How Well Do You Know Your Audience?

Last week, Next Great Thing reported on their Global Youth Survey: Social Media (which I found via PSFK). While the survey’s intent is to show “how young adults are communicating online, around the world”, the results also show that we may not know who it is we are targeting online.

One key result (quoted from the post):

Young people use the web to shape an identity—or several.

  • 44% or respondents say their online identity is different than it is in real life

So while most prefer to keep it real online, a good number are using the web to try out various personalities and concepts of self on the road to adulthood.

That means that if each of those respondents use at least one online identity separate from their real one and also use their real identity at other times, then over 30% of the people we may be targeting online aren’t who they say they are.

I’m a bit disturbed by that figure; though, I’m not entirely surprised. The more technology allows whoever to learn more about the people who use it, the more users are going to do whatever they can to avoid that scrutiny. And yes, even though “55% of all 14-17 year olds surveyed think that their blog and/or profile should be visible to everyone on the internet”, in time, they, too, will become more suspicious of who might be lurking behind those bits and bytes.

What does this mean for your brand if you want to reach people directly online? Well, there are a few implications.

  1. Avoid relying solely on someone’s profile or blog as a way to target them. There are several people I know personally who do not have accurate information in their profiles, and some don’t even manage their own. They have someone else do it for them.
  2. You can do a little better by using predictive algorithms based on users’ keyword searches, but again, they may be searching with a different profile. It’s harder to do, but it is done.
  3. Your best bet is to be a destination point such as a business profile on Facebook, interactive web page, niche community or consumer forum. This takes a lot more work, time and effort, but it pays off in the end.
  4. If you are going to advertise online, choose broader topic areas or advertise at other destination pages that are directly related to your product.

The beauty of the internet is that it allows us to reach more people at a much lower cost than traditional media. At the same time, it affords us the opportunity to don a different persona, and nobody has to know.

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