How to Win at Social Marketing: Social Demographic Segmentation 101

Kimberly Surico |
 03/29/17 |
5 min read


Social media marketing has become an everyday endeavor for brands worldwide, but the more it feels like “marketing” the less your audience cares. Smart segmentation is the key to connecting on social now – here’s why:

The internet has empowered consumers to shop in ways they couldn’t have realistically managed in the days before Google. Brand loyalty often takes a back seat to the lowest price or closest location – information available with just a few clicks.

On top of that, consumers have claimed social as a place to connect with brands when it matters to them – i.e., when they have a complaint – while strategically avoiding anything that smacks of advertising in the obvious sense. Social media is a land controlled by consumers – brands are allowed to visit, but they’ve got to play by the rules.

The only way in is connecting authentically like a human, not a brand – and the only way to do that is to get to know your audience as if they’re your new best friends. That means seeing them for the unique individuals they are rather than a collective of Stepford consumers within broad demographic groups. This is how:

Let consumers take the lead

Consider a demographic segment like 25- to 34-year-old women. Part of the precious Millennial generation, this is a prime target audience for many brands – but assuming everyone in this bracket has the same interests is dangerous.

The 9-year age range alone doesn’t take into consideration older or younger siblings and parents, whose influences affect any number of interests – from music to politics. That’s to say nothing of how where they live and work affects what they care about.


What makes more sense is using social media listening tools to understand the varied passions of each consumer to create psychographic segments of “feel alike” consumers. This gives you the opportunity to precisely target your messaging to each of these segments based on knowing what they love (or hate) – like a good friend sharing information instead of a brand marketing at them.

The great thing about this approach is it eliminates the need to guess what kind of marketing and messaging will strike a chord with your audience. You can’t please everybody with a single campaign – but you can please everybody when you divide and conquer based on insights they willingly share about themselves. In fact, you’ll wow them with messaging that speaks directly to the things they care about most.

Even better, when you explore beyond the limitations of demographics, you find a wider audience ready to love your brand. Segmentation is the gift that keeps on giving.

Look for the love

So how do you find the segments most worth your time? It’s all about social media sentiment analysis. Your best chance at connecting with consumers is to talk to them about the things they feel most strongly about – whatever those are.

You’ll uncover these topics in a number of ways, starting with whatever you already know about your audience – those who speak favorably about your brand or category, and are worth courting.

That starting point may be based on demographic parameters – the point is, you won’t stop there. You’ll look more closely at sentiment on your chosen social channels to learn what your known audience loves, then use that information to find outliers, as well as channels you may not have thought mattered.

For example, NetBase’s social media monitoring tools provide access to Facebook Topic Data – the anonymized, aggregated data of 1.59 billion Facebook members, and their self-declared demographic information. “Self-declared” are the key words here – if you’re going to start with demographics, you can’t do better than that.

This data includes more than 60 attributes, including:

  • Engagement data (Likes/Comments/Shares), so you can see which topics are hot “right now”
  • Author demographics like gender, age-range and location (country and state of 139 countries and territories, in 11 languages)

Positive or negative sentiment associated with posts via Facebook’s “Reactions”katy-perry-cover-girl
Once you have sentiment data from one channel, examine others to see if consumer emotions are consistent across social networks, or if they differ from channel to channel. This tells you where to focus your energy – and where it’s not worth your time.

You can also approach things from the perspective of what’s trending across the social web, to see what makes sense to leverage for your brand and audience.

Applying a tool like Instant Search, for instance, lets you look at a broad range of channels to see what hot topics are reigning on social at the moment, and how consumers feel about them. By the way – it’s not just love that matters. Intensity of negative emotions matters too.

First of all, commiserating with social consumers about their pet peeves and gripes is yet another road to solidarity – and potential brand loyalty. Secondly, spotting any negativity associated with your brand is crucial to nipping it in the bud. Sentiment helps you spot both influencers and detractors – so don’t focus on simply patting yourself on the back over positive posts. Be sure you’re fully aware of the negative ones as well.

And don’t forget to include emojis in your social listening, as they’re often the sole indicator of sentiment. You won’t get a clear picture of brand passion if you discount them.

Don’t stop at the surface

Once you’ve uncovered topics and interests inspiring consumer passion, take it to the next level by creating segments based on those insights.

There are no rules here – it’s all about what the data reveals. Among those who speak favorably about your brand you might have:

The sky is truly the limit, especially when you apply a tool like Audience 3D to streamline the process. The more segments you have, the more individualized your messaging – and the more consumers feel like you’re speaking specifically to them.

Taco Bell saw this when they used NetBase to precisely target the best audience for their mobile ordering app. They knew the app wouldn’t appeal to everyone, but they wanted to reach the Millennial audience the app was geared toward, as well as other relevant audiences.

Using NetBase A3D, they identified an audience of more than 3.5 million people who had talked positively about the company and its menu over the last three years. Within this audience they created 90 unique micro-segments based on people saying they love, want, crave, need, and eat Taco Bell. This allowed them to execute their campaign based on precise emotional and behavioral targeting.

The results were phenomenal:

  • Extended reach by 4x that of Taco Bell Twitter followers
  • Average engagement rate exceeded double digits
  • 2.5x higher retweet rate than other Twitter audiencestaco-bell-app
  • Single moms who read true crime fiction
  • Gay dads who love baseball
  • Women and men who love pizza and beer while watching The Walking Dead
  • Couples who like to run with their dogs
  • Teens obsessed with makeup, and volunteering for local charities

The success of their new app was directly tied to accurately identifying and engaging those 90 micro-segments. If they’d simply blanket-messaged all of their followers, the campaign would have been lost in the sea of meaningless social “ads.” Instead, they meaningfully engaged their biggest fans personally, and it paid off.

This is what’s needed for brands to succeed in the fast-paced, super competitive social landscape. Luckily, the information is freely available to brands 24-7 in real-time. And it’s easily managed by tools meant just for the task, so brands can focus on the message instead of the method. That’s our job.

Want a look at social segmentation in action? Contact us for a one-on-one demo of our suite of social media analytics tools!


Image from FutUndBeidl


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