Go Big or Go Home? Not on Social Media.

When discussing social media campaigns with clients, we always ask: who do you want to reach? And sometimes, we’re told: well…everyone. Our company wants everyone in the city/the region/the state with a social media account to hear more about us.

But here’s the thing: broad social audiences aren’t effective.

Okay, let me start by clarifying: broad audiences don’t work well for everyone. Certain factors will determine your results regardless of your audience size, like your budget, creative capacity and campaign objectives. But many businesses are on social media to promote specific things for specific audiences, limiting the effectiveness of a broad targeting approach.

Wait. What’s considered a “broad audience?”

I’d consider an audience broad if it’s only applying two or less demographic/interests filters. Although your company’s audience is out there among the masses, here’s why you should avoid targeting broadly:

You don’t know who you’re hitting. A vague audience is one that’s less likely to convert, despite how promising the metrics may seem. Think of your company’s ideal customer: Can you put a name to them? What are their interests? I’d definitely recommend spending the time needed to answer these questions in order to create your personas.

It’s inefficient. Starting broad and narrowing down slowly is a legitimate strategy if you’re struggling to find your ideal audience. But, the amount of ad spend it takes to chisel away at a broad audience is an unwise way to spend a large chunk of your client’s budget.

You can’t compete with big budgets. Sometimes, you’re going to be limited on your spend. Think about your competition for broad audiences. Then, think about their budgets. If they cast a gloomy shadow over yours, don’t panic. Think smarter, target smaller, and get the most out of your dollars.

So, how do I trim my audience?

There are a few ways to tighten your audience to maximize your spend:

  • Think differently about your target audience, not just about what you’re trying to sell them. What are their likes? Dislikes? Where do they live? What other complimentary interests do they have? Then, narrow further. (I promise you can!) What do all your ideal customers have in common? Answer all these in more detail and keep track in your personas document.
  • Nest your interests. Many social ad manager systems allow you to narrow your audience further, requiring potential targets to meet more than one criteria to fit the targeting. There’s a big difference between targeting a person who’s interested in “downtown or restaurants” and “downtown and
  • Use the Facebook Pixel. This is one of the most powerful tools you can use to shape specific audiences. Drop it on your landing page and remarket to your site visitors, or start audiences that look like your site visitors.
  • Narrow down your lookalike audiences. Facebook automatically matches lookalikes for you, but they’re very broad. So, use the same trimming parameters on your original lookalike audiences to get even more targeted.
  • Monitor your data closely and adjust as needed. Every social advertising platform provides real-time performance data. So, give your ads some time to optimize, then see how they’re doing. Frequency (or, the number of times your ads have been seen by the same person) will tell you if you’re getting in front of the same people too many times or not enough. Facebook’s Relevance Score will tell you if your audience finds your ads interesting.

Audience targeting on social media can be really difficult sometimes. It defies preconceived knowledge you may have about your audience and reduces your expectations when advertising through the platform. The (very obvious) bottom line is this: the more you know about your audience, the more effectively you can target them.

A good way to learn is to engage with them through your social media pages and ask them questions about what else they’re interested in. Even consider complimentary interests you find totally unrelated to your content matter. And don’t forget to utilize tools that aren’t included in your social data, like Google Analytics. Oftentimes, this can help bridge a lot of these gaps in your audience targeting.