What Is Audience Research? (+How to Conduct It)

Christina Garnett
Christina Garnett  |  August 14, 2019

It’s a noisy world out there.

Everywhere you look you have social media content, digital ads, out-of-home (OOH) advertising, and so much more. Everyone wants your attention…

Your audience feels the same way.

The more content your audience sees, the harder it is to break through that content. You have to have content that speaks to them, their needs, their concerns, and their aesthetic. If they connect with the content, they’ll stop scrolling. 

Audience research can inform your branding, markets, price point, customer service needs, as well as your organic and paid marketing strategy. This is crucial to creating a content strategy for your brand because to create content that connects, you need to understand who you are talking to.

So how do you get started with audience research? Let’s find out.

Getting started with audience research

Depending on the life cycle of your brand, you may be starting from scratch or already have an audience that already follows and pays you. In this case, it’s important to distinguish that you have a target audience (the personas you have created that break down exactly who you want to talk to about your product or service) as well as the people who you already work with. To be honest, these two groups could be the same, overlap, or be different. It’s important not to assume here.

So who’s included in your target audience? Have you created your personas? Determine the demographics, needs, pain points, and more of your personas. Get into their head and try to empathize with their situation when they are in the customer journey.

Do you have an audience already? Why not learn about them directly? Using primary research through surveys and interviews is one way you can truly get into the head of your audience and determine ways to improve your product or service, content, and customer experience. It’s a good idea to utilize survey creation software tools so you can ask your audience the questions you want to be answered. 

See the best FREE survey software →

Will you utilize social listening to see what people are saying about your brand? Social listening is monitoring social channels for feedback or mentions based on specific brands, keywords, or competitors to analyze and find trends for improvement or growth.

Because this information is directly from the audience, it is an amazing opportunity to hear the good, the bad, and the ugly right from the source. You can see what keywords are used most for your brand as well as the sentiment.

Have a plan

Getting started with all of this can feel overwhelming. Break down your goals for the research process as well as how you will use these results to inform your future strategies.

Start with a clear idea of your why. When it comes to audience research, your brand and stakeholders may have different goals. Goal alignment in the beginning will make the process easier as it will help guide you through the questions you want answered.

When it comes to your audience, you need to know what makes them tick. What influences them? What are their pain points? Create a list of the information you need. Be curious and don’t be afraid to deep dive into your audience and their behaviors.

What are their demographics? Do you know what social media channels they spend time on or what types of content they enjoy online? Do they pay attention to reviews – and if so, is there a specific site they prefer for ads? 

Once you have your list, you can start determining your source for this information. Will you perform face-to-face or phone interviews? Would you rather send them a survey with a service like SurveyMonkey? For instance, they can see their customer reviews and learn how to reach out to customers to make their overall experience more personalized and better. 

Is SurveyMonkey right for you?  Read Reviews Now, FREE →

Depending on how you want to contact your audience, it’s also important to determine responsibilities for this. Who will create the surveys and analyze the results? Do you have a set timeline for how long you want to perform the research and analysis? 

Additionally, you can use social listening to see what others are saying about your brand, industry, and competition. If you choose to use social listening, there are tools at every price point that can assist you in learning more. If you go this route, just like with your survey questions, make sure you consider what channels you will monitor as well as what keywords you want to search for.

Another option for listening to your audience is through a review platform. Claim your G2 profile today to harness review data and better influence your outreach campaigns.

Learn more about reviews →

Use your data

You’ve created the surveys and have your answers. You have social listening word clouds and a list of social media comments, now what? It’s one thing to listen and understand your audience, it’s another to infuse that knowledge into your brand. How will you utilize this information to create a stronger and more audience-focused decision in your marketing efforts? How will you measure success once it’s implemented? What are your KPIs?

First, look for trends. Do you see common answers from your audience? Do they tend to gravitate towards certain social media channels or content? Is there a common pain point?

Identifying audience trends can empower you to make decisions tailored to your core audience. If you know what they want, you can make sure you are providing that with your product, service, and/or content.

Always be learning

By understanding your audience, you can start to determine what is the best way to reach, engage, and convert them. Remember though that with this data you can make hypotheses about your customers, but you aren’t psychic. Good marketing means you can’t always predict your customer’s behavior. Great marketing continues to test to get you as close as possible.

The quest to better understand your audience never really stops. You won’t necessarily see success right away, but A/B testing is another way to see what your audience prefers. By placing different versions of content: blogs, social media, subject lines in your emails, ads, or website pages out to your audience, you can continue to learn what your audience wants and engages with. 

Set periodic checks (monthly, quarterly, or annually) to go over your sales, engagement, and social listening. Are things improving? Changing? Research and execution are wonderful, but you need to continue to check-in and see how it’s impacting your business.

Understanding your audience is a part of building a relationship. People change. The economy changes. You change. The research has to continue. 

Want to learn more? Check out our A/B software statistics to learn just how valuable this is to finding out audience preferences. 

Get 1,000's of Data Points Read A/B Testing software stats, updated in real time →

Christina Garnett
Author

Christina Garnett

Former teacher and marketing director, Christina Garnett works with Fortune 500 brands to strengthen their digital strategy. With inbound marketing at the core, it's crucial that the target audience comes first and Christina focuses her efforts to encourage a deep dive to understand personas, competitors, and more.