Tailoring Your Message for Niche Audiences
By Karen Geier
Since the dawn of the semantic web, there has been a paradigm shift in how brands have interacted with consumers. Instead of sending out mass messages and having well-guarded brand offices, brands now have an unprecedented two-way relationship with their customers. But with great access comes new challenges: namely, niche audiences.
There used to be a time when you could cobble together a handful of “personas” to help guide all of your marketing efforts, but the truth is you might be missing entire groups of people who enjoy and recommend your product readily.
Consider Sharpie: long a product used by teachers, celebrities, and office workers, Sharpie discovered that there is a large, dedicated group of tweens and teens online who use their product to draw fake tattoos on themselves. You can see entire galleries of these tattoos here. If Sharpie hadn’t been actively listening online, they wouldn’t have known how many teens use their products regularly, and they wouldn’t have created some of their newest products, which have opened an entirely new revenue stream for them.
Smaller groups of people, united by purpose or necessity, exist online for every product available. It’s your responsibility as a brand to find them, and when you do, make sure you’re talking their language.
Consider for a moment a product that has, for over 100 years, had a niche audience: Mason jars. Mason jars originally had one customer: women who canned food. Now, a quick search on Pinterest reveals that Mason jars have a much more broad appeal, but the people who use them fall into diverse, yet discrete categories such as:
– Environmentalists who prefer the jars to plastic containers
– Interior designers
– DIY enthusiasts
– Cocktail enthusiasts
– Working people who use the jars for lunches
– Moms who use the jars for children’s activities
– Shabby chic wedding planners
All of these groups look at Mason jars in a certain way, and they all use them for different reasons. They also have their own jargon and language that they use when performing these activities. How do you reach them all?
To reach these smaller groups, you need to find them online, and figure out how to tailor your product’s USP to what these consumer groups are looking for. You need to deliver the right story at the right time, in their own language. Here’s how:
1. Do your recon: Perform a search on your product on blog search, Twitter, and Pinterest to see how people use your product. Try to find common connectors to form audience groups. Try to classify these groups, but know that the classifications might change.
2. Dig deeper into these groups: Now that you have rough groups, search again for blogs and content on that specific theme. Try to find out more about what people in each group like: where they shop, what they pin on Pinterest, the most popular blogs and influencers. Make note of the power users on these sites and what they share. Visit their Pinterest and Instagram accounts to see what else these groups are sharing.
3. Discover the trends, and the pain points: While reading the social media footprint of these groups, try to plot out trends, comments and phrases that come up regularly. Also make note of any negative comments about your product, or your vertical in general. Make 2 lists: one is of your customer’s needs, and the other is of the top objections. Connect your brand’s USP to each of these lists. Now you have a master messaging matrix.
4. Reach out to the influencers: Begin relationship-building with influencers, bloggers, top pinners, and more. Comment on their content. Contact them directly to ask them questions. Ask them if they would like to build a partnership with you. Send them free product and ask for their opinion, or their creative input. Add any key learnings into your messaging matrix.
5. Craft targeted, valuable content: Use your messaging matrix to create individual narratives for each group you want to contact. Your narratives shouldn’t be a tough sell. Your branded content should offer real value to the groups in your target audiences. Make some messages topical, and others “evergreen” (can be used at any time of the year). Reach out to your influencers who are interested in you and ask them if they would carry your content on their blogs, or re-post your content from your own sources (Pinterest, Facebook, etc.).
6. Measure your results: Use bitly links and Google Analytics (and a social media monitoring tool) to judge whether your message is getting through. Pinterest even has analytics now that can help you see which content is resonating with your audience. If you notice a particularly strong reaction in one of your groups, consider spending more energy on those groups. If you’re getting zero traction in a group, you can choose to either spend more time on that group, trying to figure out what’s going to hit with them, or you can choose to stop reaching out.
7. Repeat as necessary: Social media marketing may not cost a lot of money, but it does cost time, and as you’re optimising your content and outreach, you need to continue the cycle of figuring out who is using your product, reaching out and making those connections. Be sure to maintain the connections you have already made, too. You never know when you might make a connection that could change your business.
It might seem like broadcasting your message to the widest audience possible will help you find potential customers, but in the age of the semantic web where anyone can have the online experience they customise for themselves, your brand might be leaving serious money and passionate advocates on the table.
Instead of thinking big, think small, and lateral. Simultaneously sending out your message to niche audiences is a great way to get reach online, and to make lasting, passionate connections with customers.