One question we hear repeatedly is this: “How do you go about finding your audiences in social networks?” Tracking down your centers of influence in social spheres can be a bit daunting at the outset. Depending up on the subject matter, interests may be fleeting, such as when someone is doing pre-purchase research on a product. On the other hand, interests can be very personal, whether the subject matter is somone’s hobby or a health issue. It’s always important to remember that social audiences are made up of individual people, and the approaches that work best foster connections on a human level.
So, keeping that in mind, here are some ideas for sources of information, and getting started.
Search Engines: Search engines do a great job of surfacing social content, and are a good first step when identifying an audience. Plug in keywords relating to the topic or area you’re researching, and see what surfaces. You’ll find blogs, editorial pieces and discussion groups relating to your query.
Media Databases: Databases of media and bloggers, like PR Newswire’s own MEDIAtlas online media database , can be a great place to start – you can use them to identify bloggers who focus on your target segment, and you can access their contact information. Taking the time to find the bloggers who write about topics that are in line with the brand/product/service you’re promoting is a key piece of identifying your audience – because established bloggers already have a foothold with that audience. Find the bloggers who are most closely aligned with the messages you’ll be conveying, and start by reading their blogs and building relationships with them.
Social Networks: Special interest groups abound on Facebook and LinkedIn, and on Twitter, they take the form of chats (timed conversations centered around a #hashtag), ongoing discussions (again, labeled with hashtags) and lists curated by people who are interested in that subject. Listorious, a directory of people and Twitter lists, is a good starting point – ideally, you should take the time to follow lists, listening to what’s said and shared – and then develop your own list, cherry-picking the people whose interests align with yours. Remember, these groups exist to enable people with similar interests to share information and connect. Receiving promotional messages is not their raison d’etre. These are the places where interaction and engagement are required.
It’s important to note that these sources will not provide you with a list you can download into a spreadsheet and begin hammering with email pitches, which isn’t the point of this exercise to begin with. Once you’ve found your people, treat them as though you were interacting with them face to face. Listen, engage and interact. As you get to know them, and they you, if you’re producing good content, they’ll interact with it and share it. At that point, your efforts will start to pay off. As the relationships mature, you’ll be able to invite bloggers to beta test a service, or solicit feedback on ideas from a group. The more you invest in developing relationships with online audiences, the greater the dividends will be.