Content may be king, but your efforts fall short without an engaged audience ready to buy your products and services. Every year, it’s estimated that $37 billion is wasted on ads that don’t engage their target audience – but don’t let that number scare you into never launching a campaign.

You can amplify your results by using audience research in paid media campaigns. This approach connects you with your target audience by speaking directly to their pain points, deep purchase motivations, and helps uncover what’s most important to them when making a purchase decision.

What is the Importance of Audience Research?

The insights you gain from audience research help identify who to advertise to and how to speak directly to them in your ads and ad copy. As you gather data and feedback on why people buy, you can build a creative strategy that lays a foundation for success. 

As you craft your audience research and targeting strategy, you’ll naturally learn more about your audience and uncover new ways of advertising. For example, a higher-education institution may assume students choose its MBA program for its prestige. But you may uncover that those students are more highly driven by remote and virtual learning opportunities. This insight would let you shape your ads and copy accordingly. 

Our team worked with a home services client focused on bathroom products and uncovered what compels people to buy a new bathtub. After all, it’s not as straightforward as someone purchasing a new roof when it leaks or an appliance when it fails. 

Turns out, there was an entire audience segment who prioritized bathroom remodels to keep elderly parents safe and decrease the likelihood of a slip or fall. Armed with this insight, our team built out a campaign targeting that group in our client’s local area. While the campaign is still in its early stages, we’ve already seen a 10% increase in click-through rates, indicating that our messaging is hitting home for this group.

How to Research Your Target Audience

Finding your target audience isn’t an exact science, but there are best practices and research methods that prove highly effective: 

  • Customer Reviews and Social Comments, Customer Surveys – Gather valuable feedback with customer reviews, comments, and surveys. It works best when you can leave answers open-ended while giving context to what kind of information you’re looking for. 
  • Customer Interviews – One-on-one conversations with customers uncover their motivations and decision-making process in real-time and allow for follow-up questions during your discussion. 
  • Competitor Research – Assess how your competitors appeal to their audiences by their use of creative and what customers say through their social media channels and online reviews.
  • Industry Research -Study the macro influences persuading consumers by studying your industry leaders and how customers engage with their content. 
  • Demographic Research – Reject the one-size-fits-all approach and tailor your messaging to address different audience personas by layering demographic insights over the feedback you collect through customer research. 

Ad platforms may provide a good indication of who your buyers are, but they are limited in providing “the why” behind their purchases. To compensate for that knowledge gap, it’s imperative to pair your campaigns with research tools like user testing, focus groups, review mining, and other workflows to strengthen your understanding of purchasing motivations. Our team uses these tactics to identify overarching “themes” and develop a creative testing framework that experiments with messaging and images to scale and optimize our campaigns.

Creative strategy can also help to address these challenges. As more marketing and ad platforms push towards automation, relying solely on automation could hinder your insights and limit your ability to deliver authentic marketing efforts. By leveraging creative strategies, businesses can better appeal to their audience’s motivations and fill any gaps in the understanding of their target demographics. This approach can help to ensure that marketing efforts are effective and resonate with the intended audiences. 

When your creative considers why people buy, you can surpass your competitors, even when your targeting is more generic. We’ve seen cases where a strong creative strategy and broad targeting tactics outperform a highly targeted campaign with more generalized creative.

Audience Research Per Platform

To select the right platform for your advertising needs, it’s essential to use data to inform your decision. Audience research is crucial in understanding the user base of each platform and the analytics tools available to analyze that user base. By leveraging insights from this research, you can determine which platform is the best fit for your goals. For instance, if you want to promote an online learning platform offering programming or accounting courses to users aged 35-50, you may find that Facebook/Meta Ads are the most effective option for your target audience.

However, you may realize a segment of your audience wants to purchase courses directly, or businesses want to provide development opportunities as an employee perk. With these new segments in mind, you may consider LinkedIn as an additional advertising platform for success.

Audience Research for Facebook/Meta Ads

Once you’ve determined that your audience is on Facebook/Meta and you’ve developed hypotheses on how to market to them, you can leverage Meta’s targeting options to help shape your campaigns. Consider crafting an audience around:

  • Gender
  • Age
  • Education
  • Job titles
  • Relationship status
  • Hobbies
  • Interests
  • Lifestyle

While you may be able to use these levers to target your audience, reporting on the individual segments is more challenging. Meta’s platform doesn’t offer extensive audience reporting, which can make it difficult to measure the success of your concepts. 

To overcome this, it’s essential to have a solid understanding of your audience and their behaviors. Using metrics such as engagement rate, click-through rate, and conversion rate can help you measure the effectiveness of your ads. Craft your campaigns with a clear goal in mind and identify what success metrics are most important for you. This way, when it comes time to evaluate the performance of your campaign or audience, you’re better equipped to come to a sound conclusion. 

How to Find Your Audience on Twitter

Like Facebook/Meta, you can find your audience on Twitter by zeroing in on the following:

  • Location 
  • Language 
  • Age targeting, Gender

Twitter offers a range of tools, including data-driven audience insights, conversion tracking, and the Business Insights Dashboard, to help you understand your audience’s behaviors and preferences. By leveraging this information, you can increase your tweet’s engagement while tracking the return on your ad spend. The Business Insights Dashboard provides a helpful overview of your followers and impressions, along with personalized tips to help you optimize your content for maximum impact.

Applying Audience Research to Google Ads

When it comes to Google Ads, audience research is just as important as it is for social ad platforms. By gathering insights on your target audience’s age, demographics, interests, hobbies, and engagement behaviors, you can effectively apply this knowledge to your Google campaigns.

Google offers a range of tools to help you reach the right customers and segment your audience, including the ability to show ads to people with specific purchase intents and demographics. As you run your campaigns, you may even uncover new audience segments that you hadn’t considered before, such as a younger demographic in a different part of the country.

Testing Audience Research Campaigns

Coming up with a great idea doesn’t scale into success if it just ends as an idea. You need to test those ideas to ensure you’ve done your due diligence in finding what resonates best. Our team usually starts with a data-backed foundation, focusing on what’s most important to our target market. What parts of our solution are most appealing to your target audience? What makes them pull the trigger when they are ready to buy?

Once we’ve uncovered two to three overarching themes within our target market, we look at current trends and start brainstorming some original concepts and A/B variations. Depending on the client and goals, we look at our success metrics after a few days, weeks, or even months. We’re determining whether or not we can conclude the test and how to incorporate a brand-new variant or concept to test against the winner.

We isolate variables during the testing process to gather the cleanest insights into our campaigns’ performance. Even with a solid foundation grounded in research, testing multiple variables could muddy your data and make it difficult to determine how effective the test was. 

At Silverback, we approach our campaigns as a series of calculated “bets,” knowing that some will succeed while others may not. Our team adheres to an ~80% iteration vs. ~20% innovation rule, focusing on improving upon what’s already working while also incorporating new, out-of-the-box ideas into our strategy about 20% of the time. By consistently implementing and refining this rinse-and-repeat process, we’re able to continuously scale and optimize our campaigns for maximum impact and results. This approach allows us to take calculated risks while also leveraging proven strategies, ensuring that we’re always pushing the boundaries of what’s possible while also maintaining a strong foundation of successful tactics.

How do you know your tests are done? Depending on the client’s goals for the campaign, we look at engagement metrics like CTR or ROAS metrics to properly define success, consider statistical significance thresholds, and conclude our tests appropriately.

Need Help with Your Paid Media?

Silverback offers paid media services led by a team of experts in analytics, paid media, design, and audience research to help our clients hit their revenue targets with quality leads on pay-per-click (PPC) platforms like Google, Facebook, and LinkedIn. But they only work if you understand the platforms, the buyers, and your business objectives. Ready to scale your campaigns and see results? Learn more about our paid media services here. 

Haley Nininger | Senior Paid Media Manager

Haley is a curious, passionate digital marketing professional with an ever-evolving growth mindset. Her work as an analyst helps “connect the dots” for clients more efficiently, more creatively, and more tangibly. Haley is powered by homemade espresso and the burning desire to see that conversion rate rise!

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