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brands have gained access to vast amounts of user data and sophisticated targeting tools, enhancing their capabilities to reach specific audiences.

Then & Now.

Before the rise of social media, brands primarily relied on traditional marketing channels such as television, radio, print media, and outdoor advertising to target their audiences. These methods had limited targeting capabilities and relied on broad demographic segmentation. Brands would analyze demographic data such as age, gender, income, and location to determine their target audience. Advertisements were then placed in media outlets that reached these demographics, such as specific TV shows, magazines, or radio stations. In addition to that, brands conducted market research, surveys, and focus groups to understand their target market’s preferences, behaviors, and interests. This information was used to create general messaging and creative content that appealed to the desired audience. Traditional media channels were often used to reach a broad audience. Advertisements were not as personalized or targeted, as brands had limited visibility into individual consumer preferences or behaviors.

With the advent of social media, brands have gained access to vast amounts of user data and sophisticated targeting tools, enhancing their capabilities to reach specific audiences. They now employ techniques such as advanced targeting options, behavioral targeting, retargeting, custom audiences, influencer marketing, and real-time analytics. Social media platforms offer advanced targeting options based on user data, interests, and behaviors, allowing brands to define specific criteria to reach niche segments or individuals who are more likely to be interested in their products or services. Brands can track user behavior on social media platforms, such as interactions, likes, shares, and clicks, and leverage this data to target users who have demonstrated specific behaviors relevant to their offerings. They can also track users who have interacted with their websites or social media pages and show them ads based on their previous engagement, encouraging them to make a purchase. Brands can create custom audiences using their customer data, enabling them to directly target their existing customers or prospects with tailored messages and offers. The rise of influencer marketing on social media allows brands to collaborate with influencers who have dedicated followings, targeting their audience effectively. Social media platforms provide real-time analytics and insights, empowering brands to monitor ad performance, measure engagement, and adjust their targeting strategies accordingly.

Tracking and listening Tools.

To track individuals on social media, brands use various methods such as tracking cookies or pixels embedded in websites or ads, leveraging social media APIs to access user data, utilizing user account information, and employing social listening tools to gather insights about customer opinions and trends.

Brands utilize tracking cookies or pixels, which are small pieces of code embedded in websites or ads. These cookies track users’ activity, such as the pages they visit, the products they interact with, or the actions they take on a website. By gathering this data, brands can understand users’ preferences and behaviors, allowing them to deliver more targeted advertisements. For example, if you visit a clothing website and browse through a particular category, you may later see ads related to similar clothing items or brands while browsing social media.

Social media platforms provide application programming interfaces (APIs) that allow brands to integrate their services with the platforms. Brands can leverage these APIs to access various data points, including user profiles, posts, likes, shares, and interactions. This enables them to gain insights into specific demographics or individuals, helping them tailor their advertisements or content accordingly. For instance, a brand selling fitness products may use the API to target individuals who have recently engaged with fitness-related posts or profiles

When you create an account on a social media platform, you typically provide personal information such as your age, gender, location, and interests. Brands can use this information, along with your activities on the platform, to better understand your preferences and target their advertisements or content to align with your interests. For example, if you indicate an interest in cooking on your profile, you may be shown ads for kitchen appliances or cooking classes

Brands employ social listening tools that scan social media platforms for mentions, keywords, or hashtags related to their products, industry, or competitors. By monitoring these conversations, brands can gather valuable insights about customer opinions, sentiments, and trends. This information helps them refine their marketing strategies and create targeted content that resonates with their target audience. For instance, a brand may discover through social listening that a particular product feature is highly praised or criticized, enabling them to make adjustments or highlight that feature in their marketing campaigns.

It’s important for users to review and adjust their privacy settings, limit data sharing, and be mindful of the information they share online to protect their privacy.

Image credit: Guillaume Sauzey.