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The power of audience affinities and its actionability to drive brands forward

Ellis Mbeh
Feb 1, 2021 2:05:56 PM

A marketer’s key responsibility is to understand what people are feeling, and to create campaigns that will cater to that feeling or need. Successful campaigns can result in brand loyalty, where a consumer will choose that brand over others, creating a long-lasting relationship.

Developing lasting relationships with customers based on emotional connections allows brands to give consumers what they truly want. In the past, this has been difficult to gauge, but thanks to social media, it’s even easier to gain an insight into what a person thinks or feels towards a brand.

Social listening paved the way for gaining a deeper understanding of the audience, and audience affinity analysis takes this one step further. Audience affinities, when they benchmark with other similar audiences or segments, define what true passions, brands, influencer interest’s differentiate them from others.

Understanding the audience is crucial for informing and developing campaigns, creating a richer experience for both the customer and the brand. Harnessing the power of affinities is crucial for the future of brands online, helping to drive them forward for a lasting future. This is what we’ve learned.

Exploring brand affinity (the early days)

My work with audience affinities started out using a social media listening tool to analyze what people were saying about our clients. Back then, we used a social media listening tool to help us understand the who, what, where and when of social media conversations to help us analyze the landscape and explain the why.

Social listening has helped us build a picture for many of our clients, ranging from TV shows and events to amusement parks. We’ve also used social listening to gather feedback on advertising campaigns for top insurance brands.

The social media listening tool we used at the time introduced a new functionality empowering us to get to the heart of the audience with the analysis of affinities. Through affinity analysis, it became possible to identify the interests of people sharing thoughts and views on brands, companies, products and more via social media. This type of insight ensured more effective targeting and better promotional campaigns.

As social media becomes more widely adopted, the need to understand its users better is paramount. But privacy is also an issue and a growing concern for social media users. Fortunately, audience affinities studies protected users’ data, revealing insights about their likes and dislikes, providing much more detailed insight than previous social listening could. Instead of focusing on ‘what’ was being said, affinities provide the insight into ‘who’ is saying it, and that’s what’s important for businesses.

This listening tool produced visualizations of different people’s interests, showing very clearly where people’s interests were when it came to discussing different brands and topics. Fans of sports brand Under Armour, for example, had more interest in specific sports such as basketball and football or ESPN, than the general population. The visualizations broke data down into themes, conversation topics, right down to individual posts on social platforms. These insights could be compared with other brands and businesses, allowing marketers to get to know their audiences on a much deeper level than ever before.

Putting affinities to the test

We were approached by an insurance company, Company X, to provide a deeper understanding of the ‘who’ that was out there, in order to inform its advertising concepts. The aim was to create ads that not only appealed to Company X’s current audience, but that of its main competitor, Company Y.

Using social media listening, it was possible to monitor all mentions of Company X, in addition to its competitors. The main conversations at the time were focused on a community concert series, which not only hosted live music events, but did outreach work within the community. While conducting an affinity analysis, it was possible to identify R&B as a particular interest of Company X’s audience. After comparing this information with Company Y’s audience, Company X then set out to create a campaign using a well-known R&B performer that was a big hit with audiences. This resulted in one of Company X’s most successful campaigns.

For this campaign, we were able to:

  • Use existing social media listening tools to learn more about the conversations taking place with Company X’s audience.
  • Gain insights into conversations taking place within Company Y’s audience.
  • Build on this knowledge using audience affinities to identify specific interests related to Company X’s existing products and initiatives - in this case, R&B music, which was also an interest of Company Y’s audience.
  • Provide this insight to Company X to be able to produce a campaign that resonated with the audience.
  • Provided key knowledge about Company X’s audience to inform future campaigns.

Using social media listening tools to perform audience affinity analysis showed the power this data has to drive brands forward, gaining valuable insight, and sparking creative ideas that might not have been possible without it. Traditionally, methods such as focus groups have been used to find out more about an audience’s opinion and their likes and dislikes. But focus groups take time, money and effort to pull off, with a lot of work needed to find participants and ensure the right demographics were met. With audience affinities, this work becomes instant, breaking down the audience’s interests to eliminate the guesswork so that brands can find the common ground needed to reach new audiences, and maintain that connection with their existing ones.

The digital landscape has changed a lot since the introduction of audience affinity analysis. Had Audiense been available during our time with Company X, there’s no telling where things could have gone. Affinity lists have expanded, providing even greater insight into consumers interests and behaviors, including their preferred purchase path. Coupled with Company X’s existing data, it could’ve helped break down different segments of the audience to be able to learn which were the most profitable, and who needed deeper engagement.

Why audience affinity is important to strategy

The audience is the main starting point of all digital campaigns. The internet provides a much wider audience than other platforms (including press and TV) could ever have achieved before. But there’s no point casting the net hoping to land a catch. If you can reel in your most likely targets with approaches and content that connects with the right audience, you’ll have a winning strategy on your hands.

When social media first emerged, the focus was on individual users sharing news and updates. As businesses started getting in on the game, it became possible to witness conversations taking place about their brand and products, identifying what was ‘trending’, popular and the next big thing. Social media became a place for businesses to connect with individuals in a new way, sharing content and updates and giving a new space for these conversations to happen.

Fast forward to today and the competition is fierce. Brands need to delve deeper into their audience sections to find out who they are and what they’re into. With this information, it’s possible to understand their behavior on a deeper level, and find out ways to steer them towards a desired business, mapping out the journey to ensure results.

With digital advertising, there doesn’t have to be a ‘one size fits all approach’. Audience affinities can help identify the different types of audiences that are out there, allowing marketing and advertising professionals to appeal to these multiple audiences at once. Targeting can become more detailed and relevant, while the messages themselves can also introduce a deeper meaning, developing the connection with an individual that could in time lead them to develop an affinity for that particular brand.

Researching audience affinity is a game changer for businesses. Audiense provides detailed insights into a brand’s audience that actually means something. This can include basic demographics such as age, gender and location, and their surfaced audience segment. With Audiense, you’re able to go beyond just surfaced likes - you’re able to get a newer understanding of your audiences with its ability to segment and benchmark data it’s analyzing. With this information, brands can incorporate these interests into their campaigns to connect with the audience and hopefully convert them into customers. Using audience affinities effectively to inform strategy, businesses can truly harness the power of social media and digital advertising.

The future of audience affinities

Using audience affinities, it’s possible to take digital marketing to a whole new level. Campaigns can become more personalized, diverse and effective. Being able to tailor your approach to meet your desired audience can provide a return on investment that can be difficult to achieve through other methods. Brands can use insights from customer affinity analysis to learn more about the people who buy their products, learning more about their likes and interests to not only advertise to and connect with them, but even base new product designs and launches around these interests.

By enriching the customer experience with thoughtful, informed insights, businesses can take things to the next level to create experiences that ensure customers stick around for the long haul.


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