• Who must you reach with your social media efforts to meet your objective? Why this target group?
  • Is this a target group identified in your organization’s communications plan?
  • What do they know or believe about your organization or issue? What will resonate with them?
  • What key points do you want to make with your audience?
  • What social media tools are they currently using? If they congregate in certain online locales, what are they talking about in relation to your brand/goals/issues/competitors? Describe based on secondary research, direct observation, or primary research.
  • What additional research do you need to do to learn about your target audience’s online social behavior or understanding/perceptions about your organization or issues?

As with any marketing effort, the first step to success is identifying who your organization wants to reach and find out how they are using social media. There is more and more audience research for users of particular social media tools and a lot of it is free. It pays to spend a few hours reviewing the demographic or “technographic” details (what people are doing online).

While secondary research may help inform what general direction you may want to go in, there is no substitute for primary research. And while surveys, focus groups and other services can give you an analysis of what your current audience is doing online, direct observation is works best. For instance, if you are considering a Facebook profile, before you set up an organizational presence - spend some time searching to see if and if anyone has set up a Fan Page or Group to talk about your organization or issue area. Or, if you are considering a blog, find out who the key bloggers are in your topic area. This will allow you to observe what your audience is saying in their natural environment. Some social media strategists call this step “listening” and it is essential first step in developing your social media strategy.

Additional reading:
The State of Social Media in 2011: The New Normal by Brian Solis
Ten Free Resources for Social Media Audience Research for Nonprofits by Beth Kanter
Social Network Sites Use Analysis - Compilation of Research Facts by Jeremiah Owyang
Social Technographics 2008 by Josh Bernhoff