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Why audience intelligence should be at the heart of media planning

What role does social data play in the media planning strategy? How does social listening supports it? The senior audience strategist at UK-based Encore Digital Media, Danielle Johns, helped us to answer these and other questions around this area which has grown more sophisticated in recent years. And audience intelligence is one of the reasons for that evolution.

“Audience intelligence is essential and should sit in the heart of any media planning strategy. It is the foundational layer to any successful media plan,” states Danielle, saying that once the initial audience intelligence has been researched and set out, it is possible to calculate the correct mix of channels, formats, and targeting strategies to reach the audience at the right time and place.

Testing different creative messages with data-informed budgets

Danielle demonstrates her point by sharing a success story about the use of social data and social listening in conjunction to traditional market research to providing a real window into the electric vehicle (EV) buyer market. "Through our research we chose the right whitelists and PMPs based on the in-market EV user’s media consumption habits. We also sub-segmented the audience into distinct personas,” she said.

Danielle Johns

According to the strategist, these personas provided the opportunity totest separate creative messages with adjusted and data informed budgets, “placed in the most contextually relevant placements by analysing trending topics and using them in our contextual keyword targeting strategies”.

The campaign Danielle shares was delivered for the Nissan Leaf, targeting those interested in electric vehicles for company car drivers, and demonstrated the efficacy of this approach. “Our contextual strategies achieved a 54% lift in CTR over our non-contextually targeted strategies,” she told us.

The role of social listening

Danielle defines five ways social listening supports the media planning strategy:

  • Social listening insights to analyse an audience’s media consumption
According to the strategist, when planning a successful campaign you must ask questions like: where is our audience spending time online? Do they read and engage with certain news publishers, social media platforms, etc.? Which websites are they more likely to visit based on the accounts they follow? “This is important for cross-channel optimisation and creating niche advanced whitelists”.

  • Contextual keyword intelligence
“Uncovering trending articles and hashtags allows us to prioritise bidding on the best, most relevant ads of the moment,” said Danielle. She mentioned that real-time social data helps with this in a way traditional market research on audience demographics or media consumption cannot.

  • Audience sizing

According to Danielle, sizing up the online conversation can help determine how much budget should be allocated towards a particular product or strategy and even across countries.

“Is the conversation dominated by Germans? If so should we spend more in that area? Or alternatively should we exclude it altogether and focus on underrepresented areas? It may not appear obvious, especially within B2B products, but social data can support this thought process,” she said.

  • Competitor analysis
For the strategist, social listening helps to glimpse into the world of the competitors:

  1. What messages and products are they relaying across their social channels
  2. How can we act in a way to counter or even hijack their message?
  3. Where are our competitors the most visible online?
  • Brand uplift

    “With the right reports set up, certain social listening platforms can help us to understand if the brand or their products are getting more buzz during a key advertising campaign,” stated Danielle. According to her, this type of measurement helps calculate ROI when traditional digital metrics like conversion are not enough or even possible.

Danielle John’s tool-box

We asked Danielle about the platforms in her stack she values the most. “Audience intelligence platforms like Audiense are of our most valued right now. We also use Awario and Brandwatch depending on the use case”.

She told us that the value derived from these platforms is often directly correlated to how much time they put in preparing queries and defining parameters. “It is an iterative process of trial and error”.

The media planning process has moved on from the ‘big pitch’

Today’s brands no longer want only unique tactics to execute, rather agencies to play a more strategic role. We asked Danielle how that change of attitude, moving from service provider to solution advisor, works in practice day to day in an agency and how Encore Digital Media is facing this new paradigm.

In her opinion, “the media planning process has moved on from the ‘big pitch’ and subsequent black box of decision-making processes that guide execution thereafter”. Danielle said that advising the best strategic solutions means that agencies often need to ask more questions, collaborate with the client, and importantly keep budgets fluid. “Luckily, we work in biddable channels that make it easier to adjust activity as we learn”.

She mentioned there is also a more open dialogue around education. “The agency does not know everything about the brand and the brand does not know the specifics of how to execute and optimise. Our most successful partnerships today see the egos shrinking and both companies actually working toward a common goal”.

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Photo by Max Sandelin on Unsplash.

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