7 Questions You Must Answer to Know Your Social Media Target Audience

No one loves bright, shiny objects more than I do. I can't wait to learn about and try the latest NEW THING and I'm proud of my status as a card-carrying early adopter.

More often than not, when it comes to using social media or digital media to support marketing communications, I've had to squelch my natural inclinations and focus on 'state-of-the-market' rather than 'state-of-the-art.'

At the risk of losing my EA (early adopter) Card, I'll share a secret I've learned: In most cases, it's not the newest tool that is most effective. The reason why is as old as the concept of the Communication Brief.

My good friend and colleague, Kip Knight, recently posted two great entries on his Knight's Vision blog about developing a powerful Communication Brief. If you're in the marketing or communication game, consider these required reading:

The Why and How On Developing A Powerful Communication Brief (Part I)

The Why and How On Developing A Powerful Communication Brief (Part II)

Kip and I had the pleasure last week of conducting our two-day Social Media Executive Seminar for the senior team at MoneyGram. In our seminars, we introduce a Social Media Gameplan template that builds off the Communication Brief to direct the development of a social media strategy.

The cornerstone of the Social Media Gameplan is a clear understanding of your target audience. If you don't have a clearly defined target, you have virtually no chance of hitting it!

As simple as this sounds, it takes insight, discipline and experience to get your target right. Here are 7 questions you should always ask to help you really understand who you're trying to reach:

1.  How will we recognize them?

Explore not only who they are but where they hang out, who they hang with, what they do and what they are doing when they interact with your brand.

2.  Why are they interested in our brand?

What do you offer that's uniquely of value to them and how does it drive their decisions?

3.  How can we help solve their problems?

This question translates benefits into more personal terms.

4.  What do we want them to do?

Buy your product or service? Of course. Support your cause? Absolutely. Perhaps you also want them to tell others or share your content.

5.  What are their alternatives?

Unless you're selling the government to people in North Korea, chances are good there are alternatives to your brand. Push to understand the reasons behind their choices.

6.  What will be their biggest objections?

Following up on the previous question, why wouldn't they choose your brand?

7.  How can we best reach them?

This question leads directly to the tactics in your social media strategy. There is always more than one way to reach your target. The better you understand the folks you're trying to reach, the better your odds of uncovering the most effective ways.

(BUZZ-KILL ALERT!) Just because you read about a cool new Foursquare scavenger hunt, it doesn't mean you should stop everything and create a better one. Often times, a creative, on-target campaign delivered via proven channels offers your greatest chance for success.

By taking the time to answer these 7 questions about your social media target audience and by challenging, testing and refining your answers you'll gain the insight necessary to develop a social media strategy that has a fighting chance.