Taking a Deep Dive into Audience Understanding

Kimberly Surico |
 05/26/23 |
5 min read

taking a deep dive with audience understanding

How deeply do you understand your audience? It’s a vital component that keeps many brand managers awake at night. They know that a company’s success involves more than maintaining a positive brand image, and we’re guessing you know this too! Let’s explore what really matters and why.

Consumers form a powerful wake that rolls almost imperceptibly beneath the surface, one that can be harnessed and directed with tsunami-level force as fast as a rogue employee, unintentional product placement, or misguided tweet is detected. Audience understanding is your only protection in these times. 

Brands must keep abreast of issues that matter to their target audience, prioritize this information to head off what they can, and be prepared with relevant messaging when the worst-case scenarios hit—and they always inevitably hit. If a company intends to thrive in the future or even exist in the future, it must therefore focus on becoming consumer-centric. 

Part of this effort includes prioritizing diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging (DEIB) efforts, which we spoke about in an earlier interview with the talented Nicholas Love, Agency Principal of the Kulur Group. In this second part of our series, we shift the focus a bit to explore audience understanding as part of your social listening strategy and your big-picture DEIB work.

Companies use social listening primarily for brand reputation, neglecting the many other ways it can benefit them—can you elaborate on that?

Yes, social listening is being under-leveraged by companies, in my opinion. Most companies are primarily using social listening to understand brand sentiment, benchmark against competitors, spot ambassadors, or source user-generated content. However, that doesn’t offer a complete picture. There are many different ways this tool can be used, specifically when it comes to understanding consumers and communities on a more intimate level—understanding what is of value to various diverse groups and then applying that knowledge to your goals. 

Segmenting a wider audience into sub-audiences is one way to leverage available insight. By categorizing the audience based on factors such as age, gender, race, geographic location, and psychographic traits such as interests and professions, companies can uncover insight specific to each subset. This reveals unique needs and preferences.


Failure to leverage this intel leaves brands at a competitive disadvantage, with only assumptions about an audience offering up key insight, free for the taking, online. And as Nick emphasizes, making assumptions without proper data and analysis is never desirable for companies. 

So, how can companies leverage social listening for better audience understanding

You must leave your assumptions at the door and trust what the social analytics tell you. Companies need to be intentional about the type of questions they ask—it’s relatively easy to incorporate DEIB into social listening this way. By putting in the time upfront to develop the right questions, the input will be specific, and so will the output. You’ll solve the right problem through the lens of the right questions. And you can sort out the right questions with social listening.

To elaborate on this a bit, companies can gain a deeper understanding of the communities they’re targeting by being intentional about the questions asked during social listening, and they can uncover these questions with social listening. How does this work? Analyzing frequently used hashtags, keywords, and trending topics, for starters, and applying a lens of sentiment and behavioral analysis. 

For instance, companies can use social listening to track conversations around specific topics or issues, such as social justice or climate change, to explore the specific beliefs and values of their audience and how those topics resonate differently between the various demographically and psychographically defined segments. 

Consumer intelligence provides clear intel about which professions are most invested in the sustainability conversation online:

professions listed with index levels

We can explore these interests and find specific conversations, and influencers, advocating change—and get a sense of potential market movements that could impact product development and supply chain logistics.

And that’s just the tip of the audience segmentation iceberg made possible by social listening. 

Sustainability is a hot-button item; pursuing these goals should be a given. We see DEIB initiatives as equally crucial and less ‘on the radar’ with brands. So, let’s loop back with some tips to help you identify opportunities for DEIB, with work you can direct toward sustainability or any other initiatives you’re focusing on as well!

How does social listening help uncover opportunities for DEIB initiatives?

The beauty of social media is that it’s a two-way street and provides an excellent opportunity for companies to use social listening as part of their DEIB initiatives. Social media, websites, community forums, etc., are all touchpoints for various audiences—they use them to talk about topics important to them. Brands can leverage these platforms to serve as points of emphasis and create individual and business opportunities. 

Knowing where your audience is interacting is important. If you’re tweeting, but your target audience is engaging in a robust subreddit you don’t even know exists, you’re shouting into a vacuum. 

For example, below we can see the DEIB conversations are happening on news sites, Twitter, forums, blogs and other comment data, likely on social sites. Each colored bar segment represents a different conversational cluster within the DEIB topic, so there’s lots to explore. 

news twitter forums blogs and comments bar chart

We can isolate forum conversations to see what those topics are, specifically—and continue this analysis to a granular level.

conversations by forum in bar chart

Below, we’ve further isolated the conversation to show the sentiment summary of forum conversations captured during this snapshot of time (April 2023). It reveals an overwhelmingly neutral response, which would likely surprise companies hesitant into jump into the DEIB fray:

positive negative and mixed response clusters

The point is that the intel is there for the taking, and it offers data-driven insight to guide strategy. And more brands should rely on it instead of assumptions or the loudest voices shouting online.

And how can social listening inform brands about their own DEIB company practices?

Again, it’s about asking very specific questions. From your social media findings, you can ask how your organization aligns programming policies, development frameworks, etc., around specific discussions. There are often opportunities to tap into those respective clusters and start a dialogue within your company around how your culture is reacting to these topics. 

Applying the same lens as demonstrated above, companies can explore so many nuanced conversations about their industry, company, specific brands as well as the consumers who love them and the employees making day-to-day operations possible. Folding in DEIB, sustainability and other forward-thinking concepts just makes sense when one begins to monitor the underlying current. 

Through trend analysis, companies can determine which segments garner the most engagement and decide for themselves. And we’ll be speaking to progressively sophisticated capabilities in upcoming posts, including how to identify partnership potential across industry lines, social listening tactics for B2B and B2C, and how to create a cohesive data analytics experience to guide your company in the years to come. 

Be sure to connect with and follow Nick Love on LinkedIn if you aren’t already, as he’s an incredible resource for any brand seeking insight and guidance to achieve DEIB and general marketing success. And if you want to learn more about how social listening can enhance your brand strategies, please reach out for a demo.

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