These days, everyone is a publisher. Brands, consumers, businesses and agencies alike are creating digital content at a speed that far outpaces our ability to consume these messages. As Steve Rubel, Chief Content Strategist at Edelman, puts it: “The digital content ecosystem, I’ve come to believe, is like the night sky. There are thousands of stars all vying for our attention. Yet few or none truly stand out.”
Some publishers attempt to solve this problem strictly with creativity. While creativity is a component of high-performing content, it’s not the only factor to keep in mind. Another way to win attention in noisy social feeds is by being highly relevant. In order to stand out, it’s important that posts reach the right segments of an intended audience. This is why audience targeting has become a necessary and effective component of successful social media publishing.
When paying to promote content, Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn provide extremely robust targeting capabilities that enable publishers to define their reach through a bevy of demographic, user type and interest-level categories. However, social media targeting is not a strategy that should be solely supported by a media budget.
Most social networks allow publishers to apply a level of targeting or custom visibility to organic posts. Setting custom visibility through Sprout Social’s available targeting criteria can increase engagement rates and provide a more relevant experience for your reader.
Learn how Sprout can help you reach a specific segment of your audience. Click on any of the links below to jump to the platform you wish to explore:
- Facebook Audience Targeting: Target Your Post
- Facebook Audience Targeting: Limit Your Post’s Audience
- LinkedIn Audience Targeting
- Google+ Audience Targeting
- Twitter Audience Targeting
Accessing Audience Targeting From Compose
Sprout’s publishing tools make it easy to schedule, queue and post messages to multiple networks simultaneously and leverage unique social media targeting options for each individual network—all from a single intuitive Compose window.
This is really powerful. Not only does Compose centralize your social media publishing efforts, saving you time and ensuring a consistent voice across networks, but it also allows you to deliver the most relevant messages to targeted segments of your communities on each network.
To access the Audience Targeting options, simply click the globe icon in the lower left corner of the Compose window. The menu will intelligently populate with only the networks that correspond to the profiles to which you have selected to publish.
Sprout’s Audience Targeting capabilities are available to all Sprout users in all plan types, from Deluxe to Enterprise. If publishing targeted messages is part of your social media publishing strategy, no matter the size of your team or the audience you’re trying to reach, Sprout can help you achieve your goals.
Facebook Audience Targeting: Target Your Post
The Facebook News Feed has become a crowded space. With the ever-changing Edgerank algorithm, ensuring a healthy reach can feel like a constant battle. Through organic Facebook Page post targeting (formerly News Feed targeting), smart publishers have found new ways to optimize their organic reach. Unlike limiting your Facebook post’s audience (detailed below), organic Facebook targeting only affects what a user sees in their News Feed. In other words, regardless of whether a user fits the targeting criteria, the post will still be visible via Facebook search and while visiting your Page directly.
As digital marketing expert Neil Patel stated on QuickSprout (no affiliation): “I’d rather reach a large portion of a small audience than a small portion of a large audience.” Maximize the reach of your posts by targeting content to smaller, sub-categories within your audience.
From Sprout, organic Facebook targeting can be applied to Page posts based on the following criteria:
- Relationship Status
- Educational Status
The following are a few examples of potential organic Facebook targeting strategies:
- An entertainment media company uses a combination of interests, age and gender to target each of its articles to a segment of its readership that is most likely to engage with the content.
- A food delivery service uses location and educational status to share promo codes with current college students in targeted regions.
- A global hospitality chain targets honeymoon themed posts to soon-to-be newlyweds using a combination of location, age, gender and relationship status criteria.
- A national publication geared towards retirees uses age, location and interests to target its content to the the most relevant readers.
In using organic Facebook targeting, you are providing a portion of your audience with content that resonates with them. Therefore, these users are more likely to engage. Once a user engages with your content, that user’s Facebook Friends have the opportunity to see your post even if they do not like your Page or do not fall within specified audience. This is how organic Facebook Page post targeting can have a catalytic effect on a post’s organic reach.
Facebook Audience Targeting: Limit Your Post’s Audience
While putting promotional dollars behind Facebook posts and targeting audiences by user type or interest-based criteria can be effective, there’s still a possibility for subjectivity. Plus, putting paid behind every social post isn’t a sustainable or effective strategy.
To that end, limiting your post’s audience through Sprout’s Facebook Audience Targeting tools enables you to take two of the most clear-cut audience attributes—language and location—and use them to ensure you’re not wasting impressions on fans who would find your content irrelevant.
From Sprout, you can limit your Facebook post’s audience based on the following criteria:
When selecting any of the above, you can start typing the name of the desired target and Sprout’s look-ahead smart search will refine the options in the dropdown menu, making it easy to find what you need.
The following are a few scenarios where language and location targeting can be applied:
- Posting regional content, such as location-specific promotions or events
- A/B testing the popularity of a product in specific locations
- Publishing translated posts to targeted subsets of a global audience
Keep in mind that limiting a post’s audience based on language and location will apply to the visibility of the post across all of Facebook. This means that a Facebook fan who falls into the targeted segment will be able to view that post in their News Feed, via Facebook Search and while visiting your Page directly.
LinkedIn Audience Targeting
LinkedIn has come a long way from being a repository of digital resumes. Today, LinkedIn represents a thriving community of professionals looking to make deeper connections with their peers; it also serves as a robust publishing platform with vast amounts of content.
As the overall LinkedIn community has grown—now, more than 364 million members across 200 countries—it has become increasingly important to ensure that your content reaches the right people at the right time. Publishing targeted updates is an effective way to communicate with your LinkedIn followers in a more relevant and personal way.
From Sprout, LinkedIn targeting can be applied to posts based on the following criteria:
- Company size
Applying audience targeting using the criteria outlined above will enable you to segment your LinkedIn followers and deliver content that is tailored specifically to subsets of your overall follower base. For example:
- Use seniority or job function targeting to share a job posting with relevant candidates.
- Share regionally specific company news or information about local industry events, using geography and industry targeting.
Download our free guide, “LinkedIn Targeting: Delivering Relevant Content to the Right People,” for actionable insights on how to best align your audience targeting strategy with your overall business objectives.
Google+ Audience Targeting
While Google+ may not provide the same level of demographic or interest-based targeting as Facebook or LinkedIn, it does enable you to create your own custom audience segments in the form of Circles. When leveraged properly, Circles offer a unique and powerful opportunity for executing targeted social media publishing.
Within Sprout, Audience Targeting for Google+ publishing enables you to set the visibility of your posts to include any individual or combination of the default post options (Public, Your Circles, Extended Circles) plus any custom Circles which you create.
However, keep in mind that when posting to multiple Google+ Pages at the same time, your Audience Targeting will be limited to the default options of:
- Your Circles
- Extended Circles
Twitter Audience Targeting
The Twitter community is very much a global one, and in many ways, the platform has been central to breaking down barriers and opening up the free flow of communication—even across borders. At the same time, certain scenarios call for more targeted messaging. Geotargeting organic Tweets can be leveraged to create better experiences for local audiences.
From Sprout, Twitter targeting can be applied to Tweets based on the following criteria:
A few examples of effective Twitter geotargeting by country include:
- A multinational business maintains individual Twitter handles for each market in which it operates; however, it recognizes that the main corporate handle has the largest follower base. This business can leverage geotargeted Tweets from the corporate handle to reach local audiences that may not follow the regional handles.
- A global brand produces and shares content in several different languages from its main brand Twitter handle. To avoid alienating followers to which localized content may be irrelevant, the brand uses geotargeted Tweets to reach native speakers.
It’s important to note that any Tweet published with geotargeting applied will only be visible to users in that country—whether they are viewing their home feed or visiting the Twitter account’s page directly.
Bonus: Reach a Targeted Audience Through Advocates
There’s no doubt that leveraging audience targeting is an effective way to refine your social media publishing strategy. That said, it’s certainly not the only way to ensure that your messages are organically reaching the right audience. A carefully crafted employee advocacy program enables you to tap into a unique and powerful targeted community: your employees and their trusted networks. Similar to audience targeting, employee advocacy represents another strategy to reach a highly relevant audience and, when executed effectively, can have a meaningful impact on the overall spread of your brand’s content.
Patrick Cuttica: Prior to joining Team Sprout as Product Marketing Manager, Patrick was an avid Sprout user while managing several brand accounts for a Chicago-based digital marketing agency. When he's not obsessing over all things social media, Patrick can be found playing with his dogs or stand-up paddleboarding—or both!
Is there a way to automate your targets so we don't have to click on the bullseye every time when sending posts via Sprout? Thanks for your article.
Very nice, and very useful, update but it will remain very limited in scope until these features are rolled into the browser sharing widget/clipper which, unless I'm mistaken, hasn't happened.
Patrick, whenever I do Twitter ads, I use the terms to target, broad match, phrases, etc
I don't know if it's even a possibility but let me throw it out there. Is there any way to integrate that feature into Sprout Twitter targeting? Again, maybe it's neither here nor there but I thought I would ask.
I am a total sprout fan, btw :)
@AuthorPalessa Hi there. At this time, the only organic targeting option available for non-promoted Tweets is by geography. Thanks for your feedback! We will definitely keep our eyes open to see if more targeting options become available in the future.
This is great! Although I am not seeing the targeting by "Interested In" on Facebook targeting - and strangely your screenshot doesn't show it either! It would be really useful to have this functionality from within SproutSocial
@Paul Crawford Hi Paul, thanks for pointing this out! “Interested In” is not an option with Facebook News Feed targeting in Sprout. I have updated the list in the post above to reflect this. Sorry for the confusion. That said, News Feed targeting based on "Interests" is something that is available in the Facebook API, and we are currently exploring ways to implement this option into our Facebook Audience targeting toolset.
@PCutty I think the addition of "Interested In" in targeting would be fantastic!!
Another addition that would just make my life complete :-) would be monitoring and commenting on Facebook groups that I am the admin on - is that on the development roadmap?
@Paul Crawford Thanks for that feedback, Paul. While adding engagement for Facebook Groups is not on our roadmap right now, it's definitely something we're considering.