Social Segmentation 101: A Social Listening Primer
Carol Feigenbaum |
 08/11/17 |
3 min read

Marketing is most effective when it’s specifically and personally targeted to your intended audience. With social segmentation, that means breaking down the whole into “feel-alike” chunks. Here’s how:

Tune in to audience conversations

What consumers talk about unrelated to your brand may seem unimportant, but the opposite is actually true. Moving away from the undesirable “hard sell” approach is contingent on getting to know them.

They need to think about your brand the way they think about a close friend. No one wants to hang with that person who always makes the conversation about themselves.

However, a good listener, who takes an interest in other people, makes friends often.

The same approach works with consumers. When you listen to what they’re talking about you find a natural way to join the conversation.

But first, you need to group together the people talking about the same topics and interests.

Jocks, Cheerleaders, Geeks and Brains

Annoying as these cliques may have been in high school, these classic, stereotypical groups demonstrate how segments work.

Like attracts like – and though these “segments” may share some broad traits – like being the same age and going to the same school – it’s the specific passions they share that bring them together.

You’re looking for the equivalent on social media. But instead of forcing social consumers into predefined boxes, let the social data tell you how to segment them.

What are they talking about, and where is the overlap? Let’s continue with our high school analogy to illustrate.

Instead of thinking in terms of cheerleaders as 17-year-old girls who only like make-up, clothes and boys, use social listening to identify the various segments within this demographic.

You could find any number of segments to speak to:

  • Female cheerleaders who like doing charity work
  • Male cheerleaders who like dancing and make-up
  • Cheerleaders who love working out to Beyonce
  • Cheerleaders who are addicted to Slurpees and Sour Patch Kids

The possibilities are endless.

The real magic happens when you use the hobbies and interests revealed in these topics to find outliers to your perceived audience. To do that, you need to apply a little sentiment analysis.

Follow the passion

Obviously it’s impractical to address every segment you come accros. So how do you narrow them down?


You want to find the people in your audience who are passionate about whatever they’re sharing.

Why? Because you’re not looking to make small talk. You’re looking to bond for life over your rabid affection for Ryan Gosling. Or your supreme distaste for Muenster cheese.

Lots of love happening on all levels here

When you identify what consumers care most about, you find common ground for building a real relationship – organically, authentically, personally.

You also find crossover customers you might never have targeted otherwise.

If you market to Millennial men, for example, assuming they’re all gamers, you lose the opportunity to reach Gen-X women who also love video games. But if you identify the connective tissue bridging these two demographics – perhaps love for pizza and Diet Coke – you gain a new audience.

Or, returning to our high school example, you may discover it’s not just cheerleaders who love working out to Beyonce – it’s their Gen-X coaches, or their Baby Boomer grandmothers. Promote a Beyonce night at your Pilates studio and you’ll have a mix of age groups clamoring to show up – when you initially thought there was only a small audience segment worth targeting.

You might even discover a new product to sell – like 7-Eleven did.

Make it personal

With all this data, you now have the intel to forge real connections.

Instead of a random coupon no one will notice, target your pizza-loving Game of Thrones segment with an offer that hits just before the latest episode starts: “Perfect Sunday = Pizza + GOT. Need your own? Delivery is on us.”

You’ll get a much greater response than when posting a general offer for everybody.

Social media is a noisy place. The only way to cut through is with genuine, human, connection. Segmentation is your way into the hearts of consumers. And that’s exactly where you need to be.

To learn more about using our tools, and all that’s coming in the social analytics world, join us for NetBase LIVE this October!

Image from Richard Tilson


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