Social media analytics is like an onion – full of layers contributing to the greater whole. One such layer is audience analysis.

Why is this particular layer so important? Well, you can’t take meaningful action if you don’t understand social conversations. And you can’t understand social conversations without understanding the people behind them. That’s where audience analysis comes in.

With a keen sense of the consumers comprising your target audience you can strategically impact every area of your business – from the obvious (like marketing) to the unexpected (like R&D and innovation).

Let’s take a more thorough look at what audience analysis is, how it works, and why it’s such a crucial component of social media analytics.

Why Audience Analysis?

As the digital space becomes faster paced and more crowded, the importance of personalization and precise audience targeting has also increased.

It’s now vital to dial into the super specific to know who your brand should target, how (content/messaging), where (channels), when, and why. And all of this is aimed at engagement, which aids in brand awareness and, ultimately, conversions.

Ocean Spray experienced this when they wanted to reinvigorate their product line in a declining morning juice market.

Agency 113 Industries used NetBase to understand consumer behaviors around cranberry juice. They wanted to set their client’s brand apart from apple and orange juice, avoiding competition with these traditional juices.

What they found were three key consumer behaviors to focus on:

  • Love of cranberry juice, but embarrassment at the perception of associated urinary tract issues
  • Cranberry juice being used – by women in particular – to hydrate after exercise classes like Zumba
  • Women using cranberry juice as a non-alcoholic, but color-matching substitute for wine in the evenings

These insights led to innovation of two new products: Ocean Spray PACt (cranberry infused water) and Ocean Spray Mocktails.

The summer heat didn’t take long to arrive, especially during #IrieWeekend #IWXI!! ☀️⛳️🌴 Good thing Ocean Spray® PACt® cranberry extract water was available on site with Freebee to keep everybody hydrated! 🍒💦 #OceanSpray #PACt is a brand new water that contains PACs, or proanthocyanidins – powerful elements found deep inside cranberries, that helps cleanse and purify your body better than water alone ‼️ #RideFreebee and try it for yourself… You’ll taste the difference and feel #EvenBetter right away, with a FREE sample on board! #OceanSprayPact #CranberryWater #Cleanse #Purify #Electrolytes #Hydrate #Cranberry #Water #Health #Hydration #LowCalorie #Natural #PACs #Summer #H2O #BetterWater #BetterYou #MiamiBeach #SouthBeach #Freebee #Miami #ItsElectric #ExperienceTheMovement #IrieFoundation @irieweekend @iriefoundation @oceansprayinc

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The beauty of audience analysis using social listening tools is the speed with which you can perform such detailed analyses. What took lots of time and effort in the past (think old school focus groups and surveys) can now happen within moments or hours.

What Are You Actually Analyzing?

Unlike surveys and polls – where you’re asking consumers to answer specific questions about themselves or your brand, leading them to a limited set of conclusions – audience analysis is about discovering new audiences based on information they share on their own.

Some of it may be demographic – like age or location – but the most rewarding insights come from knowing their interests, passions, or how they see the product or service your brand represents.

This type of analysis leads you to create audience segments – or groups of consumers with shared passions. Imagine how much more authentic your messaging is when you’re talking to a group of “Gen-X pizza lovers who watch Game of Thrones in L.A.” versus “35-50-year-old men.”

It’s not that broader demographics aren’t also useful – it’s that they’re more of a stepping off point for getting to the good stuff. Like how a particular segment views your top competitors – and why.

The idea is to step beyond your brand and look at the interests of those engaging with your entire category, and what they care about – in relation to your brand and others like it, and then beyond that.

Arby’s is a great example of this. They used audience analysis to discover a new segment of diners talking about their restaurant: hunters. They followed the conversation and learned enjoying venison after a successful hunt was a big theme among this group.

This revelation led to the development and subsequent successful launch of their limited-edition venison sandwich.

It might have been enough for Arby’s to simply talk to hunters online, inviting them in for a meal they didn’t have to prepare after a successful hunt – a burger or chicken sandwich. Instead, they took it a step further, and really made their mark.

The Mechanics of Audience Analysis

You can apply this kind of analysis to your category, to products, services, even other brands – and then use whatever you find to inform your next move.

But what you’re really looking for is what drives your audience to buy. That starts with knowing what makes them care, versus guessing at it.

This applies whether you’re looking for something specific to achieve a brand goal, or a combination of all factors to create an overall picture of your audience, or varying audience segments.

The key to all of it is sentiment analysis. This is actually a factor to apply in all other tactics. Sentiment analysis shows you your strongest supporters, and most determined detractors. This helps you triage the actions needed to move your brand forward – and avoid sweeping changes for an audience that isn’t invested.

If you have a lot of passionate negative sentiment about customer service, for instance, that’s where you want to focus your efforts. Or if you’re seeing a lot of this type of conversation about competitors in your category, you know to make sure you keep up with offering stellar service, and even find ways to share that distinction in your messaging.

Let’s look at an example. Here’s the sentiment graph when we search on the term “mascara” in NetBase Pro:

Overall sentiment is positive, but we want to know what those spikes of high positivity represent, as well as what the negativity is all about.

The Attributes word cloud gives us some insight into the various conversations happening, and which have gained the most traction:

Now you know which topics matter most to the people talking about mascara.

Remember to include image analysis as you explore sentiment – particularly negative sentiment. Not all social conversation is text-based, so you want to be sure you know if your brand is being slammed without words.

And, of course, if there are images propelling you to the top of the positive end of the spectrum, you want to know that too – so you can share the most engaging content with your audience. It might seem a small thing, but Chick-fil-A is just one example of a brand that turned a campaign on its head with a single image.

What other considerations are part of audience analysis? Let’s break them down.


Using the topic you’re searching, narrow your results to view the location where the conversation is happening. Let’s see results for the brand Land Rover, with a filter for English-language posts.

If you’re Land Rover, you probably have a sense that the bulk of your audience is in the U.K. and U.S., but what do you know about the other regions where your brand is being talked about? What are they saying?

You’ve got to find out. Otherwise your competitors will surely use the information to their advantage. Luckily Land Rover does use social analytics and audience analysis to know what their fans want.


Next, look at gender and age to create a baseline for further analysis. Here’s the breakdown for Louis Vuitton, again, filtered for English-language posts:

No real surprise that women comprise 70% of the audience, but the men shouldn’t be ignored. What do they love or hate about Louis Vuitton? And have you noticed, men and women of all ages are talking about the luxury brand – but it’s doubtful they’re all talking about the same thing.

Look for the specific topics of conversation and use them to create more meaningful audience segments. You’ll likely cross gender and age lines – and that’s all the better.


Let’s continue with Louis Vuitton as we go deeper. We’ll look at Popular Items, which offers you a look at Terms, Hashtags, People, and Emojis. All clue you in to the way your brand – or category – is being talked about on social:

For example, many other luxury brands are tagged in conversations directed at Louis Vuitton. If they aren’t sure who their biggest competitors are, this reveals a lot. Are there surprises in the mix? Maybe. Are there potential partnership opportunities? Certainly. Further analysis will reveal more about how to engage their audience.

They could certainly look to Emma Stone as an influencer, given the attention she’s getting for wearing a Louis Vuitton gown to the recent Met Gala.

Identify Common Interests

The next step of your audience analysis is to look for segments of people with common interests. These segments could be entirely new audiences for you to engage.

Moms, for example, are not a single audience with all the same interests and concerns. That’s why Britvic targeted a very specific segment of “movable moms” when introducing their Fruit Shoot brand to the U.S. market.

And what about Dads? Single dads, stay-at-home dads, and gay dads all care about the same things often targeted at “moms.” They would like to be included in these discussions and recognized for their contributions to parenting their kids.

Identify Influencers

A big part of audience analysis is finding the people who love you most, just for being you. Or they love your category enough to fall in love with your brand if you can tap into what inspires that initial passion.

When these fans have a large enough and engaged following of their own, they wield enormous influence – and should be identified and approached to help amplify your messaging.

They might be celebrities, but just as useful are organic influencers you can flatter into further amplifying your brand with a bit of grateful attention. Part of audience analysis is understanding what motivates your audience to share.

Sometimes this is table stakes – as in the case of the International Peace Institute. Without a marketing budget, the IPI relies on influencers to ensure information about global regions in crisis gets to the people who most need to hear it.

What about detractors? You can make them a segment as well – people to include when you solve a similar problem, so they can see your efforts and perhaps change their minds about you.


It’s also important to understand how and where your audience wants to hear from you. You can tweet all day long, but if your audience is all about Instagram, they’ll never hear you.

And remember, social media isn’t confined to Facebook, Twitter and the like. Be sure to look at blogs, news sites, review sites, forums, etc. Here are the various places talking about beauty brand Maybelline right now.

There will always be surprises in the mix – like Reddit, perhaps – so never just assume. Look to your social data for answers.

Your Audience Makes Your Brand

Once you’ve defined your audience, don’t stop at marketing. Your customers and prospects are the reason you do everything you do – or they should be. You never again have to blindly conceive a new product, or wonder where the gaps are in your customer experience.

Your audience offers everything you need to proactively give them what they want, as well as the info required to solve problems when they occur.

Use your audience analysis data throughout your business, and you’ll be unbeatable.

This has been part 7 of our Social Media Analytics Guide for 2018, designed to keep you in-the-know on the tools, metrics, and skills necessary to compete in an increasingly global arena.

Read the other parts of this comprehensive series by clicking below:

  1. What is Social Media Analytics and Why Is it Important?
  2. What Is Social Media Monitoring?
  3. What Is Social Campaign Analysis?
  4. What Is Social Sentiment Analysis?
  5. What Is Social Listening & Why Is It Important?
  6. What Is Image Analytics?
  7. What Is Audience Analysis?

Have you seen our audience analysis tools in action? We’re happy to show you – just get in touch!



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