Assessing the Involvement of Your Social Media Target Audience - dummies

Assessing the Involvement of Your Social Media Target Audience

By Jan Zimmerman, Deborah Ng

Visit every social media site to assess a number of criteria, including user interaction. If you plan to engage your audience in comments, reviews, forums, or other user‐generated content, you must understand how active participants on the network now interact.

Start by signing up and creating a personal profile of some sort so that you can access all member‐related activities. The actual activities, of course, depend on the particular network.


Spend time watching and reading what transpires in every interactive venue on the site, without participating. In the olden days of Internet forums and chat rooms, you were lurking. You can make a number of qualitative assessments that can help you determine whether this site is a good fit for you:

  • Quality of dialog: Do statements of any sort float in the ether, or does interaction take place? Does a moderator respond? The site owners? Other registered members? Is there one response or continual back and forth? If you intend to establish an ongoing business relationship with other participants on the network, you want to select a site where ongoing dialog is already standard practice.

  • Quality of posts: Are posts respectful or hostile? Do posts appear automatically, or is someone reviewing them before publication? Do they appear authentic? Because you’re conducting business online, your standards may need to be higher than they would be for casual, personal interaction. Anger and profanity that might be acceptable from respondents on a political news site would be totally unacceptable on a site that engages biologists in discussion of an experiment.

  • Quantity of posts compared to the number of registered users: On some sites, you may find that the same 20 people post or respond to everything, even though the site boasts 10,000 registered members. This situation signals a site that isn’t successful as a social network, however successful it might be in other ways.


After you have a sense of the ethos of a site, try responding to a blog post, participating in a forum, or establishing yourself as an expert on a product review or e‐zine listing. Assess what happens. Do others respond on the network? Email you off-site? Call the office?

Use this side of the lurk‐and‐response routine to gain a better understanding of what you, as a member and prospective customer, would expect. Will you or your staff be able to deliver?

If a site requires more care and feeding than you have the staff to support, consider dropping it from your list.

Quantifying market presence

In addition to assessing the number of unique visitors, visits, and registered members, you may want to assess additional components of audience engagement. Sites that provide quantitative information, such as Quantcast, help you better understand your audience’s behavior, learn more about their lifestyles and brand preferences, and target your message. You can learn about these concepts:

  • Affinity: A statistical correlation that shows the strength of a particular user behavior, such as visiting another site, relative to that of the U.S. Internet population as a whole — for instance, whether an Instagram user is more or less likely than the general Internet population to visit YouTube

  • Index: The delivery of a specific audience segment, such as women or seniors, compared with their share of the overall Internet population

  • Composition: The relative distribution of the audience for a site by audience segment, such as gender, age, or ethnicity

  • Addict: The most loyal component of a site’s audience, with 30 or more visits per month

  • Passer‐by: Casual visitor who visits a site only once per month

  • Regular: A user partway between Addict and Passer‐by; someone who visits more than once but fewer than 30 times per month