of entertainment. People define themselves by subcultures, and companies can use those cultures to understand who they're reaching out to.
An example of reaching a subculture is thinking of how they relate to your business, especially if you have a large potential audience. For instance, Netflix markets to their subcultures, people who watch specific types of content, using social media accounts that are directed to those subcultures.
As you've probably guessed, coming up with a target audience involves some research, which goes into fleshing out who you want to reach and how you can get there in a way that stands out from competitors.
If you're ready to find yours, follow these steps below:
How to Find Your Target Audience
Use Google Analytics to learn more about your customers.
Create a reader persona to target blog content.
Look at social media analytics.
Use Facebook Insights.
Check on website performance.
Engage with social media audiences.
1. Use Google Analytics to learn more about your customers.
Google Analytics is such an expansive tool, and is great for obtaining demographic details about your audience, as well as their interests. Recall from above that this is critical information that helps locate a target audience.
With Google Analytics, you'll be able to see website insights, and it's broken into different sections, like age, gender and location. These sections are labelled clearly on the dashboard and provide colorful graphs for you to interpret.
Above is an example of the age overview in the Audiences portion of Google Analytics. Notice the breakdown of the numbers and how the graphs give you an excellent visual. This tool can be a great asset into getting a really great insight into who’s visiting your website and how your content fits into their lives.
2. Create a reader persona to target blog content.
With reader personas, you'll never forget who you're writing for. The good thing about reader personas is that you should closely align them to your buyer persona; they should be nearly identical.
This is because your blog should contain content that'll be useful for your readers. Marketers probably want to read blogs about digital media, for example. It builds the reputation of your company to consumers.
The difference between a reader persona and a buyer persona is that a reader persona generally focuses on the challenges your persona might face. How can you write content that solves those challenges with blog posts?
For example, if one of the challenges you've identified in your buyer persona is "Marketing Mario wants to find a solution to low ROI on ad spending," you can use a reader persona to think of content that surrounds helping that challenge.
3. Look at social media analytics.
When are your followers most engaged with your social media channels?
Is it when you post a funny meme on Instagram or create a poll on Twitter? By taking a look at these questions, you can get a couple of clues into what content your audience is interested in, thus, filling in one of the parts needed to find a target audience.
Every social channel is different and has a different audience, so looking at your analytics across all platforms are important. For example, Twitter tends to have a younger audience, while Facebook tends to have an older one. On the same note, Twitter is based on short-form content, while on Facebook, you can post long-form content and videos.
Instagram is a visually-based social media platform, so content that's graphically stunning would thrive on the channel. Knowing these things, you can begin to plan your strategy accordingly.
Analytics can tell you who is looking at your profile. What's more, they can tell you what's working and what's not working, content-wise.
By posting content your audience is more interested in, you can gain followers that are in your target market.
4. Use Facebook Insights.
If you have a Facebook page, this tool is golden for you. Facebook gives every Page a huge set of insights, for free. These insights work similarly to Google Analytics — you'll receive critical information needed to create a target audience.
By accessing the People tab on your Insights dashboard, you can see who and from where your visitors are. Below is an example of how Facebook shows location demographics. It seems that a primary location is the east coast, so it's safe to say that part of the target audience for this page is located in east coast cities.
Other areas Facebook focuses on include interests and integrations with other social media platforms, like Twitter. The insights report tells you the lifestyle of your audience, such as if they purchase items online.
Insights like these can help you far into your campaign planning, past finding a target audience, so it's a worthwhile tool to check on every now and then.
5. Check up on website performance.
Monitor your best- and worst-performing content areas on your website. Your website can be the introduction to your company for a lot of your target audience, so sprucing up what interests them is a great way to attract more audience members.
By looking at what blog posts or landing pages are captivating your audience, you can repurpose content that isn't and promote the content that is. For instance, if your blog post about email marketing was a hit with audiences, share it on your socials to expand your reach.
6. Engage with social media audiences.
Interacting with social media followers is so important, because they're your audience. When you create your buyer persona, they're the users you should look to. If you don't have social media accounts yet, remember to keep this step in mind.
Ask your followers what they want to see, use tools like Instagram Stories and replies to get their response for how/what you're doing. Whatever engagement you get, positive or negative, can influence how you attract more audience members.
For example, try tweeting out something that invites a CTA, like "Send us a picture of your favorite outfit to wear with our new hats!" This evokes a response, responses you can analyze the language of and imitate to grow your audience.
Target Audience Examples
Target differentiates its content based on social platforms. For example, check out its Twitter account. The language is relaxed, it engages users, and is generally geared towards a younger, millennial crowd. This is because most of Twitter's users are younger.
Alternatively, check out this Facebook post, a partnership with Jessica Alba, an actress who is focused on her family.
This move was probably done because Target's target audience for Facebook campaigns are directed towards families, while the focus is on younger people on Twitter. Target, as a global brand, has different target audiences.
For campaigns, they might focus on a specific audience over another, or for social media channels in general. Target found their target audiences and how they're represented differently and used that to their marketing advantage.
2. Lightlife Foods
Similarly to the example above, let's look at plant-based food company, Lightlife Foods. On Instagram, Lightlife posts high-quality images of recipes using their products. Occasionally, they work with Instagram influencers in the same market.
On Lightlife's Facebook, however, they've invested heavily in video content. This is probably because it's been proven that video content on Facebook performs extremely well. Lightlife is most likely targeting an audience that loves to watch videos on Facebook, whereas on Instagram, they're most likely targeting not only foodies, but influencers in their industry.
3. Apple Music
Let's look at how Apple Music is reaching their target audience.
On Twitter, the streaming service prides itself on being free of ads, most likely to sway potential audience members away from similar streaming services that don't provide the same benefit. They post playlists and other content that's only reachable by visiting the website.
Most of the Instagram content, however, are videos. It seems as if Apple Music is using their Instagram to post snippets of interviews and other premium content available with a subscription.
Though it's clear that the two platforms have different content strategies, the content itself is in the same realm, just with a different focus. From this, we can infer that Apple Music likes to stick to a formula based on where their content types perform best.
If, for example, Apple Music found that their interview previews perform best on Instagram, that's likely why their Instagram is mostly video content. This shows that diversifying content doesn't have to be a vast change like Target and Lightlife, it can still be subtle and work.
If you have multiple target audiences and only one marketer, don't feel as if you have to focus on every audience at once. You can target one audience per campaign to make sure you really get it right.
Target audiences are meant to engage consumers and give you a good idea of how to market to them. If Vans' way of creating multiple accounts fits your business, go for it. If you have a singular audience, you can still benefit from knowing everything you can about them.
Originally published Jan 21, 2020 4:30:00 AM, updated September 29 2022